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!


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.


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. ( 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.


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?


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...
...hold on, I can say this with a straight face...
...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."