Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday Season Thoughts

On Barnes & Noble

Back in the day, my favorite bookstores had a comfy couch or chair where I could kick back and browse through a collection of books I was thinking about buying. When the big chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble took over, they brought in a larger collection of books and sold them at discount. To close the deal, they furnished their stores with cushy sofas and chairs and offered poetry readings and "Staff Recommendations" sections. They acted as if they cared about books.

Have you noticed the "Staff Recommendations" sections are gone? I have. Have you noticed that as a store gets older, the furniture sections get taken away? I have.

I'm starting to rethink my fierce loyalty to Barnes & Noble.

On Leavenworth

A few decades ago, leaders from a struggling mountain town got together and decided they wanted to reinvent the town. So they created a little Bavarian village, even though no one from the town was from Germany, or even Europe. The towne centre is full of curio shops, pretzel stores, and biergartens. It's the kind of tourist trap that's easy to make fun of, but I dig it.

For one thing, it's nestled in the mountains. That's a good thing. I miss mountains. For another thing, there's a great hotel with cozy rooms with fireplaces, indoor and outdoor pools and hot spots, and a daily honking of one of those 15-foot-long horns played by an old American guy clad in lederhosen. Oh, and there are great hiking trails along the river that runs right through town.

Here's a clip of Luke and Max sledding near the downtown area:

I haven't been skiing or snowboarding in years, so I couldn't resist the temptation to hop on Luke's sled and test my downhilling skills. I still got it.

On Christmas

Luke and Max believe that Santa has a special license -- I call it the Santa clause -- that allows him to slide through the vents in our gas fireplace and deliver the boys a whole bunch of presents using the same gift wrap their parents used. Max had mixed feelings upon seeing that most of the cookies the boys had decorated and left near the fireplace had been eaten. On the one hand, Santa came! On the other hand, why didn't he eat the whole cookie?

It goes against my instincts to lie to the boys about Santa Claus. I don't like it. I'm setting the boys up for disillusionment. With their belief in Santa Claus and bucolic Christmas in Leavenworth, aren't I just leading the boys into a crushing Rosebud moment later in life? They even have the snow globes to let slip from their fingers.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Snowy in Seattle

Once every two or three years in Seattle, snow sticks to the ground enough to build a snowman and go sledding. It snowed about three inches Saturday night, and it stayed cold enough for the snow to stick to the roads and sidewalks. When this happens, the whole city practically shuts down -- only buses, trucks, and SUVs test the unsalted roads.

Luke badly wanted to have a snowball fight. Whenever he saw anyone come out, like the girl next door or Neighbor Henry (who is different from Little Henry and New Henry), he packed a snowball and threw it at someone's chest. Andy and Minette got the same treatment when they came over for waffles.

After brunch, we went sledding down the sidewalk on our street. In this video, Wendy was watching out for cars at the bottom of the hill, Minette was womaning the video camera, and Andy was helping Luke up the hill after a wipeout. The sleds weren't easy to control, but that's part of the fun. As you can see, Max nearly took out his mother, but I was there to save the day.

Good times.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Yuletide Cheer

I'm depressed. Have no fear -- it's not serious. I get blue every winter, only it usually hits me in January or February. December is usually too frantic. Besides, Christmas season makes me happy.

At least it used to. I like buying presents for people I love, and I like the anticipation of opening presents. I don't even care if the gift is goofy. It's free! I'm delighted to open a Pink Panther DVD starring a hit-or-miss Steve Martin in one of his worst misses. Extra large snow mittens? My hands might still grow.

This year, I haven't gotten into the Christmas spirit. For the most part, it seems like a hassle. I used to buy books for everyone in my family, but I've forgetten which books I've bought, and I don't want to give one of my sisters The Life of Pi for the third year in a row. Besides, if I go by my "Do unto others" credo, I don't want anyone to buy me a book because I already have three different stacks of unread books in three different rooms. So this year -- gift certificates! Merry Christmas, shoppers!

I do enjoy putting up the Christmas lights. My overly helpful neighbor, a guy who lights up his own house as if he wants to outdo Clark Griswold, comes over every Thanksgiving weekend when he sees me standing on the very top of my wobbly 8-foot ladder trying to hang lights on the gutter. He drags over his super long ladder, which means I have no choice but to string lights on the upper story as well.

Wendy and the boys get excited about Christmas. Wendy decorates every nook of the house, and I help with the Christmas village and tree. When we finished trimming the tree, Max shouted, "This is the best Christmas ever!"

Question: So why am I glum?

Answer A: I may just be glum. Not every emotion has to be attached to something going on in your life. Sometimes you're just glum, or happy, or horny, or angry. No reason.

Answer B: No dangling carrots. No Leadville to train for. No fascinating elections to obsess over. No interesting blog to write (I too have noticed that this blog is nearly dead). No Friday stories. No upcoming work projects. No big trips planned. No chance of the Colts playing in the Super Bowl. Not with those banged-up lines.

Answer C: The economy. I lost more than half of my savings. Suppose I had worked hard to save $350 for my retirement. In two months, that $350 has turned into $185. And let's say I bought a house for $600. That house is now worth $575, and dropping. Even though I made it through yet another round of layoffs (that's the seventh one since I've been here), the slumping housing market and depressing job market gives me a sense of being stuck. I need to stick it out at Adobe, and I need to stay put in my house. Forget about the fact that my job is good and I really like my house. No one said emotions have to be rational.

Answer D: Donuts.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fatty's Livestrong Challenge

As many of you know, Elden and Susan have been dealing with a gut-wrenching ordeal. Susan is slowly dying of cancer. As they've gone through this horrible experience, the Livestrong Foundation has helped them in a number of different ways, from providing medical information to negotiating with insurance companies.

Elden wants to give back, so he set up an ambitious fund drive. Actually, a better way of saying it is that Elden wants other people to give back for him. I suppose he thinks he's a little too important for doing any actual fundraising himself anymore. Despite the fact that I think Elden's getting a little too big for his britches, I agreed to be one of his minions.

If any of you would like to contribute to the noble cause, click here to go to my Livestrong Challenge page.

I don't know how my sister found out about my Challenge page, but she was the first person to contribute. Speaking of Lisa, her chemo treatments have been successful. Although her cancer is technically in remission, it's a nasty form of cancer, so she's currently preparing for a grueling bone-marrow transplant that requires at least a three-week stay in a hospital. If all goes well, she'll be well on her way to a full recovery in January. That's what I'm hoping for.

Oh, and by the way, the kind people in the Livestrong organization contacted both me and Lisa several times to offer support and assistance. I'm telling you, they're something else. It's a worthy cause.