Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Something in my purse.....

A post entitled "Prompt Tuesday" from San Diego Momma caught my eye today; write 150 words in under ten minutes about something in your purse or wallet. I'm reminded of the richness of purses in the lives of women; beautifully explored in my sister's website Purse Stories.

Here goes.......reader, beware! This one is dark and foreboding.

I keep it in my wallet at all times; have for over a year. Just in case the inevitable happens, which of course it will because death is inevitable, I keep this folded sheet of paper in the flap of my wallet just in front of the flap that holds the dollar bills. The typewritten sheet is my own creation, a succinct summary of what to do and what not to do in the event of their death(s). They have pre-paid for services, an attempt many, many years ago to take the stress off of family when death came to take them from us. The instructions simple, the words harsh on the page, haunting and taunting me, waiting, just waiting for the time and place when they'll come alive to guide me smoothly on the journey I dread.

Ironic perhaps that such detailed planning and preparation went into this phase of existence but seemingly no concern for the long years before death when for both, time has taken from them physical stamina and mental prowess. "Once a man, twice a child" it is said as both extremes of age blend into an oddly similar soup that those living in the middle, as wo"men" carry the weight of responsibility. In my darker days, I make note that death, ultimately, is but a tiny piece of this mammoth proposition.

I keep this paper, folded tightly, in a place where it can never be overlooked and wonder when I'll be called upon to follow its instructions.

Of Funfetti Cakes and My Daughter.....

Yesterday, in search for the miscellaneous stuff on my "get list", I ended up at Bartell Drugstore. My "get list" stuff in hand, I waited at the checkout counter and watched the woman ahead of me. She and her two little daughters, all of four and six years old (I'm guessing) were as cute as buttons. They were buying cake mixes, two to be exact and one was a Funfetti Cake mix.

They weren't in a rush; they were happy to just be, right there in the store living the moments. The woman had a lot of change in her purse and since these cake mixes were on sale for 88 cents, she was able to pay for the two cake mixes with coins. The young girls, probably excited by the prospect of an afternoon of baking and decorating, walked out of the store each with a cake mix in hand.

Time stopped for me, for the briefest moment. The observer, I watched and remembered back to a time when my own were this age. Laura's favorite cake for many years was a Funfetti white cake, infused with multi-colored sweet tidbits. How many Birthdays did we celebrate with this cake as the centerpiece? I could see her, standing beside me at the same checkout counter, close, exuding the same excitement that I saw in those two young girls. A flashback to a very ordinary moment from my past, I was overtaken by a surprising sense of mystery and magic, a feeling that although time sweeps me forward, I'm left with sweet and tender memories that remind me that I was once that young mother with children in tow.

And then my thoughts turned to Ms. Laura with less than a month to go on her sojourn abroad. I ache to put my arms around her and to hold her close again. The Funfetti Cake, the little girl who became a young woman while I was thinking and doing other things, the bittersweet of life, the tremendous gift we are given to love and be loved in this one life.....

One thought into the next.

Friday, March 27, 2009

"I'll go right home and tell Alice...."

I'm still consumed by the wonderful news of my son's engagement to his much loved girlfriend of the past year. In the midst of daily struggles, joy infuses my moments and I'm grateful and thrilled for these two wonderful people.

The night their engagement was official, I was sharing the happiness with my Mom, showing her pictures, and reveling in the unfolding moments, including Chris and Heather's plan to hop on a plane to Orange County for a day of celebration (and fun) at Disneyland. And then, we both had to laugh because an old, quirky, silly memory came to the fore in both of our minds.....

Years ago, I'll say about 41 years ago to be exact, when Mom and Dad lived in Aruba, communications with the "homeland" took the form of cryptic cable-grams and the occasional overseas telephone call received, not at home, but at my Dad's administrative office building. Most cable-grams and phone calls brought news of grave illness or worse yet, death. We hated to be on the receiving end of these calls. But, every now and again, the phone calls brought joyous news; usually the birth of a child.

Dad took a call from Houston in 1968 announcing the birth of his first grandchild, a beautiful little girl named Caroline. Apparently, one of the first people he saw as he left the "GOB" (General Office Building) as we called it, was a friend named Tony Proterra. Dad's joy was effusive; he apparently pulled Tony aside and shared the news of his new status as a Grandfather to a healthy baby girl back in the states. Tony's response? A classic; and one we laugh about to this day and a phrase we use whenever we've got good news to share with the world.....

"I'll go right home and tell Alice....."

I've the image of Alice, his good wife, at home, waiting for news of any kind from stateside, ready to share in the joyful moments and beyond that, to pick up the local phone (which worked just fine) and dial dozens of others to announce proudly that "today Dean became a grandfather!" News traveled fast in the small local community of Americans overseas in Aruba; what was one person's news belonged to everyone by the end of the day.

So world....let it be known that "I'm going right home to tell Alice" about Chris and Heather's engagement. Denny and I are thrilled and behind them with our love and support 100 percent!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Today is a fabulous day, this 25th day of March 2009!

Our son, Chris proposed to his wonderful girlfriend, Heather today in Walnut Creek, California.
She said yes!
We are delighted, thrilled, and so glad to be spreading the news to our family and friends.


I drove Chris to the airport yesterday morning. Although he usually balks when I whip out my camera to "document" events, he didn't put up any fuss this time. Here he is showing me the ring before tucking it into his carry-on computer bag as we loaded up the car.

Today was the "big day". Gorgeous weather, a picnic in the park, two wonderful people committing themselves to each other. I'm so happy for both of them. Yeah!

Shortly after the engagement was official, both of them updated their "status" boxes on Facebook. I love this picture of them in front of their laptops taking care of business. Check out that ring on Heather's left ring finger! What's been fun is reading all the great messages rolling in from friends and family in joyful celebration for this happy couple.

Heather and Chris, you are much loved!

***some photos courtesy of Heather and Tina!

Monday, March 23, 2009

When to Hold and When to Fold

The Gambler
Kenny Rogers

On a warm summers evenin on a train bound for nowhere,
I met up with the gambler; we were both too tired to sleep.
So we took turns a starin out the window at the darkness
til boredom overtook us, and he began to speak.

He said, son, I've made a life out of readin peoples faces,
And knowin what their cards were by the way they held their eyes.
So if you don't mind my sayin, I can see you're out of aces.
For a taste of your whiskey I'll give you some advice.

So I handed him my bottle and he drank down my last swallow.
Then he bummed a cigarette and asked me for a light.
And the night got deathly quiet, and his face lost all expression.
Said, if you're gonna play the game, boy, ya gotta learn to play it right.

You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin when the dealins done.

Now ev'ry gambler knows that the secret to survivin
Is knowin what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
cause ev'ry hands a winner and ev'ry hands a loser,
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.

So when he'd finished speakin, he turned back towards the window,
Crushed out his cigarette and faded off to sleep.
And somewhere in the darkness the gambler, he broke even.
But in his final words I found an ace that I could keep.

You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin when the dealins done.

You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin when the dealins done.



Sunday, March 22, 2009

Personal Thought for the Day # 15

Chronic renal failure, with all of its attendant complications, carries a prognosis worse than many types of cancer; avoid it if at all possible.

I have been working all weekend and see with eyes wide open the depth and breadth of this most wicked disease.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Of Malta, the Hypogeum, and Missing Her

The isle of Malta, south of Sicily, an archipelago of small islands really, surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea....this gorgeous place is where she finds herself today. Laura's travels have taken her to so many wonderful places over the past months. Malta sounds intriguing, full of history, archeology, and natural beauty.

Last year at a yoga retreat, we listened and danced to Jennifer Berezan's hauntingly gorgeous piece entitled Returning, 40 minutes of mesmerizing bliss. The first part of the piece was recorded in the Oracle Chamber in the Hypogeum in Malta, a sacred underground space with impressive acoustics.

I've sent her the link to the website in case she has any interest in visiting the Hypogeum. She's heard the CD of Jennifer Berezan's piece but I suspect she never expected she would find herself in Malta. The trip was just planned recently as a nice spring break get-a-way. The weather is apparently lovely in Malta year round, a nice change from the winter coat scene in Dublin and Vienna where she visited most recently.

I miss you, Ms. Laura. I wish you good times in Malta and count the days until your return.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Erin go Braugh

March 17. St. Patrick's Day 2009

My niece's Birthday: Happy Birthday Jeanne!

Also, the Birthday of Mark, a classmate in high school, the young man who walked by my side on Graduation Day 1972. Not so young anymore, I wish you well, wherever you are today.

A year ago today I had my arthroscopic knee surgery, a successful endeavor with a slow, but steady improvement such that I can now get into a deep knee squat and (if stamina will cooperate) run!

Today, my daughter timed her travels perfectly; she's in Dublin and by now has watched the St. Patrick's Day Parade and seen first hand how the Irish celebrate the day.

In our family, we typically celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a huge spread of corned beef, cabbage, boiled potatoes and carrots, brown bread and a couple of traditional desserts ("grasshopper pie" and Irish whiskey pie). Oh, and Guinness Beer, of course. This year we moved the meal forward a few days so that Chris and Heather as well as a couple of Chris's roommates could attend. The meal was fantastic (thanks, Denny) and the pies (my contribution) were great too. Although the guys in particular ate heartily (OMG), there was enough left over to take Mom and Dad each a plate for their Sunday noon lunch the following day. They cleaned their plates; Dad saved his Guinness for a mid afternoon treat.

Erin go Braugh!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Personal Thought for the Day #14

As much an annoyance that thief of peaceful sleep termed restless leg syndrome must be for those afflicted by the constant urge to move ones feet and legs during the night, I'm convinced that the runner up position of angst related to this unfortunate malady falls to the witness. The irregularly irregular limb movements, the sound as legs move across sheets or upholstery, again and again and again, render the observer unable to do much of anything else but listen for the next salvo.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Personal Thought for the Day #13

Me thinks that snow in mid-March is rather outrageous but then again, who put me in charge of the universe? I will take advantage of the weather and stay warm with tea and a good book.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Time Off (even if for a day)

Friday was my day to take "time off" to enjoy a string of unencumbered hours out and about with my guy. Aside from our random outings to Costco, Trader Joe's, or Pike Place Market (this is our "escape" and as such is pretty lame; I know), or the occasional meal eaten out, we haven't done anything "special", just for us, in quite awhile. I made a conscious decision to lay aside the worries that have been chewing on my mind for weeks now. I even let myself forget that our 2008 tax stuff was still sitting there in a disorganized mess, waiting to be tamed into submission.

Was I successful? Absolutely.

We had a really nice day together; boarded a ferry to Kingston, Wa. and from there drove to the northern coast of the Kitsap Peninsula. The area is relatively undiscovered. There are lots of nice vacation cabins and homes out that way but there weren't many people walking on this sunny stretch of shoreline at low tide. We just walked and looked down at the rocks and driftwood at our feet and out to the breakers, following seagulls and the occasional crow as they combed the shallows for the next bite. Lovely.

This wasn't exactly "sky diving, Rocky Mountain climbing, or 2.7 seconds on a bull called Fu Man Chu" but the day offered up renewal and peace nonetheless. But, I suppose I did live yesterday acutely aware that this was another day gifted to me and for that, I'm grateful.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Meaning of Life

It's (relatively) early on this fine Friday morning in mid March. This day belongs to us (Denny and me) and we've plans to get out of town and walk on an ocean shore, eat lunch somewhere, and enjoy the simple pleasure of living and breathing the air. It has been a long three months for us. The saga of this rough patch began on December 10, '08, our wedding anniversary when we had some plans that were foiled at the last minute. It's not that there haven't been any moments of joy, laughter, and silliness since then but we've certainly not had the chance to head out there (relatively) carefree to simply be together.

I'll probably post a blog about where we went, what we did, and how taking the time for us was "a good". Let's hope so, anyway. I'm still a bit shell shocked and waiting for the next hurdle, challenge, next shoe-to-drop. Edgy. But today, I'm intentionally trying to put all this aside and live a little (like I was dying; see post from yesterday)

As I was catching up on my favorite blogs this morning I found this poem posted on Garrison Keillor's site. I love this poem. Not only have I lived this very experience but I totally get that this is a metaphor for life in some ways. The title of my blog, Ahead of the Wave, speaks to that heightened sense of awareness, the need to stay ahead of the disaster whatever it may be. Unrealistic for the long haul, I know that the subtitle of my blog ("exploring the fine line between steering and surrender") addresses the challenge of reality when that dog unloads the mess. Surrender. And, that's OK. Balance.

Enjoy this poem; it made me laugh but it also was a great big endorsement of my feelings about living. I'm hoping the dog's stomach is feeling just fine today.

The Meaning of Life

There is a moment just before
a dog vomits when its stomach
heaves dry, pumping what's deep
inside the belly to the mouth.
If you are fast you can grab
her by the collar and shove her
out the door, avoid the slimy bile,
hunks of half chewed food
from landing on the floor.
You must be quick, decisive,
controlled, and if you miss
the cue and the dog erupts
en route, you must forgive
her quickly and give yourself
to scrubbing up the mess.

Most of what I have learned
in life leads back to this.

by Nancy Fitzgerald

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Live Like You Were Dying

Driving in to work this morning I had my radio tuned to FM Warm 106.9, a random station that rarely gets my attention but today there must have been a reason. Although I'm not a country music fan (except for the old Willy Nelson favorites from decades past), I was riveted to Tim McGraw's tune "Live Like You Were Dying". Need I share that there were tears welling up by the time the song wrapped up as I drove down 5th Avenue under Seattle's monorail? The message was clear, the timing perfect, and the effect on my day rather remarkable.

The lyrics are great (below) but the way he sings brings the story to life. Listen up all! We are all dying and we should live like we are dying. If not, life will pass us by. Why wait for the wake up call of a life threatening illness to bring us to this precious place where each day is the blessing, where each day is the opportunity.

Here goes.....

"He said I was in my early forties, with a lot of life before me
And one moment came that stopped me on a dime
I spent most of the next days, looking at the x-rays
Talking bout' the options and talking bout' sweet times.
I asked him when it sank in, that this might really be the real end
How's it hit 'cha when you get that kind of news?
Man what did ya do?
He said

I went skydiving
I went rocky mountain climbing
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denyin'
And he said some day I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dyin'

Verse 2
He said I was finally the husband, that most the time I wasn't
And I became a friend, a friend would like to have
And all of a sudden goin' fishin, wasn't such an imposition
And I went three times that year I lost my dad
Well I finally read the good book, and I took a good long hard look
At what I'd do if I could do it all again
And then

I went skydiving
I went rocky mountain climbing
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Shu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denyin'
And he said some day I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dyin'

Like tomorrow was the end
And ya got eternity to think about what to do with it
What should you do with it
What can I do with it
What would I do with it

I went rocky mountain climbing
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu
And man I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I watched an eagle as it was flyin'
And he said some day I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dyin'

To live like you were dyin'
To live like you were dyin'
To live like you were dyin'
To live like you were dyin' "

Click here for Tim McGraw's video; very nice indeed.....

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cat and Mouse

The "cat and mouse" theme, based on an English language idiom, of pursuit, near capture, and recurrent escape runs ramant in my mind today. The advantage seems to shift constantly. There is no solid ground, no predictablitity, nothing settled. Who am I? The cat? The mouse? I am both; at once pouncing, at once leaping to higher ground.

Several days ago it was a chess match between two equally savvy opponents staring each other down across a sea of bishops, rooks, and pawns.

I just want the blur of this "fighting fog", a term I heard today, to lift. I want to see clearly and to find the path that leads to peace.

"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace....", I say. Over and over and over again.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Tired but not Sleepy

This is a common predicament.......I'm bone tired but not sleepy. Sleepy is such a wonderful place. Relaxed, barely able to keep eyes open, drifting on the open sea until such time when precious sleep takes me hostage.

Tired is different. Tired is a mind churning with thoughts, plans, scenarios, and worries superimposed on a body that aches for rest.

My solution?

A half cup of old coffee (from this morning) warmed up in the microwave, a splash of sugar and milk to get me UP again so that I can go OUT and do my exercise routine for the day. Seattle is chilly but still sunny late this afternoon on the first day of daylight savings time.

Go, go now. I'm off.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tri Wear?

I have passion for the color red. Especially red clothing. Especially red clothing that hugs the body and shows off arms, shoulders and upper back.

This swimsuit from a well known mail order catalog caught my eye today. Oh my; check out that color, check out the ruffle at the low cut neckline, check out that smart and sassy pareo tied against the right hip. I've gone off the deep end of the pool on this one.

I've seen some women wear what looks like swimwear at the Danskin Triathlon. Amidst the more traditional tri suits, shorts and T's, these women catch my eye. Sometimes I spy a one piece suit and sometimes a two piece. And, I wonder.....is this comfortable for that long journey? Probably not.

My fantasy has me wearing this beauty on the swim, bike and run come July and August 2009. The pareo I'll save for the finish line, tossed to me by my proud husband who cheers me along the final fifty yards of sprint. Ahhhh, how sweet the image.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Personal Thought for the Day #12

Life of late resembles a challenging game of chess, each player crafting moves that temporarily stump her opponent. The pieces on the board shift daily, the strategy ever changing, the dance all consuming. Is this a game that anyone will win?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

She Makes me Laugh

This wonderful girlfriend of mine, the one that I have known for more years than I have not, the one the fates brought together in a tiny dorm room freshman year of college, the one who was maid of honor at my wedding and whose wedding I returned the favor as a proud bridesmaid, the one whose voice I have not heard and whose face I have not seen in over ten years but whose presence in my life stands strong, I send my love to you today.

You make me laugh.

Although you don't leave comments on my blog, I know you read every post and for that I'm grateful. You comment indirectly (we have our ways of communicating in this modern era) and I'm blessed by your loyal presence in my life, as close as a whisper. Deep down, I know if I called for you, you would be there. Vice versa. That feels good.

You make me laugh. You always have.

Two days ago I received your thoughts about my posts Courage Camille and Gotta Get Out There. With wit and creative pen you offered up a bounty of wonderful additions to my Camille alternatives and many that apply to the triathlon training theme. Great encouragement all around and I love them so much that they must be acknowledged. Here.

She ends her email full of wonderful thoughts with the following.....

"Anyway, Five-K Francesca, I wish you good fortune and speed. And whatever happens will be just fine and right for you this year.

Best wishes from:
Aimless Amy
Swimsuit Sasha
Heart Rate Monitor Hussy
Wetsuit Wanda
Triathlon Tits
Pushy Pussy
Treadmill Tess
Goggles Godiva
Motivation Molly
Upper Body Strength Ursula
Courage Cassandra...."

Have I told you lately how much I love you, dear friend? We can never say it too many times.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Gotta Get Out There....

OK Kate....it's March 2nd. You've. Got. To. Get. Out. There.

I've signed myself up for two sprint triathlons; one in early July and one in mid August. Swim, bike, and run. Every day in February I reminded myself that I needed to get a plan of attack underway. So far my plan of attack has been all mental and none physical. This body needs to be whipped back into shape and it'll take some time since she's been so lazy, and so sedentary, and so tired for too long.

I'd placed my sights on March 1 as launch date for "the program" but am already a day behind because......the weather was cold and rainy yesterday. Hmmmm. Today is sunny and gorgeous. I'm going right now. Promise. Right now I'm leaving the house to walk and run a few steps to see how it feels.

I can sense my former college roommate, maid of honor, and forever friend who did a gazillion (maybe not that many) sprint triathlons last summer, laughing at me. I'm going, I'm going, I say.....

Wow, I say; this post today is my 400th on this blog!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

"Courage Camille..."

This post features a quote used frequently in our family, "Courage, Camille." I want to go be clear that although I've never uttered this little two word phrase of encouragement myself, I've been the recipient more times than I can remember. The sources of encouragement for the infamous, "Courage Camille!"? That would have to be my Mother mostly, but sometimes from other family members too.

Nowadays I bristle when I'm advised in person or in writing to have "Courage, Camille". I've finally decided that now is the time to find out why I react so strongly. Why does this innocuous message get to me, irritate me, make me want to snap back, "Fuck Camille" when I hear or read those words? And now, I finally get it; after some thought there is understanding.

But first, what of this Camille? Who is she and why is she advised to summon courage?

Camille is a fictional character in a classic novel from 1848 by Alexandre Dumas Fils. A beautiful and famous courtesan living in Paris, her trademark camellias decorate her hair when in public. Despite her best intentions, Camille falls in love with a young aristocrat named Armand. Their relationship is doomed from the start. Rather than destroy Armand's reputation, and at the strong request of the young man's father, she severs the ties that bind them both. Ultimately, she dies of consumption and Armand is left with a broken heart. The story line is the basis for Verdi's opera "Traviata" and for a classic film, Camille, starring Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor from 1938.

From the book, the quote comes from Armand's father, Duval as he implores Camille to break off the relationship she has with Armand. He says to her, "You would be proud someday of having saved Armand from a fate he would have regretted all his life--which would have brought on him the idle jest and scorn of every honorable man. Pardon me, Camille; but you know the world too well to doubt the truth of what I say. It is a father who implores you to save his child. Come, prove to me you love my son. Give me your hand. Courage Camille, courage! (she slowly gives her hand). Bless you, bless you. You have done your duty."

What a sad tale and and a quote that's equally sad viewed in the context of the story line. The courage Camille must summon destroys both herself and her true love with a sacrifice made for the benefit of a restrictive, unforgiving society. Blah to that!

But this isn't why I don't like the quote because after all, I only learned these details after some research. The real root for my bristling comes from knowing that what I need when I'm advised to summon "Courage, Camille" is NOT courage at all. I already have courage. I have what it takes to get myself out of bed every morning and put one foot ahead of the other and make it through to the end of the day.

What I think I need instead is something like.....

"Patience, Patrice",
"Fortitude, Florence",
"Strength, Susanna", or
maybe even, "Vision, Victoria".

Camille and her brand of courage are not for me!

Update on the Acropolis....

For all who may (or may not) be interested.....

"She" gave an update by text today; Sunday, March 1st.

"Hey I am doing great. We ended up seeing the Parthenon and the Acropolis. It was not on strike so that's good".

Good, indeed.