Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Say Good-Bye to 2009!

We had a blast in 2009....

In January, we recuperated from the big snow & ice storm of 2008.

In February, we spent a family weekend at Cannon Beach with Grammy, Grampy, Aunt Tiffy, Danny plus the dogs: Riley & Lily. It was Lily's first trip to the beach and she LOVED it! The weather was perfect.

In March, we celebrated the Bris of Jacob Lubitz, the newest member of the Lubitz clan, Joey and I spent spring break back east visiting New York City and then touring 9 colleges in 4 states in 4 1/2 days. Phew!
Above: Corned Beef Sandwiches & Matzah Ball Soup at Carnegie Deli, NYC

In April, I visited my old ASU college roommate/Maid-of-Honor in Arizona, we remodeled our family room, Joey played Tennis and Sammy played Baseball for Catlin Gabel School plus Sammy went biking & hiking in Central Oregon.
Sammy's positions included: First Base, Pitcher & Catcher

In May, Joey took the SAT's, coordinated, decorated and went to his Junior prom (2nd prom with Julia) all on the same day and he also went backpacking in the Olympic Peninsula (not the same day). I celebrated my 46th Birthday.

In June, another school year ended, Joey climbed Mt. Hood and backpacked Steen's Mt. in Eastern Oregon.

In July, we visited Victoria BC with Grandma Lindy & Grandpa Stuart, Joey coordinated a trip to the Lost Coast of California with friends, we all went on a fantastic trip to Rome, Italy plus a Mediterranean Cruise and Michael and I celebrated our 20th anniversary at the Bel-Air Hotel in Los Angeles.
Docked in Sicily

In August, we celebrated the wedding of our neice, Jennifer Bloch, to her husband Gary Stevenson in Simi Valley, California and the wedding of my youngest Brother Andy to Lindsay Barnett at Heceta Head Lighthouse in Yachats, Oregon. Sammy spent some time with a friend in Manzanita, Oregon and Joey went camping with his good friend Richard the Pottery Guru.

In September, school started BEFORE Labor Day for the first time ever (at least for our family), Joey turned 18 on Labor Day and Michael & I visited the Salt Lake City office. We also made a day trip to Park City. Michael was in Chicago on business and I visited San Francisco and Petaluma with a friend.

In October I visited a Halloween Folk Art Show outside Detroit with a friend, Michael and I spent his 46th Birthday in Cannon Beach, Oregon with Lily the Golden Retriever and Sammy celebrated his 16th Birthday. The day after his birthday, Sammy also contracted the first of two very serious bouts with the flu.

In November Joey took the SAT II subject tests in Writing, Math & Japanese and he also visited colleges in Minnesota & Ohio. Sammy got his 2nd serious case of the flu in November and then celebrated Thanksgiving with a friend in Manzanita. The rest of us celebrated Thanksgiving at Grammy & Grampy's house.

In December, we celebrated Grandpa Stuart's 75th birthday in San Francisco with Grandma Lindy, Grandpa Stuart, Deb, Steve & Marisa Bloch. We also had afternoon tea at the Heathman Hotel with Uncle Chris & Aunt Akiko in town from Tokyo and enjoyed another December snow storm (a very little one this time).

Hello 2010, we welcome you with open arms!

Split Personality

Sometimes I feel like I have a split personality--or even multiple personalities. Like I cannot possibly please everyone with just my one own true self. I know this is a weakness of mine. If people knew what I was really thinking, all the time, they probably would not like me. So, instead of alienating most of my family and my husband's family (which sometimes happens anyway because I try too hard and that always backfires), I try to adapt to what I think people want from me. Most people know I am very opinionated, it is how I express those opinions that makes the difference. Sometimes when I write emails, the truer side of me comes out... or at least I think it does because people often misinterpret my intentions. They are expecting someone nicer, more accommodating (more like I am in person) and instead they get a more direct version of me. This confuses, alarms and sometimes angers people (my recent firing of the dreaded "yard lady" by email immediately comes to mind). 

In the past, I have said things that hurt people's feelings, but more often than not, people hurt my feelings and don't even know it. Is that fair to them? Should I be more honest? I think I am protecting myself in not admitting I am hurt... hurt means weak, right? and if there is anything I pride myself on, it is being strong. As a big sister, a boss, a wife, a mother, strength is cherished... but a person cannot always be strong. We can tap into that personality that allows us to be strong, but at what cost to the more timid self? In my case, my angry personality usually rears its ugly head. Sometimes angry gets stuff done, but it is usually very temporary, not a long term solution for sure. All these personalities live inside me, but figuring out which one should present itself at which point in time, especially taking into account the person I am conversing with is like one big statistical nightmare. And that brings up another point... when I am alone, I think I have just one personality. Without the expectations of others, I am calm, life is serene. Again, I know this is my own issue, dealing with life and all its personalities... is what it is all about, for me anyway--it is my ultimate challenge. I am passionate about this challenge and so are the rest of my personalities.

Oh, and by the way, I am going to write a book. I think this will help all my personalities express themselves, but shhh, it's a secret.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Memories

I received a beautiful Christmas Card from my Aunt yesterday. I wanted to keep her message here as I know the card will get recycled in due time.

"One of my fondest Christmas memories is you at an early age and all your toys. Uncle Mike and your Dad sat up all night assembling your many toys. I remember the wall covered with all these gifts. You were shy and overwhelmed and almost shaking from all the gifts. Finally everyone left the living room and  gathered at the dining room table. You and I picked up wrapping paper and filled your stroller w/bows. You calmed down and just walked around in a daze as you gathered the bows. Pushing the stroller seemed to calm you even more. You were so darling and really made our Christmas special. Peace to you all."

This message reminds me of the beautiful letters Jennifer writes to Bridget. The memories are special and bring joy to the heart. I cherish them.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What I learned in the mountains of Utah...

The other night Joey and I were having a discussion over dinner. I really cannot remember how the conversation started, typical of me. My mind wanders easily. Joey's basic premise was that no matter how difficult, embarrassing or frustrating a situation, we can always find a reason why an experience was good for us. The old cliche is that with a positive attitude, you can find good in everything and everyone. I can honestly admit that I have been known to focus on the negative. There are just situations (albeit usually insignificant ones) where frustration takes over and I become angry... usually it has something to do with injustice--not necessarily injustice to me; I am an equal opportunity advocate for the injusticed (yeah, I don't think that is a word either?) Joey got me thinking. There have been difficult situations in my life. There have been lots and lots of frustrating situations. Again, in the spirit of not sweating the small stuff many of these have been insignificant. But some have had an impact on my life. With each experience, I have learned something about myself.

As Joey and I were discussing some of the ways we all get caught up in the negative and how easy it really is to turn it around and make it a positive, an experience of my childhood popped into my head. I do remember it as one of those really tough situations. Some of the details are so faint now, but the impact of that point in time is with me forever.

I was in middle school. My Father and Step Mother lived in Vancouver, WA. They had good friends who had a daughter my age. When I visited their house every other weekend, it was good to have a friend my own age. We had fun. One summer my Dad had this great idea that me and my friend should go on a hiking trip in Utah. It was sponsored by BYU and the Church and he really pushed for us to go on this trip... he pushed hard. My Mom REALLY did not want me to go. You see, I had never been hiking before. I had never been away from home before. It was a 10 day, 100 mile hiking trip in the mountains outside Provo, Utah. Per the description in the summer outdoor program guide, it didn't sound all that bad--moderate pace, moderate incline. I mean the backpack was going to be heavy, but it would get lighter as we went through the food... we didn't even need hiking boots (per the instructions), just a really good pair of gym shoes would do. We were on the young end of the accepted age group, but that wasn't necessarily bad. So we decided to go. We spent a great deal of time (and money I'm guessing), getting together the gear and food. I remember making our own trail mix, that was fun. I remember our packs weren't supposed to weigh more than 50 pounds. Mine weighed 54. We eventually got it down to 48.

At this point in time my Dad was a traveling salesman. He basically drove for a living and he drove us to Utah for our big backpacking adventure. We arrived in time for the orientation the night before the trip. I took one step into the room and knew we were in trouble. First, we were at least 5 years younger than everyone else. Second, even inside this room at the University, you could tell just by what they were wearing that most of these people were experienced hikers and climbers. They were wearing their boots inside! It was kind of a casual meet and greet situation and in the front of the room there was a projector showing slides of previous trips. My eyes must have grown to the size of saucers when I saw those pictures. There was ICE and SNOW. People were climbing ICY MOUNTAINS. I looked at my Dad and he immediately found the trip leader and started asking questions... would there be ice and snow? Were our tennis shoes good enough? Were there any other children our age? Dad was quickly reassured that they weren't expecting significant ice or snow... that our shoes should be just fine and that there were indeed a couple of other kids our age, they just hadn't showed yet. Dad still looked concerned. At this point I was more than a little scared, but I didn't want to abandon the trip. I didn't want to be a quitter.

The next morning we set out on a bus destined for the mountains (don't ask me which mountains, sheesh, it was 30 some odd years ago). This would be our first hiking day. We would hike 10 miles, set up camp, etc... and then repeat that for the next 9 days. I wasn't all that thrilled with the other people on the trip. The leader was a nice athletic man in his 40's. There were a few people in their 20's. Then there were a whole bunch of kids from about 17-19 years old. One of those kids was the leader's obnoxious, overly testoteronated (yeah, I know, probably not a real word) son... and when I say obnoxious, I am being nice. He used course language and insisted on hiking way ahead of the rest of the group most of the time. The first three days of the trip were fun and uneventful although we had quite a few blisters to show for it. Although me and my friend were usually toward the back of the group, we were able to keep up just fine and then about half way through the 3rd day two horrible things happened. First, my friend... well, I'm not sure how to put this delicately so I will use a silly euphemism, she got a surprise visit from "Aunt Flo". This was bad in all sorts of ways. She wasn't feeling well and she wasn't prepared. We did the best we could and of course we kept it a secret from everyone else. Then, just as we got this dealt with and caught back up with the group, we started heading into a whole new type of terrain. There was snow and there was ice. We spent about two hours that afternoon traversing an icy cliff. The trail was very narrow and there were very few dry patches. On this I definitely brought up the rear. I am terribly afraid of heights and my tennis shoes kept slipping. I was scared and I was angry. By the time we finally got to camp I was exhausted.

Although my friend was not feeling well, we got up the next morning determined to leave our frustrations behind us. We hiked for a couple hours on a relatively easy trail and then it happened. The straw that broke the camel's back. Another snowy/icy mountain. At this point I got the impression that the Leader's son had taken over navigating this trip and he was taking us on the most treacherous of courses. While everyone was preparing themselves for the climb, I marched up to the Leader and said I had had enough. I discreetly explained to him what was going on with my friend. I explained to him my deep fear of heights and his lack of being honest with my Father. That our tennis shoes were not, in fact, proper equipment for this hike and that I would go no farther. I feared that he would be angry. But he was not. If anything, he appeared to be... defeated? He sat down and said that now that we were on this course, there really was no other way around the mountain other than going back the way we came and that did not seem feasible for the whole group as most were excited to proceed. He understood if we could not make it further and he would have someone guide us back to the ranger station near where we had started on the first day and they would get us transportation back to Provo. I suggested he make this offer to anyone else feeling uncomfortable with the current state of the hike. He kind of shrugged and then he did make the announcement to the entire group. Much to his surprise, three other hikers jumped at the chance to abandon the trip. He was shocked, but I wasn't. Even though lots of people were having a grand time, the truth remained that some of us were definitely misinformed. His son scoffed at what he clearly thought were the "losers". He made rude comments and generally got a laugh at our expense. Now, here is where things went really really wrong.

The person chosen by the Leader to guide us back to the ranger station was... yep, you got it. His son! Man was he mad. There was a whole lot of yelling and cursing going on (maybe I forgot to mention earlier that although this trip was sponsored by BYU, it was not being run by an LDS group, nope, these were non-Mormons for sure). Finally, the son gave up and just started hiking back. We hurriedly grabbed our packs and followed, all five of us. Ironically the other three were all boys. We hiked for a couple hours then set up camp. The son proceeded to ignore me and my friend so we just pitched our tent and played cards. We could hear him making fun of us from the tent he shared with the other boys that were close to our age. At this point, we didn't care. The next morning we got up and hiked for about an hour. At that point he stopped and just stared at us. He then told us to hike about another mile in that direction and we would hit the highway, go south another quarter mile or so and we would reach the ranger station. At that point, he left us. None us of were older than 14... and he just left us there in the woods. Nice. So we did as we were told and we did pretty quickly and pretty easily find the highway. Which to all of our surprise was filled with trucks and cars and motorcycles and people. We were really confused. We made our way down to the ranger station and found out that a boy was lost on the mountain and what we were seeing was a huge search party that had been called in. Everyone within so many miles was there searching for the five year old boy that had wandered away from his family's campsite the night before. We were politely told by the ranger station staff that there would be no rides available off the mountain until the boy had been found. Understandably so.

It seemed at that point that we were in the way at the ranger station so we headed up the road to an area that looked to be the command center for the search party. Miraculously some time shortly after we left the ranger station, the boy was found and was now safe with his family. We kept heading up the road hoping that we could then easily find a ride back on our own as so many people were heading back into town and the ranger station seemed terribly understaffed under the circumstances. At that point two men approached a semi truck haphazardly parked along the highway. They looked at us and asked if we needed help finding our family. We briefly explained our situation and they kindly offered to drive us to BYU. At that point we were so exhausted we jumped at the chance to get back to civilization. It took a while to get off the mountain as there was a mass exodus of every type of vehicle imaginable, but other than that the drive back to Provo was uneventful. And so the story goes, we headed to the dorms. Our home away from home until my Dad could circle back and pick us up. There were no such things as cell phones so I'm sure the Mom's had a fun time getting a hold of my Dad, but we only had to stay by ourselves for about a day and a half and we had a blast on our own. We dropped my friend off the next day at a relative's house and then I got to spend the rest of the trip hanging out with my Dad while he made his sales calls. I loved that.

So, in the end, I learned that even as a 13 year old girl, I could stand up for myself. I learned that fear can drive you to make sensible decisions and that sometimes adults make mistakes. I have tried to pass on these lessons to my own kids, but frankly, some things we just have to learn on our own.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Turning A Corner

It is fun to reminisce about the lavish family vacations we have taken over the past 10 years or so. We have been to Japan, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Russia, Estonia, Finland, the Caribbean, England, Scotland, Italy, Turkey and Greece and we have enjoyed all of them. We also have fond memories of some wonderful US destinations like Las Vegas, Santa Barbara, Alaska and Hawaii.

But now we have turned a corner. We have officially entered "college mode". We are going to have to, temporarily--hopefully, suspend lavish vacations to exotic locations. All is not lost, however, as we will now incorporate Joey's favorite travel accessories into our upcoming vacation plans: backpacks, hiking boots, sleeping bags, compasses, maps, tents and freeze dried food--NO!!! Just kidding about the freeze dried food thing. That is not going to happen.

One of the really nice things about living in America is... this country is filled with awesome State Parks, forested hiking trails, gorgeous scenery and lovely campgrounds. I am thinking about a road trip that includes the Grand Canyon, Utah and Yellowstone.

Maybe every few days we will throw in a classy motel with a real bed and a real shower... maybe. I haven't figured all that out yet.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A thorough cleansing....

I have this strange obsession of needing to finish a book once I start it. No matter how boring or disturbing I find the subject matter, I must keep reading. I don't think it is really because I feel the book will somehow redeem itself, but is in fact just some facet of my slightly obsessive compulsive personality.

A couple of years ago, I read 'Atonement' by Ian McEwan. At the time I did not even know there was a movie in the works. Joey had asked me to order him some books for summer reading. He gave me a list of authors and just said "pick some". When the books arrived, I decided to grab a couple of them and read them myself before handing them over. Wow, I wanted to stop reading Atonement about 3/4 of the way through. The writing was good but the story was incredibly depressing and I swore I would never see the movie (why torture myself?).

Last year I gave in and decided to read 'Twilight'. Oh man, about half way through I thought I would die if I had to read one more description of Edward's skin. Not to mention that the book is actually considered "teen reading" and is written as such. Not to say teens cannot be sophisticated, but.... it really is like a Harlequin Romance written for a 12 year old. But I plugged along and by the end I was hooked and ended up reading the whole series of--Edward vs. Jacob, Vampire vs. Werewolf, Bella vs. herself--books, and I liked them (cringing right now waiting to be struck by the literary gods), although by about half way through the last book I was starting to really question my own sanity.... I don't want to spoil anything since I know at least a couple "women" out there who have not read the books--yet!

Now, the real reason for this post. Many years ago when the kids were little and I was heavily involved in the Jewish Community Center, a book was sweeping through the community like wildfire. It was being read and talked about by women of all ages and was the latest, greatest top of the list novel for book clubs across the country. I was much too busy for things like adult novels and book clubs. I was obsessed with reading Harry Potter books to the boys and making up voices (apparently) for all the characters and mispronouncing Hermione's name. About five years ago, I ran across that book club book in Barnes & Noble and even though I probably knew at least a half dozen people with the book on their shelves (for borrowing), I purchased it anyway. And then, it sat in my closet until a couple months ago when I picked it up and started reading it. The book: 'The Red Tent' by Anita Diamant. In a nutshell, a completely fictional novel about some of the characters of the old testament. Well, it sounds silly to say "some of the characters" when in fact we are talking about such heavyweights as Isaac, Jacob, Rebecca, Leah, Rachel and Joseph. Basically the Mothers and Fathers of Judaism and we all know where that leads.... The story is written from the perspective of Dinah, Jacob's lone daughter. Now, I am certainly no historian. I am not religious. I am not a feminist or a prude, but people, I am telling you I did not like this book at all. Some call it Historic Fiction. I call it, at best, historical fantasy. This story strays so ridiculously far from the bible that it is just purely, in my mind, a work of complete fiction and no reference to history or the bible should be made. But that, in itself, is not the problem. I mean, a good story is a good story.

About half way through the novel, knowing I would--by my own standards--need to finish, I went looking for some positive remarks about the novel to keep me motivated. I did find a lot of positive, but none of it reflected my point of view. I did find negative criticism (which every book has, of course), but I was not expecting it to be criticized for the reasons it was--a lot of the critical comments were written by people concerned that some of the readers would believe Ms. Diamant's version of history as fact. What? No seriously, really? And, who cares? I guess I shouldn't be so cynical since that is kind of what happened with the Dan Brown novels???!!!???

I did find one commenter who I thought spoke perfectly eloquently of my feelings:
Dinah's life was REALLY crummy!

Yes, that's it in a nutshell. The author takes a character with a pretty sad (and short) biblical reference and makes an incredibly depressing complete life story around her. There is almost nothing good that happens to Dinah. In the process of describing Dinah's awful life, she completely obliterates any positive or inspirational references from the original stories of the bible. Okay, right, this is historical fantasy... but why use the biblical figures at all? That's what angered a lot of critics. OK. Fine it is just a fictional story (who cares about the religious community). In reading some of the authors comments included at the end of the book, I tried to understand what she was trying to do with this book, because she WAS trying to do something. She wasn't merely setting out to write a descriptive novel for all to enjoy. By her own admission she is "mystified by the stigma that has been attached to the idea that women are human beings." Well, I am flabbergasted. Maybe I live in a completely different world than the author, but I have never met anyone who didn't think that women were human beings. Women are lifegivers. This book does not celebrate this fact. It recounts a fictional life of a girl who feels alone and weak and is miserable 95% of the book. She is not inspirational and the relationship she had with her Mothers and The Red Tent was fleeting and depressing. Men are generally barbarians and don't get me started on the Mother-in-Law. I found the book completely uninspiring.

So, there it is. Usually characters from novels stick around with me for a while. I am really hoping that by putting some of my simple thoughts down on paper (well computer) that I have cleansed my mind thoroughly of this book and its characters. I would rather watch Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat a hundred times than have to think about this book any longer.

How about some inspiring book recommendations???? Anyone????

Note: Michael DO NOT comment that I should read the John Adams Novel. Please.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Is it my imagination...

or is the commercial aspect of the Christmas Season starting ridiculously early this year?
Have I just not been paying attention the past few years...

Is it the economy?
If they run Christmas commercials non-stop from October 1st until December 24th, will sales really be that much more substantial?

Christmas Carolers were singing at Pioneer Square--on November 13th....
I realize Thanksgiving is not such a hot retail holiday, but wow, it deserves a little recognition.

I was at Fred Meyer last month and they already had Christmas Cards and Paper, Lights, etc... completely set up and ready to go. Seriously?

I'm all for shopping early, but part of the fun for me is actually being ahead of the game, ahead of the dozens of catalogs cramming our mailbox, ahead of the swarms of shoppers at the mall, ahead of the massive waiting lists at the video game store, frankly, ahead of the annoying "buy your Mother a cell phone for Christmas" ads on TV. I'm kind of sad because I have not purchased one present yet--and I guess I am way behind!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why am I doing this?

Why am I writing this blog? Because this past weekend I noticed a large and painful lump in my right breast. It being the weekend and all--and not seeming like a life threatening illness or at least not serious enough to hit the emergency room, I decided to scour the internet for possible diagnoses, pain reducing solutions and/or just plain piece of mind.

What I found, however, were some crazy horror stories which did nothing more than produce a much higher level of stress and anxiety for me while I was waiting through the weekend to call the doctor on Monday morning. Basically all the medical sites gave me the same possible reasons for such a lump: breast infection from nursing (hello, Sammy is 16 years old now!), injury (nope), Fibroadenomas (solid, yet "usually" painless? probably not, but a possibility), Cysts (possible, vary in size and can be "tender"... they may be simplifying things a little here) and Breast Cancer (usually slow growing, not painful and produce other symptoms I do not have so I really wasn't so concerned about this being the diagnosis although you never know). So, I could pretty quickly eliminate a few options, but not completely eliminate other fairly scary options.

Despite my worrying, Monday rolled around rather quickly and the doctor took me right away (sort of a bad sign as this would mean that she was also concerned by my symptoms). Unfortunately, after her rather lengthy exam and a measurement of the bump approximated at 4cm x 4cm, she could not really give me any more information than I had garnered from the internet. Ugh! Plus the fact that the next step was a Mammogram/Ultrasound. Now, I find Mammograms painful on the best of days so I was definitely not looking forward to this, but I really did want to get it over with. Not going to happen... the clinic could not take me that day so I was going to have to live with the unknown for another day. Now, here is where I admit to being really stupid. Once again, in my desperation I searched out the internet. I found a woman with the identical symptoms to mine... even the same exact size lump. So I read her daily diary style story from discovery (on a weekend, just like me!) and then from doctor appointment to doctor appointment (lasting a couple of weeks, yikes!) and finally to surgery to have her (supposed to have been painless, but in fact was very painful) Fibroadenoma removed. They had at first thought it a cyst, but then when they could not drain it, they re-diagnosed it and scheduled surgery to have it removed. At first she was told it would be a dent sized scar but that was revised to a divot sized hole in her chest (even typing this makes my chest hurt, but I know I should not complain). At the end of the page, the writer promised a final post surgery entry, which never happened. WHAT? Man, that did not leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Well, moving along, after a painful mammogram and uncomfortable ultrasound, the diagnosis was in fact a fluid filled cyst. Phew, right? But that was also what's her name's diagnosis right? Well, I think I am going to have to do my best to try and forget what's her name. So after the tech delivers the "good" news from the doctor... she just says, okay. That's it? So, I ask what the next step is... hello, painfully large cyst is still the problem here. Now, because its not cancer, it doesn't exist? Her response is... well, you can have it drained, I guess, if you want? REALLY? Uh yeah, I think I will have it drained... or perhaps I could live with it FOREVER? So, of course I want it drained right then. Well, that took her by surprise and she said that was impossible. The labs would have to be sent back to my doctor, who would then have to send over the proper paperwork for the procedure. Oh man, bring on the bureaucracy.

In the end, my procedure is scheduled for Friday. I'm sure it will all turn out for the best (since I have completely forgotten what's her name, wink wink), but it does make me wonder if life was less or more stressful before the internet. Also, for the record, I believe women should get mammograms and do self exams... it just makes sense.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

This Old House: Kitchen

I am just going to call our old kitchen:
'circa 1962 schizophrenic pink cocina'
(not sure why it is Spanish, there was nothing Spanish in that kitchen--oh well... )
By the way, if you watch the old Brendan Frasier, Christopher Walken, Sissy Spacek movie, 'Blast from the Past' you will see an almost identical kitchen to our old kitchen in their "bomb shelter". And come to think of it... we have a bomb shelter too. It's not under ground and it doesn't have a kitchen, but hey, no bomb shelter is perfect :).
Wow, when I first saw this house, not even dreaming that someday it would be mine, I was blown away by the kitchen, and not in a good way. The kitchen was horrible. I mean at one point I'm sure it was the epitome of what every cookie baking, casserole making, happy little housewife would want. But really, after 30 years of hard labor, this kitchen had definitely seen better days. There were also some interesting design oddities in the kitchen. For example, to the left of the sink on the floor below the set of drawers that are sort of visible above, there was a little metal door that could be opened. It took me months to realize what this actually was. It was meant as a little dust pan for floor debris. You just swept everything from the floor into this hole and it just magically disappeared--actually it went into a little metal bin attached to the ceiling in the basement that you would then empty when it was full? Okay. Really? It was just easier to sweep it into a regular dust pan and throw it in the kitchen garbage. Seriously. Also the bottom drawer was actually a little dirty towel laundry chute. Really? There was also a regular full size laundry chute right around the corner in the closet. Even I am not that lazy.
In the above photo, I am not even really sure what the whole contraption in the corner was. I think it was a fancy rotisserie thing that popped up from the counter top... there was a fan above it and everything. By the time we acquired the house, however, nothing was working and I really could not see any point in reviving it. It was not in my "ultimate kitchen" plan so we used it as an elaborate throne for our teeny tiny microwave oven.
And yeah, just about everything was pink... the floral wallpaper, the walls, the kitchen cabinets, the range, the refrigerator. Speaking of the wallpaper, like just about every room in the house there were 4-5 layers, of course. One of the layers was a dark brown and forest green log cabin print. I wish I had taken a picture of that. I cannot even imagine the kitchen at that point. In the winter months it must have been the darkest kitchen in Portland. The floor was the worst though. Amazingly, it was not pink. What it was, was the worst looking linoleum I have ever seen. No matter how much you scrubbed it with bleach, it looked dirty... really dirty!
The range/stove/cook top, whatever you want to call it was pretty cool. It had a pull out 4-burner cook top. Presumably it was designed for narrow galley style kitchens like ours so when you weren't cooking on it, it didn't take up so much room in the kitchen. It also had double ovens on top. Only about half of the whole thing worked and none of it worked very well, but the original design was awesome I think. The bottom was pot & pan storage and yes, it was a lovely shade of pink.

So, we lived with this retro pink kitchen for a number of years. I went to home shows and kitchen showrooms and bought kitchen remodeling magazines and made plans and changed plans and eventually came up with a design that I loved. I ordered the cabinets, remember those ones that sat in the living room for months? I saved and saved until I could afford the 48" Dacor range of my dreams. We painted the walls my favorite color and put in the nice eco-friendly cork floors that have ended up being wonderfully comfortable on the feet.

Below is one of my favorite pictures taken in our then new kitchen. A few things have changed since this picture, noticeably we have traded out the big white counter top TV for a flat screen that folds up under the cabinets.
Below is our kitchen today. It has definitely stood the test of time. I still very much love it. I wish we had had the extra $100K to expand it out and make it big and beautiful but alas, we did not. It is pretty much a one cook, galley kitchen which usually works out well in our house.
Below: my dream range. I use it every day.
I really enjoy my farm house style sink and although I like the concept of the Fisher & Paykel drawer style dishwashers--mainly because after a party you can load one with pots & pans and wash it on heavy at the same time you load the other with fine china and wash it on delicate--we have definitely had some issues with the electrical system and it is more of a dish sterilizer than a dish washer (in case anyone was wondering). Like the cork floors, it was one of our eco-friendly options in that it has great water saving technology.
The kitchen takes full advantage of our view--which is nice:Our "new" kitchen is now about 8 years old and I still love it.

And recently, for purely practical reasons I had the kitchen chairs reupholstered and added a chair rail to the wall. Light pink cotton fabric, sturdy chairs and a tight corner plus years and years of little boys and friends turning into big boys and friends, well, frankly the stains and dents and chips were just driving me nuts!!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sweet Sixteen

Is it appropriate to wish a boy a sweet sixteenth birthday? Well, since this boy is so sweet, I think I will do it whether it is appropriate or not. Yes, Sammy is 16 today!

Where to begin? I hate to start comparing already, but I have to have a preface to my story of Sammy's birth, otherwise I fear people will think I am just plain crazy. Well, I'm sure people think that already, but not necessarily in this context.

So, we found out early on that Sammy would be a boy. We named him Sammy. We started calling him Sammy in the womb. As the pregnancy progressed, it became pretty obvious that Sammy was going to be a relatively large baby. Relatively for me, possibly not for some other, better equipped woman. I could see the concern in my OB's eyes. They tested me for gestational diabetes--twice!! Now, here is where the comparing starts coming in... you see, Joey was a VERY difficult delivery. Many things went wrong, but possibly the two biggest problems were the paralyzing (literally) epidural and maybe the size of Joey. At 8 pounds, 3 ounces, he was a pretty big baby. So, after every OB appointment the doctor asked me if I wanted to have Sammy by C-Section. I was very distraught over this. I had heard horror stories of how long the recuperation time was, that you can't pick up your other children, that you can't drive and Michael did not have ANY vacation time. So I would be on my own. How would I do it? Plus, I wanted to prove I COULD do this. I was bound and determined to have this baby on my own with no drugs. I was convinced my body would prove itself worthy of the challenge. So my OB begrudgingly agreed. Sammy was due on November 2nd (my Mom's birthday which was kind of exciting).

Moving right along, we had a regularly scheduled doctor's appointment on the morning of Friday the 22nd of October. The doctor was very concerned, Sammy was growing so large; they scheduled an ultrasound for that afternoon. They estimated Sammy would weigh over 9 pounds if they delivered him right then. What? There was no way I was going to deliver a baby that day... we were in the middle of selling our house. The buyers were coming the next morning to sign the papers. AND it was Michael's 30th birthday the next day and I had a party planned. Plus, if we went in that evening, most likely he would have been born on Michael's birthday and I didn't want him to share his Dad's birthday (for some reason sharing it with his Grandma was okay with me?) So, I told them we would be ready to deliver on Monday.

We arrived at the hospital on Sunday night at midnight. This way Michael could get up the next morning, take Joey to daycare and possibly get in a couple hours of work (remember, he was down to NO vacation). I mean these induced pregnancies take FOREVER. Plus, I was not going to take any paid meds, so they wouldn't be cranking up the pitocin too high. I really did not want to take any drugs, but there was no other way to get the party started without pitocin. So, they started inducing at about 7:30am. By 10:00am I was already bored with it. There were only minor contractions with really no pain to speak of. They upped the pitocin. An hour later they increased it again. Things slowly started working and I was in great spirits. At a little after noon, my OB came in for an exam--Michael was not there yet. The doctor got a very worried look on his face. Sammy had developed a prolapsed cord during labor (basically the cord was wrapped around his neck) and they would have to do an emergency C-Section. He was so sorry, but all I could think about was that MICHAEL WASN'T THERE YET!!! I started hyperventilating. This was no trick; the baby was in real danger. The anesthesiologist became concerned and threatened to put me under if I couldn't calm down. My blood pressure was so high and then Michael walked in the door. Sammy was born at 1:30 in the afternoon just as pink and perfect as can be. No complications whatsoever--at 9 pounds, 1 ounce. My OB, who I trust with all my heart, stood at my bedside and said "... there is no way you could have delivered that baby, I'm glad it worked out this way."
(Above: One Day Old, yellow musical elephant is a present from Aunt Tiffy)

So, the C-Section turned out to be no big deal after all... maybe because my body did not have to go through any labor trauma. By Friday afternoon I was taking a walk in the park with my boys.
(Above: 3 months old, we loved Baby Gap)

Sammy was the perfect baby. He slept 22 hours a day for his first 3 months. Other than during growth spurts, he slept through the night from the day he was born. He held his own bottle at 4 months and ate like a champ from day one. He was completely entertained by his older brother and smiled almost non-stop.
(Above: one year)

Joey would take a toy away from Sammy, but Sammy would just find another--and smile. Maybe Sammy knew all along that he would soon be bigger than his brother, much bigger. We have a video around here somewhere... I will have to track it down. It is SO Sammy. We are at the Oregon Coast, Seaside if I remember correctly. Sammy is 4, Joey is 6. We are trying to teach Joey to ride his bike without training wheels. We are on the boardwalk. Joey is too scared for us to let go, meanwhile, in the video, Sammy is riding by, back and forth--no training wheels, at age 4, saying "Joey, you can do it, you can do it". Such a sweet brother.

(Above: my favorite picture of Sammy)

When he was little, Sammy's favorite books were Runaway Bunny and Are You My Mother? We read them over and over. Sammy also had the most beautiful blond curly hair. I knew it wouldn't last, so I took as many pictures as possible.
(Above: two years)

Sammy's first words were ball and blue. He was--and is--all boy. When Sammy was three, I laid out a peach colored shirt for him to wear to preschool. He took one look at the shirt and said he would not wear it--it was pink. I explained to him that the shirt was peach and asked him why he would not wear it. He said that color was for girls???
(Above: Legoland, age 3 1/2)

Sammy has always loved balls and sports and anything to do with cars. When we visited legoland the summer of 1996, all he wanted to do was drive the lego cars. Eventually we had to drag him away from the cars.
(Above: Halloween, age 4)

Sammy could be quite mischievous in a very adorable kind of way. It was really hard to get mad though when you knew he really just wanted to have some fun and did not understand why pulling up tulips at the tulip farm was unacceptable behavior.
(Above: Woodburn Tulip Festival)

And then it happened. Sammy got his first major haircut and many of the curls were gone. His blond hair slowly started turning darker. Sammy's best friend from preschool had very straight hair. Sammy no longer liked his curly hair and thus began Sammy's "buzz cut" era. From the age of 5 to oh, about 10 1/2, Sammy wanted his hair kept very short. I must say, I really missed the curls, but the short hair was very easy to maintain.
(Above: Sammy in Nara, Japan, Age 6)

Sammy attended the Japanese Magnet Program and we loved our trips to Japan as a family. Sammy went to Japan for the first time for spring break when he was in first grade.
(Above: Sammy's first year playing tackle football, age 8)

For five years Sammy played tackle football. He also started playing golf and tennis at the age of 4, played T-Ball from age 5 and then baseball nearly every year since. When Sammy gave up tackle football (because the guys on the other side were just getting too big), he picked up soccer and played goalie and defender. He has also played basketball since middle school. Like I said, his first word was ball, and this kid loves sports.
(Above: Sammy's second trip to Japan--after 3rd grade--eating yakimeishi in Kyoto)
(Above: Sammy on a train in Japan, his 3rd of 4 trips to Japan, so far. Fifth grade, age 11)

So have you noticed? Sammy's long curly hair is back. Some time around Joey's Bar Mitzvah, both Joey and Sammy decided they would let their hair grow long. Perhaps it was the "rock band" stage for both of them.
(Above: Same boy... different ball, Mt. Tabor Middle School Basketball Team)
(Above: Sammy's final year playing Wilson Youth Football)
(Above: Sammy's Bar Mitzvah. He still gets mad at me for his hair being so long??? Somehow this is my fault? I think it looks great)

Sammy did such an awesome job at his Bar Mitzvah. He really stepped outside his comfort zone, got up in front of a crowd, SANG, and totally earned the big party he got that evening!
(Above: Sammy's Middle School graduation with his good buddies Austin and Andrew)

It was really hard for Sammy to leave his friends behind and move on to a new high school. Notice how he has grown out of the whole "pink is for girls" thing!
(Above: Sammy and Lily at Cannon Beach, February 2009)

We have loved taking family vacations with our boys. Whether it is a quick trip to the Oregon Coast or to Seattle for a Mariner's Game, or all the way to Europe for a Mediterranean Cruise or spending Thanksgiving watching American Football in our hotel room in Edinburgh, Scotland, it has been a pleasure traveling with our kids and we hope Sammy continues to travel and share his sweet, kind and generous personality with the world.
(Above: Celebrity Cruise off the coast of Italy, July 2009)

Okay, so the word Fraternity immediately comes to mind...

What happened to my sweet little baby?
He turned 16 today!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

This Old House: Living Room

We moved into our house the week after Thanksgiving 1996. Next month we will celebrate 13 years of working on this monster fixer upper. Honestly, even if you have a new house (which we have had), there is still always something to fix or clean or caulk or grout... or even replace. With this old house, however, the fixes are always bigger, and more expensive. When we purchased the house, it took every penny we had just to close the deal. The basement actually had to be tackled before we even moved in and that was rolled into the purchase price. We ordered two inspections and although we knew the furnace would need to be replaced asap (the ducts were lined with asbestos), we also knew that the deck off the second floor living room was partially rotten and far from code (with a 'take your breath away' scary metal railing a mere 30" high). So, the plan was... first the furnace, then the deck. We were heading into winter anyway, so the deck could wait.

Oh, and did I mention, the night before we signed the papers, 'The Money Pit' was on TV--and we watched it! Although that is a hilarious movie, it did make me kind of nervous... what an odd coincidence. I told Michael that if a raccoon jumped out of the laundry chute, we would sell--I promised! Well, so far no raccoon has jumped out of anywhere (except the backyard), but upon entering the house for the first time, the living room was completely FLOODED. It took me a bit to figure out that the water was not coming from any of the doors or windows or the ceiling (the living room is on the middle floor), but in fact the water was coming out of the fireplace. As it turns out, the brick on all the chimneys was in desperate need of 'tuck pointing'. Yeah, I had no idea what tuck pointing was either. Tuckpointing is the process of filling in missing, cracked or deteriorated mortar joints and apparently all three of our chimneys (the house frustratingly came with four fireplaces) had to have it--and quick. The water was coming in through these cracks and in large enough quantities to flood a room with at least a couple inches of water. Ugh!!! There went the money we had put away for the furnace. Well, that was just the beginning of the drama for the living room. Actually that very first day, after cleaning up the "flood" I removed the peach draperies from all the windows. Man were my sinuses working over time. I'm not sure how many decades those drapes had hung in the living room, but my guess is they had never been cleaned. After the drapes, the five layers of wallpaper had to go and the cracked mirror over the fireplace and the cracked 'art deco' fireplace surround and the saga continued... for years....

The picture below is quite embarrassing. You see, this house was so much bigger than our previous house, that we had no problem living in just a few rooms and still feeling like we had extra space. So whole rooms ended up being used for storage. In this picture, we are storing our new kitchen cabinets (along with a lot of junk). The kitchen cabinets actually resided in the living room for approximately 18 months before we had the money to have them installed in the kitchen. Really, remodeling the kitchen ended up costing me about half of what it would have cost to have a designer and contractor come in and do it all at once, but it took twice as long. Not sure the trade off is worth it in the long run. Thank goodness I was still in love with the cabinets when they were finally installed. The range sat on a pallet in the garage for 6 months... what was I thinking??? Ah, but this is not a post about the kitchen....

In the end, we did get all the wallpaper off the walls, we replaced all the windows and doors (even removed a window), replaced the mirror over the fireplace, got some new fancy window shades and removed the art deco fireplace surround. To this day we still have not replaced the fireplace. We merely stuck some extra kitchen cabinetry molding pieces on it for a mantel and called it 'loft style'... I am currently trying to decide what to do with it. Again, we lovingly call our house eclectic. My talented designer friend Ruth has diligently tried to help us marry our styles, but the living room has mostly an Asian feel with just a touch of traditional/french country thrown in.
These three beautiful pictures were all taken by another talented friend, Elliot.

Oil Painting by Joey (many years ago), Manzanita at Night

And now, 13 years later, the living room is mainly used as an art studio by both me and Joey.

Above: work in progress, Winter Figs by Kari

Below: work in progress by Joey
Although I think all four of us would agree that our house is really still too large for our needs (especially when it comes time to clean it), we are very happy to have such a functional living room/art studio.