The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Monday, July 28, 2008

Rocky Mountain High

There is something almost magical about this part of Colorado, from Vail all the way west through the canyon and to Glenwood Springs. I've been coming here for almost 30 years now and it never seems to lose its wonder. I'm not sure if I love it more when the valley is in all of its 'Winter Wonderland' glory with several feet of snow quietly blanketing the landscape or at this time of year, the heighth of a perfect summer. As I sit here on the patio I hear several different kinds of birds calling out. A dozen or so hummingbirds are buzzing around their little feeders and Ruth's gardens are all basking in their summer beauty. No matter what the season, it seems, this is such a peaceful retreat from the rest of the world.

Of course, I'm sure a lot of the atmosphere here has to do with who we come to visit. Ruth and Bill have created this nature filled oasis, just outside of Gypsum, bit by bit, since they bought this house and two acres 27 years ago. The flower gardens, vegetable gardens, chickens, goats, dogs and cats have all flourished under their loving and constant care. They are the reason my kids and I keep coming back to the valley in which their father and his seven brothers and sisters were raised. My (former) mother-in-law is truly my hero. At 76 years young Ruth still amazes me. She has the energy and physical stamina that would put most 30 year olds to shame and even after eight kids she has a better figure than I ever dreamed of having. She hikes all over these mountains during the summer and in the winter dons her cross country skis or snowshoes.

Ruth and Wades father Dale moved their large family from Wisconsin to Vail 40 years ago and, though all but one of her children have left this part of Colorado, Ruth has continued to thrive here in the life that she and Bill have built over the almost 3 decades that they have been married. I have been fortunate to see my friendship with her strengthen and continue to grow over the years and I am always so pleased when we find similarities between the two of us. Other than my children, her opinion of me is probably more important to me than is that of anyone else in my life. I can't express how loved I feel when she introduces me to someone and says that I'm like another daughter to them.

Though Ruth was married to Dale for the first 30 years of her adult life, she found her mate when she met Bill Moran shortly after her divorce. Bill shares her love of Colorado, dogs and their home. This Rocky Mountain Retreat that continues to draw my kids and me back year after year has been a joint labor of love between the two of them. It would not have been possible for either of them alone to create, but together they have coaxed their common dream into reality.

And so here I am, in one of my favorite places with two of my favorite people.

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

The Travels Continue......

I'm sitting on Ruth and Bill's back patio up on this beautiful hill just outside of Gypsum Colorado. Today is Monday and I arrived here last Tuesday from Seattle.

I had such a good time spending two weeks in Seattle with all of my kids. Nikki flew out to Green Bay on the same day that I flew to Denver. On Saturday of the last weekend all 3 kids, Steve and I went downtown to do the obligitory Seattle Harbor tour. They had all taken the tour before but I hadn't and it was a perfect day to be out on the water. So we bought our tickets, boarded the boat and found great seats on the upper deck in preparation for the 1 hour tour. The running commentary from the guide was very interesting but the young woman with the microphone had the most annoying voice! Everyone has their own personal cadence when speaking and this girl was very slow and deliberate. It seemed like she drew out every word to twice its natural length. Aside from that it was an enjoyable hour. We even got to see 3 bald eagles, 2 adults and a juvenile, sitting on a barge that was anchored out in the harbor. After the tour we poked around Pike Place Market for several hours. There was lots to see and do.

The next day we drove over to the peninsula to Sequim, Wa. to the annual Lavender Festival. We visited four different lavender farms and I think we ate our way through each one! We had lavender sausages, lavender chicken, lavender grilled salmon, lavender ice cream, lavender cheesecake and let's not forget the lavender margueritas!! Lavender has a very light flavor and who knew you could use it the same way you use any other garden herb? Well, evidently just about everybody except me. I thought it was used only to make things smell good. I had no idea you could cook with it, too! The last thing we did was to visit one of
U-Pick fields so Shauna could take home her own little bundle of freshly picked fragrance.

On Monday evening we grilled at Steve and Shauna's with Ron and his younger brother, Orrie. After dinner Amy came over. She stayed the night so to be there in the morning to take Nikki and me to the airport. I didn't get to spend as much time with Amy as I would have liked to this visit. Michael and 2 others are still renting her townhouse but Amy herself moved in with John several months ago and now lives in Issiquah, which is a bit south of Seattle. So it was nice for Nikki and me to get a little more time with her just before leaving town.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Friday, July 18, 2008

Public Transportation and Free Food

Seattle is one of those cities that has a great bus system. People here ride the bus, not because their car is broken down or because they don't own one or because they've had their license suspended for one too many DUIs; they ride the bus because it is economical, environmentally responsible and available. The transit system website is easy to use. So figuring out which bus to catch and where to make your transfer is just a piece of cake. Nikki and I have ridden the bus all over town this week while all of our peeps were occupied with their daily obligations. We rarely had to wait more than 10 or 15 minutes for the next bus to come along. Of course, Nik is used to public transit. She rides the Strassenbahn (streetcar) in Ludwigshafen every day. It is her primary mode of transportation. I remember riding the city bus as a teenager in Salem and I've used public transportation in lots of European cities but, as an adult, I've not lived in an American city that has a decent bus system. I know lots of cities in the Northeast have mass transit systems that are integral parts of their personalities but few cities in the West can make the same claim. Hooray to Seattle and her citizens!

And now to free you all know (because I have bragged ad nauseam), Shauna works for Google. One of the many perks of being a Googler is that there is free food everywhere all the time. All the snack foods (both healthy and not so healthy) you can imagine, drinks of every kind and what they call micro kitchens containing quick and easy foods should anyone get hungry in between the free breakfast, lunch and dinner that is offered every day. Needless to say, Shauna doesn't do much cooking at home. She eats at work. I joined her for lunch last Thursday. The salmon was delicious. Yesterday Michael, Nikki and I had dinner with her. BBQ ribs! Nikki and I were downtown this afternoon when Shauna texted us to say that tonight's main dinner entree would be prime rib. Would we care to join her? We absolutely made a point of being there at the appointed hour. Hooray to Google and her chefs!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hangin' In Seattle

I love the Pacific Northwest! Since I grew up in Oregon, coming to Washington always feels a little like coming home. It's been very interesting spending the last several months on the East Coast. There is definitely a difference in the day to day atmosphere of life between the two sides of this huge country of ours. I don't think I'm articulate enough to put it into words but anyone who has lived on both coasts knows what I'm talking about. Neither one is right or wrong, better or worse, just different. It's all in what you're used to, I guess, and except for my six years in Germany I have spent my life on the West Coast. I've lived in California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Arizona. Even though I spent more years in Arizona then in any of the other states my formative years were spent in the NW, so no matter where life takes me this will always be 'where I'm from'.

I arrived in Seattle on Wednesday last week and Nikki got here the next evening. On Saturday we toured the Boeing factory (Michael has worked at Boeing since early April). It was pretty cool to see the whole process of putting planes together. The assembly hangar is huge. It's divided into five different bays but the whole building is so big that you could put the entire Disneyland park inside of it and still have twelve acres left over for parking!

On Sunday Nikki, Shauna and I went to the Highland Games in Skagit County about an hour north of Seattle. Americans and Canadians of Scottish ancestry but the music was fairly authentic and they had lots of men in kilts throwing big heavy things so we could, at least, pretend we were in Scotland! That evening the three of us and Michael went to the Space Needle to oooo and ahhhh at the view of Seattle and the surrounding area from 520 ft up. We saw the Cascade mountains to the east and the Olympic mountains to the west. It was a really clear evening so Mt. Baker and Mt. Ranier were both visible. We watched the ferries cross Elliott Bay and looked through the telescope to Shauna's apt across Lake Union. We texted Steve at home so he and his friend, Josh, went up to the roof and waved like madmen at us. We waved back but I don't think they saw us back. We were up there long enough to watch the sun go down and see Seattle light up after dark.

Shauna lives on one side of Lake Union and her office is about three miles away on the other side of the lake. She jokes that if she owned a kayak commuting would be really easy! As it is, though, she usually walks (or takes the bus if the weather is bad). Nikki and I have walked her to work each day this week. It's a really nice walk there and back. We stop at the Starbucks around the corner for our morning coffee and just yak, yak, yak all the way to Google. About half of the way there and back is a walking/ biking path that hugs the perimeter of the lake. We are going to meet her at work this evening for dinner. Google feeds its employees (and their occasional guests) for free three times a day. BBQ ribs tonight! After dinner we'll meet Michael and Steve at Hale's Ales!

Amy moved way to the other side of Seattle so Nik and I haven't gotten to see her yet, but she is going to take Friday off (she works at Microsoft) and the three of us will go hiking.

This coming Saturday we are going back up to Skagit County to the annual Lavender Festival and then on Sunday we're going to do the Harbor Tour. Last time I was here it was Xmas and cold. Not the kind of weather in which to even think about going out on the water (brrrr!) but it's gorgeous this time of year!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Arlington National Cemetary

I'm back in D.C. I drove over from Pittsburgh to Paul's house in Haymarket, Va. yesterday. We had a fun evening. Paul's band had practice last night. He has a recording studio in his basement that I have dubbed 'The Man Cave'. But you can't just say it normally. You have to deepen your voice and say it in a 'manly' manner. Anyway, it's been a long time since I've sat around and watched a band rehearse. It was a lot of fun. We all shared the two bottles of Weisen Bier that I brought back from Germany. The guys loved it. Bert, you would have been so proud of my pour!
Paul dropped me off at Arlington around noon today. I didn't get to see it when I was here in April so it was a good way for me to spend the afternoon while Paul was working. I saw the burial site of JFK, the Tomb of the Unknowns and did a tour of Arlington House, the home of Robert E. Lee and his wife before the civil war. It is all quite interesting and very historic. The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns is very solemn and moving to say the least. I also visited the Women in Military Service Memorial. It is its own building and tells the story of women in service from the Revolutionary War until the present. Though my time in the Air Force was relatively short, I was proud to be standing in that building knowing that I was a part of that story.
I'll spend this evening with Paul and Genelle (Zach and Austin are out of town), then Paul will take me to the airport tomorrow morning to catch my flight to Seattle. But first, we have two more bottles of good German beer to drink!
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Sunday, July 6, 2008


A word about blogging.... I just spent some time cruising through Amy's blog and then Steve Randall's blog. They both have a certain flavor in common with Nikki's blog that I admire. Nikki, Amy and Steve all use their blogs to not only record what they're doing but also what they're thinking. They blog about their observations of their surroundings, the people they come in contact with and just their thoughts on life in general. Sometimes the posts are thought provoking and sometimes they are just entertaining. I laughed out loud at Steve's post called To Own The Day (from June 29th) where he compares his actions with that of Jack Bauer from the TV show 24. Amy's post on July 3rd titled Fie on 'clean' is very self examining in a way that causes the reader to examine their own thoughts on the merits of cleaning. And, of course, I'm always a huge fan of everything Nikki writes.

My blog, on the other hand, seems to be merely a record of what I'm doing. "First I did this, then I did that". I'd like to do more observing within the framework of blogging and not just recording. I don't know if it's a matter of practice or if perhaps these three are just more introspective than I am. Maybe I care too much what other people think to put my naked thoughts out there to be analyzed, with all their blemishes and cottage cheese thighs, by anyone who happens by (or worse yet by people who know me!). I'm not sure, but it's something I would like to try a bit more of in the future. For now, though, it's almost midnight and the only thing I need to observe is my pillow! Thoughtfulness and introspection will have to wait until tomorrow!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Life Is What Happens......

Happy (day after) 4th of July everyone! I spent the day yesterday traveling back from Germany but I hope you all enjoyed your celebrations, whatever you did.

So here I am, back in Pittsburgh, and missing Nikki already. I really had a great visit with her and Bert. It was good to see Nik in the day to day life that she has made for herself. When she went to Germany in Sept of '06 it was for 9 months. None of us really thought she would be ready to leave after so short a stay so it wasn't surprising when she began looking for permanent work that would allow her to stay longer. And there was the little matter of that tall handsome German to whom her heart was not willing to say good-bye! Love doesn't always show up only when and where it is most convenient. So she just left her return date open ended. She wasn't sure when she would *come home* but eventually..... And I think, without realizing it until now, that's how I've continued to think of her stay in Germany. Longer than a year but still just temporary. Until now. Funny how Life has a way of its own. After spending a couple of weeks with her it is evident that there is nothing temporary about this new life of hers. It just IS her life. Though she misses her family, she has no problem signing a two year cell phone contract or buying furniture with Bert or doing any of the myriad of other things that one does in their daily life when they are settled in somewhere. That's not to say that she will never live in the States again. Who knows? But it's pretty certain that it won't be any time soon. Nikki is not just marking time over there or *having the experience* of living in another country for a while. This is her life and she's happy. And as her mother I could wish for nothing more!