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."


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.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Dialogues, and Monologues, and Living a Great Life

My husband was in the hospital with his father Tuesday night. If all goes as expected in the slide toward the end of his life, it will have been his father's last good night. And it was genuinely good. I've always found it amazing how Alzheimers can slip in and out, stealing memories away and then occasionally, teasingly, tossing them back for awhile.

In the past couple of years my father-in-law has lost his ability to dialogue. Following the clues needed for a give-and-take conversation was one of the skills he lost, but he still told delightful monologues. He loved to talk about his time in the Navy during World War II, or about driving from Oregon to Washington to Idaho for his business before there were interstates. One of my favorites was the one he would tell about buying an old car with some Navy buddies, then just giving it away to some wide-eyed kid on the street right before they had to ship out.

His stories may have gotten a little fanciful as Alzheimers took hold, but that was okay. We'd heard most of them often enough by then that we could fill in the blanks, remembering the times when he remembered.

Last year he got started telling a Navy story to our then-ten-year-old, then veered off the standard course and started talking about his brother shooting him in the foot. Of course, this never happened. I wonder where that came from. You always think about the disease taking memories away, but you never imagine it creating new ones. The human brain is a fascinating miracle, even when it starts to shut down.

Tuesday night, my husband got to listen again, but he also got to experience again, for the last time, what it was like to have a conversation with his father. He said his dad told him over and over what a great son he's been, and how he has a great family. Then he said, "I've had a great life, too. And it's finished..."

"What?" asked my husband. But his dad's mind had slipped off again, and he didn't remember the conversation.

It is finished...

My father-in-law took a turn for the worse on Wednesday night. He's stopped responding to the people around him. They've stopped treating the heart and kidneys and are providing pain medication only. They've also stopped the IVs because his body can't eliminate the fluids. Nobody can say exactly when his life will end, but it will be sometime within the next couple of weeks. We'll be going down this weekend. He is eighty-three.

I suppose it's not such a bad note to end on:

"I've had a great life. And it's finished."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Update on my FIL

Last night a nurse asked my husband if he was on a "deathwatch." (Uh...Sweetie? Can we clone your bedside manner?) Fortunately my MIL had gone home by that point. But the nurse only said what we were all thinking.

But today, amazingly, my FIL has started to rally. His kidneys started functioning on their own, which seems to have reversed the (literal)death spiral. Yesterday they were saying the end was very close. Today they're talking cautiously about when he'll go home.

There is no way to know what this means, or what the next few weeks or months will hold, or how his health will be, or how much time we've now been given. For now it is enough to enjoy this reprieve, and to be grateful.

Do you know how it feels when you've been riding on an escalator or moving walkway, and you get to the end and step off onto stationary ground? That's how I feel right now. One moment you're being propelled by an outside force, and the next you're not. It takes a little while to adapt and regain your equilibrium. Yesterday everything was an unknown, and today we're thinking maybe it might be okay to make plans again.

I spoke to my husband this morning and he sounded very cheerful, amazingly so for having had less than five hours of interrupted hospital sleep in a hospital chair. His father had a couple of hours of near lucidity last night, back when the medical staff were still saying "less than 24...", and those are two hours he will have forever.

I feel almost guilty about the wonderful, kind thoughts that have come my way from blog-friends over the last forty-eight hours. Oops, sorry, my bad, you could have used your energy on someone who deserved it. But to everyone who responded, your thoughts and words and prayers were much needed, and you have no idea how much I value everything you said and the time you took to write.

I have no clue how the next few weeks and months will play out, but for now I'm going to go to the grocery store, and in a huge fit of hope and optimism I am going to buy ripe bananas and a gallon of milk and assume we will be around to consume them. And the next step will be to rip all the kids away from their lives and commitments for a weekend to go down and see their grandfather.

Thanks again.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Life, and Death, and how they're all mixed up together

I played soccer tonight, with my new team. We won 6-3 (after being down 3-1 at the half), and I played well. It was fun. And as I was walking out, it hit me. I remembered that my husband's father is dying. And I felt incredibly guilty over experiencing 45 minutes of not thinking about this.

Because he is dying. Barring a miracle or an unexpected rally, they're saying 24 hours. Earlier today, they said by the end of the week. Things have deteriorated since then. His heart is not pumping well, which is causing a buildup of fluid, which is causing his kidneys to shut down. There are no good medical options given his age and health status, so this is almost definitely the end.

The fact that his heart's exhaustion means that he will be spared the worst of the ravages of Alzheimers... It's difficult to explain this. Yes, it makes it a little easier, but we are still losing my father-in-law. The blessing does not completely offset the tragedy.

My husband drove down today by himself. His choice. I think I probably agree with it. He doesn't see the point of a "hospital deathwatch" -- his words. He doesn't want our kids' last memories to be of tubes and pumps and gadgets and a grandfather who doesn't know who they are. We gave our older two the option of calling tonight to talk to him. I think Extrovert Child took us up on it, and Introvert Child passed. I think both made the choice that will give them the most peace, and I think both choices were the right ones.

I spent today unable to focus. I would wander the house, thinking, "I need to do...something..." and then would wind up in front ot the computer, or mindlessly thwacking a soccer ball against old couch cushions set up against a door at the end of a hallway. If you hit it just right, it will bounce back exactly to your feet. Thwack, thwack, thwack, and you don't need to think or feel. I went to my chess club and got caught up in the kids and forgot, and then felt guilty about forgetting. These are my FIL's last hours. Shouldn't he be at the forefront of my mind at all times?

But still, everyday thoughts slip in, the kind of thoughts that see this as an interruption of real life. Will my daughter get her paper done, before we have to leave? Will my son's cross-country team qualify for State if he's not there? Unworthy thoughts, these. We're looking at the end of a life. Nothing else should matter. I wonder if good, decent people have an automatic censor that keeps these thoughts from their minds, or if they have them, like me, and just don't talk about it.

I don't think I have anything else to say for now. I'll write more tomorrow.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Father Tim's Prayer

Re: Dad
"Heart worse than they thought. They will send him home, but only on meds. If he was younger, they might do some sort of operation. However, not sure he can manage. They have a DNR, which is not sounding too good."

My DFIL (D meaning truly Dear), who has Alzheimers, was hospitalized yesterday with a second heart attack. A family member (currently my DSIL, also very Dear) needs to stay with him at all times because he gets frightened and agitated and will remove any attached wires or tubes and wander off, intent on going "home." How home is defined varies from day to day, but in his mind it's probably never the "memory care facility" where he spends his days and nights when not hospitalized.

Alzheimers is an ugly disease. Uglier, I think, for the people who watch as their loved one is taken away, piece by piece. We've been fortunate with my FIL in that he has kept his basic cheerful personality. I'm told this is not always the case. He still holds pleasant, cheery conversations, very similar to those he had every day in the years when he ran his own business selling restaurant equipment. It's only when you listen for a couple of minutes that you realize the thoughts don't connect to each other, and he has very little idea of the identities of the people he's talking to.

This is very hard on my husband, who has always been extremely close to his dad. Harder still because we live 200 miles away. Last year, when my husband was visiting, his father said, "I sure miss S. I haven't seen him around much lately." S is my husband. As much as you brace yourself for this moment, as much as you remind yourself that it is the disease and nothing anyone can control, it still hurts.

My role in this is a supporting one, a role I'm not always sure how to play. In the end, this is my husband's family, and his inability to be everything at once to everyone who needs him tears him apart. When you live close to 200 miles away and work a grueling and demanding job, you can't always be in all the places you would like to be or do everything you feel you should be doing. Sometimes I'm not sure what to do to help. And sometimes there's nothing I can do.

So now it's just a waiting game, to see how much the damaged heart can repair itself with new medications. There's no roadmap for this, no way to plan for what comes next. Each Alzheimers case is different, and each heart is different.

And all you can do is cross your fingers and hope that things don't get worse and pray Father Tim's "prayer that never fails," (from Jan Karon's wonderful Mitford books): Thy will be done.

Sometimes it even helps.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Extra Holes In My Head (Or: One Weird Thing About Me)

Blog-friend SweetP recently did a post called "5 things that are weird about me," which seems like a fun topic. And while I certainly do have 5 weird things and then some, that post would be...well...really, really long. Therefore I will limit it to One Weird Thing at a time. So:

One Weird Thing About Me

I have triple-pierced ears. Three piercings in each lobe. The first set came when I was in eighth grade. The second when I was sixteen and could do it without parental permission. (Because I could.) And the third set came when I turned forty.

It wasn't a denial-of-aging thing. (At least I don't think it was.) It was more of an aesthetics thing. A balance thing. For all those years, between the ages of sixteen and forty, I would look at my earlobes and think, "something is missing." They looked...unbalanced. Unfinished. Incomplete.

So, a couple of weeks after turning forty, I headed to Claire's, that little jewelry shop in every mall, and stood in line between a girl of about seven (who wept after the first piercing and didn't want to sit still for the second) and a goth-type getting yet another area of cartilage pierced. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!)

Yes, I did feel out of place. But I didn't let that stop me. A quick Thwack! Thwack! with the piercing gun and it was done.

I've never had the slightest bit of regret, because now they just look...right. In the same way that you add a final border to a quilt and think, okay, now it's done. Balanced. Complete. My ears are...um... done. Balanced. Complete.

It's funny. These three piercings, and my earrings, are my one real nod to the double-X chromosome. I am not a particularly feminine female. I hate to shop. I've never had a manicure. When talk at a party turns to clothes or decorating, I'll wander off to see if I can find a sporting event on TV. But I do love my earrings. And I love that third pierce.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Salmon Sea Monsters (Or: What I Love About Kayaking)

Late morning, out on Lake Washington.

My kayaking companion and I were taking a break. Paddles across our laps, sun in our faces, our kayaks rocking gently in the tiny wakes of a distant motorboat.

There was a splash a hundred yards away and we looked up just in time to see them: four salmon, breaching all together, each of them two or more feet long, visible for only a second before they disappeared again. They were slippery-black against the bright water, and so close together that you couldn't tell where one ended and another began. The effect was...mesmerizing. Undulating. Sinuous. It was so fast, so unexpected, so blurred together, that for that second I could have believed in sea monsters.

Kayaking is a world within a world. Or a world outside your world. It reaches out and grabs your senses. Your muscles pulling on the paddle, the scent of the lake, the soothing and hypnotic way the kayak rocks beneath you, the far-away sounds of cars and construction and kids giggling at waterfront parks, the cool water dripping off the paddle onto your bare legs, the way light and wind and color and reflection interplay to create a never-ending variety of patterns on the water's surface... There is no room in your mind for stress or worry because sensory input is taking all of your brain's bandwidth. Life as you know it goes on hold for that hour or two you're on the water.

My friend Anita bought two kayaks this year. She'll call me whenever we get a stretch of a couple of sunny days at a time. I am glad. Because just once in a lifetime, everybody should get the chance to see salmon sea monsters.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

You Know You Always Wanted to be a Travel Writer!

As I think I've mentioned before, the world is smaller when you blog.

I got an e-mail this morning from James, a blog-quaintance from Manchester, England, who helps to run a new travel site, BigEasy Travel Guide. They're looking for average folks like us to write reviews of cities we're familiar with. No spam, marketing junk or other ugly things will follow -- he's just looking for reviews from our side of the pond for international travelers who might come our way.

I had great fun coming up with a review of my city, Seattle, thinking about what I'd want to do if I were a tourist visiting. Here's my review:

Now it's your turn, if you so desire. (They really need our reviews and will be all reviewers' Best Friends Forever.) Register on the site (I think all that's really needed is an e-mail address and password,) log in, click on Reviews, and then review your city (or whatever else you feel like reviewing.) Then pass on the link to somebody else. And as I said, James assures me that your registration info won't be used for spam or other ugly purposes.

I had a lot of fun with this, and James is a decent fellow who also writes for the Manchester United (soccer/football) blog, but who doesn't even mind that I'm really kind of an Arsenal fan.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Trezeguet Gets His Mojo Back

You have no idea how much time I have spent since World Cup wanting to write the name "David Trezeguet" without the word "poor" in front of it. I was not sure I would ever get the chance. As I have said before, he has had the year from hell.

If you watched the World Cup final and made it past The Headbutt, you will remember David as the only player to miss his penalty shot, thus cementing the loss for Les Bleus. This is after being benched for most of World Cup by head coach/raving lunatic Raymond Domenech, who has been known to pick his players based on their astrological signs. (I am not making this up.) And on top of this, Trezeguet's Club, Juventus, was demoted and stripped of their previous titles in the Italian match-fixing scandal, something the poor players had nothing to do with. Like I said, the year from hell.

But now, thanks to the hapless country Îles Féroé (which I have discovered translates to Faroe Islands -- ringing any bells yet?), I can write his name without any modifiers. Because today David got his mojo back, scoring two of my beloved Bleus' five goals despite playing only 30 minutes of a 90-minute game.

Final score France 5, Îles Féroé 0. And thanks to a loss for Scotland, they're now back in the lead for Group B.

Allez Les Bleus!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Seattle Streets Quilt Pink -- and a Story From a Survivor's Daughter

This Quilt Pink quilt was put together by cancer survivor Sue in Minnesota. I get a little teary-eyed when I see it.

You see, I found out my mother had breast cancer seventeen years ago this month, at the end of a conversation, when she said she was "going in for a little surgery." This is my mother. She has never liked attention focused on herself and doesn't want people making a big deal out of anything to do with her. And I had just started a grueling graduate school program, and my kids at the time were 1 and 2, and she didn't want me to worry. She said it was no big deal.

So I Did Not Worry. I intentionally, consciously Did Not Worry. I threw myself into school and put huge amounts of energy into Not Worrying. And then I couldn't figure out why I was locked in a bathroom stall at school sobbing my eyes out over getting a B on a paper. It took me HOURS to figure out that the real reason was that this was the day of my mother's mastectomy.

Thing is, I needed to worry. I needed to cry. Because I needed my mother. My mother is the people-person in a family of introverts. She is the the hub that all of us spokes attach to. Without her to hold us together, my brothers and father and I would go flying off into space, connecting only randomly and occasionally.

And I needed her to watch my children grow up, even from 1500 miles away.

If you or your family is diagnosed with cancer, I'd offer this advice. Go ahead and cry. Go ahead and worry. And embrace your family and loved ones as they cry and worry, and allow yourself to be embraced as well.

And then I hope you can take a few moments to see and feel that you are not alone in this. Standing beside you and your loved ones are doctors and nurses and researchers and others who are doing everything they can to make you better. And there are also people like Sue, and Dawn, and Deanna, and Rebecca, who made this quilt, and all of the people who made the other Quilt Pink quilts, and all of the people involved in the three-day walk, and everyone else in the world who is putting in time and energy and prayers on your behalf. If your brain can hold onto only one thought, hold onto this: You are not alone.

My family was lucky. After a mastectomy and chemo, my mother is alive and well seventeen years later. She and my dad were here for my daughter's graduation in 2005, and they will be back again for my son's this year. And I'm certain they'll be here also in six years for the graduation of my youngest. We are blessed.

From Sue: "The center is your pattern pieced by Dawn from Florida . Dawn has lost her DMIL to breast cancer . The long sides are blocks sent by Deanna from West Virginia , she is a three year breast cancer survivor . The short edges are left over fabric sent by Rebecca from South Carolina . There is cancer in her family too . They all had Quilt for a Cure fabric so they went together like it was planned ."

The center portion of this quilt is the Seattle Streets pattern, available for free from UFO-rphanage for Quilters. If you stop by UFO-rphanage, be sure to takea the time to send an e-mail with kind thoughts to Niki, who just lost her beloved husband, and who has done so much for the quilting world. Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 09, 2006

Hysterical Giggles (Or: How would you play that, exactly?)

Through the magic of technology, I can see the search strings people use to get to my blog. Most of the folks who stop by here get here other ways, like through my quilt-related yahoo groups, but occasionally someone will stop by via that wonder-site, Google. The most frequent search term is usually something like "Seattle Streets Quilt," my quilting baby.

Up till today, the most interesting search phrase was "soccer mom feet." What do you think they were looking for? Probably not what they got.

Today, though, the search string made my day, if not my life.

"Play Strip Soccer."

Oops, 'scuse me. I just fell off my chair giggling again. How disappointed this person must have been to discover the blog of a middle-aged mom who plays soccer badly (but with gusto!!) and who likes the Strip Twist Quilt pattern. I don't think I am quite what they were looking for.

Heehee. Giggle.

What venue do you think they use for Strip Soccer? What are the starting uniforms like? Are they negotiating TV rights? Is this how MLS will finally turn a profit? Enquiring minds want to know!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Sad Day (Or: What Happened to my Beloved Bleus??)

Alas! (Or: Hélas!) My beloved Bleus lost today. To Scotland! After outplaying them completely!! I saw the first half stats, and they controlled the ball 65% of the time! How do you lose after a game like that?!?!?

You don't put it in the net, that's how. 1-0, Scotland. Or you put it in, but have the goals (yes, more than one!) called back for offsides. Tragédie!!

I had to miss the second half -- my youngest son had a soccer game himself. They also lost. Hélas. And I fought off the very strong impulse to go half an hour late to son's game so I could follow the entire game of Les Bleus. It was tough, but I did the right thing, thus maintaining my standing as Thoroughly Adequate Mother.

But I followed the first half on three French live-blogs -- with the online French Translator fired up and ready to go -- on the assumption that what I couldn't pick up from one blog I'd understand from the others. It was fun, and my French is getting better. I can understand something like 80-90% of what goes on, even without the translator. Basic French is coming easier, and I'm starting to pick up the soccer terms. (Guess what the french "corner" translates to?)

At one point, I was quite concerned to read that a player's "tête" went sailing over the crossbar. I had visions of one of my beloved Bleus decapitated, his disembodied head soaring through the air. Then I realized that the word for "head" (tête) is also apparently the word for "header" -- i.e. a ball hit with the head. Whew!

My favorite live-blog line:

[Il] est toujours là pour récupérer les petites boulettes de ses coéquipiers.

Which apparently translates literally to: "He is always there to recover the small meatballs of his teammates." Meaning, I assume, that he's there to pick up the pieces when his co-workers mess up. Ah, idioms! Gotta love 'em. It's funny, you never notice them in your own language, but when you're trying to translate from another language, they definitely make you go, "Huh??"

I was pleased to see Jean-Alain Boumsong playing, and apparently playing well. He's played only as a sub or not at all recently, so it's good to have him back in the game. If only because now that Zinédine Zidane has retired, he has the coolest name on the team.

Sadly, malheureusement, David Trezeguet, he of the missed penalty kick in the World Cup final, wasn't able to capitalize on the injuries of his teammates and take advantage of the starting position he was given. I so wanted to read, "Trezeguet scores game-winning goal," but it was not to be. He was subbed out early in the second half, Coach Domenech appareantly feeling that an injured Louis Saha was better than a fit Trezeguet. Poor guy. He truly has had the year from hell.

Ah, well. Tomorrow is another day. Or, actually, Tuesday is another day, a day when they can start again, when they play Îles Féroé. Anybody ever heard of this country? Me neither. I'm not even sure how it translates into English. Let's hope that's a good sign. Allez Les Bleus!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Trash vs. Treasure (Or: My string-pieced pinwheel quilt)


I can't tell you how often I considered throwing out these hand-dyed fabrics. Not just giving them away, but chucking them right into the garbage. They were from a hand-dyeing class I took, and they're a very cheap, flimsy muslin which didn't hold color real well. The finished fabric is kind of pale and frays easily, so I just couldn't see putting in the effort to put it in a quilt.

Then I got the idea from Stashbusters to foundation piece them into string quilts. Very fast and extremely easy. This is the first. (I think I'll add another row to the length before I call it done.)

I get a triple bonus:
1) I use up my flimsy but still kind of pretty hand-dyes
2) I use up extra flimsy muslin as foundations, and
3) I end up with a quilt that turned out kind of pretty

Unfortunately I still have enough hand-dyes left over for at least one more quilt, probably two. But at least it's an easy process. And I guess I really kind of like these fabrics too much to send them to the dump. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Morbid and Maudlin (Or: What Do You Want at Your Funeral?)

Okay, I have to do this. If only because ever since I read this two days ago, the song "I've Had the Time of My Life" has been stuck in my head, and I hate that song. So I figure I'll pass it on to everybody else, and then maybe my brain will let it go. Although, sadly, I think having a song stuck in your head is kind of like having a virus -- it can infect new people, but that doesn't mean the host will get better. So...well...sorry, but misery loves company. So here you go:

Most Popular Songs at British Funerals

1. Goodbye my Lover by James Blunt
2. Angels by Robbie Williams
3. I've Had the Time of My Life by Jennifer Warnes
4. Wind Beneath My Wings by Bette Midler
5. Pie Jesu (often sung by Placido Domingo)
6. Candle in the Wind by Elton John
7. With or Without You by U2
8. Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton
9. Every Breath you Take by the Police
10. Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers

So what do you think? My first thought is... Let's see. I don't want to insult anyone who has recently planned a funeral with any of these these songs, but they strike me as quite...sad. Regretful. Maudlin, even. Which is SO not me. I want no regrets at my funeral.

The one exception, a song I actually wouldn't mind, is Pie Jesu. Love that one. I've always thought that Andrew Lloyd Weber is a bit overrated, (my opinion only) but even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in awhile, and the harmonies of this particular nut give me goosebumps.

So what would I like at my funeral? I'm going to have to ponder on that one. There would have to be a couple of old hymns, of course -- the ones that remind me of my grandma. How Great Thou Art, maybe. And some church songs that are maybe a little more contemporary. (I'll think on this and get back to you.) Then I'd probably have to stick in some Pink Floyd or Paul Simon. And then at the end I'm thinking that everybody should do the Coup de Boule (headbutt) dance...

How 'bout you? What would you like at your funeral? (And if it's "I've Had the Time of My Life," I swear I won't make fun of you. As long as you remove it from my brain.)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Those Fun and Exciting PTA Fundraising Sales (Or: Parent Torture Time! )

Okay, so first off: I love the PTA at my youngest's school. I love all it does for the kids, including mine. I love that it supports my Chess Club. It is one of those rare PTAs that's actively all about the kids and not at all about the egos of the parents. (This is coming from someone who actually switched youngest child to a new school to escape the PTA From Hell -- a PTA so rotten and vicious the State Board had to be called in -- so I kind of know what I'm talking about.)

But gift wrap sale time, while necessary, isn't exactly one of my favorite times of year.

Thing is, though, it is my eleven-year-old son's. He loves gift wrap sale time. He talks about it all year long. ("I wonder what the prizes will be. I hope I sell enough. Maybe I could sell in this neighborhood.") He's scored the top prize three years running.

This is foreign to me. I am an introvert. Not particularly shy, in general, but an introvert all the same. Selling embarrasses me. I don't want to put anybody on the spot. I take rejection personally.

Youngest, on the other hand, is an Extrovert. He loves to interact with people. He is his father. Rejection is just one step on the road to the next sale, which might, just might, be a big one.

On the first weekend of gift wrap sales, he spent at least eleven hours wandering up and down our hill, hitting every single house along the way. The good thing is that he is now in sixth grade, and we live in a safe neighborhood, so I felt relatively comfortable sending him out on his own, albeit with my cell phone in his pocket and a requirement that he check in every hour. The sale ran for two weeks, and he went out selling in pretty much every spare daylight moment.

And now gift wrap sales are over. He sold 164 items, a school high and his own personal best. He is proud. We are proud of him. And now my work begins.

He has four different order forms, all full. All needing to be added up vertically and horizontally (and you'd better be sure they reconcile.) And then you have to add the totals on the forms together, item by item. And you have to figure out whether or not what people thought they owed was what they actually owed. And whether the number of items they thought they ordered matches up to the tick marks on the sheet. And when there's the inevitable mistake, you have to do it all again, over and over, till the numbers match up. Then you have to go through and add up all the checks, and the cash, and see if what you think you should have is what you actually have. Fun! Yes, it's fun! I'm having fun, I am, I am!

I'm almost done now. Time to turn it all in for somebody else to check my work and fix my errors. Then the joy and excitement is over until the gift wrap orders arrive and we have to sort and deliver 164 items to their new homes.

I keep telling myself it's a growth experience.

For all of us.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

How Are They Doing This?

Another one that's spot-on.
You Are Apple Red

You're never one to take life too seriously, and because of it, you're a ton of fun.
And although you have a great sense of humor, you are never superficial.
Deep and caring, you do like to get to the core of people - to understand them well.
However, any probing you do is light hearted and fun, sometimes causing people to misjudge you.

This is starting to bug me.

I have had to take a fair number of statistics classes, plus classes in study design, along with an entire semester course in psychological measurement and testing. I have had the issues of test reliability and validity drummed into my head with a hammer. These tests cannot possibly be either reliable or valid. So how the heck are they getting inside my head with five stupid questions!!???

Or did they just hit me randomly twice in a row? Does anybody have an in with the test designers? Can somebody tell me how they choose their study questions? This is bugging the holy heck out of me!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Random Thoughts on the Weekend

I'm feeling a little exhausted and on mental overload today after my release from prison, so I'll just offer up a random string of thoughts:

-- This was my first time in a maximum security prison. Wow. Their razor wire budget could feed an entire third-world country for a year. And it is still and will always be disconcerting for me to watch pat-down searches.

-- I was in the parking lot between two cars in the prison parking lot and did a quick undergarment adjustment, then realized that this act had probably been captured for posterity on multiple surveillance cameras. Glad to provide the boys and girls in blue with a moment of amusement.

-- Why is it that so frequently in the prisons I've visited, deer wander around outside the grounds? There's something incongruous about seeing their calm and grace and beauty in the face of so much ugliness.

-- I have now had the thrill and excitement of personally grilling 150 hamburgers on a humongous charcoal-fired grill. It was fun. I felt...well...manly. There will be a testosterone war over the spatula and tongs the next time my husband and I decide to fire up our own grill. (Although since ours is just a wienie propane grill and not a stud-muffin charcoal one, maybe I'll just humor him and let him have at it.)

-- It was an incredible weekend. But they all are.

-- My husband and I have been asked if we'd be interested in getting involved with a program to work with the teenage children of incarcerated parents. A very wounded group. They want couples involved so the kids can see what a real relationship is like. It won't be till 2008, after child #2 goes to college, so we're seriously considering it.

-- I'm getting a hare-brained idea. Wouldn't it be something to provide all of the kids who participate in the program with a quilt?

-- Speaking of Child #2, He-Who-Has-Just-Turned-Eighteen, he just survived four days home alone. No sign of parties or even violations of the no-friends-over ban. He doesn't even seem to have fudged on curfew (this may be largely because he had to catch a bus to a cross-country meet at 6:00 a.m. Saturday and didn't get back that day till close to midnight. But still.) And both dogs and the cat were still alive when we got home. And the kitchen had obviously been tidied up before we arrived. And if there's anything else I should know... Well, I probably just don't want to know it.

-- And finally (and of equal importance to everything else), my beloved Bleus play Scotland on Saturday this week! Allez Les Bleus!