Category Archives: Holiday

Independence Day Confessions

 

 

This photo courtesy Pugsonparade

As I prepared to write this blog, I went looking for funny Fourth of July photos and memes. Instead, what I found were a lot of mean-spirited things, things that reinforced my dismay at the state of our country, and stuff that in today’s political climate just made me sad. It’s hard to be mad at patriotic pugs, so I went with this one.

This year, I must admit, I’m struggling to get excited for the Fourth. I guess that’s my main confession. Checking out at the grocery store, going in for a facial appointment, talking to friends, everyone asks, “Any plans for the holiday?” It takes me a moment to even remember what holiday they are talking about.

In years past, it was a big one for me. Since I was a little girl my family has celebrated, and I have fond memories of each. When I was younger, we would go to my grandparents’ or my great aunt and uncles house (across the street from each other) down in Laguna Niguel. We would spend the day at the beach, followed by barbeque and a very deliberate and organized firework display. Uncle Bud would light one safe and sane tower or cone, we would clap and cheer, and when it was done, he would move on to the next. The kids got the snakes and the sparklers, and my grandfather would randomly drop firecrackers to scare whomever was standing there, minding their own business.

After moving to Washington, we sometimes spent the holiday camping in Coeur D’Alene. Once again, my grandfather, who rarely talked and walked at the pace of a mummy, would casually let go of  a lit firecracker and keep walking. It was a little passive-aggressive, and he thought it was hilarious.

For the past twenty years off and on (mostly on), my parents hosted at their house. Sometimes we would have 15 people, sometimes 50. Many were people we would only see on that one day a year. My father used a propane torch to set off mortars from the launch tubes he nailed into the guard rail that lines the hill alongside their house.  Every year we knew it was going to be THE year someone lost a digit or set the house across the street on fire. It was always an extravaganza of food, fun and fireworks.

Last year was the first year we didn’t do the party, and I was okay with that, but a little melancholy. This year, I’m not even feeling sentimental about it. It’s as if this past political year has sucked the patriotism right out of me. Frankly, I was more excited about Canada’s sesquicentennial on July 1st.  (I think that technically makes confession number two.)

As I have been thinking about why I’m not excited, I’ve been  processing my patriotic feelings in general. Some are positive, some are not. And because I’m battling a nasty cold, my brain is too fuzzy to put these into any order of importance. Here, in a stream of consciousness, are my confessions:

  1. I hate apple pie. Okay, maybe hate is too strong of a word. It’s probably at the very bottom of my pie choices. I might eat it if it were given to me without alternative, but I really don’t enjoy it. I like apple crisp (as long as it’s granny smith apples) and I really like the apple berry crumb pie from the Snohomish Pie Company. I’d prefer “American as peach pie” or maybe “American as Rocky Road ice cream.”
  2. I cry every time I hear Neil Diamond’s “America.” I can’t help it. It makes me think of what real patriotism is about, not the kind where we only celebrate those who were born here, but those who were escaping dire circumstances in their homeland and saw this place as a beacon of hope and freedom. On the flip side, if I never heard “Proud to be American” or “Born in the USA” for the rest of my life, I’d be perfectly okay with that.
  3. I no longer idolize our founding fathers. I’m not even sure I like them. The amount of historical research I have done has led me to a place where I can appreciate the things they did with good intent, while not ignoring their serious character flaws. I think we do our kids a huge disservice by putting these men on pedestals, because I can say from my own personal experience, it sucks to see your heroes fall. Why do we teach only the cute little poems and legendary stories, while completely ignoring reality? While being men of great vision, they were not moral paragons. They definitely weren’t all (or even mostly) Christian, despite what my local town newspaper published this week. They were deists who had an agenda, and it wasn’t a utopia of freedom for all men, it was an opportunistic one that would benefit THEM. They wrote that ALL men were endowed with certain inalienable rights, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, ENDOWED BY THEIR CREATOR, while simultaneously holding fellow human beings in bondage of chattal slavery.  Those are not traits I find admirable. And guess what? I can love my country and recognize their contributions while being honest about their flaws.
  4. I love Citizenship ceremonies. I love seeing people from all over the world, from every ethnicity, nation and religion, who know more about our democracy and our constitution than the majority of natural born citizens, pledging to contribute to the beautiful patchwork that makes up the people of this country. I remember going in to my dry cleaners and every time, the woman who worked the counter would put down her citizenship study guide to help me. It made me feel proud to belong to a place where she felt welcome, and that she wanted to be a part of it. At the same time, I recognize that our immigration system is messed up, that it’s too hard for immigrants to come legally, and too easy for some to come illegally. Because I was born here, I consider myself lucky, not entitled, and I don’t begrudge anyone born into a place where there is poverty, famine, war or authoritarian regimes wanting to come here to escape that. I don’t fear people who are not like me, I desire to learn from them.
  5. I am not a fan of the melting pot analogy. I am a fan of cultural diversity. I love to visit the International district in Seattle, Chinatown in San Francisco, Little Saigon in Westminster, Olvera Street in Los Angeles, Little Havana in Miami, Little Italy in New York, the French Quarter in New Orleans. I have no desire to see the colors of the rainbow melted into one giant brown homogenous goop. I want to know about where people come from, I have no desire to strip them of their traditions to ‘Muricanize them. Our country is great because of its people, and the people of this country come from all over the world.
  6. Hatred, fear, exclusivity, elitism, nationalism and racism are not American values, and they sap my patriotism. What invigorates my patriotism is unity, celebration, hospitality to those in need, men and women who risk it all to serve our nation in the armed forces, Veterans, the families of service members who have made so many sacrifices in support of their soldier, their sailor, their marine, their… what do you call Air force people? Ah, Airmen.  And the Coast Guard. However, our treatment of veterans is definitely not a source of national pride for me.
  7. I am related to Francis Scott Key, author of the poem that became the National Anthem. He’s my 3rd cousin, 6x removed. I was excited to discover that fact, less excited to read the 3rd verse that no one really thought about or knew existed prior to the protests of Colin Kaepernick, the now much-maligned and former quarterback in the NFL. On a side note, protests are as American as… peach pie.
  8. For those who have known me a while, it may not be a surprise that I have a strong affection for the First Nations people of America. As a young child, I wanted to belong to a tribe. I didn’t know enough to know that there are more than 500 registered tribes, all with varying languages, culture, traditions, history. I think we are really missing out by painting them all with one broad cultural brush.
  9. My great grandfather was a World War I veteran, National Commander of the American Legion, LA county Assessor,  candidate for governor of the state of California. and a strong advocate for veteran’s affairs. His father was an immigrant from Ireland who settled in the central valley of California, having left his home during the Great Famine. I can admire my great grandfather while also acknowledging that he had a huge blind spot regarding immigrants. You see, despite the fact that his father came to this country seeking a better life, he believed that immigrants, particularly those of Mexican descent, were taking jobs that rightfully belonged to veterans. Rather than solely addressing the failings of the US government to serve the needs of returning veterans and their families or the widows and orphans created by our involvement in global conflicts, he found a convenient  scapegoat. If he were alive today, I would argue to him that we can welcome immigrants and serve our veterans. These two issues are not mutually exclusive.
  10. We’ve spent hundreds of dollars, possibly thousands, on fireworks over the years, on something that literally goes up in a puff of smoke (with report). My husband used to joke “some have a 401k, we have fireworks.” This year, as with last year, we have spent zero dollars. I can tell you it feels really good.
  11. I used to think the American experience was the same for everyone. I didn’t know that there were different levels of “freedom,” depending on your ethnicity and/or your income. I believed opportunities were the same for everyone, and that the American Dream was a reality for anyone who wanted it. I still  believe it’s true, but I’ve talked to too many people for whom race and poverty have impeded that dream, obstacles had to be overcome that I never had to face, and discouraging discrimination that I never experienced. I don’t take my freedom for granted, not only because I know that it’s a rare and valuable thing, but also because I know many people who have been deprived of it in many ways. I acknowledge my privilege and fight alongside those who haven’t been born with it.
  12. Wonder Woman may be my favorite American this year, and she’s Amazonian. Or Greek. It’s kind of confusing.

I know this is rambling. Like I said, I’m in a weird place, I’ve got the remnants of a nasty cold, and it’s just been a strange year.

So, happy birthday America. Hope you get some therapy and next year I’ll feel more like celebrating. I’m headed to Canada in a couple weeks, and that Justin Trudeau and socialized medicine is pretty appealing. I just think you should know, I’ve got options if you can’t pull it together.

For Such A Time As This

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Yesterday, March 23, 2016 was the Jewish holiday of Purim. For those who are unaware, Purim is the commemoration of  the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who was planning to kill all the Jews. At the time, the Jewish people were exiled in Persia, and were not masters of their own fate. Esther was singled out by the King of Persia to become one of his wives, much to her dismay. But the king truly admired Esther, so when her uncle Mordechai discovered Haman’s plot, he urged her to speak up for her people, even though it put her welfare at risk.

Long story short, she did, the king put an end to Haman and his plot, and the people were saved.

Zoe and Parker attended a Jewish preschool, so we observed Purim every year we were there. I hadn’t heard of it prior, despite growing up in the Christian church, where I knew of the story of Queen Esther.

Purim in the Jewish community is akin to Halloween. Every year there was a carnival, where kids dressed up in costumes, played games and ate treats, such as hamantaschen ( a pastry). During the week leading up to the carnival, the kids also wore costumes and took treats to the neighboring Christian preschool.

One year, the year “Enchanted” came out, Zoe insisted on the wedding dress from the Disney Store.

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It should be mentioned that at this same time, Zoe was in looooove with an older boy named Sammy from the preschool. She was 4, he was 5. She had decided she was going to marry him, whether he liked it or not.

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He looks thrilled, doesn’t he?

While any costumes were acceptable, most of the girls preferred to dress up like Queen Esther.

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The year before the wedding dress.

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Zoe and all of the Esthers. (And one Alice in Wonderland)

That phrase “for such a time as this” has echoed through my mind often over the past several years. Recently the echo has become louder and more frequent.

This is a troubling call for a person like me. It’s a call to be brave. It’s a call to stand up for what’s right in spite of the inherent risk. It’s the prompting towards a life of purposeful resistance rather than silent acquiescence.

While I like to think of myself as one who rises to the challenge, many times in my life I have balked at the road less traveled. I have opted for comfort rather than controversy and harmony over conflict.

I can’t count the number of times I have stood on a precipice and wavered.

My m.o. is to keep expectations low, lest someone (typically myself) be disappointed when I fail to meet them.

I’m the person who has 3/4 of a college education for fear of what might be required of me if I ever finished.

When I went to summer camp back in elementary school I was required to take a swim test to participate in the majority of water activities. The swim test was simple- swim the length of the pool and back, and then tread water for 3 minutes.

I started at the shallow end, swam to the opposite side and back. I began treading water in what probably was no more than 3 feet. One minute prior to completing the test, I told the test monitor that I was quitting.

She said, “You can’t quit! You’re only a minute from being done! You can do this!”

“I can’t.” I said. I climbed up the ladder and out of the pool.

The truth is, I was terrified; Terrified of what might be expected of me and if I was up to the challenge. Terrified of making a fool of myself, I chose the safer option. I sat in a canoe with the other “non-swimmers” in our life vests, watching the majority of campers doing all sorts of fun activities. I was embarrassed and ashamed. But I was “safe.”

As some of you might have read in my blog Facebook post the other day, Zoe was walking behind one of her fellow 6th graders and his 8th grade friends when the 8th graders began bad-mouthing and making fun of another boy in her class. Her friend calmly replied, “Did you know he’s a foster kid? Do you know what he’s been through? Did you know that he lives with a girl at our school and if her family hadn’t let him stay with them he’d be homeless right now? That he has no family? He’s goofy, but he’s not special needs. He’s my friend and it’s not okay to talk about people like that.”

It takes a certainty of identity to live that kind of courage.

We all are provided multiple opportunities each day to be the person we were created to be, to live the life God intended for us, whether it be in our career choices, our hobbies, our passions, our family life, our friendships, our romantic life, our spiritual life.

My friend Yolanda said to me today, ” I do not want to waste one more day not living in the identity God has intended for me.”

I don’t believe in happenstance or coincidence. I believe we each have been put in position “for such a time as this.” For each of us, the “this” is something different.

Currently our country is in political upheaval, we are a divided people, in a world filled with fear and violence. If we allow it, there is much to fill us with great insecurity.

However-“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Tim 1:7)

The tools are right in front of us. The Power Source is waiting for us to put in our plug. The Source of all love wants to lavish it upon us so that we can then in turn lavish it on those around us. The Spirit longs to free us from all sorts of bondage by enabling us to exercise self-discipline.

Whenever we face a challenge, both internal struggles and external circumstances, our best hope is to remember that it’s no accident we are there, and we have the ability to effect change in “such a time as this.” Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous. You never know whose life you might save. Maybe even your own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Heart Of A Dad

 

TV_dadsWhat makes a good dad?

I went Father’s Day card shopping this week, and for the millionth time I thought to myself, “I should be a greeting card writer.” I couldn’t possibly be any worse at creating cards than the people who made the crap I sifted through for nearly an hour.

Do these people HAVE fathers? Do they speak to them? Do they know ANYTHING about them?

I am a fan of dads. I have a dad. I’m married to a dad. I know a few others.

I feel I can say with confidence that the majority of the dads I know fall somewhere in between the tie-wearing, golfing, fishing, tight-ass emotionally detached stereotype and the beer-drinking, crude joke telling, flatulence-filled handymen that are represented in the majority of these cards.

There seems to be a one-size- fits-all approach to Father’s Day, and I think it’s really unfair. Dads are multi-dimensional. They aren’t Ward Cleaver and they aren’t Al Bundy. They are so much more than that.

So, here is my tribute to the dads I know. I hope I don’t miss anyone.

 

 

To the men who get up early every day to sit in traffic and spend 8-10 hours in an office to provide for their families

To the men who work the nightshift and still try to function during the day because that’s when their kids are awake

To the men with physically taxing jobs that sap them of their energy and strength by the end of the day

To the men who work from home so they can send their kids off to school and be there when they step off the bus in the afternoon

To the men who serve in the military and miss so many of the big moments in order to fulfill their duty

To the men who rearrange their schedules to be at as many sports practices, dance recitals, doctor’s appointments and school conferences as possible

To the men who ache for the flexibility to do that, but can’t

To the men who walk in the door ( instead of heading to the bar or some other refuge) knowing that before they can take their coat off  someone in their household is going to dump a list of problems and/ or chores on them

To the men who know that they deal better with all those chores and/or issues once they’ve had a chance to let off steam at the bar or the gym or the driving range

To the men who play catch with their kid or kick around a ball from the time they can walk

To the men who sit with their kids and read them stories

To the men who do it  themselves

To the men who know when a job is best left to an expert

To the men with hormonal daughters that leave them baffled but still sit and listen to their girls in hopes of understanding

To the men with sons they don’t know how to connect with, but they keep trying

To the men who don’t get to see their kids every day

To the men who have to see their kids all day, every day

To the men who have come out on the short end of a custody battle but keep fighting

To the men who have stopped fighting so there can be peace

To the men who do it all on their own

To the men who have lost a child and will never be the same

To the men who lie awake at night wondering and dreaming about who their baby will grow up to be

To the men who lie awake at night wondering how their baby grew up so fast

To the men who didn’t have a father to emulate so they’re figuring it all out as they go

To the men who had a great father and want to live up to their legacy

To the men who know whatever kind of father they want to be, it’s nothing like the father they had

To the men who worry they aren’t doing it right but don’t realize their self-examination is a strong indicator they are on the right track

To the men who’ve made mistakes and owned them

To the men who show up, who are in their kids’ corner, who push when it’s necessary to push, but still have a shoulder to cry on when needed

To the men who are strong for their families even when they are afraid

To the men  who love their kids in the best way they know how…

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What Have You Learned- Part Two

ThankYou

Well, this is it. Do you know what today is? It’s our anniversary! (Cue Tony Toni Tone)

One year ago today, I launched this blog. http://kbjackson.com/hello-world/ was my first official post and, terrifying as it was, I’m glad I did it. Looking back over what I’ve written, I’m proud of what I’ve done.

The next day I wrote http://kbjackson.com/what-have-you-learned/ and my husband began to get a little nervous.

“You can’t post something every day. You’ll run out of things to say.”

He can be hilarious some times.

I went back and re-read “What have you learned?” and thought that sounded like a really great birthday but because I am old and can’t remember anything, it’s like reading about someone else’s life. I had forgotten about the drunken karaoke serenade and the board games. I did remember the Aretha Franklin solo and coffee with my girl.

Over the past week I have contemplated what I would like to write about for my anniversary/birthday blog.

I thought about writing a scathing diatribe about Facebook’s new policies that limit my blog audience to almost nothing, and how that has taken the wind out of my sails more times than I can count.

I thought about mentioning my frustrations with WordPress, the fact that the only people who comment on my blog are my mother and autobots who leave me encouraging comments like “My membeг is just regular size in case you’re interested.
The issue with this isn’t simply because theу
do not fսnction the obliqսe’s simply because thеy
do, it is simply because you will find mucɦ better workouts…” You get the picture.

 

I thought about writing some heartfelt introspective post  where I try to determine if I have had any personal growth this year.

I even thought about writing a poem. (I have mad limerick skills. Terrible at the haiku though)

In the end, I decided I have written a lot of words this year. Probably too many, I think, as one of my greatest faults as a writer is lack of brevity and knowing the attention span of my audience.

So here, in no particular order, are the truths I have attempted to absorb this year, in pictures:

bdaypost5 Life is about celebration. Sometimes you’re not feeling it, but if you can tap into that place inside you where gratitude and joy reside, it can’t help but spill out.

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(4th of July)

bdaypost21My father’s 75th birthday

bdaypost25hawaii8IMG_640410175047_10152303957254089_1006229682_nI learned that surviving family vacations is a matter of perspective

bdaypost11The world can be a cold place, so you’ve gotta be prepared. (Parker playing goalie)

bdaypost14Life isn’t fair. We lost Shonda to cancer in July, but her legacy lives on in our sunshine group.

God is faithful and He is the giver of life. For every loss there is new beauty to take its place.

Since my last birthday we have welcomed into our extended family:

bdaypost28Jacob

bdaypost23bdaypost24Bennett

bdaypost29Ian

And any moment now Masai will be making his debut

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bdaypost18Filling your home with friends and family and the laughter of children is better than any gift you could buy in the store

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Friendship matters. http://kbjackson.com/you-gotta-have-friends/ was my tribute to Shonda and the beauty of friendship.

bdaypost26bdaypost20bdaypost19bdaypost13382516_10151679509649089_240970835_nbdaypost17 She’s my mom and my friend

 

 

bdaypost10Sometimes you have to meet life’s challenges with toughness

But usually the best way to handle the ups and downs of life is with silliness and laughter.

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Life is always changing. I’m not great with change but it certainly keeps life interesting.

I truly believe what it all boils down to are two things-I don’t ever  want to miss an opportunity to laugh and I never want to miss an opportunity to tell someone that I love them.

Thank you all for your support this year, for encouraging me and for reading my stuff. It means more than you can imagine.

Sometimes my own words are simply inadequate. I’d like to end with something written by one of my favorite all-time authors and life mentors, Erma Bombeck.

IF I HAD MY LIFE TO LIVE OVER

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the “good” living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather rambling about his youth.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have burned the pink candle sculped like a rose before it melted
in storage.

I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television, and more
while watching life.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment, realising that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.”

There would have been more “I love you’s” and more “I’m sorry’s”

. . . but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute . . .
look at it and really see it . . . and never give it back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Left Foot-And-Mouth Disease Outbreak- An Irish Adventure

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Ah, St Patrick’s day, when everyone celebrates the Irish- my people. So my DNA results show I’m only 55.7% Irish. My aunt is less than 10% Ashkenazi Jew but she’s identified with Israel and our Jewish heritage since she was a little girl. For me, when people have asked, I’m Irish.

My mother’s got the Quinns on one side and the Dohertys on the other. My father proudly thought he was mostly Scottish until he received a family reunion invitation for the Ward family reunion- in Ireland. Turns out he’s still got Scottish, just not as much as he thought. Through my ancestry.com research I learned that the name Ward comes from the term “Mac an Bháird” which means “son of the bard.” Looks like writing truly is in the genes. Also, I found that he is descended from Niall. No, not that twerp from One Direction. Niall Noígíallach also known as Niall of the nine hostages. Niall was a conquering king of Ireland, who, according to accounts, was responsible for the kidnapping of several people off the coasts of Britain and France.

One of these people was a young boy named Patrick.

Most people don’t realize that Patrick was British and not Irish. Patrick was a slave in Ireland. He escaped and went back to England. After entering church ministry, he felt God lead him back to Ireland as a missionary to the very people who had enslaved him.

How this hero of the faith became an excuse for getting drunk, I have no idea. I guess because people are always looking for any reason to throw back a pint or two.

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Back in late 2000 my husband and I were at lunch when he casually dropped this into our conversation:

“Hey, so did I tell you that I am leading a group of timeshare owners through Ireland in a few months?

Me: (blank stare and long pause) Uh, no. Pretty sure I would have remembered that.

Him: Yeah, it’s a guided tour and they need a company rep to go along.

Me: Are you serious?

Him: Yeah, why?

I stared at him again.

Me: You. Who has no Irish heritage (turns out he has like 17%) get to go to Ireland. Where I have wanted to go my whole life. Because I’m like 90% Irish. (55.7)

Him: You have? I mean, I know you have the Irish temper…

Me: Are you kidding me? Have you listened to a word I have said over the course of the entire time you’ve known me? I’m Irish. Every year I make you choke down corned beef and cabbage. I decorate the table with shamrocks and gold coins and rainbows. I’m so Irish I pretended to be a leprechaun for 2 weeks when I was in junior high.

Him: Why would you pretend you were a leprechaun, and weren’t you a little old for that?

Me: Not the point.( “Moonlighting” had just done an episode about a leprechaun and her pot of gold.) The point is, I have always wanted to go to Ireland.

Him: Maybe you can go.

Me: When is it?

Him: I’ll have to look at exact dates. I know it ends with the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin.

Me: (Nearly hyperventilating) I have to go on this trip. You have to make this happen.

Well, for some reason, whoever was in charge of the trip insisted I couldn’t go on it. My husband, sensing the danger of what might happen to him if he didn’t take me to Ireland, suggested flying in a week early with me, having me fly out the day before the tour was set to arrive. They didn’t have an issue with that.

In hindsight, it might have been better to have me fly in after he had spent the week on a guided tour. Instead, we flew into Dublin with two nights hotel booked and no idea what we were doing or where we were going. We fancied ourselves explorers, and imagined happening upon charming bed and breakfasts along the way. No schedule of having to be at a certain place at a certain time.

We made plans to fly to Seattle for my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary party, and then we were going to leave the kids with the grandparents. The day we were supposed to fly out, there was a massive earthquake in Seattle. We checked the flight times, and it showed on time. By the time we got checked in and to our gate, the flight was delayed. After 4 hours of sitting in the airport with 6 year old Sydney and 2 year old Nathan, they cancelled the flight. It turned out that the tower for air traffic control had been badly damaged and they couldn’t guarantee we would get a flight there in the next several days.

We got picked back up from the airport, packed up our car and started the 14 hour drive from Salt Lake City to Seattle. Through  the night. In a snow storm. But we made it. And a few days later we were on a plane headed for London. We spent a couple hours at Heathrow before the flight to Dublin. My dream was about to come true.

We managed to get from the airport to our hotel, but then had a really difficult time figuring out how to get TO the hotel. The streets are crazy there, and the hotel didn’t seem to have an entrance. We eventually figured out that we were supposed to park in the parking garage across the street and down half a block and then roll our luggage to the hotel. I had packed the world’s largest suitcase ever made in order to fit all the souvenirs I planned on bringing home. That was back when they didn’t have limits on luggage or charge overage fees. Truth be known, it was nearly big enough for me to sleep in, if the need arose. Without a plan, anything was a possibility.

Jet lag be damned, we were up in the morning for a day of adventure. I found out that even though I had gone to Brookstone to buy the variety pack of plug adapters, my American curling iron did NOT like Irish current. That thing popped, sparked and went dead as a doornail.

We made our way downstairs to the restaurant, and the waitress recommended the “full Irish breakfast.” That sounded exciting, and we gladly ordered it.

When it arrived, we were still enthusiastic.

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I poked at the circles on the left of the plate. They looked like sausage slices. There was already a slice of ham, bacon and link sausage, so I expected that’s what these were as well. I took a bite. Something was off, but I couldn’t understand what. When the waitress came to refill our coffees, I asked her what they were.

“Black pudding and white pudding.”

“Oh. They don’t look like pudding, and they certainly don’t taste like pudding.”

“Well they aren’t really pudding. They are sausages. ”

“What’s the difference?”

“The white pudding doesn’t have blood,”

Neither did my face at that moment, as I became quite pale. Almost green, I would guess.

“Does that mean the black pudding…”

“Another name for black pudding is blood pudding.”

Let’s just say that the next morning I chose to have the “half Irish breakfast.”

As we left the hotel to go check out Trinity college, Dublin Castle and St Stephen’s Green, we stepped out the door onto a giant, squishy, foam mat.

We walked down Grafton Street and noticed that nearly every doorway had one of these foamy, soapy mats.

At lunch we finally asked the waiter what they were all about. He stared at us in surprise.

“Why, it’s the foot and mouth disease outbreak. Didn’t you know?”

We didn’t know. And that was back before smart phones, so we couldn’t google it.

It turned out that England had had an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. While there was no indication that any of the contaminated cattle had ended up in Ireland, there were cases in Northern Ireland. We were told that if we crossed over into Northern Ireland, we wouldn’t be let back in.

We only gathered bits and pieces of info, we didn’t understand if this was something that affected people (it doesn’t), why we had to walk across foamy mats (the mats disinfect your shoes to prevent tromping the diseases hither and thither) and why people kept asking us if we’d been on a farm recently (armpit check).

Unfortunately, the fear of the outbreak spreading caused there to be many closures of public landmarks.

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Every where we went we came across signs like these:

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We weren’t sure how much of an issue this was going to be.

Thankfully we were able to get into Trinity to see the Book of Kells (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Kells) and most of the locations in Dublin remained open.

At one point our credit card stopped working, so Jeff called the bank to find out what was going on. Turns out that when charges start appearing out of the blue in a foreign country, the bank will CALL YOUR HOUSE to verify that it’s you. If you don’t answer, they shut off the card. Because of course if it IS you making charges in Dublin, you’re going to answer your home phone to say so. I’ll sit here for a moment while we all ponder that brilliant logic.

We toured around Dublin for a couple days, and then we decided it was time to hit the open road.

Jeff was doing pretty well trying to adjust to driving on the other side of the car on the other side of the road. I was not good as a passenger on the left, and kept trying to slam on fake brakes.

Funny thing about Ireland back in  2001- while the distance signs were in kilometers, the speed signs were in MPH. It took several days of driving before we realized that. Maybe that’s because no one pays any attention to speed limits.

We did a lot of driving- pastoral Ireland looks a lot like pastoral Western Washington. If we came across a landmark, usually a castle, we would stop. At the end of the first day, we landed at some motel. So much for the bed and breakfast idea.

I can’t remember all the details of our trip. I thought I kept a journal, but if I did, it’s buried deep in my garage in a box. I know we went to Galway, and we stood on a bridge overlooking the River Shannon. I know we went to Killarney, which was my favorite town.

We tried to go see the Cliffs of Moher.

“We are sorry, the cliffs are closed due to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.”

My husband: “How do you close cliffs??”

After a few days we got tired of seeing castle after castle. Besides, there was only one I really wanted to see: Blarney Castle.

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We had stayed in a hotel in Cork, which reminded me a lot of our local naval port town. It was less charming than some of the other places we had been. However, our accommodations got increasingly nicer every night.

Blarney Castle was teeming with tourists, as one might expect just a few days before St. Patrick’s day. We made our way through, and up the steps towards the infamous Blarney stone. I didn’t really know what to expect. I can tell you for absolute certain that I did not anticipate being hung upside down facing out off the top of a castle turret. And it wasn’t until my husband refused to do it with me, saying, “Gross, I wouldn’t put my lips on that slimy rock that has had millions of other lips on it. I might catch foot-and-mouth disease,” that it ever occurred to me that this truly was a disgusting thing to do.

There is a hole in the brick floor where two men hold your torso and then lower you through, where you find yourself literally hanging off the side of the castle. How in the world this became something to do is truly a mystery to me. It was terrifying.

blarney stone

Did it give me the “gift of blarney?” You tell me.

After Cork we went on to Waterford, where we took a tour of the Waterford crystal factory. We found an internet café (Remember those?!) and emailed our kids.

By the time we got back to Dublin, we decided that we were going to stay in the nicest hotel we had seen on Grafton Street. We never stayed in a single bed and breakfast. Speaking of breakfast, my full Irish breakfast that became my half Irish breakfast, soon became just an egg and a piece of toast. I found myself craving fresh fruit.

I wasn’t a fan of the food there, I must admit. They put onion soup mix in their ground beef. I was craving a real burger so badly I could hardly stand it.

Jeff said, “On our next big trip, let’s go someplace that’s known for its food. Like Italy.”

After I got back to Seattle, I got a call from Jeff.( His tour story is a whole other blog for another time. )

Me: How’s it going there?

Him: Well, ok, I guess. The people aren’t very happy because the parade has been cancelled.

Can you imagine? You save your money and go on a trip to Ireland culminating in the St Patrick’s day parade in Dublin, and it gets cancelled because of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.

So much for the luck of the Irish. Maybe Irish luck is really just people drinking enough to not remember that things aren’t going well.

stpats2013Last year’s St Patrick’s day table

 

 

I Spent Valentine’s Day With Brian McKnight

 

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Caution: If you hate anything that has to do with Valentine’s Day, you’re gonna want to stop reading this post now, because I had a GREAT Valentine’s Day. I spent it with one of my biggest musical crushes- Brian McKnight. Oh, and my husband was there too, don’t worry.

About six weeks ago, I found out that Brian McKnight was coming to Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, WA for a Valentine’s Day concert. While I was excited, I didn’t have high hopes that my husband would go for spending Valentine’s day at an R &B concert in a casino. I underestimated his relief at not having to plan Valentine’s day surpassing his lack of desire to go to this concert.

For those of you unfamiliar with Brian McKnight, his first album came out in 1992. I became obsessed with this CD. I knew every song front to back. My husband and I started dating a few months after it was released, and many of the songs made it onto various “mix tapes” I made for him.

He’s had many hits since his debut album, but it remains my favorite. A song most everyone knows of his is “Back at one.”

This past Christmas a group of us sat around playing a conversation game. One of the questions was “If you could sing a duet with anyone, who would it be?” My answer, without hesitation: Brian McKnight.

You can imagine how thrilling getting to see him in concert would be for me.

I bought the best tickets still available and made hotel reservations. We didn’t think about making dinner reservations until last Monday. I looked up restaurants near the hotel, and called the one with the best reviews. The woman on the other end of the line laughed condescendingly, and then said, “Oh, honey, no, we’ve been booked up for a while.” I asked her if she had any suggestions, since we were at the hotel next door. She said, “Oh, well we have a relationship with the hotel, so here’s what I will do. Come here at around 5, tell the girl at the desk that you are staying at the hotel, and that you have a concert to get to. We will do our best.”

Not completely reassuring, but better than nothing.

Meanwhile, my husband began making comments about going to a thrift shop to look for a velvet jacket to wear to the concert. I thought he was kidding. I hoped he was kidding. He was not kidding. He said, “I can’t go to a 90’s R &B concert at a casino NOT wearing a velvet jacket.”

My friends were not helpful in supporting me. People begged for pictures and gave suggestions for where he might find a velvet jacket.

While he was at the thrift store, this was our conversation:

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Thankfully he didn’t bring this pelt home.

He began to get discouraged, so he tried a different approach:

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This was the response from my friends:

Bob: I have a black velvet one he can wear and I am coming to the coast

Me:Uh. That’s ok. Really. But thank you.

Bob:  I’m bringing it

Matt:  I cannot believe that you are holding Jeff back from expressing himself

Me:I’m not holding him back. I’m protecting him from himself.

Matt: Do you think Barry Gordy’s wife tried protecting him from starting Motown?

Me: Barry Gordy could get away with a velvet jacket

Lee: It’s such a shame that you can only “like” something once

Lisa: I’m buying a velvet jacket AND a cowbell for Doug and we are going on a double date.

Shannon:  A velvet jacket is nothing compared to red leather pants

Me: God help me if Loverboy comes to town

Shannon: Do I need to overnight the pants? Seriously- they are in my closet from a Cajun.

Me: No. Do not send him red leather pants.

I decided to fight fire with a flame thrower- I made a prayer request at Bible study that he would not be able to locate a velvet jacket. I figured if I got the Big Guy on my side, it would work out okay.

Unfortunately, my group didn’t agree, and refused to pray for that. In fact, I am pretty sure my friend Lisa actually prayed that he WOULD find one. She said, “You’ll thank us some day.” And “I’ll bet there are a number of us who would actually chip in for the jacket. I’m in for $10.”

People began posting links to velvet jackets on my wall, tips for where he might find one on sale, offering to go out looking for him.

Thursday evening he came home from work with a shopping bag.

I said, “Do I want to know?”

He smirked and told me to look inside.

Not only had he found and purchased a velvet jacket, it was paisley. Also, there was a red velvet vest.

“No.”

“Oh yes.”

I posted the update on my Facebook page, and it received 55 likes. I have a bunch of traitors for friends.

Friday (Valentine’s Day) was a bit chaotic. Zoe was upset with me because I had posted the photos of the Valentine’s Day table decorations on Facebook, so she saw them online before she came down in the morning. Parker kept eating chocolate instead of getting breakfast, so by the time I sent him out the door he was in full blown “Parker” mode.

I got showered and dressed in time to get to the school for party number one- in Zoe’s class. After an hour of pink frosting and sprinkles everywhere, I ran home to finish packing up myself and the kids for the night, straightening the house for the party Sydney had announced that morning she was hosting, steamed Jeff’s shirts and ran back out to the school in time for Parker’s party.

After school I threw everything plus Zoe and Parker into the car and drove out to my parents’ house, where the kids would be spending the night. Jeff was already in Seattle, so he headed south to the hotel and got there well before me. I was stuck in pretty bad traffic for over 2 hours. I tried not to stress, and just told myself that if dinner plans didn’t work out, it wasn’t the end of the world.

When I arrived, he had these waiting for me:

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View from the hotel room :

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He had gone to the restaurant at about 430 and put our name on the list. I didn’t get to the hotel until 530. We got to the restaurant and only had to wait a short time, since he’d already been in and called to let them know my progress. Sydney called me and asked where I had put the recipe for the chicken enchiladas she was attempting to make for her friends, and I realized I had forgotten to write it down. Attempting to ignore the glares from across the table, I texted her step by step instructions before finally putting the phone down.

Dinner was ok, not fantastic. The view was amazing though with the moon shining down over the water. Oh, and the view of some of the characters at the restaurant was pretty amazing too. I saw a guy who looked like Bob “happy trees” Ross and a woman wearing the largest, thickest white fur coat I have ever seen. It made her look like a furry linebacker. It’s always stunning to me when I see people wearing real fur anymore. You just don’t see it.

As we left, I attempted to get a picture of Jeff “driving the restaurant” in his black velvet paisley jacket (They had a giant ship’s wheel out front) but he wouldn’t let me. I must admit, he actually pulled it off. He wore it with a black dress shirt, and compared to some of the outfits I saw at the concert, his jacket looked conservative.

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When we got to the venue, parking was crazy, and the valet line was a hundred cars long. We drove around a bit, and then ended up driving up the hill and parking on the street. They had a trolley shuttle picking people up, which was very helpful. As we got off, though, the driver told us that there was no shuttle back up the hill. Good thing I was wearing my 4 inch heels.

We got into the concert arena, got some drinks from the bar, and found our seats. The big screens were advertising upcoming acts, many of which left my husband exclaiming, “They’re still alive?!” The following night was going to be Air Supply, and they showed this photo of them:

airsupply

. He leaned over and said, “Oh, did they start a magic act?”

They also posted a disclaimer that made me laugh out loud:

image Who in 2014 still has a pager? Just because Brian McKnight has been around since the 90’s, doesn’t mean all his fans are still living in the 90’s.

I tried to get Jeff to take pics with me, and this was all I could get out of him:

imageimage Not cooperative

Since we were in the middle of the row, and there wasn’t a lot of passing room, I decided to hit the bathroom before it filled up and I had to get physically intimate with too many people as I tried to get back to my seat.

On my way back I saw a man walking towards me with his date and I thought, “Wow, he’s extremely attractive.” And then a half second later my brain clicked in and I realized I recognized him.

It was Seattle Seahawk defensive linebacker (and Super Bowl 48 champion 🙂 KJ Wright.

imageWas I lying? Seriously pretty.

I came back to my seat and told my husband and said, “You’ve got to admit he’s really good looking.”

My husband responded, “Yes, he’s the second best looking guy in here.” Meaning he was the first, of course.

I had a clear view of the stage until a couple came in right as the concert was beginning. He hair was teased 5 inches above her head and soon this view:

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Became this view:

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Jeff insisted I trade seats with him, which was very sweet.

I have never before been to a concert where there was no opening act- until this one. Which was totally fine with me.

From the very first note, I was entranced. His voice is simply amazing, and shows no sign of wear from 20 plus years of belting out those notes. There were times I felt my throat get a little hoarse just at the thought of how much strain singing so powerfully must put on his voice. But not a single crack. Not a single missed note.

It was also very entertaining to watch his bass player. Not a small man, he was seriously grooving on that stage. At one point, he started twerking.

image I caught this pic as we waited afterwards. You can see this backside would make for quite the twerk.

At one point Brian McKnight stopped and said that he had been contacted by a young man, and gave his name. The lights came up, and after a few awkward moments, a guy started moving towards the stage with a clearly shell-shocked girl in tow. While we couldn’t hear the words, his intentions became quite clear as he got down on one knee. She nodded her head, and they began kissing to the cheers of the crowd. It was a sweet moment.

A little later, he asked for a single female volunteer to come up on stage. The woman in front of us tried volunteering, much to the chagrin of her husband (her wedding ring was flashing in the stage lights). The woman next to us began jumping up and down waving her arms. I was a little surprised that she was volunteering, as she was at the concert with the guy sitting next to her. He seemed just as excited for her to go, though. Brian picked her and she went up on stage. One of the men up there handed her a bouquet of roses and she was led to a stool in the center. Brian asked her if she had a boyfriend. She said, “No.” I looked at the guy she had come with, and he seemed to be happily recording the whole thing with his phone. I wondered if maybe he wasn’t her boyfriend, but her gay BFF. Brian serenaded her and she played it up for all it was worth. She was a total ham on stage, and in the end, was rewarded with a short peck on the lips. After she got back to her seat, the guy she had come with was hugging her and they were laughing and looking at the video. I was convinced they weren’t a couple, until after the concert I watched them file out, and he had his hands wrapped around her waist. Maybe he’s just a really supportive boyfriend. I’m not sure mine would have been so understanding.

The concert had Brian singing with a microphone, then switching to guitar…

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And then moving on to keyboard. He began singing one of my favorite all time songs, Never felt this way. I’m not sure if I violated any copy write laws by posting this, but it’s just a snippet to show how amazing he is live.

Here is the song in its entirety as it was on his CD:

He’s just a very gifted musician, and I know that in spite of his expectations, Jeff really enjoyed the concert also.

It was quite poignant to listen to Brian McKnight singing the songs live that I had playing on our very first Valentine’s Day together exactly 20 years ago to the day.

Afterwards, we got in the photo line. The people who were in line in front of us were interesting. One of the women liked to talk. A lot. She was telling anyone who would listen about all of the radio contests she’s won, all the meet and greets she has attended. She’s met Alicia Keys- twice. She met “Luda” last summer. I can’t remember all the other names she dropped- there were so many. She actually said, “My 1099 is pretty high, for all the stuff I’ve won.”

As I waited for my opportunity to meet him, I noticed my button on my shirt kept popping open. Jeff said, “I hear that happens a lot when Brian McKnight is around.”

It happened again right before I got to the front of the line, so I just draped the fabric over so it wouldn’t be visible, but in that photo at the top, my shirt is unbuttoned.

I thought about what I might say to him once I actually got up there, but when I was finally there, all words escaped me. I managed to choke out “Could you sign this to my daughter Zoe?” as I handed him the photo.

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I’m pretty sure he thought I was mildly developmentally disabled.

How nice, though, that he would stay afterwards for an hour signing autographs and taking pics with his fans? That’s one of the many reasons I adore him.

It was an amazing Valentine’s Day- one I will never forget.

Oh, and PS…

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It’s Not Reindeer Sausage

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Sunday night Zoe, Parker and I went to a Christmas gathering hosted by my mom’s Goddaughter and longtime family friend. It was a white elephant party, and I felt pretty good about what I was bringing.

First was a recorder. You know the kind- the instrument everyone tortures their parents with in the 4th grade?

recorder

Next was a KISS Pez dispenser.

kisspez

And finally, A Justin Bieber Santa hat.

jbsanta

We brought 3 gifts, because Zoe and Parker wanted to participate in the gift exchange also. Kind of like the three Wise Men, without the wisdom or the men.

Right before dinner our hostess announced, “Just for full disclosure, these meatballs are half venison, half beef.”

I said, “Oh. I haven’t ever had venison before.”

She said, “Well if you’ve been eating any of that summer sausage over there, you have.”

I had eaten one piece, but Zoe had eaten several.

She wandered into the kitchen and I said, “So, that sausage over there? It isn’t beef.”

She said, “What is it?”

My friend said, “horse meat.”

Zoe’s eyes got huge.

I said, “She’s kidding. It’s not horse meat.”

“What is it?”

“Venison.”

Blank stare.

“You know that head hanging over there in the living room?”

She gasped.

“You liked it, it’s fine. A lot of people eat venison.”

My friend said, “This isn’t that deer. We ate that deer a long time ago.”

She wandered out of the room in a horrified daze.

Later, as we were filling our dinner plates she pointed towards a chafing dish and said, “Is any of this part horse meat?”

“None of it is horse meat.”

“Is it deer?”

The chafing dish contained mashed potatoes and vegetarian sausage.

“Nope.”

I watched her scoop two meatballs out of the crockpot, but said nothing. What you don’t know can’t hurt you, right?

After dinner we played the white elephant game. I attempted to explain the directions to Parker, but all he knew was there was a pile of gifts and he was going to get one of them.

I was number 1, so I got to go first.

I got a Magic 8 ball.

magic8

Parker was number 7.

His first choice ended up being a red lunch tote. He was not thrilled.

When someone stole the magic 8 ball from me, I stole the tote from him, so he could either steal or grab another gift. That’s the kind of nice mom I am, so when they try to tell you otherwise, remember this story.

For his second choice, my friend veered him in the direction of what turned out to be a giant footlong candy cane. We decided we might have to lock Parker and her 3 year old daughter in a room with the candy cane and the recorder to see what sort of mayhem might ensue.

But still Parker was unsatisfied. The allure of the unopened gifts, his insatiable greed left him discontent.

When my lunch tote was stolen, I took the candy cane from him so that he could get something else. I tried to talk him into grabbing a gift card. Someone offered him the recorder (NO!!!) and tried to tempt him with wooden puzzles. But no- there were untold treasures still wrapped.

As he reached for something my heart sunk. I knew it was a candle. I said a quick prayer that it would end up being a box of frangos (For my sake as much as his.) But no- my instinct was right. It was a candle. A very nice Yankee candle. But still- a candle.

Greed had made Parker a loser in the White elephant game.

Zoe had stolen a fuzzy blanket and Christmas mug from someone and was contentedly wrapped up. No one was going to attempt to take it from her.

My friend’s father -in-law got the Bieber hat, and proudly wore it the rest of the night. My mother got the KISS pez dispenser. She said, “Oh I love this!” And I said, “No you don’t.” I am expecting to see it reappear tomorrow morning somehow.

As the game came to a close, there were two remaining gifts that had been brought as extras in case someone forgot.

Parker didn’t feel the game could possibly be over with two remaining gifts. He had a great trouble accepting his fate.

He pulled his sweatshirt up over his head and pouted on the couch as people began to leave. He made some references to cheating, because in Parker’s mind, when something doesn’t go his way, someone must have cheated.

And then he turned on me, accusing me of stealing all his gifts.

I tried to explain that I did that to help him, to no avail. I told him he could keep both, I didn’t care, but there was no reasoning with him. So I left him on the couch.

After saying our goodbyes I went down the hall to my friend’s 3 year old daughter’s room, where she and Zoe had gone.

I opened the door and heard music. It was dark in the room and they were sitting on the floor in front of the tv.

“Are you watching ‘Little Mermaid?'”

The three 3 year old said in her tiny voice, “She want to watch ‘Bambi.'”

I looked at Zoe, who looked sheepishly back at me.

“Feeling a little guilty about eating deer? Watching ‘Bambi’ as penance?”

She didn’t answer, but continued to look chagrined.

As I walked out the door I couldn’t help but throw back, “It’s not like you were eating Rudolph.”

It’s little joys of parenting that sustain me.

Thank you to all of you who have supported me through these first 6 months of my blog. It means a lot.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and here’s to a fantastic 2014!

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I Wouldn’t Trade My Christmas Memories for a PS4

My beautiful picture

I’ve been transferring old family slides into digital format the past few weeks, and I’ve come across some real gems. One of the things that struck me, especially when looking at photos like the one above, is that I wasn’t imagining it… Christmas felt different back then. And I think I know why.

Look at the expressions on the faces of my sisters and I. (My sister Shannon is on the far right, Colleen is in the middle, and I am the blondie on the left.) Christmas held a wonder for us that I just don’t see in the faces of my kids. Gifts didn’t have to be extravagant to get reactions like this:

My beautiful picture

This picture is blurry, so I have no idea what she just opened, but I can tell you, it wasn’t a $500 video game system. When was the last time your kids responded like this? I can’t think of the last time mine did.

Parker wants a WiiU. We have a Wii, but the new games he wants can only be played on the WiiU. $300.

Nathan wants a PS4. He has an XBOX 360 and a PS3, but those are considered old junk now. $500…if you can find one.

Eventually, they also want an XBOX One. It’s not their first choice, but, after all, the 360 is sooo outdated, eventually we will HAVE to get a new system for all those games we have.$400.

And yet, when I think back over my life, most of my favorite gifts cost less than $25. The year I turned 20, I had a jerky boyfriend who wasn’t around on Christmas and I was pretty bummed. I am the youngest in my family, so when I went up to my parents’ house, it was just the 3 of us for the first time ever. It was pretty depressing. That was until I opened a gift that my mother had gotten for me- Molly Ivins’ book, “Molly Ivins can’t say that, can she?” I started reading and soon I was laughing so hard I could barely breathe. It saved me from the Christmas blues.

My childhood is filled with gifts that spurred my imagination and just looking at the pictures of them brings back memories of fun times. Some of these you may remember, some may be earlier than your time. These items represent my Christmases past.

little people a frame

What is more 70’s than an A-frame house? A turquoise and brown A-frame house. This toy reminded me of the cabins at the camp where my family spent a lot of my childhood, El Camino Pines near Frazier Park, California. We called it “Walton’s Mountain,” because much of the show was filmed up there.

My beautiful pictureCabin in the background

Another “little People” set I loved was the Sesame Street neighborhood.fp_sesame_street6

fpsesame

I spent hours re-enacting episodes.

Many girls my age wanted Easy Bake ovens, but I had to have the Holly Hobbie Easy Bake oven.

hollyhobbyoven

My beautiful picture

If I’m being honest, I’m not sure a lot of baking went on after this Christmas morning. I seem to recall eating dry cake mix a lot. (If I ever start a career as a rapper, that could totally be my rapper name- Cake Mix-a-lot)

I was a big fan of Holly Hobbie. I’m guessing that’s why in so many pictures I have come across, my sisters and I are wearing bonnets. That, and “Little House on the Prairie.”

I also loved Colorforms, and one year I got a Holly Hobbie Colorform set exactly like this:

holly hobby

I spent hours arranging different scenes.

I was also a Barbie girl. Most of my Barbie stuff I seem to recall came on my birthday, but I do remember one Christmas I got the Ballerina Barbie.

ballerina barbie

I got it from my great grandma Lulu. (Her name was Mildred, but she came from Honolulu. It was our way of distinguishing her from another Grandma- Grandma Mexico, who, you guessed it, went to Mexico on vacation one time.)

We spent that Christmas in Laguna at my grandparents’ house.My Grandma Charlotte (who was just “Grandma”) had hidden the gifts under her bed. I couldn’t contain my curiosity, so I snuck a peek, and discovered by stealthily pulling down one end of the wrapped gift what it was. I was excited for the Barbie, but that taught me a lesson- it’s no fun to pretend to be surprised when you’ve already ruined it for yourself. I never did that again. I believe that was Grandma Lulu’s last Christmas with us.

Another “last Christmas” memory is from my dad’s dad’s final Christmas before succumbing to cancer.

We knew he was ill, and so we made the trip to the Bay area of Northern California, and my mom’s side of the family came as well. We showed up on Christmas Eve to discover he had not decorated the house for Christmas. There was no tree. He had thrown away all of his ornaments.

We got in the car and drove around looking for an open lot, but they were all closed. My father eventually hopped a fence and stole a tree. We went to 7-11 and bought flocking spray and tinsel. We went back to his house, put up and flocked the tree, and decorated it with snowflakes we cut out.

Because there were so many of us, several slept out in the living room. It was like a giant family slumber party. I had trouble sleeping, so I stayed awake playing with my yes and no book.

Yes-Know-11-12

( I liked to challenge myself by getting the books that said they were for older kids.)

I spent hours playing with these books. Hangman, trivia questions, dot to dot.

Mastermind was fun too, but you had to have someone playing it with you, and as the youngest I was on my own a lot.

mastermind14

 

Not that we didn’t also have electronics.

My first electronic toy was Alfie.

playskool-alphie-electronic-robot-1978-abb83

Alfie was amazing. He beeped and booped when he turned on. I could change the game card and play all different sorts of games. When I was right, he be-booped in celebration. When I was wrong he did the “beee-booooo” of a disappointed robot.

I didn’t get the Coleco football game, but my sister Shannon did, and I often stole it from her.

coleco football I could never play this now, those tiny red blinking dashes that represented my players would be nothing but a blur to my old eyes.

Another cool electronic game that I had a lot of fun with was “Merlin.”

merlin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kX_wlcpNMaE

I don’t remember a lot about the games. I think there was tic tac toe, some sort of musical game, and I swear something like blackjack. Nothing like getting kids started gambling at a young age.

When they turned my favorite video game, into a watch, that hit the top of my list. pacmanwatch

It wasn’t the most responsive game, and the buttons were tiny, but boy was it cool.

And then there was the Texas Instruments computer.

tiplusgames

See that slot on the right? That’s where you put the “software” cartridges. I think mine came with TI Invaders, a knockoff of Atari’s Space Invaders.

Of course you didn’t need cartridges to play with this computer. It came with a programming code guide, so I taught it how to run programs that would guess math problems. All I had to do was copy the programs from the book and my parents and grandparents were amazed. Child prodigy, they said.

A few months later I was in our local Safeway (which also had laser discs for home rental at that time) and saw a bin filled with cartridges on sale. I bought myself the Alpine skiing game (it even had a yeti that would jump out. Strange, considering the yeti lives in the Himalayas and not the Alps).

Alpiner2Is that a buzzard flying across the screen?468257-alpiner_6I never got this far

Notice the phenomenal graphics- In color!

Unfortunately for me, that sale bin was a sign of the end for the TI system. Within a year of getting it, they stopped making it and it’s accessories.

And then there was the Christmas of 1983.

cabbage

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sOlIvx7Pvs

Cabbage Patch Kids. People were going out of their minds in the hunt for these dolls whose butts bore the autograph of their creator, Xavier Roberts.

xavierrobertscabbage patch doll

I was one of a million girls that year who put a Cabbage Patch doll on my Christmas list. My parents tried in vain to locate one, with no luck.

My mom, never wanting to disappoint, somehow managed to find a woman who made look-alike dolls. When I opened it Christmas morning, I remember feeling a mix of emotions. It wasn’t a legit CPK, but I knew somehow that it was more special. It represented my mom’s heart, and I was thankful for that. I named her Charlotte Claire after both of my grandmothers.

My sister Shannon, a senior in high school, was working at a store called Sprouse Reitz. For those who have never heard of it, Sprouse was a small department and drug store.

sprouseWayyyy before my time, but you get the gist.

This past Thanksgiving the topic of Sprouse came up, and my sister swore she is still in possession of the horrid brown polyester uniform she had to wear while working there. With her name tag still on it.

Anyway, the day after Christmas, she went into work and they had received an unexpected shipment of Cabbage Patch Dolls.

I could have one if I wanted one.

I agonized over the decision, because I didn’t want to hurt my mom’s feelings. She said she understood, but I just wasn’t sure. In the end, I did get one, but it was never as precious to me as the doll my mom had made for me.

I get a little sentimental when I think about those Christmases. I think about the year my parents couldn’t afford to buy me the outfit from Laura Ashley that I wanted, so my mom went and bought the pattern and sewed it for me. She even sewed in a piece of ribbon that said “Laura Ashley” so it would look like a tag.

I think about that ratty leftover Christmas tree that my dad hopped a fence to steal, that was decorated with paper chains and homemade snowflakes, but stood tall in the center of a room full of people I loved. Some of those people were gone within 5 years, and we never had a Christmas with everyone like that again.

I try really hard to create special moments for my kids, but in the end, it never is about the gifts under the tree that stick with you. Memorable moments can’t be choreographed with the perfect music and candlelight. They just happen.

My beautiful picture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Year’s Thanksgiving Post Brought To You By A Man Named Carlos

squirrels-with-pumpkin-pie(I feel like It’s worth mentioning that this photo downloaded to my computer with the title “Squirrels with pumpkin pie.” I’m sure SOME squirrels prefer pumpkin pie. Most, though, seeing as how squirrels are big fans of nuts, probably prefer what this pie actually is… pecan. I’m also not convinced these aren’t chipmunks. Oh, internet.)

Most days my husband comes home and says, “How was your day?”

This is usually a more difficult question to answer than one might think. Do I go with “Fine,” and leave it at that? During the course of a day, there are good things and bad things that happen. There are also a whole lot of neutral things that don’t justify a good or bad rating. They just are. So what’s the tipping point of good to bad that makes one day good, the next day not? No one ever has a 100% perfectly amazing day where not one thing goes wrong. No one has a 100% terrible day where EVERYTHING is wrong and there is no good.

Last night as I drifted off to sleep I thought about the day and how if someone were to say “hey, was this a good day or a bad day?” the answer could be either.

This is where perspective comes in. Yeah, yeah, the clichés about gratitude and half empty cups get overused. There’s a reason for that, though. There are some things that are inherently great- a new baby, winning the lottery, falling in love. There are others that are bad- death, cancer, heartbreak.

Yet even in those seemingly clear moments, the attitude of the person can change what’s good or bad into something very different.

I have seen people find the negative in the midst of total blessing, and I have seen others shine a light of hope and faith in the depths of sorrow.

Here’s how yesterday went:

It’s so cold! This is going to be a loooong winter if it’s this cold and it’s not even December yet.

I got a text from a friend cancelling lunch plans.

I went to the UPS store to mail off a box filled with Zoe’s old Barbie toys including her Barbie motorhome to the woman in Nebraska who bought it off of me from Ebay. She had paid $11 for the items. UPS told me it would cost me $160 to ship it. This was going to kill my perfect seller rating and I was going to have to deal with an irate customer.

All the stores I checked were already out of the extra Christmas lights I needed.

Parker was misbehaving so badly on the way home from school that I had to ground him from the computer for a day.

When I got home I almost stepped on dog poop because one of my neighbors let their dog poop on my lawn and didn’t clean it up.

My husband spilled an entire glass of water on Zoe’s homework and our brand new carpet.

Later Zoe spilled her ice tea all over the kitchen table.

She also disregarded our command to get off the counter and knocked sugar all over the newly refinished kitchen floor.

Parker commandeered the remote and we all had to suffer through “Adventure Time.”

During dinner we got a knock on our back door. One of the guys putting up our Christmas lights had discovered large amounts of natural gas shooting out of the side of the house from the meter area.

Our house was in danger of exploding with our entire family in it.

The fire dept showed up and the cutest one wasn’t there.

They turned off our gas which meant no stove, no heat, no hot water.

The guy from the gas company showed up with a van that had no equipment on it to repair the leak. He informed us that the guys weren’t answering his calls because they were in the middle of a contract vote, no one was happy. We were second on the list  for repairs, but if they voted to strike and the repairman with the parts couldn’t get to our house before midnight, we were out of luck.

Our house got colder and colder as I waited up for the second repairman. I couldn’t even take a bath because Nathan had used up all the hot water in his 20 minute shower.

It was almost midnight when they finally arrived to fix the problem.

It turns out the leak is from cracking because our house is settling- great. How many thousands of dollars is THAT going to cost?

I went out to greet them in bare feet and stepped on a slug.

What a rotten day!

perspective

Here’s how yesterday went:

I woke up in the morning to sunshine and frost of the rooftops. It was beautiful.

I went in to get Parker up and he snuggled up to me as I carried him downstairs.

After getting the kids off to school, I drank my coffee, took a warm bath and read my new Janet Evanovich book.

I got a text from my friend cancelling our lunch date, which meant I was to avoid the humiliation of having to wear a Washington State University t-shirt in public as a result of the Apple cup bet I lost last year when the Cougars upset the Washington Huskies.

I went to the UPS store where a very nice guy had to break the news to me that my package was going to be absurdly expensive to ship to my buyer. Thankfully, my quick refund of her money and heartfelt apology was graciously accepted.

I was able to locate 2 boxes of Christmas lights that weren’t exactly what I needed, but they were hidden in the back and they were the very last 2- how lucky is that?

I came home to find that the guys we were able to hire to put up our lights for us were already halfway done. They always do such a great job.

I got a message from my husband that a man named Bill was on his way to purchase the four-wheeler someone gave us for free 6 years ago- for $200! Now I have so much more space in my garage and an extra $200 dollars in my pocket. (Oh and they’re the new bills that look crazy. Since he got them out of the ATM, they were sequential. I’ve never had two sequential brand new hundred dollar bills before)

Thankfully Zoe noticed there was dog poop on the grass before I stepped in it, and I was able to clean it up before anyone else did.

I really love my new floors and carpet. And even though it was stressful having it done, they turned out so nice and the insurance company paid for everything!

Dinner turned out great, and I was fortunate to have just finished sautéing the green beans when one of the guys putting up the lights- Carlos- knocked on the door and let us know he had discovered a gas leak. We are so grateful that he was there and realized it. We are lucky our house is still in one piece and so are we!

The fire dept showed up so fast! They were able to turn off the gas so that we were no longer in danger. Fire fighters are so great- always there when you need them.

I called the gas company, and the fire dept had already alerted them and had a technician on the way to our house. What amazing customer service and rapid response time!

The technician was unable to fix the problem, but he got us on the repair list so we were second in line.

Thankfully the gas co employees approved their new contract and avoided the strike! What a relief for them and their families- especially this close to the holidays.

These guys showed up to repair our gas line  at nearly midnight- their dedication and willingness to come out and make the repairs so we would have heat and hot water saved us from a very cold night. It’s so great to know that they are willing to do whatever it takes. Hope their contract pays them well.

My husband said, “The leak happened due to settling under the house. The good news is at this rate eventually the driveway won’t seem so steep.”

I drifted off to sleep with a roof over my head and heat flowing through our vents.

What a great day!

My wish for all of us this Thanksgiving is that we are able to see the blessings for what they are and the trials for what we can learn from them. When we focus on the positive or the negative, we usually find exactly what we’re looking for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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