Friday, December 28, 2012

Music, Music and Merry Christmas!

I must say, it's been a full month.  Jam packed with visiting, shopping, ballet, musical arts, sickness, wrapping and cooking.  I keep wondering what I've missed amongst all the activity.  Just today I thought "hmmm, I never picked up that prescription at the pharmacy" - that I called in on December 13th!  Fortunately they didn't pull it off the shelf and I can pick it up tomorrow. 
We've had and hosted dinners with friends - those who are CA natives and the group of us that were together as Expats in Switzerland and now find ourselves all in the Bay Area. 
We also made a trip to Fresno to see lovely Bella the Ballerina in the Nutcracker.  Last year she was recovering from a dislocated knee and previous years we were, of course, out of the country.  This was my first opportunity to see her perform in it live and she did a beautiful job - what a joy to watch the development of children you've known since birth grow into intelligent, talented and kind individuals.  She's just one of several young people we will enjoy during the holidays ( her brothers, Bart's niece, S & B and of course the family cousins).
In between all this, Bart came down with the current bug and then I caught a strain of it.  Unfortunately it hasn't been one of those "fast moving" viruses and it still is hanging on to me at 2 weeks - just slow to depart.  Sometimes I think the 24 hour flu would be preferable.  In fact, yes, it would be. :)  Not exactly what one wishes for at Christmas.  In spite of it all, I was still able to sing for Christmas services - God answers prayer!
We've enjoyed a lot of good music this month - not mine!  Rachel had an Orchestra performance at school mid-December - full Orchestra as well as Strings.  They did a fantastic job and we were also impressed with the Jazz and Symphonic bands.  The following week she had two nights of Choral concerts.  Her High School boasts (yes, it can boast) a wonderful vocal music program.  The director travels overseas with a choir every other year and they consistently rank top in the State in choral competition.
Rachel is in the Mixed/Womens Chorus which is made up exclusively of Freshman.  Sophomores thru Seniors participate in three other additional choirs, all of which require audition for performance.  In all, there are approximately 130- 150 students in the program.  As we are Boosters, we are in the drawing for the special reserved seats and VIOLA!, we got the coveted seats for the Christmas concert as presented by Kendra below:
I've tried and tried to download my short video of "Carol of the Bells" or "Silent Night" when all 4 choirs plus approximately 50 alumni were surrounding the theatre but it just doesn't work - not sure what to do with Blogger half the time nowdays.  It was beautiful.  My regret is I didn't get an extra ticket in time to include my dad - both nights were sell-outs.  Here is Rachel in the Mixed Chorus - she's a 1st Alto - front row, second from the right:
So after school was out and dinner parties were had and church was done - there was wrapping to do.  Because while sick Mrs. Claus was able to finish shopping, sick Mrs. Claus never quite got to the wrapping.  Sick Mrs. Claus had wonderful Santa who helped - Santa wrapped and Mrs. Claus decorated and labeled.  Teamwork at it's finest. 
Christmas Eve was lovely - Dad arrived, we went to Christmas services, drove around to look at lights and then sat down to watch Bourne Legacy - cause that says Christmas??!!! 

 This was Eiger's first Christmas and we had to buy a stocking.  He immediately pulled it out of the Petco bag and took it into his crate.  How did he know?  He enjoyed the bully stick and new toy that came in it the morning of Christmas.
 As we did with our previous hound, Max, we let Eiger play a bit with the wrapping paper.  Once he found he was allowed to pull at the paper, he helped Rachel "unwrap" a present - not exactly what we intended by at least nothing was damaged.......
So we had a lovely quiet day and most of all enjoyed the thought of Emmanuel - God with us.  Because that's what it really is all about.

At this point, we have been enjoying a quick visit from Bart's sister and niece out from Germany and on their way to Southern CA.  Then we take off for the family cabin and some more Christmas there and then after New Years, some fun with friends - more on that later.

I hope you've all had a beautiful Christmas celebrating the occasion of our Saviour's birth.  Wishing you all a Happy New Year in case I don't make it back here before then.........

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thanksgiving Month

What can I say?  I will use the term "yes, I have a blog" loosely.  Perhaps in the New Year, a new era of blogging in CA?  We shall see, we shall see....
I have a month of Thankful pictures to share.  November has been full of visitors and I am so thankful to have our friends and family.  I have to say, we very much miss other friends and family as well.  It's still a transition - felt far away from many while in Switzerland and now feel far away from many in California.  There is no perfect solution is there?  Thankful for the internet and blogs and yes, even Facebook.  Thank you Mr. Zuckerman.  I think.  We'll see.
Thankful for friends who came from Fresno to share Veterans Day weekend: good food, laughter and a Forty-Niners game (tied!).  While the crew below was at the game, the moms and Mr. N (5 yrs) headed out for a beautiful afternoon at the Oakland Zoo.
These guys?  Thankful that Jack tolerates Eiger.  Eiger seems to have sense enough not to bother him too much.  Above you see Eiger trying to engage Jack in play but will get a smack down for his efforts.  Good for the big dog to get told off by the little ones to keep them in check occasionally.  Below?  A snack in the offering: 

Thankful for dear friends who travel from Sacramento area and squish together on our comfy couch.  Long story but Eiger's crate sits where another 'seat' should be and then of course, Bart has 'his' chair.  Love these faces.

Thankful for Dad/Grandpa Olson who likes and keeps old cars and lets me drive them.  Love driving down the road in a Riviera (he has 2 or 3?) - feel the horsepower.  Girls enjoy it and love tinkering around their place in Minnesota.  Of course this was taken in August - not a fan of Northern MN come winter......
Thankful for cows that occasionally graze by the house.  It's not Switzerland and they don't wear bells but I like all the animals that wander by our place.
Thankful for family that came for Thanksgiving (sister Kris's family, mom & J and dad) and once again, squished onto a couch for sharing.  Note - Eiger likes to be where the people are.
 Thankful for cousins big and small who enjoy each other, take care of each other and say "cheese" for the camera.  True towheads, those little ones.
 Thankful for my girlies who are getting so grown up and who we love so much.  Proud of them for their diligence at school, their willingness to try new things and their love for each other.
 Thankful for my husband.  This picture may not appear perfect to you but it is to me.  There aren't many "natural" pictures of Bart and I and here, we're laughing trying to get 'ready' for a picture.  That's one of the reasons I love him - he makes me laugh.  Yes girls, sometimes I'm laughing very hard on the inside but you will never see it because I'm trying to be a good mom and your dad is, well, funny whether appropriate or not!  He's a good man and I'm thankful for him:

Happy Thanksgiving November to all!

Monday, November 05, 2012

We're not into Halloween but.....

We're not into Halloween but we do like to dress up! Since we returned to CA, we've had the good fortune to attend the family Halloween party hosted at my cousins (maternal) house in West Sacramento. We had attended the first party oh, so long ago, left the State and returned last year for the 10th Anniversary of this entertaining, family gathering complete with great food - thanks J & M.
It's a lot of fun to see the creative costumes that arrive and as J so nicely states on the invite: "appropriate costume attire." This would hail back to the day when many of them didn't have kids yet and it could be a little crazy. :)

We weren't able to pull off our original idea last year as we were still 'fresh off the overseas flight' and I didn't have a sewing machine yet. So this year we proved that the Swiss Family Olson does indeed exist:

For the record:  I did not make Bart or Rachel's costumes.  I ordered them from an website as: 1) I was not about to make his Lederhosen 2) Bart's is a costume version since real Lederhosen, whether in Europe or the States, costs approximately $250 - $300 for the pants/shorts/hosen alone 3) Of course, I did not start working on any of this until October for to do so beforehand takes considerable foresight of which I'm lacking in this current season of life 4) Lack of foresight means no sleep if one is making three Dirndls vs two and 5) I only had trim for two dresses which I originally bought it in Germany with the girls in mind.   Oh - and these are pretty much standard German/Austrian folkwear which translates to the Swiss German just fine.

This was my dining room for the last part of October.  I have to admit, we spend good money on a table and chairs so that we can do school and sewing projects in this room.  I guess putting up a long folding table with padded, folding chairs and a tablecloth would have served just as well.  Don't tell Bart!  We need more people to come over for dinner........
Many thoughts flew through my head as this was the first time I was sewing a garment(s) in several years - last project was also a costume.  Sewing for the house or repairs/hems tend to be my regular projects.  I sewed my first garment (sewing lingo :)  ) in 3rd grade I believe.  A pair of ugly shorts with an elastic waistband.  But I wore them proudly.  During the eighties I sewed a lot.  Going to a school that required dresses everyday and a small clothing budget pushed me along.  Then college came and big shirts were the rage so my roommate and I would get clearance material and go to work - many times with buttons fastened underneath by safety pins because we were in too much a rush to do buttonholes.  Don't tell my mom!

I was lucky - my mom and I had the type of relationship that works well for teacher/student.  She was able to teach me to sew, ski, waterski and climb.  These are things I've not personally passed down to the girls because 'they don't listen to me.'  I've learned not to be frustrated or take it personally.  My mom at various points had teachers for my sisters on the above because they didn't want to learn from her either.

Recently, my sister Deb got a machine and while Mom was in HI for her grandchilren fix, she was teaching her to use it.  I'm told that I missed out on a lot of laughter and giggles.  As Mom relayed all the things Deb was finding out about using a machine, I thought of my 2 years in Home Economics and all the things that will not be taught to High Schoolers because in CA, these classes don't exist anymore.  Although I already knew how to sew, my teacher made a point to teach us the name of the machine parts and why certain stitches or techniques were used.  She also assured me that when I ironed the first seam of my Junior Banquet dress that I had not ruined it - it was red taffeta and taffeta "changes color" with heat and returns when cooled.  Oh - and the importance of proper iron temperatures with various fabrics.  Not that I melted a blouse in high school.  Not me.

Home Ec also taught me a lot about cooking.  Not that it taught me to be a good cook but the science of it.  For instance, why did those pumpkin blueberry muffins turn out flat and gooey?  Ah yes, seems the baking soda was forgotten.  And egg whites bind ingredients and ..... oh so many things.

Learning to read patterns was also great training for life in other areas:  reading directions for toy or furniture assembly.  Life necessities!

Here's a weird techy sewing thing that you won't care about if you don't sew:  the patterns I got for the Dirndls came with seam allowances that were between 1/4" and 1/2."  I had to really watch for which were which on different parts of the garment.  I was taught with a standard 5/8" seam allowance for everything unless specifically stated differently on the pattern.   Is it like this on all patterns now or just specialty?  Maybe I'll be inspired to sew something else and find out!

I took a picture of this because I found it amusing in my quirky little way.  I did not look at the supply requirements for the patterns and  realized I needed binding tape for the sleeve elastic of the blouses.  I was sure I had some somewhere and lo, and behold, dug some out of my stash.  As I unwrapped it, I wondered in looking at the packaging how old it was at a cost of $1.30.  The manufacturer's date on the back is ------1986!  So this is seam tape I bought with a discount coupon at the local fabric store around the block from the college dorms.  Waiting to be used all these years....
I also needed bias tape for the neck edging of the blouses. Ummmm, the bias tape I had was also from 1986. Being cotton, it was no longer white white and I found myself in the irritating predicament of making my own bias tape edging out of the blouse fabric so it would match.  I have never had to do that - ever!!!  Ta Da - it came out perfect.  Because of what I still remember from Home Ec and my Mom - grains, biases, nap, etc...  The pin cushion and seam ripper above - remnants of my early sewing purchases I've not lost.  The pin cushion is 30+ years old - a souvenir from our 8th grade class trip to San Francisco.  It's still in great shape and if you need one, they're still selling them in Chinatown.

Seewwww, that's what I've been doing lately.  Sorry, couldn't resist.

My mom will be happy to know that I did complete the topstiching on both Dirndles even though the goofy pattern didn't require it.  But I elected to machine hem vs hand.  And Kendra's is a bit loose on her as she continues to grow and grow and want to be able to wear it in the future.

So you will see the buttons.

With snaps underneath vs safety pins.

And no buttonholes.  Sorry Mom.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Days of Miscellany

There have been some nice family times that I've not shared and as I read through about 40 pages of Blogging that are now deleted, I see that Blogging has become my timeline for when I eventually get some scrapbooks finished. The project that is always looming and I really want to give some attention to. Finding time is the key and maybe I just need to incorporate it into my regular activities and being OK with just 20 or 30 minutes here and there.

Regarding the Blog pages I've deleted: I deleted our E---t trip from January '11. I do check the source of our Blog traffic occasionally and it just seems that there has been too much interest in those particular posts from that region. Key word searches are the source so by eliminating the topic, traffic should die down. We'll see.

What have we been up to? Well, someone turned 14 and we celebrated up at the cabin in Twain Harte. It is a family cabin, built by my grandparents, and living out of state and country, we've not had the opportunity to enjoy it for many years. We had a good time and Eiger was very happy there. Outside of the previously posted near-drowning experience. We went to Pinecrest lake, hiking and blackberry picking. We topped it all off with a 5 hour drive home - should take 2 hrs with minimal traffic. Ah well, it was Labor day.... Happy Birthday Rachel!
Oo la la!  Look at my handsome husband!  We were asked to help fill up the Firm's table for the San Francisco Symphony Opening Night Gala.  Fancy - Black tie, Cocktail reception, Patron's Dinner, Symphony and After Party.  Before we said yes, I said we needed to see if we still fit into our "costumes" cause that could be a deal breaker.  Most women would take this as an opportunity to go shopping for a new dress but I sit looking at things in my closet that have gone unworn and think "no need for a new dress if I have something already."  Guess it should fit though.  And men's tuxedo's?  Do those ever go on sale?  He bought one and should always fit into it.  Always.  OK, I had a dress that fit and Bart just needed to buy a new shirt.  Which I ended up having to iron (have you ever ironed a tuxedo shirt? Ugh!!!) and was thinking "thank goodness he'll have a vest and jacket on all night.  I hope."

I love fancy dress occasions.  I love to see all the dresses.  I'm the crazy girl who come September, has the issues of Vogue, Harpers Bazaar and In Style so I can look at the full ad campaigns by the designers.  Those 3 magazines stacked as September issues could make their own end table...... I love to see the colors, construction and photography - I see it as artwork.  Many see it as superficial and a waste of paper.  We all have our indulgences.  Anyway.... the people watching was superb. Superb!  There was "oh, look at that dress"  "she is beautiful" "ooooh myyyy!" "I saw that dress in Vogue!" Fun, fun, silly fun.

The press photographers were there as San Francisco elite and politicians were out for this event.  We got our picture taken.  We said and spelled our names for the photographer.  I was asked if I was wearing a designer that evening.  I replied "No.  I'm not wearing anyone this evening, thank you."  I did not want any eye rolling or flopping on the floor should I state the truth: " I'm wearing a Macy's clearance gown I purchased for $50 ten years ago."  For all that I love looking at fashion, I also love a great bargain.  One I never feel guilty for.  I own one real designer item - a pair of sunglasses I bought in 2008.  Still have them and my 12 yr old Ray Bans - I think I've only lost one pair of sunglasses in my life so they're a pretty good deal for me.

Enough of the frivolous, we had a great time!  The Symphony, by the way, was Awesome.
We were getting ready to dash out the door for Kendra's ballet lesson a couple weeks ago when I spotted this handsome Buck outside the kitchen window.  So I made her wait.  Put the zoom lens on and was able to stand in the backyard and take pictures without the Buck or his harem taking off.  Eiger was very still - rarely barks or runs when the deer are in back.  Love having the wildlife around us although I could do with a few less turkeys - they don't clean up after themselves so the sidewalks are littered with turkey droppings around here.  I think CA should have an open season on Turkeys around Thanksgiving - save us all a few $$ for dinner and help control this booming population.  Or we should be allowed to let our dogs run loose ever so often..........
San Francisco's Fleet Week:  We didn't get down to the boats but we did go in and walk to Pier 39 to watch the Blue Angels.  As you can see, it was a gorgeous day and while there were a lot of people, it was a really good crowd and there was no problem being able to get good views of the air show.  Love the noise!!!
The precision is unbelievable:
Kendra's science project for 6th grade:  Volcano!!!  We wadded up newspaper in a somewhat desired shape, layered strips of plaster of paris on it, dried it overnight, she painted it and presented a prehistoric theme.  Inside there is a plastic water bottle that we hot glued to the top of the 'cone' after removing the newpaper and prior to securing to base.  This had about 1/4 cup baking soda in it and then all you add is vinegar and Viola! you have an erupting volcano.  The first eruptions were done at school and then she had to show us at home.  Red dye in the baking soda wasn't allowed - it stains too many things!
This is a girl ready to go to her first Homecoming Dance.  How time flies!  She went to a friends house where 10 of the girls were getting ready and all went to the dance together.  A younger sister came downstairs after checking on them - we were ready to take pictures - and declared " it smells like something's burning and there is a bad chemical smell up there."  Ah - curling irons and hair spray.  Maybe a bit much perfume too but they'll learn.  She had a good time and from all our conversations, the part I like the best is that she still has a good head on her shoulders - it's a pretty one I think.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Best Root Canal I Ever Had?

Best root canal I ever had!

Really?  Can you believe I would write such a thing.

This from a women conditioned to tear up in the Dentist chair?

I didn't always tear up but after 5 crowns, all of which required numerous injections of novocaine due to my "special" nerves, the first time I had a root canal I immediately started tearing at the thought of the pain.  The Endodontist assured me I wouldn't feel a thing.  I did.  Sigh....  They basically performed what I refer to as, for lack of the proper medical term, an epidural for the tooth.

Once that root canal was done, they permanently affixed the crown and for the last 7 years I've lived life with a bite that has never been right.  Oooo - a rhyme.  There were small corrections tried over time but I finally went to the Orthodontist this June as my bite has become quite open due to my teeth not fitting together properly - I need a fork and knife to eat pizza in front of company.  My teeth are still absolutely straight but the tongue has pushed at them since the teeth didn't sit together anymore.

We are doing a little bit to help with that but the first thing he wanted me to do was get that root canal re-done:  a re-treatment.  What he saw in these x-rays vs others taken was suspected bone loss and roots that didn't appear to be fully cleaned out. 

Dutifully, I went to the consultation for and the re-treatment of that tooth.  The Endodontist and Dental technician both commented that I might notice some improvement in bite and general well-being after re-treatment.  Why?  Because it appears that there has been a low-grade infection in the bone at the root site for several years.  The inflammation coming and going cause the bite issues and in their mind, stress on the immune system.  I might feel less tired, have more energy, better sinus drainage, etc....

I looked like I had a stroke that day - the aenesthesia took some time to wear off.  I did have a headache for several days.  Then I started to wake up.  I felt like the tired, little cloud I've been under for a long time had disappeared as had the pressure on my left side/neck.  Who knew?  It wasn't painful so I never imagined the other symptoms I had were a result of an incomplete root canal.

Bart will attest to my change in attitude.  I will not repeat what he said, haha, but there has definitely been improvement in how I feel and my energy level.  I thought it was all just middle age.......

Why does this matter?  As in all things, a rotten apple can spoil the whole bunch.  Taking care of your teeth/oral health is critical for the rest of your body.  Similar to the breathing being important to muscle health and so on and so forth.  So I'm working on getting all the "parts" fixed.  Next may be the rotator cuff......I'm just falling apart.

Add speech therapy for the tooth/tongue problem - darn those "t"s.....

Sunday, October 07, 2012

While I'm Waiting

Hello!  Nice to see you this fine October Sunday.  I've been enjoying everyone else's Blogs and slowly getting the garden cleaned up from Summer and ready for Winter.  Winter being a relative term as it was 101F last Sunday, September 30th, and today is a fantastic 80F in the sun.  Our winter is a mild Fall to much of the world but we can pretend.  My cherry tomatoes are still going crazy but have planted some lettuce and spinach again for the cooler weather to come.

"Waiting" has been on my mind lately.  I'm waiting for something.  We are waiting for Fall. We wait for the Holidays.  We wait for answers to questions.  I know others waiting for diagnosis.  Test results.  College acceptances.  Loved ones to pass.  Legal judgements. Christmas.  Birthdays.  Jobs.  Trains.  Good waiting.  Difficult waiting.

There is a lot of waiting in our lives and sometimes; sometimes it can leave us frozen.  It can leave me very frozen.  In this current season of waiting, I really feel like the Lord's been asking me to "defrost" during the wait.  Jump in and do something.  To be effective and of service rather than frozen and ineffective.

I really like this song by John Waller (While I'm Waiting):

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait
I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience
While I'm waiting I will serve You
While I'm waiting I will worship
While I'm waiting I will not faint
I'll be running the race
Even while I wait

I'm waiting 
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am peaceful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it's not easy
But faithfully, I will wait
Yes, I will wait

I am confident this season of waiting will have some good results.  Some active results.  They will be revealed over time - as I wait.

I hope as I defrost, I'll get this Blog moving again.  I have very important items to share, you know.  I'm not talking about the Alaska pic's which I still need to complete but.......Eiger's love for playing with pinecones:

He picks them up and throws them.  Chases them - look at his form:
Attacks them!
Should he be allowed to take them home, he proceeds to pick them apart all over the backyard.  Nature's toy?  I'd worry if he ate them but he is content to dismember and not ingest them.

Here he is at Pinecrest Lake and his first foray into open water.  What did we learn that day?

He looks like a water dog.  His predominant breed is that of a water dog.  He has the webbed feet, rudder-like tail and water repellant, slick coat of a water dog.

He jumped in, went completely under and Rachel rescued him.  NOT a natural water dog.
Our Max (predecessor to Eiger) was a natural water dog.  He knew instinctively what to do and we had more trouble keeping him out of the water than getting him in.  No instruction required.

Eiger needs doggy swim lessons.  We took him back to the beach and I put a 15ft lead on him and lessons began.  Much to the amusement of the other beachgoers with dogs.  Turns out many have had the same experience with multiple Lab mixes - some get the natural swimming genes and some need a bit of help.  So Eiger did get in twice more over his head so he could flail around like a drowning rat - but he did it.  Again, much to the amusement of everyone watching.  I'm sure they were laughing at him and not me.  Bart, of course, stayed with the chairs up the beach - the dog is "mine" after all....

He's laying at my feet now - yeah, he's pretty much mine.  :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I'll give it a go - 9/11

I have always been silent on 9/11 re: the Blog with the exception of one small mention in a post on 9/11/2006. I have never felt the ability to do this day justice but thought I might try today.

Growing up, I remember my mom talking about where she was and what she was doing the day JFK was assassinated. Something she would never forget. I remember exactly where I was when we saw the Challenger explode.   These events can be seared in our memories - and we will never forget.

Where were you? I was in bed - sick and woozy from some Nyquil I downed about 5am (the yucky old liquid that knocks you out). I had a 3 yr old in bed watching cartoons while I dozed, a 1 yr old about to wake up and a husband in the shower when the phone rang around 6:30am. It was my mom calling from the FAA Command Center "where's Bart flying today?" I told her he wasn't, he was flying the next day - the 12th. She said "OK, turn on the TV." She hung up. I think the call lasted 10 - 15 seconds: the shortest call in our history. I don't know when I talked to my mom again but it wasn't that day - it may have been 1 or 3 days later.

She was, like many people, directly affected and working during those following days to try and restore some order to events as they transpired. She was a short distance away and heard the Commander of the FAA give the command to ground all flights. But that's really her story.

We lived in San Ramon in 2001 and here we are - living just down the road again. And every time I cross the old Fostoria bypass over 680, I think of 9/11. I haven't driven that way today yet but know when I do it will be covered with flags, posters and people in honor of Thomas E. Burnett. He was one of the civilians instrumental in making sure Flight 93 went down without causing further destruction outside of the lives of those on that plane. The bypass/over crossing was renamed in his honor as he was a resident of San Ramon and was survived by his wife and daughters. I had neighbors who knew the Burnetts. The Burnett girls are around our girls ages. So I think of them and wonder how they are doing and say a little prayer. Again, not really my story.

So like my mom, I will not forget where I was or what I was doing that day. My girls don't remember that day of course. But over the years as they get older, we try to talk about it and explain the events that have happened since in a way that imparts their importance to our history and our feelings about world events. They will make their own memories of defining moments while we add to ours.

I'll share a few pictures with you of a trip we took that I never got around to blogging about.  Berlin 2010.  We were walking down the street and came upon the US Embassy in Berlin.  A really cool building with really cool security that must have come at a really cool price.

We looked at the flag and saw it at half-mast and wondered "who died?"  Then Bart and I realized the date - one of the aspects of living overseas was not always being aware of current US holidays or events.  As we were "on vacation" we also didn't have our computer with us to let us know the Yahoo! news of the day.  It was 9/11.
Down the street from the US Embassy is the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.  It takes up a city block.  It is a memorial both peaceful and jarring depending on where you are - very impactful.
It would have been interesting to be a visitor to Berlin prior to the Wall coming down and then to see it's memory.  The City has built over it and re-run streets over where it once stood and you see the outline of where it stood formerly by way of these lighter colored bricks or varied bricks running through a re-paved street.  It's hard to imagine the division within the City dividing the East and West sides.  They have gone to great efforts to blend the City back together and with some absolutely beautiful modern architecture.
Checkpoint Charlie (aka Checkpoint C):
Should you find yourself in Berlin, take time to read the stories along the walls by the Checkpoint.  They will break your heart.  Stories not of WWII but stories of those who were trying to leave East Germany in years prior to 1989- years I was busy writing a History papers or going to Cheer leading practice or worrying about whether grades would keep up my college scholarship - I wasn't worried about my life.  It is sobering. 

I will make one political statement here - For those in our current political races, to use the names of WWII war criminals as associations with other political candidates: Shame on you!  The Berlin History Museum does a fine job of documenting their German history (English is second language there so easy to follow most exhibits) and perhaps that would be a good review for those who would like to engage in name calling.  Sorry - jumping off my soapbox now.

Those are my thoughts today.  May God bless and comfort all those living with the loss of those who gave their lives that day and those who sacrificed themselves in the aftermath.

Funny thing - I realized Bart will be flying again - tomorrow the 12th.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How Randy Newman added to Jr High trauma

Look here! A post already. I was so irritated yesterday and need to let it all out.

Some of you will relate to this post. Some of you will not. Hopefully all of you will giggle a bit and realize that I have learned to live with my affliction in a dignified manner but there are days when I want to scream.

I could blame the affliction on my parents, who could blame it on theirs and so on and so forth.  It's really not their fault and there is nothing they can do about it.

I'm short.  Petite. Vertically challenged. A shrimp.  Small-fry. Shorty.

At 5'1", I've been refered to in my adult life, by co-workers/bosses, as "shorty" and "little girl."  I'm not the person you notice walking into the room.  Going shopping with me and my girls is like playing hide and seek in the garment racks because we can't see over anything. I think grocery shelves are designed by giants.  If I had a nickel for every time someone said "hey Susan, stand up! Oh, you are standing" I'd be rich.  OK, make it a dollar and then I'd be rich.  Still short but rich.

I'm not even the shortest in my family. Ahem.  That claim rests with a certain sibling who shall remain nameless.  Aloha, sister!  My "little grandma" (great grandmother) was probably 4'11" in her prime but about 4'8" or so when she passed on.  She was little.

Rachel is so proud to be taller than me.  A whole half inch so far but taller.  Kendra has been shooting up and we've all known she'd be taller than Rachel and I someday.  So when they tease how they are or will be taller than mom, my response is always "good, I'm glad." Maybe they won't need step stools for half of their kitchen - I'm pretty good at hopping on counters too.

So why on earth do I need to get this off my chest when none of the references above ever really bother me?

It may sound somewhat self-pitying but - I'm tired of being overlooked!  Wah!!!!!!!

A 6'+ man nearly ran me over in Peet's coffee yesterday.  Just as he about stepped on me and ran his stomach into my hot cappucino, he realized "oh, sorry about that."  This is just one of many, many incidences over  the years.  Not to mention how many people have actually stood in front of me in a line and then said "I'm sorry, I didn't see you" when I called their attention to it.  This is after they've walked around me, not because they strolled in from the side.

I admit I've evolved into behaviours to prevent the lack of notice or avoid being run over.  Moving around in line, making direct eye contact if possible, coughing discreetly and saying "excuse me" go a long way.  Driving big Beastie cars is probably another  compensating technique - no one can say they didn't see me on the road!  Come to think of it, my sisters drive Beasts too.....

Yesterday's second incident happened in Target.  What I thought was rudeness on the clerk's part was probably her misunderstanding of how long I had been there - because she didn't 'see' me.  Kendra and I had just 3 items and all the lanes were long with no "15 items or less" aisles open.  So we look for open lanes with lights on and choose to stand behind an older lady in what we hoped was a quick line.

The line was not quick.  We waited and waited.  Right as the clerk gets to the customer in front of the older lady she spots me and says "I'm sorry but my lane is closed.  You need to check out somewhere else."  I replied that the light had been on and we had been waiting for a while.  She continued to say she would not help me as her light had been off.  I said "no, your light was on and I've been waiting behind this nice lady for almost 10 minutes."  She denied I had been standing there and then said "fine, I'll ring you up."

She didn't.  I took my stuff to another register because I couldn't believe she was arguing with me and basically calling me a liar in front of everyone.

I realized as we went to the car, she probably didn't see me standing behind the older lady - because Kendra was beside me.  And she looked confused when Kendra went with me and didn't stay with the older lady.  Maybe she was having a bad day and just really needed her break which is understandable to a point.  OK - she was still rude for arguing with a customer.

Whew - got that 'small' issue off my chest.  Thank you for listening and considering my complaints.

I guess we don't really have time for the trauma caused by Randy Newman's release of "Short People" at the start of my 7th grade year.  Really???  Seriously???  OMG!!!


Monday, August 27, 2012

Alaska - Post 3 (among other things)

Here I am. A third post on a trip that began in June and it's the eve of the First Day of School - 2012/13. One is off to officially start her Middle School career and the other her Freshman year of High School. We have enjoyed multiple trips this summer and the girls each experienced their first summer camps through church. They are, of course, no stranger to camps for school but this was another first and was a successful part of summer.

I have not accomplished any goals this summer outside of making sure everyone had clean laundry to pack for the next trip, arrived at swim meets with sunscreen and sharpie markers, made sure there was adequate food to prevent starvation and outside of a trip for an infection, managed to keep Eiger x-ray free and ingesting approved objects.

This time last year, we were starting new schools, the girls were still on air mattresses and we had just seen our household goods arrive from Switzerland. Due to grade levels, we are virtually starting new schools again and there are still parts of the house that need to be finished or 'rearranged' from the initial dump and conceal that went with some of the unpacking.

I have a friend who's been sensitively open about blogging their move to NC. It's been hard for me to open up too much about the difficulty of this move as I haven't wished to seem ungrateful, unhappy, unpatriotic, spoiled or discontent.  Or heaven forbid, simply human and weak. Most days are really good. But there have been others. I'm just not always sure how to put it into words. Based on my blogging absence, I'm still figuring it out. JD - know you're not alone - I had a full blown panic attack in a Safeway parking lot last fall. Tears, hyperventilating - the works! And the Iowa move? Our first week I was ready to cry when I realized "Mother's" cookies did not exist in the HyVee cookie aisle and then was asked by the clerk if I wanted my items in a "sack." Excuse me?! I believe I responded "a bag is fine" for the next 3.5+ years. :) I hope I've turned into a sympathetic listening ear for anyone who's moved.  And still need a listening ear for our move! :)

Enough about me and my attempt to ignore the fact that I'll have a Freshman in HS tomorrow.  Let's go back to Alaska and indulge in a little make-believe.

North Pole, Alaska:  Just a short distance out of Fairbanks on the Alaskan Highway you can visit Santa AND his reindeer.  Santa himself told us he uses Siberian reindeer, not the caribou that are seen roaming the wilds of Alaska.  They are smaller in size with better temperament.  Good to know in case you are in the market for sled-pulling reindeer.
I know that Minnesota claims the mosquito as their "state bird" but we weren't taking any chances in a state that is about 2.5 x bigger than Texas.  Our guess was that their mosquitoes must also be supersized - in number at least.  Add to that the threat of horse flies - we hate horse flies!  Fortunately, we were only bothered in a couple stops - Fairbanks, AK and Beaver Creek, YT - by the bugs.  We were prepared not only with DEET products but the latest in mosquito-wear as modeled by Kendra:

We kept running into a large group of German tourists.  They were traveling in this converted Mercedes bus.  It had a 'dormitory' in back which had a pop-out for access to their individual sleeping slots (each had its own window) and near that blue covered table is the "kitchen" that is contained in those storage spaces.  I think they had brats in there........oh, 'brats' as in sausage, not 'brats' as in unruly children (now I'm thinking Hansel & Gretel...).  Enough, next picture.
There were more beautiful photo opportunities than I can possibly share on this blog.  Come have coffee with me and I'll share the photo album with you.
It didn't matter if the weather wasn't perfect:
My 3 favorite people to be stuck in an RV with:
Beaver Creek, Yukon Territory, Canada at approximately midnight.  Did I mention yet how I loved, LOVED the long days.  One gets used to sleeping with a pillow over ones head.

Beaver Creek, YT boasts approximately 140 people in the summer and goes to about 80 during winter.  Hmmm....while I tend to like less congested areas, I do like a degree of anonymity.  I think it would be hard to be anonymous in Beaver Creek. What I also learned on this trip was a respect for those who dare to live above the "lower 48."  It's not an easy place - it's hard, cold and there's no glamour.  We learned that most Fairbanks residents don't consider it "cold" out until its about -30F to -40F and approximately 45 - 50% of households still maintain out-houses because pipe maintenance during the long winter months is difficult.  You think?
I have more pictures.  For now, must get to bed so I can wake up and get kids to school - the Olson bus departs at 7am................

Friday, August 10, 2012

Alaska - Day 1, part 2

Looks like I've done it again. I will not promise any posts soon.  That way, I keep my promises.  I thought summers had been busy before but this is a doozy.  Summer is almost over.  I am still on Day 1 of the "1st vacation/trip" of the summer.  I am woefully behind.  I posted most of these pic's before leaving for another trip - Seattle.  Returned and got laundry done, garden watered, re-packed and headed to Fresno & Southern CA.  Returned to do laundry, water garden, re-pack and visiting In-laws in Minnesota.  I can't keep up.  Can you?  Thank you for your understanding. 

So - to finish off our day in Alaska (ahem...), we went to the Sled dog facility.  These are not racing dogs (Iditarod sp?) but working dogs.  They've been bred over the years for strength and endurance - true Alaskan malamutes which according to the Park kennel officers are wonderful mutts - a mix.
Kendra was particularly taken by the dogs and had we not had our own at home, I'm sure would have tried to take one back in her suitcase.
Thus ended Day 1 in Alaska - complete with some tasty food in the camper of course.  We did eat well!

I will complete Alaska!  For more recent events, here we are in Seattle.  Bart has a client up there and has wanted the girls and I to go up for a weekend and with a team event in place (Mariner's game), we flew up.  Had a great time and I got to visit with a college friend - we lived next door to each other my Freshmen (her Senior) year in the Dorms.  Facebook brings you together with people you've lost touch with - I will say that.
Most dramatic recent event:  Locks of Love donation from Kendra.  Here she sits.  A very thick, long ponytail was cut off by my trusted stylist A. I hope someone feels great in her hair!  Seriously.
Her cut is very cute.  Very Kendra.  I have to admit I'm torn between missing the long flow of hair down her back and not missing the tangled mess it could be with her ripping her brush through it.  Sigh......

They grow up quickly don't they?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Vacation - Alaska Day 1

Hello!  Whoever said summer was relaxing and full of long, lazy days with spur of the moment exciting adventures - did not live in my house!  We are finally done with Swim Team (hear the sigh of relief mixed with slight sadness because they did have fun) and are cramming our days with other activities before school begins again.

But we have enjoyed planned adventures.  The biggest so far being our long awaited trip to Alaska/Yukon Territory - via RV and Cruise ship.  Whoo Hoo!  We went with another family dear to our heart - it's because of this couple that Bart and I met so we love them for that.  Two separate RV's.  We love them but an RV for just one family is enough cuddly closeness if you know what I mean. 

We flew together into Anchorage where the Polar bears await:

OK - I had a little frustration on this trip.  Due to camera issues.  Now, I went and bought myself a new camera.  A little upgrade from my last and I was very excited to use it.  One thing I forgot with the new "fancy schmancy" camera is that the file size is about twice that of my old and so my impatient self is very impatient with certain programs downloading (Shutterfly wanted 24 hrs to download 300 original files and I said " I don't think so, we'll take the "photobook" acceptable size instead).  So I am learning that only if I truly want enlarged original prints do I need to transfer original files to outside resources.

I digress.  The real source of my frustration and most of you who take pic's will understand:  my favorite, everyday, I-use-all-the-time lens pooped out on me.  In the RV.  The first night.  "Error 99" and "cannot communicate with lens-check and clean lens contacts."  The lens has it's own electronic parts and has already been sent to Canon for a fix.  Now, I had brought my wide angle (10-20mm) and my small telephoto (80-200mm) as well but that regular, nice lens (17-85mm) did not work.  The lens I use for approx. 97% of all pictures I take - I had nothing between 20 - 80mm range - Aaack!  Yeah, don't ask why I bother with other lenses in the first place.  But I was really glad to have them in their limited nature for this trip!  And the new camera made my old telephoto lens seem like new.
So the H's were in front of us most of the trip - made for some fun pictures.  One of the things I was looking forward to was the light.  We arrived in AK on June 24th - just 2 days after the summer solstice and until we traveled further south later in the week, we never saw the light disappear, the sun just rolled around the horizon.  It was fantastic.  Albeit a bit hard for sleeping - Rachel wore eye shades all week and I slept with a pillow over my head.  Kendra is in the bunk of the RV with curtains and Bart - he just seems to sleep if he needs to sleep, light or no.  We flew into Anchorage around 5pm and by time we picked up the RV's, got groceries and headed out for Denali - our evening destination, it was 7pm - ish.  And Denali was a good 4 -5 hr drive away (yes, a long first day!).  Here we are at 11:34pm (check clock on dash!) as we were getting close to the park - the light was incredible.
Here we are! Our first 'real' day after a night of sleep and headed into Denali National Park.
I can't quite describe the width and breadth of the country we saw. It was like so many of the beautiful, natural places I've been but on a bigger scale and definitely less inhabited and wild. Breathtaking and beautiful.
We saw Caribou!!!!:

And a big Moose!!!!:

And here are the caribou and the moose together - dark specs in the river bed! Look at the backdrop - that is Alaska big! You know how Texas brag's about being big - and it is. Alaska is almost 2 1/2 times the size of Texas - Alaska is bigger.
What a beautiful place and I hope you will be more impressed by the slight distortion that comes with a wide angle lens vs distracted by it. :) At least I got a lot of scenery into the pic's. And with the telephoto was able to get "close" to the caribou and moose.
Day 1 is not over but I just didn't have patience for the rest of the pictures! :) Until next post...