Double Cousins Week – June 2012

Just a few hours after my flight home from Oakland landed, LeAnna and Frankie arrived from Portland to spend the weekend with us. We had a great time with them, exploring downtown looking for dessert shops open after 8pm (there were more than I expected) and showing them some of our Seattle favorites. They also experienced what my friend Holly coined “the unshaven armpit of Seattle”, the Fremont Solstice Festival, including the crazily creative Solstice Parade, “art car” car show and all that comes along with spending a day in Fremont. The highlight of Solstice, as always, was Erica’s extravagantly-hosted pre-parade party, complete with genius orange-rind jello shots.

They scheduled their trip around a Mariners/Giants game that turned out to be a surprise overtake for the Mariners and a perfect night to be at a ball game. It wasn’t great news for all the Giants fans in the stadium – and there were a lot, including our guests – but it was nice to see Seattle’s fairweather fans make some noise for a change.

The “double” to the week was because I spent Wednesday night with MaryAnn, Mark and their daughter Claire. They are generous hosts who share a great homemade meal when I can schedule a night away from work during one of my weeks in Oakland. It’s been really fun getting to know them again as adults as we share a lot of interests in common and can easily spend the night talking about technology, architecture and urban design.

It’s great spending time with my cousins – they are awesome people and we have a lot more in common than just a last name. 🙂

A gallery of shots from the weekend is below:

Gallery is here – slideshow button is at the top-right corner.

Seafair Weekend – August 2010

My awesome parents spent the week in Seattle, and as Danielle is in Toronto for the weekend with Jordan I had them all to myself for the past few days. They are two of my best friends and I am so lucky to have the relationship with them that I do. I know it’s a rare arrangement between parents and children that we have and I cherish it; I soak up every day and appreciate every chance I have to know them better as friends, confidants, mentors and equals. I also love to spoil them now that they are enjoying their retirement, and especially when they are in my town and I can show them the best of it. What better week to do that than Seafair week? It’s the height of Seattle summer (sun sometimes optional) and one of my favorite times to be a Seattleite. .

We raced up to the Smith Tower observation level Thursday afternoon, hoping to catch the Navy’s Blue Angels practice laps over the city. While we missed the aeronautics show the view from the 35th floor was pretty great, and I can never get enough urban aerial photography. Friday we took a picnic to Madison Park to catch some Blue Angel fly-overs and people-watch, and Saturday we joined the crowds of raingear-covered fans in Genesee Park for another, much closer look at the air show, the hydro races and the general mayhem that is Seafair. Someday I’ll get them on the lake for the truly authentic experience, and hopefully that someday will be soon and a little sunnier than today, but Mom and Dad are great sports – game for anything and easy to please – and we had an awesome adventure together. I took a few marginal pictures of the air show through the binoculars that I posted, along with a lot of Seattle’s streets from 35 floors above Yesler Wy, and a few shots of the two greatest people I’ve been blessed to share this life with. Thanks for a great weekend, you two!

Gallery is here – slideshow button is at the top-right corner.

Photo 365 – Day 120 – Surrounded By Angels

Grampa passed away today, but I know he’s in heaven surrounded by angels, that he’s finally free of the pain that plagued him on earth, and that he and Grama are together and he’ll never be lonely again. This photo is from Thanksgiving 2006, while Danielle and I were helping them decorate their Christmas tree.

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A father who is oh-so grand.

The family grapevine is operating at full bandwith today, as it does any day someone in the family is in need of our collective thoughts and prayers. My grandfather, Allen, is lying in a hospital bed in Montana, attempting to recover from his 14th back surgery. Apparently all the painkillers it’s taken to keep him alive for the past 30 years have built an immunity in his system to nearly all of them, and there is unfortunately little modern medicine can do to offer him any relief. His continued sanity in the face of the gruelling pain he lives with day in and day out is a statement to his immense determination and strength of character; he is still as energetic, supportive, cheerful, and selfless now as he was 27 years ago when he married my widowed grandmother and dutifully took on the role of emotional cornerstone for his newly-acquired family.

My grampa Allen is the type of guy every guy hopes he will be someday, when he is old enough to be a grandfather. He can make or fix anything, from a barn to a spice rack, a diesel engine to a paper airplane. He is an expert at nearly every craft he undertakes, and a patient teacher eager to share his knowledge and invested in his students’ success. All his tasks are undertaken cheerfully and with 110% effort, whether large or small, and things are done right the first time, with integrity, loyalty and love. He always has time for his children and grandchildren, and has been involved in our lives as much as we would allow in our various stages of youthful independence. His enthusiastic bear hugs – accompanied by the brush of his whiskers and the smell of his cologne – always made me feel welcome and safe under his roof, and his dedication to and passion for my grandmother – stronger every day despite all life has thrown at them – have become part of my measure for wedded bliss.

I wrote long Christmas cards to them both last year – letters, really – trying to encapsulate and express my love and appreciation for the people they’ve been to me and the sacrifices they’ve made for our family. I wanted them to know that their struggles have not gone unnoticed. I wanted to apologize for the times I was a child and was more interested in their Christmas gift than their attention, or for when I was a teenager who deemed them old-fashioned and “uncool”. I wanted to express my regret that I didn’t relish the opportunity to learn more from them when I was younger and geographically closer, and that it had taken me 28 years to realize not only how important they are to me, but how important I am to them.

Danielle and I sent a message through the hospital to be relayed to him, and will call both our grandparents tomorrow when they are both hopefully better rested. I know he’ll recover, because he always does, and will be back to his energetic self in a few weeks’ time, albeit slightly dulled by the ever-increasing dosages of drugs that no longer really help and the pain that never really goes away. I know neither of them will be on this earth forever, but there’s still time while they’re here to appreciate them in person, and there’s always time to pray for them.

Family Time

On the sofa in Mom and Dad’s living room, lappy keeping my knees warm and hot spiced wine on the side table. The Folks and Tim & Carol are shouting at the football players on television as the hometown team slides around on an icy field. As I’m less than interested in montana college football, i’m enjoying a moment of “iPod solitude”, a phrase i’m coining right now (take note of that, you scouts from Webster’s) to describe the effective isolation possible even in noisy, crowded places with a pair of white headphones (or any other color, really). I’m also attempting to caption and publish all those photos from Manhattan last month. I’ve concluded that i need some easy, portable way of taking notes about pictures as i take them, so i don’t need to spend so much time remembering and researching in order to properly label them days/weeks/months later, as that really is the primary hold-up in my process.

It’s been a great thanksgiving weekend, visiting with all the extended family that i don’t see nearly enough. We set up chairs for 33 people yesterday – and several more who are too young to need their own chair – and feasted on two turkeys, a ham, and a mountain of side dishes until everyone was nearly (but not quite) too full for dessert. Mom was in a thousand different places at once all afternoon, and despite her claims that it was all a bit stressful she projected an organized calm and everything was hot and delicious and ready on time. The joy and laughter echoed in the high ceiling’s peaks into the evening, until everyone but us 6 houseguests made their way home, and i was repeatedly struck with how supportive, compassionate and welcoming this family is. From the first sister-in-law to marry into the family to the latest young cousin’s groom, from the great-grandmother of the entire group to the newest second cousin, everyone is loved, enjoyed and appreciated by all. Grudges are not held, loyalties – though tested – are never discarded, and through everything that befalls them the family sticks together. I know that all families share a bond of life and love that keeps them close, but my Dad’s 10 brothers and sisters and their individual clans make up the type of extended family that sometimes seems to only exist in mafia movies or feel-good holiday stories. They support each others’ businesses and hobbies: half a dozen women purchased jewelry from Mom last night, insisting on paying more than her family-discount price. They pass possessions around between each other freely: all the dirt bikes i drove as a kid were lent from an older cousin, and passed to a younger one after me; the heater in Dad’s garage that kept us warm all evening came from his brother Dan’s shop; Uncle Dick saw the disassembled ’67 Triumph TR6 in the garage and offered to bring his extra parts to help with Dad’s retirement project. They jump to each other’s aid: when Kevin called with transmission problems every mind present starting working at a solution, and keys were in hands ready to drive 40 miles to do whatever was necessary.

Anytime i feel a little jaded about the world, about people caring about one other, about marriages staying together and families living in peace, a weekend with my extended family is remedy for that and then some, and i will head back to Seattle tomorrow morning feeling rested and well-fed and knowing that no amount of distance could outreach the safety net that i’m so lucky to have, ready to catch me  if  when i tumble from life’s trapeze.

No content have I for thou to click uponst.

It’s friday morning, Mom and Dad headed home today after spending a week in town wining and dining Danielle and i and just generally making us feel loved and a little spoiled. I came close to preventing them from buying me anything unnecessarily, but caved on a new corkscrew after my dull, junky one nearly cost us a bottle of Columbia syrah i’ve been aging in my wine pantry (trans: garage) since late 2001. It’s one of those fancy automatic jobs that whips the cork out in one smooth clamping motion in less time that it takes to think “this is the first bottle of wine i’ve opened in a long time that cost more than my morning coffee”, further deteriorating the time-space barriers between me and alcoholism.

As always, it was fantastic having them here, and i really truly didn’t mind sleeping on the couch, honestly. It’s pretty comfortable, as i’ve proven to myself several times previously when i was simply too tired to climb those 5 steps to the bedroom. For once i took a vacation from taking photos of everything the entire visit; with Mom and Danielle both packing around digicams now there was no shortage of freeze-framing and silly group poses. Danielle is processing through her shots on her flight this afternoon, and so will probably have some posted by early next week. Although Dad and i didn’t get the foglight rewiring done on Mom’s Audi we wanted to, i did get his garage computer finally working properly, and we made it to Harbor Freight where even Mom found things she shouldn’t live without (like a rock tumbler she can use to make jewerly).

I’m headed to Van on sunday for a Datsun/Nissan show, so i’ll probably have a few pictures from that to post up next week. The only picture of my own i have today is an amusing out-the-window shot of a Burger King sign i saw in Renton last weekend, finally revealing what is *really* in a whopper. I do have some other nice things for you to click on, though. Like this gallery of images from La Tomatina, an annual festival in Buol, Spain that involves a giant, one-hour tomato fight on the last day of august. Also, some great b/w photos of Germany circa 1929 that showcase the fairy tale beauty of Deutschland and include some places – Partenkirchen, the Zugspitze, Hohenschwangau – that i remember followed up by a drastic gear-change to some aerial photography of post-WWII-bombing Germany. Click around those a bit and feel all worldly and historical and stuff while i struggle through what will certainly be a never-ending day of dreariness (both inside the window and out).

Draw! You have 30 seconds.

Such an eventful week, i don’t even know where to start. Let’s use pictionary categories to keep things straight.

People: Mom and Dad spent a long weekend, and headed home tues morning. Danielle and i had such a great time with them. We’re very lucky to have such happy, caring, generous parents.

Right as Mom and Dad were headed east across the droning expanse of eastern WA, Ann and Aaron were experiencing the same exciting drive headed westward. They checked into their downtown hotel tuesday nite, and i tried to fit in as much time between work shifts with them as i could, touring around the city to some of my favorite places. They headed home today, but i managed to get Ann excited about Seattle and Aaron addicted to C89. Mission accomplished. 😉

Places: The Summit at Snoqualmie is the r0x0r5 in my 80x0r5. That’s your headline and your 133t-speak dose for the day. In case you missed it in the wireless blog, they’ll be honoring all 04-05 season passes again in the 05-06 season. You’ll recall i have an 04-05 season pass and unless you’ve been living under a rock or on the east coast you’ve probably noticed a decided lack of snow that has prevented me from making much use of it. This is just about the coolest news since, well, the next piece of news. Hang on, i’m getting there…

Things: My Z is back home where it belongs. It’s been almost a month (5 days shy) and way more money than, apparently, i can charge in one 24 hr period on my debit card, but i’m very glad to have it back and excited to log those 1000 miles on it (only 983 to go!) until the engine is broken in and i can see if that extra .06 liters makes a difference. 😉

Looking back at the pics today of the engine build i did last winter, it makes me a little sappy and disappointed that all the work i did (and all the help from everyone) was sort of in vain, and had to be done all over again this year. Don’t get me wrong, i’m very glad it’s turned out so well, and that the means were available to make it happen, but i still feel kind of let down in a small way. I dunno, maybe i’m just melodramatic and need more sleep. 😉

Faith and honey walnut prawns.

Ran across the street for lunch and returned with honey walnut prawns from New Star Chinese . As Yoda would say, “mmm… very tasty, they are… yes.” Didn’t manage to get out to QFC last nite for work food, so i treated myself to lunch out. Christi at the front desk says that sounds kind of backwards – indulging as a reward for laziness. I told her it’s negative reverse-psychology. Very cutting edge stuff, all the lastest publications are talking about it…

Danielle and i are glad to be back in the city (we both missed our laptops) although the week with Mom and Dad was excellent, as always. Mom spoiled us to no end, and Dad is recuperating extremely well and continues to impress us all. His 7-hour brain surgery was a complete success, all of the tumor is gone, and the doctor’s exact words were “it couldn’t have gone any better than it did.” He’s experienced only mild aches and pains so far, and was out of the hospital two days ahead of schedule. He’s been really positive about the whole thing, and i’m very proud of him for both his attitude and fortitude through the whole experience. It was a journey in faith and patience for all of us, but especially for him, and he continues to set an example for me as the man i’d like to grow up to be.

Huge thanks to all the family and friends who were so supportive – the calls, emails, cards, flowers, and balloons… the spare bedrooms… the plane tickets… the hospital visits… the prayer vigils… the 27 people who joined us in the surgery waiting room on thursday. All your prayers, all your caring paid off, and Dad is healing quickly with the worst behind him. Quite a statement of the power of prayer and family, and i feel priviledged to have been such immediate witness to it all.

If the weathermen know anything (i’m just going to leave that one alone) there may be snow in Seattle yet this week. I wouldn’t mind a little, as i’m hoping to try out that season pass as early as next week. At the same time, i wouldn’t be bothered if nothing exciting happened for a little while… after the last couple months, a nice unremarkable routine holds a certain appeal.