Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Elena Kagan

I haven't paid much attention to the confirmation hearings on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan - she seems eminently qualified and confirmable - but I did see this in the Christian Science Monitor, about her great sense of humor - funny!

A Beautiful Day

Yesterday afternoon, I was busy working, working, working - and decided to go mail a letter in a nearby mailbox across the parking lot at my building, rather than mail it at the end of the day on my drive home. As I was walking back to my building, my mind racing on various and sundry, I looked up and felt the sun and realized what a beautiful day it was - and how lucky I am, to be able to come to work every day in such beautiful surroundings. So instead of grumping about the work I still had to do, or even rushing back into the building to complete that work, I sat down on the grass and took a photo of what I saw - the building where I work - the Undercliff Mansion - almost straight out of a painting, with its perfect sky set against the deep green of the trees - though a photo can't do justice to how nice it felt, in the sun and all.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Today is the 64th anniversary of the bus crash in 1946 that killed nine Spokane Indians' team baseball players. In a week when my mother lost her husband Jim (and my family lost a member of our family), I have been thinking a lot about living and dying and the process in between. Hearts break at the losses. Hearts broke 64 years ago today. I know family members who still survive the baseball players who died. They still remember this date, still mourn. They are the ones that I remember today, as I remember everything else.

photo credit: Casch52, found here


... in every sense of the word.

I've made it back to Spokane - am back at boot camp - and am having to baby my actual back, which apparently was worse for the lack of wear this past week, while I was in El Paso. Too much sitting? Likely. It's like there is a kink in it, or something. Jogging makes it worse. Stretching makes it feel a little better. Probably doing nothing is the real answer.... at least for a few days. It doesn't feel permanent - just a spasm or kink. But it's enough to slow me down.

This is the last of this session of boot camp. Will have to decide whether I'm joining the next session - after my trip to Chicago, starting a week from tomorrow, when I get to meet my new nephew - still to be born - very exciting. My job is to keep my 2 1/2-year-old nephew company while his new baby brother is born, then brand new.

And then, in the midst of the sorrow of the weekend, and the tedious trip back home (think "back" and "back" - all connected), I had some joy yesterday - we all did - watching the soccer game between U.S.A. and Algeria - where a goal in the 91st minute put us from out of the World Cup to the head of our division. I've decided to use that last-minute effort as a symbol. That one moment of success, of glory, made all the 90 preceding minutes of agony worth it.

Monday, June 21, 2010


This isn't good news - hasn't been good news since Wednesday morning, when my mom called me at about 5:15 a.m. I didn't even flinch when I heard the phone, or saw the number. I don't know why, but I didn't expect it when she said it, in spite of the early hour. But there it was. Jim had died.

Jim is - was - my mother's husband. They'd been married 10 years, together 18. (Why rush it? they had said about the time between meeting and marrying. It's not like we're going to have kids or anything...) He'd been sick for a year. Yes, my trips to El Paso last fall were not just to hang out with family - they were to help my mom, and Jim, get through some rough, post-stroke times. And now he's died.

We gathered this weekend in El Paso, from all around the country - Jim's two adult children, my mom's brother, my siblings (except the youngest, who is two weeks from having her second baby and couldn't travel). We've had the funeral. We've cried, laughed, remembered his ornery ways. Jim had them, you see. "Turn left here" would invariably guarantee a right turn, if Jim were driving. It drove me nuts, over the years. Until it didn't, anymore. At some point, Jim was just Jim. He was that guy that told bad jokes, that answered "a million dollars" when the waitress asked if she could get him anything else, that wandered off at family gatherings just to give himself a little space...

And that loved my mom. It was that last one that made the rest of anything else all right. They were a great team, my mom and Jim. They listened to each other, and made each other laugh. They drove each other crazy sometimes, to be sure. But then they'd regroup and start all over again. They were a match. I think that, sometimes, when I think of the couples I know who are the happiest. They're a "match." That was Mom and Jim. A match.

So here's something. Someone at a doctor's office noticed, last fall, that Jim wasn't making jokes when he checked in. (He was too sick by then to be his old self like that.) She was devastated that he wasn't joking with her. That's when I realized - I missed his jokes. I missed them! How in the heck could I miss them... But I did.

Because that was something about Jim - how he got people to enjoy the moment, when he was around. He had a really good heart, that Jim.

The service Saturday was powerful. We all spoke except my mom. My niece wrote from France, where she is spending the summer. The whole service was filled with great stories that made us laugh and cry all at the same time. There was heartbreak, too. There were thoughts about the moments gained, the moments forever lost. "You can shed tears that he is gone, or you can smile because he has lived..."

What can I say about the Essence of Jim? Nothing seems to do full justice. He was a really good person, who loved my mom and made her laugh. In the end, that's what mattered most. Thanks, Jim. We will miss you.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Powerful Video

A friend sent me this link to a video highlight of soldiers coming home and surprising their loved ones. Imagine this scene taking place every day across the country... a silver lining in a challenging time.

Growing Mushrooms

Yes, I'm growing 'shrooms. And not in hiding - I'm completely out in the open. As are my neighbors. They too are growing 'shrooms by the dozens - in the front yard, in the back...

That is how much rain we've been having. Mushrooms are sprouting up everywhere. Moist, moist, moist. And well, yes, they aren't that kind of mushroom. But they're everywhere.

It's almost as if the summer feels slighted from last year's record snowfall. (Looked it up. We had over 97 inches of snow in the 2008-2009 winter.)

This past winter was mild - the summer's rain has come with a vengeance, however.

People think Spokane normally has a lot of rain. But they're just getting it confused with the other "S" city in Washington. Seattle is soggy. Spokane is dry.

Well, usually.

The past three weeks have been the fifth wettest in Spokane since they started recording rainfall levels. The additional rain has taken one of our driest years to over normal. Back on May 27, we had .98 inches of rain, which broke the one-day record of .84 inches, set back in 1898. It sure seemed like a lot more rain than that.

So mushrooms are sprouting. It only makes sense. Here is an example of what currently sits in my front yard:

Monday, June 7, 2010

Poor Annie

This has been Cat Central Station around here - injury after injury....

First, Alex got into some fights with Venom, the cat next door, and needed to wear a cone on his head while the stitches on his ear healed.

Now it's Annie's turn.

Not that she got into a fight or anything. So not like Annie. She is truly the sweetest cat.

No, in her case some big brown lab, off leash, came chasing after her. My neighbor saw it, tried to stop it, and watched Annie climb up a telephone pole to relative safety. The dog still nipped her in the back as she climbed. But at least she avoided greater harm.

Luckily my neighbor was able to tell me what had happened. Otherwise, I might not have gone looking for her. As it was, she wanted to stay hidden. I did see the dog (who was looking all excited and trying to say, "did you see my chew toy climb into these bushes?"), and should have followed him when his owner whistled for him - but I was too distracted, still looking for Annie in the midst of everything.

Took about half an hour, but finally she came out of the bushes into the alley - long enough for me to see her - then trotted back into the bushes to her privacy. Ultimately I enticed her out with some food, grabbed her, saw she was all scraped up on her side (down to the skin - fur ripped off) and took her to the emergency pet clinic. They told me she was lucky. Apparently often they see cats who have been grabbed in the chest by dogs "playing" with them. Their ribs are broken, and they have to be put down. They complimented Annie's muscle tone for a cat of 14 years, and said she was very very lucky....

The poor baby wasn't feeling lucky, I bet. Her side did not require stitches, but her bottom sure did. A couple stitches, anyway - not wounding any, um, strategic areas (again, she's lucky), but making her very very sore - and requiring me to put on that cone, to keep her from bothering the stitches.

She's off the pain meds now, and is doing fairly well. The cone slows her down, and she has no interest in the dry cat food, so I'm pampering her with canned food and tuna. She likes that. Poor baby.

Here's a photo of her, the day after the attack. As my sister in law said, it's hard to tell what is worse - the cone on the head or the bite on the butt. I asked Annie. Apparently it's all pretty miserable. But I also found a cat age calculation chart. Annie is 72 years old in "people" years. And she still made it up that telephone pole, to keep herself out of worse harm's way. I hope I'm that limber at 72!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Loving Baseball

People ask me a lot if I love baseball - pronounce it, often, that I must love baseball - say that anyone who wrote a book on baseball would have to love it. My answer is usually awkward. Well yes, I say, I do enjoy the sport... which sounds like I'm making something up...

Football? Unhesitatingly yes, I love football. Baseball? Well, yes but...

I don't actually love a particular baseball team, or even the game itself - not in a consistent, methodical way. It's the moments in baseball that I love. The heart of a moment. Not of every single moment, perhaps, but the moments themselves. The ones we remember. Can remember.

I missed a moment last night - a moment that is breaking the hearts of Detroit Tigers fans - a team that I loved a couple years ago when they were the underdog favorites to win the World Series (but didn't).

The moment last night - there was a game, and a pitcher - Armando Galarraga - a near-perfect game, in fact - when suddenly the 27th out was called safe at first and a moment in time crashed upon the rocks. So now there's a lot of talk about how to fix the tragedy - every sportswriter in the country has an opinion - it just may be that instant replay in baseball will change for the better because of last night - the umpire who made the wrong call has been in tears, so bad he feels... there may be a way to fix it...

But then last night, there was another moment as well (thanks to Mike Lupica for spelling it out here). It was the moment that the pitcher turned to the ump who made the wrong call and - smiled at him. It was an awkward smile, followed by a pulling of the cap and a return to the mound, to finish a game that ought to have been finished already. But that smile - that grace, to react with a smile and not a shout - was a moment in time that makes baseball something else - reminds me that baseball is a game of moments, of opportunities to play above and beyond just the mechanics of the game.

All sports, I think, carry the opportunity for such moments. But baseball? Somehow, baseball has the opportunity to be full of them. And so yes, I love baseball - not every game, not a particular team... but there are moments in baseball that sparkle with magic. And I love to watch the game just in case one of those moments appears.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Back to Boot Camp

Well, I've had the hiatus. The break. The mornings off, for about four months now. So it was time to get back to that good ole boot camp. Today was the first morning. We are back outside, at Manito Park. It was fresh and actually exhilarating. Dare I say it.. it was fun! Of course, it was just the first morning, and there were enough newbies participating that we took it sort of easy. But my gosh, it was great.

Boot camp is technically called Adventure Fitness Boot Camp, so as not to confuse it with military boot camp. And I'm sure it isn't as strenuous as the military. Certainly it isn't as long - we are there for just an hour - but it is a lot, a lot of exercise from 6 to 7 a.m. in the morning.

In the winter the boot camp's indoors, and it's dark and foreboding when we arrive, since we live so far north (not that we're Alaska or anything, but our winter days are pretty short). In the summer, though, we are out at Manito Park - at the tennis courts there. Summer's taken charge, and the sun is already up and about for at least an hour before our designated arrival time.

This morning - the first day for the upcoming month's session - it was brisk and damp, but not raining. And now here's the surprising part - I'm already in pretty good shape. Soccer these past few weeks has helped, I'm sure, as well as has the previous boot camp sessions from the past year... But I actually had fun this a.m., and may just go ahead and join up for four days instead of three.

Speaking of good shape... Danna Snow, our instructor, competed in weight lifting in Cleveland recently and set a new record for her weight category for deadlift - 347 pounds. Wow. She'll be competing internationally in the Czech Republic in coming months (with a stop in Puerto Rico in August for the North American championships), and is looking for sponsorship. This is her website: Good luck, Danna!