November 30, 2009

Another crazy weekend

Four days somehow wasn't enough.


I and my extended family headed over to my (second) cousin Jeff's home. Hosting our family is no small task as with all the cousins we are 30+ strong. Side dishes and deserts were brought by all, so hopefully the hosts weren't overwhelmed.

It was my first time with the extended family since J asked for a divorce. It was also my first major holiday flying solo. I was dreading it a bit, not knowing how I would handle it. Five minutes in, a cousin who is my age asked "where's your better half?" "California" I replied. "What is she doing down there?" "Living" I replied. Then I told him what was going on. Most of the extended family had heard, but apparently he hadn't received the memo. He is the only one on that side of the family who has been divorced, so he could empathize. A few folks touched on the subject, but we didn't delve in to deep. We steered towards less volatile topics, like politics.

Overall it was a lovely evening. I have an awesome family and it had been far too long since I had seen them. I really missed out when I didn't make it to the family vacation this summer.

Apple Cup

My friend Mark had some extra tickets to Saturday's Apple Cup between the Huskies and the Cougars, so he invited Scott and me along. Mark and his family have had season tickets for years, and there were three generations at the game.

We arrived three hours early for the tailgating party. The parking lot was packed with tables of food, canopies in case of rain, and lots of fans in purple and crimson. I can totally see the draw of tailgating. Even in a rival game like the Apple Cup, fans from both sides mingle in the pre-game excitement. I hadn't seen Mark in a couple of years, so it was great to hang out before the game and catch up on the years gone by.

The Huskies ended up winning the game 30-0. We haven't had a win like that in several years. When I was a student at the UW, we had a pretty dominant football team. I loved going to the games each Saturday with friends, and the student section was the place to be. You can't relive the past, but it was great to see another good game with friends some 15 years later.

Seattle Marathon

Tami and I volunteered again this Sunday, continuing my tradition of either running or volunteering for the last five years. We ended up working as road marshals in the same spot as two years ago. The weather was perfect for the runners, if a bit chilly for those of us standing still. But no rain, which is pretty rare this November, so perfect.

It ends up being a bit boring duty in the beginning and end, but in the thick of the race it is great to be able to cheer the runners on. Having been on the other side, I know how a little spectator enthusiasm can make a huge difference. We were stationed at mile 18 of the marathon, so runner energy was flagging by then. I tried to throw out phrases I'd want to hear when I was running on empty.

The house

With the sale set to close on Monday, I spent quite a bit of time this weekend at the house getting it ready to change hands. Thursday was the day for yard work, pulling nails, and gathering up all the things left behind after the big move. Trying to find a place that was open to eat lunch turned out to be the biggest challenge. Starbucks has a fine turkey, stuffing and cranberry sandwich in case you're wondering.

Friday it was another trip to storage, signing escrow papers, three trips to Goodwill, one trip to the dump, and trailering the motorcycle and taking it to storage. Lots of driving, but lots of progress.

Saturday I took off for the football game, but Sunday I headed back to the house after the marathon. I needed to pack up one last truckload of stuff to take to storage, and do the last bit of cleaning. I had also written a note to the new buyers to pass along some things about the house. Trying to be as good about this as possible.

After wiping everything down, sweeping and mopping, and tracking down the missing garage door opener, I was about out of things to do. With the accelerated close date, I've been flying around trying to get everything done on time. I've been dreading this day, but have kept my mind busy with the details. I've been hanging on to the thought that this is the right thing to do, but that bit of wisdom went right out the door as I sat on the hearth and stared at the empty house.

Not proud, not ashamed, but I sat there crying. All that was, all that could have been, all that will never be. It took me a little time to pull myself together, and a longer time to leave for the last time. The sale closed today, and now it belongs to someone else. I hope they enjoy the home as much as I did.

Time for me to find a new place and some new memories. And I'm really looking forward to a quiet weekend.

November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I don't know why most people are in such a rush to blow by Thanksgiving to get to Christmas. Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays still untouched by Hallmark and commercialism. It is a time to pause, to spend with friends and family, to remind yourself of the blessings in your life.

I spent the day at the house, getting started on that last 10 percent before heading over to my cousin's house for the family dinner. There will be 35± people there, and love will be mixed with a little chaos.

Just finished raking leaves while listening to 'Alice's Restaurant'. It feels like Thanksgiving already.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

November 23, 2009

Piling up

Busy weekend...

-Friday evening: book club.
-Saturday early morning: volunteer meeting.
-Saturday late morning: 12 mile run.
-Saturday afternoon: waiting for the furnace guy, last minute prep for the move.
-Saturday evening: Friend's Thanksgiving.
-Sunday: moving stuff from the house to storage, taking the movers to pizza, one more trip to the house.

I was supposed to get a 18 mile run in this weekend, but the schedule just didn't allow for it (without doing something crazy like getting up before dawn). Quite frankly I probably wasn't up to it anyway. The additional running I am doing at work has me a little run down.

So now it is on to the two week taper period in preparation for the marathon. The taper period is when you back off the mileage after months of build up, in order to rest up for the big day. My longest training run this time is only 16 miles, so in one way there is less to back off from. On the other hand, I will be running the Monday - Friday before the marathon, so there won't be a lot of rest. Each time you toe the line, there are doubts. They're piling up early this time.

In the midst of the busy weekend, my debit card stopped working. I had stopped to gas up late Saturday night and it was declined. After using a credit card, I walked over to Albertson's to pick up some breakfast for the movers, and my debit card was declined there too. Paranoia rising, I jumped online as soon as I got home. Fortunately, there was still money in the account.

I received a call from my bank Sunday evening. They said there were some suspicious charges so they had shut off my card. Someone has stolen my account information for the second time in the last four months. This time around the charges were pretty big. I asked if there was some common issue going on here, but he said this wasn't that unusual. Not too reassuring, but I'm glad they are looking out for me.

After the busy weekend, I was smoked. So tired it felt like a weight in my chest. Even though I was ready to doze off during dinner, I wasn't able to get to sleep Sunday night. Too much swirling around in the old noggin. You'd think it would be tired by now too.

We are in the home stretch (hopefully) in the house sale as well. With the holiday weekend, and a slightly disorganized escrow company, there will be a mad scramble to get all the papers signed in time. There is still a fair amount of touch up to do at the house as well. As my brother put it, the last 10% seems to take forever.

I'm sure part of what is swirling around in my head keeping me up at night is the sale of the house. It is bittersweet. If the sale goes through, it will be sweet that we were able to sell it so quickly. But there is a shade of bitter as well. It is the right thing to do at this point, but I hate to see the house go. The mad scramble to get it done in three weeks only adds to the tension I'm feeling.

My printer broke this evening. There was a paper jam, and when I pulled the sheet out, a little wheel came with it. I needed to print out documents to sign and get to escrow ASAP. I so desperately wanted to put my fist through the scanner. Need to find a way to uncoil the spring until things taper off.

November 21, 2009

Quote of the day

"Literature will always be political: It cultivates empathy for a theoretical stranger by putting you inside his head, allowing you to experience life from his point of view. It can broaden your view of gender, ethnicity, place and time, power and vulnerability, all the elements that influence social interaction. What could be more political than that?"

~from an interview with author Barbara Kingsolver

November 20, 2009

Dream job

I have started working with the delivery company again. I am on a different route with a different driver this year. I like the new guy well enough, but the new route has me running about three times as far. Lots of dirt roads and long driveways. At 20% less pay, it is quite the bargain.

The trucks are also wired with a little Big Brother this year. Of course they were already updated constantly when packages were delivered, enabling customers to track their deliveries. In addition, the trucks now monitor whether seat belts are fastened, the cargo door is closed, and how long the truck sits at idle. A company that relies on efficiencies continues its quest for every saved second and increase in safety.

My driver Rich and I have been chatting, sharing histories and stories. Conversational segues veer this way and that, sometimes on the thinnest of threads. It was raining steadily as I hopped in the truck yesterday. I was wearing a running skullcap made of some technical fabric. He asked if it was waterproof, and my response was, "We'll find out. Maybe once my head is soaked it will act like a wetsuit and keep me warm."

So then we were off on scuba diving. I've been on a couple of cruises in the past, and have fantasized about leaving the world behind and teaching scuba to tourists on a tropical island. My driver Rich did something close to it. He and his wife moved to Key West and opened up a shop. He said it was fun for a while and he met a few celebrities. But he said that even the dream job turned into a job. His wife turned out to get seasick, customers were jerks, etc. Then he had a customer die of an embolism while he was surfacing. Fantasy over. He eventually moved back to Washington, his wife became his ex-wife, and swimming in the sun was replaced with running in the rain.

Reality really messes with the fantasy.

November 18, 2009

E-mail wisdom

Most of the time our happiness is reactive behavior. We let things or people be the cause of our happiness. True happiness has no reason. It's a choice.

Today, find one reason for joy. And focus on that for the day.

-- Signature line from a freecycle member.

November 17, 2009

Is that a new toy for us?

I found this picture in the boxes of cards I went through last week. It is our two dogs checking out the hamsters in the Habitrail. They were hypnotized watching the hamsters running through the tubes. Pretty cute.

Off the grid

I have been away from the tubes of the internet, and it has been good.

I spent much of last week at the house. I was meeting several people who had responded to my 'for sale' and 'giveaway' ads, and it just made more sense to stay there and avoid the drive each day. The house has been pared down quite a bit, but at least there is still a bed to sleep in.

There is no internet or tv hooked up at the house to distract or escape to during the evenings. I brought along a movie or two to watch on my laptop, but spent quite a bit of time digging through boxes I haven't unpacked for the last few moves. Three or four of them were cards, letters, announcements and the occasional picture I have saved over the last 20 years. I spent more than one evening sifting through the souvenirs of years of friendships and relationships.

It still seems odd to describe things in decade-size chunks. Most of the time I don't feel old enough to have 20 years of adulthood to look back on. There were cards and notes from my high school girlfriend, letters from people I used to work with, wedding and birth announcements, lots of birthday and Christmas cards, and some other random objects. Objects that would mean nothing to almost everyone, but for me are talismans representing events at different points in my life. It was a mostly fond walk down memory lane. We'll deal with the more recent boxes sometime later.

I came across a note from my Mom letting me know that she and my Dad were getting remarried. I also found a wedding picture from their first wedding tucked away with a couple photos of me around age two. I found things from a couple of friends I haven't seen in more than 10 years. By some coincidence, one of them found me on Facebook a day later. We are hoping to get together sometime soon, and looking through the cards reminded me of what a great friend she was. Having had this memory refresh it will probably be even more surprising to see each other after so much time.

I am a sentimental pack rat, but I tried to thin out the things in those boxes. Birthday and Christmas cards went into the recycling bin unless they had special meaning. There were several wedding invitations, but if the marriage didn't survive, the invitations didn't either. All the letters made the cut, and after all the sifting, I probably only cut things back by a quarter. Still a sentimental pack rat, just with a fairly open-weave filter.

I was largely offline for the week. I went to a few coffee shops to update ads and respond to interested buyers, but there wasn't any blog reading or random surfing.

Then over the weekend, a couple of friends flew me down to Arizona. I have been visiting my friend Bill for the past 10 years since he moved to Tucson for work. Scott and I head down to watch a little football and play a little golf. We missed last year for financial reasons, and because Bill was expecting his first child.

Scott and Bill chipped in to make sure I made it down this year. They felt (knew) I could use a little away time with the boys. We didn't go to a football game, but did catch the Seahawk's loss on tv. The weekend was otherwise very low-tech. We caught up on our lives over rounds of golf, morning coffee, and lovely dinners at home. Their almost one year-old wobbled around the living room showing off her new walking skills. She slowly warmed up to Scott and I, but still wasn't sure if we were OK after three days.

I dragged my laptop down in case something was needed for the home sale, but didn't ever turn it on. It was a wonderful weekend off the grid, spending time more wisely - sharing it with friends.

November 9, 2009


I helped a friend say goodbye to his dog Mandy today. She has been going downhill for sometime, walking through her life with a variety of ailments including Cushings disease. She had lost weight, most of her sight and almost all of her hearing. Toward the end she had difficulty eating, drinking and taking care of business. She became weak and had some difficulty walking a straight line.

My friend has had Mandy since she was a puppy, and they spent something like 17 years together. Even with all her ailments, she didn't seem to be in pain. This made the decision that much harder for him. Was it really her time he kept asking. He didn't mind taking care of her and cleaning up her accidents. But she was clearly a different dog. Though she may not have been in pain, it didn't appear that she had much joy left. She wasn't Mandy anymore, just a shadow of what she was.

I went over to build a box for Mandy to be buried in. We talked about her and my friend's tortured decision as we prepared for her final moments. He originally thought he wanted to be alone at the vet, but I ended up joining him. The vet was very caring and professional, allowing us to spend the time needed, then explaining the procedure and assuring us it would be peaceful.

Dogs live in the moment and have a grace I doubt many humans will ever achieve. As the vet said, dogs don't know what is coming at the end. They do not suffer the torment of the approaching end. They pain just stops one day as they move on from our world. The vet was wonderful, asking questions about Mandy, prompting happy stories from my friend as his dog drifted away in his arms.

Today was painful, but I was honored to be chosen to be there. I dread the day when I need to make a similar decision. It was the right one, but for some time that won't much matter. There will just be an emptiness in the home that won't be filled for a long time. When joy and grace disappears, it can leave a pretty dark void.

But slowly, bit by bit, fondness will replace the pain associated with memory. He will move a piece of furniture months from now and find a toy or wisp of hair, and it will bring a smile. It will warm his soul as he remembers his best friend and how lucky he was to have her grace his life.

November 8, 2009

Server busy.Take a moment.

With the (hopefully) rapidly approaching sale deadline for the house, I need to get more stuff out of the house. I've been posting things I can sell on Craigslist, and giving away more stuff on Freecycle. I apparently overwhelmed Craigslist at some point. I got this error message.

Not many errors come with poetry...from elves.

November 6, 2009

What a day

A lot happened yesterday.

We have accepted an offer on the house. Pretty fortunate in this market to have an offer come to us in just over a week. I am not counting my chickens yet, as there are inspections and appraisals and various other hoops to get through, but we're hopeful. Looks like the clean up and improvements made a difference.

A couple hours before we heard back from the buyer, the owner of the company I used to work for called to tell me he was closing up shop. Certain things happened to make it much more difficult and expensive for him to stay in business. And since the market is a fraction of what it used to be, he has decided it is not worth the fight to carry on. He called me to both let me know what was happening, and to ask for my help in winding things down.

And later I found out that one of my friends lost his job. He wrote me today that it could end up being a good thing in the long run, as he may be able to get a different (better) position at the company as a contractor. But that is only so much comfort as he packed up his office.

So yay, crap, and damn it?

November 3, 2009

What the...

I went over to the house today to check on things, refill the flyer box, and see how many business cards were sitting on the counter.

Each time I come home, the house is a little different. Lights are left on, blinds are left open, etc. Today was more disturbing. The door from the house to the garage was wide open and the light in the garage was left on. On closer examination, the garage side door was unlocked as well. In addition, the shed door was locked but not closed all the way, so the door just pushed open.

I can only hope this was carelessness and not intentional. Each agent has to electronically sign in to obtain the key to the house, so there is a record of when they were there. Of course I have no idea who their clients are at this point. I am having my agent check the records to see who was there last.

When I was an agent, it was odd to walk through someone else's home, and now I am on the other side. As an agent, it was my responsibility to protect people's property and keep the house secure. I always did a final walk-through to make sure everything was buttoned up, especially if I had a client with me. It was my responsibility, so I couldn't just assume they had locked up.

I occasionally found doors unlocked and things that seemed wrong when I walked into a home. I made sure to call the listing agent to let them know what I had found so they could make sure nothing had been taken. We haven't heard from anyone, so I can only assume it was the last agent through that left things unlocked.

Feeling a little violated.

Another weekend of good stuff

My weekend long run is up to 15 miles, and I decided to get it in on Saturday before Halloween kicked into gear. More good weather, just some wind messing things up toward the end. I did fine until about mile ten, and then ran low on energy. Legs felt heavy, heart rate started to climb, brain started to rebel. I had skipped lunch, so I was pretty hungry by the time I was done, but I made it through.

I was invited to a friend's house to walk the neighborhood with her kids. Halloween means very little to me most years. I don't get in to the dress up thing, and we didn't get more than handful of trick-or-treaters at the house on any year. Walking around with some five year olds was right way to spend the holiday.

They were seriously amped before they even dug into the candy for the sugar rush. The neighborhood was a good one for trick-or-treaters with plenty of the houses handing out candy. One house had even set up a haunted house in his garage, scary enough that some of the kids didn't dare go in. As we went along we ran in to some of the kid's friends, so the group grew as we made our way down the street.

The kids are old enough to walk up to the doors by themselves, so the adults hung out in the street. As the kids ran back, they screamed out "we got ___" (fill in the blank with type of candy). Skittles and popcorn balls seemed to be the most exciting. Fortunately the kids ran out of steam before the adults, and were content to head back to dig in to their loot after about an hour.

The adults stayed up late playing cards while the kids tried to come down off their sugar high long enough to fall asleep. The group got together again for lunch on Sunday with a couple more friends. We walked down to a local brewery and became card carrying citizens of the Rogue nation. Citizenship has its privileges - discounts, birthday beers, etc. I also picked up my King County Library card on Sunday so the wallet is getting filled with good stuff.