Friday, March 30, 2012

Nerds of Northwest Washington: Unite!

This weekend is Emerald City Comicon. I wrote about attending last year here (and described my anxiety beforehand here). Re-reading those posts makes me even more excited.

From the website's programming page, here are actual workshops (I swear I am not making this up):

Star Wars Craft Time
Chewbacca Sock Puppets. Wampa Washcloth Dolls. AT-AT Herb Gardens. Join author Bonnie Burton as she shows off some of her favorite crafts from her book The Star Wars Craft Book and demonstrates how to do them. Bonnie will show you how to bring the best of the galaxy far, far away right into your own homes.

I'm So Much Cooler Online: Maintaining Your Digital Profile
Maintaining your digital profile. What should you post? What should you NOT post? How do you become a broadcasted brand, and use that to promote and to get work? Join the writer/artist of Love and Capes, Thomas Zahler as he guides you through the perilous world of the internet.

Star Trek: State of the Franchise
How much longer will movie rumor, anniversary nostalgia and product news pass for an active Trek fandom? Is "Star Trek 2013" enough? Join author/historian/producer Larry Nemecek and a panel of experts for an eyes-wide look at the long-range scan.

I'll leave you with this helpful guide:

Do's and Don'ts

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ode to Airports

I found this list of travel observations on my laptop, which I wrote in 2009 while flying to Florida to see a dear friend. I'm posting it now in honor of all the dramatic airline stories in the news this week. Re-reading it makes me want to take another trip.

I really enjoy traveling alone. It’s nice to be anonymous with no one to keep track of or keep up with. I like being able to operate on my own schedule and have the freedom to alternate between “rigid” and “helter-skelter."

I slept on the shuttle during the 2.5 hour trip here to the airport. I’m well rested, feeling sharp in a denim jacket and bright orange scarf and reliving my independent traveler days. I’m armed with a new book, my laptop, comfortable shoes, and cell phone. What more could a girl need? The world is my oyster.

Airports are like malls: lots of people-watching opportunities, a variety of shops (all over-priced), and plenty of nooks and crannies to disappear into. They contain a wonderful cross-section of humanity. And by wonderful I mean harrowing.

This place is a sociological gold mine of human behavior. Where else could you find this many people funneled through such a narrow opening of common experience? Maybe at Wal-Mart. Or the county fair.

Everyone here is consumed by timetables, departures and destinations. We travel for a variety of reasons but use a common mode of transportation. Most of us could do without the proximity to one another.

Airports are designed to be idiot-proof. You’d have to work really hard to miss all the signs, instructions, public service announcements and last calls. We are herded like cattle, instructed to remove our shoes in a public place and expose the contents of our pockets and purses. It all feels ridiculous, but we do it in the name of safety.

And I do feel safer.

Knowing that any potential crazies are subjected to the same treatment at least levels the playing field. If my flight ends badly, I can rest assured it won’t be because someone had any liquid in excess of three ounces, without a zip-lock bag to carry it in.

We’re all here temporarily. For some that translates to "take it in stride,” put up with the inconveniences and roll with the punches. For others, it means "treat strangers like dirt and demand preferential treatment whenever possible."

Like the guy at the ticket counter who got all pissy with the airline agent while trying to locate his luggage, after he told the agent his layover location rather than his final destination. His bags were long gone, presumably en route to the wrong city. The ticket agent tried to remain calm while several dozen people watched. He turned bright red and kept his voice as low and even as he could while describing a very simple progression of cause and effect: you screwed up, you deal with it. The angry passenger kept shifting his weight impatiently, shaking his head in disbelief, and even threw a ballpoint pen in disgust.

Or consider the woman in line in front of me who stood in one place, waiting for instructions, even though she had not checked in electronically nor received a boarding pass from the counter. She announced without irony that she was going to miss her flight yet stood still, waiting for some direction. Another man paced between computer terminals, eager to leave his luggage with someone in a uniform and go find his gate. Lots of frustrated facial expressions and darting eyes. Fascinating.

Wouldn’t an airport be an ideal context for a social experiment? Travelers are stressed, tired, uncomfortable, and possessive. With this many variables intersecting and so many desired outcomes, I can’t help but compare myself to a rat in a maze, looking for the biggest piece of cheese. Maybe they’ll serve some on my in-flight snack.

I love to see what people consider “travel clothes.” Some are clearly headed for the Outback, dressed like Crocodile Dundee, complete with a canteen on their utility belt and a walking stick (how’d they get that past security?). Others are dressed for success, announcing via their wardrobe “I belong in first class,” with power suits, ties, briefcases, and wing-tipped shoes (I wish I had the cojones to wear a sleeveless dress and heels on an airplane). And then there are those who opt for a super-casual travel experience with a pillow under each arm and a tote bag filled with snacks, dressed in PJs and flip-flops.

Okay, the guy sitting next to me is on his phone, updating his Mama on the status of a sick relative. Including bowel movements. I’m outta here.

Bon voyage.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Inaugural Run of 2012

Now that Daylight Savings has moved us across the threshold from darkness into light, the latent athlete in me is feeling antsy. She's sleepy after a winter of hibernation, but ready for Spring. Once again, the seasonally reoccurring day dreaming begins: this will be the year I become a real runner.

Starting March 31st, I'm moving beyond day dreams. I signed up for a six month training program to run a half marathon. Hubbins and I begin next week. I'm scared.

We ran tonight on our favorite trail, a 2.6 mile loop (full of hills) around a small lake. I wanted to see if I could still do it; this was my first run since mid December. We finished in just over 33 minutes; not a terrific time but I'm still proud, having not run at all for three months.

The last quarter mile felt like running upstream in a waist-deep river. But my lungs felt strong and there was a familiar burn in my quads that said, "We got this. Keep going."

One foot in front of the other. Small, quick steps like Carol taught me
I thought of Cami, who ran a 50k last weekend (good gravy. That's 31 miles). She did it in the mud and snow, on trails that are exhausting to hike even in warm summer weather.

I thought of how much my running has improved since attending two six-week sessions of the Fit School's running program for women. My confidence is increasing and time spent whining is decreasing.

I thought of how excited I am to share this training with my husband. We each have a lot of hobbies, but few overlap and interest us both. Except for this. We're both on board.

Sorry ladies, he's spoken for.
I hope you'll keep reading over the next six months and see where this adventure takes us.

Made it!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Old House

The house on First Avenue that my parents rented until I was five years old was small and ramshackle. They relocated to tiny Ferndale, Washington from Seattle when I was three months old, moving north so Dad would be closer to school in Vancouver, BC. It cost too much to heat the whole house, so in the winters, Mom hung a blanket between the living room and kitchen to harness the oven's heat. The basement flooded each of the five springs we lived there, when the Nooksack rose above its banks. Stories about the Old House still send a shiver down my parents' spine.

But that’s not how I remember it.

When I think of that house, I remember the sunlight that came in the kitchen window; the bedroom and bunk beds I shared with my brother (18 months younger); the closet in my parents' room with a window that looked into the backyard.

All my earliest memories are set in that house.

At age 2, my brother ran through the living room and didn't make a sharp enough right hand turn into our bedroom. He hit his head on the corner of the brick fireplace and had to get stitches on his forehead. I've been scared of stitches ever since. He still has the scar.

Mom gave me a doll that she had when she was a little girl. The doll’s eyes closed when she was cradled. I ruined her with rubber stamps and blue ink on her round plastic cheeks and hid her under my bed. I never saw Mom get mad about it, but I've always regretted destroying an heirloom.

Dad played “Trucks on the Bed” with my brother. They drove wooden cars across Mom and Dad’s bedspread, making those sound effects boys can do so well. A pickup truck named Joel was Dad's favorite.

A lilac tree grew in the side yard, near the faucet where Dad cleaned fish he caught on days off in summer. I remember what it felt like to stand barefoot on the cold, mossy yard and breathe in the smell of the blooming branches; so many tiny petals on one stem that they looked like a single giant flower.

We had a sandbox in the backyard against the back of the house where we played with the kids who lived down the street, Melody and Raymond. We buried Melody one summer. I don't remember if this stands out in my memory because it was so fun or because we got in big trouble.

The old man two doors down fertilized his roses with dead fish. He gave Cheetos to Katie, the little girl that lived in the house between us. She sat on his front step and ate them out of a sandwich bag. She visited him often, but I was scared of him and his stinky, beautiful garden.

Our basement was always dark and wet. It smelled like dirt and Dad’s art supplies: paint thinner and oil paints. He stored mason jars full of paintbrushes down there, leftovers from his sign painting business in Ballard.

I don’t remember the tension my parents described to me later. There were long days Mom spent with two rambunctious kids while Dad pastored a small, needy church and attended seminary in Canada. Our household of four depended on the salary paid by church going dairy farmers. Dad drove a beat up old Volvo to school, so Mom would walk to the grocery store or local library to get us kids out of the house for a while. We read a lot of library books. My brother and I were unaware of any strain on our parents’ marriage. 

I do remember Mom leaving bowls of cheerios and a glass of milk in the fridge so my brother and I could feed ourselves breakfast in the morning without waking her and Dad up. I remember Dad coming home at bedtime, and my puppets Mooshy and Sheepy singing love songs. I remember playing outside a lot, and the day my brother and I stole the neighbor's tulip bulbs from a planter box, proudly assuming we had harvested onions.

That was the finesse of my parents raising kids. As far as we knew, everything was happy and healthy. Being together was something safe and good. And it still is. Mom and Dad weathered that storm.

My parents have been married for almost 35 years. They had three more kids after we moved out of the Old House, and we have a different set of memories as a family of seven in a ranch style house further out in the county.

When I say the words home and family, I’m describing something tangible. All the nurturing, inside jokes, discipline, love, and belonging that I cherish began in a wet, rented house on First Avenue.


Brand new baby brother

Library visit

Dad's graduation: 1985

Ages 4 and 2

Sunday, March 18, 2012

My sister's pregnant! (Open Letter to Baby)

Dear Niece or Nephew,

Finally, you're not a secret anymore. You've only existed for 13 weeks, and until a couple of days ago, only a few people knew your mom (my sister) is pregnant. It's been hard waiting til I could announce you to everyone I know!

You see, you're coming at a very good time, Baby. This family could use some good news. Because of you, we know that life goes on and that love passes down from one generation to the next. All the things we love about each other matter. All the people who've shaped your parents' lives will now, indirectly, shape your life. Your brand new, barely begun, still "knitting together" life.

You can't even imagine how many people will want to hold you: names and faces you'll learn over time. We're all eager to shine our love onto you, cradle you in our arms (smiling too big to speak), hoping all the best for you and your unknown future.

I've been learning from my mom (your Grandma Vicki) that LIFE, all this breathing and heart-beating, eating and sleeping, the living we're all so preoccupied with, is just the tip of the iceberg. It's temporary. Tiny bodies grow, get bigger and stronger, then smaller and weaker, and eventually, there are last words and final breaths. But nothing is lost.  Eternity still contains our souls. Your "Good ol' Whistling Great Grandpa" Neil isn't here to hug, but he hasn't been diminished. Your Aunt Allison won't get the chance to hold you on this side of heaven, but you'll learn about the space she left behind. They're still members of the family, just absent for now.

You've barely just appeared from eternity, into our here and now. Because we can't see you yet, you still seem magical and unreal. We look forward to hearing your voice and holding your hand.

Thank you, tiny Baby miracle. You're about to change everything.

See you in September,

Auntie Emily