Now there’s a title that will attract thousands of readers. Maybe I should have written, “You won’t believe what this woman does with her gift wrap!”

Yesterday, my daughter wondered aloud if we should try harder to save gift wrap on Christmas morning. I shook my head and explained that re-using ribbons (I tie everything with wire-edged ribbon) is recycling enough.

As I wrapped presents yesterday and today, I became even more convinced we’re doing “enough” recycling. It’s been ages since I accepted a gift box. And because I usually wrap the presents that leave the house in the nicer boxes, I’m curating a collection of truly ancient boxes. Olive-colored boxes from the Bon Marche? Of course. Shoe boxes? Naturally. Amazon packing boxes? You know it. Lamonts? Yes, even Lamonts.

The tissue inside the boxes? It stays in place and is used year after year, or until it rips. I confess, the tissue inside one very old Sears box was looking a bit yellow this morning. I’ll probably throw it away on Sunday.

We also re-use the tags. Every Christmas morning as I roll up the used ribbon, I collect the tags and store them in plastic bags labeled with our names. It’s fun to see the tags the kids wrote when they were very small. Some tags are marked with as many as three years, showing that we’ve used them more than once. Sometimes we wrote little hints on the tags (“Open me first.” Christmas pajamas, of course. “Look behind the couch.” A print of a Chris Van Allsburg painting.) which help us remember the presents of Christmas past.

And the paper does, after all, go into the recycling bin.

I think I’m doing enough.

What about you? How do you recycle during the holidays?

I had three experiences yesterday that challenged my lifetime adherence to waiting my turn.

First, I drove to Target. I noticed a car pulling out of a spot, pulled toward it, and waited. As I entered the spot, I realized someone had also been waiting on the other side. Which one of us was there first? Who knows? Normally I yield to the other person waiting–my legs work fine and I could always use a little exercise–but by the time I saw her, I was practically in the spot. I decided I could keep it.

To my surprise, the driver rolled down her window and said, “Actually, I was waiting for that spot.” In what we Pacific Northwest people would call a Southern California accent.

“So was I, hon,” I replied as I got out of the car.

Her voice softened. “That’s okay, you can have it.” She drove away.

Was my argument that compelling? I doubt it. I think she took one look at my head full of gray hairs and decided I needed the spot. Not sure I feel all that good about our interaction.

Next, I visited Rite-Aid for medicated Chap-Stick and one other small item. As I approached the sole register line, a customer ahead of the person ahead of me was having problems completing his purchase. Another cashier invited the two of us waiting to move to another register. The woman in front of me insisted that I go first. I insisted that she keep her place in line. “But I have an entire cart full,” she said.

Well, OK. I can go first.

Luckily, another cashier came along and rang her up two seconds later. A much better outcome for everyone.

Final errand was a trip to the Group Health Pharmacy to pick up a prescription that was called in for me last week. A new system has been installed, and I think it prioritizes service based on the purpose of your visit, or how easily and quickly the people behind the counter can prepare your order. I had to specify if I was there for an order called in more than two days ago or one called in today or another matter. I took my number and picked up a magazine to wait. And then my number was called. People who had arrived well ahead of me were still sitting in place. Guiltily, I went to the counter and purchased my meds. I’m guessing (hoping?) those who were still waiting had orders that required more attention than mine did. I hope this turned out better for all concerned…but still don’t feel totally settled about it.

It was nice going first. But I think I’ll stick with waiting my turn.


On Friday after dinner, we noticed our cat Lulu behaving strangely outside. Dave brought her in and we realized she was A) filthy and B) struggling to breathe. We took her to Aerowood (the 24-hour veterinarian in Eastgate) where the vet suspected she was succumbing to cancer. We got to hold her as she took her last difficult breath. We’re sorry she’s gone.
lulumitLulu was the oddest cat. We got her at the King County Shelter in Crossroads after the Humane Society wouldn’t let us adopt. (We’d said we planned to have our cat declawed. This was somewhat upsetting to the thirteen-year-old boy I had with me.) For many years her favorite toy was the screw cap from the bottled seltzer water Dave drank. She’d get in his lap whenever he opened one, then bat the cap all over the house. We never knew where they went, just knew that dozens and dozens of bottle caps were piling up somewhere. One day we moved the couch to vacuum and found her entire collection.

Continue Reading »


A friend just shared a NY Times article about the people who lose weight on the television show “The Biggest Loser.”  Turns out their bodies fight like the dickens to get back to–or even above–their original weight.

Well color me shocked.

I am obese.

I was an unusually skinny child, a constant source of anxiety to my parents, who survived World War II in Europe.  My pediatrician tried to explain to my worried mother that I didn’t need to eat quite as much as she did, and she tried, but often failed, to serve me child-sized portions.  I remained thin, despite a steady diet of fried chicken and pork chops, potatoes mashed with whole milk and real butter, regular desserts, and gobs of sugar on my cereal.

In my late teens and early twenties, I began dieting because I was sure my hips and thighs were enormous.  From age twenty to age thirty, I gained 75 pounds.  I had two babies, and never lost any of the baby weight from either one. This despite walking so much that I shredded my Achilles tendons.

You read that right.  On fried eggs and bacon I was ridiculously skinny.  On Diet Coke and skim milk and high fiber, I got fat.

In my thirties, I read a weight loss article about some women who had lost weight by practicing prayer.  One woman profiled in the article said that prayer helped her give up her usual breakfast of six eggs, half a pound of bacon, and six slices of toast and allowed her to lose weight.  Would prayer, I wondered, help me give up my bowl of Cheerios with skim milk and banana? So I could eat what instead, exactly?

Today, my doctors think I make excuses.  When I describe my daily intake, they don’t believe me.  In the past ten years, I’ve given up sugar, sweetener, carbonated beverages, the whole concept of ‘dessert,’ bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes.  I eat grilled meat and lots of fresh vegetables and fruit. I remain fat.

Right now, I’m hopeful that my new mouth guard, intended to address my sleep apnea, will offer my metabolism a boost.  I’ll believe it when I see it.

The other culprit: I took lots of antibiotics in my early twenties.  I suspect that I killed off too many of the good bacteria.  I’ve been taking probiotics for ages, hoping to improve my balance of gut flora.

Neither remedy is likely to get me back into my 32W 32L Levis. But it would be nice to be able to burn off the extravagant apple I eat each day for lunch.

Dave and I spent the day selling the car.

The car.

If you live nearby, you know the one I mean.  The 2000 A6, in the color the salesman at Barrier Audi called “comearrestmered.” The one we bought new (!) and ordered especially for us: manual 6-speed transmission, ski door from the trunk to the back seat, heated seats, sunroof.  The one we bought with the stock options granted in my first career, which I spent at Microsoft.

The one that I could drive up and down any hill in the snow, as long as I kept my speed under 15 mph.

The one that took all the seventh grade girls home from Newcastle Beach Park because there weren’t any other adults there.

The one that wore grooves into the pavement between home and Tyee Middle School, as I raced (the kids would say “crawled”) to get the kids there on late mornings, attended and presided over PTSA meetings, transformed the Commons into a sparking skyline one June evening and an island paradise four years later.

The one that went to hundreds of Little League and Mudville games.  Hundreds of girls’ basketball games, boys’ basketball games, football games, sports banquets, playoff games. The one that sprinted from the Little League State Tournament in Auburn to home and back again because someone forgot his cleats.

Sometimes, my daughter and I work at the same school.

Sometimes, my daughter and I work at the same school.

The one in which one child sat and cried before attending the first practice freshman year at Newport.

The one I waited in day after day during Tutorial, waiting for another child to finish up in Honors Freshman English, trying to get from 62% to 80%.

The one we were in after a terrible Apple Cup loss.  The cops who pulled us over (that color…) blinked at the youngsters asleep in the back, the obviously sober parents in the front, and said, “You’re probably not in the mood for a ticket, are you?”

The one that parked outside while I shopped at Bellevue Square and worked out at The Bellevue Club, two other indulgences we had to give up.

The one we drove when my friend from ninth grade visited with her husband, and we took them everywhere you take visitors except to our house, which had descending into utter chaos after our abrupt return to work.

The one I was in when I saw the prongs of my engagement ring, vacant, and realized I must have lost the diamond in the pool at the Y.  The one parked in the garage when Dave said, “I still have what I most want from the wedding.”

The one that carried me to the hundreds and hundreds of hours of volunteer work I did for the kids’ schools, Bellevue PTSA Council meetings, WSPTA Board Meetings and which later delivered me to my second career, this time in teaching, which hasn’t taken off the way I’d hoped.  Yet.

The one I was in when the mileage hit 100,000.  It’s not nearly as fun to watch on an electronic odometer as it was on the old mechanical ones, where you saw all 5 nines roll back while a a 1 followed by five zeroes rolled up.  Or, as was the case with my parents’ 1962 Fairlane, just the five zeroes.

The one that lost its clutch on my birthday, burning out as the valet parked it.  Mercifully, the restaurant paid half of the bill.  We could have never afforded it.

If you look closely, you’ll see an ugly gouge in the center of the back bumper. I did this. I did it because I was excited to see a Newport team play at Safeco in the State Baseball Tournament, so excited I didn’t set the brake. The car rolled back into the garage door as it was closing. This time, Dave almost cried.

The one Kirsten and I drove downtown after Christmas 2014 to watch “The Book Thief.”  Ever mindful of costs, Kirsten guided me to a meter cheaper than those inside the downtown core.  And a block away from a strip club.  When we returned from the movie, my back window was broken, there was a rock on the seat, and my Timbuktu bag was gone, and with it, my carefully curated collection of substitute teacher supplies.  Thought you were getting a laptop, didn’t you?

The replacement is a Volkswagen CC, a sleek silver model with just 20,000 miles on it.  It will not need expensive maintenance.  It will park at whatever school I’m assigned to (still subbing…), and will carry groceries and school supplies. It will visit Pullman for games, Spokane to see my mom, and perhaps Vancouver for a little R&R.  It will get me where I need to go.  It will never take me where the Audi took me.



Bargain Hunting

Since losing our money, I’ve become an avid eBay shopper.

And it’s amazing what I’ve found there.

My favorite cologne had been reformulated and didn’t smell right to me, so I visited eBay and found other people’s old bottles for rock-bottom prices.  (I also learned that the ingredient I missed was oak moss, forbidden because it’s toxic.  In very high doses.  Don’t think a spritz of cologne on my belly and wrist will hurt me much.)

I was unhappy with the handbags in the stores–not that I could afford them–and wished I could still get a heavy, vintage leather Coach bag. Scored several on eBay and now I have a small collection of refurbished bags that look better than new.  All for a price lower than the price of a new handbag on sale at Nordstrom. Continue Reading »

Big John


He was big around the middle, wore a barber-shop haircut straight from the Fifties, and had terrible pimples.  His shirt tail regularly found its way out of the waistband of his pants.  He tended to spit when he talked, often because he was arguing with you about something terribly important to him but totally off your radar.  He was the guy you didn’t want to be stuck next to in class.

He worked the fountain while you waited tables.  On the surface, you had little in common.  You were cute and skinny and raked in tips because you smiled a lot.  You dated, badly, because dating meant you were like all the other kids and if there’s anything you wanted to be, it was ‘like the other kids.’  He wasn’t like the other kids.  When he first lived in the dorms, his floormates caused him endless amounts of grief.  They got mad because his alarm went off when he wasn’t there.  They made fun of his interests in law enforcement and fire fighting.  They didn’t much want to argue about music or politics or the right way to treat people in a civil society.  They bullied him and mocked his ideas and disparaged his clothes. Continue Reading »

Six Million


I didn’t really get it until a few years ago, when I learned that the population of Washington had risen above six million.  And then it washed over me like a wave of nausea.

No more Microsoft.  PC owners everywhere would have to go elsewhere for their operating systems.

No more Boeing.  The other plane manufacturers would have to fill the void. Continue Reading »

No Cigar

Today’s WordPress Challenge:

Daily Prompt: But No Cigar

Tell us about a time things came this close to working out… but didn’t. What happened next? Would you like the chance to try again, or are you happy with how things eventually worked out?

I’m guessing no one at WordPress knows I’m a Cougar fan.

Wrong Number


A friend, who is not named Javier, recently posted on Facebook that he’s been getting an unusually high number of calls for someone named Javier, and asked if we’d ever had a problem like that.

Have we. Continue Reading »

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