Posts Tagged ‘Spokane’

It seems I discover death wherever I go.  I recently connected with an old friend—one of the few remaining living ex-boyfriends—and while scrolling through his photos on facebook, I found a picture of our high-school friend Matt accompanied by a cryptic note:  “You will be missed.”  I sent my friend a frantic inquiry and he told me that yes, Matt had passed away in 2012.  Matt was never my boyfriend, but he was a good friend, and I’m as sad as if I’d lost someone I truly loved.

I met Matt in Biology Large Group.  In our high school, classes met for three days in the classroom and then for one day in the auditorium with the other classes that took place at the same time.  We were supposed to spend the fifth hour studying independently.  (We didn’t.)  Matt took a seat high up in the back row because he didn’t want anyone to think he had an interest in Biology; I took the seat next to him because I was new and didn’t know anyone.  It was the best decision I made that year. (more…)


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Every now and then I have to remind myself that the purpose of this blog is to promote my writing.  I want to get myself a little supplemental income, pay off some nasty debts, and maybe go to Palm Desert more often.

With that in mind, I’ve been revising the first third of Forgiveness Fits.  Too many reviewers thought Caroline was whiny and annoying and several–men, especially–didn’t like reading a first person story about this whiny girl.  Reviews that identify problems are great, but the ones that suggest solutions are pure gold.  One reviewer suggested switching to third person, and I agree it solves many problems.

Below, you’ll find the new beginning.  The rest, as always, can be found at http://www.authonomy.com/books/36529/forgiveness-fits/


Caroline MacDougall eased the Monahan’s Suburban into a parking space near the Ferris High School gym and put it in park.  “Got everything?” she asked the eager football camper at her side.

“Duh, Caroline.  You sound like Mom when you do that.”

Caroline smiled.  John hated thinking of her as the family’s nanny.  He’d much rather think of Caroline as something else.

“I’ll be back at four,” she said, as she noticed the player coming toward the car from John’s side.

Caroline’s smile disappeared.  “You better go.”

John looked toward the player and made a disgusted noise.  “Chase Gillespie.  I forgot he’d be here.”  But he opened the door and hopped out.

While the door was open, Chase shouted.  “Monahan!  That your babysitter?”

John slammed the door.

Caroline contemplated Chase from behind her sunglasses, grateful for the tinted windows and air conditioning, as John jogged to the back of the Suburban and jerked out his equipment bag.  Tall and slender, Chase appeared better suited for basketball than football, but she knew him enough to know he probably liked the contact.  That, and trash talking his opponents.  John turned and waved as he trotted past Chase without another look.  Atta boy, thought Caroline.

She pulled in to the lot again just before four, and waited along with the moms there to retrieve their sons.  Michael gurgled in his safety seat and Aiden escaped from his seat to stand at the window, watching for John.  Just as she’d expected, they erupted with joy at the sight of their oldest brother, filthy from sweating all day on the football field in the sun.  Michael kicked his fat legs and Aiden jumped up and down on his seat, pudgy hands pressed on the window.

“How was it?” she asked, as she handed him a cold bottle of Gatorade.

“Good.”  He tilted his head back and swallowed half the bottle in one gulp.  “Thanks.”

“Chase give you a hard time?”

John shot her a curious look.  “You know him?”

“I know of him.  I know he’s not very nice.”  Caroline knew more than that, but wasn’t about to unload her sob stories on an eighth-grader.

“Well, then, you know him.”  John shrugged.  “He’s a creep.”

Caroline smiled to herself.  She’d been worried John would spend a day with the football players and come home indoctrinated with their beliefs about Caroline MacDougall.  She should have known better.  John adored her.

A loud “ga” from the back seat drew John’s attention.  “Hey, Mikey.”  He reached back to grab Michael’s toes.  “Didja go for a ride with Caroline?”

He smiled and repeated his catch-phrase.  “Ga!”

Aiden still stood on the seat next to Michael, sucking his thumb.  He opened his mouth enough to say, “Ca-ine said.”

“I know Caroline invited you,” John reassured him.  “Hey!” he added.  “When you come to this camp, you’ll have Matt and Mark as coaches!”  Matt and Mark were the seven-year-old twins.  “You’re so lucky.”

“ManMark!” agreed Aiden, nodding.  “ManMark,” he said once more before returning his attention to his thumb.

When they arrived back at the Monahan’s house, just across the street from Caroline’s, John carried Michael in and deposited him in his playpen before returning to the car for his bag.  He disappeared down the hall to shower while Caroline added Aidan to the playpen and helped Barb get ready for dinner.

While Caroline extracted loaves of French bread from the oven, she watched in wonder as the kids tended to their assigned chores.  Frankie, age nine, sprayed the picnic table with cleaner and wiped it down before his siblings prepared it for the meal.  Next, Reagan, the only girl, set out the eight placemats and pointed out any the spots Frankie had missed.  The twins were allowed to set out the silverware and napkins, though seldom did Barb allow them to touch the knives.  John and the next oldest brother, Chris, brought out the glasses, filled with ice and homebrewed iced tea.  John and Chris then carried the two high chairs outside, one for Michael and one for Aidan, setting them both across from the chair Caroline would perch on while feeding them.  Once everyone was served and seated, Bill said grace and when he finished, asked John about camp.

John sat up straighter when his father addressed him.  “I liked it.  They worked us hard.”

“I hope so,” mused Bill.  “What did you learn today?”

“We did some handoffs and agility drills.  We ran a lot.  They timed us.  I’m faster than some of the sophomores.”  John waited for his dad’s reply.

“Don’t brag, son.”  Bill peered over his glasses at John.  “Did you talk with the coach?”

“No, sir.  He sort of had the Varsity players doing everything.”

“Hmpf,” said Bill.

John’s face signaled his disappointment.  Then he brightened.  “Paul Corbin was there.”

“Was he?” asked Barb, suddenly interested in the conversation.

John nodded, glad to have said something at least one of his parents liked.  “He said to tell you hello.”

“We’ll have to have them over,” Barb said to Bill.  She leaned closer to Caroline in her seat at the end of the table.  “Have you met our friends Greg and Nancy?”  As Caroline shook her head, Barb continued.  “You’ll love Paul.  Everyone loves Paul.”

Caroline wanted to answer but knew her remarks would sound like self-pity.  She liked many of her classmates.  But they didn’t much like her.

After she’d spooned the entire jar of baby spaghetti and half a jar of apricots into Michael’s mouth, Caroline excused herself to take him inside and clean him up.  Wiping his face and hands, she repeated her mantra about starting school in three weeks.

Smile, she instructed herself.  Say hello more often.  Reach out in kindness and friendship.  No sarcasm, no matter how funny you think you are.  You’re good at this, Caroline MacDougall.  You can do it.

Caroline knew life in the military.  She knew a dozen schools, people of all races and backgrounds, and cities across the country.  She recognized change, disruption, and friendships based on little more than a momentary need.  Hey, let’s go play on the swings!  Because they giggled together as they pumped their legs and swung high enough for the chains to go slack, they became inseparable.  Wanna come over and watch television?  They stayed up until after midnight watching an old movie and quoted the lines the following week at school, best friends.  You!  Over there!  We need someone to play outfield.  Caroline missed every ball hit in her direction but made five new friends that one afternoon.

And then her dad retired from the Air Force, and the family moved to Spokane to be near her mom’s sister.  Caroline recognized nothing.

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Betty and Willard Little, featured in this article, remind me of the elderly couples Paul and Caroline meet at Bible Study in my book Forgiveness Fits.

I have almost no happy memories of living in Spokane.  I lived there from the age of fourteen to the age of twenty-one, and when I left I knew I’d never be back.  But not everyone thinks it’s an awful place.  When I hear my husband’s parents talk about their youth and the years early in their marriage, I wish I’d been there way back when.  That’s why I gave Paul and Caroline their Bible Study friends.  Everyone I met over the age of forty told stories of living in a virtual paradise, a place where neighbors looked out for one another and all the kids got along in school.  A place where people like Betty and Willard live.

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Goodbye, Fighting Sioux

From KXLY News in Spokane:  “Voters in North Dakota decided to change the mascot of University of North Dakota. They will no longer be called the “Fighting Sioux.” The name change came amid NCAA threats to sanction the programs.”

I’m half Scottish, and my ancestors lived in the Highlands.  Should I be offended by the Shadle Park Highlanders in Spokane?  Is the team honoring my people–or poking fun at them?  When I was in high school, Shadle’s band included a bagpiper and Highland dancers.  A past piper was hired to play at my father’s funeral.  I can’t imagine what I would find offensive about this.

What I might find offensive is a mascot named after the awful people who drove the Highlanders from their lands in the Highland Clearances:  the English, or what most celtic people call the Sassenach, or Saxons.  But I managed to attend Ferris High School–home of the Saxons–without once being insulted for my Highland ancestry, though as my book indicates, I didn’t quite feel welcome there.  Maybe they should drop their mascot name.

So count me as one who feels this is political correctedness run amuck.  If the “Fighting Sioux” must be dropped, so must the famously insulting term, “Fighting Irish.”  Those Irish immigrants were once known for their belligerence, you know.

A nearby high school recently dropped their Indian mascot in favor of “The Eagles.”  The other two mascots in that town?  Spartans and Patriots.  Some day in the future, I think people will wonder why it was acceptable to honor the people of Sparta and those who lived in our American Colonies, but not the Indians.

What do you think??

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That’s what this blog is meant to promote: my writing.  It’s just so darn tempting to write about the blogs other people write, and to contribute to things like National Migraine Awareness month.  But not today.  Today, it’s all about ME.

Here are the current opening paragraphs of Forgiveness Fits:

We tend to love what we know.  It’s the familiarity, the perceived degree of comfort, that attracts us, reels us in like a powerful angler catching the perfect rainbow trout.  Me, I knew life in the military.  I knew a dozen schools, people of all races and backgrounds, and cities all across the country.  I recognized change, disruption, and forming friendships based on little more than a momentary need.  Hey, let’s go play on the swings!  Because we giggled together as we pumped our legs and swung high enough for the chains to go lax, we became inseparable.  Wanna come over and watch television?  We stayed up until after midnight watching an old movie and quoted the lines the following week at school, best friends.  You!  Over there!  We need someone to play outfield.  I missed every ball hit in my direction but made five new friends that one afternoon.

And then my dad retired, and we moved to Spokane to be near my mom’s sister.  I recognized nothing.

Want more?  Forgiveness Fits

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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!




Yours in guilt, Garrett Cook ’97

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This week I noticed a lilac blooming on the grounds of the school where I work.  They bloom here a bit earlier than they do in Spokane, which holds an annual festival in honor of these perfumed beauties.  So prominent are they in the city, that I had to include them in my book, Steadfast.


Thinking of Trevor’s family caused me endless amounts of pain.  I asked Chris about it as often as I dared and he always insisted it was better they not have any details.  I wanted to respect his judgment, after all, he knew Trevor and I didn’t, but as the weeks went by I became more aware of what it was like to lose a loved one.  I wanted to know what Chris was thinking and feeling every moment of the day.  I wanted to watch the lawns green up through his memories of springtimes past.  Did he notice it?  Did it make him dread having to mow the lawn?  Did it bring back the sounds and smells of baseball practice?  I wanted to see the first sprigs of forsythia bloom, notice the tulips show up in the grocery store, smell the lilacs bloom through his senses.  The Monahans had a huge lilac hedge in the back yard.  What memories came to life when he smelled that hedge blooming?  I wanted him to tell me how his body responded to the warmer temperatures of summer, the trip we took to the lake, the walk along the river.  I couldn’t get enough.  And Trevor’s family got nothing.

The lilacs finally did it.  The common lilac, syringa vulgaris, proliferates in the sun and soil of Spokane.  For about two weeks each May–usually a good week after the festival held in their honor–the smell of lilacs permeates the city and the county.  Every activity becomes more regal, more gracious when accompanied by the fragrance of the lilac.  Eating leftovers outside on the picnic table becomes dining al fresco when the lilacs bloom.  Children walking to school feel smarter, students in college find their classmates more attractive, and married couples conceive more babies ushered by the aroma of the incomparable lilacs.

I had brought in a bouquet of branches snipped from Omi’s yard.  She lent me a vase, and the three branches it held filled the tiny apartment with a fragrance so strong I had to put them in the hallway at night.  Chris began telling stories without any prompting from me.  He spoke of Mother’s Day barbecues held in the shade of that lilac hedge, where Barb received macaroni necklaces and handmade cards.  One year Michael’s card said, “I love you better than pancakes.”  They had given their mother herbs for her garden, plants for the kitchen, box after box of thick, creamy stationery, and hundreds of pounds of See’s Chocolates.  She received each gift with the same delight, hugged each child with the same affection, and even though Chris fell asleep breathing in the flavor of the lilacs believing he was her favorite, he also knew that she loved all the others just as much.

“Don’t you see?” I told him, “Can’t you understand how grateful she’ll be when I tell her this story?  I’ll be able to pull this out when she’s feeling low and give her a bright, happy memory of her loving son.”

“Well, sure,” he said, not seeing where I was headed.

“Don’t you want to give this to Trevor’s family?  Don’t you have something to share with them that can ease their suffering?”

“Heather, you don’t understand.”

“If they didn’t know he was gay, you can tell them you were his friend.  You make a wonderful friend.”

“He never talked to them.”

“Chris, if he was wonderful enough for you to love, then they loved him, too.  What about his brothers and sisters?  What about his friends?  What if you had died down there alone?  Wouldn’t you want Trevor to talk to Reagan, or Frankie, or Michael?”  I closed my eyes to hide my fear.  “Wouldn’t you have wanted him to talk to me?”

“I would have never kept you in the dark.”

“But think about your family.  Once they had the time they needed, they stepped up.  It took them a while, but now we can’t get rid of them.  The place is crawling with them.  They love you.”

“He did talk about his sister.”

“Maybe we could try to find her.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“I’ll remind you.”

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