Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

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Presenting Our Annual "Sauerbraten und Käsespätzle" Dinner!

Each year, between Christmas and New Years, we create (we don't just cook!) and devour (we don't just eat!) our annual Sauerbraten und Käsespätzle dinner. We look forward to this meal all year long, not only for its deliciousness, but for the great time we have preparing it. This year we got a late start in the day and didn't end up eating until 11 PM, but it was well worth the wait!

Tom's brother Craig is the master of the Käsespätzle and even when Tom and I were in Germany last September, we didn't taste any Käsespätzle that came close to his! Craig starts with 10 huge sweet Walla-Walla onions, over a pound of butter, a delicious mix of Emmathaler and Swiss cheese, and then puts his little brother and his nieces and nephews to work!

In the meantime, I throw together (and it really is that easy) the sauerbraten and get that cooking on the stove for just a fraction of the time (thanks to the red wine vinegar) that original sauerbraten used to cook in German kitchens.

Normally, I begin the rotkraut (also called blaukraut; what's with that?!) at the same time that I begin the sauerbraten, but due to circumstances beyond my control last night (too much heffe weizen beer?!), I didn't get it started until it was much too late and... well, it's still on the stove as I type this the next morning! But I did steal some still-too-raw rotkraut for my final photo!

So here's a bit of a vertical photo collage, beginning with a video that I took of the organized chaos in the much-too-small kitchen. Notice how everyone reveres me and my camera and eagerly participates in my production? (Pfffffft!) But I like this because it shows everyone's personality. Before the scene even really begins you can see Peter leave the room. He had just said something along the lines of, "If you're taking pictures or a video with that damn camera, I'm outta here!" But he does re-appear to get a glass, so HA!. Craig, Elisabeth and Aleks are deeply immersed in the dance that is Käsespätzle, with Elisabeth ignoring me and Aleks admonishing me not to narrate my videos -- so true to their personalities! (And Elisabeth licking the dough -- yuuuk -- is just pure Elisabeth!) Poor Kat is still on pain meds from her oral surgery; can you tell? Tom is washing dishes, which is just where I like him, and sweet Danelle -- well, she speaks for herself!

Tom insists that the goggles prevent onion-induced crying. I just think they look funny! But cutting ten huge onions does require the big guns!

So who are all those people sitting around my gold-accented New Years table? Left to right, that's Elisabeth's boyfriend Scott (yes, the one who brought me roses on Christmas Eve!), Tom's mother Rose (Nana), Aleks, Kat, Tom, his older brother Craig (for whom I am seeking a wife!), Peter, Danelle, and Elisabeth. In my gratitude journal, these guys all rank right up there with air to breathe.

(If Blogger would allow it, I'd post a caption with each picture, but for some crazy-stupid reason this simple task can't be achieved in Blogger (tips, anyone?) and even my geeky brother-in-law Craig couldn't get the html to cooperate enough to caption photos. Please tell me they're working on this!)

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Quality Time with Nana

Elisabeth's showing Nana the scrapbook I made her for her graduation from Cal. (The roses were a Christmas gift to ME from Elisabeth's boyfriend, Scott!)

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25 Things That are Good for the Soul

  1. A warm bubble bath (preferably candle-lit).
  2. A heart-to-heart.
  3. Solitude.
  4. Company.
  5. A pen and paper.
  6. Paints and a canvas.
  7. Fresh air.
  8. A hug.
  9. A waterfall, trees, and a trail.
  10. Forging a trail where there isn't one.
  11. A kiss. (Short, long, friendly, passionate -- and everything in between.)
  12. A healthy debate -- with resolution.
  13. Loving unconditionally... and feeling unconditionally loved.
  14. Smiling, laughing, giggling, guffawing.
  15. A new country. A new language. A new cultural experience.
  16. Music -- specifically, Dance of the Blessed Spirit by Christoph Gluck.
  17. Crayons.
  18. Hearing from a dear old friend who you thought was gone forever.
  19. Mashed potatoes.
  20. A baby. And a toddler.
  21. Kittens. And cats.
  22. A rose garden.
  23. Sleep. And sleeping in.
  24. Candles.
  25. A soulmate.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Busy Days!

I've been posting very short tidbits and a lot of pictures because life has been so crazy-busy lately! Dad and Lou arrived on the 22nd and left on the 26th, and Tom's mother and brother arrived on the 27th and will stay until the 2nd. Today Kat will have her wisdom teeth extracted and on New Years Day, I will complete three FAFSA forms (federal financial aid applications), each of which require significant preparation.

(And my Google Reader indicates that I have yet to read 373 of your posts. I'll try to get to them! I hope you're not feeling neglected!)

Oh, and of course I must continue to nag the kids to apply for scholarships (grrrrrr!). For some reason they seem to believe that the potential for winning any scholarships is next-to-nothing and not worth the effort involved. But, upon the advice of the financial aid adviser, I've set myself up as the "gatekeeper," forwarding applicable scholarship opportunities to them and offering to do all the other administrative tasks. "Send us a video of your best air guitar performance" says one $500 scholarship (that went to Aleks). "Send us a photos with your best smile." That one went to Kat. It's amazing how many scholarships are out there, some of them based on quite bizarre criteria (although most do require the typical "why I deserve this scholarship" essay). I DO expect the kids to each win a few, even if they don't believe that they can!

And now it's time to bring poor Kat to the oral surgeon. We stocked up on soft and mushy foods yesterday, including berries and vanilla ice cream for fruit smoothies, the ONLY part of this ordeal she's looking forward to at all.

And sorry, I've been strictly prohibited from shooting any photos of the whole thing.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

2007 in Silly Photos

As I was working on my annual end-of-the-year sideshow (tune in on New Year's Eve), I found a few silly "rejects," which I decided aren't actually rejects at all:

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mine! Mine! Mine!

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A Coffee Catch-22

Sometimes I'm so tired and my mind is so sluggish that I need coffee in order to make coffee!

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Happy Jolly Christmas and All That Stuff!

If I could, I'd invite you all to join me and my family around our festive table for our traditional Bavarian Christmas supper of weisswurst and Opa's kartoffelsalat, and then to join us for our traditional heilige Abend around the Christmas tree.

May your celebration be merry and may peace soon prevail on earth!

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Omi's Candle

During Mom's last few days of life, after she struggled to whisper to us that she was "floating" on a lake somewhere in the Alps near her childhood home of Traunstein, Germany, my brother lit her favorite Bavarian candle, the one with the traditional white and blue diamond pattern and the small edelweiss flowers etched along its base. That candle burned continuously as Mom finally stopped fighting and began to relinquish herself to forces more powerful than she.

In the very early hours of Easter morning in 2004, my father woke me from a fitful half-sleep and took my hand, leading me down the hallway to Mom. "If you’re very quiet, you can hear how peaceful death is,” he said to me sweetly.

In the still hours before dawn that morning, my brothers, my father, and I sat silently with Mom as she lay motionless, her breaths like a tiny, delicate little bird’s: very shallow, very regular, and very soft, with a faint rhythmic “click” to each breath. She looked totally relaxed. As Mom drifted sweetly and peacefully away, the flicker of her favorite Bavarian candle died with her, extinguishing itself exactly as Mom drew her last breath.

I'll never try to explain how or why the light of Mom's
Bavarian candle died exactly as Mom took her final breath that morning. Maybe it was coincidence.

Maybe it was a gift.

This past September, Tom and I visited Munich, Mom's favorite German city, and as we approached the Frauenkirche, I broke into sudden, uncontrollable tears. At that moment I could feel Mom's spirit like I never had since her death, and I missed her dreadfully.

Through the blur of my tears I noticed a small candle shop in the shadow of the church, and there in the window of the tiny shop was Mom's candle! Strong and solid, bright and colorful, it fought its way through my tears. Tom saw it just as I did and without a word he took my hand and led me into the tiny shop.

As we bought the candle, I
silently promised Mom that it would be lit each year on Christmas Eve, her favorite holiday, and a day that she filled to the brim with the Bavarian traditions that I've passed on to my own family.

Mom's candle now sits on our mantle, hidden amid the lighted garland. It will be lit this Christmas Eve for the first time.

My father has found love again and I've never seen him happier. I, too, adore Lou -- partly because, as a friend of Mom's who I first met at Mom's memorial, she will completely understand and support the lighting of Mom's small blue Bavarian candle and she will join us in our small tribute to Mom's undying spirit.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Mr. Tommy Remodel

Tom just finished a little "filler" project that kept him busy while rain fell incessantly on our new landscaping, preventing him from creating any more waterfalls, rock walls or dry creek beds:

In the past 12 years Tom has pretty much rebuilt our house and turned a drab, hastily-built 1977 split-level box into a beautiful, custom-designed, craftsman-built home. I've only included a few photos in this before-and-after slideshow because, stupid me, I didn't take "before" photos of all the rooms!

My Mr. Remodel has single-handedly (well, I provide encouragement!) completely remodeled our house, from installation of ceramic tile and hardwood floors throughout (probably the most major change), to replacing two ugly brick fireplaces with gorgeous river rock ones, to installing French doors in the dining room, to completely remodeling two bathrooms (one to go!), to replacing light fixtures, a banister, and all kinds of other "small weekend jobs."

The next big project will be the kitchen, but I've forbidden Tom from attempting that because -- well, because I really can't do without my kitchen for a year or two (he's good, but he's s-l-o-w).

The man deserves a rest and a trip to sunny Maui! (No dear, that's not a Christmas present hint... You wish!)

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Friday, December 21, 2007


Aleks and Kat submitted their applications (online of course) to the University of Washington at the end of November, with Kat applying on the 26th, four days before the deadline, and Aleks pressing SEND within moments of the deadline. It had been a busy week for all of us, with the twins writing essays galore and me reviewing and editing them.

And now we wait.

There's quite a bit of anticipation in our household lately, with Aleks and Kat awaiting word about UW and me awaiting word about a specific job. (I'll fill you in when I can; cross your fingers for me because this would be such an awesome fit!) Since Aleks' and Kat's classmates are beginning to hear from colleges to which they applied, there's a constant stream of cell-phone buzzing and Facebook-checking to see who's been accepted to or rejected from various colleges.

"Ali got into Vassar!" Kat announced yesterday, upon checking the text message that had just come through on her cell phone. Aleks, barely looking up from the constantly-refreshing Facebook site on his laptop, joined in. "And Kate is deferred at Yale, but accepted at UW."

Hearing about others' status, especially regarding UW, makes Aleks and Kat nervous. Why haven't they heard yet? When will they hear? Will they hear on separate days, forcing one to know and one to wait longer? And worse, what if one is accepted and the other is rejected?

UW has a web page that indicates the current status of applications, so Aleks and Kat have, of course, been spending time checking in to that site. Kat announced a few days ago that all required documents had been submitted and her application was in "active review," meaning that a decision was imminent. Aleks' "pending" application was close behind Kat's in the queue.

The other night when I thought everyone had gone to bed, an IM startled me as it popped up on my screen. It was from Aleks, who was in his room, just a few closed doors from where I sat at my makeshift diningroom table office. "What if Kat finds out before me?"

"Not to worry, my son," I replied. "For you are wise and will find great fortune and joy in news forthwith!"

He wasn't buying it.

"But she applied a few days before me and I barely made the deadline, so her chances are better." Was I sensing trepidation, competition, or both? These two rarely compete, so what is this? It's fear, I decided. Anticipatory fear. And it's palpable around here!

In the only non-electronic piece of all this, they wait each day for the mailman and then run outside to the mailbox to see what surprises await. Santa has nothing over UW!

I think both Aleks and Kat will be accepted to UW and my prediction is that it will happen before Christmas. I'd like to also believe that I'll receive some great news very soon, so there's a chance that the holidays will be fully gifted before we even approach any physical presents.

But there's nothing any of us can do now but wait and hope.

No, actually, that's not true. Aleks and Kat can get moving on those zillions of scholarship applications (and I know you're reading this, guys, so get moving!) and I can start gathering information for filling out the FAFSA on January 1st. I swear, applying for colleges really is almost a full-time job -- especially when it's times two! (Or three... although Peter really only needs to inform Washington State that he'll be attending, since he's transferring from a community college with an AA.)

So cross your fingers for all of us! You know I'll post as soon as I hear anything!

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happy Birthday to the Man Who Has Everything...

A cuppa joe, today's newspaper, a cute l'il puppy dog and... meeeee!

That's Tom a few (pfffft!) birthdays ago. Was he adorable or WHAT?!

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wordless Wednesday: Taking Turns

Elisabeth and Boo. Elisabeth and Bailey. Equal opportunity hugger.

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The Answers

You asked! You really asked!

And so, I answer:

Becky asks: What is your favorite Christmas tradition and what tradition do you wish you had started long ago when your kids were small?

I just love the whole Bavarian Christmas eve. My mom had a cassette tape (now mine), with almost more scratches than music (just horrible quality) that absolutely captures the essence of Christmas for me. She told me that it was actually recorded in the snow outside a Bavarian church on Christmas Eve. It begins with cannons, and I swear I can hear (even amid all the scratches) the muffling effect of the snow. There's a clavier and a boys' choir, and to me it is absolute magic! If only I could find a new recording of this music, but I'm not even sure what it's called because the tape just contains Mom's handwriting: "X-mas cannons, Bavarian X-mas."

Goofball asks: On which song do you feet start to dance without stopping? On which music can nobody drag you off the dance floor?

Oh, I love this question! But I can't choose just one answer! Mika gets me bee-boppin', and Stray Cats, and some of the Shins' music. Oh, and I love Gomez's How We Operate. And KT Tunstall's Hold On and Suddenly I See. And the Dixie Chicks. And Mark Knofler & EmmyLou Harris' collaborative music. And hell, even Bach has gotten me to my feet!

And now you have me going through each of my gazillion iTunes songs, just when I have meetings to go to! (No, not interviews -- though I have an all day interview tomorrow! Cross your fingers for me; I want this one!)

Now ask me which music gets me pensive and holding back tears...

Dixie asks: If you would be allowed the gift of one luxury item, regardless of price, what would you choose?

Do love and health and time count as luxury items? They seem to me to be the ULTIMATE luxury items! I choose them! (OK, fine -- and a little red Audi TT sports car...)

Emily asks: What do you love most about living in the Northwest?

Brace yourself! I'd have to say the weather! And not because it's so great because I really don't care for incessant drizzle. But it's the weather that ultimately makes the Pacific Northwest so green and beautiful. You need only drive 20 minutes from the city (or take a walk in the forest behind our house) to be surrounded by beauty. And if you haven't experienced August in Seattle, you ain't lived!

Jen asks: What do you enjoy most about writing? Would you write full time if you could, or is that too solitary an occupation for you?

I can't NOT write. It's just part of me and always has been. My favorite writing is INSPIRED writing -- when words just flow out of me, faster than I can type them (which isn't saying much because I am a slow, two-finger typist!), and somehow they just seem to settle perfectly, with very little effort from me. It's very rare that I can write like that, but when it happens I'm grateful and in awe.

I would absolutely write full-time if I could support the family and send three kids to college on it!

You know, it's weird -- when I was young, I hated being alone, and the word "solitary" panicked me. Now I welcome it.

Anonymous asks: If you were offered a job in Germany, with a salary to allow you and Tom to live comfortably *and* pay for all college tuitions, would you take it even though it would mean living apart from your family?

Yes, assuming I loved the work. The kids would just have to come visit me! (Why? Are you offering me a job?!)

Another (I assume) Anonymous asks: If you had to choose one meal, that you had to eat at every mealtime for the rest of your life, calories no object in this hypothetical, what would you choose?

Mashed potatoes and a great salad, made by my sister-in-law, Suzie!

Another (yeah!) Anonymous asks: What advice would you give to moms of young children, coming from the wisdom of one who has brought 4 to over 18?

Oh, there's so much to say here, but the essence would be: Love them always, even when you find it difficult. Trust them as your "default setting." Let them know that, unless they prove otherwise, you trust them explicitly and that it's up to them to keep (or change) that trust. Keep the rules simple and impactful -- especially when they're teens.

(Oh wait -- YOUNG kids? Oh man, sorry, missed that! Love them, hold them, play with them, let them know how you feel about the world and encourage them to express themselves, and hold on to every single second because your -- and my -- mother-in-law was right; their childhood really does go by in the blink of an eye!)

Thanks for playing. You guys rock!

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ask Me Anything

Some of my favorite bloggers, like MetroDad, Nothing But Bonfires and, of course, Pioneer Woman, have a regular feature that I've always assumed is reserved for the really famous, really popular, really cool bloggers. They sometimes take "questions from the audience" and answer them in a post. (SFX: Ooooohs and aaaaahs...)

So even though I'm anything but famous, and probably only have enough readers for a moderate-length interview (and that's if you ALL contribute!), I thought it would be fun to PRETEND that I'm one of those oh-so-cool, oh-so-famous bloggers who I admire from afar. It'd be kind of akin to pretending that my stuffed animals were alive and all adored me, "throwing" themselves on me like wild fans at a celebrity movie opening, or posing like a model in front of the mirror, making those "who me.... aww shucks!" faces.

(You did those things too, right? We're both perfectly normal, right?)

Aw hell, who am I trying to fool? So forget the silly illusions of gradeuer and take me for who I am. But take me... and ask me... anything. Anything at all. (And if you're shy or a devout lurker, just use the anonymous button; unless you sign your name like my dear friend Lynn, I'll have no clue who you are...)

Hello? Is there anybody out there?

Is this thing ON?


Tap, tap...

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Medical Maladies and Doctor Diatribes

Spending the day at the Washington Athletic Club with my dear friend Kristin, who is battling pancreatic cancer, inspired me to start swimming regularly again. But it was my STAT trip to the hospital on Saturday that scared me into a promise to myself that I'd keep up the regular physical activity!

I was drifting off to sleep in front of the TV last Friday, as I often do. I had turned on one of those late-night TV movies and was somewhere between sleep and consciousness when I heard the announcer ask me if I had pain in my leg. 'Why yes I do,' I replied (or didn't), in my state of semi-consciousness. 'But it's no biggie, I'm sure. Just the incessant beginnings of a cramp...'

"The pain in your leg could be a serious precursor to a heart attack or even a stroke," the 70's-handsome sing-songy announcer replied (or didn't).

"A heart attack or even a stroke?" I woke up fully at that point and shot the Adam West clone a snooty, "Well I'll go for the casual heart attack then, bub!"

I mentioned what I'd heard to Tom and he suggested that I call the doctor first thing in the morning, which I did. The doctor saw me right away, even though I assured him that it's probably some pesky month-long wanna-be cramp and surely no biggie. Thanks very much and have a nice day.

But he wouldn't let me leave. Instead he scribbled something on an official looking form and practically shoved it into my hand saying, "I want you to head to the hospital right now for a venous ultrasound (what's that?) and an x-ray. There's a possibility that this is a blot clot that's about to beak loose."

"Aw doc," I pleaded. "It's nuttin'. I'm sure!"

But he'd have none of it and shood me off to one of the many Seattle medical centers. (The fact that he allowed me to drive told me that he couldn't have been all that worried!)

At the hospital, they whisked me into the tests immediately. I'm thinking that maybe the words "URGENT" written all over the paper work had a slight influence.

The tests were a piece of cake (gotta love those non-invasive sorts!) and when they were all done the tech said, simply, "You're free to go."

I am? You mean no one's gonna talk with me about what's going on? I'm just... free to go?

Seems so. So I left, almost in tears. Throughout all the "STAT" talk and URGENT shooing, I was fine. I drove alone to the hospital and like a good girl I sat still for all my tests, even without a lollipop. But when they just shood me away without talking to me at all, without telling me the results of the test, next steps, further concerns (or assurances), or ANYTHING, that's when I felt like crying!

That's when I felt really alone. That's when I was confused. And scared. And, come to think of it, angry.

I called the doctor's office, but they'd all left for the day. I called the next day, but the doctor's were available for emergencies only, and clearly this wasn't an emergency because I'd been sent home!

This afternoon (on the way to the pool to swim for 30 minutes!) I called again, amazed that they still hadn't responded to my request for communication and some kind of explanation about what was going on. I told the nurse my story, and I'm sure she could sense my frustration because she immediately said she'd talk to the doctor and call me right back -- which she did.

Turns out, I'm fine. Duh, I knew that! I can't blame them for jumping into high gear once I presented with disconcerting symptoms. But I wish there had been more communication. It seems that it's the patient who is often lost in the shuffle and who is often left in the dark about her own condition.

And that does piss me off!

So it turns out that the nurse suggested that I call the doctor back about "next steps" which, ya know, I really don't want to do! And I can't imagine I'm alone in wanting to drop the ball. I wonder how often that ball IS dropped at this stage, out of fear, apathy, frustration, whatever, and then something happens because the patient didn't follow through and address the problem.

I'll follow through on this because no one else seems to be able to and oh yeah -- because it IS my body and my life! I'm sure it's nothing that a little swimming won't cure...

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Friday, December 14, 2007

"18 in '08"

I grew up in Berkeley in the 60's, a place where and time when politics and having a voice were paramount to -- well, to just about everything! When I was growing up, everyone who could vote, did. And those who couldn't vote used their voice in other ways: protests, sit-ins, impromptu action meetings at Cody's Bookstore on Telegraph Avenue.

Apathy was a foreign word to me and to my Berkeley peers, as well as to our parents and teachers. NO ONE was apathetic. We knew that we had the power to change the world with our collective voices, with our music, and with our passion. We knew it deep into our souls, and that knowledge defined us. It became our identity individually and collectively and, it turns out, it became my generation's identity around the world and through history.

Fast forward to my kids' generation -- to today's 18-to-24-year-olds. (And I have FOUR in that age group...)

I am absolutely ashamed to say that I don't think any of my four adult children is registered to vote. I blush as I type that because it's unconscionable that, in this decade when more money is going to an unjustified war than to educating American kids (who are lagging woefully behind most industrialized countries' educational achievements), many 18-24-year-olds don't believe that they can change things. For some reason, they seems to believe that the power to initiate huge change is out of their hands -- that somehow their parents, the kids of the 60's, still own that power.

But they're SO wrong! 18-to-24-years-olds can change the direction of this country -- and goodness knows, the direction of this country desperately needs to change! The first step is to understand and believe in their collective -- and yes, their individual -- voice.

David Burstein is an 18-year-old who GETS it. He made this movie. I've already sent a link to all four of my kids. Maybe this sort of thing is what it will take is for us, the flower-child, sit-in, make-love-not-war generation, to convince our kids that we're passing the baton to them now -- that the future truly does belong to them and that they can -- no, they must -- shape it.

For more, go to

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Recipe for a (Near) Disaster in Gray Seattle


1 immense gray Seattle sky
1,000,000 gray raindrops
1 dark gray car
1 light gray car
1 gray road
1 graying woman

Insert graying woman into dark gray car. Place gray car on gray road. Drive through gray skies. Sprinkle gray rain generously over dark gray car. Spread gray rain evenly over gray road. Proceed in gray car on gray road. Begin to turn left on (green) light.

Light gray car! Don't you see it? LIGHT GRAY CAR!

Slam right foot of graying woman on brake of dark gray car in order to oh-so-narrowly miss front end of light gray car.

Curse the gray skies, gray road, gray rain, gray car... and gray mood.

Notice sprouting of 117 new gray hairs.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My Grrls and My Addiction

I love impromptu fun stuff with my girls!

Kat has an assignment due tomorrow for which she has to "build DNA." With an eye-roll and a sigh, she complained that projects like this remind her of the projects she did in elementary and junior high school -- projects that called for felt and beads and Styrofoam and feathers and such. Projects that required a trip to the local CRAFT store.

Oh wait -- a trip to the local craft store is a GOOD thing!

This is the same craft store that I absolutely adore because it's filled to the brim with the most amazing scrapbooking supplies. Scrapbooking is like crack cocaine to me.

If I knew what crack cocaine was to me -- which I don't. But still.

There was a period of time when I'm pretty sure I spent hundreds of dollars a month on scrapbooking supplies. I'm not exactly sure how much I spent because I was in deep denial, but suffice it to say that I have to be physically restrained from feeding my very expensive habit.

Except today. Kat has a school project to do, f'rgoodness sake, so a trip to Ben Franklin is completely warranted. In fact, I even sent her a text message this morning, saying "Meet at BF at 2:30, then Starbuck's?" She replied, "YEAH!"

It was a date. And I'd get to feel myself surrounded by the sights and splendors of my favorite craft store. I could hardly wait!

Out of the blue, and with no knowledge of any school project or arrangements Kat and I had made, Elisabeth called me at about 2:00 to ask whether I'd like to meet her at, believe it or not, Ben Franklin for some holiday project ideas. (Women are like this; we often travel on the same wave length -- especially if we're related and/or live together.)

And so we met. And shopped. And I drooled. Oh, how I drooled over the scrapbboking supplies, wanting to promise that I'd be good... that I'd only scrapbook a little bit, only buy a few supplies, only dabble.

(See, in the background? That's my stash. It wants me! It calls to me!)

But we all know better and I was forced to leave the store with only wire for my advent wreath and felt for Lou's name on her stocking.

Still, we had a wonderful time in spite of my withdrawals. We designed secret Christmas projects together, sometimes saying "go away" to a sister or Mom, but mostly ooohing and aaaahing over just about everything and every possibility in the store. And then we went to dinner, where Elisabeth and Kat (but mostly Elisabeth, who doesn't have a shy bone in her body) flirted with the waiter and I reminisced and longed for my youth when I was quite the little flirt, too.

But I know I'm old because what I really wanted to woo were those crafty little scrapbook supplies across the street, the ones that were calling to me. The ones I resisted. Really! I did!

And it hurts to say that.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

'Round and 'Round and 'Round She Goes, Where She'll Land, Nobody Knows!

I've had four interviews in the past week, either in or within a pebble's throw of these Seattle landmarks.

I love working downtown (especially if the hours and days are flexible, because of traffic) and I would happily work at any of these places.

I love the diversity of the potential jobs, too -- casual gaming, creating online tools for families, developing interactive museum exhibits, and a cool non-profit focusing on youth.

But I've learned not to count chickens, eggs or job offers before they hatch,* so we'll see what comes down the pike!

*Yeah, that offer is still officially on the table, but we both seem to be stalling over the holidays...

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Monday, December 10, 2007

So What's So Bad about the Doorknob and String Method?!

Or, as Tom calls it, "the pliers and bottle of whiskey method..."

Remember this?

Kat will be the first of the remaining three kids to have her wisdom teeth extracted. The surgery is scheduled for December 28th. Today we met with the oral surgeon for the pre-surgery appointment. All went just fine -- in fact, a bit too much like an assembly line for our liking -- until it came time to discuss the financial arrangements.

Right on cue (after the nurse, the doctor and the nurse again, all in very efficient succession), the office manager came into the examining room and handed me the already-prepared financial statement. As you can see, the cost to us, even after insurance, is a whopping $1589.00!

Times three.

Yes, I asked about a payment plan, muttering something about being unemployed. Nope -- they expect payment in full before you leave the (quite swanky) office on the day of the procedure! (Hand me some of that anesthesia, would'ja kiddo?!) And lest you think this particular surgeon is taking us for a ride, I called around to quite a fewer local oral surgeons and all of their rates were comparable.

So here's a bit of career advice to my kids:

Dude(s), become oral surgeons! At $2200 per procedure and about 80 procedures per month (I know because I asked...), that's a whoppin' $176,000 a month!

And oh -- while you're at it, can you pay off our Visa bill? Because it's looking like it'll take us until you're out of college and working to pay off these surgeries!

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Christmas Lights

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Quote of the Day

"I literally don't know how to get his head out of his ass!"

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It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

It's even snowing outside!

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Powerful Words about Education

As an educator, I love this!*

Teaching and learning are often reflective of each other. Effective teaching is reflected in effective learning, and usually a concept that is learned and absorbed completely is a result of a great teacher.

* I found this via Mother of Shrek. She has some similar great tidbits on her blog!

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Humanity: Basically Good or Basically Evil?

When I got home (from swimming!) last night, I was the only one home. Tom soon arrived home from work and we assumed that we were the only ones home to get a tree. (I'd invited all four kids plus one friend each to help decorate the tree and bake cookies today, but as far as we knew they were all busy last night.)

We decided to go out for dinner and then get a tree. Just as we were ready to go, Peter and Danelle came home, so of course we invited them to come with us. Then, as the four of us were ready to get in the car, Aleks arrived home from work. We asked him if he wanted to go get a tree, but he declined... until he found out that dinner was included. Suddenly, my strapping 6-footer was in! (And I was ready to change the dinner plans to McDonalds!)

The five of us picked out a lovely tree and headed to our favorite Chinese restaurant. The conversation somehow turned to stupid things people do... which turned to the question of whether people are basically good or evil. To me, this has been an absolute no-brainer and actually has been, I realize, a big part of how I look at life.

People are basically good, with an idiot-dummy thrown in here and there for, well, for bad measure. Duh. Just look at the examples of the past few hours and days: the woman at the Christmas tree lot remembered us from last year, coming in on December 23rd, just after the power was back on after the 9-day storm... and our 9-day trip to Hawaii. She spoke of how great the people of our town have been -- bringing them warm meals and hot chocolate on the really cold nights. And look at how quickly the Pacific Northwest community came together to support the flood victims! There were so many donations of food and clothing, some had to be turned away! I could go on and on.

I rest my case. People are definitely basically GOOD.

Oh nooooooo... everyone else insisted. People are basically bad. Naughty. Evil -- with a few do-gooders thrown in for good measure. Really, they insisted (all four of them!), people are generally jerks, and are mostly on good behavior only when watched or when given external motivation. Look at all the bad things people do to each other all around the world, all through history. They rest their case.

This has been bothering me ever since. Especially coming from my family -- people who are really down-to-the-core GOOD, altruistic, generous, kind people. They believe that humanity is basically evil?! It's just a bummer of a realization -- and I can't help but wonder where this came from and whether I did -- or didn't do -- something to influence that attitude.

Sigh. Gotta go joyously string lights on the tree in joyous anticipation (yes, I'm being facetious!) of an afternoon of tree decorating and cookie baking with a household of basically good kids and their friends!

What do you believe? Are people (is humanity) basically GOOD or basically EVIL?

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Friday, December 07, 2007

One of These Things is Not Like the Others...

...One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Inspiration in a Name

And that name is Kristin.

I met Kristin when I was 11 and she was 19. Like many before her, Kristin answered the ad that my parents had placed in The Daily Californian, the UC Berkeley student newspaper. Since I can remember, a Cal student had lived in the "servant's" bedroom off the kitchen in our 1906 Craftsman house near the Cal campus. The student received free room and board in exchange for about 15 or 20 hours of household help and babysitting. Although I'm sure I spent substantial time under their care, I couldn't tell you the name of a single one of those students.

And then came Kristin. From the very beginning, Kristin was different. From her hearty laugh to her silliness to her long straight blond hair that I envied, Kristin was completely different than the others. She loved her time with us kids and I'm sure she spent far more than 20 hours a week with us. I remember sitting in her room, admiring all her jewelry, perfumes and lotions, but especially admiring the lemon scented creme shampoo that came in the pot with the twist-off lid. That fragrance has came to define the Kristin who I knew then.

Kristin was more than fun. She was downright goofy. One night, when Mom and Dad went out, Kristin announced that we were gonna "go ice skating in the kitchen." Almost covertly, as if she were afraid of getting in trouble, Kristin removed all the ice cube trays from the freezer and dumped them into a bowl, telling each of us to take off our shoes, grab a bunch of cie cubes, step on them and "go for a spin." Within a few moments, all five of us were skating on our kitchen floor as if it were an Olympic ice stadium! Kristin whooped and hollered and sang as she glided and hopped and hustled across the floor, losing and retrieving ice cubes as she went. The rest of us followed suit, of course, exhausting us into a great night's sleep. Rumor even has it that she greeted my parents with the good news that the "kids had helped (her) wash the floor"!

A few weeks later, Kristin initiated a game of "tummy wars," in which one kneels on the floor, grasping hands behind them and then "walks" toward their opponent trying to push them over using only one's tummy. The laughs were hearty and the giggles were endless as we bumped and bounced our tummies for hours, all of us, from age 8 to age 19, having the time of our lives -- and all because of Kristin, our own personal Mary Poppins.

Fast-forward about 20 years. Kristin, who had been like a (really fun) mother to me when I was young, becomes much more of the sister I've always wanted. When I was traveling regularly to the Bay Area during the production of FUEL and CHILL a few years ago, I often stayed with Kristin at her house in Berkeley. She and her husband had built a small cottage with a fireplace in their backyard and during those production trips, Kristin and I would sit in her antique kids' rocking chairs in front of the fire and talk for hours. Kristin is the one person in the world who knows all my secrets, all my joys, and all my fears.

Kritin was never home for long, always traveling to remote parts of the world to do crazy things. Whether kayaking near Antarctica, hiking in Patagonia, or walking Death Valley, Kristin's energy was endless and robust.


Until she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September, 2004. Kaiser, her insurance company, pretty much said sorry, this will be fatal; have a nice death. She was encouraged to look into Hospice. Little did they know who they were dealing with!

Now, I have to mention here that, not only does Kristin have an amazing spirit, she also has the means to take her health decisions into her own hands rather than rely on her insurance company. Kristin had given of both her time and her money in the past to contribute significantly to educational organizations, helping scores of disadvantaged kids and families, but now she was finding that her wealth was actually keeping her alive. She was both grateful and pissed off. Shouldn't all people have the health care choices she has? It's been an on-going concern, and worth a post in itself.

After having a very complicated initial surgery (the "Whipple" procedure) at Johns Hopkins in 2004, Kritin's cancer returned last summer, this time in her lungs. Again, the insurance company told her that they wouldn't cover any further treatment and that it was time for Hospice. And again, Krisitin insisted, "Nuh-uh! Not me!" She fought hard for a double lung resection -- and won, having the two surgeries last summer. Within a few weeks, she was backpacking with her two twenty-something sons! Who said it was time to go off and die?!

This is Kristin!

Now, three years after the diagnosis of the deadliest of cancers, Kristin, who is often in Seattle for her chemo treatments, called me to ask if I wanted to spend a day at the spa, swimming and working out, then massaging and eating. The last two sounded great, but the first two sounded awful. See, I've been feeling sorry for myself for the past seven months, sitting at my laptop and getting fat. So... working out? No can do!

Wait. Did I just tell Kristin, who has pancreatic cancer, yet swims for an hour a day and hikes vigorously every chance she gets, that I can't work out with her?

Yeah, I did.

How dare I? I may be acting lazy and fat, but I'm basically healthy. And instead of revering my healthy body, I've been ignoring it -- no, I abusing it -- choosing instead to just sit and do nothing but fret about unemployment and the pesky parts of life. How dare I?

So today I went to the gym and for the first time in the five years we've been members, I swam for 30 minutes, thinking about Kristin and how much I love and revere and admire her and how her gift to me is now becoming my gift to myself. Gliding rhythmically through the water felt wonderful, and I remembered how much I loved to swim when I was in grad school -- daily, religiously, fervently. I felt great then. And I'm determined to feel great again now -- even at 51.

Kristin will always inspire me, even if she goes away. (And last night I promised her that I'd hold her hand to the very end if and when she needs me by her side.) When I was a young girl, her inspiration took the form of ice cube skating and silly girls' chats. Now, Kristin's courage and grace has inspired me to take action on my own gratitude and to nurture the health I'm so lucky to have.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mobile Technology

This is my key chain. It contains a few keys. It also contains a 1 GIG jump drive and a digital photo keychain (a birthday gift from Tom).

Never let it be said that I'm not Miss Tech-Geek!

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A CNN Producer Contacted Me Today!

I'll bet you're thinking it was a job offer.

Like maybe a local producer position for a show by and for teens about pop culture and current events. Or perhaps a traveling correspondent covering international youth exchange programs. Or maybe even a writing position, specializing in youth media issues.

As much as I'd like to tell you that you're right, well... I can't.

But still, it was kinda cool. Turns out, a CNN producer out of LA saw the posts on my blog about yesterday's storm and wanted to know how our town looks now and whether I know of any personal stories about the storm. I told her that things have calmed way down in our town, but that Lou's (my dad's new love) granddaughter's house in Chahalis literally filled up with water and floated away before her eyes.

There, unfortunately, is quite the story... and probably the one she's looking for. I wish there was no story there.

Although the water has receded, plenty of people are still struggling to get through this mess. At least five people are dead because of the storm. Many have lost property or have been otherwise affected in ways that will impact them for months or years to come. One house that was for sale is now under ten feet of mud. Some people can't get to (or from) their homes. And Interstate 5, which is the main north-south corridor connecting California, Oregon and Washington, is closed near Chahalis and probably won't open again for at least a few days.

Yet we're fine, warm in our house with heat and power and our lives back to normal. Others would love to be so lucky. I would love it if they were so lucky, too.

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I know it's time, and normally I look forward to these weeks of tree decorating, light-hanging and cookie-baking all year long. But for the life of me, I can't get into the spirit this season -- and I'm not sure why.

I have more free time this year than I've had in a very long time, yet am I scapbooking? No. Am I making any gifts? Nope. Have I even thought about writing my traditional holiday poem and making our yearly photo collage and sending out cards? Uh-uh.

I think the only way to deal with this is to count on that adage that says that behaving so makes it so. If I behave as if I'm in the holiday spirit, maybe I will come to actually feel the holiday spirit. So that's it. I'll invite all the kids, plus a friend or two each, to decorate a tree, drink eggnog (they'll probably want it spiked!), and bake cookies this weekend.

Maybe that will do the trick and wake up this sleepy holiday spirit. One can only hope...

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