Sunday, May 30, 2010

Getting real about what matters

I realized it's been 3 months since I've posted on my blog. I've been caught up in major work projects and haven't carved out time for my family or myself. I've been giving a lot of thought to how easy it is to put everything else ahead of what really should mean most -- my family. If my job ends (God forbid:)) there will still be my family. For better or worse, my family is always there for me. But I haven't been there so much for them lately.

I'm sorry.

This past year, we've gone through a lot of transitions. I'm an orphan at 58. Sounds creepy, but when your parents are all gone, who do you call on Mother's Day or Father's Day? They appear in my dreams in funny ways, never sad ways, thank goodness. They come to mind when I'm doing something that they told me not to do long ago -- no examples I want to share on this one. I think of them when I come across something they'd like in a darling little shop or when I cook something that they raved about at a long-ago family dinner.

My husband's Mom is becoming increasingly frail, and we're talking with her about the next stage of her life -- most probably in assisted living. How sad to think that one's last days are shadowed by concerns about the extremely high cost of living and being cared for.

Our kids are all doing well, thank goodness. But I find I haven't picked up the phone to call as many times as I think about it. Just a brief check-in takes so little time yet means so much. Their visit this weekend brings it all back to mind.

This Memorial Day I'm remembering those who have given their lives so we have the freedoms we enjoy. This is bringing me back to reality. What matters most is to treasure the blessings I have right now -- my husband, his Mom, our two sons and their families, my brother and his family, and my very good friends. That's what really connects me to this life and I will try to remember that every day from now on.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What happened to winter?

It's the middle of February and the temperature is in the 40s during the day and hardly hits freezing at night. There is no snow in Spokane (but thankfully there is in the mountains), the kids at Gonzaga are wearing their shorts and fleece vests, and there are actually buds on the trees. Wazz up?

This is not a normal picture of the Inland Northwest this time of year, and it's messing with my mind a bit. But after the terribly difficult winters we've had the past 2 years, maybe we were due a little respite. As I look at the news reports of the blizzards week after week hitting our nation's capitol, I know that the residents are challenged by the feet...yup, feet...of snow they are enduring. We are more used to snow than they are. But maybe this will serve to cool the political discourse that has heated up in the halls of Congress the past few months. I loved the President's remarks following his bipartisan meeting yesterday when he talked about Senators getting along by making snow angels together on the capitol lawn. Could this be something we can all learn from kids...compete to see who make the best snow angels and still get up from the snow to look at them:)

Spokane seems calmer this winter than last year...and that's saying a bunch! Last year was the perfect storm of bitter cold temps, record snow and high energy bills. The bills may be high this year, but the complaints are fewer, the energy efficiency measures are being put in place in homes, and rebates and incentives are flying out the door to people who have decided they're going to take energy choices into their own hands. To a utility gal, this is music to my ears.

We held our first Energy Fair a couple of weeks ago, featuring energy efficiency information, bill payment options and bill assistance help as well as other ways to help low income families manage their finances. We really didn't know how many people would show up. But, with free admission, free samples and free food, we hoped for the best. Over 325 people came and by all reports, they were very happy with what we offered them. That's a good thing. We'll go forth and do it again, even bigger and better next time.

Here's hoping for more mountain snow and city rains this year. Everyone will be happier.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking back and a little forward

It's trite, but I only get to say it once a year...As we come to the end of another year, I wonder how the time has flown by so quickly. And when I think about the end of another decade, I'm really in awe. It seems like just yesterday that Y2K was haunting us, and we were preparing for Armageddon. Prepared for the worst and expected the best and indeed the best happened...nothing.

I am a bit overwhelmed as this year draws to a close. Big projects at work and looming deadlines are pressuring me to stay on task. (Obviously that's not what's happening now, is it?:) Happily a wonderful vacation is on the near horizon -- a time to spend with close friends in a sunny clime, relaxing, refreshing and reconnecting.

We lost several family members this year, all elders, and missed so very much. The biggest loss for me was my 89 year old dad. Walt -- as he was known to so many friends and colleagues in Omaha -- was amazing. He was so smart, and he loved to share his knowledge. He was a doctor, a professor, a historian, an ethicist, a gardener and a great dad. The lessons he taught his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will live on in us forever -- to give back to your community, to read anything and everything, and to always have a bit of candy on hand, just to make life a little sweeter.

We are the elders now, my brothers and I. I guess we will have to be on our best behavior as there are no longer any parents around to scold or tutor us. Just our memories of days gone by.

So much is going on in our world -- the good, the bad and the terribly ugly. May the new year bring us all peace, joy and good health (maybe we can all afford that now:) May we stop along our journey through 2010 to hug a loved one, kiss a kid and hold the hand of an elder. Life goes by too fast. I, for one, will try hard to slow it down just a tad so I don't miss a thing.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Is there a recession?

Folks have said for years that Spokane is about 18 months behind the curve of economic events. I'm not sure that theory holds in this economic event, aka the "great recession." Just as many other communities across the country, we're definitely having the problem of too many people out of work and we're still struggling with too many people below the poverty line. But thankfully, I don't think we're experiencing the extreme highs or lows that other cities in the country are faced with. Yes, there are fewer people going out for dinner, but in Spokane, that's sometimes a hard number to pin down, as this tends to be a very difficult restaurant town. Yes, we talk about cutting back on extras at home, and maybe more of us are carrying our lunches in little bags into work rather than going out. But Spokane is a sensible community and we are survivors. While there may be conservative attitudes about politics and much discussion about the value of economic development, when a crisis happens, it all goes to the wayside. This community comes together to rescue and support those truly in need.

There are reports in the news that the recession is over. But for communities like mine, it will take many months or even years for the devastation of the melt-down to work its way through the corporations, small businesses and the fabric of our lives before we feel like we're back to "normal again." But what will normal be? The pendulum will continue to swing...going to one extreme of prosperity to another. Have we learned any lessons? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dinner thoughts
So, have you ever planned your dinner menu to avoid down-stream impacts? You may consider chile, with its beans and spices. You might even savor shrimp scampi, with its intense garlic flavors - yum! But have you ever considered -- yes, I must say it -- the wonderful Northwest side dish -- asparagus? Now, not to be indelicate, but the memories of this delectable green vegetable linger long after it is ingested. Why is that? I know there is a chemical and biological reason for the "smell" we experience later, but when one anticipates the texture and flavor that is fresh asparagus, one forgets that it has powers beyond dinner! There is a certain sensation of one-ness with the vegetable while preparing the dish in snapping off the bottom third of the plant's stalk, even shaving off the outer layer to rid us of the -- forbidden-- tough skin. The sweet, semi-crunch of a bite of gently cooked asparagus is lost hours later when getting ready for bed and one is assaulted by the memories that chemically altered asparagus brings to the fore. So, crudely, this musing is enjoying the memory of asparagus for dinner and dreading the morning after.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Saturday adventure into North Idaho

When I was growing up in the northeast and midwest hearing about Idaho meant potatoes, cowboys and celebrity wild west escapes. Now that I live 22 miles from Idaho, I know that this state in the West is full of many different adventures. We went on one of those adventures this past weekend.

My husband, Steve, has some great cousins and they, in turn, have great spouses and significant others. But, the one thing that has amazed me about my husband's family is that the information about the family is --as known in the PR business -- a progressive reveal. One layer at a time, one relationship at a time, one story at a time. It keeps things interesting.

So, on Saturday, six of us (Craig and Sharon, Ted and Judy and Steve and Jessie) piled into the SUV, heading off to meet shirt-tail, button-hole relatives in rural Wallace, Idaho. Cousin Craig is a magician. He moves buildings, as did his father. Now think about this. Raising a structure up off its foundation and actually carrying it on multiple wheels and beams to another location...all in tact. He's very good at it. Craig's reputation as a house mover is nationally known and we're always impressed with the national trade publications that highlight his projects.

So, here's Craig moving an early 20th century homestead, must have been 20 by 40 feet at the most, in the back woods (my term) of North Idaho. Craig, being Craig, is chatting with the owner and comes to find out that they know his button hole relations and we should all get together.

They say the world's population is just 6 clicks away from each other. Well, we found out that in many ways, this group of family members is one, two or three clicks away from each other, and this over a period of some 80 years.

Driving into the Panhandle of North Idaho, a slim finger of land, less than 80 miles across, between Washington and Montana, is like arriving in the land of Oz for me -- the kid from the plains of Nebraska. Steep mountains, tamarack pines going up to the sky and the clear and mysterious north fork of the Coeur d'Alene River babbling through it. Fishermen in their hip waders dotted the river at not infrequent intervals. Late season campers in tents and RVs still held out the hope of weather warm enough to not freeze the die-hard outdoorsman souls.

We were warmly greeted into the campgrounds of the Babin family, a place where, in warmer weather, year-to-year camp sites are coveted like season tickets to a winning college football team. (Go Huskers, Go Cougers). A huge outdoor structure welcomed us as warmly as the family who appeared from down the road and over the creek and near the store. A welcoming fire in the immense fireplace set the stage for the conversations and photo sharing that happened for the better part of that Saturday afternoon.

The family stories were, as are most, interesting only to the family involved, but it was amazing to witness the enthusiasm with which these stories are still told by the Babin and Catlow/Wuerst families and the ease with which we all were embraced by our new-found "button-hole" family.

The original family home still stands. Its proximity to the long-gone rail line is obscured by the lush growth of the mountains. And we were often reminded that the railroad was an important part of the history of this part of Idaho and an integral part of what happened in this family. Not uncommon in this part of the Inland Northwest, the fortunes and misfortunes were intimately linked to the freight and passengers who traversed this wild country.

So, a cadre of cousins shared a sunny fall Saturday afternoon and then we found the Snake Pit. More later.