Friday, May 28, 2010

Let the sun shine!

As a native Pacific Northwesterner, I'm used to rain. Lots of it. But the fact that I'm sitting here in long pants, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a thick Eddie Bauer sweatshirt — and it's May 28 — is crazy. Apparently this was the coldest and wettest May on record. And that follows a cold and equally record-setting-rainy April. The lawn is more than watered. The flowers are so wet they're falling over. As we head into the Memorial Day weekend and the start of summer, I think it's time we get reacquainted with a long-long friend: the sun. Hurry, please, I'm tired of being cold and wet.

Monday, May 24, 2010

White, rich, married and educated ... like me.

America is a multi-cultural rainbow and that's what makes us the great country we are. Whether you're black, white, green, purple, one-eyed, eleven-toed, tall, short, skinny, fat ... it makes no difference. The saying "it's what's inside that counts" is true. Hard work, the saying goes, is what pays off in the end.

Until, that is, you enter the world of scholarships.

Kate has been an exemplary student, leader, athlete and volunteer for years. Her GPA is near 4.0, taking all advanced classes and college courses. She's been the ASB leader for four years, including serving as Executive President (the head honcho) this year. She's a state championship level swimmer. She goes to YoungLife youth group. And in what little spare time she has, she volunteers for the Red Cross and other charitable organizations. She's a dream candidate for scholarships ... in 1965.

Thus far, she's zero for ten on getting any of the scholarships she's applied for. For one, a healthcare-related scholarship (she plans on being an OB/GYN), she wasn't ethnic enough. For another scholarship, her parents (that's us) made too much money (too much being barely able to make ends meet). Another was nixed because she has two parents — sorry about that, kiddo. And for yet another, the fact that her parents had gone to college — and thus, she would not be a first-generation college student in her home — got her the big goose-egg. 

So while I'm all for we are the world, hakuna matata, and kuumbaya, I'd love it if we could get back to judging scholarships based on the actual qualifications and achievements of the student.

Color me unhappy.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Where were you when the mountain blew?

Every so often, an event happens that stops time. Years later, people will remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when it happened.

The day President Kennedy was assassinated? Sorry, I was just shy of my second birthday. The moon landing? I was in Chicago visiting my grandmother and remember vividly watching it on her console TV. The Challenger disaster? I was at work at Turtledove Clemens, an ad agency in Portland, when Lisa called and told me she had seen it happen live. 9-11? I woke up to get the kids ready for school just in time to see the first tower fall. 

And Mount Saint Helens? When she blew her top, I was winding up my freshman year at Washington State. My parents had called earlier in the day, telling me the mountain had erupted and that the ash cloud was headed straight for us in Pullman, on the eastern side of Washington. Sure enough, not long after noon a black cloud formed on the horizon and quickly made its way toward us. I was on the 7th floor of Roger's Hall, with a room that faced west. Within the hour, the sky was pitch black and all of the automatic street lights came on, thinking it was night. Then it started to snow, only the snow was actually volcanic ash. No one knew anything about it, so police cars and ambulances drove around campus, using their sound systems to tell everyone to remain indoors with the windows shut. This went on for hours.

Before long, we had a good inch or two of ash on the ground. They cancelled school for Monday ... then Tuesday ... then the whole week. Life pretty much ground to a halt. We went down to the dining hall for breakfast, lunch and dinner, then back to our rooms. This was the week I learned to play hearts. Bandanas and surgical masks were handed out. And if anyone needed to drive, they were told to stretch a pair of old panty hose over the air filter. It was a crazy time, but definitely one to remember. And speaking of crazy, my girlfriend at the time decided to take the university up on its offer of "if you're having issues because of the ash, you can take your grades as-is, skip finals and go home." Me and my blue bandana stuck it out — the semester, that is, not the relationship.

So now, as we look back fondly some 30 years later, I can say "wow, I was there." And saying that out loud makes me also think "wow, am I old!" Not as old as a volcano, mind you, but ...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Queasy in Corvallis.

Twice a year for the past several years, we make the trek to Corvallis for a big swim meet. The pool facility is lovely ... the town, not so much. Sorry, Beavers, when the biggest draw you can give me is that you have a Baskin-Robbins AND a Cold Stone, the battle is lost.

A highlight, though, is always our late-morning breakfasts at Elmer's. Great service. Great food. Carb- and protein-loaded goodies galore (that's for the swimmer). 

But today, for some reason, I had one of those mind-bending near-miss unfortunate incidents. The kind I have nightmares about. Something so heinous, so horrid, I hate to even relive it (but I will!)

Puking in public.

I can hear the gasps from here. But don't worry, there was no vomiting involved. Just the extremely real possibility. Let's go back to the beginning.

On the drive from the hotel to the restaurant, I began feeling really nauseous. "I'm hungry," I thought. No big deal. Got to Elmer's. Got a table right away. Ordered breakfast, along with a milk and a glass of water.

By this time, I was getting really nauseous. My mind was reeling. Anything on the table I can use just in case? No luck. Do I have a clear path to the bathroom? We were on the opposite side of the restaurant and the entire lobby area was packed with senior citizens, both coming and going. "I'll never make it through that sea of walkers, canes and blue hair," I thought to myself. My shoe? A napkin? Why doesn't anyone have a hat? Damn.

The waitress brought the water and milk. Great, milk should help. Water, too. And ... nothing. Felt worse. Could feel my mouth start to water in that nasty, icky way it does before one throws up. Frantically, I grabbed Lisa's purse and started digging. A folded plastic shopping bag — perfect. I held it in my hand and hung on for dear life.

By this time, Lisa had figured out what I was doing. She and Kate both started peppering me with questions, but I signaled for them to be quiet. The barfing man does not want to be interrogated. I closed my eyes.

Within the span of maybe 30 seconds, I went from beet red and burning hot ... to sweaty, the kind where beads of sweat literally pour out of your face ... to being cool and pasty white. And with that, the nausea and vomit alert was gone.

I mopped my forehead, drank some more milk and let out a huge sigh of relief. And while I was momentarily convinced I was dying, Nurse Lisa figured out that the more logical explanation was that I had stupidly taken my blood pressure medicine on an empty stomach right as we left the hotel. Damn you, modern medicine. But before I could give it another thought, my blueberry pancakes arrived. Queasy in Corvallis no more.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Gettin' crafty.

Growing up as the son of two elementary school teachers, I was forced to become handy with butcher paper and Elmer's glue at an early age. Sadly, that was about the extent of my artistic ability.

Over the years, Lisa and I have tried our hands at various craft endeavors. When the kids were babies, we went through a cross-stitch phase. It was fun to do and an easy activity during nap times and watching Jungle Book for the 387th time. Samplers, Christmas ornaments, seasonal wall hangings — you name it, we cross-stitched it. During the stamp madness of the early 1990s, we were right there — stamping greeting cards, lunch sacks, notebooks and anything else we could get our hands on. Then a dozen or so years ago, Lisa became a quilter. A good one, too. Her favorites were the ones using retro fabrics from the 30s, 40s and 50s. They're amazing.

But like all hobbies, life got in the way. Too much day, not enough time. And our crafting fell by the wayside.

And then I discovered Etsy — the eBay for hand-made, hand-crafted items. It is SO cool. Paper goods. Jewelry. Bags and purses. Toys. Housewares. Glass. All hand-made. Want something custom? It's here. Something old-school? No problem. Something that would make the perfect gift? Start clicking. www. 

No time for crafting projects? Don't worry, someone out there is still crafting away. And their happy to share their creativity with you. Enjoy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Get In the Van: My Day at the Prom

Senior Prom 2010 has come and gone. And what a lovely affair it was. Girls in elegant dresses with movie star hairdos and make-up. Boys in tuxedos looking slightly nervous. Photos. Dinner. Dancing at Union Station in downtown Portland. It was an event to remember ... if you're an 18 year old girl.

My prom story is somewhat less glamorous.

Since Lisa had worked the night before ... and was working on prom night ... I was called into duty as Mr. Mom. No problem, it's a role I'm familiar with. Besides, it's Kate's last big dance, how bad can it be.

First stop, the florist to pick up the boutonniere. A simple white rose with a hint of purple flowers to match Kate's dark purple dress. Great. We were there, in and out, and home in 30 minutes.

Next stop, into downtown Portland for a hair styling at Dosha — a luxury we reserve for very, very special occasions. Getting there was a breeze, as traffic heading into town was light. But something was odd going the other way, as traffic was backed up for miles. Note to self: On the return trip, take an alternate route. Dropped Kate off at the door 10 minutes early. She said it would be about 45 minutes. So I drove around a little bit, then parked and did a little shopping. Fun. It was nearing the 45 minute mark, so I got back in the car, drove around several blocks trying to find a place nearby to park, then got lucky and snuck into a hard-to-see spot a few streets away. "I'll wait here for a minute or two until she calls," I thought. 25 minutes later, I got the "I'm ready" text. By this point, it was after 4 p.m. No big deal, except that she had a make-up appointment with the Clinique guy at Macy's in Vancouver Mall for 4:30.

"Get in the van" I yelled to her, "we've got to hurry." So off we went. Remembering that I-5 northbound was a parking lot, I quickly got onto I-84 going east, with the goal of connecting to I-205 and going over the other bridge into Vancouver. Halfway to our goal, traffic came to a stop on I-84. Stop and go, stop and go. After 15 minutes, we'd moved about a mile. "Call Clinique and tell them we're late," I told Kate, which she did. Just before the 82nd Street exit, traffic stopped for good. I maneuvered my way to the off-ramp and got off at 82nd. Followed the side streets to the airport, not moving fast but at least moving. Got just shy of the I-205 Bridge and traffic was again backed up. Turns out construction on the bridge had cut four lanes down to two. Ironically, this was also the cause of the back-up on the Interstate Bridge, as motorists were being advised to use it, due to construction on the other bridge. 15 minutes later, we were up and over the bridge. Stepped on the gas and got to Van Mall around 5 p.m.

Iram, the Clinique make-up guru did his magic on Kate. She looked beautiful. Got done there and Kate informed me that she needed a special pair of no-seam undies to go with the dress. "You didn't think of this before?" I thought to myself. So we raced upstairs to the underwear department. Kate explained what she needed and the saleswoman showed us the options. Holding up two different pairs of silky, skimpy underpants, Kate looks at me and says "which one do you think works best?" I looked at the saleswoman and said "This is not the kind of questions a dad should be answering." She laughed. We bought the black pair and off we went.

By this time, Kate's date, James, was already at our house. Kate got home, put on her dress, earrings, shoes and was ready to roll. Lisa was going to do pictures, so I had a few minutes to sit, grab some water and take a deep breath. 

Following pictures, my merry band of six kids in formal attire piled into the van and off we went, back downtown, to PF Changs. Dropped them off at the door, then I hung out in the van for the better part of two hours. By this time, it's dark and I'm parked, sitting in the van, in a creepy area of NW Portland next to a boarded up warehouse. I fully expected a cop, a carjacker or a vampire to knock on my window at any second. Got the "we're ready" text so I fired up the van, wove through The Pearl and picked them up. 

Then it was a quick ride to Union Station. Pulled up right in front, let everyone out and told them that I would be back at 11. I had a little less than 90 minutes left, so I drove home ... zoomed through the McDonald's drive-in (it's been a long, LONG time since I ate a donut at 10 a.m.) grabbed dinner ... went home ... and let the dog out. Naturally, for the first time on my watch, she decided to run off into the night. Found her after a few minutes (damn dog!) ... shoved down dinner ... then turned around and drove back downtown. Got there at 11:05 and they were ready to go. 

They had a blast! Dinner was their favorite part, and the dance was great, too. Lots of stories. Tons of memories. How can you go wrong having fun with friends in high school.

And as for me, I had a good time, too. Prom 2010 was definitely a success. And yes, that arm you see in the photo is me ... with daughter Kate sitting behind me. Good times.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"H" is for Hilarity, Part One

With a wife who's a night-shift RN, the stories around our dinner table are a little different than most. "How was your day" often reads more like "You will not believe what happened last night."

Case in point, the wacky, are-you-kidding-me things that come through the Emergency Room. 

I know what you're thinking. Really, you say, they never show things like that on Grey's Anatomy. True. But then again, they also never show ugly people ... or patients filling out paperwork. So much for reality.

A hospital is like a very large office building. If a story is crazy enough, sooner or later the whole place knows about it. And thus our stories today.

There's the guy who came in with a Coke bottle up his derriere. For real. And the guy who came in with a cucumber stuck in his bottom. Seriously. Not to be outdone, the gentleman who came in with an eggplant where the sun don't shine. Noticing a pattern here? The best part? All three of these naked men "tripped and fell" onto their backside impalements. 

Then there are the two people — not one, but two — who recently came through the E.R. on the same night. Separate cases. Separate stories. One, an extremely overweight woman, was in a car accident. Her oddity, you ask? She had several CDs jammed into the fatty folds in her rear-end. Seems as though shoplifting has taken an uglier-than-normal toll. During the same shift, a gang member came through the E.R. with a gunshot wound. Being extremely vigilant for good hygiene, he had an air freshener between his butt cheeks. I guess when his mama said to always wear clean undies in case you need to go to the hospital, he took it a step or two further.

But without a doubt, the story of all stories is the one of a young couple in love ... or at least lust. He had a piercing in the end of his, well, you know. And she had a piercing in her, well, you know. One thing let to another, and just like those magic rings that hook together, our pair of lovers was forever entwined. Good thing Dad came home. He knew nothing of the piercing ... or the love affair ... but he got to try his hand at getting his daughter and her paramour unhooked. No luck. So he called 911. The paramedic gave it a go, too, but to no avail. So they had to come to the Emergency Room, as is, to be cut apart. Ah, young love. If this doesn't serve as a cautionary tale for safe sex, nothing will.

And with that, I bid you adieu on the first of what will surely be an ongoing series. The folks who come through a real hospital may not be movie-star pretty, but they sure have some good stories.

Honk if you love safety.

Favorite new bumper sticker (courtesy of friends on Facebook):

Honk if you love Jesus.
Text if you want to meet Him soon.

To the woman I followed over the 205 bridge yesterday with a cigarette in one hand and text messaging with the other (steering wheel? what steering wheel?), this one's for you.

When life gives you lemons ...

... it really helps to have a wife who makes lemonade!

When Andy and Kate were young, Lisa worked part time and I worked full time, first at ad agencies and then here at home as a freelancer. This gave Lisa more time to be home with the kids, when it really counted. By the time the kids were in middle school, Lisa and I both worked full time. Heaven knows it takes that much these days just to stay afloat.

Then, when we hit the Great Recession of '08 (or '09 or '10), my work started to slow down. First it was as minute as a job here and there that had been discussed, but now would not be going forward. OK, this is manageable. Then it was a client whose entire marketing department had been dismantled and would no longer be using outside help. Not to worry, it was a smaller client. And then, as they say, the other shoe dropped. A creative director I work with lost a major client. My steadiest clients are cutting back. And my income is going from holding on to hardly there. Bring on the recovery! Sadly, the bills haven't changed any, just the income. 

But that's the beauty of marriage. When one partner is down, the other partner picks up the slack. And that's just what Lisa has done. Not only has she maintained her three twelve-hour shifts each week, but she's picked up any and all standby shifts that have been available. As a result, we're still here!

And me? Ironically, having more free time has enabled me to help Kate with scholarship applications, college forms, NCAA paperwork and so on. 

So when life give you lemons, make lemonade. Or better yet, make your wife a lemon drop.