Sunday, January 31, 2010

Senior's Discount


I don't know how I should feel about receiving my first "senior's discount" at a diner in Marblemount, Washington, a tiny little village along the Skagit River. Denny and I ate there yesterday for lunch. We were on an outing to see the bald eagles who make their migratory path south each winter and spend weeks along the Skagit River feeding on salmon.

When the check came Denny remarked that we got a 10 percent "senior's discount". Yikes! Let's only hope their definition of a senior is someone 50 or older. Otherwise, I'd say we looked weary and worn yesterday, older than usual. I suppose it has to happen sometime.

We did see a few eagles by the way. Gorgeous birds. My pair of binoculars was nothing compared to the telescopes professional birdwatchers had set up. A glimpse through those lenses brought up the image of an eagle perched on the high branch of a pine across the river into sharp view. The eyes, that see with 12 x the acuity of human eyes, were likely staring right back at me.

Factoids: Female bald eagles are larger than males and the lifespan is up to 30 years. Bald eagles mate for life.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Gargoyle

Several days ago I finished the audio book The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson.

This is a gorgeous book, beautifully written and researched. A love story down to the bone but with a twist; the tantalizing blend of modern day with 14th century Europe with the story lines indelibly intertwined by the real time dance of a talented schizophrenic woman and a man who suffers a life threatening and life changing burn.

I'm not much of a book reviewer so I reference "Beauty and the Beast" from the NY Times.

The Gargoyle, a first novel for Mr. Davidson, is the best book I've read in many years.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The U.S.Figure Skating Olympic Team

Laura and I spent a fabulous 3 hours enjoying the show at the Spokane Arena Sunday. The Skating Spectacular featured the newly selected U.S. Figure Skating Olympic Team, those skaters who will compete in Vancouver, B.C. next month. Wow. I had no idea I could score tickets at (literally) the 11th hour but there were tickets to spare probably since this was not competition but fanfare. The competition over, the Olympic Team performed for a delighted crowd. No pressure. All performance. We also were treated to performances by winners in the Novice and Junior categories as well, future Olympic team members in 2014 and beyond. Very cool.

Laura and I stood in line to have an 8x10 photo autographed by this particular young lady, Rachael Flatt. She won Gold for her overal performance in the Woman's Figure Skating Event. She's very cool. She signed hundreds of photographs with a personal smile and a comment. For me...."I like your scarf!" Very sweet.

I wish Rachael well at the Olympics and will keep my eye on her!

Just after the intermission, we were treated to a special gathering of the 12 U.S. Olympic Gold Medal winners in figure skating dating back to the the 1940's. They were: Dick Button (1948, 52), Tenley Albright (1956), Hayes Jenkins (1956), Carol Heiss Jenkins (1960), David Jenkins (1960), Peggy Fleming (1968), Dorothy Hamill (1976), Scott Hamilton (1984), Brian Boitano (1988), Kristi Yamaguchi (1992), Tara Lipinski (1998) and Sarah Hughes (2002).

What an amazing group gathered to wish the 2010 Olympic team the very best in Vancouver! Seeing all of them together, over half of whom I've seen compete over the years was very cool indeed. Very cool indeed. Can't wait for the 2010 Olympic Games!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Weekend in Spokane

Quiet college apartment; I am the only one awake. This is not surprising when I am the middle aged mother visiting a daughter who shares her place with two other young women in their very early twenties. I drove from Seattle yesterday for several reasons:

1. to deliver my daughter's car back to her (how her car ended up in Seattle is a long story and isn't relevant to this post necessarily)

2. to provide emotional support to my daughter in the midst of a rough patch in her life

As I started this post, I thought...."Gee, wouldn't it be nice if I were here for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships?" (an event going on here in Spokane for the last ten days or so....). Today is the last day. Not even knowing what the event of the day (pairs, ice dancing, women's, men's), I thought......what the hell. Let me see if there are any tickets left.

And.....because the competition is officially over as of last night, today's event is The Skating Spectacular. Yes!

Laura and I will likely be up in the 'nosebleed' section for this event but just to see all the magnificence and talent on the ice will be fantastic. We have tickets!!!
Gotta run.

Laura is now up, preparing breakfast for me and then we'll get dressed and head to the Spokane Convention Center to see the best U.S. skaters!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Woe is Me (but I'm better today...)

Last night I had a very unusual reaction to the proverbial 2 carbon fragment, the innocent looking structure shown here. CH3CH2OH.

Even with a nice big glass of H20 and
two of these as a bit of preventive treatment......

I got sicker than a poor, old pathetic dog but not before I ate a delightful 2 egg omelet made with cheese, bacon bits, and a goodly, tasty amount of diced jalapenos. Oh, and a Skinny Cow mint ice cream sandwich (yum) for dessert (of course).

Don't you just love waking up to a splitting migraine which turns out to be refractory to this:

I couldn't figure out what was making me so sick in the middle of the night, long after the 2 carbon fragments should have been metabolized. But sick I was and as light of day dawned and with the help of this:

I was significantly improved and now am just about back to normal.

Lesson learned? Not sure. What the heck happened? Glad I was at home. Glad Denny was here to watch over me, pathetic as I was.

Translation for the non-chemists: I had one too many glasses of wine (such a nice Chenin Blanc) and despite taking a couple of aspirin with a glass of water (a pretty good prophylactic measure to avoid a wine migraine), I got a migraine anyway and spent the night running to the porcelain god(dess). Sumatriptan (the migraine antidote was like taking a placebo; actually worse since placebos often work if you think they'll work). By morning, the evils passed, my body is back in functional shape and caffeine has bolstered me further into the land of the living.

I did learn one thing: Jalapenos are evil little devils when they decide to propel retrograde instead of progressing antegrade like they should. Another bit of "medical lingo" translated: You don't want to experience throwing up jalapenos.

Enough information for everyone, I'm sure. Thanks for reading and I trust I'm feeling your support for my miseries. Maybe you've had similar.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Chapter 37: Says it All

From The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.

Chapter 37
Watch What They Do, Not What They Say

My daughter is just 18 months, so I can't tell her this now, but when she's old enough, I want Chloe to know something a female colleague once told me, which is good advice for young ladies everywhere. In fact, pound for pound, it's the best advice I've ever heard.

My colleague told me: "It took a long time, but I've finally figured it out. When it comes to men who are romantically interested in you, it's really simple. Just ignore everything they say and only pay attention to what they do."

That's it. So here it is for Chloe.

And, as I think about it, some day it could come in pretty useful for Dylan and Logan too.


In recent days, I've given this short chapter a lot of thought. Randy and his female colleague are spot on. Best advice I've ever heard also. I'm praying that someone dear to me is listening and will consider paying close attention to "what they do".

Saturday, January 16, 2010

"Reading" on the Road

Once a week I make a 60 mile round trip ride to see patients at a medical clinic in Federal Way. I used to flip on the radio or drive in silence but after several months of these lengthy commutes I wondered if there might be something better to do with with all that time. I got to thinking about a suggestion from fellow blogger Sharon who left a comment on this post in which I whined about the 26 stoplights and 28 minutes it took me to travel the 8 miles to visit my parents three times a week. Sharon suggested audio books. Revelation. Never considered it but now I'm hooked.

I listen to books on tape (actually on CD) on my once weekly 120 minute commute but also when I'm driving to and from Mom and Dad's place and often when driving downtown to work. Fiction, non-fiction, memoir; it's all good and I actually feel like I'm getting good things out of my long hours spent in the car battling city traffic. Thanks, Sharon!

Last week, I "read" Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher of Star Wars fame. She's now in her mid 50's and what a life she's had as the daughter of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, wife to Paul Simon (briefly) and her personal battles with alcohol, drugs, and bipolar disorder. Her memoir is funny, touching, and full of advice; probably not a book I would have read otherwise but certainly one for the road.

This week I "read" The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. What a tremendous book! I'm going to purchase a copy since this one's a keeper to be referenced and re-referenced. Randy created a thoughtful, engaging dissertation on living well; about the magic of dreams, courage, hard work, hard play and personal connection. His advice is likely applicable to most of us folk who are trying hard to live our best life. I was reminded as I listened to Randy's words of Tim McGraw's song "Live Like you Were Dying" ; a nice connection.

More on chapter 37 of Randy's book, The Last Lecture later. It bears special relevance for my dear daughter who is searching for solid ground on which to stand. The best advice I've ever read on romantic relationships. Ever.

Might I inspire you to read a few books on the road too?

Friday, January 15, 2010

What do Dreams Mean?

I rarely wake up dreaming. I rarely remember dreams. Not so in the last week when I've awakened to some of the most bizarre scenarios in memory. Like today....the alarm went off, I stumbled out of bed with a migraine, made my way down the stairs to the coffee pot, poured a cup, started guzzling and on the way back up the stairs the dream hit me like a ton of bricks upside the head.

Oh my God....these dreams have themes. Chaos. Disorganization. Disappointments. Miscommunications. Late. I'm rushing to get something done and can't accomplish the goal because I'm at the mercy of events and people who get in the way. Late. Late. Late.

The dream last night bordered on nightmarish; no one chasing me with a knife, no blood and guts, no fearing for my life but frustration after frustration had me spinning in circles, repeating the same tasks and getting no where fast. Anyone who knows me well will tell you this is a nightmare scenario for me.

In this dream I had to catch a train and I had lots of "things". Instead of getting properly organized I found myself in the midst of family and friends (an odd conglomeration of people with notable absence of some) who were "helping" but obviously hindering my forward progress in many different ways. Why we decided to hire a limo to carry us the half mile to the train station (why did they all have to go with me to the damn train?) I'll never know. The limo, the size of a small bus, arrived on time to pick us up but then just parked at the curb; no forward movement, lots of cell phone calls from the driver to someone and no amount of haggling would make her step on the gas. Long story short, we arrived at the train station with five minutes to spare, the limo disgorging all these people and all these things. By the time I tried to buy a ticket, they were sold out and the next train didn't leave for my obscure destination (in western Canada) until the next day. Meantime, everyone is milling about losing all my things, talking and carrying on in their own ways. My son's laptop gets wet in the rain and I try to dry it off but the cloth won't absorb the moisture. My necklace that's lying out on a chair gets stolen and someone in my extended party of well wishers ends up buying it from a guy (the one who stole it) who is selling jewelry laid out on a blanket in the train station. He presents it to me as a "gift", saying "thought you'd like this" not knowing that it was mine to begin with. Someone claims a large white trunk which had arrived on an earlier train and starts going through the contents; sheets, tablecloths and is oohing and ahhing over all the nice things while I'm running around trying to find all my lost stuff which seems to be spread from end to end of the terminal. My purse is lost and then found with cash still in place but drivers license and checkbook missing. Go figure. I see my mother hobbling around, without her walker, bent over so far that her face is literally parallel to the floor. She tells me that my dad got mad and went back to the hotel and isn't that "just like him."

Nothing is going right. Nothing. I'm in the middle of chaos. A scene from a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, minus all the sexual innuendos.

Whatever does this dream mean?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chinese Proverb about Stress

I found this quote today; like it I do. I can relate completely.

"Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are."
Chinese proverb

I run around tense most of the time. Why? Because if I'm doing little, I think I should be doing something productive and if I'm doing something, I think it should be a bit better.

Conversely, when I lose myself in something (like playing Scrabble last night with my husband and daughter over a bottle of wine), I am relaxed. Was it the losing myself in who I am or was it the wine? I constantly second guess my success.

I need to work on this. A lot.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Reading More in 2010

It's January 9, 2010 and so far I feel like I'm making good on the promise to read more in 2010. I've read two books so far; both were Christmas gifts that I requested when my son asked, "What do you want for Christmas, Mom?". The answer was easy. He was floored to discover that I have a "wish list" on Amazon with titles waiting to be read.

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore was on the NY Times short list of best fiction in 2009. I've read short stories written by Moore years back but never a novel. She writes well, even if the central character in this tale was (to me) a bit unbelievable, beyond-her-years (only 20). True, she showed her awkward and inexperienced side and acted before thinking on more than one occasion.....but....her independence (from everyone) was a bit hard to swallow. Lessons learned. Tragedies of growing up. Weird experiences in the life of a young mid west college student haling from a potato farm in the months post 9/11. The loneliness of youth, beautifully rendered.

When Tassie returns to her college apartment after Christmas break she walks into this scene.

"I had inadvertently left bananas to blacken on the counter over break, and even though I'd wrapped them in plastic,and even though the air was chill, when I came back from Starbucks, the apartment had by then warmed a little--the radiators steamed like trains; had the landlord spotted my return?--and I could see there were fruit flies beginning to flick around the sink. Flour moths fluttered like the tiniest angels from somewhere--who knew? Flour moths but no flour. I grabbed at them midair like a mad person. The Mexican strawberries in the refrigerator had grown the wise and cheery beards of Santa Claus, and some Peruvian pears were cauled with mold. The cream cheese was a tub of dull green clay."

She goes on to say..."Then I put on a sweatshirt and long underwear and went to bed hoping that in the morning, the new year would reveal its newness: so far it seemed painted too familiarly in my heart's old sludge."

Next up, Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls, the author of the extraordinary memoir, The Glass Castle (highly recommended by the way). Half Broke Horses is the story of Wall's maternal grandmother told in the first person, memoir style. The author calls it a "true life novel. Although her grandmother died when she was six, Walls combed through family photographs, documents, and the memories of her mother to pen the story of one amazing woman, a gutsy before-her-time feminist, teacher, wife, mother, ranch owner who loved to drive and loved to fly.

"I was an excellent driver. I didn't particularly like city driving, with all the stoplights and street signs and traffic cops, but out in the country I was in my element. I knew the shortcuts and the back roads and had no hesitation heading out cross-country barreling through the sagebrush and startling the roadrunners out of the undergrowth. If we got stuck in a ditch while I was ferrying around the schoolkids, I had them get out and push while we all changed Hail Marys. Push and Pray!, I'd holler while gripping the steering wheel and gunning the engine, sand and rocks spraying behind the spinning tires as the car fishtailed its way out of the ditch."

Lily Casey Smith was afraid of nothing. Admirable and kick-ass in the same breath. I would have loved to know her. This is a great read.

I'm just starting my next book today, Mary' Karr's newest memoir, Lit, chronicling her adult life. More on this read later.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Read More Books in 2010

I don't make New Year's Resolutions; they don't stick.

However, I made a few New Year's wishes for myself. The first is to read more books. I love to read. Curling up with a good book is one of life's precious gifts. Over the last couple of years reading has taken a back seat to "messing around" on the computer. I don't think this is necessarily a good thing so I'm going to try to turn this around by reading more and playing on the computer less.

Listening to books on CD counts. Once a week I make a two hour round trip commute to a satellite office south of Seattle to see patients. I used to drive in silence (which was meditative...almost) and sometimes would turn on the radio. But now I listen to books on CD.

I'm currently just about to finish up Three Cups of Tea which is likely the most inspiring account I've ever encountered of how one person can make a difference, an enormous difference. One American man's promise (Greg Mortenson) to local villagers in a remote region of northern Pakistan to build them a school to educate their youth in the 1990's changed his life and the lives of thousands of students as he went on to create the Central Asia Institute and built dozens of other schools throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan. His commitment to the education of girls in particular is astonishing. Highly recommended reading or listening.

What books are you reading right now?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dinner with the Newlyweds

Yesterday Denny and I enjoyed our first dinner in the home of the newlyweds. Since Chris and Heather couldn't make it to our New Year's Feast, their invitation to us for a visit and shared meal in their Gig Harbor home was very special.

Denny and I were reminiscing about the first time we invited our four parents to our home on Graustark Street in Houston several months after we were married. We think it might have been a Mother's Day Brunch in 1978. Denny cooked the meal and I made the dessert which we recall was fresh strawberries with creme anglaise. Inviting the parents over for a meal was a big deal. We cleaned up extra well, discussed the menu in detail, and divided up the tasks much as we've done ever since when hosting an event in our home. Time passes and now we are in the privileged position to enjoy a meal in the home of our son and his new bride. What's not to love about that?

We arrived at their home in late afternoon; the gray clouds drizzling, the last light of day sneaking off over the Olympic Mountains as we crossed the Tacoma Narrows Bridge heading west. We've been inside their home several times before but this visit was special; they're now a married couple and it was much fun to see all that they've done to turn house into home. The Christmas tree and other decorations were still up. Much as we did for our first Christmas together, Heather and Chris bought inexpensive ornaments (I bet some of them will weather the wear and tear of years of use and become treasured "oldies but goodies" someday) and received special ornaments as gifts to mark the occasion of their first Christmas as husband and wife.

Chris and Heather planned a wonderful meal, a favorite (whole) spicy chicken recipe from Heather's family was the main dish. Denny and I got a kick out of Chris; he'd never made this dish before and (actually) has never made a recipe calling for a whole chicken. He admitted to Denny that he prepares meals for friends with confidence but fixing a meal for "the revered cook" of the Maher household was fraught with trepidation. We laughed about his culinary jitters and Denny being the good sport that he is helped Chris with the finer details of the recipe. I know for myself (never having worked with a whole chicken either.....I'm so spoiled having a husband that cooks) I'd have been in over my head the first time too. All ended well though; the sauce was terrific, especially over the brown rice that accompanied the seasoned chicken. A green salad with dressing from a local shop in Gig Harbor rounded out the meal. Delicious.

I'd say a good time was had by all. Can't wait for the next chance to share a meal together. Didn't you say we should do this once a month, Heather? Sounds grand to us!

It's definitely fun to watch kids grow into adults and carry on as attentive hosts in their own home. It's good. All good.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year's Feast

According to Margaret Mason who writes about how to blog effectively, no one cares what you had to eat. I'm not so sure about that; hence I've chosen to ignore her advice.

Yesterday, January 1, 2010, my dear husband prepared a feast which rocked my world. We had family over to celebrate some great old fashioned southern flavors that worked well together in a grand New Year's spread.

The pea soup, creamy and rich (no lumps) was divine. The black eyed peas flavored with a ham hock were just-right spicy and will surely bring Good Luck to all who ate (the children at the table) even one pea. The mustard greens reminded me again how beautifully an enormous looking bundle cooks down in a tasty broth of onion and bacon drippings (ahhh.) As for cornbread cooked in a skillet and served with a honey butter spread, what more can I say that would add more delight to the very thought of eating a wedge of this heavenly dish?

This year's feast was special because we had family over to share; my brother, sister, two nieces and their families. Absent but not forgotten were Chris and Heather, Laura, and Mom and Dad. But, there were leftovers (that taste even better the second day) to share with those that couldn't make the party.

Happy 2010!!!!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Auld Lang Syne

Happy New Year! 2010!

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.