Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas one and all

I hope this holiday finds you happy and well and enjoying special times with family or friends. I will be spending the day with members of my family.

Sorry, I haven't been around much lately, but as I'm sure everyone is experiencing, it's been a busy time of year.

I hope your holiday is busy in a good way!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Welcome winter, we've been waiting

Winter has official begun! Yippee!

My favorite thing about winter is that once winter begins the days start getting longer again. I'm not quite sure why that matters to me so much, because sometimes I swear I'm part vampire and don't fully come to live until after sundown, no matter the season. But the reduced hours of daylight in the fall and winter months sap my energy, my spirit.

Now that winter has officially begun, that means spring is coming.

And starting now, the days will start getting just a little bit longer, day by day.

I'll consider that the season's Christmas gift to me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Time for a cool change

The other day I was in a motel gift shop in Las Vegas. The town is obviously gearing up for the annual influx of new year's revelers coming to town. Among the trash and trinkets were a variety of souvenirs touting Las Vegas 2008. I won't be joining the Sin City celebrants, but seeing the souvenirs got me to thinking and I realize I need to come up with my own, personal and special way to say goodbye (and good riddance) to 2007 and hello to the new year.

When I was young, my friends and I used to try to figure out how old we would be when the year 2000 arrived. It seems so far off back then. And we'd in in our 30s! Ancient by middle-school standards. Now, 2000 seems so long ago, with 2008 just around the corner.

I have been been a big fan of 2007, so I won't be shedding any tears over it's departure. Maybe just tears of disappointment about wasting another year of my life sitting still. I'm not saying it's been an awful year or anything. It's just been, in a word, dull. Or the way I've lived it has been dull.

I've never been one for making resolutions for the new year, but this year I may make an exception. I haven't quite settled on the wording of what that resolution might be, but I want something to look forward to, something to strive for with the turning of the calendar page. I don't know what 2008 will bring, but it has to be better than this. I need to make it better than this.

Do people still make new year's resolutions? If so, will you resolve to do something better/different in the coming year? What might that be, if it's not too personal to share? I'm not looking to borrow someone else's resolution, but I would be curious to know what folks in the blogosphere aspire to in 2008. Maybe your motivation will inspire me, and others, to reach higher and farther in our goals of self-betterment.

If you have any suggestion about how (or where) to celebrate the new year (particularly if it's in the Salem-Portland area), I am open to stealing a good idea there outright. Or just tell me how you plan to spend the new year. I can't remember what I did last year, which tells you how memorable that was. Maybe that was the problem, I didn't kick the year off right and the whole year suffered.

Perhaps that's my first resolution right there.

I resolve to ring in the new year with a little flash (or at least some fun) for 2008.

That's one resolution down.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Maybe this means the Terrible Twos are over

I knew it was coming up, but wasn't really thinking about it. But when I checked the date after work, I realized the date had already past -- the third-year anniversary of Digital Fishwrap.

It's not like it's one of the most significant dates on my calendar. There are holidays and birthdays and other people's anniversaries that are far more important. But if I were to be completely honest with myself, the start of this blog has been a significant factor in my life.

The blog got me writing again. It got me exploring feelings, even under the guise of ignoring them. I have enjoyed the exercise and ignored the obligation in turns. I've needed the release and needed the breaks too.

I was proud to write daily posts (sans Thanksgiving) for Novembers National Blog Posting Month. And I'm a little ashamed I've only written 6 (now 7) posts in the first 18 (now 19) days of this months. And I'm flat out disappointed that my Technorati rating has plummeted to a 1, even as I've gotten better at making posts and exploring new topics. I tell myself this was never about having a popular blog, but the very nature of a blog is to be public and get some feedback -- some interaction -- from other people. The problem is, I don't play the blogging game very well. I don't check other blogs sites religiously, like I once did, and leave comments on their posts to interact with them (and secretly hoping they would come check out my blog too and become regular readers).

So I guess I can live with the low ranking. Hell, I can even take it off the site completely I suppose (and just may). In the span of three years, there have been a lot of changes to the blog, including changes in jobs, cities and aspirations. It's not what it once was. It's more. And less.

Like a first love, it's special to me in a way no other web venture could be and like that first loved it has been a source of disappointment and unfulfilled potential due to naivete.

This blog is me, for better or worse, and I'm woven through it, as are all of you who take the time to read and especially those of you who have taken the time to comment.

I never really expected this experiment to last this long. It was a momentary diversion and a way to dabble into new and ever-changing technology. And now the moment has lasted three years.

Last year I didn't make note of the anniversary. I had no posts for the month of December at all. But two years ago I noted some of my favorite posts from my first year. Those are still probably among my favorites. The posts have been more infrequent in the last two years, but in honor of the third anniversary of Digital Fishwrap, here are dozen more posts I am proud of:

Parenting by MSN Messenger
An intimate birthday gift from Sheryl Crow
Now I do have to thump on Lance Armstrong
Do you think these guys vote?
My brown-eyed girl
I didn't shave my head for this
Oregon: Come for the natural beauty, stay for the majority Caucasian population
Prom corsages, birthday candles and hazard lights
They eat their young, and not so young
Grandma, I'm coming home
Life is decidedly not fair
Today, God cut the apron strings

Thanks for sharing part of the anniversary week here at the Fishwrap. And to other bloggers out there, thanks for being brave enough to share your opinions on issues and your experiences with others. And for those of you listed in the Blogroll in particular, thanks for sharing so much of yourselves with me over the years and inspiring me to want to be not just a better writer, but a better person.

Monday, December 17, 2007

It's hard to fulfill unexpressed holiday wishes

So, is everyone ready for Christmas? I'm certainly not. I haven't even started my shopping. Fortunately, I only going to get gifts for immediate family this year. That's all that -- and probably more than -- I can afford.

I am not one of those people that's good at shopping for others. I need specific gift wish list ideas. If I have pre-approved options to choose from, I then feel a little more comfortable venturing off the list for some secondary gift of my own choosing, because at least I know I have something the recipient will like.

I sort of miss the days when my daughter was younger. There were distinct phases that provided gift ideas. There was a Disney princesses phase, a Barbie phase and a Harry Potter phase. There were years when all I needed were sizes and I could even feel comfortable and confident selecting clothes.

Now my daughter is 16. When we go clothes shopping now, my contribution is providing transportation and one -- or more -- credit cards.

I do know the stores she likes, or think I do, but knowing the fickle nature of teen tastes, maybe that has changed too. So, I supposed I could go the gift card route. While I love the practicality of that, it seems a tad impersonal for the person I most enjoy buying for doing things for.

I am far worse at buying things for my parents and brothers. I could chock it up to being out of the house for so many years, but I never knew what to get them when I lived with all of them either. And my dad is the hardest to shop for of all.

But buying gifts for my daughter, which has been so much fun over the years, has gotten me past the dread of gift buying/giving. I can, and sometimes do, actually enjoy gift buying sometimes. Of course, I find many more things that I think would be fun to receive as gift than things I'm sure will be good gifts for those I love. And my parents and I are so bad about admitting the things we want as gifts. When one of us ask, "So, what you do want for Christmas, the inevitable answer is always, "Oh, nothing." Or that other old chestnut, "I don't need anything."

But the thing with gifts, and a truly great gift (especially for adults) is not getting something you need, but getting something you want. We tend to buy ourselves the things we really need. What we don't tend to do is buy things we would like to have, if we had a little extra money to splurge on a little something for ourselves. That's a good gift. Why can't my parents (or me for that matter) provide a few hints at things that they would like?

The bad thing is, now my daughter is getting more coy when asked what she would like for Christmas. She used to be pretty good about putting a wish list together (and then providing me with a copy, which is pretty key to the whole success of the list). Apparently she inherited the "nothing" response gene, and it's kicked in at adolescence.

Poor kid, she inherited the freakiest things from my family. Fortunately, the looks she gets from her mother's side of the family.

So, I still need to get my shopping started, but I'm fairly confident my days of waiting until Christmas Eve to even start are behind me -- I think. We'll know for sure in the next few days.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Playing hooky

Hey folks, I'm gonna be away from computers for the week. So you all behave yourselves. And if you can't, let me know where I can read all the details.

Have a good week.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Grief's hidden treasures


Sorry I haven't been around for a couple of days. As you may glean from my last post, I've had some personal, family stuff to deal with the last couple of days.

Unfortunately, I'm not going to make it back to my grandmother's funeral. As I was starting to write that previous sentence, I was tempted to write that I "can't make it," but the truth of the matter is it came down to a choice and I have to own that. It was an agonizing choice, made in consultation with my parents and based on their advice and after talking to my uncle. But ultimately, the choice, and whatever personal, emotional consequences it brings, is mine.

I went back and forth so many times, checking prices and talking on phones and driving myself crazy. Wanting to do the right thing for my mom, the right thing by my family. I don't know what the right thing is, but I know I feel better finally knowing what I'm doing and no longer chasing my tail.

Life is hard. Sometimes life is sad. And for some of us, life goes on.

In the oddest of ways, I have been enjoying the grieving process. Not that I enjoy the sadness or the pain. But I am remembering a lot of great things about my grandmother and reliving a lot of happy times. I'm smiling with tears in my eyes. I'm allowing myself to grieve, whereas in the past, I have suppressed my grief, only to have it reemerge months or years later in a shocking flurry.

Something came to me last night shortly after I crawled into bed about my grandmother, something that shocked and delighted me. I remembered that my grandmother had a little electric organ sitting next to her front door. Usually it was difficult to get her to slow down long enough to sit down and play it. But when she did, it was a special treat. And I flashed on a memory of my grandmother, sitting at her organ and playing "Silent Night."

Maybe that's why "Silent Night" is my favorite Christmas song. It was the one song I longed to play as I began to develop meager piano/organ playing skills.

I had completely forgotten about that organ or my grandmother playing it. Something I now know about myself, and the fabric of who I am, that I didn't know was hidden behind that little corner of my mind.

It's been a pleasant journey of discovery, remembering my grandmother as the vibrant, vital woman you shape my live in ways I may never know or realize. It makes me glad that I can remember so many things about her from happier times and that my memories need not be dominated by seeing her in her final, cruel decline. I'm glad there are so many good things that I've remembered already and will welcome any more revelations that come.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The impact of tragedy proportional to proximity

Entire communities of my neighbors in Oregon and Washington have been under water this week. Lives, homes and business have been devastated just weeks before Christmas. Power and phone service is still out in many places.

Given the ordeal so many are having to face, I'm fortunate to have a place to live that's warm and dry. For many, a sense of normalcy is weeks, maybe months away and who knows how many lives will be changed forever.

Yet, I can't get out of my own head. I'm wrapped up in my own, seemingly petty and insignificant issues.

I've been agonizing about how or whether to attend my grandmother's funeral half a continent away. I've decided countless times to go and to not go. I think I'm sure that I won't be going. Time and money are just too short, but those seem like such shallow reasons not to go. My parents are actually advising me not to go, which confuses, more than clarifies, the situation.

I want to be there. Not for my grandmother. Funerals aren't for deceased, they are ceremonies for the living to grieve and mourn. I thought my mom would want the support, but if what she says is true, my presence may potentially do more harm than good.

So, I'm not going. I'm sure this time.

I think.

I just don't feel good about the fact that at this point in my life I'm not in a position to do this one thing. It's a small thing, or should be, but it's become so huge somehow.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Today, God cut the apron strings

My mom called this morning. My mom never calls. And she called me while I was at work no less. Usually, I figure if mom is calling there is news, generally bad news. But today I figured she was calling with details about a family trip we have scheduled for next week.

It wasn't about the trip. It was news -- sad news.

My grandmother -- her mother -- died this morning. In recent years my grandmother has spent time living with my uncle and aunt in Nevada and my parents in Eastern Oregon. When I lived in Southern California and grandma moved to Henderson, just outside of Las Vegas, I made a point of going to visit her there. She moved to Oregon about a year before I moved back to the state, and since I've been back I have tried to make a point of going home when I can to spend some time with her. I never knew when the next visit might be the last. But I knew our last visit earlier this month would likely be the last. And, sadly, it was.

Unfortunately, now I don't know if I will be able to make it back for her funeral. Timing and finances are conspiring against it. Mom isn't expecting my father, brothers or me to be there, but I really would like to be there. Not to say goodbye to my grandmother. I got to do that a few weeks ago, even if it wasn't a storybook farewell. But more than 30 years have spent far from my childhood home and family. These days, it seems the only time our far-flung family gets together is for someone's funeral. I haven't seen my mom's sister and her husband and most of my cousins on my mom's side of the family since my aunt's funeral 15-17 years ago. And I hold out a little home that I might get to see my uncle's oldest kids, who I have rarely seen since about second grade -- except for two funerals.

I guess as I get older, as my parents get older, I seek some stronger connection to family. Maybe it's because my daughter is getting older too. I hope that someday maybe she will want some stronger connection to my side of the family. I hope she will want to know more about where she comes from. But I realize now I don't have a good understanding of where I come from to even be able to answer those potential questions from her. Most of my knowledge and understanding of my family is filtered through the partially opaque veil of time and memories of issues seen through the flawed vision of a child.

It's times like these I wish I was a better writer. Better at describing my grandmother and the people close to me. I am much more practiced at telling other people's stories. I feel so inept at capturing the essence of the people close to me or even my feelings about them.

It was difficult to see my grandmother in recent years, leading a sedentary life, spending her hours in a glider-rocker in my parents living room. She was always so active and vibrant. It was virtually impossible to catch my grandmother standing or sitting still for long when I was a child.
She was always out tending to the chickens in the chicken coop -- feeding the chicks, gathering eggs. Although I never witnessed the act myself, I also heard her in later years talk about butchering the chickens herself too.

Grandma always kept a large garden -- corn, squash, watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, snap beans, peas. The garden was a source of produce during the summer months. My grandfather would seemingly eat cucumbers and watermelon and corn on the cob with every meal while the vegetables were in season. And from grandma's abundant harvest she would can her own veggies in a big, rattling, chattering, steaming canner that created a hell of a racket that could be heard all throughout my grandparent's little house. She worked magic with that canner, turning cucumbers into the best dill pickles on the planned. I never cared much for other home-canned vegetables, like canned tomatoes, or the sauerkraut. But I could never get enough of grandma's pickles. There was also a little adventure involved in trying to get the right pickle out of the jar. To this day, a bite of a good dill pickle reminds me of grandma and her kitchen, but even a good pickle isn't quite good enough.

But grandma's signature dish, at least to us grandkids, was her homemade noodles. We used to beg grandma to make noodles on virtually every visit or family gathering. If we were really good, and grandma had time, we would be rewarded with her special dish. One of my favorite things was to sneak into the kitchen and steal some of the raw noodles from grandma's cutting board. She would roll out dough to just the right thickness and cut the dough into thin strips with a large knife. I don't know what she put into the dough or the broth, but the noodles were sliced heaven. It's been many, many years since I had grandma's noodles. But my uncle now carries on the noodle-making tradition in the family. My grandmother was a good cook and my uncle inherited that from her. That's a gene my mother did not inherit.

I was looking through some family photos my grandmother gave me that had belonged to my aunt. The pictures are in a photo album that belonged to my aunt and grandma gave them to me after my aunt's funeral about 15 years ago. I realized as I was looking through the photos that I never saw my grandmother wear anything but a dress. In one of the photos in the album, my grandparents are standing outside with my mom's oldest sister and brother in-law and their oldest son. Grandma is wearing a white apron over her dress. That's how I remember my grandmother, in a dress that extended below her knee with an apron over it. She wore the apron in the kitchen. She would collect eggs from the chicken coop by holding the bottom of her apron up to make a basket to carry the day's layings in.

The chickens she kept used to scare me as a small boy. They would come after you and peck you in the pen, so I avoided going in there. That was the adult chickens. I used to love the chicks every spring. Grandma used to bring chicks into the house every spring. Perhaps that was to keep them warm, or perhaps it allow us grandkids to see them when we were visiting. Who knows how many hours were spent watching those little chick, giving them names, watching them interact and holding the fuzzy-feathered, chirping chicks in our hands. They were so cute, but the adult chickens were so ugly and mean. But I used to enjoy helping grandma gather the eggs out of the chicken coop. I remember when I was finally old enough to be sent out to the hen house to gather eggs all on my own.

Grandma was always an imposing presence. She was not an overtly affectionate person or a hugger, a trait my mom and I did inherit, and one I'm still trying to grow out of. Of course my father's family was much the same. It's something I attribute to the German-Midwest heritage. But she put her love and affection into caring for her family, growing and preparing hearty meals and spending untold hours in the garden, hen house and kitchen.

I hope somehow the stars align and I get an opportunity to share memories with family and friends, to learn the things I missed about her and her life before I was born, or after our family moved so far from grandma's house and the years before she became the small, frail woman with a failing memory.

A few years ago, before her memory started slipping, I used to ask her about the family to learn things I didn't know about our family. But in recent years, she was remembering things wrong. The answers to questions could not be relied upon to be true or accurate.

It was hard to see grandma in decline. The last time I saw her was extremely difficult. But today, on the day she left us, I choose to celebrate the simple, yet special, memories I have of better times. I am glad my daughter got to meet her. I wish she got to know her as the vibrant woman I remember. I'm not sure if my daughter will remember much about that visit, but I wanted her to know her other great-grandmother and I hope she got at least some glimpse of what made my grandmother great to me.

I miss you grandma.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Beavers bound for Emerald Bowl

The Oregon State Beavers will play in the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco on Dec. 28 against the Maryland Terrapins.

The hopes of qualifying for the Holiday Bowl in San Diego didn't pan out as earlier today the Arizona State Sun Devils got the bid to play in that bowl.

The Ducks will head to that exotic locale of El Paso for the Sun Bowl against South Florida.

Where would you rather go for a holiday bowl, the Bay Area or El Paso, Texas?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Beavers capture enemy territory in Autzen

I give credit to the Ducks. They brought more offense than I expected and made the Civil War Game a battle worthy of the long and intense rivalry that's now lasted for 111 games. It took two overtimes for the Beavers to win and snap a 10-year streak of the home teams winning.

Bravo Beavs and kudos to the wounded Ducks for making it a great contest.

Go Beavs!

The End Debt Daily paper.li