Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ciao from Tuscany. I am not spending much time on computer as there is only wireless internet at the office. I am just busy making experiences to write about and taking notes to remember. Rome was nice and short. Good room. Anne and Julie were delayed a day getting here so I was in the room alone. Met the others for a nice stroll and dinner. Same thing next day. Picked up cars and the girls at the airport. Julie and I drove one car with lots of the luggage. We were unfortunately the target of a BMW driver who fell asleep at the wheel. We are OK but the car was wrecked. Fortunately the woman running the villa where we are staying is very, very helpful. Eventualy we made it. The others got lost some too. But now all is well. We are sharing lots of laughter and Chianti. Will post more later.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Scotland Days 2 & 3

I’ve gotten lazy about writing. Hope that’s OK. It’s just that…well…I’m tired. And at peace. Son and I are getting along comfortably. The only thing that we haven’t done that I wish he could experience, is talking with locals. In spite of all the adventurousness he’s showing, he’s still shy and easily embarrassed by his mom if she interacts with strangers. So, so far, we haven’t really gotten in conversation with the locals. But I’m not giving up on that experience for us yet. There’s still time. Andy likes to blend in, so, while he hasn’t ventured to talk to locals, he was pretty excited to tell me that as he was waiting outside the market for me, someone asked him for directions and expressed surprise when he explained, in his American accent, that he wasn’t from here. That was more important to him than actually talking to the locals. That’s my son.

Andy did tell me yesterday that he wished he had brought more than one pair of boxers. I asked if he meant in addition to the ones he wore over. He said “no. That includes the one I wore over.” We will be buying at least one pair of boxers in Liverpool today!

In the meantime, here’s a bunch of things we have done and discovered in the last few days. In no particular order. Took a long, long morning walk, with no direction in mind. Ended up discovering two fabulous cemeteries and a spectacular view of the City. Explored the underground city (a bit like Seattle’s underground, though closed up for the plague, not a fire) where ghosts are said to hang around. Found the “Writer’s Museum” which featured items and photos from the lives of Robert Burns, Robert Lewis Stephenson and Sir Walter Scott. Wandered through the Edinburgh Castle, especially soaking in the Soldiers’’ Memorial and the war museum. Found that non Scottish food (like Indian and Italian) is the best food in Scotland. Andy learned the importance of sipping cappuccinos at an outside table wherever you are in Europe. Partook of the “Scotch Whiskey Experience” where we learned about how it’s made, what makes each distillery’s product different, how to discern Scotches and then tried some really good ones. Listened to fantastic folk music in a good pub where I fell in love (from a distance) with the guitar player who also has a singing voice so sweet and strong it made me want to cry. Good tears. Had long naps in the middle of the afternoon. The one after scotch tasting was particularly deep and included interesting dreams. This was however before I fell in love with the guitar player. The dreams may have been more wonderful if it was the other way around.

We catch a train in a few hours to Liverpool where we’ve booked a Beatle’s Taxi Tour. Ooblah

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Scotland Day One

Thoroughly enjoyed our first day together in Edinburgh. It took Andy an hour or so to relax and learn how to travel my way, which is not to plan too much. To wander up alleys and away from crowds. To check out things that catch your interest. To listen in to other people’s conversations, and to people watch…though with some subtlety. To forget about the clock unless there is something specific you need to catch. After a long day of taking things in and wearing out our feet, as we sat in a pub waiting for the local musicians to start playing, he said “I feel like I’m returning to my native land.”

Here are some of the things we discovered in Edinburgh. We found that we both enjoy the hard cider better than beer. One should not wash his jeans with his passport still in the pocket (it’s trying to dry out, pages pressed between wax paper and weighted with heavy books to try to cancel out the curling). Young engaged men and women in Scotland are paraded around in attention getting garb (men in women’s dresses, heels and makeup, women in fishnet tights, sleazy dresses and sashes) by their friends and wedding parties, taken from pub to pub and all about town, said friends dressed in matching T-shirts or sashes, etc., so as to be fully recognized and embarrassed by their impending nuptials. You have to remember to look up, behind and to the sides as every view seems to offer something interesting to see. There is less likelihood that couples will be making love on the ground outside your windows when there has been rain. That means that rain isn’t all that bad.

Edinburgh definitely does not have a Design Commission as old and contemporary architecture are crammed in side by side without a thought as to how they look together. There are huge rock outcroppings right slam next to and in the town. Edinburgh Castle is built on the top of what looks to be the highest of them, the old part of town running right up to it. The Royal Mile is the street that leads to it. Our flat is right off the Royal Mile in Chessels Court, about 12 blocks from the castle. It is very comfortable and well equipped.

We had a wonderful dinner in the Grass Market area (about a fifteen minute walk from our place). The first few places we wandered into had long waits. But we stumbled upon a lovely little Italian restaurant and shared mussels (Cozzi) steeped in garlic broth, a pizza carciofo (sp?) which was topped with light tomato sauce, mozzarella, artichoke leaves and capers, and a half carafe of the house red wine. Then we walked another ten minutes to the Two Bells pub that was recommended by the landlord for folk music and neighborhood atmosphere. We got home around midnight and haven’t figured out yet what we’ll do today. On our list to do before we leave are the Scotch Whiskey education centre, a dungeon tour, a town bus tour, a tour of Edinburgh castle and finding more local pubs with music and fish and chips. We’ve booked a day tour (about 12 hours) around the country side for Wednesday. Tuesday is our trip to Liverpool.

These are some of the pictures of Edinburgh plus one of an old man that I took at SeaTac waiting for the plane to London. Could you look more British than this? And as for the picture of me with the castle in the background: don’t you think that Andy could have told me I had my coat buttoned crooked?

Making Love In Edinburgh

I made it to our flat last evening and have now gathered up Andy from the airport. He was anxious to get cleaned up and shaved after the long flight. Then our adventures begin. I'll have some pictures to post after we get some people watching and sightseeing done. The flat is just perfect and in a good location. I was lulled to sleep last night (well lulled isn't the right word) by a young couple doing it in the open air couryard below. From what I could tell the guy must have been quite good and have incredible stamina. She was very expressive and oblivious to all the bedroom windows facing the courtyard. If this repeats itself Andy will have quite the entertainment. Of course he just left a college doorm so maybe it won't be as noticable to him as it was to me.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Tonight it dawned on me that God's plan for me does not include requiring much sleep. I am sure I've written about this a bajillion times: for as long as I can remember, I have gotten by on very little sleep. I usually can fall asleep very easily (once in a movie theater...in my defense it was a Friday evening and it was a 10:00 movie showing...I snored loud enough to embarrass the person I had come with). But I cannot sustain it. Two to four hours of sleep and, without aid (as in prescription sleep help) I am done. Even with sleep help, I rarely sustain anything over five hours. Only the heavy duty horse strength pills will knock me out, and then I feel terrible in the morning: a sleep hangover, and it takes me most of the following day to get back to my alert frame of mind. I can function on little sleep: it is part of my original and unique design.

This is all to say that it's 3:45 in the morning. I turned out the light at midnight. I've been awake for an hour or so just thinking about things. Lots of things to think about since I've got two more days of work and about two weeks worth of things I need to wrap up in order to leave, and I still have lots of loose ends to take care of before I go (like ceiling contractors and stopping the mail and calling the credit card company and getting all the info together for all my travelling companions and instructions for Andy's travel, and how to help my friend who is going through a terrible time...).

I've had a nice conversation with God about turning fifty and how grateful that I am for His love and care. How impressed I am with his exceedingly abundant plans for me that have turned out to be more than I could ever have thought to ask for. One is having a wonderful loving supportive family (yes, I know I vent about my father, but I know he loves me and would do anything to help me...all I would have to do is ask...and I know he does the best he knows how to. That his hurtful words are unintentional and something about him and not meant to hurt). My sister is the best anyone could have and she's mine! My brother is the most positive person I've ever known. My mother was an angel here on earth and, though she wasn't here nearly long enough, I look forward to spending eternity with her. I know people whom would not be so pleased with such a blessing. I am a fortunate one!

Next are the incredible people He's put in my life. I could have never imagined having these really great friends in my life who love and watch out for me. Who I can be myself with. Who reach out to me. Who trust me with their feelings and secrets. Last night I got a call from Mary Nelson whom I've known for about 25 years. Whom I don't get together with, or even speak with very often, but when we do we never have to start from scratch. Who always remembers my birthday even though I rarely remember hers. It was a great reminder of just how much I'm loved. Other friends checked in on me almost daily when I was sick this spring. Some started celebrating my birthday two weeks ago sharing dinner (they brought) on my deck. Some are taking me out for drinks tonight. Some are sacrificing a week of their life to hang out in Siena with me. Many others have already called or emailed me today. I am blessed with really, really wonderful friends and I often find myself thinking about what a wonderful blessing it is. I don't have time for loneliness.

He gave me a son to care for and learn from and see grow and turn out to be someone whose company I can enjoy, who is trustworthy and who has turned out pretty well despite the stress and heartache that he grew up in.

There's this awesome house that He put in my care. It's my rose covered cottage in the heart of Bellevue? With a lake view and shared waterfront. A wonderful garden to tend: not too big, not too small, just right. A place that inspires creativity. A gathering place. Interesting neighbors who keep an eye on me, in a good way: friendly, but not too friendly. It's the most perfect place for me. Exceedingly abundant.

There's my personality packed puppy that helped bring me out of a place of isolation and has turned out to be such a wonderful addition to my life. He always makes a great entrance for me, warms his way into people's hearts, is good at home for long hours while I work, and is sleeping soundly next to me (but not under the sheets!) at this moment, taking up very little space.

There's my work, that has provided for me well, and is, for the most part interesting. Though stressful at times, I realize that that kind of responsibility is what makes it provide well for me.

There's my health that ain't too bad considering my age!

There's the travel I've gotten to do. Parts of the world that I've gone to with family and friends that are far beyond what I ever thought I'd experience. I can't believe that He's made it possible to go to such extremes this year: letting me experience His love through the bedraggled yet hopeful and incredibly loving Sudanese. And now, in the next few days, spending quality time with my son as we discover Scotland followed by hanging out with some wonderful women at a villa in Tuscany. It just stuns me when I think about it. Talk about exceedingly abundance beyond what I could have ever dreamed of.

Six years ago, when things weren't looking so good and I had to give up on the life I thought I always wanted I had no idea what was in store for me. And now, at fifty, it feels like I'm right where I should have been all along. I'm not bothered by turning fifty at all.

This writing started with my sleeping patterns, or lack thereof. One of the things I was thinking about this night involved trying to remember the story of how I cheated death as an infant, just so I could get to fifty. I need to check with my dad to find out how old I was. An infant though, small enough so that when I stopped breathing in my mother's arms during a family car trip, back in the days when baby's rode in arms and not in car seats, a Sheriff they were able to flag down was able to drive down the highway at ninety miles an hour holding me upside down by my feet with his non-steering hand to deliver me to a hospital. By the time we got there I was breathing again. They kept me overnight and everything checked out. They figured it was an S.I.D. occurrence and it never happened again. I cheated death because there were things God wanted me to do and experience this side of Heaven. Turning fifty must have been one of them and so I celebrate.

Maybe my lack of sleeping skills relates back to that time I almost slept too soundly as an infant. Tonight it gives me time to reflect on reaching fifty and what an incredible journey it's been. How exceedingly abundant and beyond what I could ever have asked for it is.
Post Script: It is going to be a special day. The sun is out and beautiful. And I just have to report that my 20 year old son called me before 8:00 this morning to wish me a Happy Birthday. He also told me that at the radio station banquet last night he won an award for all of his VOLUNTEER work! I am a proud mama. Yes I am.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Who Am I? Mail Call

Just a few minutes here before I run to church. I have to write something about how it feels to receive my personal invitation to join AARP in the same mail batch as a birthday card from Rocky, Buttercup's salesman, on whom I have a teenage crush. I'm so confused. (btw, the card "from Rocky" is just an automatic send from the dealership. I'm not kidding myself that he actually knows it was sent. A girl can dream, though, can't she?) Talk about a hormone hit.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Hard Hats and Show and Tell...Friday Summary of random thoughts

Yesterday I got to spend the morning with Sarah, one of our young design engineers, at my University of Washington Medical Center Expansion project. One of our construction revisions goes live on Monday and we were there to walk the site with the construction crew. Field checking sign locations, pavement markings and the like. There’s something invigorating about walking around in a hard hat and a bright orange vest that makes me feel so alive. That, and hanging with buff, young, handsome, and polite construction workers who value our input. Makes me wish there had been a degree in Construction Management when I was in school. I am hoping to get more projects with this aspect involved. Might as well try to do more of what I love doing. Monday morning, early, we head over to do the punchlist for the project as it goes live and we can observe how it’s working and if we need any additional modifications. You can plan and engineer all aspects on paper…except the unpredictable human behavior. We can anticipate it but it’s not until things go live in the field that we see how people really behave. Since this is at a hospital setting and we know visitors are typically pre-occupied with life and death considerations, we try to minimize decisions and make things as fool proof as possible. But there’s almost always something that needs adjustment once we see how the common population (i.e. those that didn’t design the plans) behaves.

Monday will be fun.

This morning was my last morning at Jubilee Reach before school program before it’s out for the summer, since I leave on Thursday for my trip. As a special treat I brought Satchmo with me. He was a real hit. Boys and girls that don’t usually play together were taking turns. Little kids and big kids were mixing like they don’t usually. One kid asked if I could leave him with the Center forever and ever. I told him no. He’s my best buddy and I need him. When I ran Satch home before heading to work he was wiped out. Yoohoo. I promised the kids when the weather is nice next year, and when I don’t have to rush to work after JRC I’ll try to bring him. At circle time, before we walk them to school Satchmo was the Show and Tell item. Reminds me of the time, when I was little, that I brought my grandfather as my show and tell item to school. I think I was the only kid to bring a person as my item. Remember show and tell at school? What did you bring?

I thought Grandpa was a good item because he was “so old.” I remember telling them that he always bought us fresh roasted peanuts from the drugstore so we’d have “peanut power” for our walk up the hill. He traded off popping nitroglycerin tablets for his heart angina and peanuts to get him up the hill. While we were walking, he’d randomly say “there are fools on the road” to which we had to respond “there are stars in the sky.” I had no idea what that meant at the time. Just knew that was the response. And he would have us recite after him “Watta gooze Siam.” One word at a time. And then all together at once in a sentence and then he’d laugh. He looked like Colonel Sanders before KFC was well known. He liked to watercolor and we’d head out to the Palouse hills where we’d play around while dad looked for pheasants and we looked for treasures like Indian Arrow Heads. He and grandmother lived in a little farming town in Illinois that was so small and boring that, for entertainment, we’d try to kill flies in the garage window, for which grandpa paid us a penny for each dead fly. When we had enough pennies we’d walk to the small general store and buy a big dill pickle for the walk home. I’m envious of my friends who still have living grandparents. The last of mine died (my Mom’s mom, Grandma Louise) when I was a Jr. in High School. Her husband died when Julie was just a toddler. Grandma and Grandpa Harwood died when I was in middle school, I think. Mom died when she was 59. Dad is still going strong. I’m turning 50 next week. Enough random thoughts. Back to work…

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Caught In The Act

Yesterday, in the mail, I received a letter from the City of Seattle Photo Enforcement Program. Hmmm. That couldn’t be good. I opened it up and there was a picture of my ex-Jetta’s license plate and two photos of my ex-car running a red light at 6th and James, in the morning on May 15, just over two weeks ago. The fine was for $124. My stomach sunk and then rebounded as I realized that I had signed over ownership of the Jetta when I bought Buttercup, end of April. It was traded in at the Mini dealer. I had done the transfer of sale on line the day I bought the car so all was in order. Except it’s not. Somebody is driving my car around and hasn’t claimed ownership of it.

I called the Mini dealer to find out what’s going on. I should have thought to ask for Rocky to help me out (sigh….). But I wasn’t thinking. So instead I got transferred a few times until I talked to the Title expert. She assures me the car was sold and the paper work turned in. The sale to the new owner wasn’t finalized until May 21 (week before last) so the violation happened when the car was in “no man’s land.”

Here’s the lump in the throat part. The violation form lists Registered Owner as me and the Wasband. I did a little panicked breath, worrying that they would send a copy of the violation to him as well. And suddenly I felt like I was in middle-school, wanting to beat my parents home so I could intercept the mail before my bad grades arrived. If Mark gets a copy of the violation I could be in trouble. I know that’s not true. #1: I have proof that I didn’t own the car when the violation was caught. #2: So what if I had, and still have been married to him. I am an adult. How come I feel so vulnerable to his wrath if anything was wrong?

One of the things we argued about was my driving. He drove like and old, old man. I drove like a responsible adult who knew how to go places. Whenever he was in the car and I was driving, I’d try to ignore the sharply indrawn breaths and “whoas” that he couldn’t help emitting. But I was quick to snap back on how I knew what I was doing. To avoid the whole thing I usually let him drive on errands, and I would have to self talk or close my eyes so I wouldn’t show my impatience at his old man ways. For example, he didn’t like driving in the HOV lane because he was always afraid someone from the slow lane would pull out in front of him. So on a holiday weekend, as we were heading out of town, our car full of three would be sitting in the jammed freeway lanes right next to the nearly empty HOV lanes. It was torture, I tell you. The times I did drive with him in the car was when we had been out with friends and he wasn’t in shape to drive. I was always the designated driver. You can guess why. And even then he had the nerve to correct my driving. I am a safe driver. My record shows it. I like to drive. I like to move. But he could bring me so quickly to the defensive, nervous, anxious driver and I hated that. I hate that I see this violation and I immediately go to fear and anxiety just because his name is on the form. AND I DON’T EVEN OWN THE CAR.

We had a joint checking account. A few times I misplaced my ATM card. Honestly, I found them in my purse but before I found them I wasn’t worried that they would get in the wrong hands. I knew I had them somewhere. Just couldn’t put my finger on where and so I wanted to cancel and re-order a replacement ASAP. But to do so they would have to stop both our ATM cards and issue new ones. That meant that I had to tell him. When I told him I lied. I told him that the ATM machine ate my card. That was the only excuse I could think of that would not get me “into trouble.” I hate that I had to lie to my husband. I hate that I was afraid of him. I hate that he could make me feel like a bad child when I was just being a normal, functioning working mother.

It isn’t very hard for me to recall incident upon incident where I had gotten into trouble with him. I had cleanly put those things out of my head, and really not thought about that in so long. But this infraction form just sends me right back to that bad place. Thank you Jesus that I don’t live like that anymore. Maybe these feelings will go away over time. I hope so. I’m going to label this a “teaching moment” and get out of it what I can. Anyway, welcome to my world…

Monday, June 1, 2009

Mystery Dinner: Revealed

What can I say about this event? Some of it was a bust: two of the men didn't show up...remember, each person was assigned an ingredient. Of all the nerve...; the two that did show up where helpful in the kitchen...that was their best quality; and the dessert at the end where everyone got together was just crowded and strange. The upside was that the cooking together was fun and the food turned out really good; the weather was great so we could all enjoy dinner on the deck and the house was looking its finest, and; the women who showed up were really wonderful. Two of them I could see enjoying getting to know better down the road.

This is my big "aha" moment. When I looked around that room at the dessert, crowded with over 100 people, roughly a 50/50 ratio of men to women, I was thinking "there are some very sharp women here. Look successful, classy, fun to be with. Where are the men that fit that description? Where do really eligible, worthwhile men hang out?" I don't mean to be a snob. I know, at a glance, I wouldn't turn any heads, especially when there are really beautiful, available women in the room. So I should give some of these other men a chance, I guess. But even so, there are just not that many men that appear to be even an interesting opportunity out there. So where are the men hanging out? What do they do on a Saturday night? Are they sitting at home, drowning their loneliness? Are they living a fantasy life on Internet porn? Are they hanging out and drinking beer and playing pool in some dark tavern? When I go out with my girlfriends, it seems like all the other tables are filled with couples or other groups of women. Don't get me wrong: I love going out with my girlfriends. I'm just curious, with the numbers thing, there are an awful lot of single men unaccounted for. People encourage me to go on e-Harmony or Match.com. Is that really the only way to meet men? I liked the idea of this dinner thing, and I'd do it again. Small groups of men and women, getting to know each other, in a group setting, doing a fun activity. I am grateful that I am not of the persuasion that I must have a man in my life to be happy. Seeing as how I haven't figured out where the men worth having are hiding out, I feel badly for the women who are of that persuasion. And let me just finish with a rant about those men that didn't show up! How incredibly rude, selfish and uncivilized. I am going to raise my son to be better!