Monday, December 23, 2013

Not About Football

This post is not about football.

It isn't about how amazing the Philadelphia Eagles were yesterday, against the Bears.

It isn't about how the Packers got an early holiday gift from the Eagles when the Eagles beat the Bears.

It isn't about how next Sunday will be exciting, with the two winner-takes-all games between the Eagles and the Cowboys and the Packers and the Bears.

It isn't about how the Eagles-Cowboys game is going to be so great that NBC elevated it to the Sunday night game during last night's Sunday night game broadcast.

It isn't about any of that, because whenever I write on this blog about sports, my team loses.

So this post isn't about all the above.

But Sunday should be fun.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Carver Bain's Essay of Grace

Facebook can be amazing.

For example, because of Facebook, I know about the essay posted below, written by Carver Bain about Grace.

If not for Facebook, I don't that I would have known his mother Sarah Blain Bain - or known about her, as I knew about her first before I ever met her. 

My writing friend Cindy Hval introduced me to Sarah's writings a few years ago.  I would read from Sarah about the loss of her stillborn daughter Grace, and about the work that Sarah did to provide space and voice to those who grieve their stillborn children.  Through Sarah, I have learned that this is a loss that is not always recognized as the loss of a child by those of us who know no better but should. 

Sarah has made me cry more than once - has made my heart break, not just because of a story of a little one who was lost, but because we as a society do not always have the grace to help where there is grief.  For this reason alone, I have loved the name that Sarah and her husband Terry gave their child: Grace.  It is a reminder of what is there for us, whether we know it or not.

Through Sarah, I learned that the state of Washington (where she lives) does not provide birth certificates for stillborn children even though it requires death certificates.  This is crazy, and a little mean.  As Sarah says, "To say Grace died but was never born was a contradiction around which I could not wrap my mind or heart."

I followed news from Sarah about her journey to Olympia, Washington recently, where she testified in the State legislature about why it is so important to address this issue.  Here is a link to Sarah's testimony:

As Sarah explains in her testimony, she shared with the legislators an essay that her now-16-year-old son Carver wrote about Grace.

Sarah shared the essay with us this morning, on Facebook.  I was stunned when I read what Carver had written.  Now, after a few emails with Sarah and with Carver's permission, I am able to share his words with you.  Thank you Carver, for the permission - and for the words.

Deaf Five-Year-Old Ears
I think I knew that something was wrong when I woke up to familiar but unexpected faces. Doubtless I was glad that my best friend Will had shown up unexpectedly with his mom, yet it was the tone of his mother’s voice and the absence of my parents that clued me in that something was going on.

At the age of five, I had a two-year-old sister and another sibling on the way; as I recall I was not pleased when I discovered that the incoming child was to be another girl. Everything was normal and good. I was as content with my life as any five-year-old could claim to be content with anything. I cannot speak for my parents, for adults tend to put on masks in front of children, but it can’t be too much of a stretch to say they were happy, preparing for the arrival of their new daughter.

Why is that always when things go terribly awry?

It started the day I awoke to my best friend and his mother. I asked Angie, Will’s mother, where my parents were. I cannot remember how blunt she was about the malign shroud that had enveloped our house the previous night, but I at least gleaned from her that my mother was in the hospital, and my father had gone with her; I don’t know whether I knew it was because of the baby.

Whether this news was particularly jarring to my five-year-old ears or not, I do not remember.

Regardless of how I felt, it wasn’t long before I went to visit my parents in the hospital.

My mother lay in her bed, draped in hospital sheets; my father sat beside her, eyes weighed down by exhaustion, worry, and desperation. As with all hospitals, there was a thick film that permeated the room, dampening the fluorescent lights and wilting the plastic flowers outside the door, and everything was gray.

I won’t ennoble death by giving it any sort of magnificent description or detail.

She died on May 29th. She was born on June 1st.

People seem to cluster death and black together, but I think gray is a far more fitting candidate.

They gathered like flies to a light, the family and friends, with their “I’m sorrys,” and, “I understands.” These empty comforts slammed into my parents like a waterfall, and dripped off them like tar.

I did little to support my parents through the stillbirth, as I don’t think I fully understood what had happened. I waited in rooms with televisions. I visited my mother. The adults adorned their masks and reassured me everything was fine. Someone gave me a Batmobile. That was exciting. I’m pretty sure I knew what was going on in a very basic way, but the implications and the impact of the event fell on deaf ears. Deaf five-year-old ears.

I remember being there when she was born, the sister I would never learn to begrudgingly love, or inspire with my older-sibling-perfection, or see with flush, rosy, life-filled cheeks. I just wanted to see her. They asked if I wanted to hold her. I did.

I said no.

“We named her Grace,” my dad told me outside the hospital while we waited for my mother to come out. Grace Susie Bain, he said. As we sat there, freezing in June, I imagine you could see the ripples of cold steam rising off of us, under the hot sun. My dad hugged me closer, warming me, or perhaps I was warming him.

The toll this event took on my parents is at a level I hope I won’t ever fully understand. When they didn’t think I could hear them, they would take off their masks and be sad and cry and even yell. I could sense a heavy sheet, stitched with iron that had drifted down to enfold our household, and the walls slowly beginning to crack.

It went like this for some time. But as time tends to want to do, it kept on, rolling through days, then weeks, then months, then years. But despite the dullness that time brings with it, ten years later Grace never left. Though strange it might seem, being that she never arrived, she is still here.

My mother would tell me that it was a gift. That God works in strange ways. (This God I keep hearing about does seem to work in the most—eccentric—ways.) She would say that if it had not been for Grace’s preemptive tip of the hat and slam of the door, our lives would be very different. My now seven-year-old brother probably would never have been born, maybe we wouldn’t have been able to feed another mouth at that time, and maybe if she hadn’t died my mother would have. Maybe, maybe, maybe.


All this can be boiled down to, we just don’t know and there’s nothing we can do about it anyway, so quit your blubbering and move on. But humanity demands a little blubbering, which is just fine.

I will never know Grace. Of course this still saddens me, even more so than it did ten years ago, but if I were to walk around my house right now and talk with my parents and my sister, I wouldn’t see any negative consequences. What I would see is my little brother, and my dad cracking a joke, and my mom rolling her eyes, and all because—and in spite of—Grace’s death. Good and bad are far too black and white for something like this, and Grace found life in that gray area.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

"Without A Ladder"

My KNIFVES group out of the Inland Northwest - a nonprofit filmmaking networking and educational group - produced a film.  And I was a part of it.

It is a holiday film, so writing about it on Thanksgiving seems to be an appropriate time.  (It is about Christmas, not Thanksgiving, but still - 'tis the general season.)

The film is "Without A Ladder," and was written by Ted Parvin, in Sandpoint, Idaho.  Jack Bannon graciously agreed to star in the film for us.  Young Tiger Ashtiani was Jack's co-star.

The film is described as follows:

“Without a Ladder” tells the story of curmudgeonly widower Mr. Dobbs (Bannon), whose first Christmas without his beloved wife is eased by the presence of a boy (Ashtiani) who shows up on his doorstep. The child helps him prepare for the unexpected holiday visit of his son and daughter-in-law. But in a surprising twist, it turns out the boy is preparing him for an even bigger adventure.
We are an all-volunteer board with KNIFVES (which stands for Northwest Independent Film, Video and Entertainment Society) and so putting together this wonderful film was a long process.  We also used the filming as an opportunity to train people interested in getting experience in the film industry.  As the film credits show, there were many, many people who played a role in the production.  (I personally have credit as one of the assistant location mangers and the only person in charge of locations/art - this latter credit coming due to all the "snow" I made, I think.)

It is a sentimental film that brings tears to my eyes throughout the half hour show.  When I was present for the filming of it, the acting created the same reaction.  In fact, at one point when Mr. Dobbs (Bannon) is waving goodbye out the door, I teared up.  When the director announced "cut," I was slightly chided by my fellow filmmakers for the emotion.  I couldn't help it!

I knew, watching the filming, that it would be a great product.  And it was.  We had a world premiere (!) a few weeks ago in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, with a parade of drummers and jugglers and a horse-drawn carriage for the actors.  We had an actual red carpet.  We had a fundraiser that sold well.  It was a blast.

This is not KNIFVES' only project.  In fact, the film "Root Bound" had shown a few weeks earlier at the Sandpoint Film Festival, and it earned the Audience Choice award.  I have not yet seen the film yet, but am impressed that this film took just a few months to produce.

What is next for either film is unknown.  Perhaps there are more film festivals in the future.

But I am glad to see that the KNIFVES vision is coming to fruition.  I joined KNIFVES in 2009, and almost instantly was on the Board as Secretary.  I am only an honorary board member these days (though I think I'll be searching for film festivals for our films).  Always our Board President (and founder) WJ Lazerus wanted to see films as a final product for the group, with the filming process being educational.  That vision is now a reality.

I was a big supporter of the "Without A Ladder" film from the first moment that I read the script.  Ted Parvin - the writer - had written something special.  There were times when the practicalities of getting the film done by an all-volunteer board seemed almost impossible, but we got through each of those hurdles in part because Ted's story was a special one for us to be able to tell.  Ultimately grants were provided by Mountain West Bank and the State Film Office of Idaho, and Regal Cinemas graciously offered to let us hold the premiere of the film in their theater.  I am particularly proud of the food donations we received for film days (from Texas Roadhouse in Coeur d'Alene and Luigis Restaurant in Spokane) because I was the one who made the requests for donations.  Thanks to all who made this film possible!  From crew to funders.

News reporter Cindy Hval wrote a great news article about the "Without A Ladder" film and the premiere, found here:

DVDs of "Without A Ladder" can be purchased by contacting KNIFVES at   

Without a Ladder

Sunday, November 17, 2013

What Does The Fox Do?

I love this song.

I even know the words now.

I like it that the seal says "ow ow ow."

This makes it clear that the song comes from somewhere other than the United States of America.

Here, the seal barks.

But never mind.

I'm one who pays attention to what walks into my world.  I'm a cat person.  I grew up loving horses.  When I first started to study animal totems 15 years ago or so, the Cat showed up as one of mine, as did the Horse.  In fact, the Horse represents my female energy.  My male energy (and I say this at the risk of alerting opposing counsel to a tidbit of information usable against me) is The Weasel, which is an animal known for entering enemy camps under disguise as a friendly sort and gathering information in that disguise.

I do that pretty well.

Oh, I'm happy to stay friendly.  My schtick (if it can be a schtick) is that I am forthright and oriented to the bottom line, and that I understand how we all have constraints.  In short, I bond with the other side by empathizing.  But do not mistake this for a soft underbelly.  Do not make that mistake.

Once I was accused of being Columbo - you know, Peter Falk.  It was after I came back to that opposing counsel's office unexpectedly, having forgotten my raincoat (!), and caught the attorney anxiously discussing my visit with his legal assistant - even though he'd been calm and cool during the meeting itself. 

I also believe that animals enter our lives for the purpose of telling us something, or helping us along.  So when I saw deer nearly every day for a couple weeks, I took the cue and softened my edges a bit.  I let life be kind for a moment or two. I lodged in my brain that I might benefit from taking a gentle view of the world on a long term basis, when letting down my guard would cause no harm.  I embedded in my brain the thought that "guard up" perhaps should not be my default mode.  The law does create edges out of necessity - and it's up to me to remember myself even in the midst of a legal event.  I have The Deer to thank for the reminder.

So when "What Does The Fox Say?" started making the rounds, and I started turning it up on the radio and playing it for my nephews who love to dance along, in the back of my mind I wondered.... what does this mean for us?

This is not a few deer showing up at my back door over a limited period of time as a brief reminder.

This is The Fox showing up for the world.

I have introduced the song to lots of people, and have noticed that everyone enjoys it - old and young both - and wants to hear it over and over.  It isn't just me.  I have thought about how accurate the song is - what DOES The Fox say, anyway?  I have listened to fox sounds on youtube - of real foxes.  This is not something I would have done before.  The Fox truly has entered my life - and has entered the lives of so many of us.

I noticed an article that actually began the question of animal totems in relation to this video, and spoke about how we might have a totem animal or a power animal, that one may be there for a lifetime and another might be there for the moment.  The article said that The Fox carries the qualities of cunning, clever, adaptable and strategic.  According to the article, if The Fox enters your life, it signals that you should trust your intuition, pay attention to your senses and let them guide you, use your intelligence, think about breaking ouf of your routine, and look for ways to express yourself more freely.

I thought about this in relation to The Fox entering my personal life these last few weeks.  I enjoyed the read.

What was odd about the article, however, is that it did not ask the question (and thereby did not answer the question) of what happens when an entire world has The Fox enter the lives of its inhabitants, as The Fox has entered this world's consciousness through this song.

Perhaps not everyone knows the song.  But the youtube video has had, to date, almost 230 million views since it first was posted about six weeks ago. 

So - and as the heading on this blog entry reflects - what does The Fox do, when he enters the consciousness of the whole world like this?

I'm not sure.  But I'm interested in knowing more, and imagining what.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Boston's Best

The last time that I wrote about sports, all my favorite teams lost except Kansas City.  I had named them all, and they all promptly lost. 

So when I realized that I was excited about the World Series, and that I wanted Boston to win, I decided it would be better for all Boston fans if I didn't write about my thoughts or feelings on the topic.

But I thought it couldn't hurt to write an email about how I felt.  So I did.

Boston lost the next two games.

So I took to monkish silence and sat atop my couch with nary a (public) sound.

If a Boston Red Sox fan cheers alone, does anyone hear?  Hopefully not, given my track record.

I don't think the championship can be taken away ex post facto though.  So I'm writing now.

They were great - simply great.  They were the kind of team that makes it fun to be a baseball fan.  They had so many stories going - worst-to-best, the beards, Papi, a closer that never tired... I loved it all.  But I think I loved the beards the most.

I started watching during the initial post-season games.  I noticed the beard on the pitcher first. He looked Amish to me.  Then they showed the catcher - David Ross was in at that point, as I recall.  I thought, is he Amish too?  Then I figured it out and so posted on Facebook, "Are all the Red Sox Amish?"  My true baseball fan friends gave me a thumbs up on the question.

What is most intriguing about the beards is the willingness of the players, as a team, to shout out their penchant to have superstitions, while simultaneously speaking of an undeniable team spirit - where the whole is greater than any one of its parts.  Nobody needs to say a word.  The beards do all the talking - and reminding, if a player here or there (a newbie rookie or a hardened veteran) forgets the intention. 

The second greatest part of this World Series for me was Papi.  He had a World Series batting average of - what was it? .780 or something? - and it was just exciting to see him come to the plate.  I was speaking with a new lawyer friend, and she said it was the look on his face, pure determination, that was compelling.  We all should carry such grit and belief.  Apparently after the second loss - so the record was Boston 1, St. Louis 2 - the big man sat down with his team and told them to play ball. Just play.  Get out of your head and play the game.  It worked.

People complained that the games were sloppy and the best players on the field were the men in blue (you know, the umpires).  And there were some exciting, controversial calls - none of which seemed to be controversial due to their substance, just their uniqueness.  It was good to see the blue guys do well in amidst any controversy.

But still, for me? There was a fluidity and camaraderie to the Red Sox play, regardless of errors or glitches. 

And with all that Boston has seen this year... celebrating a World Series win is only right and fair.

I was exhausted on the night of Game 6 - the last game, as it turned out.  I had been working that day since 3 a.m., on a legal brief.  I didn't know if I would make it through the entire game, being played in Boston.  I watched long enough to see the Sox take a 6-0 lead then fell asleep, unable to stay awake any longer.  I didn't see the final out or the final score of 6-1 until the next morning.  But I fell asleep content, knowing what had mattered to me was not the final toss of the final game to show the ultimate win, but the way the game had been played all Series long.

There is a new old Irish saying: May the angels smile upon you, may the wind always be at your back, and may your face show determination, grit and belief like David Ortiz's face did during the 2013 World Series.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Football Update

I watched the Seahawks win on Thursday Night Football last night and realized that I seem to be cheering on a number of teams this football season.

The Eagles are "my team," I know.  But with all the shaking up there in the off season, and with new reasons to root for old favorites, I seem to have broadened my fan club umbrella.

I miss Andy Reid - just because, and even though I knew he had to leave the Eagles - and so I'm really enjoying his great success in Kansas City.

I've always liked Peyton Manning - who doesn't - and shook my head in disbelief when Indianapolis got rid of him, so I am excited by the Broncos' amazing success this season and am looking forward to Sunday night's game (when the Broncos play the Colts in Indianapolis and Peyton Manning plays for the first time there as a non-Colts player).

The Seahawks have been an on-the-edge favorite team for awhile, since I lived in Washington State.  My team of origin - since I was born in Wisconsin - is Green Bay.  I've been rousting up enthusiasm for the Bears as that is the home town team of my nephews, ages 3 and nearly 6, and they are also doing well.

So it seems that the Eagles are no longer alone as my favorite team.

Can one have multiple favorite teams? Is that even allowed?

Don't get me wrong.  I still take great joy in the loss of any NFC East rival, and check the scores in hopes of seeing their demise of the day.  And I do want the Eagles to do well, even in the face of a building season.

And I was more than excited to meet the mother of a Philadelphia Eagles lineman on a plane trip recently.  Seriously, that made my entire week.

But I have to admit, I am no longer limited to the Eagles.

I wonder if this is an off shoot of free agency - now a pretty old setup.  I have often said that free agency has hurt football in a way that it does not harm baseball.  In football - but not so much in baseball - the players must instinctively know each other in order to play at the highest level.  The lineman needs to know that the nearly-imperceptible flinch from the guy next to him means that his teammate is getting ready to change course to the left (or the right), and that kind of knowledge comes from playing together long enough that instinct can take over and rule the day.  Free agency means that they likely will not be playing together that long or, if they do, they will not remain so.

I have decided not to resent free agency, as I do think that it is an important element of the game of football, where players need to make the money that they can, as early on as possible, in an effort to outrun that always-potentially-present season-ending injury that stands in their way, just around the corner.

But I do think free agency has changed the game and created a parity that has at times flattened the game of football - and not for the better.

Now I wonder if it also affects team loyalties.  Certainly I seem more likely now - this season, at least - to follow the individual rather than the team - the Chiefs and the Broncos being two prime examples.  Has the bulk of my loyalty switched to the individual rather than the team?  Or is this just a unique season in my football experience?

And then I think - and here is a thought - maybe this focus on the individual rather than the team actually makes football better?

Certainly I am enjoying football more this season than I have in a number of seasons.  I'm excited about many games, not just the one.  I think that's a good thing.  I know it's been fun.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Wild, Wild West

Many of my family members claim roots in Wyoming, including me.  My little sister likely has the biggest right to the claim as she grew up there for much of her childhood.  But many of the rest of us claim it, too.  It is an interesting state, with good people.  It is one big neighborhood, in a way - given the fact that the state's population is barely sufficient to warrant one representative in the House.

A couple months ago, I saw this article in the New York Times quoting Alan Simpson - Wyoming's former senator and a man still active in assisting in politics (including that he was co-chair of the Bowles-Simpson Commission, the financial task force in 2009 whose recommendations were not adopted but whose legacy lives on).  He was commenting on the plan of Liz Cheney - former Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter - to run for U.S. Senate, against Mike Enzi, the sitting senator.  Basically Alan Simpson told Liz Cheney not to run.

She announced anyway.

I've been busy in the interim.

Then I ran across this column by my long-time friend Kerry Drake who is a veteran news reporter and editor in Wyoming.  It appears there has been a dust-up in the grand old state.  It brings new meaning to the phrase "the wild West."

And here is Alan Simpson in his own words about what happened:

Alan Simpson and I agree on only a few things when it comes to political things.  But he is a smart man, and he speaks plainly.  He says what he knows.  I've relied on his opinion more than once (though it was Sen. Wallop's office that got me out of Indonesia) (another story altogether).  I trust his word.  And I trust his gut.

I wonder what happens next.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A New Script

I'm a little excited.  Slightly anticipatory, as they say (as no one says) (perhaps now they will).

The other night, I had a dream that outlined the first few pages of a new screenplay.  I got as far as the inciting incident before I woke up.  It is a suspense, potentially a thriller.  The inciting incident is a furious moment.  I woke up mad, actually.  The emotion was that strong - it probably is what woke me up.

I have so many other projects that I want to develop.  And I continue to be responsible for what I already have taken on.  But I'm hoping this one gets some of my time too.

Maybe I'll just write up the first act.

Not As Good After

Eagles.  Oh well.  Actually, I still have hope.  And it was nice to have at least one fun game this season.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

One Great Game

Last night was a great night to be an Eagles fan.

It was Monday Night Football.  Every one (except one) of the pundits on the pregame show picked the Redskins to win the game.

I wasn't even sure that I was sticking with the Eagles this season.  Yes, I've been a fan since 1987.  It was a Monday night game that converted me.  That, and the defense - the Reggie White era.

But there have been many, many changes.

Who could have known that it would be Michael Vick who helped me to decide to hang in there at least one more year.  Riley Cooper fights teammate; Michael Vick helps break it up  Also, I like the owner.  And I like the heart - this team has always had heart.  Last season, it was not like that.  But it is the heritage.
By last night's game, I knew which team I wanted to win.

What a good decision.

The offense was exciting last night.  They were fast, yes.  But announcer Jon Gruden helped explain why the substance of what they were doing was even more exciting and unpredictable than the speed with which they did it.  Though the speed was pretty cool too.  Gruden drew on screen the number of options being thrown at the Redskins' defense that created confusion as to what play was on its way.  It was really interesting to listen to him.  (Gruden was the Eagles' offensive coordinator for a time.  He was fantastic.  I hated to see him go, even though it was the best thing for him.)

And then there was the defense.  For me, and with the Eagles, it is always about the defense.

At some points, I got worried for RG3 (as he is called) - the Redskins quarterback.

And then there came the second half.

Intellectually, I understand that I am not responsible for the near-loss there at the end.  However, I did do that one thing that I never do - that I believe will cause my team to lose, if I do it.  So I apologize to all Eagles fans, that I did it last night.

I gloated.

I'm sorry!  I did it only on Facebook, and only because the Redskins stole - stole! - that first score - a 14-point shift, as the Eagles would have scored a touchdown otherwise.  (That was not a lateral pass.)  All I said was "instant karma" - that's all I said.  (Oh, and I kept reporting the first-half offensive yards in the comments section of my "karma" post.)  But as soon as I had done it, I thought, "I'm going to cause the Eagles to lose this game."  And they did nearly lose. Yes, I know - I know.  It is not possible that my gloating in any way impacts the outcome on the field.  Nonetheless, and just in case, I promise to never do that again.

The season has been exciting all around, so far.  Peyton Manning - wow.  And on and on.  I also had the chance to get my nephews fired up on Sunday about watching their home team (Da Bears).  The three-year-old was somewhat distracted, but the five-year-old was focused.  And both of them were excited to watch the kickoff.  So that was exciting too, for me.

All in all, it was a great game last night and it has been a fun season so far.  I wonder what this week brings.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Days Gone By

Back in the 1980s (yes, that long ago), I was the education reporter for the Wyoming Eagle.  My news experience up to that time was six weeks as the newspaper's proofreader.  (I had been an intern at the local TV station but that entailed watching video second by second, which didn't really count as experience.)  The education reporter position was a new one.  There was no blueprint to follow.  I had to create the job out of whole cloth.  I earned $700 a month gross (yikes).  Looking back, it was one of the best jobs I ever had.

Recently on Facebook, some newsroom buddies and I shared stories, remembering those old days.  Some of us are still in the news business; some of us are not.  The discussion started because of some young journalists' recent experience producing the news the "old way" - you know, via regular layout and cutting and pasting the stories onto the mock-up.  The posting below describes what they did.  It's called "How to Build a Newsroom Time Machine."

My friend Fred - our very talented photographer - said that he still had two pica poles and a Linotype pica pole with the slogan "If it's Linotype it's right!" printed on it. And he thought he had some sizing wheels too, whatever that means.

Reviewing their work caused my journalist friends and me to share stories from yesteryear. I've somewhat sanitized to protect the innocent and not-so innocent.  But here are a few of the stories:

I recalled once when a story got chopped up by our copy editor at the time, and I was trying to salvage the damage, and Don (our editor) went downstairs to see the layout for it, and I followed him, and the story had been bumped because there wasn't enough room for it anyway - in cut-and-paste fashion - and I said that the bumping was an act of God - and I went upstairs, and Don followed me, and he said "in my office" and then told me I couldn't do things like that - you know, follow him and dictate layout - and I said I know, you're right, I'm sorry - and I went back to my desk and burst into tears and everyone wanted to know what horrible thing Don had done.

Linda recalled when she first arrived, and remembered a couple editors in the process that I never knew:

I started as the proofreader under Stan Wyman - cigar-smoking', whiskey-drinkin', cursing SOB. Quite a shock to this church-raised 18-year-old. You learn a lot in a hurry.

Remember Denny [layout guy downstairs] in the backshop? I'd known him for years and came back one summer to work. Susan [news editor] had been hired in the meantime and she was terrified of him! I was back on the proof-reading desk by the hole in the floor in the old building. He was yelling up about something so I went over and yelled back, complete with the odd curse word. Turned around to see the entire news desk transfixed and silent.

"What," asked I?

"You just yelled at Denny?!" said Susan, utterly terrified.

"Of course I yelled at Denny; he was being an ass*(*(?"

It was priceless. The new building was never as fun - too modern and normal.

This caused our friend Fred to remember a Susan and Denny story:

I remember that Susan and Denny had a strange relationship. She wouldn't yell at him. She tried to drive me to drinking with her tirades, but she didn't yell at Denny. The hole in the floor should be written up in a movie script, along with the ropes to lower copy. The old building had a lot more character. I still think the "30" is spray-painted on the back door in the alley, unless someone took care of that.

All of which caused me me to remember my own Denny story -

I loved that old building too - and I yelled at Denny too, once - he wanted my story - my first story! on Neil Young playing the concert for the flood victims - I was adding to Jim's pre-concert story because I'd gone with Fred (to carry cameras, of course) and Don had me write up the first part, talking about the concert - Don hovered, telling me they needed the story downstairs - I said it wasn't ready - all of a sudden, it was gone from the screen - I marched downstairs and said what did he think he was doing!??? the story wasn't READY. Didn't he care about whether the story was ready for print???? Don about fainted. Denny looked at me and kind of laughed - since nobody talked to him like that. Other than Linda, it seems!!

But then Fred ended up with the best set of memories, as he recalled the camaraderie:

I actually met Kerry [another editor] while I was processing film in the old darkroom and we had a power outage. We shook hands over the UPI Photo machine. I could be in a bad mood and Linda or Beth would come through the door with a big smile. One time Linda was ready to kill Don. I just remember how hard we all worked and the team feeling we got from going out on assignments together. I would go home and cry after covering a bad accident unless Jim [the AP reporter] would call about meeting up at the Albany [a bar]. The darkrooms at the old building were magical because Brammer's spirit still lived there... [M]any people ended up in my darkroom in tears and it was like a time-out room for the editors. I even remember Kurt Moeller talking to me about SafeCard and his award-winning investigation in the new darkroom. We all had some good times on the roof of the new Treagle Building. I wonder if Bob M. [the publisher] ever realized that some of us snuck wine up there, on his California deck? ...  [All the editors] used to let me use my stereo boombox in the darkrooms, so it was a different world. There was nothing like it. People used to come in and out, especially after the first run was on the press. I don't think I will ever have another job like the newspaper years. I used to have some excellent discussions in the darkrooms... I miss processing film by hand, but I don't miss the chemicals....

Gosh it was great.  Or maybe that is just the way we remember it.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Walking Alex

My poor cat Alex.  We are staying in a place with a lot of traffic right now, so I am not able to let him wander outside.  But he has spent a lifetime - 11 years - wandering outside, making friends with the neighbors, keeping our postman company on his route....

He lets me know that it does not make him happy to stay inside all day long.  He has one of those Burmese/Siamese cat meows that is very expressive, and loud, and - well - annoying.  He uses that voice to indicate consistent unhappiness with his lack of access to the outside world.

I do have a halter and a leash.  I do have them.  I put the halter on him.  He thought I was weird.  I went to the door and gently tugged on the leash.  He thought I was extremely weird.  I picked him up and put him outside.  He laid down next to me.  This is about as far as I walked him on the first day.

Then we did this another day, with my five-year-old nephew helping.  He creeped along a bit (the cat, not the nephew).

We ran into a neighbor who was walking his big dog Fancy.  Fancy loves cats.  Alex decided to bounce at Fancy and hiss at her - on his leash - to let her know that this was his territory.  Fancy cocked her head at Alex, appearing to wonder at his territorial dance.  I was thrilled to see him ignore the leash long enough to give Fancy a warning - "Fierce Kitty Stays Here."

So the other day, after a litany of meows explaining how unfair I was to keep him inside, I put the halter on him again and took him for a walk.

It worked.

Can you see the little dog going ballistic in the window?

The only time Alex laid down was when I tried to head back to the house.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Soccer Joy

Twice this week, I have picked up my 5-year-old nephew from soccer camp.  The first time, it was his second day of camp and he was flushed with excitement.  We talked moves and such.  Unlike Minecraft, soccer is something that I know how to do. 

Today was the last day - a short camp.  I came to retrieve him just as the coaches sent the kids out on one last endeavor: the water fight.  On the whistle's blow, the kids ran around the field with water bottles and water guns and plastic orange cones filled with water, spraying and splashing each other.  They cooled down quickly in the warmish sun, staying in the moment of the fun.  Some coaches got Gatoraded (you know, doused with a barrel-full of water).  That made me laugh out loud.

For all of everything that swirls around right now, there was comfort in pausing for a minute to enjoy their enjoyment.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Annie Passed Away

My cat Annie passed away a week ago today, in the very early morning.

I've written about her before - my angel kitty, 17 years old.

I've put off writing this entry, thinking I could write it more easily if I waited.

This appears to be a futile strategy.

She had kidney disease.  The vet said she was defying her numbers as the kidneys said there was almost nothing left of them, and yet she still acted like a cat who was feeling pretty good.

And then there was nothing left.

Her kidneys could not keep up with the lightness of her spirit.

It all happened fast, and I thought there was still a chance.  Her rapid decline started with what seemed to have been a stroke, which is why I still held out hope - a different symptom, maybe, but not the end.  After the stroke, she was unsteady but still walking in a waddling sort of way.  But she always had walked like that, with a swing of the hips - this was just more pronounced.  I also felt pretty clear that she wanted me to give her the chance to rebound.  She was drinking, trying to eat.  At one point, she took her little paw and curled it around my finger - like she was holding on, to get better.  And when I took her to the vet, and told him I was trying to let her come back from this episode, she waddled over to her pet carrier and got into the bag.  "What she said," she seemed to say.

Then I thought, I am making this up.  Really, I'm just holding on because I can't stand for her to be gone, and I'm looking for signs to convince me to hold on.  But I have always promised her that I would let her go when it was her time.  It had been 15 years, that she was in my life.  She was 17 1/2 now.  Maybe it really was time.  I didn't want to break my promise.

So on the Friday night before she died, I asked for a dream.  I had a dream about my mom's husband Jim, who passed away a few years ago.  He came for Annie.  She wouldn't go with him.  It comforted me.  Whatever was going on, Annie wanted to do it on her terms.  And I wanted to let her do that.

When the vet called that morning, she was still drinking water - or trying, with limited success on her own (and then I helped her, and then she could).  They said to see how the weekend goes.

Saturday night, as it just did not look good, I held her.  I didn't want to hurt her, but I didn't want to miss the chance to hold her one last time.  She seemed so glad that I did. She put her little paw on my cheek, like she always did.  She patted my heart.  I had my other cat Alex curl up beside me.  She was so weak, but she shifted her weight across me so that she was close to him, and she put her little paw on his back.  He let her, and stayed right there.

I put her in her pet carrier - a place she always found comforting - and slept next to her as she slept, petting her often.  About 12:45 a.m., something went up her - her soul? - I saw it - and then she meowed, once, almost as if in surprise, and was gone.

I'm sobbing as I write this.  I'm still so sad that she's gone.  She was the anchor of our little family.  Cat Alex has been really mopey, lying in all of her favorite places.  I am trying to keep him comforted

But I feel like we did good, Annie and I.  As dying goes. She had discomfort but no real pain, I think. Conventional wisdom would have said that I should have had the vet put her to sleep.  But she didn't seem to want that - whenever I checked in. And I was not about to let the vet take her life from her, or that way, if that was not what she wanted. "We will do it our way," Annie and I said.  And Frank Sinatra nodded from afar and said, "Let them."

Saturday, July 6, 2013


"She was a good girl" - is what we all have said.

My friends' strong and good greyhound Ivy passed away recently.  She was on a walk - her favorite thing - on a beautiful day - her favorite kind of day.  It wasn't that she had been sick.  Instead, she unexpectedly had a massive heart attack.

Our hearts have been broken at the loss. 

My friends adopt greyhounds from the race track.  They have had different dogs during the time that I've known them, these past 15 or so years - usually two at a time.  They have ensured that their dogs have nice days in their latter years, have welcomed them into their lives. Often they have overlapped dogs - when one has passed away, they have adopted a second one so as to keep their now-solitary dog good company while they are at work.

Ivy was different. She came as one of a pair - with Scruff as her best friend.  It was a perfect match.  Scruff was slightly aloof though always gentle - a beautiful boy, and very protective of his friend Ivy.  (He has been a little sweet on me too at times, and acts as though a celebrity has arrived whenever I come to visit.)  Ivy had a powerful chest and strong smile - willing to bond and bother, always a little underfoot, but in an endearing way - especially at dinner time.  She had a joie de vivre that we all should have as we live these days that we call our lives.

Over the past year or so, Scruff had started to slow down a little - still interested in going for a walk, but not so much a long one.  Ivy continued with her unbridled enthusiasm.  I really had come to expect that my friends would lose Scruff in the next year or so - but I had no such thoughts about Ivy.  This is why it came as such a shock to us all, when she passed away.

Ivy had a song within her - a song that she could share at random, or upon request.  Sometimes she would start barking for what she wanted - which garnered no desired response - and then she would (as if on cue) switch the bark to a song-like baying - "rooing," as I've heard it call - and then the humans would laugh and be charmed, and then she (usually) would be given whatever item she desired.  She knew what worked, that's for sure.  And we knew that she shared without hesitation.

So good for Ivy - if she had to pass away - that she left us while doing exactly what she loved - taking a walk with Scruff and her human being, all on a lovely summer morning.

I will miss her.  And I will miss her song.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Turkey Feathers

Last year outside my office, we had Tom Turkey who fanned out his tail to impress the handful of ladies he'd brought with him.  Then we had turkey babies.  It was a summer of adventure just outside my office door.

This year - sigh, alas - it appears that we do not have the fanfare (so to speak) that we had last year.

There are a couple male turkeys around, but I think they are part of the brood from last year. My guess is that they are a lot of gobble and no action.  Already we are into June and I have seen no displays of grandeur by anyone looking to create a brood of babies this time around.

This does not mean there is lack of activity though.  I must avoid turkey poop when leaving the office.  That's something, I suppose.  A friend asked me to take video of whatever turkey action I saw, so it's his fault that I look like a stalker:

And then there are the turkey feathers.

On three separate occasions now, a turkey feather has been left on the grassy hill just up from my office, in just about the same spot each time.  On each occasion, I collected the feather:

I posted this on Facebook.  Someone said, "It's code for something."  I think she's right.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Revisiting Memory Lane

Here is a post I wrote a couple years ago, about visiting old stomping grounds...

When I was in San Diego a couple weeks ago, and was going to travel to see a relative for the day, the Mapquest program decided to take me through Poway, where I grew up. It probably wasn't the most efficient route from here to there, but I decided it was destiny that I re-visit old stomping grounds and so decided not to re-route the path.

As I drove into the town from the highway, nothing looked familiar. All had grown up too much for me to recognize anything. When I had lived here, this little town was unincorporated. But it's California and it's near San Diego, and so there was no option but growth, I guess. So I figured it was fine to drive through town, but not much of an event.

Then boom - it was like 40 years had melted away. Suddenly I was driving by the old school district buildings - and my old middle school - surrounded by growth, but with no doubt of where I was, where this road was taking me.... Then I drove up Espola Road (wow, just the same, just the same) and then, at Poway Road, I turned left rather than right (so I wouldn't end up driving by the old church after all...).

A few hours later, when I was driving back to my father's house, I couldn't resist. Rather than turn left on to Twin Peaks from Espola Road, I kept driving, headed for our old house. Suddenly all seemed so much the same from when I grew up. I remembered that there was a covenant in the area, where people had agreed not to break up their property into separate lots until at least the year 2000 (I think that was the agreement). That covenant had left the property established into single family homes with huge yards, all chaparral. (Remember chaparral from science class? A type of habitat? There's tundra, and forest, and desert, and chaparral....)

So then I got to our old house, where I lived from the ages of 6 to 12. It looked the same, except it was painted a different color. When I lived there, it was white. I called it the White House. I didn't know at the time that there was another White House 3,000 miles away. (When I found out I thought, oh, the president lives in a white house too?)

And as I peered into the house's back yard - not trespassing, mind you - I saw the rocks still on the hill in back, and thought of all the pretend games we played there - robbers, and Indians, and everything under the sun. Once we were playing a sort of capture-the-flag kind of game, and my sister was hiding out in one of the caves back there, and she said, um, I think I should get out of the cave, and her leader (or was it her captor?) said to stay put, and she said, well, I would, except for the snake in here... And as I remember it now, the snake cooperatively rattled its tail and everyone skedaddled to safety. Of course, that's how I remember it now. It could have been just a regular snake and not a rattler at all. But where is the story in that? Besides, we saw plenty of rattlers back then, in all that chapparal. And fires. Fires, too. Once on Halloween, the fire was coming so furiously that the orange in the sky almost matched the orange-paper pumpkins taped on the windows at school. We didn't always evacuate when there was a fire, but that time we did. You don't stick around when the sky is that orange.

So I saw the rocks and thought of those stories, and took a photo of the memory. Who knows if the rocks will still be there tomorrow, much less 40 years from now? Our old house (no longer white) is to the left, and the rocks are hardly visible - though there are some, right in the middle, and if you knew the site, you'd be able to picture the rest of the terrain. (If you click on the photo, you can see it better.)

And then I kept driving down the street, just looking at the old neighborhood, seeing that the covenant had done its job and people had kept their houses intact as I had known them (with changes, of course, but basically the same).

And then I came upon the corner that had been my old bus stop, for my bus for elementary school. There it was - exactly as it had looked 40 years ago. How is that possible? In California of all places, how is that even possible? But it is. Because there it was, with the rock and the tree and all of it, just as it had been back then.

So then I figured, what the hey, and I went by an old friend's house, and a young woman was in the driveway on a cell phone, and I asked if the family from before still lived there, and she paused long enough to shake her head and laugh and say no and then went back to her phone call, and I felt a little foolish but hey - it didn't hurt to ask. Just in case.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Three Haiku - No, Four!

Did you know that the plural for haiku is "haiku"?

I just did a dance with a spider that attempted to wriggle out of the paper towel I was using to get him from the inside to the outside of my house.  (Of course it was a him!)  My dance started to sound a little like a haiku - you know, three lines with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second, and 5 syllables in the third... So I wrote one.  Then that haiku felt lonely, so I wrote another one.  And a third.

Wait - is that a fourth?

A lonely haiku
Had me write another one
And then another.

Here are the first three:

spiders are scary!
when they try to escape from
a Bounty-full jail

buckets of rain pour
from sky to rusty buckets
so rainbows emerge

just as night begins
a star shimmers to the west
adventure awaits

Random Reactions

On Facebook, I am seeing friends and relatives post how they would have wanted a gun in their home had they lived in Boston this past week - or how people in Boston would have wanted that, I should say.  They must be watching Fox News.  I turned on Fox News for a minute - one minute - this past week, and that was what the announcer said.

I have hidden the Facebook posts.

It is one thing for Fox News to be opportunistic on behalf of the NRA in this time of crisis for our country.  It is another to watch friends and relatives buy into the story and assist in politicizing this moment via a nonsequitur cry to arms, for guns in the home (something that is not even in the pool of debate on Capitol Hill).

It was a week of tears for me - often tears of gratitude, that I am a citizen of this great country where the good hearts of people can overcome the attempt of terror by a few. I'm a little dehydrated, especially after watching some of the pre-game ceremonies for the home game of the Boston Red Sox yesterday.  Beautiful.  Am so glad the Sox won, 4-3.  I am so proud of our law enforcement, and of our Boston brethren, stepping up when needed.  Boston Strong.

I saw this article today, about how the NRA's successful lobbying against "taggants" in gunpowder likely slowed down law enforcement this week in Boston.  I post it here (not Facebook, since I try to keep my Facebook postings far away from politics):

Politics aside, it is a really interesting article.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hearts Broken, Spirit Intact

With everything else that happened this week...

I was watching news so I happened to watch the entire press conference of President Obama expressing disappointment at the 54-46 "vote for" proceeding on a new background checks law that lost because of Senate filibuster rules.  I am dejected, that our country has come to this.

Expansion of our background check law - to include those background checks at gun sale shows and for Internet sales - this is too controversial?  Really?

Starting the press conference, and introducing the president, was Mark Barden.  He is the father of one of the children killed in Newtown.  He had worked to help get this law passed.

When he talked, my heart broke.  I felt so bad that our Senate had let him down.  Perhaps this is why one sentence he said stood out for me more than any other.  He said, "Our hearts are broken.  Our spirit is not."

Powerful to me in those sentences is that he switched from the plural ("hearts are...") to the singular ("spirit is...") and yet, in both, used "our."  I don't know if he misspoke, or he intended it.  But these two sentences, structured this way, switch so that individuals feeling the same thing transform into individuals uniting as one voice.  I believed him, when he spoke.  Some day - this too shall pass - and I mean that in every sense of the expression.

Here is an article on what he said:

Also powerful to me was the president's sigh as he took the podium.  People are saying the president spoke more forcefully yesterday than they have ever seen him.  When he took the podium, and gave that sigh, he expressed how I felt.  When he started speaking, he put into words the words I would have said, had I had the heart to say words.  In his demeanor, he spoke for all of us whose hearts were broken.  As he spoke, I realized that our spirit can remain intact, just as Mark Barden had said.

I thank them all for their hard work - especially the work of yesterday, of standing at a podium and speaking in the face of despair (as they faced the truth that, on this day, the simplest of amendments could not be passed). They spoke with a determination that salved, for a moment, my broken heart.

Monday, April 15, 2013

"Mary and Martha" and Malaria

This is something I did not know - that there are nearly a million children dying of the preventable and curable malaria every year in Kenya, and that it is inexpensive to take the steps to prevent it (a mosquito net costs about $7.50, the rapid testing kit costs about 60 cents, the emergency drugs cost under $2).

This article - by Richard Curtis, the screenwriter of the film "Mary and Martha," on HBO this week - is a short, compelling description of the problem he saw, the confusion he had that there was no media attention on the problem, and the journey he took to become part of the solution.

Compelling in the article is Mr. Curtis' description of a speech given at the end of the film by the character Mary's father:

Did you know that if you take every single person killed in a terrorist act around the world in the last 20 years -- and add to that every life that's been lost in the Middle East since the Six Day War in '67 -- and add to that every single American life we lost in Vietnam and Korea -- and every single other military conflict America's been involved in since then, Iraq, Afghanistan... If you take all those lives -- that we'd all have given so much to save -- you've still got to multiply them by two to get to the number of kids who die of malaria every single year.

A dear friend of mine who passed away in 1994 (torn from us too soon, only 36) was a champion of Kenya, loving the country and the people, inspiring others to help the country through annual donation drives of eye glasses and the like. So the headline of this story caught my attention. I could not be Claudia's friend and fail to read the article. Now it does appear that I will be watching the film. I hope you do so as well.

"Mary and Martha," written by Richard Curtis, is directed by Phillip Noyce ("Salt" and "Rabbit Proof Fence," among many others) and stars Hilary Swank and Brenda Blethyn.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Beethoven Outbreak

Just saw this clip from October of last year - have watched it twice - cried, both times - am unsure why - it is alchemy, by the way - Beethoven's Ninth?  It is alchemy.  Ask me sometime, what I mean by that.  But it is.

Beethoven was deaf when he wrote the Ninth.  As the story goes:

"Although he attended the premiere of his 9th Symphony - on May 7, 1824 - Beethoven heard not a note.  Sitting on a stage for the first time in twelve years - with his back to the audience - his gaze was on the orchestra, choir and soloists.

"History tells us that Beethoven, who was beating time to the conductor’s movements, did not know how the people responded to his Ninth Symphony.  Taking his arm, the alto soloist (Caroline Unger) turned him round to face the crowd.

"Although he could not hear their roaring approval, Beethoven saw their clapping hands and smiling faces.  Bowing deeply to the premiere's concert-goers, he began to cry."

Friday, April 12, 2013

A New Spring

Years ago, I found the story of the 1946 Spokane Indians - the team that died in a bus crash midway through that season.  It was the first season after World War II.  Eight of the nine who died had served in the War in some capacity.  I had learned of them in the summer of 2003 and done some research on them for another potential project that never manifested.  So there I was, knowing about this great group of men who had sought one destiny and ended up with another, with no place to share it.

So I decided I had to write about them.  I thought maybe I could write a short story.  A novel appeared instead - ultimately titled "Until the End of the Ninth." (Coming up with the title is another story altogether.)

But between the urge to write and a finished novel, there comes a first word.  For as much as I loved these men and wanted to tell something of their story, I sat without words, in frozen state, with the enormity of the thought of where to begin.

I had a table full of news articles, printed from the microfiche at the local library, all from the spring and summer of 1946.  I randomly pulled out an article.  I would start my writing from there.

It was not a particularly auspicious beginning, is what I thought when I saw the article's heading.  It was from midway through the season - sort of a muddy place.  It was nice that it was an article about a game the team had won - at least I would be writing about a win.  Its headline, from May 16, 1946: "INDIANS STOP NEAR SHUTOUT: Tia Victoria In Ninth; Win In Twelfth."  They did have a way of winning in the ninth (is what I thought when I saw the headline - this was something I already had learned).  So it was a good article to have randomly selected in that way too.

That headline begins Part 2 of the novel.  They were the first words I typed.  From there, I wrote what came to me:

To the Victor goes the Victoria.  Or so it seemed on May 15, 1946, the day the game was played.  Nine was the lucky number - "in the Ninth," the key phrase.  Winning was the ultimate result.  In extra innings, no less.  It was in the ninth that they tied Victoria.  It took more than nine to produce the win.  They needed three more innings that day to get the win. They needed 12 to win.

If they hadn't put it together in the ninth, they would have been shut out.  Silenced for the day.  All that effort, all that batting, all that work, all for naught.

The Indians were lucky to beat Victoria that night.  It took a lot, to beat Victoria like that.  More than perseverance, more than hope - faith too, and maybe a commitment to the mundane.  Always a commitment to the mundane.  Playing day in, day out, game after game, pitch after pitch - and then, in a moment's silence, when all seems statically standstill, someone does something to change the flow, or create it. ...

So what is the consequence when you tie victory in the ninth, and then have the audacity to surge on beyond it, going all the way to the twelfth to beat victory itself?  Is it transcendence?  Or is it a foolhardy version of Russian roulette? ...

It goes on from there, including how they got close quickly that year - perhaps because they were back from the War and were playing for the love of the game - appreciating life itself - "Maybe the war had taught them how to appreciate things like playing in the moment, breathing in the grass, standing in the sun..."

It's baseball season now - a new spring.  Here's to hoping that the people playing ball right now are loving the moments of the game - and are doing something (in a moment's silence, when all seems statically standstill) to change the flow, or create it.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Cycles - With Update

I'm worried about Annie.

Annie is my angel cat. Alex is the incorrigible one, but Annie is the one who has the light spirit of an angel.  She is the one who knows when something is wrong, knows when someone is in need of care.

And now she is the one in need of what she provides to others.

She's about 17 years old now.  I got her in August of 1998.  The vet estimated her age at 2 1/2 then.  So she is about 17 now.  Apparently that is about 85 years old in human years.

She's got arthritis now.  There's a cupboard of clothes where she likes to sleep but it is up high, so I have put a chair and phone books underneath the cupboard so she can step her way up and down from this favorite napping place.

She stays inside now.  She used to love to go outside and she does so every so often now, when the weather is warm.  But I don't think her eyesight is as good as it used to be, so I am content with keeping her inside where she won't get lost.

She's eating mostly wet food now.  I did find some kitten dry food on Saturday that she seems to like, but she is short on saliva these days so the wet food is just easier to eat, I think.

Her fur is not pristine clean anymore.  She was always such a fussbudget about that fur.  But it's hard for her to keep it clean these days.  I have given her baths which she tolerates, and then sort of preens around when she is dry again, as though she realizes she looks so pretty.  I've organized her first-ever professional bath for 1:30 today.

She's still alert, and active.  She still knows when I need her company.  She still is happy when I come home from a long day of work.  She still purrs.  She has the greatest purr. 

She played like a kitten just now - looking adorable, as always, when she plays like that, rolling a little on her side and looking at me to see if I'm noticing how cute she is being.

I've written at least four books (two published, two not) and several screenplays on my computer.  From the beginning, she has sat on the table where I worked, curled up next to the computer as I wrote, holding the space still so that I could focus.  When I have written on the couch instead (like I did for my most recent script), she has sat next to my head on the back of the couch while I typed.

I'm not sure how I will write when she is gone.  I'm not sure how to imagine any part of my world with her not in it.  But it's got to happen, right?  She's 17.  She can't live forever, can she. 

I'm  taking her to the vet this week.  Keep your fingers crossed for my good friend Annie.

UPDATE: Well, it is as I had feared. Annie has kidney disease.  Her numbers are not the worst in the world, but they are not the best either. She now has a whole new diet, new medications... I will get trained tomorrow on giving her injections of subcutaneous fluid, which I will give her two or three times a week.  She seems pretty healthy under the circumstances, and the vet hopes the treatments will stabilize her, but people keep expressing their condolences because I guess the outlook can be grim.   Actually, she seems in pretty good spirits. It is hard to believe she is sick.  And she looks so pretty!  Here she is, right after her bath:

I love this girl. We will see how things go. Condolences aside, I'm feeling cautiously optimistic.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Basketball Now

Okay, so I was disappointed about last week. All went very quiet around here last weekend when teams lost.

But basketball looks interesting today (now that I'm out of my black attire).

I may just watch it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


With all that is going on, and all I have to do.... I keep thinking about basketball instead.

Enough!  Egads.  Don't I have better things to do?


It does not help that Gonzaga's women play on Saturday right here in Spokane.  I've been to some tournament games here, when the women play.  Very exciting!

But today is about Salt Lake City.... and 1 p.m.

Enough, I said!

And now back to my regularly scheduled program, entitled "Thursday's Workday."

Monday, March 18, 2013

Just A Note

Here I am, at the end of a visit to Chicago, for my mother's birthday celebration with family.  I saw siblings and extended family.  We like an excuse for a party.  I have been able to see my nephews, ages 5 and 2.  They're so great.  They're such good boys, with big smiles and hugs.  We continued the family tradition where one (or both) of them is sick when I arrive, and then I get sick as a result.  Ta da! (As the youngest would say, arms raised over his head in celebration of the milestone.)  Just like with my Dad's big birthday bash in San Diego a little over a year ago ... I was sick, courtesy of toddler germs. Ah, well.  The only option was to have no hugs.  And that was not an option.

My mom has reunited with cousins and so we had the chance to meet new people too, in the midst of it all.  It is amazing how connections do not cease even when time has passed.  The cousins laughed looking over old photos, and the "baby" cousin said to my mom, "No wonder I thought you were so tall" (as we looked at a photo of him as a kid, about waist high to my mother, in her teens).  I had a chance to see my uncle from North Carolina and his family as well, including a cousin of my own.  It has been since 2008 that I'd had a chance to see them all, so this was good to see them now.

As always, I take home with me such good stories of sweet nephews...

Each morning the older one would make his way to my room in the early a.m., to see if I was awake yet.  This woke me up.  He was a master at convincing me that I wanted to get up with him while the rest of the house slept.  This too is a family tradition of sorts over the last few years (once he had a big-boy bed and was able to get up on his own).  I love this ten-to-twenty-minute detour - just the two of us - before the day begins.  I asked him this morning if he had had any dreams in the night.  He said he didn't remember them.  Then he said something about science.  I asked him what he meant.  He said something about science, and kids dreaming - it was something he had read, or seen on TV.  I was still confused.  He couldn't remember the details.  I like talking to him about his dreams.  Sometimes the best information comes from dreams...

And the little one is just charming these days.  He has a grand smile and a big hand clap.  He gets more and more words as the days go by.  He loves to emphasize in the affirmative. "Yesh," he will say when he agrees with you about something, or when you've accurately guessed the word he is trying to say, or the thing he wants you to get for him.  And he holds no fear, that one.  The boys were having a balloon fight - he didn't flinch.  The cousins had just arrived, and he drove his new dinosaur toy across the lap of one of them (presumably so she would know that she was welcomed in his home). 

Last night, the boys played hide-and-seek with an uncle (technically a close friend of the family, but a diehard uncle all the same).  He raced and hid, and they did the same.  They squealed and laughed as he played the game with them.  The little one spent almost no time hiding - he prefers the hunt.  It was nice to see the uninhibited joy on their faces - especially now that I no longer have the flu.

Oh, and Gonzaga got a number one ranking for March Madness. Did you see?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Just A Thought

When people speak of the "liberal wing" of the Supreme Court, they have no idea how flipped over that sounds.  Breyer is a liberal? My, how the center has moved far right...

photo by elycefeliz found here 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

As Seen On The Internet

I saw a comment at the end of a difficult news story (about a supposed do gooder in Spokane who is now charged with illegally bilking people out of money).  Emotions run high, I have no doubt.  This particular commenter was outraged at the behavior of the individual who was the subject of the story.  The commenter said a few things to ensure that his opinion was known.  He then concluded with the following advice:

"fine god, repent, and free your sole"

If only we all could do so well.

Monday, February 18, 2013


I saw a five-year-old cowboy the other day.  He had on a fringe vest, a holster, boots and all. He sauntered when he walked. It was in a parking lot - not out on the range - so there was no horse.  I smiled when I saw him. He started to smile back, but then got stoic instead. I nodded at him, in a "I see you are a cowboy" sort of way. I think he wanted to tip his hat.

A friend of mine is an actual cowboy - a rancher actually, on the Great Plains in southeast Wyoming. He is strong and good, does not approve of my politics and loves me anyway.  Once he let me ride the range with him. I helped round up a couple stray cattle who had broken through the barbed wire fence.  He had me chase after one of the strays by galloping my horse up a hill where the stray had gone. He told me to race by the stray and cut him off. It caused the steer to startle and head back down the hill, towards the other cattle, my friend and his horse. It would have been easier for my friend to have taken care of that task himself. He graciously stepped to the side instead, to give me a chance to have the experience.

I have achieved many different feats in life, but this moment stands out as one of the most exciting - when I headed off a steer at the pass.  It was the Cowboy in my friend that allowed me my memory.

There is something about the spirit of the Cowboy that causes me to have some faith that humanity can ultimately find its way. Cowboys are the mavericks, who live a zen kind of day, responding to the travails of the moment - its weather, its meals... The closest modern day equivalent for cowboys are Navy SEALs. But Navy SEALs are hand chosen based on quality of character and physique. Cowboys are self-selected - decide for themselves to join the forces that ride the range. And still they are more likely than not to help a stranger in need.  Perhaps there is something in the title that draws to it the kind of individual who will help out another if the need arises.  Perhaps it is the lack of humanity surrounding them on a day-to-day basis (out there on the range) that creates this tendency towards good deeds when they do happen upon another human being in need.  The Lone Ranger is their superhero...

I went to Montana this weekend, to the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. On my way, I crossed Lookout Pass - the mountain pass that must be crossed to go from Idaho to Montana on I-90.  As I crossed into Montana, I recalled crossing this pass years ago, coming the other way. I was coming home from a trip to Arizona that included spring training book signings for my baseball novel, as well as a book signing at the Phoenix Airport.  (Book signings at airports carry their own mysteries.)

As I got to Lookout Pass back then - crossing from Montana into Idaho that time, knowing I was just a couple hours' drive from home - a spring storm hit.  Truckers were pulling off the road to wait out the storm.  I'm sure they were radioing each other up and down I-90, warning each other not to risk the journey. I had no such wisdom. All I knew was that I wanted to get home. I kept driving.

I became the only vehicle on the road. The snow was blinding. I was terrified. I slowed to a crawl.

Suddenly a truck came up quickly behind me. The trucker pulled into the left lane and passed me at a dangerous speed. As soon as he had passed, he pulled back into the right lane, right in front of me, and put on his brakes - slowed to about the speed that I was going. He terrified me about as much as the weather did. I was pretty mad at him for what seemed to be his recklessness.

Then I realized - he was doing this for me. He was using his truck as a shield for me so that the snow wouldn't blind me, the wind wouldn't try to throw me from the road.  I stayed behind him, protected, as we made our way down the mountain. He was in a sturdy truck and didn't have to go so slow - but I did, and he was staying with me until we got out of the storm.  I realized the truckers must have radioed each other, saying there was a crazy lady in a little Subaru who was trying to make it through the Pass, through this storm - they must have worried I would die trying (a reasonable concern) - and this guy stepped up, radioed them all back, said he'd take care of it - he'd help me through the Pass.

As we got to the base of the mountain, and the storm had mostly cleared, he took off. I watched him disappear in the clearing fog and realized I would never be able to thank him, or tell him that I figured out what he had done.  He likely would have enjoyed knowing it, but it wasn't needed.  He had done what he had done because it was what he did.  There was no horse, and I presume he did not wear a fringed vest. But he was a cowboy all the same. I wonder if he tipped his hat in the rear view mirror at me as he disappeared from view.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Coal Mine Canaries

I think of all the people who tried to get the Church to stop - to own up to its failures, its protection of pedophiles over children, over the decades.... I think of all the damage done, to children and to faith...

The Los Angeles Archdiocese yesterday released about 12,000 pages of internal memoranda, psychological reports, Vatican correspondence etc related to pedophile priests (looks to be 124 priests).  (News reports state 30,000 pages but apparently it is 12,000 pages.)  At the same time, the current Cardinal removed from administrative or public duties the now-retired Cardinal Mahoney - head of the L.A. Archdiocese until 2011.  Mahoney will remain a priest in good standing. The current Cardinal - Jose Gomez - wrote in his statement regarding Mahoney and the files: "I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed. We need to acknowledge that terrible failure today." 

The quote can be found in this article, which also outlines the history of these files getting released:

The files can be found here:

I will try to update with articles that analyze the contents of these 12,000 pieces of paper. It's just paper, right?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Effort

Out my window just now, I saw the neighbor from a block away, making her way up the block on the other side of my street. She is walking through all the snow and ice - treacherous right now, as it thaws in the day and freezes over at night. She does this walk every day, every day - even a day like today, where the walk way is icy.  I would not attempt it.  And certainly I would not try it if I had to use a walker.

I think she's had a stroke but it isn't my business, so I don't ask. I do wave to her whenever she goes by and  I am outside too. She waves back. Even though it takes her effort (as she must shift her weight to move her hand to take it from the walker to the air) - she waves back.

I had never seen her before a few months ago, when I started seeing her walk like this. I don't know if we've always been neighbors and she just never walked before (so I never saw her), or whether her stroke (or whatever it was) caused her to have to move from where she was living before. Maybe she lived somewhere with stairs, and she now needs a single level home. Maybe she had to move because she couldn't afford where she was anymore, due to her health. I don't know. I don't ask.

I told her once that she inspires me. She smiled, and said thanks, even as she was a bit out of breath. It is a slight incline to my house from hers. And she does live a whole block away. She didn't ask me what it was about her that was inspiring. It's pretty clear, after all. She has a walker and she's in the snow. And maybe she inspires herself. She should be proud, for all she's done - how she never gives up, no matter what.

Whatever it is that she has been through, there is one thing I've noticed: she seems to get stronger every day. Every day she walks and, as days go by, it seems as if she is moving just a little bit better - a little bit faster - a little bit more steadily.

There are times when I lament something in my life (this or that) that I stop myself and think: if she can make the effort, than certainly so can I. And so I do. She inspires.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Gift

I awoke to the sound of a cat hacking something up. It was Alex, not Annie (as I knew where Annie was - next to me, blinking awake like me, awoken - like me - by the hacking noise).  It is usually Annie, not Alex, who leaves behind these kinds of - gifts. This time though, it was Alex.

At some point thereafter, I got up and wandered the house, peering into corners and crevices, looking for the what-came-out outcome of the hacking. I even turned on lights, looking for the leftovers, but to no avail. I sighed. I knew this meant that I would locate it later instead, via the "bare feet" method. It would happen at some point - maybe today, maybe tomorrow. All I knew for certain was that it would come as a surprise when I ultimately "found" it.

But then I noticed Alex crouched in the middle of the multi-colored rug in an oh-so-odd manner. It appeared that he was eating something. Why yes he was - yes, he was. He was eating the half-eaten cat food that he had hacked up earlier. I got a paper towel, shooed him away, and cleaned up what was left.

Lucky, lucky me.