Thursday, January 31, 2008

If I Post This Before Midnight I'll Probably Jinx Everything

I've been called a hopeless optimist before, but I can't imagine that positive thinking alone could have strung events together as smoothly as they've fallen together over the past 24 hours.

Yesterday, Peter sold his gas-guzzling "lifted" monstrosity of a truck (disclaimer: Mom's opinion... not fact) to a 15-year-old and his dad who drove up from Portland to buy the ol' thang. This left Peter without transportation and, coincidentally, I didn't need the Honda today so I told him he could take it, but he'd need to buy a car quickly. Unbeknownst to me, Peter already had things worked out (ah, the joys of self-sufficient adult kids!): his friend was selling the exact Subaru Legacy AWD that Peter had his eye on and agreed to sell it to Peter today as soon as he bought the car he had his eye on (a Legacy wagon). Over the course of today, those transactions each went off without a hitch and Peter is now the proud owner of a much more sensible, economical, environmentally friendly car.

While I was home car-less today and not in need of one anyway, Kat texted me from school: "My license tabs expire today!" Renewing the registration on Kat's car was one of those things we'd been meaning to take care of for about a month but never got around to -- until today. We no longer had the choice to procrastinate, so I texted Kat back: "Let's go today when you get home." I knew we'd pay for our procrastination since today is the last day of the month and tomorrow it'd be illegal for Kat to drive her car. We expected long lines both at the state emissions station where we'd have the car tested to make sure it complied with environmental emissions requirements and at the state licensing office 10 miles away, where we'd renew our registration. As we left our house, I told Kat to be prepared to wait in a lot of long lines and exercise great patience before the whole registration ordeal was over.

Amazingly, there was absolutely no line at the emissions station, and the normally grumpy staff was even almost jovial, joking with us and giving us a hearty congratulations for passing. (Little did they know that I was, in fact, relieved!)

What luck, I thought -- and off we headed to the Department of Licensing office 10 miles away. Not only did I expect the two-lane road that connected the emissions office and the registration office to be bumper-to-bumper with evening rush hour commuters, I also expected long lines at the small registration office, where it isn't unusual for the line to wind out the door and around the corner.

Again, we were in luck! The road was wide open and miracle of miracles (especially for the last day of the month at 4:30!), there was no one at the licensing office! We walked right up to the window where we were asked for $74.75 in "cash-or-check-no-credit-cards-allowed."

What? 'Oh crap,' I thought as I began to rummage through my purse. 'I don't have my ch...' But there, buried at the very bottom of my purse, was the checkbook that I rarely carry with me. I vaguely remember throwing it into my purse a few weeks ago and fortunately I'd never gotten around to removing it. Phew! I wrote the check, again commenting on our amazing luck.

Taken by our good fortune, we jokingly said that we should "Jiffy Lube the car too," just to test our luck. Surely the lines at Jiffy Lube would be long and treacherous, we joked as we drove by. But wait a minute! What's this? A guy with a placard that says "Right now! $21.99!" Could we BE so lucky? 'Sure,' I thought, 'Great price, but I'll bet the line is really, really lo....'

There was no one there! We drove right into the stall and they got to work immediately, even replacing a burned out blinker light, an air filter and some weird gizmo that cost $10 that I was assured we needed. (Yes, at this point, I was beginning to blindly trust not only our luck but the people we were encountering...) We were out of JiffyLube with a freshly maintained, licensed and emissioned car within only 15 minutes of arriving there! That had never happened to me before!

From Jiffy Lube, we headed to the gym, where I had resigned myself to running on the elliptical trainer (yuuuuuuuk!) because the guys swim team occupies the entire pool every afternoon from 3:00 to 5:00. I have come to love swimming but I still dread any sort of exercise that poops me out and makes me sweat, so I wasn't looking forward to today's land work-out. Kat's friend works at the front desk of the gym, so we chatted with her briefly, which was when she told me that I'd probably be happy to hear that the guys were at a swim meet and the pool was basically empty.

Woooo-hooooo! I mean, seriously.

I LOVE swimming by myself in that Olympic-size pool! It was glorious, refreshing and rejuvenating and just all-around positive... especially on a day like today, when things are just completely falling together! I swam hard for 40 laps, lost in my own world that had, for some reason, been extraordinarily positive on this particular day.

On the way home we stopped at Safeway to get a few ingredients for the chicken tetrazzini I was planning to make (or rather, THREE of them -- one vegetarian version for Kat, a regular version, and one with mushrooms for me since no one else likes mushrooms and I adore them) and would you believe it...

The French bread had just come out of the oven and was still steaming hot and absolutely heavenly! How could we even BE so lucky? It was so delicious that... well, that we decided that it was almost as good as being in Germany again!

Why is it that some days flow like this one and some days don't? And why is it that we tend to pay closer attention and take things so personally when, unlike today, the day just goes completely wrong? I have a feeling that those days are much easier to remember -- and I know for certain that they're easier to complain about!

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"Isms" for Dinner

Over the years, our family dinner conversations have gone through quite a few changes.

When the kids were very young, mealtime conversations focused on the meal itself: "Careful with your cup! Don't spill!"

Later, dinnertime conversations centered around the events of the day: "What did you and Ryan do at Cub Scouts today?"

Later still, dinner was a time to gossip, kvetch or ruminate: "Ashley talked about me behind my back, then Jason assumed it was true and told Austin and..."

And then, as the kids hit their mid high school years, conversations focused on the social hot topic of the day: "Who are you asking to the homecoming dance?"

Now that the kids are in (and out of) college and in their last year of high school, and now that they're enrolled in courses with titles like Eastern Philosophy and Religion, Microeconomics, AP Biology, AP Government & Politics, and AP English Composition, our dinner conversations sound more like a heated debate on CNN than like a family dinner. In the past week or so, all of these words have been uttered and/or/discussed and/or debated at our dinner table:

  • Existentialism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Marxism
  • Fascism
  • Socialism
  • Capitalism
  • Consumerism
  • Egotism
  • Idealism
  • Microorganism
  • Fundamentalism
  • Communism
  • Atheism
  • Lesbianism
  • Activism
  • Creationism
  • Humanism
  • Determinism
  • Nationalism
  • Patriotism
  • Pessimism
  • Unitarianism
  • Euphemism
  • Feminism
  • Optimism
  • Prism (OK, so this wasn't philosophical; I announced that as of next week, my prism glasses will be history!)
  • Sexism
  • Totalitarianism
As you can imagine, our dinner conversations can get quite lively these days. Peter and Aleks have quite different philosophies about many things, and both are quite knowledgeable, so sparks tend to fly when those two get going.

Kat tends to be quieter and quite even-keeled, but last night she was right in there with the rest of them, discussing existentialist views of things like "fate" and "determinism."

Get Elisabeth involved and watch out! It's a good thing Elisabeth is in Germany or the energy in the room last night would have been enough to ignite a rocket!

Isms
that haven't been discussed in the past few weeks, and which I am eagerly awaiting:
  • Somnambulism
  • Catechism
  • Exorcism
  • Tourism
  • Antidisestablishmentarianism (my favorite word when I was a kid, even though I never knew what it meant)

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wordless Wednesday (I Caught Them Sleeping Together!)

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If She's 23, This Must Be Germany

This morning at 6 AM Elisabeth boarded a plane bound for Germany. Is it just a coincidence that when I was exactly the same age, 23, I also went to Germany alone? That trip was life-altering for me in so many ways that still have a daily impact today, 28 years later. I fell in love on that trip and although I didn't marry Thomas, he still remains a dear friend today. But more significantly, I believe that had I not gone on that trip and fallen in love, Tom and I wouldn't be married today, just a few months away from celebrating our silver (25 years!) wedding anniversary.

When I went to Germany in 1980, I had finished college and had applied to the Stanford Graduate School of Education. A few weeks after arriving in Germany, I received a telegram (you're snickering!) from my parents, notifying me that I had been accepted. Coincidentally, Elisabeth has also applied to graduate school, a Nurse Practitioner program through a local Seattle university and, like me, she'll hear from the admissions office while she's abroad. (Unlike me, though, the mode of notification will be immediate and far less expensive.)

I don't expect that Elisabeth will fall in love on this trip (though I wouldn't be surprised if she did), but I do think the trip will have a significant impact on her life. The timing is perfect for her to be traveling alone, though two weeks is nowhere near enough. Unfortunately, Elisabeth never had a chance to travel after graduating from Cal two years ago because she'd been recruited directly out of school and began work within a week of graduation. She landed a fabulous job as a medical device rep for a company that gave her a car (including paying for gas, insurance, maintenance, etc.), a laptop, a Treo, a home office, a ton of freedom, and an amazing salary. I always told her that, with a first job like that, no other job will ever be good enough. But to her credit, she didn't look at another job; instead she looked at continuing her education. I think going to grad school is a great idea for her, but I'm so glad she's traveling a bit first. I only wish that she could really immerse herself in another culture for a few months on end, like her cousin Dawn did in India.

When we were in Germany last September, Elisabeth went to the Oktoberfest with Geoffrey's son Lionel, while I headed to Nurnberg to visit Thomas and his family. At Oktoberfest, Elisabeth met the guys in a fairly well-known German band, and she and a woman who she also met in Munchen last fall will be traveling with them while she's in Germany. How much fun is that?! Ah, to be 23 again!

Or maybe not. Having my life turned upside-down at 23 was exciting and exhilarating and the mystery of what my future had in store for me was filled with positive promise and hopeful anticipation. I have a feeling that having one's life turn upside-down at 51 is a very, very different experience, and nowhere near as positive and exciting as it is at 23. So this time I'll live vicariously through my daughter, eagerly awaiting notification that she's arrived and that her adventures have begun.

Elisabeth, that's code for you to call or e-mail me and let me know you've arrived! ;-)

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Monday, January 28, 2008

In Which I Come Clean about Blogging

I love Google Reader because it updates me in real time about the blogs and websites I've asked it to monitor. Many of these are blogs like my own, written by people who find blogging to be an effective outlet for their thoughts and a good place to find an online community of like-minded people. Most of these are blogs that don't advertise because, like me, their authors created their blogs as an outlet for expression rather than for generation of income.

Also on my Google Reader list are blogs that are focused solely on making money, directly or indirectly, from blogging. These include sites that are hugely helpful in finding freelance work, including freelance blogging work, and those blogs tend to (understandably) be very income-focused, which means that they constantly feature income-generating content such as a list of hints (lists are apparently big traffic magnets) on how to effectively drive traffic to your site and how to create posts that invite lots of readers and therefore (at least presumably) lots of income. So, while this personal blog is intentionally not one of those sites, I'm constantly wondering if maybe, given my employment situation (that is, lack thereof), maybe it should be.

But if I did that, everything about this blog would change. I'd write posts in order to fulfill some business requirement -- or worse, to beg for some business -- instead of being motivated by, well, simply by life. And a second blog? Nope -- it just ain't gonna happen... unless it's a paid gig and a completely different animal than this blog.

So what am I coming clean about, you ask? I've decided that I spend way too much energy worrying about things like how to most effectively drive traffic, and page visits in relation to page views, and entry and exit pages. I don't have ads so I'm not in this for the money (what money?!), so who the hell cares? Anyway, the way I figure it, the really great blogs (like this one) never became great by focusing on statistics or readership; they became great by focusing on real, honest, meaningful content. I used to do that; I used to write and write and write because I had stuff in my head that had to get out, no matter who -- if anyone -- was listening.

Then I started to see "my numbers" increase and it felt good and I wanted more numbers. And at the same time I began to realize that potential employers were reading my blog, so I became careful about writing about my job search. And then I realized that old friends and extended family were reading my blog so I began to chose topics hoping they'd find value in what I wrote. Then I got scared to just write, for fear of (gasp!) declining numbers or offending someone or giving away too much information about myself or alienating this group or that group.

And then, around the time that I stopped feeling ownership of my blog and stopped just writing what was on my mind and started wondering whether I should count visitors and potential dollars, I stopped feeling excited about blogging. I'd write safe posts or, worse, I'd find something kinda cool on some other website and post that. And then I'd look at my stats and see if it "worked." How pathetic can I be? What happened to the blog that I started simply because I wanted to write and I had stuff to say and I liked the idea of maybe a few people finding value in what I had to say?

(Did my decision to finally learn to type, thus going from lightning-speed 2-finger typing to dismally slow 10-finger typing play a role in shorter, more boring posts too? Probably! Do I have to learn this 10-finger crap?!)

So here's me coming clean: I'm gonna get back to just plain expressing myself here. I'm gonna stop worrying about driving traffic and stats, and instead I'm just gonna get back to expressing what's on my mind. I might still not be completely forthcoming at all times about my quest for the perfect job though, because... well, because I do believe that some decorum and confidentiality will still be necessary in that department. But I'll let you know generally how things are going.

So why, after all this, did I change the title of this post from In Which I Come Clean to In Which I Come Clean about Blogging, thinking that the latter would bring in more traffic? I mean if I were really blog-smart, I'd title this post In Which I Come Clean about Why I Blog (which I almost did) because, you know, those last three words, "why I blog" are surely searched more often than "about blogging" and that title might... (oh, crap, here it comes...) drive traffic.

Pathetic, I tell you.

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We Woke Up to White!

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

My New Addiction (Glug Glug)

Tom, Kat and I went to the gym today -- Tom and I to swim and Kat to work out on the machines. She finished before we did and while she was waiting for us, she took this video. We're the ones doing the crawl -- Tom on the right and me on the left. This was lap #40, close to my last, so I was pretty pooped. And Tom is just FAST... and smooooooth. Isn't he so smooooooth?



It's helpful for me to see this because I can critique myself and try to improve my stroke (and thus my speed). I have now reached almost full addict level, as taking yesterday off actually bothered me and I couldn't wait to get back in the water today. By the time I have my eye surgery on February 7th, I'll probably go through withdrawals for the first week and by the end of the two-week no-swim period after the surgery, I might not want to go back! That's my big fear. I can't let this momentum die, because it always takes me a long time to find it again. I am most definitely not an enthusiastic exerciser -- except in the water.

Now if only I could just swim hard and NOT be ravenously hungry when I finish, that would be great. All I want to do when I finish is EAT! Grrrrr!

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Walter's ALIVE!

Remember this post, in which soft-hearted Tom absent-mindedly sucks up Walter the fish while cleaning his tank and then flushes the poor guy down the toilet, causing Tom to feel kinda like a fish murderer?

(Even though he likes to murder fish when he sets out with a long stick to do so.)

Well, I am happy to report that Tom only murders big fish in lakes, not cute little ones in aquariums (aquaria?). Walter is alive and well and hanging out with his buddies in the tank. He must have a great sense of humor thinking, when he saw that vacuum tube, that he could play a prank on soft-hearted Tom and hide for a few days. Yeah, that'd be really funny. Wise guy.

Or.

Or, or, or...

There really is no specific "Walter," only a generic school of fish, and we just miscounted them after the routine cleaning. Yeah, that's possible too. But cute blockbuster animated movies with great character development and storylines never comes from that sort of thinking, ya know!

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Saturday Night Cozy

Down-filled "moon boot" slippers: $40

Silk jammies: $38

Soft-as-all-get-out robe: $35

Kitty cocoon: $20

Snow in the forecast, a heater register under the bed, and no solid plans for the morning: priceless.

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A Saturday Meme

It's been a while since I've posted a meme. I guess I figure that memes bore people (though I'm never bored by others' memes) or that they lack creativity (since they're essentially stolen) or that they're not really mine (since they're essentially stolen). But here's one anyway. Hell, Saturday's are my low-traffic days anyway. (Should I even care about all that stat stuff? I have to keep reminding myself that I never started blogging to attain readers or garner a following of any sort, so why do I even look at my numbers at all? I started blogging simply because I like to write and I like the idea of contributing to an online community. Is this a blog post in itself?)

Feel free to steal this meme.

9 Have-You-Evers:

9. Have you ever liked someone else while you had a girlfriend/boyfriend?
At one point in college and shortly thereafter, I was either dating or had a crush on four men, each of them named Thomas. I married me one of them. It must be Freudian, since my dad's name is Thomas.

8. Have you ever had your heart broken?
Yeah. "Hasn't everyone?"

7. Have you ever been out of the country?
Yes. Canada (barely), Mexico (barely), and Europe (more fully).

6. Have you ever done something outrageously dumb?
Hellloooo? Duh.

5. Have you ever been back stabbed by a friend?
Not that I can recall -- and believe me, this is something I'd recall!

4. Have you ever had the cops called on you?
God no!

3. Have you ever dated someone younger than you?
Oh yes! I was 23, he was 19. The story is here... (And a follow-up, in which I finally meet his wife, 27 years later, is here...)

2. Have you ever read an entire book in one day?
Of course. But I hate it because it's over too quickly. It's crazy -- you read it in one day because it's so good you can't put it down, but you ruin it by reading it that quickly. You could have prolonged the bliss, but noooo... you need that instant gratification. It's your own damn fault. Next time, savor it!

1. Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket?
Uh, yeah. I should blog about that! Keywords: 95 MPH. Falling asleep. Life saved by cop.

8 Whos:

8. Who was the last person you saw?
My habby (that typo is too funny to fix!) who is still sleepy in the beddy.

7. Who was the last person you kissed?
See #7.

6. Who was the last person you texted?
Elisabeth. Or was it Kat? Maybe Peter? Hmmmm... or Aleks. But definitely not Tom, who I can't turn into a texter (spellcheck is sooo 1999!) no matter how hard I try. He's just text-resistant.

5. Who was the last person to call you?
Kat to tell me that her cell was out of battery. :-)

4. Who is the last person you freaked out on?
Define "freaked out on." I'm generally not a "freak out on" type of person.

3. Whom did you last hug?
Boo, of course. Like, DUH! (Notice that it didn't SAY "what person did you last hug?" That'd be the habby who's sleepy in the beddy.)

2. Whom did you go with to your first school dance?
See this post and scroll down to #16. Ah, memories!

1. Who is your best friend?
Why does this feel like such a loaded question? I guess I have a few best friends. Some are childhood friends from way back, some are from my San Diego days, some are in my extended family, some are my kids now that they're grown, and one is my betrothed.

7 Whens:

7. When was your last shower?
At the gym yesterday after swimming for 45 minutes. I felt like I could swim 45 more! Woo-hoo, I'm getting hooked again!

6. When did you last see your mom or dad?
Mom-- on the day she died, April 11, 2004. Dad -- when he and Lou left our house after a wonderful holiday together, on December 26th.

5. When was the last time you danced?
The last time I formally danced with a partner was at the wedding of Elisabeth's friend Tara. But if you don't tell anyone I'll admit to dancing like a freak-woman every time I clean the house. This helps hugely!

4. When did you get married, or when do you want to?
A looooong time ago, in May 1983.

3. When was the last time you cried?
Well, it wasn't a full-on sob, but Elisabeth and I saw PS I Love You the other day and we both had to fight pretty hard to hold back the tears.

2. When did you last go to the movies and with whom?
See above.

1. When did you last take a vacation and where?
September, 2007, to Germany, with Tom, to be joined by Elisabeth who traveled with me for a week after we sent Tom back home.

6 Wheres:

6. Where do your grandparents live?
Never met a single one of them. My paternal grandmother, who was a non-Jew married to a Jew in 1940's Germany, thus essentially keeping her family alive simply by virtue of her non-Jewishness, died of a brain tumor in 1944, at which point things got dramatically worse for her family. The story -- or rather a post about where the story is written -- is here. My paternal grandfather, the Jew to whom she was married, died in early 1945, leaving my dad an orphan at 16 and my aunt an orphan at 13. I can't even imagine... My mother's mother also died in the war, and her father died in 1969. I remember that she didn't cry when she got that black-bordered envelope in the mail. I have always envied my kids (and anyone) for having grandparents.

5. Where did you last hang out?
Does this count? Last night I met Tom at World Market to look at a dining room table. We decided not to buy it. Then we met Kat for dinner. Does that constitute "hanging out"?

4. Where is your favorite place to be?
You mean geographically? The Bavarian Alps. You mean "place," like... "place"? Our incredibly cozy bed with the incredibly cozy German bedding!

3. Where did you sleep last night?
See above.

2. Where would you like to move?
Nowhere. I love the Pacific Northwest. (Or, if Tom is reading this: Maui, of course! Need you even ask?!)

1. Where were you when Princess Diana died?
We heard about it in the car, driving across the river valley of Kirkland, Washington as we headed to dinner at the Old Country Buffet.

5 Do/Does:

5. Do you like someone right now?
Lots and lots of someones, actually. I'm a "like someone" slut!

4. Do you like your vehicle?
We have a very nice Honda Accord but I miss my Ford Windstar. I know -- no one understands it, except my lonely lost Windstar and me.

3. Do you ever wish you were someone else?
Yeah, my spoiled rotten CAT! Can you blame me?

2. Do you have nightmares?
I do, and Tom can probably tell you all about them because I also tend to talk in my sleep and wake up crying. They always (always!) have to do with feeling disregarded by someone. (<-- Easy fodder for blog-psychoanalysts!)

1. Does the future scare you?
Didn't used to, but this whole being unemployed thing gets to me. By next year when we have three kids in college and one in grad school, I MUST be making LOTS of money. That pressure gets to me, big time.

4 Whys:

4. Why are you best friends with your best friend?
Because we GET each other.

3. Why did you get a MySpace?
Because my kids urged me to. Not sure why they wanted me in their space! But I think they find it amusing that their mom is a geek. (I have Facebook too. Geek, geek, geek!)

2. Why did your parents give you the name you have?
All I can figure is that I was born near the Christmas season. I dunno. It's an ugly name in English, but even uglier in German (Carola), so the whole thing baffles me. My dad wanted to name me Angela after an old girlfriend, but Mom vetoed that idea. Smart mom!

1. Why are you doing this survey?
Lack of morning coffee. Which translates to lack of any of my own ideas or creative thought. I WAS gonna blog about the day we were driving along and a helicopter crashed on the road a few feet in front of us, but I need coffee for that. Stand by.

3 Ifs:

3. If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
The power to transport myself to any place and time (and back again, which is very important!) at will.

2. If you could go back in time and change one thing, would you?
Oh, dangerous, dangerous idea. That's fooling with the cosmos, my friend!

1. If you were stranded on a deserted island and could bring one thing, what would it be?
People! (Is that a fair answer?)

2 Would You Evers:

2. Would you ever get back together with your ex?
You mean the man I came closest to marrying before I actually married Tom? Nope, wouldn't. He makes a better friend than a husband!

1. Would you ever shave your head to save someone you love?
Of course! Without a second thought. (And I even like my hair...)

1 Last Question:

1. Are you happy with your life right now?
With the exception of the whole question about my job and career and paying for college and getting old and seeking stuff like youth, wisdom, and absolute fulfillment, absolutely!

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Seein' Single!

Shortly after our twins were born, Elisabeth (who was 4 at the time) asked me why I always tilted my head to the side and closed one eye. I had no idea what she was talking about at first -- and then I realized that I had begun to see double and was trying to compensate for it.

I went to an optometrist who proclaimed that I had a severe vertical imbalance, probably having something to do with the birth of the twins, and he prescribed glasses with prisms in them. After that I immersed myself in raising four kids born within five years, with nary a moment to myself, so glasses and prisms were fine with me.

Fast forward about ten years. I'm getting pretty tired of wearing glasses and go to an ophthalmologist who diagnoses my problem as "fourth cranial nerve palsy" which led to a severe vertical imbalance, probably either caused or brought on by the twin pregnancy and birth. To make things worse, he tells me that I can't wear contacts and I can't have surgery, but also informs me that I'm now officially old and therefore I need reading glasses! So now I have TWO pairs of glasses -- one for reading and computer and one for distance, and I am forever switching the two. (I'm told that bifocals and progressive lenses won't work with my affliction, so I spend inordinate amounts of time futzing with my various pairs of glasses.) In business meetings and presentations, it's really ridiculous, with as much effort spent putting on and taking off glasses as on the content of the dang presentation! But I didn't think I had a choice, so I just dealt with the situation.

And that's how things stayed for years and years and years.

Until this week. On Tuesday I went to another new optometrist (because of insurance) in order to get an eye exam and update my frames. This optometrist spent a good amount of time with me, baffled -- as they always are -- about the severity of my vertical imbalance. Finally she tells me that she thinks there might be a solution to my problem -- surgery. No, I tell her, I was already told that surgery isn't an option. She suggests that I see her colleague, a surgical ophthalmologist... and that's where I went today.

And GUESS WHAT (she asks in all caps)? I will be having surgery in two weeks and after that I won't need any glasses at all except the generic Costco variety for reading! I am still in absolute shock! This whole eye and glasses problem has occupied a huge amount of time and energy for almost twenty years and the notion that one day I can just be through with it is amazing and phenomenal and delightful for me!

Delightful and scary, that is. This is not Lasik surgery. Instead, it is done at a hospital under general anesthesia and... well, what if something goes wrong? I know -- these are thoughts that anyone anticipating any surgery goes through, so I just need to deal and move forward and DO IT!

I've always had vision and I've always been focused, but now I can finally do it without spectacles!

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

If the Boot Fits, Share It!

Elisabeth, Kat and I all own (and practically live in) Ugg (or Ugg-type) boots. When the three of us walk together, there's a virtual boot-on-pavement symphony that drives those around us crazy. It sounds like we're dragging our feet, but we're not; it's simply the trademark sound of the boots and can hardly be avoided.

We recently noticed that we've all worn the soles of our boots down in almost exactly the same pattern of wear: we obviously tend to step on our inside heels and this propensity is more pronounced on the right foot than on the left.

I guess we each have a very specific gait, and that individual gait is why we recognize those we know even when they're far away, and even before we can see a face. And yet, it looks like perhaps people's gaits tend to be similar within families.

The things I find fascinating... pathetic, no? (This post will most definitely be filed under "random tidbits"!)

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My Freelance Writing Gigs

I write because, like breathing and sleeping, it's simply something I need to do. I can't not write.

But now I'm getting paid to write! I am a (clearing my throat) freelance writer. A paid freelance writer!

I'm a contributing writer for a blog called Tuition Tales which is sponsored by a company called Simple Tuition which, appropriately enough, helps college-bound students and their parents explore and apply for college loans. When I told them that I have four kids heading to college and graduate school next year, they kinda couldn't help but sit up and take notice!

I've also applied for a writing gig with Parenting Squad, hoping to focus on the joys and challenges of "raising" (raising... HA!) young adult "kids." I've certainly had my experience in that arena, haven't I? I write about that for free here all the time! So cross your fingers for me on that, OK?

I really should add all this to my resume, shouldn't I? I've actually had quite a few freelance writing gigs since my last full-time employment, but for some reason I don't think of them as resume-worthy because my resume focuses more on my experience as a producer of educational media products and on my program, product and project management skills. But perhaps it's time to revise my resume a bit to include my writing and other freelance work as an integral part of what I do, who I am, and what I love.

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How to Remove Stubborn Nubs and Pills from Fleece

This post will serve as my oh-so-dramatic venture into the world of "helpful hints" and how-to's." Unless I'm inspired again someday by something as way cool as this, it might also serve as my exit from this exciting blogging genre.

But I must share!

A few months ago I bought at Eddie Bauer what would quickly become my all-time favorite fleece -- and that's saying a lot because us Seattle-ites are oh, so picky about our fleece. Thick and soft, with yummy fur-like fabric on the inside and smooth, high-quality fleece on the outside, this thing is warm enough to wear outside in even the coldest weather, yet it's light and cozy enough to wear inside when I'm on one of my "do-you-think-I'm-made-of-money-and-what-about-global-warming-turn-down-this-heat!" tirades. It's even slightly fitted, so I could dress it up or down. (Where but Seattle do people talk like this?!)

I pretty much wore this fleece everywhere.

Until I washed it. Stupid me -- I washed it with a blue majorly nubby throw rug and since then I've tried everything to get rid of the gazillions of minuscule light blue nubs on my favorite fleece, all to no avail. I tried sticky rollers, duct tape, and I even tried pulling the little buggers off one by one. But nothing worked.

Ashamed and dejected (did someone call me dramatic?!), I began to wear my favorite fleece only in the confines of my own home.

Sad, sad, sad. Whine, whine, whine. Pout, pout, pout.

I mentioned to Kat today how much I wished I could remove the nubbies and pills (or are they interchangeable?) from my fleece, and she suggested that I "shave" it. Yup, that's right -- SHAVE it with a disposable razor! The idea is that, whereas the sticky stuff can't get the nubs off because they're actually attached, the shaver cuts those tiny threads!

And it works! I "shaved" part of my fleece, sweeping all the newly-loosened nubs into one line and then I rolled over the loosened buggers with my sticky linty thingy (now there's a name for a new product, eh?), and VOILA!

Anyone want to meet for lunch? You'll know it's me because I'll be wearing a nice, clean, nub-free black fleece.

Oh wait -- so is everyone else in Seattle.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Beer Butt Chicken: It's What's for Dinner

Warning to my German friends: the following post contains photos depicting (shudder!) CANS of American beer -- Budweiser, no less!

Warning to my to my vegetarian friends (and daughter): the following post contains graphic images of headless, naked, dead (well, I guess that goes with "headless...") chickens.

Apologies to whoever's blog I found this on; I can't remember who it was, but please do give yourself credit in the comments section!

I have high hopes for this evening's dinner (and no, I don't know how many kids will be home) because I have heard about beer-butt chicken for a few years now and have promised myself I'd make it. Finally tonight I am biting the bullet and doing it!

The secret to this recipe is obviously in the beer because it's the beer that gives the chicken the moist, delicious flavor. I can hardly wait till dinner! (Partly because I swam really hard today and have resisted snacking much since I got out of the pool at 3 PM.)

So here's how it's done -- or how I did it, anyway. When it comes to cooking, I am a defiant rule-breaker!

The cast of characters are a whole chicken (or two, or three), kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and any other spices and herbs you want. (I show just a few here, but by the time I was all finished seasoning those birds I'd used salt, pepper, onion powder, basil, Italian seasoning, parsley, garlic and goodness, I can't even remember what else!), olive oil, and a can of beer for each chicken. Rub oil on the chicken, then season the outside of it generously. I also put a few sprigs of rosemary as well as gobs of garlic inside the cavity --or, for this particular recipe, "up its butt."

Now pour a bit of olive oil into the bottom of a 13" x 9" oven proof casserole pan. Open the beer can and swig about a third of it. I decided to add some of the beer that I otherwise would have sipped to the olive oil in the pan. Now place the open can in the casserole pan and slide the seasoned chicken over it so the whole chicken rests on the open beer can. In my picture you can just barely see the can of Bud sticking out from the chicken's hiney. Once the chicken is sitting up nicely, polite chicken that he is, you can add other herbs and spices until it feels right to you.

"Dass fuehlt man" ("one feels it"), my mother used to say about both foreign languages and cooking, assuming that everyone had a propensity for both.

At this point, I also cut up a sweet potato, sprinkled brown sugar on it, and placed the slices on the bottom of the pan, as well as in the chicken's "neck" so the steam can't easily escape. Now put the whole mess into a preheated 375 degree oven for about 2 hours, give or take. (The chicken meat will be done at 180 degrees.)

And now we wait! Hopefully our beer butt chicken will be as delicious as I've been anticipating. I'll be serving it with white rice and a salad.

Coming up in this series of "oddly named recipes," we'll make "better than sex cake." It's pretty damn good, but...

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Pondering an Empty Nest

Late next summer we'll be empty nesters. But instead of easing into this stage of our lives one child at a time like most parents do, we'll watch three kids leave at once.

How did this happen? How did we get ourselves into a situation in which our whole brood would up and leaves us within a span of a few short weeks? Certainly, birthing twins 18 years ago has something to do with it. And the fact that we had four children within five years plays some role, no doubt. Why did we do that again?

I'm not sure there's any good way to prepare for such a dramatic change, especially since we've only recently begun to really enjoy the kids as adults who are just plain a lot of fun to hang out with. We've come to terms with the fact that it's time to stop the incessant parenting and just plain enjoy the fruits of our labor -- and oh what fun that's been! While there are evenings when only Tom and I are around, there are also evenings when all four kids (plus Danelle, of course) are home and we all "chill" together, enjoying each other's company and even sometimes (gasp!) knocking back (or even making!) a few brewskies together. These days, I don't know on any given day who will be home for dinner; it could be only Tom and me or it could be all seven -- or even more -- of us. As crazy-making as that is, it's also wonderful, and I'm trying hard not to dread the rapidly approaching day when I'll know for sure each evening that we're on our own and that the noise level in the house will be deafeningly quiet.

So (I ask myself), what are the really cool things about having an empty nest? I know there are some; there have to be! What can -- no, should -- we look forward to? And, of course, what do we dread? (That one's easier...) If I'm going to work through all this, I might as well begin right now, right here. Won't you join me in my little journey?

The 10 really great things about an empty nest:

  1. A consistently clean house. If I clean it one day, chances are good that it will still be clean the next day. This includes three clean bedrooms where four-walled heaps of clothes, junk and (grrrr!) wet towels currently stand.
  2. A vastly decreased grocery bill. (See #2 below)
  3. No more pounding on bathroom doors, begging and demanding shorter showers. I swear, the length of showers around here is inversely proportionate to the length of the showerer's hair.
  4. Decreased auto costs. Once the kids are all in college, we'll dump one car which will result in lower insurance rates, maintenance costs and gas costs. (Yeah, they pay for their own gas, but remember Mr. Soft-Heart? He fills up their tanks pretty regularly, just to be nice.)
  5. Predictability. I will no longer wonder, on any given evening, how many people will be home for dinner. Sigh.
  6. A house to ourselves. Tom and I will be able to do anything we want, any time we want, in any room we want! ;-)
  7. Each meal will only come in one variety. We currently always include a vegetarian version of everything we cook because Kat is a dedicated vegetarian. (Try making vegetarian sauerbraten; Tom just achieved that feat a few days ago.) Hey, this is easier than when Kat and Elisabeth were both vegan!
  8. No guilt when I work late or go on business trips. (If I ever work late or go on biz trips again...)
  9. A good excuse to visit the Palouse!
  10. The ability to just up and go -- to travel when we please, where we please, for as long as we please. (This is counter-balanced by the absolute financial inability to do anything except pay for college for the next four years!)
The 10 really crappy things about an empty nest:
  1. A house that is suddenly entirely too empty, too quiet and too big.
  2. A huge dorm bill -- times three. Oh, and a huge tuition bill -- times three. And of course, a huge book/supply bill -- times three.
  3. It's not much fun to cook for two people. (But going out is more affordable for two than for six!)
  4. No more impromptu evening gatherings with the kids and their friends. Sure, they'll still happen, but they will be neither frequent nor impromptu.
  5. We'll be out of touch with a school system that we've been part of for 16 years. Come to think of it, we'll be more out of touch with many aspects of our direct community. Hopefully that will be replaced by a sense of joining the college communities that our kids will be involved with.
  6. We won't have our regular fashion police to confer with and as a result we will become hopelessly dweeby.
  7. I, being a typical woman, will probably react by talking more, while Tom, being a typical man, will probably react by talking less. Notice that this falls under the "crappy things" heading.
  8. We'll be poor for at least the next four years. And that's if everything goes well. If not, substitute the word "destitute." And panicky. And terrified. (Did I cover that in #2? Oh well, there's enough fear here for two slots.)
  9. Shasta will miss her "mommy" (Kat) immensely, and neither Tom nor I could ever be an adequate substitute in her eyes.
  10. The realization that our own youth and our own college days were a full generation ago! What??!! That absolutely can't be! Didn't we just graduate from high school and head off to college? Didn't we just meet, and date, and marry? Didn't we just start this family of babies and toddlers and hopes and dreams for their future? How can that future possibly be here so damn soon??

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Monday, January 21, 2008

Spoiled Rotten

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And Now for the Weather

Seattle is enjoying a rare crisp, clear, sunny day today, making it a perfect day to join the "view from my front door" frenzy that's making its way around the blogosphere. (And if that view looks familiar, it's because Susan lives about 500 yards from me -- and we have yet to meet beyond a friendly wave from the car. Shame on us!)

Yeah, so it's sunny and glorious, but it's also cold outside -- so cold that at 2:30 pm, even with the sun shining on it, the lock on the red car was still frozen solid so I couldn't easily move it and decided to just take the picture anyway.

So here's what we see when we open our front door. If I'd have turned 45 degrees, you'd see the red and green Christmas bins filled with house lights, just waiting to be put away. I'll go do that as soon as I click "publish," I promise.



I can hardly wait for Spring, when we'll plant like crazy and add some color to the new landscaping! Can you imagine cascading flowers spilling over the wall and some greenery around the river rocks?

If I walk a few feet and slip, landing right on my ass, resulting in a huge, painful back and blue welt stand on the bridge, looking back to the back yard, this is what I see:

Photobucket

And of course Bailey has to be part of everything and insisted that I take her picture. I swear, her vanity is getting the best of her. Doesn't she look just a little stuck-up? Or did she spy the dog that was wandering the neighborhood and maybe that look in her eyes is fear?



I took this right by the car, just to prove that it was, indeed, frozen, and that the reason I didn't move the car was NOT because I was wearing slippers and my toes were freezing. Or sheer laziness. Or anything like that.













But the sun is out and that's what's important. Even the lichen love the sunshine today!

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Thwarted!

Though I am often accused of exaggerating (by my kids) and of being dramatic (by my mystery commenter), I swear that this is how the past 36 hours transpired.

On Friday, Tom, Peter and Danelle asked me if I wanted to go skiing with them on Saturday. OK, they didn't exactly ask me -- probably because after asking me for the past ten years and me saying no every single time, they'd given up. Rather, they discussed it in front of me and I interjected with "No one invited meeeee!".

(Did I mention that my mystery commenter knows me well?)

So, being the kind, polite mensches that they are (my kids know me well, too!), they asked me if I wanted to go. I figured that I've been swimming enough lately that I wouldn't kill myself skiing and I accepted -- on the condition that I could find my ski gear and fit into my ski clothes.

And that's when the "cascade of thwarts" began.

I found most of my ski gear, including my brand new skis and boots ("brand new" meaning purchased four years ago and used repeatedly by daughters and friends, but never actually by me), and then moved on to trying on ski clothes that I knew were out of style, but hoped to god fit.

Thwarted! Dammit!

One pair of pants, the ones I'd "inherited" from Mom after she died, wouldn't budge beyond my knees (bringing back all those my-mother-is-thinner-than-me insecurities) and my own bright purple pants, purchased in 1987, sat uncomfortably on my hips, displaying an undeniable five inch gap. Nope, I wouldn't be going skiing. It was, to tell you the truth, one of those depressing and distressing moments of low body image and even lower self-esteem. I announced casually (and oh, how non-casual it actually felt!) that I had no pants to wear, so wouldn't be going, but that I'd look for some after going to the gym the next day.

The next day, feeling both sorry for myself and guilty, I procrastinated as long as possible and then finally prepared to go to the gym. I went to get my swimsuit from the bathroom, but Kat was taking a shower.

Thwarted!

But not really. Easily enough, Kat interrupted her shower to hand me my suit. So I'd put my swimsuit in my gym bag and off I'd go...

But my gym bag, containing my goggles and cap, was in the car -- which was sitting in some parking lot being snowed on, somewhere in the Cascades.

Thwarted. And thwarted again!

So I couldn't go swimming. Which was a bummer because I've really come to love swimming again, gappy purple ski pants or no gappy purple ski pants. And while the "gappy" part would take a while to remedy, I could work on the "purple" part right away. I'd just hop in the car and head to TJ Maxx where I'd seen ski clothes on clearance just days before.

The car. The one containing my gym bag. In the Cascades. Being snowed on. Oh yeah.

Undeterred, I asked Kat whether she needed her car to go to work. Yup, she did. That's OK, I decided, I'd take Aleks' since he didn't have to work.

Reminder to self (and Aleks): last week's accident wiped out his front left turn signal and it's really unsafe to drive that car as is. Must fix.

Thwarted again.

So I took Kat's car, promising to be back by 5:00 so she could go to work. And off I went to TJ Maxx, where I grabbed all the (clearance priced!) ski pants I could find. I tried on pair after pair, but not one pair fit. Not even close. As in, stuck-at-the-knees not close. Just as I was about to pick out a handsome man's tie with which to hang myself (see kids' accusation, above), I realized that the pants I'd been trying on were KIDS' sizes!

Thwarted, oh so nicely, again!

I then carefully selected a few pairs of adorable white women's ski pants in my size. Or what had been my size -- and obviously no longer was. Sigh.

Thwarted yet again? No, dammit. Not thwarted this time. Just fat. And my own damn stupid fault. Sigh.

Discouraged and depressed, I headed home and made myself a salad. But I'd forgotten to pick up salad dressing at the grocery store when I was out, so thwarted again -- and hungry too.

Hell, I'll just put on my favorite jammies that fit my too-big-for-cute-ski-pants body and watch a movie in bed. I'm done with this day, I decided. But my cozy jams were in the laundry! No, worse: they were irretrievably in the laundry -- they were in the washing machine, wet and completely unavailable.

Thwarted yet again.

So I threw on my old sweats, got under the covers and grabbed the...

Dammit -- where's the remote? It was nowhere to be found. Gone amid the recesses of our fluffy German "bettdecken," or worse -- lost somewhere in the four baskets of unfolded laundry. This day really must end, I decided. I'll just listen to my iPod, which I'd just filled with great music so that...

...so that Tom could take it skiing.

TODAY must be better. It just MUST. The fact that I turned on the coffee grinder when the coffee receptacle thingy wasn't fully pushed in, then left the kitchen for a moment, only to return to finely ground coffee beans covering just about everything in the kitchen, is indicative of nothing.

Nothing
, I tell you!

Sigh.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Shameless Promotion

Every so often I come across a product that I just really like, and in those cases it's not beyond me to gush and brown-nose and sing praises from the mountain tops.

Smilebox is my latest product crush because it appeals to so many aspects of who I am: scrapbooker, photographer, momdaughtersisterwifefriendetc., geek-ette and Web 2.0 enthusiast, and lover of all things that promote warm fuzzies and world peace. (Dramatic?! Didn't someone call me dramatic on this blog, just yesterday?!)

I'll find just about any excuse to send a Smilebox -- and fortunately, there's a Smilebox for just about any excuse occasion. The coolest thing -- other than the huge variety of designs, of course -- is the ability to embed video into a personal online greeting (which is why this one takes just a bit longer to load). The designs are hugely open-ended and personalizable, which just adds to the fun. This western theme (which is also available as an FBI theme) is perfect for calling my extended family together for our annual reunion this coming summer. (Names have been changed to protect the -- pffffft ... quote, unquote-- "innocent.")

What d'ya think?

Click to play Family+Reunion
Create your own free ecard - Powered by Smilebox
Make a free ecard - it's easy!


(And yes, I would love to work there... and yes, I AM working on it! Be patient, my friends! )

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Friday, January 18, 2008

It's Official! They're WAZZU Cougs!

Congratulations, Peter and Danelle!

Elisabeth made them the pillow for Christmas, anticipating their acceptance.

And now, to write the first of many (many) checks...

(No word yet from UW, although Aleks and Kat anxiously await the mail each day. Meanwhile, Elisabeth is waiting to hear from Seattle University's Nurse Practitioner master's program... and I await word from a few different employers -- one of whom really excites me. Nope, there's not a dull moment around here!)

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CP: "Culminating Project" or "Cultivating Paranoia"?

In order to graduate, all seniors in our school district must complete something called the Culminating Project, otherwise known as the "CP." Completing the CP takes three years, with the biggest push happening during first semester of senior year, when students turn in their final thesis paper and also give an oral presentation, complete with "findings," before the CP board.

After having his original proposal on socialism rejected, most likely for being too controversial, Aleks (who is more knowledgeable and passionate about politics than any adult I know) agreed to '''tone things down a bit" and presented his oral dissertation yesterday. His presentation was approved, so now Aleks (along with Kat, whose CP project was on the less controversial topic of CPR) is one step closer to graduating in the Spring.

Yesterday Kat and Aleks came home from school and told me that their friend Matt had been given a failing grade on his CP project, even though he had received a passing score on each of the individual components of the project. His report was on some aspect of interior design (feng shui, I think), and as part of his visual "findings," Matt presented a photo of his bedroom. Way off in the corner of the photo was a poster with a large marijuana leaf on it. It was inclusion of that photo, with that poster in it, that was the cause of his failing grade.

WTF??!! Are you frikkin KIDDING me?

We live in progressive, education-oriented Washington State, in a highly-performing district with high achieving, committed kids who take school seriously and generally go on to be professionally oriented, contributing citizens. Yeah, they also party... generally responsibly.

But that's not even the point! The point is that Matt completed and presented an acceptable CP report, containing all required components. It was judged by the graders as a passing project, but failed because one of the graders apparently had a personal qualm with a photo of something in Matt's own bedroom! The photo itself obviously was presented to show how the furniture in his room was arranged in a feng shui-compatible configuration, so the poster and its contents had no bearing whatsoever on the theme of his CP. How dare they fail him for this!

I sincerely hope his parents are up in arms about this -- no matter how they feel about weed and their kid's obvious affinity for it. (And heck, maybe he just likes the poster! Hmmm, nah...) If that happened to our kids, we'd be in the principal's office so fast! And from there we'd take it to the superintendent's office, if need be. THIS is exactly the problem with education (and, if you ask me, with politics): we get diverted and distracted by stuff that doesn't matter to the task at hand! We say we want kids to learn to think constructively and independently, and then we (and by "we," I mean the decision-making adults in charge) do inane things like this. How the hell did the contents of the poster determine or influence Matt's knowledge of feng shui? How was it even pertinent in any way to the content of his report -- other than that it was in a room with furniture arranged in a specific orientation? That's what his report was about; the poster had absolutely no bearing to anything! If it had been a poster of a cute kitten, would Matt have passed the CP?

And hey, come to think of it, someone DID do a CP report on cannibus and other drugs, and surely a picture of a marijuana leaf was (and should have been) part of that report! Did they fail that student too? And two years ago Kat did a report on her uncle, my brother, who was an activist in Berkeley in the 60's. She definitely covered all kinds of "questionable" things in that report, talking about how Michael broke the law along with all the other People's Park protesters, and how acid (FAR, far worse that weed, in my opinion) was a regular part of their culture. And Kat got an A on her report! If this particular grader had been assigned to her report, would she have received a failing grade because the report mentioned "icky stuff"?

Do you see where this is going? It's absolutely terrifying to me, and I can only hope that somehow, some information has been misconstrued.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Wasting Time

Just Stumbled Upon this fun little applet...

See what happens when there are four baskets of laundry to be folded and you just don't want to deal with them?

(Create Fake Magazine Covers with your own picture at MagMyPic.com)

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Petty Crime

Don't let those sweet, adorable, "who... meee?" faces fool you for one second; these two are up to absolutely no good at all!

Shasta would like nothing more than to wander around the neighborhood, befriending people and begging for a playmate (preferably an 8-year-old boy and all his best buddies). Unfortunately, though, she has also scared a poor toddler to pieces when she "attacked" him as he walked by our house with his mommy (surely she just wanted to play, but I can definitely see how she could scare a tiny kid), so the rule is that Shasta can never be "unleashed" outside the house. She absolutely hates that rule and her pathetic, dejected face has even prompted us to consider fencing our entire acre of land just so she can go outside tetherless. (Once we remind ourselves of the cost, however, we quickly reconsider and are back to being regarded as doggie meanies again.)

Shasta wants to be good because she's a Golden Retriever and that's just the way these dogs are, but she also really, really, really wants to go outside.

Enter Boo, Shasta's partner in crime.

Boo can, of course, go outside any time he wants during the day (but never at night) because he refrains from attacking poor, sweet toddlers. When Boo's outside, Shasta is envious, jealous, pouty and whiney. And when guests come to our house, Shasta is beside herself with glee. All she wants is to be allowed to play with her new friend... who would surely love her if only they had the chance. Then Boo flaunts himself hanging out with the guest outside, almost as if to taunt Shasta: "Yeah, she's pretty cool... pretty damn cool, I tell ya!"

But today both of them were stuck inside when someone came to pick up the office chair we were giving away. (I'd listed it on our local freecycle.com website just moments before; gotta love the online community!) So they collaborated a scheme to escape! Those little brats!

Boo is not only smart, he's looong when he stretches out, and he's learned how to stretch himself quite tall and pull down pretty hard on our door handles to open doors! His favorite door to open is the door leading from the downstairs hallway to the garage, and when we can't find him in the house, we often discover that he's let himself into the garage.

Well today, as I opened the garage door from the outside to get the office chair for the woman who had come for it, I hear the door leading to the house unlatch and open, and lo and behold, who (that's a plural "who?") do you think prances out to meet me, full of themselves with that smug "do-NOT-fence-us-in!" look on both of their furry faces?

Yup. Shit-faced Shasta and Bad-Boy Boo!

I'm just gonna have to separate those two! How dare they work together to commit this crime?! I swear, Shasta conned Boo into performing his ol' "I'll get the door" trick, and the two of them walked right by me as if to say, "And who's the beee-atch NOW?!"

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A Hot, Healthy Breakfast on a Cold Pacific Northwest Winter Day

I'm enjoying this breakfast, as I do every day, while I work on a post that -- unlike this one -- actually has some substance to it.



(This post, however, contains more fiber.)

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Submerged

This week I got back into the pool, again wondering why I stayed away so long. (I answered myself, too: "Because of the holidays!")

I have the pool almost to myself every day, usually sharing it only with a tiny, but powerful elderly woman who glides effortlessly and very slowly through the water. She seems completely comfortable and completely in her own world, and I envy her ease and her obvious commitment. I'm not there yet, though I certainly have been in the past, and I'm pretty sure that I'm headed there again.

When I was in grad school I'd sometimes skip class, choosing to swim instead. I'd like to say that I was that committed -- and eventually I was -- but truth be told, the gorgeous men on the Stanford swim team had a little something to do with it. You'd think that I'd have been above all that, having dated an Olympic swimmer in high school, but does one ever really get over the admiration of a whole gaggle of studly devoted young male swimmers?

But I digress.

I generally hate exercising, but for some reason, I adore swimming. Not only does it feel effortless to me -- very much UNlike any other form of exercise -- but I truly enjoy it. I like the feeling of my body gliding smoothly and almost effortlessly through the water, and of my mind gliding easily through whatever finds its way there. Yesterday I mentally made pot roast -- shopped for it, cooked it, and ate it. (Guess I was hungry!) The day before that, I got philosophical and decided as I swam that I'd be wise to approach life as I approach swimming: by enjoying the experience for its simplicity and beauty and to try not to be too hard on myself. Instead of beating myself up about my lack of accomplishments and for my failures, I'll chose to pat myself on the back for making the effort. Instead of insisting on speeding through the moves and winning the race, as I've tended to do in the past, I'll slow down and concentrate on my style and my form. It's about time.

I don't know what thoughts will find their way into my wet-head when I swim today; I only know that I'll swim today. And tomorrow.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A German Bedding Crisis in America

As I've mentioned a few times previously, Laura's family presented us with the most incredible, cozy German bedding when we visited them in September. They presented Tom and me with our own individual "bettdecken," which is like a big fluffy individual feather bed. I can assure you that we'll never go back to traditional American bedding since experiencing the comfort of fluffy individual German feather beds.

Knowing this would probably be the case, and that we just might have trouble finding German bedding in America, Elisabeth and I spent a good amount of time during our last week in Germany (after Tom had flown home) shopping for bedding. Although we bought one fairly expensive all-white cotton set at the Kaufhaus in Heidelberg, my favorite two sets were purchased at Woolworth in Heidelberg and Nurnberg. For under €10 per set, we bought a total of four duvet and pillowcase sets, one of luxuriously soft blue and white dotted "flannel" (but nothing like coarse American flannel) and one of burning oranges and reds in a soft rayon blend. We should have bought the big, square German feather pillows then too, but Elisabeth had already worked hard to stuff the featherbeds into one-way super condensible packing bags that we just happened to have packed, and we knew there was no way we could fit two pillows into our luggage. So we left the Euro-pillow buying until we returned to America.

Big mistake! "Euro-shams" are definitely NOT the same as German feather "Kopfkissen"!

I have looked all over the Internet, even at Woolworth.de for more good deals on "Bettwaesche" and for the down pillows that we saw for €15, but decided not to buy, but I can't find anything! What happened to the great deals we saw when we were in Germany? Are they really not available on the Internet, or am I looking in all the wrong places? And to American stores like Linens 'n' Things and Bed, Bath & Beyond, why don't you carry this fabulous European bedding, both fedderbetten and Euro-sized pillows??

We sure would sleep better at night if we could only find them!

ADDENDUM: This post has received quite a bit of traffic over the years, so I thought I'd mention some related, subsequent posts:
An open letter to Ikea Customer Service
How to decorate your bedroom with a new color scheme each week
My obsession with German bedding gets a little out of hand
Am I getting a bit obsessive with this German bedding thing?
Reaping what I sew

And also some photos of my obsession as of late:










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The Hills are Alive, but the Fish is Dead

In reply to my request for interesting blogging topics, Blackcrag said:

All you really have to do is wait... at least one of your kids is bound to give you a topic sooner or later. If not them, then your pets, and if not them, then your husband. Your family is too wacky to leave you bereft of material for long. But if you want an assignment, I'll give you a photo essay: I need a fix of some western mountains, and if I can't be there in person then I'll come begging at your door for some kind of substitute. So, get thy camera, and on a sunny day go take picture of mountains! And tell us any stories you have involving mountains.

Well, Black -- although it's snowy and beautiful in Seattle today and I could probably snap an amazing photo if I were willing to get in the car and drive a few miles, I'm feeling lazy today. (Fine! I hate driving in this stuff, all right?!).

So how about a photo of my favorite mountains on earth, the Bavarian Alps? This one was taken on the road from my favorite town on earth, Ruhpolding, to Salzburg, by way of Ramsau, which is also pictured.




And you must know my family well, Black, because you were absolutely correct that someone would do something wacky!

Poor Tom. Poor, poor D.B. Sweeney lookalike Tom! (Thanks, BlogAntagonist; we used to often hear that he's a Tom Cruise lookalike too...)

Last night Tom changed the water in my new little fish tank and then went on to change the water in his own big 50 gallon tank, which contained some small schooling fish that he'd adopted (read: purchased) the previous day. To change the water in his tank, Tom uses something like an underwater vacuum apparatus.

(You see where this is going, don't you?)


Now, in order for this story to have its full emotional effect you have to fully appreciate my husband's very soft, very squishy heart. Tom literally couldn't hurt a fly. He is an absolute softy when it comes to animals and kids (and just about everything else for that matter!), to the point that he will politely usher the scariest of spiders gently and sweetly out the door and why he is, come to think of it, anything but a strict disciplinarian.

(You know how there's always one nice parent? Yeah, that'd be Tom...)

So when Tom came upstairs and uttered my name with that long drawn out "Caaaaaarol??" (posed as a question to elicit immediate sympathy), I knew something was wrong -- and I knew he felt horribly guilty about whatever it was, because after knowing each other for 31 (gulp!) years and being married for almost 25, even the slightest "tone of voice" elicits huge amounts of information. Yup, it was guilt all right.

"I think I just flushed a fish down the toilet!" Tom exclaimed. "I was just spacing out and not paying attention and I think I vacuumed the poor thing up and flushed it down the toilet! I think good ol' Walter took one for the team." Naming his fish on the spot was, of course, a ploy to make me feel just as badly as he did, because he knows that once it has a name I'll attempt to mommy it.

We discussed the size of minnow brains in an attempt to convince ourselves that Walter never knew what hit him, but we still felt bad for poor Walter. At that exact moment he was probably... well, we decided to watch French Kiss instead of worry too much about poor Walter's minute-to-minute demise.

But when Tom's first utterance this morning was, "I feel badly about Walter," I knew this would bother him for a while.

So our family, which increased by five(ish) last weekend is down by one today because poor, poor Walter gave one (LIFE!) for the team.


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