So Far

So far, we’ve

  • Flown from Chicago to Seattle
  • had breakfast, lunch, and dinner with boats
  • explored the Seattle Underground with tourons and alleged rats
  • hiked on a beautiful forested trail by a remote beach
  • had delicious beers with friends
  • had circus with bread, which is a little different than having bread and circuses.
  • avoided Seafair, but not the Seafair Pirates
  • driven to Idaho
  • hung out with family
  • walked on a rails to trails route
  • been licked by dogs
  • eaten huckleberry ice cream (me only)
  • eaten Vienna Sausages (again me only)
  • seen 2 deer
  • seen innumerable ground squirrels and chipmunks
  • driven over Moon Pass
  • eaten coconut shrimp
  • booed a villain at the mellerdrammer
  • ridden bikes through old railroad tunnels and over trestles
  • watched satellites and shooting stars
  • laughed a lot
  • seen BATS!
  • Had a slow leak BOO!
  • Gotten it fixed at least temporarily YAY!

We’ve had a wonderful trip so far.

We flew into Seattle last Friday and stayed downtown at the Silver Cloud Lake Union – of course the nav system misguided us but we eventually got there (it sits on a narrow lot between two streets, but the entrance is on Fairview, NOT Eastlake). The room was very nice, with a fridge and wet bar, and they had a good hot breakfast each morning in a really beautiful third-floor breakfast room with comfy couches and tables, overlooking the boatyards at the south end of Lake Union. The SLU Trolley (which used to be known as the S.L.U.T. until somebody pointed it out to Sound Transit) ends just a block down, in front of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (and the Residence Inn Hotel).

We hardly took the car out of the garage that weekend – the hotel van does Pickoop Andropoffs at the Seattle Center, Pike Place Market, and Pioneer Square, so we took advantage of it 2 days running. David had never been on the Seattle Underground Tour, but I had done it many years ago and wanted to see it again (somewhere at home I still have the book).

On Sunday, we went for an urban hike in Discovery Park and put in about 5 miles or so (maybe a little farther according to David’s GPS). It took a while to find parking, it was such a nice day; everybody in Seattle not at Seafair was at the park.

After that and a little break, we went downtown to meet up with Kevin and Lynn at the Central Saloon (one of my old hangouts) for some tasty beverages, before they had to take off for the Sounders game. We walked back up to Pike Place, which was closing down for the day… but I found my way back to the Pink Door! It was awesome, the look on David’s face, when I pushed the “anonymous” looking door open on Post Alley and went inside. He was like “where the HELL are you going??”

They had a circus performer doing tricks from a big ring suspended from the ceiling. The food was incredible; I had a pasta dish with prosciutto, garlic, excellent olive oil, more garlic, and mint. David had Cioppino Pink Door and pronounced it excellent.

After that we wandered back to the pickup point. JUST MISSED a van, but waited in front of the Chocolate Box shop and the cupcake-and-ice-cream place; David bought me a tin of Chocolate Tea, and we wondered about the QR code and the Post-It Note art up in the windows of the building across the street (I was really into the architecture, we really need to plan ahead next time and take a tour). The QR resolved to some kind of SEO firm.

We left Seattle in our rented Ford Escape and headed to Idaho to see my sisters (Timmy lives there, my sister Tudy was up for the week from Salt Lake) and my niece Raeanne and her kids Collin and Paige. Timmy and her hubby Frank have this great house they built up the gulch from the Interstate, but it’s remote feeling enough that you get wildlife (like the bear that visited them a few weeks back). Frank built a Bear Alarm in case it comes back; he’s got concertina wire strung along the lower level deck that leads to a Diet Coke can full of gravel outside their bedroom window on the level above. Because of the slope of their lot, both levels have decks – the living room/kitchen/bedroom level is where the “front” door is behind the house.

We hung out there in the evening the first night watching for satellites and the ISS and talking about everything… including the amazing pictures sent back from the Curiousity rover right after it landed on Mars the night before:

Mars Curiousity from StephLaberis Twitterfeed


Yeah, the Internets were fun the other night, hard to explain to my sister and brother-in-law, as they’re not that into that geeky stuff.

We spent the last four days visiting, going to Melodramas, soaking in the rooftop hot tub at the Silver Mountain Resort, walking on bike paths with family, riding on bike paths with just the two of us, and generally having a ball. I highly recommend the Trail of the Hiawatha mountain bike path! But also recommend that you either bring your own bikes, or rent from a bike shop in town rather than from the bike shop up at Lookout Pass Ski Resort, which is the concessionaire for the trail access. The bikes we rented were in need of a little TLC – my front wheel was out of true and had to be swapped out by a friendly trail marshall about 2 miles down the trail from the East Portal tunnel.

As you ride, you go through several spooky (and cold!) tunnels and over several high trestles. David and I almost got run down by a deer in one long tunnel, which kept getting spooked by bikes and reversing direction. I heard it coming with this “galumphy galumphy” noise in the dark ahead of me; suddenly my dim headlight illuminated something that was all hooves, knee joints, and terrified eyes and ears before it executed a mid-air pirouette and went back up the trail to daylight. The tunnels were inky dark (did I mention cold) and headlamps would be handy, as the lights they rent to you are okay but not really that bright.

Gosh, it was FUN, though. Even with my creaky, rattling bike it was fun. It’s a steady 2% downgrade for 15 miles, so you have to pedal to have any kind of speed, but it’s easy pedaling. A series of old buses run shuttle schedules from the bottom of the trail back up to the WEST portal of the first long tunnel – you have to ride back up through the tunnel to the parking lot at the EAST portal, but the grade was level at that point and no problem. I had a nice skunk tail when I was done, but I also won the trivia contest that Sheri the bus driver did, so I got FREE ice cream (but also bought 2 nice T-shirts to commemorate our ride).

We would definitely do that again – it was busy even on a Thursday, so get there early in the day and to avoid delays, check your equipment with a test ride if you rent.

We’re leaving for the “third half” of our vacation in Glacier National Park. We’re about to pack up and go – after a short delay caused by 2 (TWO) nails in our rear left tire. Slow leak, we called Avis, they sent a guy from local operator Nicholson’s to get us on the spare, and David got it fixed for free at Les Schwab. So we’re good to go – time to button up and see what happens next.

We’ll be in Glacier at Grouse Mountain Lodge for a bit less than a week, then on Amtrak to go home to Glenview, IL. Should be interesting, as delays are expected due to summer heat and the usual “slow freight” backups. Better pictures to follow, too. Here’s what I took on the iPhone in the meantime.

Boatyard across from the Silver Cloud Lake Union Hotel – from the third-floor patio off the breakfast room

More boats, also seaplanes, from the deck of Chandler’s Crabhouse

Walked in Discovery Park along the North Beach and Hidden Valley trails

QR code in downtown Seattle across from the Chocolate Box

My sister Tudy hangs out in the hammock on our sister Timmy’s deck – great view down the gulch toward the Silver Valley in Idaho

Sunset watching – this cloud looked like a phoenix chasing other birds. “I’ll save you!” said the little bird chasing it.

Used to be the railway station, it got moved when the freeway came in; the rail line was converted as rails to trails years ago.

We had a blast at the Mellerdrammer. Especially as the plot of the play revolved around some other “Baker Girls.”

Piano in the Rose Mary Pit – in memory of long-time accompanist Rose Mary, who was also a friend of my sister Timmy’s

A lady named Kathleen got pulled onstage for a little number. She was handed a parasol and twirled like a pro.

We rented bikes from Lookout Pass Ski Area and rode 15 miles on the Trail of the Hiawatha

The Trail of the Hiawatha follows the former route of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St Paul railroad, also known as the Milwaukee Road. The passenger line was called the Hiawatha and was famous for views like this – in the nighttime!

Near the end of our ride – all told about 2 1/2 hours of PURE FUN. David looks back up the trail from the last high trestle and considers riding back UP. We had shuttle bus tickets…

Aloha, Leah

Leah gets lei’d at Maui Kahului Airport in September, 2007

Leah Sharron Gibbs, nee Green, age 70, beloved wife for 50 years and best friend of Sheldon. Loving mother of David (Virginia), Daniel, Mitchell (Gloria) Gibbs. Cherished grandmother of Melissa, Joshua, Jennifer and Naomi. Dear sister of the late Seymour Green. Devoted daughter of the late Abrasha and Udasha. Fond sister-in-law of Norma and Bill Brown. Loving aunt of many nieces and nephews. Long time teacher at Serena Hills School in Chicago Heights, IL. Member of B’nai Yehuda Beth Sholom. Services Thursday, 11 A M. at B’nai Yehuda Beth Sholom, 1424 183rd Street, Homewood. Interment Shalom. In lieu of flowers contributions in her name to the Cancer Support Center, 2028 Elm Road, Homewood, IL 60430 would be appreciated.

A rare flower bloomed for a time, but lives forever in the garden of memory.

She lived in amazing times, from Saturday, November 8th, 1941 to Memorial Day, Monday, May 28th, 2012. She was a month old when “a day that will live in infamy” dawned. Ironically enough, that day took place in Hawaii too, but this picture shows Leah being greeted at Maui airport with 2 flower lei and a hug by my husband David. She and my father-in-law Sheldon joined us there to help me celebrate my 50th birthday in 2007.

She loved, loved, loved so many things. Purple, books, flowers, good food, good friends, and travel; most of all, she loved her family deeply and wanted the best for each of us. She welcomed me, even though we come from different backgrounds, without hesitation and with open arms. I was proud to call her a friend as well as my my mother-in-law; after my own mom died in 2006, Leah became my second mom. She also had a deep connection with my sister-in-law Gloria, who was able to spend a lot of time with Leah in the last few months, attending meetings in Leah’s home with her “Goddesses” support group.

The Cancer Support Center meant a great deal to Leah, and we will be donating in her name for as long as it takes. Please consider making a donation on their website, or check out their amazing yearly fundraiser/silent auction/talent show.

I haven’t been able to say much here on the blog or on Facebook or Twitter about what was going on with Leah, but she passed away today surrounded by friends and family. She was in home hospice care until last Monday, and then it was decided that she needed to go into the hospice unit in a hospital farther to the south from her home. For the last week we’d been making the long drive back and forth between here and a place I thought of as the “Borderlands Hotel.”

We’re grateful for the care she received, and thankful that she no longer needs it. She’s at peace now.

While all of us in the family were at her home tonight, decompressing from the enormity of losing a wife, mother, sister, and grandmother, I browsed in the pile of books on a side table by her favorite sofa. One passage, just 2 short pages, was marked by not just one, but FOUR bookmarks AND a dog-ear. I should have borrowed that book, but there will be time to retrieve it with all the to-and-fro we have to do this week. It had interesting insights on life, living with cancer, and doing it with humor and grace.

Why Carl Kasell Is Awesome: @PeterSagal Please Pass Along The Thanks Of A Grateful Family

Leonard Nimoy Helps Carl Kasell Give The Vulcan Salute

Yet another reason why Carl Kasell is awesome...

If you’re not aware of how awesome Carl Kasell is as the official “Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!” scorekeeper, you’re completely missing the point of this post and there’s very little hope for you. However, there’s still time to catch up if you get to work immediately listening to old episodes in the archives. Or check out their excellent blog, which seems to be mostly about food.

My brother-in-law Mitch pulled off an incredible coup recently; some time ago he wrote to our local public radio station (the mighty, mighty, WBEZ) and simply asked if he could get a “Carl Kasell on your home answering machine” recording as a surprise for his (our) parents’ upcoming 50th wedding anniversary, which is June 10th.

We’ve all listened to the message, and as my husband David likes to say, it’s TREMENDOUS.

It makes us both laugh and cry at the same time, which is quite a feat as we’re not that dramatic a family. It even references the name of the restaurant where the party was originally planned to be; in the meantime a much smaller and quieter gathering will happen, probably at “the folks” house. Sadly, we will be short one beloved person that day.

This change of plans does not prevent us from getting a lot of mileage out of the recording, which we can now play via our smartphones at any time –we do not need to wait for a phone call. No operators need stand by. Modern technology is a miraculous thing.

Thus, we can laugh (or what have you) at any time we wish. This is a TREMENDOUS blessing.

Carl Kasell is, quite simply, teh awesome. Sir: you rock. You helped us laugh. Thank you.

Left Unsaid

Riley is doing pretty well on his kitty chemo regimen.

Work is good, my desk will be next to a window starting Monday.

My doctor is now satisfied that my weird blood tests are “normal for me.” But, ow.

We’re looking forward to vacation in a few weeks, but trying to stay flexible.

Family is mostly good, though there is lots that must remain unsaid.

Church is good, but need to catch up on some updates for the website.

Waiting For Melissa

Our niece Melissa is coming over for a few hours; we’ll hang out with Rileycat and then head off to see the new Muppet movie, and after that we’ll all go down to see her grandparents and have dinner. She’ll stay with them tonight.

It’s a social whirlwind when she comes to town – she lives pretty quietly down in Southern Illinois, so we try to pack a lot of “family time” into her occasional visits up here for holidays.

Thanksgiving was a nice time… David’s Aunt Norma did a lovely job as always, hosting 42 (!) people at 4 different tables. Mmmmm, stuffed mushrooms, my favorite horse doover!

Oooh! She’s here!

College Special Ed: It’s Not Just Possible, It Can Be Done

Is it possible? Yes. Is it practical? Maybe. Would it work in every family, with every quirky dynamic? Probably not.

Does it make me feel sad that some capable adults who could benefit from programs like this will never get the chance to try, because their families or guardians are convinced that it’s just not possible?

Like many high school graduates, Jennifer Gans, of Glen Ellyn, wanted to go to college. But developmental delays put her in a population of students that few colleges serve: those with “intellectual disabilities.”

Now Gans, 25, is a proud graduate of Elmhurst College’s four-year Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy and has the certificate to prove it.

ELSA, which started in 2005, is one of a small but growing number of college programs in the Midwest for students with intellectual disabilities. The students’ diagnoses include Down syndrome, autism, developmental delays, multiple learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder.

via College special ed: More institutions serving students with intellectual disabilities –

My Birthday, Let Me Show You It Again and Again

We went down to visit with my husband David’s parents tonight, for dinner and to celebrate my birthday one last time. My birthday was actually last Saturday, which was pretty fun as it was the last full day of vacation. We spent the evening with my college friend Arne, catching up and drinking delicious beers at Coopersmith’s Ale House in Ft Collins.

Then on Sep 27, I celebrated my second birthday, because the first year we were dating, David thought that was my birthday. Also, my father-in-law got mixed up and thought it was the 26th, so they called a couple of days later on Thursday, and we celebrated over the phone while David was out of town on business. Also at work, the goofy birthday decoration has been over my desk all week, and I finally got the card that went around our team on Friday, so that makes Sep 30 an official birthday for me now, too.

And now, Oct 1 too. Dinner was pretty good; we went to Lubey’s in Tinley Park, which actually has a pretty charming downtown area.

Done with birthdays now, I think, for this year.

I still haven’t uploaded my photos from the trip, or gone through my tweets to remind myself of what happened when, but I hope to do that tomorrow. We’ll see.

But my birthweek has been awesome fun, at least! Why limit the fun to a single day?

Victory: Community Based Housing of Choice for Illinois Disabled Adults

Some families in Illinois are celebrating tonight. It would be nice if a family member who lives in a group home could benefit from this decision and not have to live quite so far away… due to the extreme length of the waitlist for supportive group housing for disabled adults in Illinois, she was placed in a town several hours away from the rest of us. And maybe it wouldn’t be worth uprooting her now, but at least if it becomes necessary in the future, there may be more options for her and her immediate family.

State officials will begin drawing up plans to move 3,000 people with developmental and intellectual disabilities into community-based housing of their choice, as directed under a federal settlement approved Wednesday that allows for a six-year timetable.

The governor’s office praised the settlement, which will expand services to new residents on a 21,000-member waiting list — but officials offered no answers on how they expect to pay additional costs during Illinois’ fiscal crunch.

“The final cost will be determined by how many people elect community-based care,” said Januari Smith, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the Department of Human Services, the defendants in the lawsuit.

“The funds will now follow the individuals, and over the long term, community-based care is less expensive,” said Smith, who said the average yearly cost of a community setting, such as an apartment or group home, is $32,000.

Funding was not the issue Wednesday, though, when U.S. District Judge James Holderman lauded the lawyers for reaching agreement, saying the consent decree holds “great significance” and was the result of fierce negotiation.

“I firmly believe that the state of Illinois, the citizens, have been well served by these efforts,” Holderman said, after hearing from two parents who support the settlement.

The goal is to bring Illinois into compliance with the 1990 federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires that people with disabilities be allowed to live in the “most integrated setting” within their communities.

The key here for me is “within their communities.” Just sayin’.

via Illinois disabilities lawsuit settles housing issue –

In Which I Has Yet Another Pifanee: Friends and Family Matter

I has a pifaneee!!1!

So here we are, blogging again, are we? It seems the only times I bother to blog are those times when I’m traveling, when I get a burst of blogging energy and also take a lot of pictures which will have to be uploaded, culled, cropped, and commented on.

This time, we’re back in Seattle getting ready for another run at Northwest FolkLife Festival after spending the first half of our trip in Port Angeles exploring the edges of Olympic National Park while living the luxurious high life at Colette’s Bed and Breakfast.

As lazy-blogged previously via Twitter, we got to Seattle (eventually) last Friday, stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn Sea-Tac, picked up a bright red Ford Escape the next morning from Avis, and caught the Bainbridge Island ferry all of the Saturday morning. While bumbling around in the town of Bainbridge, we checked out their weekly Farmer’s Market and found my most favorite-est tea in the world, Yorkshire Gold, at the Churchmouse Yarns and Teas shop. Honestly, I teared up when I saw it prominently featured in their little corner devoted to high-end teas. The first time I had Yorkshire Gold, I was on a walking tour in England with my friend Christine, and as it happens we’ll be meeting up in Bainbridge tomorrow (it’s a convenient midpoint for us as we’re now in Seattle and she’s way out on the tip of the Kitsap Peninsula). This was one of the many epiphanies I’ve had on this trip; they all have to do with re-connecting with friends, families, and former lives.

The time in Port Angeles was wonderful, restful, full of great food, new friends, lots of memories of hikes, the ocean, and even eagles. The memories of our single night at Kalaloch Lodge – meh, that was a disapointment aside from the views. One thing I did manage to do was get in touch with my Second Life friend, Tammy, and we met up today for the first time in “meatspace.” And the other was that I managed to get a postcard sent to David’s and my niece Melissa, who’s very special to us and doesn’t get to spend nearly enough time with family.

She’ll get it in a few days and we’ll try to call her; I may not send my own sister a goldarned birthday card, but at least I got something in the mail to “Me’Liss.” I may have mentioned how Melissa lives several hours away from the rest of our Illinois family and only gets to see all of us at special occasions; we’ll see her next for her sister’s graduation celebration/college farewell party later this month. She doesn’t have access to tools like Facebook and Twitter, and pretty much lives from visit to visit, phone call to phone call. She sends notes by mail too – and it seems we never send her any mail back unless it’s a postcard, so that’s another pifanee I’ve had on this trip: I really must start writing her regularly, it would make her so happy and it’s such a simple thing.


I’ve been horrible about keeping in touch with more distant friends and family for the last few years…

Hi Timmy! How was your birthday?? I suck at birthday cards!! How’s your vacation going? Mine’s good so far

You know, kind of like that, neglecting people and taking them for granted… and neglecting myself, and neglecting the blog, my (feeble) creative impulses towards writing and photography and so on. I’m getting together with as many Seattle friends as possible on this trip, and I’m going to try to stay in better touch and not simply bounce in and out of their lives every couple of years on our biannual trips here for Folklife.

So, rather than being immobilized by all that STUFF WOT HAS BEEN LEFT IDLE I’ll just… start somewhere. And that somewhere is right here, on this page, letter by letter, word by word, thought by thought.

We’re currently set up in a comfortable hotel suite near the Seattle Center – David even has a little office space he’s set up in, so he can keep up with some of his mailing list stuff that he hosts/administers. We’re here until Monday, but won’t spend ALL of our time at the music stages – most of Saturday and Sunday, probably not Monday as we’ll head home that afternoon. May wander down to the site Friday for the opening, although in all my years of going to Folklife, I’ve never made it to the opening drum circle or hippie hootenany or whatever it is. It’ll just be fun hanging out with a few hundred thousand people, listening to music from hundreds of different pro, semi-pro, and serious amateur acts. I’ll run into more friends, load up on new music CDs to load into iTunes, and get back in touch in all senses of the word.

Meanwhile, I had another absurd epiphany in the QFC grocery store earlier – there were cases of Henry Weinhard’s Special Reserve, the favorite beer of my so-called college career. And there were also cases of some truly great beers from Hawaii, that David and I are very fond of because they evoke wonderful memories from stays on Maui, the Big Island, and Kauai.

Which reminds me… some great hula halaus performing on Friday, must try to catch at least one of them that evening.

Happy Folklife, everyone! Hope to see a lot of old friends and new friends there.

Guck, Bucum, and Scrud

In the last few weeks, I’ve gotten pretty obsessed with the A&E reality show, “Hoarders,” which if you can get past the piles of junk, “treasures,” and poo, is compelling. In the season preview clip above, the newly famous Possum From Hoarders makes her (not his) daring leap for freedom after being poked with a stick. This little clip apparently kept the other obsessed fans talking all summer, but the actual appearance of the Awesome Possum did not disappoint; she hopped in a handy Pet Taxi and lit off for the bright lights of the big city. You can read all about her adventures on her Facebook fan page. Seriously, comic relief like this makes watching “Hoarders” bearable; otherwise it’s just one horror show after another. So fans focus on silly things like possumbombs and kitchen rakes to keep from shouting “NO, THROW IT OUT, THROW IT OUT, NO DON’T SAVE IT, IT’S GARBAGE” at their televisions.

Since then, I’ve been cleaning and organizing stuff pretty much every time I catch an episode, and today I’m cleaning out the guest room, which has been “the room where all the snorkel stuff is in the middle of the floor” for many months now. At the moment, the luggage and snorkel gear is now neatly stacked in the closet, which has been cleared for my guest, but after my lunch-tea-and-blogging break I need to get the freshly laundered sheets on the bed (fancy new dryer just beeped happily) and sweep the floor, vacuum, and damp mop with the wooden floor cleaner.

I already cleaned a lot of guck, bucum, and scrud in the kitchen, but there’s more to do. Definitions to follow…

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