Thursday, May 31, 2007

Senioritis cured

Congratulations to our nephew Corey on his graduation from high school! May this be the threshold to a bigger and brighter world.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Greetings from the East Coast

Ken and I have been here on the East Coast since last Thursday visiting his friends and family. We've been on the move between Washington DC, Baltimore MD, Silver Springs MD, Frederick MD, Fredricksburg VA, Salisbury MD and now Onancock VA where his parents live. I'm so sick of being in the car.

But if you are going to be traveling this summer and it involves driving, here's something that does make the driving more enjoyable: a new gadget I call the "Marriage Saver" also known as the Garmin Street Pilot. You just type in your destination and a nice lady tells you (14+ languages, optional) when to turn and how far you have left to go. It's all based on GPS information that it gathers live via satellite. Last year we tried to navigate DC with a map & our wits and almost came to blows. But this year I insisted we opt for an GPS navigator in the rental car. Ken did one better and decided that we should just buy one instead. I love the Garmin.

(Cool Tugboat in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore, MD)

The weather for the most part has been um, all over the place: 92 degrees with god-awful humidity to 85 with a nice cool breeze. I hear Seattle is perfect right now. I'm so glad we're missing it. Of all the cardinal rules of living in Seattle, the biggest one is "never leave during the 4 months of weather you tolerate the other 8 dreary ones for."

(Check this out: The boat across for this one is the USS Constellation in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. It just shot off a cannon and the gunpowder blast creates a smoke ring. How neato is that?) ******

On Monday, we drove through Trappe MD and visited Dave & Carla, high school friends of Ken. We spent a delightful (but sweltering) afternoon at their farm. Ken got to ride a "blind" horse and be a horse to Katelynn, their daughter.

(Ken and Dove, the masked equus)
( Katelynn and her horsey)
(As artful as a horse's ass can be on a hot day.)
Coming up....Tomorrow is Corey's (our nephew) high school graduation, Friday we see the Pirates of the Caribbean 3 and Saturday is a Richardson (Ken's Mom's side) family reunion including a blue crab feast. It's going to be a packed weekend.
I really hope the weather stays non-humid---and that I stop getting migranes. I've had 2 in 2 days now. It could be heat, hormones, having icecream a record 3 times in one trip or the alignment of Jupiter & Mars, but for whatever is causing them, I'm putting them on notice-- no more this trip, okay?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Double the Fun

Last Thursday, I had the delight of spending the morning with Tracy and her kids, Stella & Owen.
The twins just turned 2-years-old and are they a riot. Not only are their personalities more developed since I last saw them but their comprehension of language is greatly improved. At this point, anything you say will be parroted back and that is enough reason to have a child for the endless entertainment value. "Raise the Roof" & "Hot Pockets" take on entirely new meanings when uttered by a 2-year-old. So does THIS.
Tracy is amazing to watch with the children as she balances letting the "kids be kids" with measured authoritative intervention. I can see how I might be over protective. When we were on the playground, my instinct was to follow right behind the twin I was watching and be right there. But that's not how a child learns the way of the world. So gradually I'd put a more steps between us so I didn't crowd. But it was hard.
Watching the politics of the playground is heavy-heartedly fascinating. It's just a microcosm of adult life: the haves, the have nots and authority figures. Groups of older kids ran around in packs from one piece of playground equipment to another but even as other children (including Stella & Owen) approached them or eagerly watched from the fringes, the older kids made no effort to include them. Tracy told me that sometimes kids be downright brutal about not wanting to play with others by yelling or worse.
Despite the playground politics, the twins seemed to have great fun going down the big slide initially on our laps but eventually by themselves. Stella showed agile skill at climbing the jungle gym. (I wish I had pictures of that but I was too busy climbing up behind her to make sure she didn't fall.) Poor Tracy took one for the team when she slid and fell on some wet grass when running after Owen who took off like he was making a run for the border. She caught him but had to endure wearing and sitting in wet jeans until we got back to the house--Aye!
It was a great day with Tracy and children but I seriously needed a little down time after all that activity. My hat goes off to all you moms of young kids out there.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Karaoke dokey

Last night we hosted about a dozen friends for our first annual karaoke extravaganza. We finally got around to having the party we promised to throw for over a year--and it did not disappoint.
Karaoke is a funny thing: at first it's scary to get up and sing in front of people but after the first song, you can't help but want to keep going up there. A little tequila helps too. For the occasion, we provided some awesome Goodwill finds: shirts, hats (including a fez) & accessories while many guests brought items to share as well, like the bounty of hats & wigs from Sarah & Mika. This karaoke machine was a wedding gift and not to lessen the significance of any other wedding gift we received, this one gets ALOT of use. "BKM" (Before Karaoke Machine), I was not a confident singer --at all--. But it's funny how holding a microphone, watching scrolling words and listening to the muzak-like rendition of a favorite song can change your life forever. Because everyone secretly wants to be a rock star. How could you not?

This is Scott singing Hit Me Baby One More Time by Britney Spears. It's important to note that he did not need to look at the monitor for the words (since he knew them by heart). Thanks to all the brave souls/fabulous entertainers who made the journey to Ballard. We can't wait to have you sing with us again soon. For all the pictures from this event, click HERE.


And while Austin was a little shy on party night, this afternoon we continued the karaoke rampage...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Grey's Anatomy Season Finale

Dear Grey's Anatomy Writers:
I am especially weary after this dark, dark episode of spiraling tragedy. Using the "nuclear option" to clear the deck for Season 4 was convenient but cruel. From the beginning, Season 3 has been about heavy handedness and jam-packed flashy drama within each episode. What happened to subtlety and quality of Seasons 1 & 2?
I'm just annoyed more than anything. I make time for this show, as well as read the blog, listen to the podcast, contribute to the forums & talk about the show amongst my circle of friends. But the stories/writing are getting sloppy and it's apparent in the last few months from comments on this your blog that your viewers notice. Maybe you should as well.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Sabbatical Week 1: Elephants

With several days free to contemplate the world and the suddenness Mal's death, the elephant in the room has become: are you doing what you really want to do? If you only get to live so long and be fully functioning for so many years, would you waste a second doing anything you don't believe in?

During my visit to Burlington to attend Mal's funeral Friday, I was asked several times "what do you do?" There's the obvious answer of my 9-5 job which usually brings a look of amusement, a nod of acceptance and some generic positive validation. For better or worse, I have embraced my "hi-tech worker identity" carved out of the last 10 years of my life. But if pressed to tell something more, I fumble a bit, reciting my other interests like footnotes--in a way that says they haven't quite make it into the main story of my life.

From grade school to now, it's been like climbing a mountain, head down, go forward, achieve, attain. Now that I'm part way up, I'm looking around wondering if I'm even on the right mountain. I guess it's just easier to go along with the tide of life sometimes. I do think about how idealistic I was when I graduated from college. I wanted to do something meaningful, exciting and impactful. And I started off ok but now... But now.

What I'd like to say to people is: I write books for children and make the world the a better place (in this way). The only problem is, I'm not committed to those things yet. Because right now I'm waiting for something else to happen first. Until then, I don't feel free to move, to make decisions, to put anything in jeopardy. So surely that must be the bigger pachyderm in the room.

Perhaps the elephants can hang out and have tea.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Tribute to Mal

Mal Hampel (dad of my friend & ex Chris) passed away on Monday (obituary). When I think about Mal, no single story or interaction comes to mind per se--just the memory of his "presence". His magnetism preceded him into a room and his throaty Johnny Cash-like voice imprinted authority onto anything he said. At times, he could come across gruff but usually he was charming and slyly eccentric. My heart hurts that such a charismatic figure has left so early. Vicki, Chris, Matt, Barbara--my thoughts are with you.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sabbatical, Day 2

Believe it...I am on sabbatical.
Thirty days to rewrite my second picture book manuscript, write the first draft of a This American Life submission, practice yoga, take dance classes, walk around the neighborhood, travel to the East Coast to see the in-laws and relax. Yeah right, relax. More tomorrow. It's time to go to bed.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tastes Like Chicken

Not having grown up in Seattle, it's a happy thing to have friends here who knew me in my formative years. These people are truly gems, not only because they are great people but because they hold a significant piece of my history. Two of these people, Sean & Shannon, have been living in other parts of the country and recently traveled 'round the globe. They just settled here in Seattle but I've known them for almost 15 years. Sean was a Statistics classmate and the first friend I made at WSU and Shannon was my roommate Junior year. Yes, these folks are Cougs.

Sunday night, we had a wonderful evening at their home, and even though they didn't know it at the time, something momentous happened that evening as well.

First, let me tell you a story. Back in October 2002, the guy I was dating convinced me to eat at his favorite Mexican Restaurant in Elma, Washington. This hole-in-the-wall, sanitation-is-optional, health-department-violation-in-waiting had become a local favorite since you could get football-sized burritos for $5. He ordered his usual veggie burrito, doused in ulcer-strength (but germ killing) hot sauce while I opted for the meat-laden, "no-hot-sauce-please" chicken burrito. I was able to eat about half of it.
Flash forward a week and you would have found me at Swedish Hospital hooked up to intravenous antibiotics after suffering flu-like symptoms for several days and having to call Amy @ 2:30 am on the fourth night, telling her that I wanted to die just to make the pain go away. I had to crawl on all fours to let her in the front door--the stomach pain was so intense. This was because I had shed all my stomach lining and could no longer absorb nutrients. I was literally starving. The doctor surmised I had contracted Salmonella.
That episode not only made me super paranoid about the cleanliness of food but from that point on, chicken was verboten. But do you know how hard it is to cut chicken out of your diet? It's in everything! Do you know what else happens? I became the most ridiculous dinner guest. Like J.Lo, I had a rider that preceded me to any occasion we were invited to. (And I used to give my step-brothers a hard time for being vegan/vegetarian...) Do you know how odd it is to be a meat-eater but not each chicken? People understand eliminating beef and pork but not chicken. And each time, I'd have to tell the story and people would listen wide-eyed and nod reassuringly that avoiding chicken was an understandable result of this experience. But seriously, how long was this going play out?

Back to present day, Shannon & Sean had been kind enough to ask if Lamb was ok (and unfortuately I'm allergic) so I sent back suggestions but I never said NO to chicken--and I take full responsibility for that. Shannon had prepared a multi-ethnic feast and the yummy, exotic smells filled the living room. In an off-hand comment, she mentioned we were having chicken and I froze. I hadn't told her. Oh my god, what was I going to eat? How awkward was it going to be when I mention this after all the effort she's gone through?
And at that moment, after four and half years of letting an albeit traumatic but clearly isolated incident rule my diet, I decided to just quietly go with it. And you know what? It wasn't a big deal at all. Rediscovering the texture of chicken in my mouth was a little odd at first but it tasted damn good. So why you ask, if they are such good friends didn't I say anything? Because I'd grown tired of being that freakishly fussy dinner guest. If these people can travel to 3rd world countries sampling the local cuisine and live to tell about it, I can eat some chicken.