Thursday, December 31, 2009

Finally Home

And just in time for the new year...

Just got back late last night from the holidays in Hartford. I so enjoyed seeing my family! Somehow we all stayed under the same roof for the week. There were eight of us altogether, overlapping much of the time. No one got a lot of sleep. Also somehow, even in the midst of all the snow and airport closings, no one was delayed more than an hour or so, either coming or going. (I say that now, but I'm thinking my mom may have had to stay overnight in Dallas last night, en route to El Paso, because of delays in flying out of Hartford.)

The highlight was seeing my two nieces and nephew. My nieces - 19 and 16 - likely would prefer little if anything written about them here, on this blog, while my nephew - 2, in from Chicago - doesn't seem to mind that at all when I write about him. (That, though, could have something to do with the fact that he doesn't read yet.) It was especially nice to see the three of them hang out together. The 16-year-old in particular had this gentle way of keeping track of the toddler without impacting his spirit - anticipating where he'd be, and when, and then corralling him in to better choices. I don't think he noticed any restraints whatsoever. Watching my nephew kept reminding us all of my nieces at that age, and we kept telling them stories of what it was like when they were young. There's the zipper story, the tutu story... Not to be shared here, though. I wouldn't want to embarrass them... And then we came up with new stories to share with my nephew years from now, when he's their age. Like how he was told he had to stop running through the blinds on the sliding glass door because he could break them, so he kissed them instead (apparently to demonstrate his lack of malice). Or how much he loved his ABC's. He does really love them. And my nieces! So remarkable. They are such kind people, with such good hearts. My younger niece is a math whiz - truly is. Once we were talking about creativity, and I said how creativity isn't limited to just writing, but can be in things like math and engineering. She nodded, fully aware of what I meant. She's a great writer too - don't get me wrong - but I think her passion lies with the math. My older niece will be (I know this) a writer by profession. This week, she shared something with me that she'd written. It drew me in. I've thought about it often, these past couple of days. She helped me, too, in working through an additional piece to the screenplay that I've written - an added facet to my lead male character's personality. She had right-on comments that will make a huge difference in the re-write. Hanging out with them - and my nephew - and the rest of my family - was a perfect way to spend the holiday.

Something cute, on the way out of town. At the gate, there was this sign. When the attendant announced that the flight was ready to board, he said they were getting to board flight such and such, going to Minneapolis, "and then on the North Pole, apparently," he said, his voice trailing off as he read the board. Funny. Or maybe the sign meant that Minneapolis is AKA the North Pole - since there was all that snow in Minneapolis, the day that I left - potentially a big deal, since I flew through Minneapolis on the way to Hartford. Smooth sailing in the end. Lucky for me. (Click the pic to see a bigger image.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Travel Ahead

Well, I'm scheduled to fly to Connecticut tomorrow, to my sister's house. We are gathering there for the holidays - many of us, my other sister included, and my mom... I say "scheduled" because my flight goes through Minneapolis. Yikes. Snow alert. So we'll see where I end up at the end of the day. But if I do succeed, I'll be there for a week. Posting, as usual, will be slow while I'm gone...

So Long Zumba

Our last Zumba class - a salsa aerobics class - was last Wednesday. So much fun! I highly recommend it. The teacher matters, though. We had a great one - Kathy. In the picture, she's on the left with the white boa. This was her last class teaching, as she's pregnant (it's a boy!) and can't continue at this point. Sigh. She's a really, really good instructor. Don't know why or how - but she is. She makes Zumba a lot of fun.

For that last class, one of the women brought a sweet baby blanket that she had made for Kathy, and we all signed a card, thanking Kathy for the class. The boas and scarves - we brought them on that last day as a surprise. There's a song where the movement is like toweling off. That's how Kathy instructed us, to get the hips moving by pretending to towel dry, so we surprised her that final day by bringing her that white boa and bringing boa-like things for ourselves. She was very surprised! and said she's always wanted a boa, just has never had one. Voila. And then she played the song, and there we all were, "toweling off" at the right times. Fun. Kathy has other trademark movements too - the motorcycle movement, the "washing the window" movement (which somehow got the hips moving), the "push it down" movement (exactly as it sounds).... Always a workout. Always fun.

The next Zumba class is at the end of January. I might take it again, even without Kathy teaching. I'm taking boot camp again, starting in January, in the mornings. And soccer already, through part of January, on Thursday nights. Actually, Zumba wouldn't overlap too much. So I'm thinking about it.

Here we all are with our boa-like scarves. (Well, here are some of us - we didn't think to take the photo until after some women had left.) I'm the one off to the right. In the big, bright yellow shirt. (Note to Self: do not wear oversized shirts anymore. Or, at least don't do it when there might be a photo taken. Or, at least don't have it be bright, bright yellow.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sixty Votes - and Tom Coburn's Prayer

Early this morning, at 1 a.m., the Senate voted to begin the process of closing debate on the health care reform bill - called cloture. They needed at least 60 of 100 senators to vote yes. There are two more procedural votes before a vote on the bill can be taken. The bill itself needs only 50 votes to pass. But ending the debate takes 60, starting with last night's vote. This means that every Democrat plus two independents needed to vote yea last night. All Republicans voted nay.

Included in this 1 a.m. vote was Democrat Sen. Robert Byrd from West Virginia. He's 92. He's been in and out of hospitals, and was home yesterday because of his weak health. But he was going to attend the procedural vote. He would be the 60th vote needed. It would have been better for his health had the vote taken place at a more respectable time, and not in the middle of a snowstorm. But apparently the Republicans resisted that, so he needed to trudge out of the house, in his wheelchair, in the middle of the night instead.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) apparently wished for his demise earlier in the day. At 4 p.m. yesterday afternoon, Coburn said, "What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can't make the vote tonight. That's what they ought to pray." Later, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called him out on it. "This statement goes too far," Durbin said. "We are becoming more coarse and divided here ... When it reaches a point where we're praying, asking people to pray, that senators wouldn't be able to answer the roll call, I think it has crossed the line... This statement troubles me, and I’m trying to reach him [Coburn] come back to the floor and explain exactly what he meant about a senator being unable to make the vote tonight."

In spite of Tom Coburn's apparent call for prayer for his demise, Sen. Byrd was there at 1 a.m. - like clockwork:

Coburn was wearing blue jeans, an argyle sweater and a tweed jacket with elbow patches when he walked back into the chamber a few minutes before 1 a.m. He watched without expression when Byrd was wheeled in, dabbing his eyes and nose with tissues, his complexion pale. When his name was called, Byrd shot his right index finger into the air as he shouted "aye," then pumped his left fist in defiance.

Here's an article on what happened.

And here is some of the video:

Bottom line - and Tom Coburn's prayers notwithstanding - the 60 votes have gathered. For as frustrating as it's been - and as frustrating as the compromises are - this is a great, great thing, that this bill has moved.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Buy Agri Beef - With UPDATE

Saw an article buried in the newspaper today that Agri Beef, out of Boise, has donated $50,000 and $77,000 worth in beef and pork to Second Harvest, our local food bank. Here is video of the event. Seems above and beyond the call of duty, don't you think? Made me wonder: what controversy has led them to this altruistic act? So I did a little research. Couldn't find any scandal. All I get is "highly respected." Seems to be a homegrown company, family owned. Their website has a section under Policies and Programs entitled "animal well being." And they've donated $50,000 to Second Harvest every year for the past five years. Hmmm. So, they're really just doing this out of the goodness of their collective heart? How do I sign up?

This is my commitment - and encouragement to the rest of you. Buy Agri Beef. En masse (to the extent that this little blog reaches any masses). I can't really figure out how to make sure to buy Agri Beef, unfortunately. Apparently they deliver to 18 states, so they're wide range (ha ha). Associated brands, according to their website, are Double Ranch, Snake River Farms, St. Helens Beef and Rancho El Oro, if that helps. I guess I'll ask at the stores where I normally shop - local, all. But kudos to them, for caring. That's the sort of corporate consciousness this country needs.

UPDATE: For those of you who can't read the "comments" section (and some people can't), I heard from Chef Alan Turner from AB (Agri Beef) Foods. Thanks, Alan! He explains what I surmised - that they do this because it's the right thing to do. Here's his full comment - it includes a list of Spokane stores that sell their products - Rosauers, Huckleberries (my favorite!), The Trading Company, Harvest Foods and Family Foods:


I read your post with a big grin on my face. I am one of those altruistic folks at Agri Beef and I'm writing to tell you that you got it right. We work for a family owned company that has enjoyed great success raising and producing Beef and Pork here in the Northwest. It's our commitment to quality products and high business standards that has ensured our success. While Second Harvest was receiving a check and our product in Spokane, our truck was being unloaded here in Boise at the Idaho Food Bank by over 20 folks from our Office here. After the Beef and Pork were safely in the freezer and an identical check presented to the Food Bank, we stayed and sorted groceries in the Food Bank warehouse for several hours. Why? Because we can, and we should. Pretty simple stuff. We produce food for the people of this country and because they have supported us for years, we are able to give back to those that need our help. Because we should. There's your answer.

I can help you out with how to find our products in your area. As I said, we are very proud of the Brands that we produce and I believe that it is the highest quality Beef and Pork you can buy. In the Spokane area, our products can be purchased by consumers at The Trading Company, Rosauers, Huckleberries, Harvest Foods and Family Foods.

So thanks for your very kind words, it means a lot to me. If you ever have any questions about the preparation of our products please feel free to contact me. That's my job.

Chef Alan Turner

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

One More Week

Living in Spokane is great in the summer, with its long days and often-perfect weather. Sometimes the summers get too hot. But the days are always wonderfully long.

The other side of that coin is the winter. Last winter, we had crazy snow. Not the snow itself, flake by flake. Just that, in concert - by accumulation, you might say - there was no end to it.

But even without the snow - which they say this year will be light, and will melt off and on, which is nice - there are the days. They are short. It stays dark until 7 or 7:30 a.m., and starts to go dark by about 3:30 or 4. This happens every year, rain or shine or snow. And they get shorter and shorter, day by day.

It's true that the way to have those wonderfully long days in the summer is to have these painfully short days in the winter. So I take my lumps where they show up. And I try not to notice. In fact, I usually don't notice too much until after Thanksgiving. I guess it's all the activity that leads up to Turkey Day that keeps me distracted.

But every year, come December 1, I can't avoid my circumstances. It is dark. Let there be dark. And on the first day, it was dark...

Well, I could avoid them by moving to some sunnier, warmer, lighter climate. But I don't. Instead, I simply know one inalienable truth - that by December 1, I will be aware, acutely aware, of how short the days have become.

And two weeks ago, on December 1, I began my ritual of anticipating something else: December 22.

December 22 is the day after the winter solstice. And since the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, December 22 is when the days start to get longer again. I won't celebrate the solstice. But I do anticipate its aftermath. December 22 will be the marker to the beginning of light again. It will still be dark, yes, I know. But it will have turned the corner. As will I. One more week, and the days begin their journey back to long. Long live December 22!

photo credit: Joana Roja, found here

Monday, December 14, 2009

Weird, Great Game

I received an email from my dad yesterday afternoon, at about 4:50 p.m. "You're Welcome," the caption read.

We had talked earlier in the day, but I couldn't remember the favor I'd asked him to do. I clicked open the email, trying to remember. "And good luck tonight," it read. I laughed out loud.

My father lives in San Diego, you see. And he was doing what we sports fans do all the time. He was taking credit for his team's win.

Here's how it went down. The Chargers game had just ended against the Dallas Cowboys, and the Chargers had won. The Eagles and the Giants were playing in about half an hour. Now that the Cowboys had lost, the Eagles had the chance to take over the lead in the NFC East. The Giants, on the other hand, had the chance to create a three-way tie for that lead if they won. (Poor Washington D.C., the fourth team in the NFC East, is nowhere in this playoff picture.)

Oh, and have I mentioned that the Philadelphia Eagles are my favorite football team? So it all mattered. Greatly.

It was a weird game. But great - and I loved it, mostly because the Eagles won, 45-38. I'd never seen so much scoring! Well, there was that one playoff game between the Oilers and the Bills way back when... But between these two teams? I've been a Philadelphia fan since 1987 - have watched nearly all the match-ups between these two teams for those 20+ years - that's a lot of games, with the obligatory two-a-year for a division rival, and then the every-so-often playoff match-up. It was not a normal game for these two teams, was my impression. (This impression turned out to be true - "It was the highest scoring game in this series, and these two have played 156 times since October 1933.")

I think all the offense was because of the rain. Apparently it had rained all day in the Meadowlands, and while the rain stopped for the game, the field was soggy. They looked like kids playing in puddles, so splashy they got sometimes as they ran down the field.

What I loved was how the Eagles offense scored, marched, and scored again. Sometimes their offense can't get in to a rhythm, but not yesterday! The first touchdown in particular was exciting and clear. Michael Vick played part of those downs. In his first snap, he threw well, to Number 10 - DeSean Jackson, a kid that isn't too small to play in the NFL, despite the conventional wisdom that said otherwise. Beautiful football. (I've come around a bit on the whole Michael Vick deal - mostly because of his own behavior, which has been good.) And then DeSean Jackson, at another point, ran a punt back for a touchdown... Amazing play. Poetry in motion. Amazing.

And then there was that pivotal goal line stand. There was one last week too - I wrote about it here. But this one was different. This one - well, it wasn't during the Eagles game. It was a couple hours earlier, during the Chargers game. The pundits are saying that it was the Chargers' goal line stand against Dallas in the second quarter that broke the Cowboys' spirit, and turned the tide the way of San Diego. Which turned the tide the way of the Eagles - even before they took the field.

What was disappointing was all the missed tackles on defense. But I think that had to do with the soggy field. At least, I'm hoping that was the main cause. Otherwise, the Eagles are going nowhere in the playoffs - if they get to the playoffs (which I think they will - I was not so confident a few weeks ago, but I'm feeling optimistic right now about those prospects).

Also disappointing was the officiating. I get that I may not be balanced when watching calls, and want them all called for my team, but there were some pretty bad non-calls last night that could have given the Giants the game. Luckily the impact was fleeting, since the Eagles won. Smile.

I love mornings like these - you know, Monday mornings after the Eagles have won.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Trickster

I just got back home from an early morning meeting, and had just stepped out of the car, when I spotted an unusual-looking, happy dog trotting up the sidewalk. I wondered if he had spooked my cat Alex, who hates dogs. I paused and looked at him again. It didn't really look like a dog. Was it a - couldn't be a wolf. A coyote? In my little neighborhood? I turned to go put the trash can away, deciding I was crazy, and it really was a dog, when my neighbor Matt came out of his house and shouted at me. "Beth!" he said. "Look at that coyote!"

And so it was. Somehow I'd known, but had not been able to believe. Matt said he knew I'd want to know - he knows how I am about animal totems, and recognizing them. I nodded. The Trickster, I said. That's the coyote. "I know some coyotes," I told Matt. "They're all men. A bunch of coyotes, they are - in a good way though," I assured him.

Which - I do know them. And enjoy them. And love watching them trick themselves. That is Coyote's lesson - how not to so caught up in your own stories and traps that you get yourself stuck in them. Think of the Road Runner cartoons. The Coyote is always trying to "get" the Road Runner - and ends up on the wrong side of an anvil instead. And that is how it is for the Coyotes that I know. I enjoy them because they are funny and enterprising, and because they try to be so ruefully honest (when they're not setting up some sort of scheme). It's challenging medicine, the Coyote Totem. You have to love them for trying. Truth be told, I likely have a little Coyote in me. Not too much - but enough to appreciate its follies and recognize it in someone else. Thank goodness it's only one aspect of any given person. Could you imagine an entire lifetime of only playing tricks on yourself?

As the coyote continued up the sidewalk, to the next block and beyond, Matt and I watched him and waved, and wondered where he may have come from. And I wondered what coyote I'd be seeing soon. For that's how it usually goes in this world of mine. One thing leads to another - lets me know that the other is on its way. Watch out! for dropping anvils...

photo credit: Josh More, found here

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

About Alex

Amazing Alex... I've written about him before, my cat Alex. But since I've come home from El Paso, I've marveled at his ways. Let me tell you some of them (as he chases Annie - my other cat - throughout the house and I say, now and then, "Hey, hey - stop that!").

Here's an example. Every morning, for the last six months or so, I've given Alex and Annie wet cat food as soon as I wake up. Well, as soon as I get up - I usually don't get up as soon as I wake up... Well, and as soon as I've made the coffee - I make the coffee first so it's brewing while I dish out the cat food. The point is, I have a routine. I don't break from that routine, unless I'm traveling, and then the cat sitter follows that routine, for the most part.

But for Alex, there is doubt. There must be doubt, because he spends the entire time in the kitchen meowing and winding his way around my ankles, watching my every move, wondering, (must be) wondering - will she feed me this time? What if she won't feed me this time? "Don't forget, don't forget," he meows as I dish out the food on their separate plates. Every so often he jumps on the counter - presumably to "help" - and I have to scold him off of it, which creates delay, so he does this only when he can't stand the uncertainty for another second.

Annie, on the other hand, sits calmly, patiently. She knows what's coming. She knows it is coming in the next 30 seconds or so. When I set down the plates, she gives me one sweet meow, as though saying thanks, before starting to eat. Alex, on the other hand, is already inhaling the food on his plate.

Contrast this with the two of them pre-kitchen. Here is where Annie is antsy, and will meow in my face if she thinks I'm not moving fast enough from the bed to the kitchen. This must be where her doubt lies - before the movement. Alex, on the other hand (now this really makes no sense) is happy to lounge, curled up next to me, sleepy still, letting me have my wake-up time.

So what is that about? Why is he so calm before the process gets started, but beside himself at the point of inevitability? Is it a guy thing? That's all I can figure out. It must be a guy thing - at the moment of movement, he gets anxious, has all kinds of doubts. He knows he wants to be fed - but why does he need to rely on me to accomplish that task?

Another Alex thing. He's perfectly happy to have nothing to do with me for hours at a time - days, in the summer, as long as I feed him. But if just for one moment I should try to be friendly to another cat, it's Armageddon. He (reluctantly) has accepted that I'm nice to Annie, but that's where he draws the line. This has made for some scary and hairy times since I've come home from El Paso, because there are several new cats in the neighborhood and they've decided to camp out on our front porch. I've worked hard not to be friendly to them - I know how that drives him nuts - but he still is beside himself because of the porch liberties they are taking. Nearly every day, I hear cat growls outside the house and must go out to stop the cat fight before it begins. The other day, after I'd let Alex in from outside, he came over to me and meowed once. "Are you okay, honey?" I said, and went to pet him. My hand hit the cat claw that was sticking out of the top of his head. We had to go to the vet to get it removed. The vet assistant tried to be sympathetic. I shook her off. "I'm sure he started it," I said.

How can a cat be so sweet and loving and yet vicious at the same time? He only attacks other cats. He adores people, and they adore him. It's the other-cat thing that drives him crazy. That for sure is a guy thing.

I've said often how I feel bad for him, putting up with Annie and me - the two old ladies. He should be out on the town, "catting about" as it were, the stud that he is. But there's something about this home that draws him, keeps him near. It must be that cat food.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Diehard Fan

It's freezing cold in Spokane yesterday. With wind. A Sunday - a day of rest. So where was I? Heroes and Legends sports bar, downtown. The Philadelphia Eagles were not on television, you see. And I don't have that fancy NFL cable sports package, or whatever it is, that would let me see them anyway. So I bundled up and trudged on down to the bar at 10 a.m., willing the Eagles to make my journey worth it. Which they did, by beating the Atlanta Falcons 34-7. And I appreciate that. But I would have been at the sports bar even if they had lost. I didn't wait at home until half time to see if the trek would be worth it. I weathered the weather right up front because I wanted to watch them get from here to there - win, lose, or draw. However it turned out.

It was a great game. I have no qualms about the blow-out. I watch enough Eagles games that are tense - and disappointing - all the way to the end that I'm perfectly happy with a game that seems won before it ends.

There was one great moment, when the Eagles held the Falcons at the one yard line for three downs - second to fourth - right before the end of the first half. It didn't make the highlight reels - not the ones I saw, anyway - but it was perhaps the greatest moment of the game and a turning point for confidence. The Falcons imagined, I suppose, that one of those straight-up-the-middle runs would result in a touchdown. Three times, three zeros. I love the Eagles. When I don't hate them.

That goal line stand reminded me of a series of downs years ago, when the Eagles were playing the Cardinals. The Cardinals were still part of the NFC East back then, so it was an important game. Reggie White still was with the Eagles, as I recall. And the Cardinals decided what the Falcons decided - maybe it's a bird thing - that at least one of those up-the-middle runs from the one-yard line would score. In that game though, the run up the middle happened seven times - seven times! - because at some point there was an offsides call and the Cardinals got another set of downs. And for seven runs, the Eagles held. That made the highlight reels.

Here's an article about yesterday's goal line stance, which points out that, at the time, the Eagles were ahead only 13-0 - would have been a game changer. And I looked up that goal-line stand from before. Can't find a linkable article, but it was 1992, so it was the Eagles' last season with Reggie White. (There was no Jerome Brown - he had died in a car accident in June.) The Eagles won the game 7-3, so it mattered. And there were three penalties, not just the one. But seven times, no touchdown - that, I'll never forget.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Jake: An Amazing Story

Here's a touching, inspirational story. It's about a young boy named Jake who was getting ready for a final surgery that would take away his eyesight - a necessary step to protect him from cancer - and his final wish was to see the USC Trojans, his favorite team, one last time before blindness. One thing led to another, and - well, watch the clip:

Friday, December 4, 2009

The West Point Cadets

I read somewhere that, after the president's address on Afghanistan Tuesday night at the West Point Academy, Chris Matthews opined that the cadets had no reaction to Obama's speech and that, in truth, Obama had found himself in the "enemy camp." Matthews has since apologized for his comment. As he should. Besides the impolitic nature of his comment, he needed to apoligize because he got it wrong. Completely wrong.

I watched those same faces that Matthews watched, when the camera panned to the audience during the speech. But I saw something completely different from what Matthews saw. Instead of lack of reaction, I saw intensity. Somberness. I saw young people, with perfectly pressed uniforms - how many hours did that take? to get those uniforms just right - listening to every single word, absorbing what the president said, determined to understand exactly what they will need to do - what their mission will be. My heart broke several times as I watched their faces, their intensity, their focus, knowing that at least some of them will die over the next months and years, fulfilling this mission being told to them on this night in December, 2009. For as much as this was a speech to the country and the world, it was even more a speech to these young and brave men and women who have chosen - chosen - to put their lives on the line for all the rest of us. How could Matthews not see that, and respect what was, in that moment, a relationship between the president and these cadets, irrespective of any television camera or political pundit who may be spinning the story even before the speech could finish?

What I saw is, apparently, what the cadets felt. There is this reaction of one cadet, Ben Salvito, to Matthews' comment, entitled "We Are Not The Enemy." In part, it reads:

To applaud or to boo at the announcements made last night would have both been equally inappropriate for the Corps of Cadets. In fact, the stoic reaction by all ought to leave the world confident in the Corps' and the military's ability to be apolitical and execute the policies of the President and Congress with fervor and duty. [...]

Cadets are trained in acceptance of orders, and the Commander-in-Chief was effectively issuing an order to all who were present. No cadet will be spared from the effects of President Obama's remarks -- his message has been received and internalized by all who were present in Eisenhower Hall. I am humbled by the President's decision to announce his new strategy at my school and completely reject the notion of any who suggest that West Point is in any way "the enemy camp." The enemy camps are in Helmand province, where soldiers are currently engaged in the President's mission.


I scored last night, in indoor soccer! It was a header, right into the goal, preceded by a perfect pass from my teammate Sandie, who has been a teammate of mine, on one team or the other, for about 10 years.

Now I would say that I never score - ever - except that just a month or so ago, I scored in outdoor soccer. Which I never do.

I don't score because I never play offense. My instinct is defense - protect the goalie, protect the goal. But it appears that I'm playing more offense. Let's keep that in mind.

Also, in indoor soccer, anyone can be playing offense - or defense - in a given moment. The field is small, there are only seven players a side. The indoor game lends itself to great flexibility.

We played two games. Two hours' worth of soccer. I noticed that this a.m., as my body creaked awake. But that feels good too, to know that the muscles have been hard at work.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Kingdom for My Phone

My phone! My phone! My kingdom for my phone!

If I had a kingdom... Or would it be a queendom, if I had one?

Yesterday, in the midst of getting from my mom's house to the airport to fly back to Spokane, I forgot to do a final "sweep" of the house to look for my belongings... and left my phone behind. My phone. That thing that is always with me - that I've never lost (unlike a bunch of people I know).

I figured out what I'd done as we drove to the airport - soon enough to make plans with my mom to get it back to me, not soon enough to turn around and go back and fetch it. My mother grasped the urgency of the situation - she's seen my attachment to the darn thing - with its fancy Internet access and all - so she took pity on me and offered to Fed Ex it. It should arrive some time this a.m.

In the meantime though - it's been a bumpy ride. No phone to check messages. No phone to check email. No phone to occupy my free time. Instead, on the way home, I had to - gasp - read the newspaper. And a magazine. I almost had to resort to reading the book I'd brought, but it was stuffed in the luggage, I never could get to it (there were extenuating circumstances).

In my defense, that travel thing shortens my attention span. I'm better off reading short pieces than something long and involved, as I fidget and hope for a quick return to my home town.

The phone itself is turned on in its Fed Ex package, with the ringer off. I've called it a couple times since I got home, to see if I have any messages. Sort of funny, to think I've been calling my mail.

So let's review. First, my computer needed fixing, so I had to leave it in Spokane while I went to El Paso for the week. Then, I forgot my phone. So for several hours yesterday, I was without any access to the outside world (as I traveled through three airports surrounded by masses of people)... I can't believe I'm supposed to let go of my structure or anything, but - hmmm. Maybe I am?

I sit. I wait. I watch the streets. Soon, soon, the Fed Ex guy will drive up, with a package for me... just for me....

photo credit: Shlala, found here

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tragic Loss

In El Paso, we've been following closely the evolution of events near Tacoma, Washington these past couple of days. First, the unthinkable - four police officers slain in a coffee shop while filling out paperwork. Simple paperwork. Then, the inevitable - figuring out who did it, and learning of his criminal history. And wondering why such thugs are out on the street.

I'm usually the one who says, hey wait, most crimes put people back out on the street after a conviction and jail term at some point. So this guy got out a year sooner - or three years sooner - he still was headed back out on to the street. We have to figure out how to matriculate people back in society...

But in this case, there is a reality to Monday morning quarterbacking. This guy (now dead himself, as I read in the headlines) was serving a life sentence in Arkansas. He had gotten the sentence at an early age - 17, I think - and so the state governor 10 years later (that left-winger Mike Huckabee) decided to commute his sentence with the idea that he had rehabilitated. That belief was wrong - the guy was back in jail a year later for violating parole...

And so now, years later, we've lost four police officers. And the guy himself is dead. It all seems such a waste. And it results - it has to result - in our police officers wondering if they are in the right profession.

I've said before how much I admire the job that law enforcement officers do. They deal with the most potentially violent of situations, and keep their cool in the midst of the storm. We are so, so lucky that people choose to protect us like that. And where are we, if we fail to protect them?

I'm a lawyer in this justice system. I represent criminal defendants. I believe in rehabilitation. I believe in second chances. But in this case in particular - if he really needed his sentence commuted - why wasn't there a safety net? A rescinding of the sentence, but only on the condition that he stay out of trouble? He didn't go from model inmate to cop killer overnight. It took a few years to slide to that low. We haven't done this man himself any favors, by letting him out under these circumstances. He's dead too, now. Weren't there options?

It hits close to home for me, not just because Tacoma is in Washington but because one of the officers - the one female killed - has a sister living in Spokane who is beside herself with grief. There were nine children between the four officers killed. Nine children have lost parents. Such a waste. Such a loss - for them, for all of us.