Thursday, March 26, 2015

But for the Grace of God . . . . .

The shocking news of this morning had not yet sunk in when I sent Facebook birthday wishes to Anne Martin.  It must have been a day or two after her birthday when I met her for the first time last year.  

That was on a flight from Paris to Dublin.  Anne was on her way home to Dublin and her family after completing a shift as an airline attendant.  She flies for a company that owns corporate jets. 

We had a great visit during the hour-plus flight which occurred shortly after our 10-hour flight from Seattle to Paris. 

Far from luxurious, that long flight meant sitting like sardines, trying to find comfortable positions while nodding off for short naps or watching movies as we passed over Greenland, the Atlantic and finally France. 

But we got there! 

On this morning, I am grateful that even though our experience over those many hours lacked the creature comforts we used to enjoy in the good ol' days of flying commercial flights, we arrived----stiff, sore, tired but alive. 

And, that March morning a year ago, after we arrived and boarded another flight, I had the opportunity to meet a lovely Irish lady who spends her career flying the world. 

After sending her birthday greetings this morning and noting that she was just a few days older than my son, I started reading news headlines and Tweets on Twitter more carefully.

Like any "human" who awakens this morning to discover that the German flight which crashed into the Alps a couple of days ago did so apparently at the hands of its co-pilot, I'm dismayed, more saddened and angry about the cruel and senseless loss of innocent lives that seems to happen with regularity in our world-----at the hands of others.

Shortly after zeroing in on several headlines and seeing the co-pilot's name disclosed in one tweet, I searched on Facebook to see if he had a page and picture.  

Turns out that apparently, someone who wished to celebrate his actions set up a Facebook page with a photo of a person who could be the co-pilot sitting with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.  

I'm not entirely sure that this was a fake page, but with my weak translation abilities, it seemed that the creator described him as a hero in a short phrase next to his name on the page. 

Soon new posts, lashing out at him and whoever set up the page kept appearing on the side very rapidly.  

In essence, for that few minutes, I was watching live responses to yet another horrific event where innocents paid the price for someone else's deranged, deviant or malevolently directed mental state.  

Who knows the motivation?

What we do know, however, is that the people on that plane died with lives filled with hope, joy, excitement and purpose.  

Now, like so many who have gone before them, their memories will live on as unfortunate victims of a mindset filled with hate, evil, revenge or some deviant motive and absolutely no regard for human life.

These souls suffered from the grave misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

It will be interesting to see how the facts filter out in this situation.  

I'm guessing, however, that before definite conclusions will be reached on the GermanWings disaster, our attention from this week's tragic loss will shift to yet another shocking example of hideous behavior which seems to be alive and well in this world.

Sad and disturbing times.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Idaho LUNAcy

I was born in Idaho.  Bill was born in Louisiana.  Both of us have been surrounded by teachers our entire lives.  

Bill's mother Ora and her two sisters Fanny and Irma amassed more than 100 years in the serving as educators in the Louisiana school system. 

Bill's sister Margaret was a teacher early in her career. 

Aunts in both my father and stepfather's families taught school.  My dad's mother taught in one-room schools in Bonners Ferry and the Sandpoint area.

I taught school for 33 years.  My sisters teach school.  Both of my sisters-in-law devoted many years to teaching.  

My son is completing his sixth year as a teacher. 

If I've left out any family members, give me 30 lashes. 

My question this morning, after reading the article in the link below, is a geography question.  

Where IS our former Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction, and where is his sister, Idaho's Director of Administration?  

I hope the answer has something to do with a place with four walls, a few bars and a lock on the door----just like the ultimate destination for some of Louisiana's political figures turned out to be.

After listening to me squawk about the Spokesman article focusing on $61 million of Idaho tax dollars wasted by the Luna administration, Bill's comment----based on his history with education in his home state and his knowledge of corrupt political officials----was basically,  "Idaho's starting to look a lot like Louisiana." 

I encourage you to read the article and then to listen to the speech made by the 17-year-old Idaho high school student.

After I did my squawking to Bill, I found the YouTube video, recorded four years ago while our Mr. Luna was pushing his programs down the throats of the Idaho Powers that Be. 

Where is this young man giving the speech these days?  

I hope he still believes that teachers are NOT the enemy, and I sincerely hope he follows his dream, remains in Idaho, sticks to his principles and uses his energy and brilliance to see that such LUNAcy never happens again in this state. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Transition Mode

I think it's time to transplant some lettuce.  It might even be time to do a little thinning and enjoy the first spring salad. 

I loved our trip to the Seattle area, but it's fun being back home, especially at this time of year, which is loaded with the outdoor "to do's."  

The grass is turning green, but fortunately, its growth spurts haven't started yet, so I probably won't have to worry about mowing in March.

Instead, my focus for the next few days will involve gathering some bigger pots for some of my young plants which are growing "like weeds" inside.  I actually have a few weeds in one flat of flowers but have been plucking them out with regularity.

It's time to prepare the greenhouse for its 2015 inhabitants, which at this time include more than 50 geraniums, some pansies and petunias and pampas grass.  About 50 tomato plants put on a growth spurt during our four-day absence.

Last week, while cleaning a covering of fall leaves from a lovely wandering vine plant called vinca minor or dwarf periwinkle, it occurred to me that I could easily take portions of this plant and pretty up other areas of my yard.  

So, that will be an upcoming project.

With the earlier wet weather, I've already gotten a start at thinning out my prolific wild rose bush and transplanting several starts at an area along the road on the south part of our place.  

Those roses grow and spread rapidly, so in a few years, we could have a nice hedge in that area. 

I'll probably also get out the paint brushes and do a little touch up on some fence boards and the planters around the deck.  

This time of the year makes me downright giddy about all the possibilities and hopeful that I can accomplish at least a portion of the ambitious ideas that pop into my head.  

Besides beautifying the yard, the horses will also get some attention with more daily grooming.  

And, the bike will go into action whenever I want to take a break from yard and garden work.  

Lots of great outdoor possibilities and after three years of it arriving on schedule in late April, I'm hoping, praying and keeping my fingers crossed, along with downing a spoonful of neighborhood honey each day, that the annual ITCH stays away.  

Twould be nice to avoid that miserable irritant while trying to enjoy all the fun and work outdoors. 

Anyway, that's enough yakkedy yak for this morning.  Looks like a great day ahead and we're actually going to be pushing the 70s by week's end.

So, the baby plants are calling, and I'm more than thrilled to respond.

Happy Tuesday. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sweet Sweet Sunday

How sweet it is!  

What else can be said about a Sunday in Seattle when the team we love so well achieved a major milestone in their journey to the Final Four. Happiness reigned supreme, especially during the final moments of a phenomenal game for Gonzaga. 

All the coaching, talent, skill, teamwork, heart, passion and focus of a long-sought-after goal played out like a well-oiled machine on that Key Arena floor yesterday.  As the final seconds ticked off on the clock, the essence of an elusive dream achieved brought out the smiles, hugs and deep felt joy. 

The ZAGS are going to the Sweet Sixteen! News came that the Lady Zags are doing the same.  Twas definitely a good day to be a ZAG, whether members of the ZAG Nation were sitting in their living rooms, gathered in pubs or standing in the stands at Key Arena with tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces.

Mission accomplished thus far.  Where they go from here-----we don't know.  We know they'll be in Houston playing another game against UCLA and if they win that one----Duke. And, who knows, maybe even the Final Four.

For now, sweetness and pride and joy.  It's been a great run, and this team and its coaches have done it all with class and with the support of countless admiring fans.  Neat story.

Other neat stories yesterday.  We started our day with a wonderful gathering right across the highway from where the Seattle Seahawks practice.  Denny's Restaurant served as the meeting place for cousins Mary, Patti, Sue and other family members.  

We visited for a couple of hours over breakfast and promised to get together in a few months again for the annual cousins' reunion.

After watching some TV games, we headed off to the NCAA venue.  During food time at the nearby Armory, I spotted a Northern Iowa fan with a neat visor----yellow with purple fake hair.  Had to get a photo of that combination.

Turns out Dale and his wife Nancy are the proud grandparents of Northern Iowa standout and senior Seth Tuttle.  We had a nice visit, mentioning, of course, the Iowa-Idaho confusion. Dale and Nancy had driven to Seattle for the game and had planned to turn around and head to Syracuse, New York, if their team won.

Sadly for them, that was not to be, as a scrappy Louisville with their intense legendary coach took the win.  Rick Pitino definitely puts on a show on the sidelines while coaching.  And, for a lot in the crowd, his style is very entertaining.  To say he's a "showman" would be an understatement.

A great day of basketball ended on a really high note as we stood with goosebumps and a few more tears welling up while the Louisville pep band played "My Old Kentucky Home."  Passion and nostalgia doesn't get any more pure than that. 

Many thanks to Annie for thinking we might want to attend this segment of the tournament way back in October.  Stars definitely lined up from start to finish, and we so appreciate the opportunity to witness firsthand the remarkable spectacle of March Madness and the ultimate SWEETNESS of having our ZAGS move on in the Dance.  

Life is good when you love the ZAGS, especially when you get to experience all the positives that go along with that infatuation.

Gary Bell has always been my favorite ZAG, and it was neat to see him run over after the game to hug former ZAG standout and announcer Matt Santangelo and announcer Tom Hudson. 

Nancy and Dale Tuttle, proud grandparents of Northern Iowa standout Seth Tuttle.

My high school classmate and longtime friend Janet.  We enjoyed some happy moments after the ZAGS victory. 
Mr. Style aka Rick Pitino talks with his team during a timeout.

After saying good bye to Annie, we dined for a second time at this pub near Key Arena.  Good hamburgers and fish and chips and great service.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Saturday Sights

A day off from the NCAA Tournament action in Seattle provided an opportunity for some sight seeing around the general Seattle area yesterday. 

It had been more than 30 years since Bill, Willie or I had been to Port Townsend, so the artsy community north of Seattle turned out to be our ultimate destination.  

On our ferry ride from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, a local TV crew was on board to interview some Iowans, also in town for the tournament.  It was difficult for me to keep my mouth shut when the TV reporter suggested that the Iowa Hawkeyes (ZAGS' opponent today) were within sight of the Sweet Sixteen, but I restrained myself and just took a few photos. 

Once off the ferry, we stopped at a Tribal gas station, loading up on fuel and more food to go with the big box of goodies we had in the back of the Suburu. 

After a quick drive through Port Townsend, we visited Fort Worden, one of four facilities built in the 19th Century to protect the Bremerton Naval base.  

The maze of concrete provides a photographer's dream with funky backgrounds and phenomenal lighting opportunities.  And, photographers had a field day, snapping photos inside the seemingly haunted dwellings near the shoreline.  

A dance troupe even showed up for a photo shoot, as did a cooperative eagle which perched in a tree long enough for me to snap some photos. 

In addition, to hiking around the grounds, Bill and Annie also did some geocaching.  During our time there, Bill found a nice Buck knife in a Buck sheath.  We assumed that maybe one of the many Boy Scouts camped out at the state park may have lost it, but that was not the case.

Eventually he turned it over to the campground hosts who said they'd take it to Lost and Found.  

While there, I met a mother-daughter pair who had pink bikes, exactly the color of mine.  Turns out the mom knows my classmate Barb from nearby Poulsbo. Barb and her hubby Dick, volunteer for the Poulsbo Police Dept. and often dine out at the restaurant where Mom Pink Biker works. 

After walking as many as 12,000 steps (Annie was keeping track) we were ready for dinner.  So, we returned to Port Townsend and dined at the Public House.  Great meal and great table where we could watch the Utah-Georgetown game. 

We also surmised that some major activity involving vintage clothing was happening in town.  Saw some great ensembles during our stay in Port Townsend.

Later, Bill wanted to visit the Celtic store, Wandering Angus ( down the street.  While visiting with the owner, we mentioned Sandpoint and learned once again about small worlds. 

The owner, Debbie Sonandre, lived off the grid near Cocolalla Lake for three years and even taught at Southside School. 

One of the winters a few years back convinced her extended family members that it was time to head off to some place similar where winters weren't so bad.  So, they relocated in Port Townsend and have done well with their store.  Bill bought some Connemara socks, and off we went to catch the Kingston Ferry.

Back here at the condo which gives us a great view of Elliott Bay, we walked in just in time to see the Butler-Notre Dame game go into overtime. Notre Dame eventually won in a thrilling game.

It seemed as if there could have been an powerful influence guiding that Fighting Irish victory as we learned later that the Notre Dame coach's mother died suddenly from heart attack earlier in the day. So poignant, to say the least.

So, here we are this morning, all busy at our laptops.  Soon we'll be meeting some cousins for breakfast.  Later, I'll be visiting with a high school classmate before we all gather again at Key Arena.  

And, as nice as those Iowans on the ferry seemed, I'm hoping that another Catholic school gets to be a Dance Partner with Notre Dame in the Sweet Sixteen.  GO ZAGS!

For our daughter-in-law Debbie and all other devoted Squatchers!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Seen around the Tournament

A nice man offered to take our family group while we were waiting to get into the first game of four during yesterday's first round of tournament games.  We spent the better part of 12 hours at or near the venue.  It was a long stretch, but it didn't seem that long because of all the sights, sounds, interesting people and great basketball competition.

University of California Irvine fans, all ready to promote a little Anteater spirit.

This plate looks attractive, but the consensus among the fans was that food offerings at Key Arena could be higher quality and actually available.  Apparently, several vendors ran short of supplies and knowledgeable manpower. The folks sitting above us yesterday attended the NCAA tournament in Spokane last year and said the food operation was much better. 

Hotdogs, anyone?

More than likely the tallest player in the NCAA Tournament.  He plays for UC Irvine, and every time he stuffed a basket the crowd roared in approval. Mamadou Ndiaye stands 7 feet, 6 inches tall. His team came just two points short of upsetting Louisville yesterday.

Louisville cheerleaders and their Cardinal mascot perform during a timeout.

During the break between sessions, we all found food and drink at the Seattle Center Armory.  Annie also found some of her Groundspeak colleagues/friends who were attending the games.

I met these fine folks from Anaconda, Mont., yesterday morning.  We hit it off, especially after learning we'd all been school teachers and that we know of some of the same peeps. I also learned a little Gonzaga Campus history regarding the Charlotte Martin Center, named for an Anaconda native..

In Sandpoint, we don't see too many scalpers outside Barlow Stadium or the school gyms, so the sight in Seattle was a novelty for me. 

When you find your assigned seat for a long day at the tournament, you get to know your row mates rather well, especially when it's time to stand while other humans squeeze their way through the tiny area between rows.  While Bill had a retired high school basketball coach commentating throughout the games, I became well acquainted with Ali and Rich to my left.  Ali works at Microsoft.  Later in the day, we had become new best friends enough that Ali asked me to take their photo in their March Madness shirts.  Nice people, as were the majority we met.  We did get to see the back of one man's head as he blocked our view throughout the entire pre-game warm-up.  He was definitely the "last man standing" in our section, and he seemed quite happy in his space.  Takes all kinds.

Action outside the venue.

A legendary coach with a definite sense of style:  Rick Pitino from Louisville.

I never did figure out what this was all about, but it helped  set the carnival-like atmosphere at the tournament.

This young man was in a league of his own as he masterfully dribbled his special ball around the venue.  When I asked to take his picture and then learned his first name, I decided he will some day be a star.  His parents gave him the first name of "Stockton." 

Bisons, Bulldogs, Cardinals AND Anteaters!  Love those mascots.

Friday, March 20, 2015

This Is the Day the Lord Has Made for Lovin' the ZAGS!

Well, here we are in Seattle, and in a couple of hours, we'll be headed to one of the West Coast venues for THE DANCE.  

The day will be a long one, culminated by the great long-awaited moment for the ZAGS Nation, when the much beloved team takes to the floor in their first match-up against North Dakota State University.

Before that happens, we'll see Wyoming, Iowa, Davidson, Louisville, UC Irvine and Northern Iowa----definitely a full plate of basketball for the day.

Yesterday we visited the hour-long practices for Gonzaga and Davidson. As an aside, Davidson's practice session was very impressive from start to finish---a very disciplined, well-schooled group, to say the least.

ZAG time was fun, as always, especially when Bill got to shake hands with one of his ZAGS heroes, trainer Jennifer Nyland.  Bill has always enjoyed watching Jennifer's expressions during games, stating that when she's smiling, all's going well for the team.

Jennifer was very gracious to pose for a photo with Bill.  

We're all hoping for a successful run in the tournament for this team we all love so much.

I always like to say that they exhibit a whole lot more than just basketball; their accomplishments on the court simply add frosting on the cake for all the other dimensions we see and love about this program----importance of family, friendship, high standards, etc.

I was looking at some of my pictures this morning and thinking about some of these players whom we've watched since they first appeared in a ZAGS uniform.  We all enjoy a sense of connection with them, even though they don't know us from a hole in the ground.

Seems like something pretty magic about how they've taken over so many heart--young and old, and that is a good thing.

Our hearts will be pounding with pride this evening and every time they get asked back to the Dance this year.  

Whenever their journey through March Madness ends with a loss somewhere along the way or with that seemingly elusive win as a National Champ, ZAG lovers will never falter in their admiration and passion for all that the ZAG Nation represents. 

GO ZAGS!  We'll love you all the way to the end of your 2015 DANCE!