Monday, December 14, 2009

Now THAT'S holiday spirit - Part II

I'm sure you've probably seen the ad for Liberty Mutual: one person witnesses a gesture of kindness and then does something kind for the next person they meet, which is witnessed by someone else, who in turn does a favor for another stranger, and so on until the circle of "favors" returns to the person who started it. It's an amazing commercial - probably my favorite (that doesn't involve Clydesdales anyway).

At a restaurant in Philadelphia this past Saturday, a couple finished their meal and paid - not only their tab but also that of the table next to them. They asked the waitress not to tell the people until after the couple had departed the restaurant...simply say "Merry Christmas!" This simple gesture started an amazing chain reaction ("Mystery Pair at Diner Spark Cascade of Giving,"

The giving lasted for five hours - one party paying the bill (plus tip) for the next party and though the amount of the bill varied, not one person quibbled about the amount.

A sense of expectation typically accompanies the spirit of Christmas. We expect that we will get gifts. If we've provided others with a "wish list," we expect that we will receive something from that list. And that's not horrible, or greedy, or evil, or even missing the true point of Christmas even.

But it's the unexpected that brightens a day, that makes you smile, that creates in you an atmosphere of true generosity and kindness. And it's as simple a concept as "pay it forward" and it doesn't have to happen just this time of year either...

...but isn't it wonderful when it does?

~later, tw

Now THAT'S holiday spirit - Part I

My husband calls my Christmas Wish List "pathetic." On my list I put the little things I would like...most of them utilitarian trinkets having to do with my time spent in the kitchen, which I really enjoy (this year I'm hoping Santa leaves me a 4-cup pyrex measuring cup under the tree - because I'm already wondering how I've lasted this long without one!)

But everything on my wish list is truly insignifiant compared to those hoping for a gift of time - more time to spend with family and friends, more time to celebrate holidays and milestones, more time to just be.

Thirteen such people got their Christmas wish a little early this year in what I consider to be a true miracle of science and generosity - they each received a kidney in what is (currently) the longest "chain" of kidney transplants: "Massive transplant effort pairs 13 kidneys to 13 patients" (

In this paired transplant, someone wants to donate a kidney to a recipient (a husband perhaps to his wife) but find they aren't compatible. No problem! A 2nd party recipient is found and someone donates a kidney on his or her behalf to a 3rd party and so on and so on and so on until (in this case) 13 recipients were matched with 13 donors. The end result is that 13 people were given a second chance at life and the 13 donors each wound up saving not one, but two lives: they gave to save their loved one, enabling them to become a member of the circle, and they gave new life to the recipient.

A pretty wonderful Christmas present if you ask me!

~later, tw

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Simone Weiler (1926-2009)

Yesterday we lost Gerry's mom, Simone Weiler. The doctor had rediscovered cancer (after five years of being cancer-free) only two months ago. Gerry and I were able to take Jenny and little Jax to visit her in October and she was doing quite well then but recently her health began to fail her and she passed away quite suddenly (and rather unexpectedly...surprising even her doctor) on Tuesday afternoon.

My thoughts and prayers are with each of her kids and their families...and especially with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Jenny and Sarah were especially close to their grandma and always managed to visit her in Montana. Here are the girls "4 Generation" photos taken just this year.

~later, tw

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a quick note (between bites :0) to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving. What a great day dedicated solely to remembering what we have to be thankful for! Life seems to be a continual ride on the waves full of highs and lows. Here's hoping that in your life the highs are more frequent and far more memorable than the lows.

Don't eat too much (gotta save some for leftovers!)

~later, tw

Monday, November 23, 2009

The official start...

... or kick-off to the holiday season began this weekend. Gerry and I raced over to Spokane to celebrate my brother-in-law's (or is it brother's-in-law...I've nailed the plural but now the possessive is apparently going to give me grief!) birthday. Like so many of our friends and siblings, Lyle has reached the milestone of having survived 50 years on this planet and he did so with the grace and (especially) humor that we've come to expect from him.

The party may have been small but what it lacked in numbers it more than made up for with love and laughter and general best wishes for him on the occasion. Margo (his wife and my sister) had put together a casual event and though their was another family situation that arose during the week, she somehow managed to maintain the "surprise" factor! We arrived in the afternoon, our impending arrival unbeknownst to Lyle, in time for a wonderful luncheon and party.

While I provided Lyle with my traditional gift of pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins (twice the number now!), Gerry filled Lyle's reading shelf with two series of books. His daughter gifted him with a new coffee-maker and a super-size mug she made herself while his brother and sister-in-law gave a basket of assorted coffees (I think there was some collusion on that gift!) My nephew and his buddy (who has really been unofficially adopted by Lyle and Margo and is now a true member of the family) gave Lyle a certificate good for one full day (as to be determined by Lye) of "slave" holiday labor. The boys offered to provide decorating services for the holiday and nobody knows how to decorate like Lyle does! Although this really is an amazing gift, I think Lyle should have held out for put up AND take down service!
But the most fabulous gift was from my sister Margo. She made for him an amazing photo quilt sure to physically provide warmth but also remembrances of past times sure to warm his heart. It was an incredible stroll down memory lane.

It makes me sad when I think of my friends and family who would rather forget that they're having a birthday at I often say, "consider the alternative" to having a birthday. I'm a pretty sentimental gal - I love looking at the photos, remembering and reviewing the past good times, but would I want to be 30 again? While I might want to have the energy I seemed to possess then, at 30 I was chasing a toddler, pre-schooler and starting Sarah off to school. I was volunteering at PTA carnivals and Brownies and while it was "fun while it lasted" I don't want to go back. I'm quite content being 51 years old (at least I'm pretty sure that's how old I am - I'm not that great at calculating it since I was born in a year ending in 8 and those of you who know me know what a challenge it is for me to work with the number "8"!)

We've celebrated many 50th birthdays in the past couple of years and there are certainly more to come. I hope everyone enjoys reaching this milestone as Gerry did, as I did, as Lyle did.

~later, tw

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Interesting "Lesson Plan"

Before my focus completely shifts to "holiday mode," I couldn't resist the chance to comment on this story out of North Carolina:

"N.C. school selling test scores to raise funds" (

It seems that the chocolate sale was a dismal flop, so the Rosewood Middle School of Goldsboro, North Carolina decided to try something really different.

Now having dreaded, participated and basically survived 15 years of elementary and secondary school fundraising, I'm all for innovative ideas that "tap" into the checkbooks and wallets of our parents and communities. I hated the labor-intensive carnivals, the not-so-environmentally-friendly (yet ever so successful) gift wrap sales, tracked literally hundreds of thousands of cookies for the Girl Scouts and popcorn for the Boy Scouts, and attempted to sell rather expensive tickets to a "no dinner" dinner. But this one beats all!

For a mere $20, your child can purchase twenty test points towards his or her grade (in 10 point increments they can use these points to elevate two of their test scores). Wow! There's a lesson that I'm not convinced we need to teach our kids: money really DOES buy everything!

I've heard in the past months about programs where schools might actually PAY children to attend classes, as if getting an education was their JOB. The problem with this scenario is that it tends to reinforce a child's concept of "what's in it for me?" Hard work, an education, and the opportunies that comes with that knowledge is of no value to this generation.

If these kids attempt this exact same approach to their college education, they will be dismissed. I would imagine that would be grounds for some soft of lawsuit against the administrators of Rosewood Middle School. I hope the kids can find someone who actually earned their law degree (rather than buying it).

~later, tw

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


And it feels so good.

Okay, probably silly but I've been left out in the cold for the past few days. Last week our landline phone went quiet. I know many have opted to live without a landline, relying solely on their cell phone and I suppose if we got reliable reception at home (that would be anything that DIDN'T require heading outdoors in order to make/receive calls) I would consider it.

As it is, we've got not one, but two, dedicated phone lines in our home. A necessity when the kids were at home and pre-cell phones. The first line (the main line) is used for telephones and telephone messages. Our second phone line (which I could technically do without now that the girls have moved out and Chris is tethered to his cell phone and doesn't object too much or too loudly about having to wander around outdoors on the property for hours) handles everything else - the DSL, the tvs, the fax line.

It's been a great situation...until last week that is. First the phone line went dead but fortunately Verizon has 24 hr. service online and I easily placed a repair request. My appointment was for Friday and they gave me an ever-so-convenient time slot - sometime between 8 am and 7 pm and they guaranteed my phone would be fixed.

The technician arrived, unbeknownst to me, and began exploring the problem outside. When that didn't help, he needed to move indoors and check things out there. Anyone who has seen the inside of my house knows that a) there are not terribly many phone jacks (particularly for a house of this size) and b) those few jacks are well lots and lots of furniture. It was no easy task to get everything moved for the technician only to be told that he couldn't figure out what had happened but he could get one (and only one) jack to work and that it would serve for both lines. all worked great...until about 30 minutes after he left (and coincidentally ten minutes after Gerry arrived home).

Then the second line went silent and it wasn't too long before I realized just how dependent I had become on this technology. Not having a phone turned out to be not so much a problem - no phone calls interrupting us watching tv and our not having to deal with every organization currently soliciting phone donations. It was a bit quiet here and really wonderful.

That same pleasure did not extend to the second line going down. NO EMAIL??? Yeah, that's just (truly) not working for me! Transfer money to my son's account? Not happening! Begin ordering gifts for the holiday? HA!

As the disconnect continued on into yesterday, I finally had to resort to packing up my little travel laptop and heading to the closest Starbucks, at a cost of $6.50 ($2.50 for my tea and $4 for a 2 hour connection fee!). I waded through my email, postponing everything I could and dealing with the rest while hoping my battery would hold out.

Today Verizon promised to send a technician out to fix our second line and get my connection to the real world re-established. In anticipation, I empty out our "black hole" closet - the one that holds our coats, our ski clothing and ALL our coats. It is not a small task. But it is the only way to gain access to the crawl space which I was sure was going to be required this time since everything else was moved and checked out the last time.

Suddenly, without warning or any visible aid from a human, the line was once again working. Apparently just moving the crap (I mean priceless belongings) from the closet was sufficient to scare it into operation.

When I get caught up on my email, I'll be in the foyer playing Tetris with our belongings, trying to get it all magically back into the closet. (Chime loudly if you're emailing me!)

~later, tw

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Please Don't Go...

Last night we took our newest grandson (Jax) to see his first ever Mariner game (along with his mother (our daughter, Jenny) and an assortment of friends and family). Though the temperature was a bit chilly, it was definitely a lovely evening in early October. Between oohing and aahing over little Jax, we all enjoyed sitting in the outfield, occasionally watching the game and relishing what well might be Jr.'s last home run. Franklin Guitterez made the night even more special by tossing a ball into the stands for our nephews and the Mariners capped off the evening with a 2-1 victory over Texas.

Today (Sunday), Jenny, Jax, Gerry & I took in the final home game of the season. The skies had cleared overnight and were cloudless and beautifully blue for this final game. The 32,000+ fans on hand were not disappointed. As he came to bat for the first time, Jr. acknowledged the crowd's cheers and then it was back to business.

Finally, in the bottom of the 8th with the Mariners holding onto a slim 4-3 lead, Jr. came to bat, possibly for the final time as a Mariner, possibly for the final time ever. The crowd immediately rose to give him a standing ovation, but in typical gamesmanship, the Texas manager called for a pitching change and Griffey never left the on-deck circle. We remained standing, patiently waiting for the new pitcher to warm up and then the announcer once again called out "Now batting, Ken Griffey, Jr.!"

We cheered but he was focused. The pitch - 91 mph and he connected immediately - a "seeing eye single" to centerfield. Gerry said that he thinks it's the first time he's ever witnessed a curtain call standing ovation for a single! The game was close and Griffey's not particularly fast, so it was no surprise when the Mariner manager pulled him for a pinch runner. But it gave us one more chance to cheer the kid we'd all watched grow into the man he's become.

When in the top of the 9th, David Aardsma threw that final pitch and Rob Johnson caught it for the final strike, the crowd erupted one more time. This team which had played so abysmally last year, setting a record for most losses ever, had turned things around so dramatically in just one short year. There are lots of things one could point to that helped create that metamorphosis - the new general manager, the new team manager, some player acquisitions. But in my opinion (and I doubt that I'm alone in this one), the biggest single difference between this year and last year is summed up by the single word: JUNIOR.

Kenny - please don't go. Please bring back the magic again next year. Please make baseball fun once again for the players and the fans!

Mariner management - You've taken a chance in the past on Eric Bedard, Heathcliff Slocum and Carlos Silva, all players that cost you a lot financially and failed to generate wins or a fan base. Take a chance on re-signing Kenny. You absolutely won't regret it!

~later, tw

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Conquering a Fear of Flying

Amongst my friends and family, I can count a number of engineers, students of physics and science and just generally really smart people who could readily explain the aerodynamics of flight. And yet...something in me (possibly the laws of gravity, laws of physics, laws of nature) refuses to believe in this technology (I basically consider that flight falls into the realm of magic). But I don't have the luxury of time and money that a John Madden or a Whoopie Goldberg have and so I must resort to air travel upon occasion.

This doesn't make it any easier. Ask Gerry. He will definitely tell you that the term "white knuckle flyer" doesn't begin to describe me. I'm always amazed and relieved when we reach our crusing altitude, disturbed by any in-flight turbulance, and my "beads" get quite the work out during landing. And like a moth to the flame, my "crash-dar" is in full operation when scanning headlines, web updates or even movie descriptions for all things pertaining to air disasters.

So it was with more than a little reluctance (and a great deal of trepidation) that I agreed to make our return trip via float plane (a plane that actually, INTENTIONALLY?, lands on water? What are you, nuts?) I was determined to not let my very, VERY real (though others might describe it as somewhat irrational) fear detract from an otherwise amazing adventure.

We checked in with our pilot from Kenmore Air at the Coal Harbour Marina. It truly had turned out to be a gorgeous September day and Chuck (a pilot specifically requested by Carol) assured us that the flight would be calm and beautiful. Sounded good to me! After checking our passports and a few final (just in case) photos, we were ready to board the aircraft.

THAT LITTLE THING IS OUR PLANE? Okay, take a deep breath - you can do this. Our "luggage" was loaded and in my capacity as tour director you can be assured that I did everything possible (just short of actually weighing the pieces) to make sure that everyone strictly adhered to the 24 lb. luggage limit! Once on board, we were given the usual pre-takeoff instructions (fasten your seatbelt, if need be the floatation devices are clear in the back of the plane - obviously they don't get used a lot...good thing I can swim. What's the water temperature this time of year? Once we reach our cruising altitude...not very darn high...our flight attendant will be by to serve drinks...whiskey, vodka, brandy. I wonder where those came from???)

And then we were cleared for takeoff. Carol was flying co-pilot (though Marne had volunteered, the group thought it best if she stayed back in the cabin with the rest of us). Takeoff was amazingly smooth - if not for the noise of the plane (yeah, it's pretty loud) it would hardly have been noticeable. I wondered if we were going to fly over or under the Lionsgate Bridge?

And then we were up...above (but not so far above that we didn't have a magnificent view of) the coast, the water and the islands below us. Though we didn't see any whales, we did see a number of large ferries and even a couple of cruise ships.

The view was incredible as we flew over the San Juan islands and places I remember booking reservations for when I worked for Kenmore Air (Friday Harbor, Eastsound, Rosario's). Following the map we could see as we flew past Everett and Edmonds, the I-5 freeway and finally to Lake Washington.

Our pilot circled around and landed the plane in the lake, smooth as silk and headed for the Kenmore Harbor. Kudos to Chuck! It was perhaps the smoothest landing I've ever experienced - land or water. And though I just knew that this was an exceptional flight, that the stars would always align so that I could be guaranteed of this particular pilot and this amazing weather, by the time we reached the pier I was already thinking that this group should be planning our next adventure to Victoria via floatplane!
~later, tw

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Oh Canada!

The day was just beginning to break as we made our way under the Lionsgate Bridge and into the pier at Canada Place. Carol and Mark (the ones who retired early the night before) were up and exploring, checking out the sites of Vancouver as we approached. A Holland America ship was chasing us into port.

Packing to leave is typically a bittersweet affair indeed but staying in the Penthouse Suite made it a bit easier (as most of us left with many, many souvenir "gifts" and reminders of our one night of luxury - soaps, sewing kits, stationery, a Princess canvas bag and even slippers - basically anything that wasn't permanently nailed down!) Good thing we weren't flying back commercially to the states as we might have had to pay for extra luggage!!!

Though we were scheduled to disembark fairly early (before 8 am - what's up with that?), there was still plenty of time to enjoy breakfast in the dining room. Of particular interest this trip was the "raisin doughnut". Clearly it was accurately named for there was only a single raisin to be found in each doughnut.

After breakfast we headed for the Elite Lounge (for those with holding Elite or Platinum cards OR for the "PPs"). We arrived with only about 5 minutes until final call for disembarkation but we were determined to enjoy all the amenities of our one shot at being "PPs".

Then it was off to customs, immigration and locating our limo. A nice ride but I now think all paparazzi's should be banned from photographing limousine ingress & egress - there is absolutely no real dainty way for this to be accomplished. And we tried a number of them - crawling, duck walking, rolling around the seats (made a bit more difficult by the amount of laughing taking place as well!) The coveted seats seemed to be found on the back bench (which required no gymnastics!):

First up, we stopped in Stanley Park to see the Totems and across the waterfront back at our ship. It was shaping up to be a gorgeous day in Vancouver and there were already many people out and about. We would check to see what everyone was looking at whenever we arrived - and finally figured out that they thought we were the celebrities! I imagine they were quite disappointed when we all popped out of the vehicle.

I saw this sign at the washroom in Stanley Park - there was a women's restroom, but apparently the men's restroom was pulling double duty as both a Men's Restroom and the Fire Sprinkler System (I wonder how many volunteers it requires to put out a fire? I would imagine that it would depend on the size of the hoses?):

Back on board the limo and we were headed thru more of the park and to see the Lionsgate Bridge up close. As we drove thru the park, the police were trying to close the road for a race that would be taking place. All traffic, other than our limo, was stopped (it's good to be the king - or at least travel like one!)

We made a brief stop at Granville Island to check out the marketplace there and then it was time to head for lunch (already?) at Floata Seafood Restaurant for traditional "dim sum". Clearly some of us enjoyed this particular type of dining more than others but I think all of us had a good time.

After lunch it was time to head off to Gastown to see the gasworks clock (in operation for over 100 years) and do a little bit of shopping. Then we were driven around to see the site of the opening ceremony for the Vancouver 2010 games, the countdown clock and then we went in search of Murchie's Tea Shop (highly recommended by our breakfast companion on the Pacific sailing last Friday). Our original destination was closed but Andy found another one at the Mall in West Vancouver. It's a wonderful tea shop and several bags of tea found their way into the limo.

We made a final stop at a pub nearly Stanley Park (I will have to try to find the name of it). It was very near the waterfront and those amongst us who found "dim sum" not entirely to their liking found the sliders and sweet potato fries a wonderful substitute (along with a round...or two...of Guinness, beers and pear cider).

All too soon our day in Vancouver was coming to an end and it was time now to make way for Coal Harbour Marina for the final leg of our adventure. We left the luxury of our limousine behind us as we headed to the seaport and the float plane that awaited us.

Next up: Terri's Fears Ungrounded

~later, tw

Monday, September 28, 2009

Celebrity Cruising

After dinner, we went in search of entertainment on-board. I wasn't too sure what to expect since this was, after all, just a one night cruise. We opted to head for the Vista Lounge and see the "Visionary Comedian" Paul Wildbaum (part comedian, part mime, part maestro). Mark was determined not to become a "victim" - an audience member hauled up on stage to become part of the act. I'm not entirely sure that Mr. Wildbaum didn't overhear him - either that, or he correctly identified Mark as someone with handbell experience.

That doesn't exactly explain how Michael was selected as well (unless the comedian was just looking for a couple of "ding dongs") but I don't think their performances embarrassed either themselves of the rest of the gang (here's a video of the performance):

Afterwards, Mark & Carol headed back to their cabin to enjoy the luxuries of the penthouse and the rest of us went off exploring. The Golden Princess has "Movies Under the Stars" - a large screen outdoors by the pool and Gerry & I went to check it out. The staff was just arranging the chaises lounges (and thoughtfully putting out additional blankets as it was quite chilly!). The movie that night was "Star Trek" at 10 pm and the scent of theatre popcorn already filled the air.

Since we had already planned to join the rest of the gang for "Cinemastic" (the large production show in the Princess Theatre) we couldn't stay for the movie. But it is definitely on my "bucket list" of things to try on my next cruise!

The show was amazing - songs from all the movies, the singers were great, the dancers were wonderful and it even included a bit reminiscent of Cirque d'Soleil trapezee work. Though it was late when it got over, the gals wanted to check out the Skywalker Lounge on the opposite end of the ship. It is accessed via an escalator that goes thru a futuristic tube to reach the bar - which is the highest point on this ship and the guys assured us that the view is amazing (when not completely overfilled by the twenty-something dance scene...another time, I guess!

Here's a photo of the Golden Princess (I might have been one of the sister ships) that shows the escalator tube at the back of the ship that takes you up to Skywalker Lounge (Gerry shot this photo as we flew over the ship on our way back home...but more on that later!):

Finally it was off to bed for all of us. Trying to squeeze in as much as I could in the limited time in our penthouse, I decided to conclude the evening with a dip in the jacuzzi. Note to self: probably not the best idea to put bubble bath in a jacuzzi (the result is something along the lines of bathing in whipped cream - not exactly unpleasant, but the challenge is trying to get rid of all the bubbles when you're done!)

Next up: Our limo awaits!

~later, tw

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Our new green boarding passes indicated we were now 'preferred' and we were whisked out of the line for the "common folk" and into our own private line for embarkation. In just a matter of minutes (too quickly for photos - if they would have even allowed it), we were boarding the Golden Princess for our fabulous one-night cruise to Vancouver, B.C. I haven't a clue as to why Princess decided to upgrade our four couples to Penthouse Suites. One night of pure luxury that we will most likely never experience again and we were determined to make the most of it!

The first of our suites (Pete & Marne's) was just off the elevator and we anxiously awaited their opening of the door. It was incredible! Gerry & I have cruised a number of times (I think this was my 9th time) and we've always been impressed with the attentiveness to detail, the economy of space even though the room is usually under 300 sq. ft. (roughly the size of my master bath and walk-in closet at home). I've never felt cramped at all (provided there are only the recommended two people per cabin).

But this was spacious and plush. There was a sitting room, a wet bar, a tv, a desk, and a door opening onto our balcony...and that was just in the first half of the cabin! The second room housed the bed, another desk, another tv, two nightstands, a walk-in closet, and another door to the other half of our balcony! The third extremely large room was actually divided into two rooms - the shower and jacuzzi were in one half of the room, the powder room in the other. In all it was nearly 600 sq. ft.

Once we got past the enormity of the rooms themselves, it was time to discover all the little perks that go along with being "Penthouse People" (or PPs as we were beginning to refer to ourselves!): the pre-printed stationery, the complimentary mini-bar, the invitation to a cocktail party with the captain, the spectacular bowl of fresh fruit to welcome us. Soon our cabin steward was inquiring whether we'd enjoy a glass of champagne? Along with the canapes that room service had provided for each of our cabins. We elected to have a "sail away" party of our own on one of the balconies (after we had of course requested that the balcony doors between each of our suites we opened).

The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring our ship (and waving goodbye to the Amsterdam which was sharing the pier with us that afternoon).

The guys got their work out playing ping pong and then it was time to head for our "muster" station in the Explorer Lounge. As you can tell, Gerry found this to be quite exciting stuff but everyone joined in on donning their lifejackets.

Then it was off to change for dinner. The menu was "Sailaway Dinner" - one of my favorites on Princess ships as it includes their Mushroom Soup as well as their "Rum Infused Pina Colada Soup" (which is, as you might expect, served in a glass with a straw. You can order this in the bar at any time!) Some us learned important lessons in on-board dinner ordering: if it is plural, it definitely means MORE THAN ONE. For instance, if you order the filet medallionS, you can expect at least two to show up. Plus they won't be so much "medallions" as they will be the Princess 6 oz. filet steaks.

Next up: On-Board Entertainment
~later, tw