Thursday, December 31, 2009

Random Year-End Musings

I was going to do a comprehensive year-end post, but I have no motivation. So instead I think I'll live up to the name of the blog and do some random musings.

1. My poinsettia is not yet quite this dead. But it's not at all well.

2. My black lab has horrible gas today. I know it is not polite to share this, but as anyone who's had a black lab knows, when they have bad gas it's kind of hard to focus on anything else.

3. Every once in a rare while I will find myself able to capture a moment or an event head on by writing about it. It's not that the writing is great; it's just that I will reread it months later and think, "Yes. That's how it was." This was that kind of post -- the one about the night I discovered that my son had cancer.

4. Goal #1 for the New Year: Figure out how to maneuver around the very large drum set that has taken over my sewing room so I can do some quilting again this year. Sub-goal 1A: Write up and post a step-by-step photograph session on the making of a Seattle Streets quilt, which people have been asking for since I designed it three years ago.

5. It is taking every ounce of my self-control to NOT got to YouTube and search out more of the tragedy that is HR PufnStuf. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!?!

Actually, I know what is wrong with me. This has to be what it feels like when you have repressed memories, and you start to get them back, and you know it's going to be really traumatic to recover them but you just have to go there anyway.

This is like the bad 70s TV equivalent.

(Somebody please stop me before I PARTRIDGE FAMILY!)

6. Seriously, if anybody knows a cure for labrador gas, I will be your Best Friend Forever. I am not kidding.

7. Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I'm Not Posting This to Give You Nightmares, but Merely as an Anti-Drug Precautionary Tale

So earlier today I saw something that referred to there being no rhyme for "orange." This set off little, tinkly memory bells in my brain ("This is not correct!"), which caused me to go to Google. Which led me to this:

Oh. Dear. Lord.

Somehow the many passing years and a blessed abilty to block things from my memory had allowed me to forget HR Pufnstuf. (Seventeen episodes made, airing over and over and over on Saturday mornings from 1969 t 1971.) But now it has all come rushing back.

The puppet-y things. The Golden Flute. The villain with the perfect, classic name of "Witchiepoo."

(Yes, Witchiepoo.)

Sadly, this is not as bad as it gets. If you're really in a masochistic mood, be sure to stop by and watch the intro.

(In my defense, I was eight years old and had a mad crush on Jack Wild, who was also the Artful Dodger in the movie "Oliver!" Because, y'know, who wouldn't? He later died of oral cancer which was probably linked to alcohol and tobacco abuse. Probably used to escape the PufnStuf flashbacks. RIP, Jack. A moment of silence, please.)

Okay, now we can move on. Because there's more!

After catching the YouTube bits, I was so flabbergasted that this actually made it to TV that I had to head to Wikipedia to find the details. Apparently this show was quite scandalous in its day because the conservatives thought that there were...brace yourself... Drug references.

But that's not the only thing that will make you go Hmmm. Again, there's more! First, the Wikipedia entry is really, really long. Which means that there really are people out there whose lives are so empty that they must spend them filling in the Wiki details for shows like HR PufnStuf. (Says the woman who has spent more time than is healthy updating soccer teams' Wiki records.)

Second, the Wiki entry includes a long section on "Plot" (no, really) which includes sentences like these:

Jimmy had been lured to the island with his friend, a talking flute named Freddy, by a magic boat which promised adventures across the sea. The boat was actually owned and controlled by a wicked witch named Wilhelmina W. Witchiepoo (played by Billie Hayes) who rode on a broomstick-like vehicle called the Vroom Broom.


But the best part comes under the section, "Claims of Drug References."

The Krofft brothers have responded in several interviews to popular beliefs that subtle drug references existed in the show. [...] Pufnstuf has quotes like "Whoa dude!" and other "hippie" slang words.

(The quotes around the word "hippie" made me giggle.)

Finally, creator Marty Krofft addressed the issue head on:

We've heard that for 35 years. We did not intentionally do anything related to drugs in the story. People thought we were on drugs. You can't do good television while on drugs. People never believe you when you say that, but you can't.

Waitwaitwait. You can't do good television while on drugs?

Then I think the question is still open to debate.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas 2009 Reflections, Part 2

We spent Christmas weekend down at the coast with my husband's relatives -- 18 of us in all. Fun time.

My daughter forgot to pack pants of any sort, so on the 26th we headed up to the strip mall that sells beach-y stuff. You know, like saltwater taffy (which, by the way, is NOT made of saltwater -- try to suppress your shock and disappointment), shell-related mementos, and beach apparel, which, given our icy-cold Washington waters, means "sweatshirts and sweat pants."

So we grabbed some sweat pants for her, along with some (non)saltwater taffy. As we were checking out, I noticed that on the side of the cash register were little refrigerator magnets.

Magnet #1: Footprints in the Sand

Magnet #2 (to the immediate left of Magnet #1): The recipe for the cocktail "Sex on the Beach."

I think my brain just exploded.

P.S. Learn from my mistakes. If you do a Google Image Search for "Sex on the Beach"? I highly recommend adding the word "cocktail." Just fyi.

P.P.S. Upon rereading this post, I must say that when I state, "My daughter forgot to pack pants of any sort," I mean that she wore a skirt the first day. Just feeling a need to clarify.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Reflections, #1

First reflection on Christmas 2009:

Now that my oldest two are kind of on their own and responsible for their own personal care products, every Christmas they get a "care package" with things like shampoo, toothpaste and bandaids -- things that they would otherwise have to buy for themselves.

On Christmas morning the older son, whose post-chemo hair is now approximately 1/4" long, opens the shampoo. With his typical dry, understated demeanor, he says:

"Oh, great. I'm starting to need this again."

Merry Christmas. It has been a year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What Bumper Sticker Would Jesus Choose?

I was out Christmas shopping today when I saw the following bumper sticker:

"Practice Compassion"

I found it quite sad that odds were that this person was probably not a Christian, at least of the self-proclaimed, chest-thumping, go-tell-it-on-a-mountain variety.

Kind of funny. Because if Jesus had a bumper?

I'm pretty sure this would be the sticker he'd choose.

Practice compassion, and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Letter to Senator Ben Nelson, who is Grandstanding to Hold Up Healthcare Reform

This is the letter I just sent to Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, who is willing to keep any form of healthcare from passing just so he can grandstand on the abortion issue. If you would like to contact Senator Nelson to tell him how he is affecting you and/or the people you love, here is the address.

Dear Sen. Nelson,

My son was diagnosed with testicular cancer last year at the age of 20. Fortunately he is a fulltime student who was able to stay on our health insurance because he was able to get his surgery and chemo treatment during summer and not drop out of school.

Unfortunately he can be on our coverage for only 18 more months. After that he will be unable to get coverage on his own due to this preexisting condition.

It is vital that he continue to receive follow-up scans for the next five years, (not to mention receiving other health care, given that chemo can cause later complications) but this will be extremely difficult without coverage unless our country gets the healthcare reform it deserves. Healthcare reform which you are personally holding up.

In other words, my smart, funny, ferociously intelligent son could be killed by your selfish, pigheaded intransigence.

Thank you very much.

P.S. I find it supremely ironic that he's willing to allow people with pre-existing conditions to die in the name of being pro-life.

Irony much, Ben?

When Spam Brings the Entertainment

Got the following in my email today. Not at my personal email address, but at the one for the soccer website I write for. And unlike most of my spam, it didn't come to both me and "my boys," the young men who write on the site with me; it just came to me, the old mom.

Not quite sure how to feel about this.

(Actual email is in regular type. My thoughts are in bolded italics.)

Happy Hempdays! (Wow. Creative. Did you make that up yourself?)

[website name] Wholesale Headshop - Pipes, Bongs, Bubblers, Grinders, all the smoking tools you need! (That's good. Because, y'know, I was running low. Also, college may have given me a passing ability to recognize a 'pipe' and/or a 'bong,' but what the heck are a 'bubbler' and a 'grinder'? Enquiring minds want to know!)

December 17th, 2009: Shipping fees slashed by 40% !! (Whew. Because heaven knows we don't want to waste the limited funds I have for this kind of stuff on shipping and handling.)

Only 2 weeks left to use promo code "crazydeal" and save 20% on your order! (ends Dec. 31st) (Tis the season.)

Check out our popular new Cobalt Blue glass by entering "cobalt" in the search bar at [link to website.] (Funniest thing is, I'm a sucker for cobalt blue glass anything -- wine glasses, decorative bowls.... I almost clicked on the link. Then I remembered I don't know how to clear my own search history.)

Glass Peanuts for $2.84 each in bundles of 7 and Inside-out Peanuts for $5.70 each in bundles of 7 using the "crazydeal" promo code (ends Dec. 31st) (Umm...I didn't think I was naive, but what the heck is a "glass peanut," anyway? Must...not...)

Why Buy Wholesale From [company name]?
1. Over 300 products in stock and counting!
2. We beat every competitor's price by far! (Visualizing comparison shopping...)
3. No minimum order requirement! (Again, whew! I hate the companies that ding you 'cause you only want to buy a single grinder.)
4. No tax ID required! (Giggle.)
5. Secure shipping with FREE insurance! (Yet again, whew! Because, when these things arrive broken, it really ticks me off.)

Whoa, dudes. Thanks for the spam. Wait. Did somebody say Spam? LOVE Spam. 'Specially in scrambled eggs. Or with pasta. Followed up by chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

Wait, what were we talking about again?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Things You Don't Say Every Day: A Fly Died Today on my Toilet Paper Roll

So this morning I walked into the bathroom and saw...

A fly. Just sitting on my roll of toilet paper.

I walked over and waved my hand at him to get him to fly away, and... No. He didn't move.

Turns out he was dead. He had flown into my bathroom, landed on the toilet paper roll and expired. I had to remove the TP from the dispenser thingie and shake him off into the garbage to get rid of him.

I'm pretty sure this is a sign of the Apocalypse.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Speaking of Favorite Christmas Music

This is Emerald City Voices, created by my daughter and her friends after they kind of outgrew the youth choir they grew up in. (My daughter is on the far right.) First we have them performing "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies" at Meany Hall this weekend:

And next we have them at last year's Figgy Pudding Caroling Contest, competing for "Most Creative." They won. :-)

Yes, I'm proud. They sound even better in person and have earned close to $2,000 this season for things like music, or a recording fee, or next year's Figgy Pudding charity entry fee.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Here's Why I Love Seattle

Here's why I love my beloved city:

Best Sellers Nationwide, as reported by Publisher's Weekly:

1. Going Rogue, by Sarah Palin

On the other hand, Best Seller on the local scene, at Fremont Place Books:

1. Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, not Bombs, in Afghanistan by Greg Mortenson

I can tell ya right now which crowd I'd rather hang out with.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why I Haven't Been to Prison in Awhile

I haven't been to prison in awhile. A couple of years, I think.

For some people this would be a good thing. For me, not so much.

I've been involved in prison ministry in one way or another off and on since 1992. If you've never been, all I can tell you is that it's one of the most powerful things I've ever experienced -- a time when you can believe that you are really, truly in touch with something bigger than yourself.

Statistics have shown, in the past, that prisoners who get involved in a faith community like ours are substantially less likely to reoffend. When you go into prison as a religious volunteer, you are giving them a tangible gift, and receiving one yourself as well.

Problem is, for me, that I'm no longer as certain of what that gift is, or whether it's still one I am comfortable giving.

I think it started with preemptive war, i.e. war against a counry which had done nothing against us. I saw the photos of the children and the parents we'd blown up -- in order to get at a leader who had nothing to do with 9/11 and no discernible connection to Islamic terrorism -- and I was ashamed. But what I was most ashamed about was that people were justifying this in the name of Christ.

It's only gotten worse since then.

I want my faith back. I want to be able to believe again wholeheartedly in a just and loving God.

I want to go back to prison.

Friday, December 11, 2009

My Christmas Song of the Season, and My Plan to Reclaim My Christian Faith from the Politics and People Who've Stolen It

In past years, I've posted my favorite Christmas songs. This year is no different. Here it is. Dave Matthews, "Christmas Song."

Father up above
why in all this hatred
do you fill us up with love?

Those are the words for liberal Christians in these days of so much hate and anger, when Christian faith is tied so closely to one political party, in opposition to so many of the things Christ wanted in this world.

I've decided, today, that I'm going to begin a journey: the journey to reclaim my faith from the people who have made the decision that faith must be politicized, and especially that it must be politicized in a rightwing kind of way.

I can't accept that, and I refuse to relinquish my faith just because these people say I am wrong.

Tis the season. The journey starts today.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Joys of Non-Conform-ity

I was at church the other day, down in the kitchen, heating up my cold latte in the microwave. My eyes fell on the rubber gloves they keep there for purposes of safe food preparation.

The name on the glove box?


Like a command.

Just reading it made the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I am not kidding.

It's a good thing I don't live in a subservient-woman society. Is all I can say.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Google Tells Us About Ourselves

When you do a Google search in Firefox, Google gives you the options it thinks you might want based on what others have been searching for. What do you think these particular searches tell us about these people, and about American society?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Things I'm Thankful for This Thanksgiving

Things I'm thankful for today as I prepare for dinner for 15 or 16:

I am thankful for my family.

Some people refer to them as "the lights of my life." Some as "the apples of my eye." I kind of prefer, "The free labor to clean the house before the company descends."

I am thankful for Scumblaster shower cleaner.

You know how most soap scum removers are like that "friend" who, when you ask for her help, will kind of roll her eyes and say, "What, you let the shower go four months again?!? Okay, I'll help you. But not too much. Because then you'll never learn."

Scumblaster is the friend who says, "Oh! Your mother-in-law is coming? You're stressed out, aren't you? Why don't you kick back, grab a cup of tea and relax while I do all the work?"

Seriously, when my local store stopped carrying it, I started buying it through mail-order. It's that good.

I am thankful for strong lungs.

The kind that can withstand Scumblaster, Soft Scrub, Pine Sol, Lime Away plus little dabs of bleach on the mildew spots in the caulking. All in one (admittedly well-ventilated) bathroom.

Don't try this at home, kiddies. It's for emergencies only.

I am thankful for the Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving ritual, where Sarah comes home from wherever she's living to make apple pies with me. I remember spending the years when the kids were little, doing this all by myself. This is much, much better.

I am thankful for wine discounts.Because at our local grocery, if you want 10% off, six bottles is the minimum.

And if the gang of twelve who are over 21 don't finish them, I'm sure we can put the remainder to good use after everybody leaves on Saturday.

I am thankful that my situation is unlike that of my fellow ESL teacher, in that my mother-in-law who is visiting for the holidays is NOT my former home ec teacher.

And finally, yes, I am thankful for holidays and the chances they give to reconnect with extended family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Odd Thing Is, I Know Just What He's Talking About

So I was skyping recently with a friend who is also a diehard fan of my favorite soccer team. His children are much younger, and we somehow ended up on the topic of what it's like to have a kid with cancer.

Him: don't know how i would handle it if one of my little ones got cancer... can't even think about it.

Me: At first it's really surreal, but then you realize that crying for more than three days is really boring, and it just kind of becomes the new normal

Him: yeah, i can see that.
Him: kind of like when arsenal lost to barca in the champs league final in 06

Me: hahahaha! I'm one of the rare moms who would not be offended by that analogy. :)

Him: that made me laugh out loud.
Him: i won't be using that analogy publicly.

And oddest of all? Any sports fan who's seen his/her team lose a huge game and had a kid get cancer (because surely it's not just me?) will probably tell you it's a pretty apt comparison. Not that anybody would consider the two situations equivalent. Just that, eventually, life has to go on.


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Now THAT would create an interesting class...

Conversation in the car with my 14-year-old as I'm heading home to write up my ESL lesson plan:

Me: I need some kind of fun activity using the -ing verb tense. Like, "I am running, he is walking" kind of thing.

Him (not quite serious): Oh! You should do "Duck, Duck Goose!"

Me: So you're saying we should play the "Ducking and Goosing" game.

Him: Yeah! It would be awesome!

I only wish I had the guts...

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Best Inappropriate Way to Spend Halloween

My daughter has some friends who plan to spend the night tomorrow driving through Greek Row by the nearby university and playing "Slut Bingo."

You know:

"Slutty nurse!"
"Slutty animal!"
"Slutty comic book character!"
"Slutty playboy bunny!"
"Slutty Disney character!"


This is inappropriate and sexist and shouldn't make me laugh. But it does.

I am a horrible person.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Squirrel Humor and Other Things That Made me Smile. Or go "Hmmm..."

(I'll get to the squirrel humor in a minute. The best things can't be rushed.)

First, though, I spotted this is from Readers' Digest's humor issue. It made me laugh out loud. (Because I have the maturity of a twelve-year-old boy.) It was in a section on the Bulwer-Lytton contest for the most intentionally bad opening paragraph. (Named for Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, oh he of "It was a dark and stormy night..." fame):

"As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the sound chamber, he would never hear the end of it."


Next, this isn't a joke. It's an actual news item. Remember Carrie Prejean? The former Miss California who feuded with Perez Hilton over gay rights? And who is now suing the Miss California pageant for violating her right to freedom of religion?

Apparently it goes both ways:

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — The organizers of the Miss California USA pageant sued former beauty queen Carrie Prejean Oct. 19 to get back the $5,200 they gave her in January for breast implants.

Even better? When I first read it in the Seattle Times, I misread the amount as $52,000. I was thinking that for that amount of money they'd have to be magical breast implants. Like, y'know, they allowed her to fly. Or had built-in invisibility cloak properties. Or something.

(Maybe even so magical they'd make this woman shut up, go away, and realize that her fifteen minutes of fame are long over.)

Oops, sorry. Too snarky? To fix that, I'll close with my squirrel theme, with a couple of posts taken from that great website My Life is Average:

Today, I was walking home from class when I saw a squirrel bury an acorn and cover it up with dirt. Then the squirrel started picking up leaves, examining them, and tossing them aside. He finally set one down on top of the dirt mound. I walked over and saw that it was the absolute perfect autumn leaf. Animals can have OCD too, apparently. MLIA


My Biology teacher always uses squirrels as examples. Today we were going over ecosystems, so he asked "What do squirrels need to reproduce?" One guy in the front, without thinking, responded with "Nuts." The class cracked up. MLIA

Like I said, I am SO immature.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

So What Do You Write About When Nothing's Happening?

Forgive my long silence. It's just that nothing is happening in my life. And this is probably a good thing.

My son's back at school, and he's got a cute little bit of peach fuzz on his head, his hair growing back at last. My beloved Seattle Sounders have made the playoffs. And I've started another ESL class.

I walked into the first class a few weeks ago to see three of my favorites students from last year in the next class level up. (They are all Asian and over 65 and moved here to be with their tech-employed kids. I love them to pieces. They tell me they miss me as a teacher, which makes me feel all kinds of good.) The other three students from the class aren't anywhere in our group of classes, which means they've tested out of our non-profit agency and will now need community college classes. Which kind of makes me feel good, (I taught them! they learned!) but is still a tiny bit bittersweet.

My new class is slowly bonding and connecting. As always, I am amazed by their guts, by the fact that they came here knowing nothing and just leapt into a new life. I think about how exhausted I was after ten days in France a couple of years ago, even after five years of studying the language. The differences in everything from language to culture to food... (Remember when I assumed that "marinated salmon" meant it had actually been cooked?) By the tenth day, after a long train trip with surly French people, I was so thrilled to find an Americanized hotel by the airport (a bathtub! a blow dryer! cable TV!) that I wanted to a) curl up in my americanized bed and never leave, and b) cry from joy.

And yet these people throw themselves into life here amongst so many people who wish they'd never come, and they keep getting up and going back for more, day after day. They amaze me.

I love teaching ESL. Have I mentioned that before? It hits so many of my hot buttons, from my language nerdism (it is such joy to explain things like pronunciation and syntax) to my love of foreign language to my lefty liberal "everyone who works hard deserves a chance"-ism.

And every Wednesday I say a little prayer that the class will go well and I'll be able to teach in a way that helps my students learn. Oddly, the days I forget the prayer are the days things don't go well. And this is something I don't realize until the next week, when it's time to say the prayer.

God, (my own personal lefty, liberal, I-love-everybody God) is here in these classes. I feel him. I'm sure of it.

And did I just say, up above, that nothing is going on in my life?

I guess I lied, huh?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

You Will Love This

I thought this was one of the sweetest videos I've seen in a long time.

(My family just saw "Wicked" a couple of weeks ago, which makes it even sweeter.)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Great Avocado Dilemma

So let's say you have two avocados. One is absolutely, perfectly ripe. The other is just slightly past its best. Both are still edible, but only one will have that perfect rich taste and smooth texture. Here's the dilemma:

If you eat the overripe one, you can live to have avocado another day. But by then, of course, that one will be overripe too. Two times the avocado, but no perfection. But if you eat the perfect one, the overripe one will probably go to waste.

Given the price of avocados, I usually eat the overripe one. Today, though? Today I ate the perfect one.

And it was worth it.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

I Am So Confused

This blog just got a hit from somebody googling the following phrase:

"Pantyhose and testicular cancer"

I am so confused.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It All Depends on Your Definition

Last night we went out to celebrate my older son's birthday. (The actual birthday was last week, but last night was the night everybody was available to get together.)

As in previous years, it was immediate family + daughter's boyfriend + son + his girlfriend + his gang of friends, many of whom have been close since early high school. Party of 14, total.

My husband and I take all of them out to a medium-priced restaurant each year. It's lots of fun for everybody, a free meal for the college students, and probably the most accurate snapshot we get all year of what's going on in his immediate circle.

After we were seated, the waitress looked over the assembly -- a group whose parents or more distant ancestors hail from Africa, all over Asia (including Iran, Afghanistan, Japan and China), the Mediterranean, and pretty much everywhere in Europe -- and said, "What kind of group is this? It's obviously not a family."

Given that this is the gang that has been with my son all through his diagnosis and treatment for cancer, the gang who stuck with him and supported him and gave him a place to go where he could feel normal, I found myself thinking, "I don't know. I think it all depends on your definition."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

So Where Is That Line Between Past and Present Tense?

I'm stumbling over verb tenses recently. Is it:

a) my son HAS cancer? or
b) my son HAD cancer?

This is a much easier question when I'm talking about my mother, who had breast cancer twenty years ago. DEFINITELY past tense.

For my son, though, it's a bit more complicated.

Surgery over? Check. Chemo done? Check? Which means that, at present, there are no more active treatment options unless the cancer definitely and obviously recurs. Which it shouldn't, by a 95-5% ratio. And this is good.

But to say that this is DONE feels like tempting fate, does it not? It's not DONE. My son's bald head will cheerfully tell you that. We're still looking at five more years of quarterly scans and blood tests. Five more years of wait and worry.

And when you're looking at that, cancer still feels like a daily part of your lives. It is gone, yet it is still here. How do you talk about this kind of thing?

And so, semantically, we choose the middle ground: My son is recovering from cancer. My son just finished chemo. My son is expected to be fine, but it's been a challenging summer.

This is what we say as we cross our fingers and wait for the permanent past tense.

Friday, September 25, 2009

My Daughter Is Best in the World At Showing Me Ways to Throw Away My Life

Curse you, my daughter!

I have just spent a frigtening amount of time on the site "My Life is Average." Which is kind of like F My Life (or Vie de Merde) except that the stuff that happens to people isn't horrible. It's just...average.

Some examples:

Today, while eating M&M's I found a purple M&M in my bag. I'm onto you, red and blue. MLIA.

Today in maths I stole my friend's cellphone and changed my name in her contacts to our teacher's name. Half way through class she got a text saying "Stop talking and do your work!" and looked up at the teacher, with a very worried look on her face. MLIA.

Today, I was sipping tea with a spoon because it was too hot to put to my mouth. My Mom saw and said, "Stop that, you're not supposed to drink tea with a spoon." I then responded, "Then why is it called a teaspoon?" I have yet to hear an answer back. MLIA

Last week I met some new friends on my vacation. When I left we shared a big goodbye and said how we would never see each other again. I ended up sitting next to them on the flight home. It was awkward. MLIA

I needed these laughs.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Inner Word Nerd Has a Tunisian Enabler

I have discussed my word-nerdism here before. But there has been a change. Now it's not just me feeding my own addiction. Because I now have a Tunisian enabler!

To make a long What happened was that I found a French video in which a woman sings a sultry song professing her love for the ultra-controversial French soccer team coach. (He is controversial because he has some of the most talented players on the planet but he can't make them win games, to the point where France may not even qualify for World Cup. And yet the French football establishment refuses to fire him. Fans have decided that he must have some seriously compromising photos in his possession.)

But anyhoo. The video is titled, "Je Kiffe Raymond." The verb "kiffer" is a very trendy French slang word that roughly means "to adore." (But would probably translate slightly more towards "I think he's hot.")

So I posted it in the blog about the French team this morning along with this question:

Also, native French speakers, satisfy my word-loving curiosity here. I know the verb kiffer (roughly “to like” or “to adore”) comes from the Arabic “kif.” But does the word kif in Arabic really have something to do with cannabis? Or is the person who told me that just having a little fun with me?

Got this back from our Tunisian blogger, Rami:

kif can have lots of meanings in Arabic. “kif kif” literally means “same same” in arabic or at least in Tunisian arabic.

“tkayef” means to smoke so there’s that extension from “kif” and there is the insinuation its canabis too depending on context.

in tunisia you can say something to the effect of “naamel kif” which literally means “have a smoke” but depending on how you use it can mean “i like it.” so if you’re having a smoke over something, it means you like it quite a bit. example: if someone “kif’s” or likes a movie just imagine someone sitting back and having a smoke while they watch the movie. the cannabis smoke or just a smoke haha.

ok that was long winded, sorry laurie, but short answer is yes lol.

Not sure why someone would kif Domenech though! I’d go crazy if he was Tunisia coach. Having Lemerre was bad enough!

Fascinating, no?

No, I mean really.

(Although I'm not sure he should be encouraging me like this.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It's Funny 'Cause It's True

(This is probably the only thing I've ever liked Will Ferrell in.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Look What I Found Under My Bed!

So today I was cleaning up the random junk that falls under/behind the bed. You know: socks, books, the occasional earring. And what turned up but a CD-ROM from the State Elementary Chess Championship that I hadn't seen in ages. (No idea how long it's been there, but I do know for a fact that it hasn't been there since 2006!)

Where did it come from? I have no idea. But it made me smile. Here are some of the kids and parents who were such a big part of my life for so many years:

(click to enlarge)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My Grocery Basket is SUCH a Stereotype


I was over at our church women's retreat this weekend. (Well, except for the eight hours I took to come back over to Seattle to watch my beloved soccer team's eleventh draw of the season.)


On the way back to camp, I stopped at the grocery store. As I was heading for the checkout stand, I realized that my basket was...well...let's be honest here... A stereotype.

What did I have?

Tampons, Advil and chocolate.

Damn. I am so female.

(Once I realized this, grabbed some earplugs and tossed them in the basket. You know. Just to throw people off.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I'm Not Going to Tell You My Birthday Wish...

I'm not going to tell you my birthday wish. But if you've been following along the past few months, you can probably guess.

My son's last day of chemo was today. It was time. I knew this because they had changed their latte special, and the drink I got hooked on six weeks ago now costs $4.00 instead of $2.75.

It's good to be done. Next step: hair regrowth, followed by the five-year wait-and-scan-and-worry phase.

Friday, September 11, 2009

"How to Communicate With Teenage Boys" and Other Pearls of Wisdom Triggered by your Google Search Strings

Ah, Google and the internets. How I love you. The fact that you not only allow random people to find my blog, but you then also allow me to see HOW they found my blog?

Genius. Pure and simple.

So what have we got recently? First off, every week or two I'll get at least one hit from somebody googling "How to Communicate With Teenage Boys." As the mother of one current and one former teenage boy, I feel your pain.

I also find it hysterically funny that you came to this blog, given that the post it leads to is all about how teenage boys do NOT communicate.

Because living with a teenage boy is like living with a specter. A wraith. A ghost. (A ghost that eats. A lot.) They kind of wander through your house in a way that's not like living with another human being, yet is also not like being alone (in that you don't have the freedom to run around in your underwear or dance to AC/DC.)

And like a specter they will, with luck, eventually transition to the next phase. This is what you are waiting for. Until then, you feed them, love them, and volunteer to drive them and their friends everywhere. Because it's amazing what they'll say to their friends when you're in the car. And don't think for one second that this is because they actually forget you're there. They just say the stuff they want you to know but wouldn't dare tell you face to face.


Best thing I ever read on teenage boys was this advice from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who left the wild and woolly world of politics to spend more time with his family:

I don’t know how many of you have had teenage boys, I know nothing about teenage girls, but teenage boys are like clam shells. They really are exactly like clam shells. They are tightly shut and occasionally, just occasionally, when you least expect it, those clam shells open and you see inside this very soft and beautiful and very vulnerable interior. Then the clam shell shuts tight again and you don’t see it and you don’t know when, if ever, it will open. But it will open at a very unexpected time and in a very unexpected way, and if you’re not there when it opens you might as well be on the moon.


Next: To the guy who found this blog by googling "Free Cell Win Percentage"?

Give it up, dude. I'm at 100%. It is mathematically impossible to top that.

Okay, so I'm only at 100% since my computer got a virus and the tech guy had to delete my old data. Still. A hundred percent equals a hundred percent.

You googled me. You found me. Now it's time for the respect.

And finally, to all the people who have found this blog by googling, "pile of pantyhose"? I get the feeling this is some odd fetish that I do not understand, and it's creeping me out. So... Just go away.

To everybody else, though?

Thanks for googling, and be sure to stop by again.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Murphy's Law Regarding the iTunes Shuffle Function

Murphy's Law Regarding the iTunes Shuffle Function:

If you have an iPod playlist with several hundred songs, and a tiny handful of those songs have risque lyrics, and you decided to use that playlist as background music for a nice dinner with your husband and all of your kids and your daughter's boyfriend (with the "shuffle" function enabled), the risque songs will all rise to the top and get played. Guaranteed.

(Oh, what? So Cindy Lauper's "She Bop" and Tone Loc's "Wild Thing" bring back gr-eighties memories. Is that so wrong?)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

For Once, I Agree with the Wall Street Journal

It's not often that I agree with the ultra-conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page, but today we found common ground. A few excerpts:

"Conservatives for Filthy Hands"

The way some conservatives reacted when President Obama announced that he would address America's schoolchildren was downright kooky. "As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology," Jim Greer, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, said in a statement last week--an odd way to characterize what was billed as a speech whose purpose, according to the Education Department, was to "challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning."

Turns out, however, that the speech was about such radical and socialist concepts as hard work and reaching for your goals. Shocking!

Drudge amusingly bannered the president's instruction to WASH YOUR HANDS, or, as the speech puts it, "I hope you'll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don't feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter."

But really, the conservatives are more deserving of mockery in this case. Is it really their position that children should have filthy hands? [...]

Blogress Michelle Malkin, stung by Varadarajan's column, posted a response declaring, "It's not the speech, it's the subtext." What she means by that is that she has a litany of other (quite possibly valid) complaints about Obama. That is, she is objecting to something that is completely unobjectionable in the hope of somehow advancing her objections to things that may actually be objectionable.

Possibly there is a more precise adjective to describe this rhetorical strategy, but "kooky" does seem to fit.

Amen, WSJ. Amen.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Miraculous Reappearances

My daughter moved last weekend, vacating a large-ish duplex for a small one-bedroom apartment.

And this is probably entirely coincidental, but at about the same time, the following items made miraculous reappearance in my home:

The turkey roaster (aka the "Cookie Turker.")

The suitcase. (Okay, so this one's not mine. I just liked the photo.)

The low-backed lawn chairs

And, because these gifts couldn't come empty-handed, the also brought along their friends: the tiki torches and the broken desk chair. Oh, and various and sundry boxes, bags and clothing items.

Still waiting to for the miracle of the (2)cake pans and my Betty Crocker Cookbook.

Maybe in the next move?

Saturday, September 05, 2009

A Photo of Camp Colby

This is a postscript to my last post about the miracle of the survival of Camp Colby. It's a photo of one of the buildings that did not survive.

Take a look. In particular, look at the overhanging trees and the closeness of the other building.

Then tell me a miracle did not take place here.

Friday, September 04, 2009

California Wildfires: A Story Behind the Story

Before you read this, you need to read this, from the LA Times.

Manager of church-run camp assesses fire losses, and saves

Mark, the camp manager in the article, was one of my husband's best friends growing up. After high school, Mark became a logger. Later, when my husband took a job in LA after college, they were roommates. They belonged to the same Methodist young adult group, and that's where Mark met his wife. When my husband moved to Seattle and we got serious and went to visit LA, Mark was one of the first old friends I met.

Mark is not a behind-the-desk kind of guy. He loves the outdoors. So when a job in Camp Colby -- the Methodist camp in the hills outside of LA -- opened up, he jumped at the chance. A few years later he became the manager. He and his wife have three kids who've never known any other home. He's been there twenty-four years.

There has been fire danger before this year, obviously. But this most recent wildfire looked like it was going to be the one that brought down the camp. As the article says, the flames headed their way and he was given an hour to evacuate. I think that the Fire Service told him that they couldn't make saving the camp a priority. This included their home -- a huge deal for a man with three kids, one of whom has autism and responds best to continuity and structure.

The last time J. Mark McConnell saw Camp Colby was Saturday afternoon, when flames were racing down from nearby Strawberry Peak and fast approaching the camp where he has lived with his family for the last 24 years.

Sheriff’s officials told McConnell, the site manager, and two other staff members at the United Methodist Church-run camp that they had one hour to get out. His wife and children had gone ahead. He hurriedly grabbed his cat and two dogs and left, but the cat slipped away from him and disappeared into the smoke.

The fire passed through the area, and damage to the area surrounding the camp was huge. But Mark had a friend from the Forest Service stop by the camp, and he told Mark that from what he could see, a few of the outbuildings had been taken, but most of the remaining buildings looked like they were still standing. Mark called my husband Monday night, overjoyed.

Problem was, that was all he heard. And he wasn't allowed to go back up to check it out. The Forest Service and everybody else responsible for safety said it was still too dangerous.

So he contacted the LA Times and got connected with a reporter. Somehow, she got them permission to go up. He told my husband last night that the ride up the mountain looked completely barren, like a moonscape.

On Thursday, his hopes sank as he traveled the precarious roadways up toward the camp in the depths of the Angeles National Forest, dodging low-hanging power lines and avoiding rocks that had tumbled down the steep terrain in the fire.

Where a lush canopy of green oak trees had once formed a tunnel above the roadway, only skeletons of trees stood, looking like charred black matchsticks. He stared in disbelief at piles of ash that marked where his neighbors’ homes once stood.

“They’re burned out over there, and over there as well,” he said, pointing at the debris. “My friend’s place was over there; it’s gone

But fortunately his friend at the Forest Service had been right.

But the 373-acre camp, where McConnell’s three children were born and reared, seemed to remain the only patch of greenery in the landscape of devastation. Many of the 25 wooden cabins tucked in amid huge mature oaks and cottonwoods appeared to have survived the flames.

Gone were three mobile homes — where the camp staff had lived — one cabin containing 12 beds, one meeting cabin and one restroom.

But his family’s home stood nearly untouched, and a $30,000 wood chipper he had just purchased also had been spared.

“They must have been up here, they must’ve been up here!” McConnell excitedly said of firefighters as he dashed in and out of the buildings, looking for his cat and assessing the damage.

He ran around stamping out smoldering patches with his boots, and shoveling dirt onto them. McConnell said he will be “walking with a spring in his step,” though his cat is still missing.

Is that the best part of the story? No. Mark found out yesterday that the firefighters never made it into camp. Everything left standing at the camp was the result of two factors: First, Mark's twenty-four years of work at making the camp inhospitable to fire, and second, the grace of God.

Oh, and the cat? It took shelter in the house and is fine.

(P.S. I picked up the details second-hand from my husband after his conversation last night. The bulk is definitely accurate. If I missed any details, though, forgive me and let me know.)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I Wish I Were a Fox on a Trampoline

One of my Facebook friends found this video. I am jealous of the curious fox. Also, are there any other grownups who wish they had a private trampoline that they could jump on with nobody watching?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Indelibly Etched...

 May 24, 2009

It is May, and I'm arriving back at SeaTac airport late on a Saturday afternoon. I've just spent a week in Italy with my daughter -- a trip of frequent flier miles and cheap hotels, museums and cathedrals, the Sistine Chapel and the Coliseum. Evenings spent gossiping and giggling in the piazza with her roommates. A girly week, completely wonderful, and now I'm glad to be home. She has one more week of classes, so I'm alone on the flight.

I have to smile when I get through customs. Unexpectedly, all of "my boys" are waiting for me at baggage claim -- my husband and both our sons. Our oldest son in particular has his own life now, especially on a Saturday evening, so I'm surprised and happy to see him here. The four of us collect my luggage and head out to the car, chatting about my trip. Later, I will be amazed that I didn't pick up on anything unusual, but I somehow just...don't.

Before we leave the parking garage, I jog over to the the garbage can to get rid of my gum. When I come back, my guys aren't waiting in the car like I expected. Instead they are all gathered around the back bumper, and they're all looking at me. And I realize, at last, that something is not right.

My husband says, out of the blue, "You know that testicular cancer is one of the most curable cancers there is. Ninety-five percent." And I am clueless. I have no idea what he's talking about. I wonder if he has gotten bad news about my dad, who is at an age where cancer isn't unexpected. And then I wonder if he is talking about himself.

Then I look at my older son's face, equal parts frightened and embarrassed. Suddenly, painfully, I understand. And the safe, happy cocoon of my life implodes.

They have known for three days, all three of them, and they made a joint, wise decision to wait until I got home to tell me. Surgery has already been scheduled for Wednesday morning.

And I am fine with the news, just fine, for five or ten minutes, until about the time we get on the highway. I even spend this time sitting there in the car thinking, "I will be good at being supportive. I am handling this...fine."

And then the reality sinks in. My son has cancer. People die from cancer. Ninety-five percent surviving means that five percent...don't. And the most positive odds in the universe make no difference if the person you love is on the other side.

And even if he's in that 95 percent, what then? Can he stay in school? Will he be able to have children? How will he get health insurance? Will the treatments hurt him? Is the life he was heading towards before this still even possible?

Against my will, I begin to sob. I feel horrible for doing this to him, yet the tears are uncontrollable, from someplace much deeper than volitional action. I want to stop them, I try desperately, but the shock on top of nineteen hours of travel are just too much. So I keep turning around toward him, facing him in the back seat and apologizing. "I'm sorry," I sob. "I'm really sorry." He keeps telling me it's okay, like it's perfectly normal that he should be comforting me in this situation.

And the whole time, the words that keep playing in my mind, over and over, are "Not my son! Not my son! Not my son!" My young, healthy, athletic son can't have cancer. It just can't happen. My mind travels back and he is three again, the little boy with the imaginary friend, the child who would sit on my lap and play with Ninja turtles.

Please, oh, please, God, I'll do anything. Just...not my son.

And then we are home. Everybody grabs a bag, and my husband puts his arm around me as we head into the house. It's thirty degrees cooler here than it was in Rome, and I lean against him to try soak up his warmth and stop my shivering. The tears have subsided, but I feel dazed and exhausted and inadequate. It's only six p.m. and the night seems endless. Words catch in my throat and every action is an effort. I wonder how people can get news like this and even continue breathing, let alone doing anything else.

And yet what's the alternative? So we spend the next few minutes going through the motions of being normal, which in this case means focusing on the practical: My husband and youngest son will bring in Chinese, from our favorite restaurant in the next town over. I don't think any of us has much appetite, and I realize that this is more about wanting to give my son and me a chance to talk than it is about getting food.

A great idea, in theory, yet once the two extroverts are gone, neither of our introvert selves knows quite what to say. It's a painful diagnosis and a difficult cancer for a young man, and there is so much that neither of us can make ourselves talk about, at least not yet. If there's a manual for being the mom of a testicular cancer patient, nobody's given it to me.

And so we verbally stumble between awkward conversation and awkward silence. "How are you feeling?" "Um...fine." "Have you told anybody?" "Just a couple of people." "Are you going to tell anyone else?" "I don't know." "But you're feeling...okay...?"

Finally, for no reason except to fill in a silence, I say, "Sounders are playing tonight."  It's not a suggestion. Because surely this night should be more substantial than a soccer game?

Yes, but... Soccer has always been what we've shared, he and I. Something we've had together. Playing, watching. Connecting over World Cup and Fox Soccer Channel and USL Sounders. And this year our new MLS team, Sounders FC, which we've both embraced with passion.

"You want to watch?" he asks. His voice is, oddly, hopeful; I realize with surprise that there is nothing at this moment that either of us wants more than this.

"Do you?" I ask.

"Um...yeah, I wouldn't mind."

So we sit on the couch, and the game begins. My husband and youngest son return, but they're not soccer fans, so we're on our own in front of the TV. And that's okay.

We make gentle, aimless conversation, each word a lifeline tossed into the void. Will Montero break his slump? Freddie's still out with migraines? Can the team overcome? Will they play better tonight than in the past few weeks? Was the long-ago fantastic start to the season a fluke?

In a perfect world, our team would somehow sense their role in our lives tonight and be magnificent. Instead they play badly, their passes awkward and disconnected. They're troubled by the altitude, and they desperately miss their star player, Freddie Ljungberg.

Somehow, though, Fredy Montero, our Colombian striker, manages to score first, on a misplaced strike that rebounds off the post and back to his head, allowing him to drive the ball into the net, perfectly. It's the first time he's scored in weeks.

Our euphoria is short-lived, however. Colorado strikes back, not once but twice. And given the lackluster way the Sounders are playing tonight, this would seem to be the end. (Unless, of course, Colorado scores again, which we both agree seems possible.)

Yet we're wrong. In the 75th minute our Nate Jaqua strikes. Against the odds, against the run of play, Sounders have tied it up. And that's how the game will remain: 2-2, a draw.

It's not a perfect game, not well-played. Not pretty. Our guys were not the better team. But some days that's what you get. You take the equalizer, you take the point, you feel gratitude that you did not lose, and you move forward.

And so we do.

What this has been about, I realize later, wasn't the winning or losing, or even the game itself. What we've experienced has been the blessed ability to feel normal again, if only for a couple of hours. A realization that even as our lives turn inside out, we will still have things to return to, these small oases of normal life.  Whatever happens, we still have Sounders. And for tonight, that is something to hold onto.

Tonight, I will sleep thirteen hours, beating back the jet lag and preparing for whatever comes next.

Tomorrow I will begin the research. Tomorrow, I will work on the questions to ask the doctor. Tomorrow I will start figuring out the kinds of things a mom of a cancer patient should say and do. And tomorrow I will begin to collect the stories from people who have been where we are and gotten through it. I will gather them up and string them together to be looked at over and over, like gemstones on a bracelet: "My cousin, twenty years ago, doing fine." "My brother, who now has three kids." "Lance Armstrong." "Tom Greene." "My uncle." "My friend." A first, big step in figuring out our family's new normal.

For tonight, though?

For tonight, we have watched the game, together, and Nate Jaqua has scored the equalizer.

And somehow, for tonight, that is enough.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Thing About Stained Glass

This quote was in a book at the "cancer library" at University of Washington Hospital:

People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.
-- Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

I think it was destiny that I was drawn to designing a quilt like this one, where the light is in the fabric itself.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Because I Can't Just Write "Eating a Sandwich Now"

So I've changed my mind about Facebook. It's not so bad. And I can say this despite the fact that my fourteen-year-old son has twice as many friends as I do and he's been on Facebook a month less. I'm just waiting for it to catch on among my set. Pretty sure.

I like it because it helps me keep in touch with people I wouldn't otherwise see. Like, I learned that someone I know is in the hospital without going to church. Which felt all kinds of both wonderful and wrong. Because when Facebook replaces church, I'm pretty sure the whole world is going to hell.

Or something.

The problem is, most of my friends don't update their status all that often. I, on the other hand, do update my status, at least once a day. Even when there is nothing going on. Which there usually isn't. And since I can't make myself type something like, "Eating a turkey sandwich" because that is JUST SO BORING, instead I type things like this:

Laurie had tons of fun taking A and S to an all-girls Sounders game last night, even if they lost. And for the record, [A's mom], I was not technically encouraging her to yell "Let him die! Let him die!" at opposing players faking injury to waste time. I was merely informing her of what OTHER people might be yelling. It was entirely...educational. ;-)

Or this:

The most compelling reason to have breast implants: so that when your ex-husband the reality TV star murders you and stuffs your body in a suitcase, the police can identify you by the serial numbers. (Damn, I live a sheltered life.)

Or this:

There is a lake in Canada named "Lake Minnewanka." I probably should not find this funny, but...I do.

Or worst and most embarrassing admission of all, this:

Laurie has a tragic statement about what her life has become. She just watched ten minutes of Golden Girls for the first time in twenty years and found herself coveting Bea Arthur's clothes!

And not only that, I'm a good friend, too. Take a look at what I wrote on a friend's update about going to Vegas with her just-turned-21-yo-daughter:

When I was in Vegas, our cab driver was a former male stripper. This was a MUCH less positive experience than one would expect.

A young woman from church who used to babysit my kids (and who kindly agreed to my friend request despite my being of her mom's generation) wrote on one of the above posts:

Your status updates are my favorite.

I'm really not sure she should encourage me like that.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Only Answer to Ignorance This Profound...

In a recent poll, Americans were asked if they thought "Government should stay out of Medicare."

(Keep in mind that this is an impossibility, since Medicare is an entirely government-run program created to ensure the elderly can afford health care at a time in their lives when their expenses will almost certainly overrun any private market insurer's ability/willingness to pay for them.)

The results?

Among Republicans, 62% say the government should stay out of Medicare, compared to only 24% of Democrats and 31% of independents who agree.

The only response to ignorance this profound should be to refund these people any money the government hasn't already paid out on their behalf, then cheerfully wave goodbye as we wish them luck in finding their health insurance in an unregulated open market.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Why I Hate My Alarm Clock

I am really, really tired tonight, because I had to get up to get my son to his chemo appointment, so I set my alarm. Except that instead of the alarm clock giving me lovely peace of mind -- allowing me to sleep well, secure in the knowledge that I would wake up exactly when I needed to -- all night long I was waking up and thinking, "Is it time yet? What if I miss the alarm?" I woke up (for the tenth or so time) half an hour before it was time to get up and just shut the stupid thing off.

Or technically? I actually just unplugged it.

Because... Well, I will be honest here: I cannot for the life of me figure out how to turn off my alarm. For the past year or so, I have been going through what I thought were all the correct motions to shut it off. And it will lull me into thinking it's turned off by going temporarily quiet. But really? It is just messing with my head.

Because the next day, same time, it will go off again. And then the next day. And the day after that. Over and over and over, morning after morning. Until I get ticked off and just unplug the damn thing. Or throw it out the window, which has been something that has been considered, particularly on days like the day after Easter, when I really don't need to get up at the same time I needed to get up to go to the sunrise service.

Pretty sure the stupid thing used to work. Long ago.

Maybe I need to buy a new alarm clock?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Is This the Coolest Quilty Thing Ever or What?

Check this out. It's Seattle Streets, the pattern I designed a few years back, but not exactly a quilt. Instead it's a "stained glass" backdrop for a church cross in Ohio, made by Holly.

For the "quilt" I used batiks.and a Bali black as my leading. It is not a true "quilt" as there is not batting and backing. I knew I had to fill a total of 12 panels in the midst of the white molding at the front of the church. We had "burlap" covered mesh that use to allow the sound of the organ to come out into the church. We no longer use that organ, and I wanted to add some color to the front. When I found your pattern a couple of years ago, I knew that was going to be my solution, so I started collecting batiks. I really wanted it to look like stained glass.

You are right, the white strips are the molding. To "mount" the stained glass to the panels, we cut 1" insulation board about 1/4" to 1/2" smaller than the size of each panel (and unfortunately, all 12 panels were a little different in size.). I then took a staple gun and stapled the excess fabric to the back after making sure I had centered everything. Oh... I put a 3" strip of black around each of the 12 panels so that I would have enough black to pull to the back.

I like this idea so much I'm considering doing something similar for the wall over our stairs.

I do find it interesting that Holly sent this pick-me-up photo to me this week, i.e. the first week of son's chemo, which I think everybody has probably figured out has not been my Favorite Week Ever.

Divine inspiration, perhaps?

Friday, August 14, 2009

It's Okay! I've Got Kinsey Millhone on my Side!

So I wake up this morning to discover that somehow my big 80 lb. black lab did not get latched into his crate/bed last night. This means, of course, that after we were all asleep, he snuck out and raided the garbage. Because despite the fact that he spends 98% of the time being the sweetest dog in the universe... Well, when food is involved, he's just all kinds of sneaky and clever.

I truly believe that labradors could solve all the world's problems -- I'm talking global warming, cure for cancer, the Mariner's inability to make it to the World Series -- if we could just figure out how to let them know that they would be rewarded with food when they got the job done.

Sad part is, I was even thinking, right before I went to bed, "Wow. The garbage is pretty full! Maybe I should take it out!" And then I thought, "It's been a long week. I'm tired. Screw it. I'll get it tomorrow." I believe the bloody pot roast wrappers and stryofoam shreds and all of the Tootsie Pop sticks and wrappers and all of the old icky shreds of napkins and paper towels on my floor this morning are God's punishment for procrastination.

Actually, I'm fairly certain there is a Proverb about that.

But it's okay. I can handle it. Because I've got Kinsey Millhone on my side.

For those of you unfamiliar with Kinsey, she is a fictional character who is actually me. Pretty sure. (Seriously, there's one scene in one of the middle books where she wants to look dressed up, but since she never buys clothes she has nothing to wear, so she takes a crocheted table runner off the dresser and shakes all the dust out, then wraps it around her neck as a scarf. I can so see myself doing that.)

She's the main character of twenty books so far, starting with "A is for Alibi" and currently going through "T is for Trespass." ("U" comes out in December.) And she and the King County Library System are together working to get me through my son's chemo.

Currently on "E." Waiting for "F." Already read "G" because it was there.

I wonder, when all this is done, if I will want nothing more to do with Kinsey, the way some people dump the person who gets them through a traumatic time because being with him/her is a constant reminder of something they'd rather forget.

I don't think so.

'Cause turning my back on Kinsey? Well, how can you turn your back on yourself?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chemo Tales

My son is playing soccer tonight. Because that's apparently how you react to three days of chemo. You go play soccer. The sport being, I believe, the figurative finger you give to the disease they call "cancer."

I was pleased that he at least asked the nurse beforehand. And even moreso when she said yes. With the caveat that one of the drugs they've given can affect the lungs, so he should stop immediately if he feels short of breath.

Pretty sure he actually will.



Hospitals are odd places. Societal microcosms, where first generation immigrants and the impoverished rub shoulders with the society matrons with the gold jewelry and the wide-eyed, multiple facelift faces.

Because disease is an equal opportunity thing that even the rich can't protect themselves from.

On a practical level, the thing that surprises me most about chemo is how Incredibly. Freaking. Boring it is. Seven to nine hours of just lying on a bed. Or sitting and watching someone lie on a bed, if you're a parent. First they insert the IV, then they run blod tests, then they pre-hydrate: A full liter of liquids. Drip, drip, drip. Then they run two or three drugs, one at a time, one or two hours apiece. Drip, drip, drip. Then they post-hydrate, to keep the drugs from hanging out in the kidneys for too long and causing damage. Drip, drip, drip.

For seven to nine hours. Drip, drip, drip.

Fortunately he's three days in and there's no nausea to speak of. (Which would partially explain the soccer.) They're great at the hospital about staying on top of the side effects while you're getting the chemo, with the strongest and newest anti-nausea drug injected right into the IV along with the fluids and drugs. (Drip, drip, drip.)

That's all supposed to change toward the end of the week or the early part of next week. The effects are cumulative, and each day is supposed to get a little harder, so that by the end of the six weeks you feel like you've been to hell and back. The end of this week/beginnning of next week is also when the hair is supposed to go. Which will, of course, suck.

But for tonight?


Read between the lines.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

My New Happy Song

I downloaded this song from iTunes about three weeks ago. I don't think there is a number big enough to describe how many times I have listened to it since then.

(I think the video was filmed in Rio?)

Friday, August 07, 2009

Crying. In Starbucks.

I cried in Starbucks today.

Not in a collapsing, boohoohoo kind of way. But definitely a "the cashier looks as me funny as I wipe away the tear that just slipped out" kind of thing.

What triggered this?

Two separate people allowed me to go in front of them in line.

And it wasn't even anything related to me. The first person was talking to somebody on the sidewalk and wasn't ready to end the conversation, so she cheerfully waved me ahead. And the guy in front of me then realized he knew the people in the doorway and wanted to go back and chat with them. So I got bumped up two places in line. Which made me cry.

I know, right? I am currently a basket case.

The reason I was at Starbucks, a place I rarely go these days, was that I had to arrive at the vitamin shop right at its 10:00 opening so I could buy ginger supplements to get them back home to my son to take before he had to leave for his pre-chemo appointment at the hospital.

You see, ginger was recently shown to have strong anti-nausea properties for patients going through chemo. Thing is, though, you have to start it at least three days in advance. Today would be the closing of the window.

I got to the vitamin shop at 9:56. All was dark. Rather than wait, I decided to go to Starbucks in the same strip mall. Got there only to discover a line so long I wasn't sure I could stay, since my son had to leave by 10:20.

And that's when I was waved ahead in line by these people. I got my coffee, got my ginger, and was home by 10:20.

I am crying now, remembering. Like I said, I am a basket case.

I fully expect this to wear off in a week or so. I was like this right after the initial diagnosis, and then cancer became the "new normal," and our summer since them has been pretty average. So the same thing will probably happen once my son starts chemo. Right?

The thing is, though, that I don't want this. I don't want to see toxic chemicals pumping through my son's body. I don't want to see him exhausted and immune-impaired and nauseated. I don't want his hair to fall out, with his bald head being a declaration to the cold and curious universe that yes, this guy is a cancer patient, thanks for staring.

After my husband's father died, I reflected on the benefits of previous eras that came from wearing mourning clothes -- the fact that they are a declaration to the world: "I am Fragile. Handle With Care."

Now I realize that it's not just people in mourning who need this. It's a lot of people, suffering through a lot of traumas.

Today I am one of them.

When this is all over, I think I'll make a habit of letting people go ahead of me at Starbucks.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Are You Next? Or Will It Be Me?

I don't even have to stretch for a whole bunch of reasons we need health reform. I just have to look within my own middle- to upper middle-class family.

-- My healthy 22-year-old daughter just graduated from the best college in the state. Because of the job market, she's having to continue to work in her student retail job. Continuing to keep her on our insurance through COBRA will cost $450 a month. Her job allows employees to sign up for health insurance, but only once a year. She missed this year's window.

-- Her boyfriend, who has a degree in mechanical engineering, also from the best college in the state, is working at Jiffy Lube due to the economy and can't afford health insurance. (Ironically, his dad is an orthopedic surgeon.)

-- My husband's cousin has been separated for several years from a husband she never sees and rarely talks to. She can't get a divorce because she's in her fifties and self-employed and has no other way to get health insurance.

-- Her twin brother is also self-employed and has no health insurance whatsoever because he can't afford it. He's hoping and praying that he just won't get sick or injured.

-- My parents are both 75. I am the child who would be best able to help them as they age, but I'm 1500 miles away. They wouldn't mind moving, but my dad's retirement comes with healthcare benefits and their insurer does not operate in Seattle. Since they both have pre-existing conditions, they can't afford to move.

-- And of course there is my son who, as I've described before, will be undergoing chemo for a cancer that has a very low chance of coming back. He'll be doing this solely because if it did come back he would be too old to be on our insurance and will be uninsurable on his own due to his pre-existing condition.

And yet right-wing extremists, driven by talk-show zealots and people who made their money in healthcare and don't want change, are disrupting every opportunity this country has to even discuss the issue, even resorting to violence to keep the other side from being heard.

How can these people not see that our current system is unsustainable? It's not affecting just the working class any more. It's affecting everybody.

So are you going to be the next one to lose health insurance because these zealots won't even allow the issues to be discussed? Or will it be me?

A Couple More Gorgeous Seattle Streets Quilts

I got an email from Diana last month with a photo of a Seattle Streets quilt she made. I thought I accidentally deleted the email, but discovered yesterday that I had actually been efficient instead. (Imagine that.) The email was filed in my "quilting" file. Now that I've found it again, I can share with you the photo from that email plus the one she sent in the follow-up -- both of which are gorgeous!

First was the quilt for her daughter, here:

Second is the quilt she made for her son and his wife, who saw the one above and wanted one for themselves.

What's really fun about this particular email for me is the story of how this came about. I originally created the pattern and decided to give it away for free to see where it ended up. I first sent it out to about 150 people on 5 continents through a quilting Yahoo group. (Every continent but Africa and Antarctica.) I also sent it to Nikki at UFOrphanage, who kindly offered to host it on her site, so anybody who wants it can print it out from there.

Since then I've heard from several quilters who've made the quilt, but I think they've mostly been part of the original group I sent it to, or connected to them in some way. Diana is the first person I've heard from to see a quilt made up at a quilt show, google the name, come up with the pattern, and make the quilt. I hope she's not the last!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

My Newest Guilty Pleasure

So here's my newest guilty pleasure:

Vie de Merde.

Not sure if I should translate, but literally? "Life of "S**t," en français. Although, for the record, s**t has about as much shock value in France as "tabernacle" has in the US.

"Vie de Merde" is the French version of the English-language site "F My Life," where average people tell about reasons their lives are geniunely, truly bad. An FML example:

Today, I was on my couch when my landlord walked in. He asked what I was doing there. I responded with the same question. Apparently my roommate forgot to call me and tell me that our lease ended three days ago. I am now standing in the parking lot with all my belongings, and it is raining. FML

WARNING: Not all are so G-rated.

(Also? Must confess that this site was recommended to me by my daughter. Not sure what this says about my family.)

F My Life is entertaining, but it's obviously fluff. With Vie de Merde, however? Well, let me just give you an example:

Aujourd'hui, après une nuit passée à l'improviste chez mon copain, ce dernier me propose d'emprunter une culotte à sa colocataire, plutôt menue. Je lui signale subtilement que je doute de pouvoir y glisser mes hanches. Il me rassure : "Mais si, elle aussi, elle a un gros cul." VDM

Loose translation:

Today, after an night passed unexpectedly at my friend's place, he proposed that I borrow shorts from his flatmate, who is petite. I subtly informed him that I doubted that I would be able to pull them over my hips. He assured me: "But she has a big butt too!" VDM

I had to look up "unexpectedly," "borrow," and "flatmate." Because of this, I am QUITE certain that this is not just mindless, tawdry voyeurism. Instead it''s... It's foreign language study!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Our Healthcare System, OR: Crying and Throwing Up. And I'm Just the Mom

It was last Monday, maybe halfway through our first appointment with the chemo doctor, and she was explaining to my son and me all of the potential side effects of his going through chemo this summer.

Higher chance of leukemia, for one thing. Oh, and vascular (circulation) effects. As in, for the rest of his life, my son's heart and lungs will be similar to those of someobody who smokes. Several times higher risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, strokes...

And that's when the tears started pressing against my eyelids, and the coffee starting boiling in my stomach, and I wanted nothing more but to leave the room and go into the bathroom so I could throw up and cry.

I didn't, of course. This was a meeting of grownups, and we were here to figure out the best option, which right now appears to be chemo. So I swallowed both the tears and the bile and pretended this was best. And it probably is.

Understand, though, (and I'm speaking here especially to our policiticians, particularly to the Republicans and blue-dog Demoncrats who think our healthcare system is just fine, thankyouverymuch) that this is not the best medical option.

My son's AFP numbers have dropped from 2200 back into the normal level of less than 8. There is less than a 20% chance that the cancer will return. Given the risks of chemo, it would probably be best, medically, to sit back and wait to see if the cancer will return. If it did, they would then treat it with both chemo and surgery.

Problem is that this is more than a medical issue. The peak time for a cancer to return is 2 to 5 years after the original surgery. My son will be a college junior this year. Two to five years will put him just out of college and in the workforce.

But, unless he's one of the lucky ones to get a job with a large company, it will be almost impossible for him to find health insurance he can afford once he's no longer on our health insurance. He will have a pre-existing condition, which makes him uninsurable. A return of the cancer then would be disastrous, as would a return of cancer while he's still in school, when he'd probably have to drop out for treatment and, because he would no longer be a fulltime student, could no longer be on our health insurance.

And so, next week, he will start chemo, because it's covered, and because he can do it this summer when it won't affect his schooling.

And so we will be embarking on thousands of dollars of treatment which may damage his health in the future almost solely because our healthcare system is screwed up and may not be there for him in the future when he needs it.

It's enough to make you want to cry and throw up.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

You Know You've Been Neglecting Church When...

You know you've been going to too many sporting events and not enough church when you carry your Diet Coke into the sanctuary, then find yourself looking on the pew-back in front of you for a cupholder.

Sorry, God. I'll try to do better.

(Unless, of course, I'm already going to hell for the photo.)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Health Insurance Reform: My Son's Last Chance

Since my son has been diagnosed with cancer I have been living with one sick thought:

For the rest of his life if we stay with our current US health care system, insurers will be twisting themselves in pretzel knots to keep him from being covered.

I think of this every day when I get the mail and I discover yet another bill. $40,000 so far, and he hasn't even started chemo yet.

I think of it every time I open up another envelope from Cigna, our health insurer. Each time, my heart stops a bit until I get to the part that says yes, they will cover this particular procedure or appointment.

I think of it when I reflect on the fact that if he were to have to drop out of college due to this illness, he could no longer be on our plan, which allows children over 18 only if they're full-time students. (Thank GOD he discovered this at the end of the Spring term, when he could finish all his treatment over the summer.)

And I think of it when I read articles like one today by Amy Goodman (unfortunately I can't find it online right now to link to) where former health insurance executive Wendell Potter details the lengths insurers will go to to keep from covering people like my son. Since he describes the machinations of his former employer, our health insurer, Cigna, the chances are that right now there is some flunky studying our policy and trying to figure out ways to NOT cover my son's cancer treatments.

All because, through no fault of his own, my healthy, athletic son's body was attacked by a malignant tumor.

For the record, profits by the private health insurance industry soared by 428% from 2000 to 2007. They made this profit by being sure that they took in more money than they paid out. In other words, they made sure that they weren't on the hook for the sickest, most expensive patients. Patients like my son.

In other countries, this profit is not a factor. It's only in the US that NOT PAYING FOR TREATMENTS FOR SICK PEOPLE SO INSURERS CAN MAKE PROFITS is considered a valid argument in the health care debate.

And the worst part of it is, even though my son's chances of being completely cured after chemo approach 100%, for the rest of his life this will be a pre-existing condition that will preclude him from ever getting health insurance on his own. His only hope is to start up immediately after college with a large company.

This is not right. We need health care reform desperately in this country, yet our legislators are best buddies with the very people they're supposed to be regulating. This isn't going to happen unless WE THE PEOPLE make it happen.

We have a very short window of opportunity here in the US. This is the chance of a lifetime. If comprehensive health reform to benefit people like my son doesn't happen now, it will never happen.

Please, please, please, mentally insert a picture of your own son or brother or husband or grandson in the above picture.

And then contact your senators and representives.

Because this kind of tihng happens overnight. And next time, it could be you.