Sunday, January 27, 2013

friend time

Thankful today for more sleep that helps me with coping skills. Not to mention the Man, who is thoughtfully doing all he can to make things easier for me. There are so many small kindnesses each day.

Today I am looking forward to spending time with Kim, doing some geneology stuff. There are myriad emotions that come with this, as we are looking into Mama's birth mother now. Later, I will write about her life before and after her adoption and how that impacted her as a parent.

Today, I'm just going to enjoy the time with Kim and let whatever emotion comes, come.

And I expect a bit of laughter with my friend, too. 

...may there be mercy and joy in the richness of time with my friend.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Getting dressed is difficult. I miss knitting. Working is incredibly hard one-handed. Parts of my normal life feel almost impossible as I have to think through each step before I can figure out how to do it with my left hand.

Asking for help makes me feel useless.

I know it's only been a week, and it will be awhile before this hand is better. But, dang, dang, dang!

Okay, I'll stop whining now. There are far more important things in life.

...may there be mercy and a better attitude.

Monday, January 21, 2013

simple beauty

Three beautiful things, seen today:

1.  a frozen spiderweb, glistening against the deep green of a bush.
2.  trees, devoid of leaves, silhouetted in the fog.
3.  laughter and deep connection in the conversation between friends.

...may there be mercy in the simple beauties found in my daily life

Friday, January 18, 2013

icy places

It's been cold here lately. Usually 27 degrees overnight. Cold temps that are just not fun, and require a level of caution when walking anywhere.

Last night, as I left my counseling appointment to head over to my bible study group, I slipped on the ice and fell, landing on my left hip and right wrist. Picked myself up, dusted myself off, well, with the help of a friend who was there, and headed off to our study.

By the time we arrived, it was apparent I had done more than land on my asspirations.

Nice that my bible study group meets in the home of a doctor and nurse. In fact, the home of MY doctor and his lovely wife, who is a nurse and precious friend.

They checked me out, got me dosed with ibuprofen, some food and a splint in no time. Doc said I needed an x-ray, but it was okay to wait to morning and go to his office. That made me happy because ER visits just suck and our group is doing a study right now that really interests me.

Today, it still hurts. A lot. While the x-ray doesn't show it at this point, Doc says "assume broken" as the presenting pain denotes a navicular break - apparently a spot that is hard to see a break on x-ray.

Now there is a giant splint that takes away any use of my right thumb. Repeat x-ray in 2 weeks since that is when it will be easier to see as the body's healing process has started. 

The worst part?  No knitting... dangit.

There goes the sweater I hoped to finish and wear by next month.

...may there be mercy and less pain soon.

normal hours soon

Next week, I am planning a break from overtime. Regular work hours. Will help my mental state and allow me to do a few things that I need to do... including the plan to get some pictures of our trip posted here.

...may there be mercy in the normal. 

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


We interrupt this report on the grand adventure to work a bit of overtime. 

...may there be mercy and productivity.  

Saturday, January 05, 2013

grand adventure, part 4

(I realize the "part whatever" titles given this series is boring, but it allows me and others to keep track of the order of the story.)

In our planning for this trip, we allowed Amtrak Vacations to set up the hotel in LA and train connections to San Diego. When we saw the name of the hotel, The LA Hotel Downtown, we were a bit concerned and have to admit that it sounded a bit like it might be on the seedy side. 

What a wonderful surprise to discover that the hotel is simply beautiful. Courteous and professional staff. Really nice rooms. Decent restaurant. Actually far nicer than we anticipated for just an overnight before getting on another train.

Christmas morning we enjoyed breakfast and headed back to Union Station. We were fairly excited to get to San Diego to surprise Mama for Christmas dinner. Union Station is a really pretty old train station. Archways, wrought iron hanging chandeliers, gorgeous tile work, and woodwork galore. Photographer's heaven!

The Pacific Surfliner is Amtrak's commuter train between Los Angeles and San Diego. It runs along the beach communities and has some spectacular views. Takes a little over 2 hours for the whole run.

My sister, Deb, picked us up at Santa Fe Depot. Hugs and excitement, laughter and anticipation over the surprise. A quick drop of luggage at her place and off we head to see Mama.

A side note on Mama... Have to admit here that for 7 weeks, I'd been lying to her about our train trip. Told her we were going to Chicago on the Empire Builder. Just didn't want her to realize how close we would be which would give her ideas about us getting to San Diego. With family drama at a high peak, the surprise was too important as a gift to her. From the train, I'd been emailing her about Montana, Wyoming, etc. She bought into it completely! In fact, so much so that she emailed me on Christmas Eve requesting that I wait until 2 p.m. to call on Christmas day so that I could speak with Deb, too. We set her up so well.

At 2, Deb dropped us off at the corner, a couple houses down. She parked in front of Mama's house, running inside and asking, "did she call yet?" I waited about 5 seconds, then dialed my phone. Mama looks at Deb and tells her that she just made it in time. Hilarious! 

Here's the conversation, as best as remembered:

Mama: Merry Christmas, your sister just walked in, so your timing is perfect.
me:  Merry Christmas, Mama! Are you having a good day?

(--at this point, I send the Man walking down the street to go up to the door while I watch from the in front of the neighbor's house)

Mama: not bad, just put the prime rib roast in the oven.
me: yum! I think that's what we will have for dinner here on the train.
Mama: wait, the dog is barking. Molly, be quiet! Oh, wow, there is a man walking down the street that looks just like your husband!
me: really? Wow, that's interesting. What's he doing.
Mama: just walking down the st... wait, he's coming to the door. Probably one of your brother's friends and he isn't here. I have to go to the door and tell him. Hang on a second, okay?

--I'm cracking up and hoping that Mama doesn't hear me laughing in both the phone and through the kitchen window. I watch the Man walk right up to the house, reach for the door to open it and hear him announce, "I'm here to see my favorite Mother-In-Law!"

As Mama realizes it really is the Man, she grabs the phone and says, "where the hell are you?!!"

Then she sees me outside, laughing at her. I love the memory of the look on her face. Too bad no one caught it on camera. It was priceless. She was so bumfoozled, she actually asked if we could stay for Christmas dinner. When she found out that we were there for 2 days, she was thrilled.

Hugs and laughter and more hugs. A fresh pot of coffee. Silly conversation about what a wonderful surprise. Dinner and good wine. Deeper conversation about life. Simply a precious time.

Eventually we left for the night, telling Mama that we were going to the San Diego Model Railroad Museum in the morning, then would be back late afternoon for more time with her...not to mention dinner. We figured out what Mexican food we all wanted, and from where, so that Mama didn't have to mess with anything. We wanted her to relax and enjoy the time with us.

Another moment of precious to my heart happened while staying at Deb's place. 

In the last few years, Deb has converted to Judaism. She does not celebrate Christmas now, but instead has totally embraced the Jewish culture, celebrating Hanukkah instead. I honor her decision and life, and some years I send her small gifts that she can open each night of Hanukkah.

We discovered that when Deb found out we would be in her home over Christmas, she went to the trouble of having personalized Christmas stockings made for us, filling them with small thoughtful gifts. My heart still smiles at how lovely this was for her to do.

In the morning, we wandered around Balboa Park, ending up at the museum when they opened. The museum is very cool, with a variety of sizes of train layouts. It was such fun to watch the Man and Deb as he told her all about the different sizes of toy trains. The different layouts are interesting to see, with detail work in each one that amazes me.

In time, we had seen all the layouts. It was time for Deb and I to get a coffee while the Man took pictures. We agreed to meet back inside the museum, set our watches and separated for a bit.

Deb and I had such a good time of "sister talk" over coffee. I finally got brave enough to admit to her that I'd been battling depression. She hugged me and admitted that she had been battling, too. Neither of us had wanted the other to worry, so we both tried to hide it from the other. I'm glad it's out in the open now, where we can encourage each other.

At the appointed time, we finished our coffee, heading back inside the museum to find the Man. It was with great joy that we arrived to find him actually inside the Lionel layout, checking out the inner workings with the guys from the club that run that portion. The absolute grin of a 5-year-old who has been given the keys to both the candy and toy stores was spectacular. My heart still feels the jolt of happy from that look.

Time presses for now, but more soon.

...may there be mercy in the sharing of memories.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

grand adventure, part 3

Sleeping on a train. While the rooms are fairly small, it actually works.

It's kind of amazing to me that they can fit a sofa that converts to a bed, a chair, a pull out table, walkway, a sink, and bathroom stall with shower, all into a 7x7 room. Oh, don't forget that top bunk. :-) Well, you can because we did. The converted lower bunk was actually just big enough for us to share.

Christmas Eve morning came early because we wanted to be up and seeing life on the train as much as possible. We actually set an alarm so that we could get a quick shower before early breakfast at 6:30 when the dining car opened up for the day. It's a good thing we did. Right after we got served, the dining car lost power! Anyone who came even a few minutes later didn't get to have a hot breakfast. Cold cereal and fruit was it. Thankfully, at a stop just before lunch, a mechanic came on board and was able to get power restored to the cheering of the passengers.

We spent the day much like the previous day, me knitting while we hung out in the parlour car, chatting with Erica and Ron and other folks. Lunchtime brought another nice meal with a couple guys who had just met each other. One worked for a trucking company. A former driver, he now works in the office. The other guy is the Brewmaster and owner of Santa Barbara Brewing Company. When asked what got him started on brewing beer, his reply of "I was thirsty" amused us to no end. Conversation ranged into space exploration and science, wine and beer, work and home lives.

Another afternoon wine tasting, this time with all California wines. We joined Kimberly and Phil for this event. She is a Radiation Therapist, he is an IT guy with a very large company. They have 5 kids ranging in age from 7-15. On alternate years, they take a vacation alone, leaving the kids with grandparents to spoil them while the folks get spoiled. They laughed and played card games the entire trip. It was great fun to see their level of enjoyment in one another.

After the winetasting, we sat chatting so long that Phil went looking for champagne for us all. More laughter and it was time for dinner. Since we had the same meal time scheduled, we just continued the conversation and laughter over our glazed salmon and a nice glass of wine.

Toward the end of dinner, an announcement was made requesting anyone with a medical background to please see Amtrak staff. Kimberly jumped up to help. Apparently a 2 year old boy had fallen and cut his forehead open. She was able to get the bleeding stopped, butterfly it together and return to our meal. Later she re-checked the little punkin and he was doing well.

A return to the parlour car found Erica, sitting alone, relaxing and ready for more chatting. Apparently after the winetasting, Chip, the parlour car attendant didn't have any takers to buy single glasses of the wine served. Since it was the 2nd day on the train, and we would be ending this leg of the journey soon, after an appropriate amount of time, he either has to sell it or throw it out. Instead, he gave the half bottle to Erica to enjoy. She had been waiting for us to enjoy it with her. A little later, Chip popped over to us again, with another bottle that had barely been opened. He told us to take it with us to our hotel. Cool!

As we pulled into Los Angeles, we went to get our luggage from the room and were wondering where the taxi stand would be at Union Station. Erica let us know that they would drop us at the hotel, no taxi needed. What a kindness. Outside, we met her husband, Paul, who is as nice as Erica. A quick 5 minute drive, unload their car outside the hotel, hug our new friends and discover they had purchased a bottle of wine for us as a celebration of our anniversary. We were so blown away by their sweetness and open offer of friendship.

And in we go, the LA Hotel Downtown on Christmas Eve.

...may there be mercy in the sharing of memories.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

grand adventure, part 2

Let's see, where was I? Oh yes, sitting in the parlour car, knitting and enjoying the people and view.

It surprised me how quickly folks started talking with one another. Several folks stopped to ask me what I was knitting. An adorable little girl, who told me that she was 7 now, came to watch me knit. She confided that she had been trying to learn, but just couldn't get the hang of it yet. I assured her that, if I could learn after age 50, soon she would learn. We talked a bit, then her family moved off to play games.

Soon, lunch was being served in the dining car. Linens, real plates, silver and glassware, nicely served all while traveling 70-80 mph down the track. Since all our food was included in the 1st class ticket, we ate what we wanted to eat, including dessert at most meals. Not something we do on a regular basis at home, but on vacation like this? Oh yeah!

Amtrak practices community seating, so we were joined by a couple of single folks from vastly different backgrounds. Mahta lives in Canada. She's a tutor for kids with learning disabilities, most of whom fall into the autism spectrum. Her family fled Iran when she was 10. They traveled in Europe and the U.S. until they were accepted as permanent residents in Canada. Stephen lives south of Seattle. He loves trains and photography, has competed in ballroom dance and plays guitar, with a passion for math along with his music. It was interesting that he was seated with Mahta, as it was evident that his is autistic. Clearly high functioning. He reminded me of a friend's son who also loves music and trains. He was traveling to spend Christmas with his dad in Northern California. The conversations with Mahta and Stephen were really fun.

After lunch, we found ourselves back in the parlour car, chatting with folks. Eventually, things were set up for cheese and wine tasting. Fun! Amtrak does the wine tasting each day, featuring wines from the areas where the train is currently passing. That day was Washington and Oregon wines.

As we found a place to sit and got settled in, a young woman came up to ask if she could join us. We gladly invited her to sit, introducing ourselves. Erica is 28, active duty in the Army Reserves, married to an active duty Marine. She had been in Seattle to visit her parents for a couple weeks, riding the train to return home in time for Christmas with her husband. Flying wasn't an option as she had a 2-week heart monitor test going. We really clicked with Erica, spending much of the remainder of the trip chatting with her.

Right after Erica sat down, Ron joined us for wine tasting. He works in the movie industry, doing special effects. Really fun chatting with him about train travel and what he has worked on that we might know. Even more fun to discover that he had done work on Battlestar Galactica, which we really enjoyed. Ron and the Man had a really great series of conversations about the movies, special effects, trains, politics, etc. After the wine tasting was over, the 4 of us found a spot to sit and continue our conversations.

Eventually, dinner was called. Both Ron and Erica had opted to eat in the parlour car, where there are only 2 selections and you can have a table to yourself. We opted to eat in the dining car, with community seating and a larger selection on the menu. Seated with an older couple, we began new conversations over a lovely steak dinner followed by brownie pie for dessert.

Lingering for a bit longer in the parlour car after dinner, we picked up conversations with Erica and Ron, then decided to turn in for the night.

...may there be mercy in sharing the memories.

grand adventure, part 1

Home. It is good.

Over the next several days, I'll be writing some long posts about our grand adventure celebrating 25 years of being married to the Man. Our actual anniversary isn't until January 9th, but this is when we both had opportunity to have vacation together. A little extended celebrating of a big event never hurt anyone, eh?

Planning this trip over the last year has been such fun for us. When it all came down to it, all we really wanted was to spend the time together, taking a cool train trip.

Our original plan was to take the Amtrak Cascades train down to Seattle, but with over 30 mudslides in a very short time, all in one section of track, service was disrupted. While Amtrak would have used a bus to get us there, I really didn't want to start our big trip on a bus instead of a train.

My friend, Kim, gladly offered to drive us down to our hotel that Saturday morning. Gotta say how much I love her! We picked her up and, after a drive through to get peppermint mochas, were on off!

Laughing and talking all the way, the hour drive into Seattle flew. I think Kim was as excited for us as we were to be going.

Hugging and kissing goodbye, we got our luggage and walked into the Mayflower Park Hotel. If you are ever in Seattle, stay here. Just trust me on this one and do it. They have amazing customer service, not to mention an all around lovely hotel.

Earlier in the week, I'd talked with the Reservations Manager, Craig. Letting him know that our stay would mark the beginning of this celebratory trip, we talked about the room the travel agent had booked for us. Just a room, no fun package with martinis or breakfast or a show or dinner or something, which is what I'd really wanted for the first night. Just something a little fun to make it special. I was clear that we were perfectly willing to pay for the extras, but they had not been set up. Craig's response was, "I love surprises. See you Saturday."

Walking up to the front desk, we wondered what might be our surprise. We never expected to be knocked off our feet with the level of "wow!" that we received!

  • upgraded room
  • a gift package that included the most adorable little cocktail shaker and the award winning recipe for their classic martini
  • a lovely congratulations card from Craig, which included a voucher for martinis in their bar, Oliver's, and breakfast in their restaurant, Andaluca.
Being a bit early to arrive, our room was not quite ready. So we spent the afternoon enjoying the sights and sounds of Christmas in Downtown Seattle. People watching, wandering through stores, listening to carolers and checking out the annual Holiday Carousel. Simple fun, holding hands, laughing together.

When we got tired, we decided to sit in the beautiful upper lobby of the hotel and watch folks from there. Maybe get a coffee in the bar while we waited. Instead, the staff had just put out freshly made cookies and hot chocolate for us. After helping ourselves to this treat, we watched folks and just enjoyed the quiet corner we had found.

Once we actually checked into our room and got things settled, we decided that we didn't feel the need to wander around anymore, so we set up a reservation for dinner at Andaluca and spent a couple hours just reading in our room, enjoying the place.

Dinner... oh, added loveliness to our day. The waiter, Tim, recognized us from a previous visit wherein we had only had dessert late in an evening. He welcomed us back, asking if we were there for Christmas. When we told him how wonderful the hotel was already being about our anniversary, he stepped away saying, "let me add some wonderful here." In seconds, he was back with a complimentary glass of champagne for us. So nice!

After perusing the menu, and deciding that I'd order something interesting to me that was not on my regular rotation - Roasted Beet Risotto for me and Grilled Mahi Mahi for the Man. Delicious! Topped off with their Liquid Chocolate Cake for dessert and our tummies had started the celebration quite well.

Of course we topped off the evening with martinis at Oliver's. The place was packed, but we found an empty table in what seemed to be a quiet corner. Just as we ordered, a couple guys sat at the next table, blowing any sense of quiet out the proverbial window. They were drunk and pretending to be foreign, but the so-called accents they had kept reverting to a solid midwest American sound. Watching them was somewhat amusing, but lost any appeal when they began to work on getting a free drink by telling the waitress she had not brought the correct first round. Which they had half drunk already. And which was exactly what they had ordered. Enough people watching for one day. We finished our martinis, heading up to the quiet of our lovely room.

Once there, I noticed on the desk was a new envelope with our names on it, and a small box. Another lovely card, this time signed by all the front desk staff and the box was candy from them, for us to enjoy.

At breakfast, both of the waitstaff recognized us from our previous stay. This was not as surprising since we had eaten breakfast there each day, chatting with them over our coffee, but pleasing nonetheless.

Oh, yes, I am so writing a letter to the General Manager of the Mayflower Park, congratulating him on a team who gives spectacular service and knows how to make guests feel like royalty.

Next... a quick taxi ride to King Street Station to board the Coast Starlight!

King Street Station is currently undergoing a major renovation. So it isn't very pretty with all the construction stuff, but they do have a large waiting room. They also have separate lines for Coach vs. Sleeper Car passengers. Sleeper Cars are the first class tickets... and for this big of an event, we certainly were going first class!

As they called for boarding the train, we headed toward the front where the sleeper cars were. Passing the coach section, the cars looked nice. Then we see the cafe car, the dining car, the parlour car and finally, the sleeper cars. Baggage and crew cars are right behind the engine, giving a buffer for the loudest of the noise from the sleeper cars.

At the door of our sleeper car, we are met by Gregory, the car attendant. His job is to make sure that we have a wonderful time on the train. He takes care of turning down the beds and making them up after use, but he also provides beverages and snacks for us, not to mention a welcome gift of toiletries in an Amtrak bag and champagne. Anything else we need, he does his best to ensure we get. He was very good at his job!

As the train got underway and we got settled, announcements about the train were made, making sure everyone knew where they could get food, what additional events happen for sleeper car passengers, etc. Immediately the dining car attendant came by our room to get lunch reservations for us set up. Once that was handled, I grabbed my knitting and we headed to the parlour car.

The disappointment of a real parlour car being unavailable to this train due to repairs was bigger for the Man than for me. Instead of the normal parlour car, we had a lounge car that is normally only used in the coach section. (they had their own lounge car separate from 1st class)  It was a nice enough place to hang out, but the Man was disappointed as the normal parlour car is so much nicer and richer feeling. We decided to enjoy it and hope for the return trip train to have the actual parlour car.

Knitting, chatting with other passengers, and enjoying a glass of iced tea, we watched the scenery pass by. So much beauty that one simply can't see when driving down Interstate 5! Yes, we passed through some very depressed areas of cities and towns along the way. But there were areas that took our breath away with the loveliness.

Time is running out today, so I will stop for now. Next post soon.

...may there be mercy and joy in the memories of our journey.