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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.

 

 

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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.

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Jealous? Not me.

My first thought when I saw his face on his new wife’s Facebook page was this:  “Wow.  He’s much better-looking than I remembered.  No wonder I was so crazy about him.”

My second thought was this:  “Where’s the bucket?  I want to hurl.”

He and I dated in college, more than thirty years ago.  Yet I still taste the bitterness of our failed and mercifully short relationship.  He was the world’s most awful boyfriend.*

But don’t get the idea that I’m jealous.  My perfect husband and I just celebrated our twenty-ninth wedding anniversary.  We have two perfect kids.  I love my job.  I’m excited about writing.  My life rocks.  This is not a post about jealousy.

But why should some other woman get to marry this older and visually improved version?  If he’d looked that good in the picture we had taken at the Homecoming dance, the one where he sat around with his teammates rehashing the game in his suit and tie while his lonesome date turned into a devilish shrew, I might have kept the photo.

I shredded that picture when his car sat in front of my dorm all night.  Parked right there in front of my window.  He wasn’t with his football buddy up on the fifth floor.  Everyone in the entire building, particularly the girl he had to be with, knew he wasn’t with me.  I don’t get angry much.  But I wanted to gather up my rage, march out there and flip that smug little VW right over.  That night, it’s true:  I was jealous.

When my college roommate and I recently got in touch, she spent the first fifteen minutes of our online chat berating me for having ever dated such an awful jerk in the first place.  Which was actually kind of funny, because I met him on a blind date.  It’s not as if I sought him out.

And we had fun on that first date.  I have no earthly idea what we did (it was thirty years ago), but I remember having fun.  And I remember that giddy anxiety that accompanied me the next time or two we met.  I remember meeting his parents and visiting with them during home football games.  I remember that he escorted me to a formal dance I chaperoned during my student teaching, and that he knew exactly where to look for kids who were misbehaving.

But I also remember this:  his roommate was in several of my classes.  And as the relationship continued, the look in his eyes turned from respect to disbelief and then to disappointment.  I caught flashes of disgust.  It’s one thing that my friends thought he was a terrible boyfriend.  It’s another thing entirely that his friends thought he was a terrible boyfriend.

And then I remember fury.  The exact nature of his many crimes escapes me now, but whenever I picture his face or remember his name, the fury returns.  My fury, in fact, grew so large that I ripped out the knife he’d twisted so cruelly in my ribs and figured out a way to plunge it directly into his unsuspecting ribs, twisting it twice for good measure.

But jealous?

No way.

In my saner moments, I understand we weren’t compatible.  I can’t speak for him, of course, but the forces that attracted me to him repelled me in equal measure.  I loved him to pieces and couldn’t stand him.  I wanted to spend every minute with him and then never see him again.  I wanted to nestle in his arms, yet also punch him in the face.  I’d never really punch anyone in the face.  But it crossed my mind.

(Full disclosure:  I’m really not this small-minded.  Really.)

*I treated him as poorly as he treated me.  If confronted on this point, my defense will consist of the time-tested retort:  He did it first!

 

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If you love this story about a high school student with microcephaly, you might also like my book.

 

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A friend posted this story to Facebook, a story about high school students run amuck.  An unpopular girl named Whitney was named to the Homecoming Court–as some kind of a joke–and the greater community reacts with love and acceptance.

What’s galling about this particular form of bullying is that the students who counted the votes and turned in the results are monitored by adults.  Somewhere along the line, an adult–probably a teacher–saw this result and allowed it to go forward without a word to the students.

Yesterday I subbed in a local high school.  A girl sat alone at the end of the back row while her classmates worked in groups.  I knew the moment I saw her expression that she was new to the community.  I asked her to confirm.  She told me people behaved better in her other classes.  After class two boys remained behind so I asked them why they thought their class was comfortable ignoring the new girl.  One said, “But she’s been here all year.”  I reminded him she didn’t know anyone.  His reply surprised me.  “I’m in Link Crew,” he said.  “I’m on it.”  I was surprised because Link leaders shouldn’t have to have a random sub appear after four weeks to identify the new kids.

Whitney will see (or has seen–I’m not sure when Homecoming is!) half the town turn out for the Homecoming Game.  Alums who have never returned from a game will be there to cheer her on.  The number of likes on her Facebook support page outnumbers the number of people in her town.

It never hurts to be kind.

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I received this today via Facebook.  Naturally I shared it.

Dear Friend, I am writing this personal letter to you and no one else. ( Your name here), we have been friends for ( Insert correct time frame) and I feel like we have a connection and friendship that allows me to write this very personal appeaImagel. I am writing in regards to Steve Gleason. Much has been said about Steve and his battle with ALS but I would like to present a different angle to the story and with your help ( Your name) explain how we can make a difference for Steve and his family. First some context, Steve was older than me by two years and a pretty great athlete, there are so few of us. I remember watching him on the gridiron at Gonzaga Prep and thinking wow, I could do that.  I was wrong. I couldn’t.  I marveled as I saw him fly around the field in the Palouse as a part of  the greatest run in Wazzu football history. I took pride in his determination in winning a roll with the Saints in the NFL, “against all odds”  to quote Phil Collins. By the way, how many personal letters such as this do you get with a genuine Phil Collins quote?  You see I took pride in what Steve did because he was one of us. He was a nice guy, he walked the same halls I did and he seemed to care for people. As his career took off he never forgot where he came from and more importantly who had inspired him along the way. In 2002 I believe, Steve threw out the first pitch here at Safeco Field. When I saw him on the field he was quick to say ” Hello Greg!” Wow, he remembered me. I was a sophomore when he was a senior and he still knew me after all these years. Let’s not dwell on the fact that my name isn’t Greg.

Most of you know that I am an outstanding and innovative football coach at Seattle Prep. Some of us are just blessed with both good looks and brains. Last year we faced our rival, O’Dea, a team we haven’t beaten in over 30 years and lost on the goal line going for two by a foot. 21-20 was the final score and to look into the eyes of our players after the game was really gut wrenching. These kids had left it all on the field and still came up just a fraction short. I struggled to find the right words to say because while the kids were heartbroken, I was so proud of them. It was Steve’s words that came to me and that I shared with the team. Max Manix, who was a marginal but slightly affective QB for the Pups in 2006, gave me a letter Steve wrote to the Bullpups before the ’06 semi final game. In it Steve talked about what it means to be a team and to have teammates. The point of it was this, in all his time from junior ball to the NFL the thing that mattered most to him was being a part of an entity bigger then himself. To be able to fully sacrifice for the betterment of those around you is what matters years after the final whistle. The term hero or heroic gets thrown around all the time in sports endeavors. I have been in sports all my life and there is nothing heroic about the games.

Gleason as a Cougar

Not in the true sense of the term. Steve did nothing heroic on the playing field. He competed, he thrived and he excelled. What is heroic about Steve is that he is battling ALS and so much of his attention and precious time is dedicated to making lives better in the future for those who will suffer after him. That’s heroic. How many of us could do the same? So here we are. A teammate, a friend is battling for something far greater then a win. He has walked the same hallways we have, studied in the same classrooms and shared the same life experiences as us. He is one of us and he is in need. Will you act? Will you help? If you won’t contribute to Steve, what will you contribute to? Is there a better, more worthy cause? If so, what is it? On May 12th, at Safeco Field we will hold an event in honor of Steve. We will raise money not for Team Gleason but for Steve and his family to help secure their future. It’s time for his teammates to step up and carry him just like he did for us for all these years.  Below is a link to register for the event. Please be a part of it. Dig deep and really reflect. This is a person who has been a part of our community who needs us. It’s not money being sent to a grand cause but will directly impact our friend. If not this cause, what? Some of you receiving this from me may not know Steve personally. Find his story and he will inspire you. I have added you to this because you hold a special place in my life and if it was me I believe you would be a person of action. As you go home tonight look in the eyes of your spouse and perhaps pick up your child and hold them. We are all so lucky to have loved ones in our life, to be able to hug and tell them we love them. Now take a second to realize that Steve no longer has the strength to do what you take for granted. You have time, imagine if you didn’t. Again Steve teaches us to live each day to the fullest. Can you not take one day for him? I challenge you to be a part of this event and ask that you pass this on to others. Let’s do this!

TBYTC

www.gameonforgleason.ezregister.com

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5b1urNSL488

Yours in guilt, Garrett Cook ’97

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A Boy from Spokane

I don’t know why the story of Steve Gleason resonates with me.  Gleason, as you might have heard, is the New Orleans Saint recently diagnosed with ALS, a neuro-muscular disease that affects professional athletes at rates higher than the general population.  ALS is also called “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” for the famous baseball player who had it.

Steve Gleason was born in Spokane, where I attended high school, in 1977, the year I graduated and began college.  In general, when I hear ‘boy from Spokane” I automatically translate that phrase into an unflattering portrait.  I lived there from the ages of 14 to 21, and can sadly not relay many uplifting stories about any boys from Spokane.  I tried, and I failed.

Steve Gleason went on to play football at Washington State, my husband’s alma mater.  More important, he played there during the 1997 season, the year the Cougars beat UCLA in the home season opener, the year the Cougars beat USC in LA.  The year we romped through Husky Stadium, when Lamont Thompson intercepted Brock Huard three times and Ryan Leaf and Michael Black and Leon Bender and Chris Jackson and a host of other players performed feats of athleticism not seen before or since.  The year the Cougars went ten and one in the regular season, and took thousands and thousands of grateful, long-suffering fans to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl.  Whenever I hear the name of a player from that season, I feel a sense of obligation, of debt.  Even if he’s a boy from Spokane.

(more…)

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