Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas sky in Seattle

Look at the stars out in Seattle!
OK, I'm just kidding. But isn't this a lovely picture? Give me a string of blue lights hovering between trees on the grounds of the Seattle Center, a clear night (well, it was raining a little bit), and the Space Needle decked out in its Christmas finery, and you have a great picture, huh? Even with a crummy little cell phone.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bad but beautiful

I was so taken with the red blossoming trees prevalent during the day-long road trip to Hana that  I sought information about them as soon as I had access to a computer. They are African Tulip trees, also known as Flame trees ,and . . . invasive! Seems that they have greedily usurped much habitat all over the Hawaiian islands.

Many years ago a friend from Milwaukee visited us in the fall. Seattle is an area in which the Himalayan blackberry has crowded out much vegetation and is the bane of existence for property owners and land managers, as it is nearly impossible to eradicate. As my friend and I were driving back from an excursion, she noticed people stopped on the side of the road picking the berries (and they can be absolutely yummy). "Oh, wow! Wild blackberries! Can we stop to pick some?"

My response was negative. "Absolutely not! Picking them only encourages their growth," I answered.

Now I am remembering that response guiltily. Can beauty (or flavor) sometimes help us overlook and excuse the undesirable attributes of flora?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Over the rainbow

We are just back from a weeklong trip to Maui, Hubby's and my first-ever visit to that island. Although many aspects of the trip bear writing about, I will start with the most incredulous moment--seeing for myself, without any introduction, what has to be one of the most beautiful trees in the world.

Meet the Rainbow Eucalyptus tree!

At first, I thought someone had intervened, painted it with acrylic paint or rubbed it with colored chalk on a whim! But no, the colors occur naturally. If you google the term, you'll see a number of photographs, but this one is mine!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Blown first impression

While waiting for my hairdresser last week (just a haircut, and she was running behind), I reached blindly into the magazine rack for diversion. Allure was the magazine I grabbed, geared to the professional, modern woman with (apparently)a high interest in style. Flipping through its glossy pages, this page with its photo caught my attention.

I looked down at my shoes. I looked at the picture again. I laughed out loud, then closed the magazine. Still giggling, I reopened the magazine and snapped this picture of that page with my cell phone, then snapped another one, this time of my footware, right there . . . at the salon. 
I couldn't help asking myself the question: What kind of first impression do I make?  I'm quite sure I know. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Oh, darn!

I put on some fairly new socks yesterday, only to look down and see my big toe sticking through one. After muttering under my breath about how "they don't make socks the way they used to," I decided to test myself on a skill mastered in my seventh grade Home Economics' class.

I dug around for black darning wool, but had to settle for dark-green cotton, instead. My other choices were beige, yellow, red, and light blue--all cotton, no wool. This is the same selection that was in Mother's darning basket--moved to my sewing box after her death forty-plus years ago, so it's probably lost a bit of resilience, but I wasn't about to go searching for fresh darning wool on Black Friday's Sunday! For those of you unfamiliar with darning threads, they are double stranded for ease in the weaving process.

Yes, the art of darning is really the art of weaving. Over . . . under . . . over . . . under. . . pushing the fat-eyed blunt-tipped needle in and out, smoothly around the hole, stretching across, so the sock wearer doesn't get a blister.  I probably didn't get an A+ on my darning samples in seventh grade, but I know I earned at least a B, if not a B+. Today I would have gotten a D+ at best.
My granddaughters wouldn't have the faintest idea of what a darning egg is, as darning is a forgotten art. For me, too, for that matter. I'm horrified at my technique, but at least my toe won't protrude.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My visit with Orphan Annie

Recently I visited Orphan Annie at her home in Kelowna. It was several days after Halloween, and the Orphan Annie get-up was devised for Trick-or-Treating, at the request of Mae, the little girl who usually lives in that home.
Orphan Annie was ready to entertain me and happily showed off her costume made by a creative mum who bought a white Polo shirt and a red dress from a thrift store, then sewed parts of one onto the other for the most economical Annie costume imaginable!
I marveled at the transformation of this adorable, brown-haired girl who wears glasses to the curly redhead pictured here. And when she belted out "Tomorrow"? Well, I'm still smiling.
But the best part was when she turned back into Mae--who luckily is not an orphan, but the beloved child of my son and daughter-in-law. Lucky all of us.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Shades of Gray

Once a month the Wall Street Journal puts out a glossy, full-color magazine called (unoriginally) VSJ Magazine. It’s included in the last Saturday of the month’s newspaper in subscriptions to the daily WSJ. Filled with high fashion photography and full page ads from companies, such as Tiffany & Co., Hermes, Saint Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana, it reflects a reality that is entirely off my radar. I generally pitch it into the recycle bin without looking at it.
Recently, though, I’ve discovered something fun I can do with it—sketch! As a dabbling artist, I have spent untold classroom dollars to utilize the models that art classes provide. Now I am taking advantage of  the abundance of full page photographs accompanying the ads and stories about today’s fashion trends (and trend setters). With more models than I can use, I can practice finding light and shadow on faces and bodies. Here are a few of my October drawings. All are done with a #2 pencil.  Soon I will pull out my pencil box in which I have pencils of varying hardness—so I can eventually depict many more shades of grey. Not fifty, mind you . . . but maybe twelve.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pitter Patter

Hubby in a borrowed  kayak
before the rains
Rain, at last! Not much yet today, but more will arrive by nightfall. Western Washington has endured a shockingly dry summer. Sure, I could have said “enjoyed” instead of “endured, but it’s so unusual, it feels weird. Our “endless” summer started  July 1 and ended today with the first autumn drizzle.

You can almost hear a sigh of content from the flora . . . as the cushion of moisture snuggles up against the evergreen needles and deciduous leaves to bring relief after the more than one hundred days without noticeable rainfall.

The river that runs by our home is lower than we remember seeing it, without its usual intake of runoff. There’s enough cracked mud along its shoulders for dogs to romp when their masters let them off the leash to chase thrown sticks, and the blue herons that regularly stand knee deep in the water as they wait for fish now stand in water only ankle deep. Although our lack of rain is not officially a “drought,” it has affected every living thing.

The weatherman tells us to brace ourselves for a deluge headed our way tonight. Although I hope he’s wrong about how much precipitation to expect, I know I will love the sound of rain on the roof when I awaken in the middle of the night. After all, I’m a native of western Washington.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Quote of the day

"I liked kindergarten better. First grade is just work, work, work."       Mae, age 6

Monday, September 17, 2012

Something we all need

This sign greeted us as we emerged from our TSA screening last week in Milwaukee's airport.

Why doesn't every airport have such an area? There were plenty of seating units and places to, uh, well . . . recombobulate after the carryon-luggage deconstruction.

Another delightful find in Milwaukee's airport is Renaissance Books, a used bookstore with a magnificent selection. This is not your ordinary paperback-exchange kind of bookstore, but a genuine collection of old, out-of-print hardbacks, as well as newer, literary paperbacks and an enormous amount of tantalizing non-fiction. The owner told Hubby he thinks his is the only such store anywhere in a U.S. airport, "since most used-books found in airports are in the 'swap kind' of store."  Check Renaissance out the next time you're in Beer-town, but don't let the unusual breadth and depth of its inventory cause you to miss your flight.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Half-Century Mark

The Space Needle is celebrating fifty years of existence. So is our marriage. In fact, Hubby and I spent one day of our honeymoon attending the Seattle’s World’s Fair back in September of 1962.  

Last week we celebrated our fiftieth anniversary at the site of another fair. This time we were at the County Fairgrounds in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin, where Wayne, second cousin to Hubby, had rented an exhibition hall for the “cousin meet-up.” In the company of about 160 relatives, of which fewer than twenty were known to us ahead of time, our golden wedding anniversary played second fiddle to the gathering of the descendants of John B. Hendricks of Luxemburg, Wisconsin.
It was an outstanding event—about six hours of eating and talking—beautifully organized by Wayne. Joan and Judy, siblings of Hubby and fellow attendees at the Hendricks' gathering, ordered a cake inscribed with “Happy Anniversary Jay and Sallie,” so in the midst of celebrating the legacy of John B. Hendricks, we were reminded that we’d been married a full fifty years—and fifty full years they’ve been. There were present, I might add, a good many cousins who'd clearly made it longer than fifty, but there were many who hadn't made that milestone, as well.
When Hubby and I got back to the hotel that night, we pored over the anniversary card, which had been passed around at the gathering and given to us at the end of the day. Many signors were unknown to us, but everyone wrote the traditional well wishes for many more anniversaries.  Except one person . . . and he sent us into a ten-minute bout of laughter with his inscription. Hubby’s nephew, Robbie, wrote, “Almost done!” We are still laughing at his take on the event with that original, universal truth.
The next day we left Kawaunee County to travel to the high-profile Wisconsin county of Door. It is at the northern end of a peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan, with Green Bay on one side, and Lake Michigan on the other—softened by lovely bays with lovely names, such as "Moonlight."  

Our four adult children planned a big surprise for us that first evening in Door County, ordering a big, black limousine to drive up to our modest inn in Ellison Bay and deliver us to a beautiful restaurant in Sister Bay for an extravagent dinner, all with their compliments. Limousines are rarely seen in Door County, so we were the object of much speculation by bystanders. I tried pretending we were distant relatives of the British monarchy, but figured it was more likely people thought we had just won the lottery and hadn't had time to improve our wardrobes. 

We had a heck-of-a nice anniversary celebration over those two days, which almost made us think we shouldn't have laughed so hard at "almost done." When the days are as pleasant as they were on our lovely, relaxing, and fun vacation, one can wish fervently that the adventure isn't "almost done."

Robbie's comment will stay with us—with an ensuing chuckle (we hope)—forever.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Digital Age

Flowers at Pike Place-K
Generally, when we talk about the digital age, we are referring to all those technical toys and tools that were unimagined in prior “ages.” From Internet to iPads, SmartPhones to  gigabytes and kitchen-based laptops, the digital age brings mind-boggling possibilities. For those of us whose ages are approaching fourscore, the fluid use of digital "gadgets" by youngsters is especially impressive.
 When I was ten, my Brownie camera was a challenge. 
The digital age might also allude to people born in the last decade-and-a-half. Take my granddaughters, Katie and Maddie, whose combined age is twenty, are definitely at the "digital age."
Katie, age 11, and Maddie, age 9
Their comfort-level and skill with their pocket-sized cameras astonished me--not to mention their "eye" for a good picture. As they enjoyed playing "tourist" while visiting Seattle recently, they snapped nearly two hundred pictures combined. You’ll have to agree—these girls, whose ages in years are in the low digits, exemplify the possibilities afforded by—and to—the digital age.
Pike Place Market-M
Chihuly Museum exhibit-K
Chihuly Museum & Space Needle-M
Space Needle-K
Chihuly Glass Museum-M


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

WC is not tweet for "will call"

Overheard by Hubby in a downtown restaurant’s men’s room:

British man: “I say, I don’t know why they call them restrooms. I don’t see anyone resting.”

British man’s friend: “Right-o. In Canada they call them washrooms. That’s a little closer to the truth.” 

Hubby: (to himself) “And water closet is more to the point?”

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Yes, but which one is best?

Good—better—best. Some of us may remember learning in grade school very specific rules about when to use ‘better,’ as opposed to ‘best.’ Same with elder or eldest, older or oldest, younger or youngest. For instance, because I have only one sibling, I am “the younger,” never “the youngest,” of my parents’ offspring.

When I began to think about silly expressions recently, I wondered about “put your best foot forward.” Granted, “put your better foot forward” doesn’t have much of a ring to it, but, still . . . it’s quite an odd saying. So are “piece of cake,” meaning easy, and “piece of work,” meaning crazy. There are hundreds of idiomatic expressions that mean something not obvious, but add in less-than-good grammar, and you have to pity the student of our language.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Divine Barry

One of my literary goals during my fifties was to read James Joyce’s Ulysses by the time I turned sixty. I needed to get up my nerve, however, to begin . . . and the older I got, the more worried I was that I couldn’t make my way through the masterpiece on my own. I wished that I’d studied it in college, but hadn’t been even slightly tempted at that age. The clock was ticking.

One day when I was fifty-nine, I was scanning a bulletin board at my local indie bookseller. There it was, calling to me—a little 3x5 card reading something like, “Want to read Ulysses, but afraid to do it on your own? I’m looking for a group to read it with me again. Whether it’s your first or tenth time through the book, call . . . Barry Devine."

My heart was beating faster. Barry Devine sounded like a fake name, a character from a romance novel, but I jotted down his number and called him the minute I returned home. He called me back. Yes, still had room in his group, which wouldn’t begin for a couple of weeks. I signed up on the spot.

Initially there were eight or nine of us in his group, including my then current boss, a young woman who said she’d always wanted to read Ulysses. (She dropped out after two chapters.) So did others drop . . . and the group was left with five regular attendees—one of whom was my sister. Another attendee wasn’t reading the book, just listening to the discussion.

We spent about eight months reading approximately fifty pages every two weeks. After the initial two or three meetings at the bookstore, we began to gather at my house. Those bi-weekly meetings were a bright spot on my calendar. The book was fantastic; the experience immensely enriching.

Barry was a young man, probably in his late twenties. He was smart, insightful, patient, and fun. He was engaged to a woman named Helena, a beautiful Greek American woman who joined our discussions when she could. Barry’s perspective as a man close to the age of  Stephen Dedalus was insightful. My perspective as a woman familiar with the Catholic church was unique to the group. Readers' reactions to the book were varied, so the discussions were lively. 

I have completely lost track of Barry, although I have never stopped counting the reading of Ulysses (by the time I was sixty!) as one of my own proudest accomplishments.  

Recently I have discovered Frank DeLaney’s podcasts of Ulysses, and I’m discovering the book all over again—through the fresh, literary, droll and Irish eyes of Frank DeLaney. Check it out: DeLaney reads a few lines of the book each week, then deconstructs them. He claims it will take him twenty-two years to finish Ulysses at these five-minute podcasts once a week, but he doesn’t care. Neither do I, because his commentary is superb. Check it out. Ulysses podcasts

Meanwhile, if you ever meet a man named Barry Devine, please let him know of my undying gratitude.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Frick'n Delight

While visiting New York City recently, I felt as though I should be wearing a “slow moving vehicle” symbol on my back. You know the type—one of those reflective triangles. Especially while in the walkways connecting one subway line to another, I was consistently passed by people loping along at a pace about twice as fast as mine. Talk about feeling old . . . and provincial.

 But . . . I fell in love while there—with Henry Clay Frick. I know, I know. That’s like saying I fell in love with a despot—a Morgan, Rockefeller, Carnegie or Vanderbilt. Truth be told, whether or not those gilded-age tyrants were selfish users of men, their taste in art was spectacular. Frick might have been a difficult guy, competitive, demanding and surly, but he sure had an eye for beauty. It makes me wonder if people can be forgiven for their transgressions based solely on their bequests to the public of their art collections.

The Frick Museum has been on my “bucket list” since 1959, although I certainly didn’t use that corny-but-useful expression of bucket list back then. After apprenticing in summer stock theatre, I was invited to be the houseguest of a new friend who had apprenticed, as well. She lived on East 70th Street in Manhattan. She used “the Frick” as an identifier for anyone needing to know where she lived. As I heard her say, “We’re just two blocks east of The Frick,” the responses intrigued me--consistently oohs and ahs from people who were familiar with the Frick. Unlike a Seattle identifier, “We’re two blocks from the gas station,” I realized, even as a nineteen year old girl, that the Frick must be a special place.  

In June 2012, after probably six intervening trips to NYC since ‘59, I finally saw the place for myself! What a gorgeous architectural structure, and what an impressive collection it houses—with masterpieces available for peering close up in every room. It is as spectacular a collection as I’ve ever seen.  

Saturday, June 30, 2012

River Race Results

Five Finger Rapids on
the Yukon River

This mom couldn't be prouder!

Team Such a Blast came in second overall in the race of originally sixty-eight competing boats, a mix of single and double kayaks and canoes, and large voyageur canoes. Thirteen boats (at this count) were unable to finish the 444 miles for various reasons, which must be heartbreaking for those individuals (not to mention their cheering families).

 Son, M., is in the stern. The California team
rented its canoe, thus the maple leaf.
State-of-the-art technology, allowing transponders on each boat to broadcast a signal every ten-to-fifteen minutes, let this Ma and Pa in the comfort of their Bothell townhouse track the race around the clock that was happening in the far reaches of the Yukon. Whew! It was exhausting forty-two hours and forty-five minutes for us vicarious victors.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Such a Blast!

Outrigger (not Voyageur) canoe
Molokai Hoe 2010
M. is the second from the right
As I told someone today, if I weren't his mother, I would never have even met my son, M. Our paths would never have had an occasion to cross--with him, the Uber-athelete and me, the old couch potato.

So I have to say, I'm impressed even to know him, let alone be his mother!

Check out this link Race to the Midnight Sun to see the progress of M.'s six-man voyageur canoe in the world's longest annual canoe race (444 miles), which started at noon today, Wednesday, June 27. 

Running with the current on the Yukon River, the course begins at Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and ends in Dawson City.

His team is "Such a Blast," number 55. Cheer him on with me! 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ah-h-h . . . such a lovely weekend

After a stressful week, including five days with my arm in a sling (acute tendonitis in the rotator cuff), Hubby and I traveled  to that special town in British Columbia wherein reside three of our favorite people. 

The ostensible reason was to celebrate a sixth birthday, but the resulting change of focus turned our visit into soul-balm. What could be more delightful than entering a world where a teddy bear named Gabrielle overlooks the safety of about thirty fellow ‘stuffies’ (from a seventy-year old doll's highchair formerly belonging to me) as they swim in an imaginary community pool in the living room. Each part of the pool, from the diving board, the kiddy area, the sauna and the hot tub, was outlined on the living room rug with Hula-hoops and other creative treatments. Talk about diversity! In this pool, pigs, monkeys, dogs, bears, and even a chipmunk all enjoyed each other’s company.

Add to that a tap-dance recital, a soccer match, a final swimming lesson . . . and these old folks returned to their condo in the ‘states’ with lower blood pressure and uninvited smiles still popping up whenever a recollection of the weekend sets in.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Parts Warranty

Unfortunately, most bodies don’t come with a predictable service timeline.

When I add up the trips I’ve made to the doctor this year, I start feeling my age. Things are wearing out. I track miles for IRS records, in case our expenses are big enough to deduct. So far this year, the little Prius has logged 296 miles going to the doctor and the dentist for various patchwork.

The latest trip was for a consultation on a cyst that has settled onto the joint of the third finger of my left hand. I met with the X-ray technician, who was a polite young man. “Ma’am, can you take off your rings?” he asked.

“Sure,” I replied, while tugging and pulling and coaxing and sliding and yanking on my ring. Nothing happened.

"That’s OK. Take off your watch, though.”

“Nah, I’m getting them . . . Aha!” I shrieked as they popped off my ring finger—my fifty-year-old wedding band and the newer ring with my grandmother’s diamond made for me after I shipped off the Glerum family ring to our eldest son for his fiancée.

“Now lay your left hand flat . . . with your finger extended. Uh . . . on second thought, can you curl up your hand into a fist, and then just relax your middle finger? Uh . . . what I mean is, can you extend your middle finger while you keep the other fingers down? Yeah, that’s it. Hold that pose!”

It isn’t everyone who's invited into an exam room, then instructed to make a gesture she’s been tempted to make at a lot of recent medical appointments.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Whose Day Is It?

            One year when we lived in Wisconsin, my kids and I walked to the local card shop. They were all in grade school, and Mother’s Day was coming up. “Look through these cards,” I told them, pointing to the Mother’s Day section. “When you find one that says how you feel, call me over and read it to me.” I stayed by the first-grader to help read him the difficult words. When the older three came to card they particularly liked , they called me over and read it to me. Each child found several worthy of reading aloud, including the youngest who found at least a dozen that suited him.

             “Thank you very much for the wonderful cards. Now there’s no need to buy them,” I said as I herded the children out the door with no purchases.  I shrugged an apology to the clerk. “I don’t want them spending their hard-to-come-by money on cards,” I said. I still have a lot of homemade cards from those years, which I treasure, but that year I felt downright smug!  

             Of the many mothers known personally to me, I can think of only one who savored Mother's Day without reservation. I worked next to her for several years and heard her preening and primping, almost like a bride-to-be, so as to present herself in the most favorable light at the family’s celebration of the event. She adored being matriarch of the family and explained to anyone who’d listen how privileged her grown children felt to trace their lineage from her—and how thrilled her in-law children were to have married into her clan. After Mother’s Day, she called co-workers to her desk to show us whatever gifts she’d received and phoned her friends (on company time) to share each minuscule detail of her fete.

             While several of my acquaintances overtly abhor the event, the majority of us respond to holiday with mild apprehension or vague dread, wanting to be gracious to our grown children who remember, but generous to our children who don’t. The gaps that already exist in our society—generational, economic, self-righteousness—widen on this occasion. Haves and have-nots are pitted against one another in a new way: mothers whose offspring remember them on the day, and mothers whose offspring do not.

             The retail sector does its best to promote need and greed among its guilt-ridden constituency of offspring. While some mothers may wish their children would do more for them on the second Sunday of May, others wish their children would do less—that is, less spending. Florists mark-up their arrangements and delivery charges. Extravagant packaging increases the price of Mom’s favorite candy. Hideous bud vases in the shape of porcelain women wearing brimmed hats and long skirts, each containing a single “fresh” rose, actually sell to adults! (I know because I saw it with my own eyes.) Mylar balloons at $4.50 apiece, decorated with puppies and kittens proclaiming “I LOVE MY MOM” cavort above my grocery store’s checkout stands. Enormous cellophane-wrapped baskets of bubble baths and talcum powders loom on the ends of aisles in pharmacies; plush animals wearing ribbons inscribed with filial adoration perch by cash registers at the hardware store.

             Full page newspaper ads and store flyers arrive the week before Mother’s Day showing slender, sulky “moms” reclining in lacy bikini underwear or filmy negligees. I can’t help but wonder who the target audience is, who is being coaxed to buy undies for this occasion. Children with Oedipal complexes? Fathers who wish to jump the mothers? Or the mothers themselves, imagining themselves sirens when they aren’t wiping noses? Disappointments surely ensue; stretch marks and varicose veins can’t be airbrushed on the live recipients.

            Telephone satellites get busy and stay busy from morning till night. Florists have their second largest day (after Valentine’s) in the seasonal cycle. Candy makers and card shops love the occasion.  And only in America would merchants dare suggest that children—big or little—surprise their moms with 18k gold baubles costing $1,500—or rings studded with precious stones commemorating the equally precious dates of birth of themselves and their siblings.  

              For a mother, nothing takes the place of her child’s spontaneous hug, be it from a grownup or a toddler. Expressions of appreciation should not be prompted, prescribed like a drug, or purchased with Visa or AmEx cards. Real affection is best expressed freely and without a glance at the calendar. Most of us mothers would happily skip the folderol to simply hear, “I love you, Mom.”

Monday, April 30, 2012

If you haven't met them, allow me to introduce RETRONYMS. . .

I have just learned the term “retronym,” which has been causing me creative delight.

It’s a wonderful word, and I hope I will remember to use it and—especially— think of it when it’s appropriate. Here are four examples:  black licorice; analog watch; acoustic guitar, straight razor.
Given these examples, you probably can immediately ascertain what retronym means. Let’s see if I can describe it: A retronym is a noun that now requires a modifier to properly qualify its current definition, which—at one time—needed no modifier to mean the exact same thing!
Wow—that’s convoluted. Take guitar, for instance. Originally, all guitars were acoustic. Initially, if a guitar had power, people described it as an “electric guitar.” In other words, people assumed acoustic unless the word was modified with “electric.” Not anymore. We have to add the descriptor “acoustic” to convey precise meaning.
Razor. In the old days, all razors were straight razors. Then safety razors were invented. To describe the new-fangled razor with a protected cutting edge, people had to say “safety” when describing it.  But now everyone assumes “safety” so now we say “straight” when we referring to the classic razor.

Have fun finding retronyms, and if you’re inclined, comment on this blog post with the phrase you’ve found.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Feeling Blue?

 For an immediate lift of spirits, visit Redmond, Washington's Anderson Park where the fir trees are sporting the most glamorous leggings you've ever seen. They were knitted by Suzanne Tidwell.

Or travel east toward Bothell from Seattle on Highway 522, and in the city of Kenmore you'll see trees that have been oh-so-carefully colored with blue paint (eco-safe) to bring to the casual passerby a breathtaking awareness of how precious the presence of flora is, and how devastating deforestation is for the globe. The artist is Kontantin Dimopoulos.

This picture of the blue trees is a month old, and now the leaves have emerged in lime-green contrast. Gorgeous!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Kidnapping My Word

For months now, I’ve become increasingly annoyed over words that have been kidnapped from their rightful parts of speech and held hostage in another by today’s trendy usage.  

Two such words I find particularly irritating—particularly in the past tense— are:
  • Friend (rightfully a noun) is now a captive verb, as in “I friended him yesterday.”
  • Text (rightfully a noun) is also now a verb, as in “I texted him the party time.”  
Fuming about them, I began to realize that thousands of nouns have become verbs over the centuries, or perhaps it happened the other way around. Verbs such as move, help, read, love, run, walk, jump, drive, weed, bridge are all nouns, and nouns such as champion, chair, dance, hop, fan, sweat, bloom are all verbs. It’s possible to think of a hundred such words in a minute, or so . . . which means, I suppose, that there’s no point in getting upset.

For that reason, I’ve decided to give up the indignant ranting and make up some of my own. My newest one—and I have to say, I think it’s catchy—is to kidnap a pronoun and make it a verb.  “MY.”

Here are sample sentences.

 “After tasting a sample of the bakery’s croissants, I myed a couple for tomorrow’s breakfast.”

 “Once I eyed the red stilettos, I knew I had to my them.”  or—even more succinct, “I eyed them, then myed them.”

Feel free to kidnap your own words and shove them into different parts of speech. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll be known as the person who coined a particular term !

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Happy Easter!

Katie and Maddie gave me some new fine line markers for my birthday, which inspired this doodle. What could be more fun that thinking up egg designs? I have boiled up a dozen of the real thing to color Friday or Saturday. They won't be as pretty, but Hubby and I will enjoy them in our lunches for the next week. Halleluiah!  

Thursday, March 29, 2012

21st century fun

After reading somewhere that David Hockney is creating almost as much art nowadays on his iPad as he is in his studio, I decided not to feel guilty about playing with several art "apps" on my iPad. The app I am currently loving is called Art Set, and offers the dabbler a box of supplies, including pastels, tubes of oil paint, colored pencils, a fine-line pencil, two sizes of markers, and crayons. Pick your color, pick your implement--then pick your paper or canvas, choosing both texture and color. Then use sponges, water, and blending tools to work the medium, as well as an eraser that can be rubbed over extraneous marks! Whoever invented the touch-screen tablet has my deepest admiration, but whoever invented this application has my undying gratitude! The last picture (on the right) with the multi-colored flower pattern was created in two minutes on an app called Finger Paint (not related to the app called Finger-Paint (hyphen is only difference), but--alas--it is no longer available.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Ambassador of good will

I didn’t intend to carry on so about my dad’s letters. They’ve been a lot of fun for me, but I suspect my reader is tiring of them. So this will be the last post on the topic.

If you haven’t read earlier blogs,  you only need to know that recently I have heard several dozen letters dictated by my dad, who was traveling overseas on business, and mailed to his family in Seattle in 1960. It’s been a lot of fun to reflect on how much has changed for the traveler since then

Flying was easier in those days (even though it took longer). Although he had to cart heavier luggage (and more of it) than we do today, his airline flights were usually pleasant—frequently he commented on the airline attendants who catered to his needs and made sure he was comfortable. His letters recount anecdotes about visiting the cockpit to talk with the pilot and engaging flight attendants in serious discussions about the cultures of the countries he was visiting. Getting through the airport was child’s play compared with today. And when he landed, he was usually met by a business associate who escorted him through immigration and customs. A car and driver waiting at the front door of the airport was standard procedure.

Self-care was minimal for the business traveler in 1960. His business consisted of meetings, arranging for lunches and occasional dinners with the men (yup, 100 percent men) he was doing business with, then writing reports and follow-up notes. He didn’t own quick-dry polyester underwear (it hadn’t been invented yet) to rinse out in his sink at night or need to locate a treadmill (no one did that in the early ‘60s!) for his daily workout. His exercise consisted of walking through scenic gardens, historic sites, ancient ruins, or jammed urban areas where he sought out art galleries and small shops.

Utilizing available services helped a lot. Members of his hotel staff—no matter what country—were always available to dry and press his suit after he was caught in a rain shower, polish his shoes, or sew on buttons that popped off his shirts. He frequently ate dinner at the hotel because it was easy, and almost always ate breakfast in his room. He enjoyed being fussed over by people eager to please him—and likewise spent a huge amount of time learning about the people and the country he was in. Wherever he went, he was greeted warmly and—not infrequently—revered because he was a Westerner.

Courtesy goes a long way. My dad was a true gentlemen. He would never have occurred to him to yell at someone who couldn’t understand him, or snap at someone struggling to perform a service. He encountered many people in the course of a day—whether at home or abroad—who were not as fortunate as he. He never presumed entitlement to any special treatment. One of the few times I remember him becoming angry with me was a day my sister and I were ridiculing some men who were doing yard work at our home. That lesson was a powerful one for me—a thirteen-year-old—and never forgotten. Privilege does not make one person better than another!

Armed with that attitude, he was a wonderful ambassador of good will for the U.S.A. I have understood this for years, but hearing the letters again (as well as reading dozens of handwritten letters sent between 1959 and 1963) has added substance to my understanding.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

More about Dad's letters

As I mentioned in my last posting, a couple of themes emerged as I listened to Dad’s recorded letters for the first time in fifty years. One topic I didn’t mention was how differently business was conducted then.

But let me back up: Several readers have asked me what kind of work my father did that caused him to spend so much time in the Far East. In 1959 Dad was put in charge of the International Banking Department at Seattle First National Bank (Seafirst)—the state of Washington’s largest bank at that time. Funds were available to loan to countries that were increasing or developing trade with the U.S., and Seafirst, situated on the edge of the Pacific Rim, was in a great position to build relationships with banks in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan--and probably a few I've forgotten.

Building relationships was a strong suit of my dad’s, and when he replaced the retiring manager of what was then a stagnant International Department at Seafirst, business soared.

Dad’s work in the Far East was essentially conducting meetings with other bankers, to let them know the ways that Seafirst could help them increase their business. He made appointments for one-on-one presentations, spoke to clusters of decision-makers at a given financial institution, entertained its key players at lunch and sometimes dinners. After his daily appointments were complete, he sent off letters and reports to his office by 'snail mail.' Then he was free until the next day.

In reading and listening to letters from four years of travel (’59 to ’63), I have found reference to only one successful Long Distance phone call home! In those days, a long distance operator placed the call, and the few times he tried to call home (in cases where he'd received a letter from home with concerning news), the operator wasn't able to locate a cable clear enough for verbal communication.

But even after faithfully writing (or dictating on the SoundScriber) long letters to his family several times a week, he had more leisure time than business travelers do now. He didn’t have to answer e-mails, transmit text messages, contend with poor cell-phone reception or Faxes that were malfunctioning. He wasn’t obliged to “touch base” with anyone back home. He couldn’t be tempted to Tweet or post his experiences on any social network, and he couldn’t grab a quick news update from CNN, or even be tempted to catch the latest episode of a favorite TV show.  

After his work was done, he explored his host country, and because Dad was curious about, and enthralled with, whatever country he was visiting, he participated in the local scene as much as he could. He used his free time to sightsee and attend concerts, dance programs, and to visit art galleries and museums. He accepted invitations to business associates’ homes. In the process he endeared himself to many people he met and became increasingly fond of his associates-turned-friends with each trip.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Letters from Dad 1961

A couple of themes emerged as I listened to Dad’s recorded letters again after fifty years: age—how it’s relative; the world—how it’s shrunk; travel—how it’s changed.
When he was alive, my dad seemed infinitely wiser than I. Now I’ve caught up, surpassing him in years and probably wisdom. In one of his letters, Dad refers to a new acquaintance as a “charming elderly man, probably about  seventy-one or -two.”  Little did he think, as he wrote those words, that years later his daughter would be a charming (we hope), elderly woman as she listened again to the letter !

In his circle my father was regarded as a learned, educated, worldly man. By today’s standards, he would seem naïve. Prior to his international business travel that began in 1959, he had not traveled outside U.S. territories. He prepared for his travel mostly by reading, and talking to people who had traveled to faraway destinations. He had no personal computers, Internet, DVDs, online universities, or TV educational channels to expose him to the world. Nothing he read, however, prepared him for some of his encounters, such as attitudes toward servitude, or the two-class system based on gender he observed in many countries.

With each trip, he came home increasingly informed and enthused, never ceasing his passionate curiosity about the cultures he’d encountered. His leisure became absorbed by the study of Japanese language and oriental art, reading and writing haiku and prose, as well as maintaining personal relationships with many of his newly made acquaintances. As a college student, I was introduced to dozens of travelers  “passing through” Seattle, whom my father had met in Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and India. And there were dozens more I didn’t meet, but who were entertained by my father and mother in their home.

We were all naïve by today’s standards. In one of the recorded letters from New Delhi, Dad plays popular music blaring from a ‘new fangled’ transistor radio he bought in Tokyo for the first five minutes of the recording.  It was his first trip to India (also his last, although he had no way of knowing that), and he wanted his family to vicariously share his experience. We had never heard anything like the sitar or the half-tone tremolos of the vocalists!

Stay tuned for more observations.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My neighbor, my hero

After years of thinking about it (and at least one year of whining about it), I have accomplished an item on my bucket list!

Longstanding blog readers may recall my desire expressed on Feb. 14, 2011, to hear the audio letters my dad dictated to his family back in 1961.
(click here) The letters were recorded onto small green vinyl discs and can be heard in one of two ways: on a SoundScriber dictation machine (hard to come by); or on a turntable without an automatic stylus-lift. I had neither.

Today I have great news. Thanks to my very nice neighbor, Michael, I have not only heard the letters again, but I’ve created MP3 files from each one. Here’s how it came about. One day, in passing, I mentioned to Michael what I was trying to do. I thought he’d be interested in my search because he has a collection of vintage radios, and secretly hoped maybe he'd picked up a SoundScriber at a garage sale. 

“I might have equipment that you could use for your project,” he said. The equipment was new for him, though, and he wanted to set it up and try it—to make sure it would accomplish the task. He spent at least half a day working with one of the little green discs before he was happy with the results, then telephoned triumphantly.

“It works! I have made a sample recording, which I’ll send you on e-mail.”

It’s odd, hearing your deceased parent’s voice after a fifty year hiatus. But it was thrilling.
The next day, Michael carried the equipment to my house—a special turntable that hooks into a computer—and loaded software onto my laptop, then patiently showed me the steps to convert the spinning little green discs into electronic files! 

“No hurry to return it—keep it as long as you need it,” were his parting words as he left to walk to his home just two doors away.
I couldn’t wait, though , and sped through the project in just a few days. The quality of the recordings is poor—with warps and skips and crackles and pops—as Hubby said, “sounding akin to an Ed Murrow news broadcast recorded by Thomas Edison.” But the content of two-dozen audio segments, as well as the lingering presence of my dad, unfolds with the listening.

And for that . . .  I am most grateful to my neighbor, Michael.

I will write more about the SoundScriber letters in coming posts.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Guts and grunts

I was recently stopped at a red light behind a huge work truck, the kind with a cherry-picker lift. I became fascinated with the stacks of locking drawers on the back of the truck with carefully stenciled labels. Two drawers, in particular, caught my eye:

For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what would be in those drawers. Then I thought about how fearless those workers have to be to lean out from a cherry-picker into wires or trees, and I realized they need guts to do that job! Maybe there are times when it is so scary in the bucket, they need extra courage. Maybe the drawer is so you can pull out a pile of rubber guts to augment your own. Do you wear them? Ingest them? Juggle them? Whatever, I hope they help.

I could more easily imagine what the grunt bags might be for. I'll bet that drawer holds large bags to hand to the people who are on the job but doing nothing useful. We’ve all seen them: they stand around pointing, chatting, spitting . . . while the worker is sweating bullets in the cherry-picker. The useless people could be handed a grunt bag and told to get to work picking up street refuse. Or . . . perhaps the worker in the bucket could drop them over the heads of those workers who are not doing their share!

When the traffic light changed, I couldn’t help but think how rubber guts and grunt bags might be useful at my house. I can think of times they’d come in handy.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Books for Valentine's Day

I buy cut flowers every week. Not only is a touch of color welcome in a home decorated with paints and fabrics called sand, seascape, chamois, and misty-morn, but it feels homier to have a vase of flowers on the coffee table.

This week no flowers will cross my threshold. Why? Because it’s Valentine’s week. The same sized bunch of cut tulips that last week cost $4.00, this week is $7.00!

The bouquet of asters and Alstroemeria usually priced between $6 and $8 is priced at $19.99 this week.The red, pink, and white bouquets frequently on ‘Manager’s Special’ for under $10 are priced at $24.95!

I’m not talking florist prices, either. After checking two different supermarkets (in different chains), I walked away empty handed.
When I voiced my dismay to one store’s general manager about the prices of even “cheap” flowers, he responded with “I’m sorry, but we  don’t set the prices.” (Some unknown force sets them, right?)
At the next store I spoke to the flower manager. “I buy flowers every week, but this week I refuse to pay twice as much as I did last week,” I said.
The reply to this statement left me aghast. “I understand,” she said, “but men don’t know how much they [the flowers] cost last week.”
Men! Are you out there? Reading this? Do NOT buy your sweetheart flowers for Valentine’s Day! You are being screwed (and not in the way you want to be--pardon my crudeness). Perhaps you could buy your sweetheart a book, instead. There are plenty to choose from, and their prices are never marked up from one week to the next!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Remember Doogie Howser?

Recently I was talking to an old friend (old in both senses: duration and age) who was bemoaning—as oft we ‘old folk’ do—about the relative youth and inexperience of many of his healthcare providers.
As a case in point, he told me about a recent incident in which he needed to be seen at his clinic after he fell. He made a same-day appointment with a Physician Assistant.

He swears this story is true:

"When the Physician Assistant came in to examine me, she spied the large birthmark on my shin."

 Physician Assistant:    "Oo-o-oh, what’s that?"

 Old Friend:                 "It’s a birthmark."

 Physician Assistant:   "Hm-m. How long have you had it?"