Posted in Family, People, writing

Legos—Did You Know?

on a scale of one to stepping on a lego, how much pain are you in?As a parent, Legos were my least favorite toys to step on barefoot. Did you know that a Lego can withstand over 4,000 Newtons of force? That’s why the Lego always wins when you step on it.

But that’s really the only drawback to Legos. (Well, that and the price of Legos these days—it’s nearly as painful to pay for them as to step on them.) The reason why Legos are so awesome is summed up in this description, from Wikipedia: “Anything constructed can then be taken apart again, and the pieces used to make other objects.” Lego is the ultimate imagination-toy.

Lego castle 1980s
This was my favorite set.

Did you know that there are over 915 million ways to combine six basic 2×4 Lego bricks?

Growing up, my favorite set was a castle compilation of all-gray bricks, complete with hinges to make the requisite drawbridges and swinging doors to hidden passages. Legos usually come with a “construction plan”—and I’m sure mine did, though I don’t remember it… because the real fun is inventing your own stuff out of the possibility of all those pieces.

Lego Jack Sparrow Indiana Jones
Jack & Indie—two of my favorite characters in Lego!

In retrospect, my castle set was pretty simplistic, in part because my Lego-play predated the licensing agreements that have brought us Lego Harry Potter, Lego Indiana Jones, Lego Pirates of the Caribbean, Lego Marvel comics…

Just listing them makes me want to sit down on the floor and play. My son’s earliest Lego sets were pirates—any guesses why? Yup, Mommy wanted to play with them. (Did you know that the name “Lego” comes from the Danish phrase leg godt, which means “play well”?) Continue reading “Legos—Did You Know?”

Posted in Lists, RVing

Like a (Dry-Docked) Sailboat: RV Living

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sailing with my mom & daughter 10 years ago

Because I’m a sailboat skipper, I’m amused by RV terminology that borrows from the marine arena. Like the “shore cord”—the cord we plug in at an RV park to power the rig’s electrical system. On a sailboat a shore cord (which you’d plug in at the dock when you stay in a marina) makes sense—it goes from the boat to shore.

So today’s list is about ways that RV-living reminds me of sailboat-living. (Just add water.) And some ways that RV-or-sailboat-living is different from living in a house…

  1. The toilet flushes with a foot pedal. [What does it say about me that this is the first thing that comes to mind?] This is reminiscent of every sailboat I’ve ever chartered. And to add to the illusion: the skylight over the shower is just like a sailboat hatch.
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    spaces have multiple uses…

    We have to pay attention our blackwater tank. We leave our gray tanks (sinks & shower) open all the time, but we empty and rinse the black (toilet) tank about once a week, keeping it closed and dosed with a chemical treatment between-times. Most people pay extra money for “RV toilet paper” that’s supposed to break down more easily in the blackwater tank. We opt to use the trash can instead—that way we never worry about our tank getting clogged. I don’t even think about it any more, until I find myself reaching for a trash can when I’m on a “land-based” toilet. (TMI?)

  3. Spaces have multiple uses. Our bed lifts up to reveal storage beneath. Our garage has seats and a bed that can be lowered from the ceiling when we need more “living” space.  The stove and kitchen sink convert to countertops. We set up our Total Gym in the garage when the seats retract to the ceiling. The bench at the foot of the bed holds our linens. The bunk above our kitchen doubles as storage space since we don’t host overnight guests. Even the back wall of the garage can be lowered down to create a porch, complete with railings. (It also doubles as the ramp up which we drive the motorcycle when it’s getting parked indoors for a move.)
  4. imageThings have multiple uses. We don’t own a dozen pots and pans; we own one “red copper” frying pan and one deep square red copper pan (which can go in the oven, be a stovetop pot, or serve with a frying basket). The stand for our bedroom space heater is really a stack of boxes that hold photos and sewing stuff. The sewing machine in its case is the “shelf” where I perch my purse. Our TV trays serve in roles ranging from dinner-table to computer-desk. Almost everything does more than one thing.
  5. We have power back-ups. When the “shore cord” is unplugged, our fridge and water heater switch to propane power and our lights run on solar. If need be, we can run the onboard generator. (“Onboard.” There’s another marine-echo…)
  6. image“Outside” is part of the living space. It’s not a sailboat deck, but we eat dinner and hang out on our patio for most of the year. We didn’t host dinner parties during the winter, but we do have some merry patio-parties under the “fairy lights” built into our awning.
  7. We hear the weather. Rain on the roof is a lovely sound, though we couldn’t even converse through a hailstorm last fall! Combined with the outside living, I feel closer to the weather and the world than I ever did in a house.
  8. We don’t buy many things in bulk. Just toilet paper and coffee. For the most part, we buy other things as we need them.  We don’t keep a cupboard full of canned goods or “stock” supplies—we buy them as recipes call for them, or as we’re actually going to use them. (The glaring exception here would be the pickles, which we canned ourselves last summer and have in abundance!)
  9. imageWe can’t move the furniture. Everything is built in, from the bed to the couch to the huge surround-sound TV in the garage that we’ve never turned on. This is one reason to choose a rig with a configuration you actually like. (And yes, we have a few notes about layout that we’ll keep in mind when we decide to trade this one in… Especially the kitchen.)
  10. Space gets cluttered easily, but clean-up is quick! There’s just not that much house to clean. By the same token, it usually doesn’t take long to find something I’ve misplaced. There just aren’t that many places to look.
  11. We’ve learned to live without an “entryway” for dirty shoes and without a coat closet for the helmets and motorcycle jackets. I just vacuum more often, and the otherwise-unused end of the couch collects coats.
  12. When someone knocks at the door, they’re looking at our knees when we open it. The steps up are so steep, the front door is most-of-a-person taller than the person standing outside. I usually come down the steps to talk because standing elevated in the doorway feels awkward.
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    moving without packing!

    We never have to pack. Well, OK, “never” is an exaggeration. We still have to pack when we go camping (to the mountains where we wouldn’t drag the monster RV), or on a motorcycle trip, or to visit my mom. But we’ve moved four times without packing a single box. And if we wanted to, we could take the whole house on a trip with us—we can go almost anywhere without “leaving home.”

  14. imageRVers are unabashedly interested in each other’s homes, in ways that brick-house-neighbors would never admit to.  Even models with the same name come in different configurations, and we all seem to get a charge out of seeing how individual rigs are laid out. Home repairs (like last weekend’s replacement of our roof-fan to the bathroom) are carried out publicly and discussed in detail (our near neighbor, who also has a Grand Design Momentum, called for Jon’s help for the same repair, just days later). We commiserate about design flaws, brainstorm solutions, swap stories of difficulties, share winterizing materials, and unashamedly ask to see inside each other’s homes. It would never cross my mind to ask a casual acquaintance to show me their bathroom or closets in a brick-and-mortar house, but it doesn’t even phase me to be asked the same here. All in all, it’s the same sense of shared adventure and camaraderie (maybe minus the bathroom-tours) that you’d find among sailors moored at a marina.
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    I choose closet-space over washer/dryer

    We don’t do laundry at home. I thought this would be a major pain in the neck, but truthfully it’s not that much more work to walk a basketful of dirties over to the park’s laundry than it would be to walk it to a laundry-room in a house. Initially I thought I’d be begging for a washer/dryer in our rig, but now I wouldn’t trade the closet space for that minor convenience. An amusing side-note: thanks to the coin-op laundry, quarters are a hot commodity around here—definitely higher-than-face-value. Part of my pay, working for the RV park, comes in the form of rolled quarters every month!

  16. image
    My Useful Person! I’m grateful for his skills

    Getting professional home-repair done is a pain, because it can involve dropping off your home somewhere, and being homeless while it gets worked on. Our rig has a number of issues that are covered by the warranty, but we’re waiting for our vacation-week this summer to take it in to the dealer while we’re out of town. There is a mobile RV-Repair guy who makes frequent visits to the park—but Jon can do pretty much everything Jake does. (Side-note: it’s an unbelievable blessing to be married to a Useful Person when you’re living in an RV! Jon’s “automotive technician” skills spill over to a lot of handy-work for which other people are calling Jake.) For the major stuff (e.g. rear A/C unit that hasn’t worked since we bought it) it’s a shame to let that warranty go to waste, but I’m betting a lot of people pay Jake rather than hand over their homes for “drydock” repair.

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    decals & velcroed angels

    “Home decor” mostly means decals (which won’t fall off the wall) and velcro under knick-knacks (so they won’t fall off the ledge). It also means we don’t have a lot of knick-knacks, because horizontal space is scarce. My Willow-Tree angels and his dad’s service flag are all velcroed in place so we don’t have to fuss when we move.

  18. Internet connection is precious. Theoretically the park has free wi-fi, but it doesn’t really reach most of us most of the time. Since we can’t hardwire a cable, I finally invested in a wifi hotspot so I could get my freelance writing done (and yes, blogging too) but I spend my online-time watching the “meter” running in the corner of my screen, trying to get my gigs to last as long as possible.
  19. imageWe’ve gotten creative to keep things organized and accessible. Lacking bedside tables, we used to keep a basket by each side of the bed with the various things we’d use there—books, medications, phones, water bottles, kleenex… And we’d always be rummaging to find what we wanted, till I made us each an organizer to hang by the bed, with pockets for those items. I’m thinking I should market these things! (And send a cut to my mom, who used to make similar organizers for our crayons and coloring books in the back of the car…)
  20. Christmas-shopping just got challenging. My mother expressed as much when she asked, “What do you get for the person who’s already gotten rid of almost everything I ever gave her?” For the record, I’ve kept lots of things she gave me—but she does make a point. When space is scarce and belongings minimized, gift-giving takes on a whole new aspect… So one of these days (before next Christmas!) I’ll do a list of ideas.

This list could go on, but if you’ve made it this far you’re already a tenacious reader…

When I was a kid, I used to pretend my bedroom was a sailboat. That particular game-of-Pretend requires rather less in the way of imagination these days! (A girl’s gotta have dreams… Just sayin’.)

Posted in travel

Travels with Toots

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toilet training with Toots (and a book!)

Toots is the teddy bear I’ve had since I was a year old. Well, we’ve always called him a teddy bear, though his actual shape is sort of open to interpretation…

He’s had several face-lifts in that time (in fact, he had a whole “body-lift” a couple years ago after a dog got to him and left only his head and one arm… Thank goodness my mother is an expert seamstress, and dedicated to the cause of beloved bears!)…

Toots has been with me on a lot of travels. When I was ten, my family drove around Europe for six months and eighteen countries (including behind the Iron Curtain, and through countries that don’t exist on today’s maps)—Toots was with me for the whole trip. He has earned a lot of passport-stamps.

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He’s been present for my adult milestones too. Yes, that’s a photo of me with Toots on my [first] wedding-day. He has comforted me in hospitals and rehab (and I missed him in jail)…

In short, Toots has been a fixed point through the journey of my life… although until this year, he has often been relegated to closet-shelves while I was married.

Yup, until this year. My hubby, Jon, however, celebrates the kid in me (probably recognizes it because his own is near the surface!) and he has brought Toots back out of the closet with a flourish.

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Salmon River, Idaho (Toots in the saddlebag!)

We started with a motorcycle trip to see my parents over Memorial Weekend, Toots riding along for 600 miles in a saddlebag. And when we stopped to visit my grandma for what would turn out to be the last time, I wasn’t sure she recognized me… but she definitely knew Toots! I was glad we’d brought him along.

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Last summer Jon & I took our first vacation together, a camping road-trip to the Oregon Coast… and Jon not only made sure that Toots came along, he made a game of posing with him in as many places as we could think of. Toots cooked biscuits and gravy over our camp stove. Toots flew a kite on the beach. Toots enjoyed a bowl of clam chowder. Toots climbed the lighthouse tower… Continue reading “Travels with Toots”

Posted in RVing

Death of a Salesman(‘s Commission)

RV park rainbow
here we are at rainbow’s end

We all know—don’t we?—the demographic that comprises full-time RV-ers… They sport hearing aids and golf pants and live in Arizona or Florida half the year.

Once again, it’s time to challenge my assumptions. When Jon and I moved into this RV park in February, I was surprised to find two-thirds of the sites occupied by long-term residents… And I was downright shocked to realized that I am not (as I had supposed) on the youngest end of the age spread. My image of RVers was pretty severely outdated, as it turns out–we have nearly as many young families in the park as retired folks.

At one end of our row we’ve got 20-year-old newlyweds–he’s in construction, and she’ll find a new vet-tech job wherever his work takes them next. At the other end of the row, a young single mom with her feisty four-year-old daughter. Suzie’s five home-schooled kids mostly live on their patio in warm weather, and I’d pass one or two of the boys in the early morning, fishing poles perched at a jaunty vertical like jousting knights on their bikes. Continue reading “Death of a Salesman(‘s Commission)”

Posted in Family, Home & Garden, Idaho, Recovery, travel

Addendum to a Eulogy

Yesterday my dad should have turned seventy. He passed away this year on my birthday, so this weekend we’ve been missing him on his.

canoe and canoeist
daddy-daughter canoe trip, Northern Idaho 1987

Ironically, I could still practice my favorite joke-ritual, which was not to call my dad (whose depth of phone-phobia was rivaled only by my sister’s and my own) on his birthday. I even found him a card one year that offered a “no-call” option as a birthday present. (Actually, I usually did call anyway—and this week I’m glad of that.)

One of the horrible ironies of memorial services is the fact that grieving people are expected (worse: expect themselves) to brilliantly and eruditely sum up LOVE, as it applies to a suddenly-missing person, at a point in time when their hearts are most broken and their brains are most fried. In such a case, the best you can hope for is that God will get some of the right words into your mouth (or out of your pen), and that the other people missing him will be able to fill in the rest through their love and memories.

The single story I most wanted to share about my dad didn’t seem appropriate for either the obituary I wrote nor the eulogy at his service. Somehow, alcoholism (in either the speaker or the deceased) doesn’t seem like a welcome subject in those venues… But this story says SO much about my dad, and here’s a place where I can tell it. Continue reading “Addendum to a Eulogy”

Posted in Family, writing

Who’s that MAN?

[This post will probably provoke a protest of “Mo-o-om!” from its subject… (Have you noticed how a teenager can turn “Mom” into a three-syllable word?) But the fearless family-chronicler forges forward nonetheless. ;) Love you, Son!]

I had a weird moment just a while back, one that other moms-of-sons might recognize… I had taken a few moments to run (OK, drive) the few blocks home from our restaurant in the middle of a Saturday, leaving “the men in my life” (husband Keoni and 18-year-old son Kapena) behind me at the business. Knowing the menfolk were elsewhere, imagine my shock when I opened the front door and heard the sounds, from my 10-year-old daughter’s bedroom, of her voice in conversation with that of a man! I went busting through her bedroom door in a state of alarm, only to find…

Christian & Elena Grace
Christian & Elena Grace… It was HIS voice in her room!

…my daughter and my son chatting together. Oh. Stand down, Mama Bear.

I had noticed, since his thirteenth birthday, that Christian’s voice had begun jumping around from one register to another. But it wasn’t until that Saturday, being startled by an “unfamiliar” adult-male-voice, that I fully realized that this IS my son’s voice now.

At my birthday party a week ago he presented me with a fire-opal ring of two sea turtles—a reference to his first nick-name of “Turtle”—and I found myself lifting onto my toes to kiss his cheek in thanks. It’s been a almost a year already that his arms have been on top when he hugs me, and mine around his chest instead of draped over his shoulders.

with kids at our restaurant counter... Notice the relative heights!
with kids at our restaurant counter… Notice the relative heights!

And there seem to be other changes in the wind. He has insisted for years that he’ll “never” be bothered with girls, girlfriends, or marriage—and I haven’t contradicted him. (Sure, I’ve thought he might change his mind, but who am I to insist that he will? Besides, I’m happy to be The Woman in his life for however long that lasts…) These days, though, there’s a girl surfacing in our conversations. He says she has “friend-zoned” him, but in any case they have lots in common to converse about, and he has been following her fiction-writing on Wattpad.

She may (or may not) have something to do with the fact that he has just launched the first chapter of his own first novel on Wattpad. To put this event in context (because in my mind it comes with several exclamation points!), Christian has hated writing since he first picked up a pencil. He was reading “chapter books” by his third birthday and spoke already like a miniature professor, but when it came to writing, his own perfectionism made it a chore. Even as a Little Guy, each word had to be spelled correctly, each letter had to be formed precisely—and his own demands on himself turned writing into a hassle he hated.

Christian's budding pirate novel, "The Red Dawn"
Christian’s budding pirate novel, “The Red Dawn”

Despite his voracious reading, his tremendous vocabulary, and the treasure-house that is his imagination, he has hated every English class because of the demand for writing. So I’m thrilled at the chance to see what comes of this delightful and unexpected story-beginning.

One of the joys of parenting is watching our kids grow and change and become their own people… That’s true at every age; it’s just maybe accelerated during the teen years. It’s why I’m glad Christian talks to me. It’s why I’m glad he likes to share whatever he’s most recently discovered, whether it be a song or a show on Netflix or a book or an iPad app or a game. (Left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have looked twice at a game of driving and shooting tanks… But I got a kick out of letting him show me how to navigate, and letting him laugh at my inept attempts when we played together on an interactive online team.) It’s why I’m glad he has started working with us at the restaurant, where we have stretches of down-time together and he fills them by telling me stuff.

our man at the register
our man at the register

It’s a pleasure, too, to watch this self-possessed young man (transformed from the kid of a year ago who described himself as “not liking to talk to strangers”) interacting easily with customers at our cash register. Our guests enjoy his humor and his manners, and I enjoy observing the “performance” of Christian’s newly cultivated social skills.

I suppose you could say that my favorite “show” is the ever-evolving people-scapes that are my children… And just like a fan of a pop-star, I’m gratified by any sort of glimpse into their personalities and their private lives.

CRVLaptop
and now… a writer!

I think that’s what most intrigues me about Christian’s nascent story: not just what plot or characters he might imagine, but also the emergence of his writing voice.  It’s a whole new aspect of him.

But then, I was just as fascinated by what he chose to write about himself in the “biography” section on Wattpad. Even where the content wasn’t “news” to me, it’s another thing to see his self-image crystallized in his own words. Take this gem, for example: “I’m partially tone-deaf, meaning that while some people can’t carry a tune in a bucket, I can’t carry the bucket. I do play the cello though, and I am very good at recognizing an artist from their music.” I also found myself grinning at the last three statements with which he wrapped up his bio:

  • My life dream is to buy a sailboat and sail off into the sunset.
  • I work as a cashier and waiter at my mom’s restaurant, Kana Girl’s Hawaiian BBQ.
  • I want to become a Dive Master so that I can lead dive tours around Hawaii, where my mom and stepdad plan to move after I graduate from high school.
yesterday in a carseat, tomorrow with a driver's permit!
yesterday in a carseat, tomorrow with a driver’s permit!

Every parent I know talks at some point about how fast time flies by. (Well, not every minute of it… A night awake with a vomiting toddler lasts at least as long as most weeks… But mostly.) It’s almost cliché even to make the observation—but then, I guess clichés are generally derived from Truths. So here I am thinking that “just yesterday” this kiddo was in a carseat, and now he’s counting the (very few) months till he can get his driving permit. All the more reason for this Mommy not to miss any episodes of “the Christian show” while it’s still airing on our home station!


	
Posted in Family

Hau’oli la Hanau! (35)

“Aunt Tadi” with my son Christian, 2003

Thirty-five years ago today, my mother employed her primary Superpower and made a person. A day or two later I was introduced to a lifetime companion and playmate and co-conspirator and friend: my sister Karin. (She guides people’s pronunciation with this clue: “You park a KAR-in the garage.”) I turned three just a few weeks before her arrival, and my game du jour was tagging people with their initials. My new sister’s “KD” became Kadi to the family—a name that stuck permanently.  (With the occasional variation, such as “Aunt Tadi” when my son Christian was little and couldn’t pronounce K.)

with my sister, 1994—a family trip to Maine

Kadi and her husband Scott visited from Seattle last weekend, and Keoni told me he was getting a kick out of watching the two of us, noting the facial expressions and mannerisms we have in common. It’s a funny thing, how amazingly alike we are, despite our very different lives. Even some of our random OCD eccentricities are a match, like our refusal to eat the last bite of a sandwich—the piece we’ve been holding while we ate the rest. Can that possibly be genetic? It certainly wasn’t something we learned together—we discovered the quirk-in-common as adults, when we met each other for lunch one day.

my sister’s high school graduation, 1996

I don’t see my sister in my mirror, but I see her all the time in my photos. We insisted for years that we didn’t look anything alike (despite being taken for twins with some regularity), but then I began to mistake pictures of her for pictures of myself… When she first moved to Boise after graduating from Law School, she reported getting hug-attacked in REI by a perfect stranger—someone who obviously knew me well enough to hug me, but still couldn’t tell that she wasn’t me. I have occasionally gotten responses like “Duh” and “No shit” when I point her out or introduce her as my sister. Apparently it’s obvious.

Our family traveled a lot when we were growing up, so we were often the only available playmates for each other. Happily, we got along pretty well together—barring the occasional scuffle or argument, we enjoyed like minds and tastes and imaginations most of the time. Our mother has said of our six-month trip through Europe that we fought the first day, and then it seemed to dawn on us both that we would only have each other for the next half-year… So we made up—and stayed made-up for the rest of the tour.

with my sister—when she was in Law School and I was a new stay-home mom

Our friendliness is, in itself, a testament to my sister’s amiable nature. It’s not easy being anyone’s younger sister. She has gone on, though, to distinguish herself in arenas of her own—clerking for a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, working as a Deputy Attorney General for the state of Idaho, and now with a prominent law firm in Seattle. We’re pleased with the idea that we both make our livings at writing—legal briefs in her case, and random oddities in mine…

We used to write plays together, and perform them for the captive audience of our parents and grandparents. We had to make creative allowances for the small size of our cast, which led to some memorable adaptations like “Snow White and the One Dwarf,” in which she played the princess and I played everyone else.

at a Black-Eyed Peas concert

Keoni introduced me to the idea of the ‘aumakua—the totem or guardian in Hawai’ian culture—and last summer it became clear to me that the Owl is mine. Owls were crossing my path, night and day, every time I was on the road with a writing assignment… When I wrote about the topic here, Kadi emailed me, expressing astonishment because she had developed a particular affinity for owls in the last year as well. I wasn’t expecting that, of course, but at the same time it didn’t surprise me. (I figure it’s our “Irish” coming out… Owls are totems in Celtic culture too.) Besides, we’ve always seemed to be on the same wavelength, even though our lives are outwardly so different.

Kadi & Scott’s visit last weekend

Speaking of Hawai’ian culture, Keoni has asked me to tell her “Hau’oli la hanau.” When we say it aloud (how OH-lee lah huh-NOW), people often respond by telling us their age, thinking we’ve asked them, “How old are you now?” But it actually means—from both of us—Happy Birthday!