Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Letter from My Sister: Facing Cancer on Her Own Terms

Alone in her remote cabin, this strong, inspiring mountain woman comes to terms with a dread disease
On top of Sarah's mountain

Christmas Day 2011
To my dearest ones,

After more than 1 ½ years, the time has come for me to connect with you about an aspect of my life that I have been unwilling to share with anyone. It has just entered a defining new phase.
On Dec. 19, I was admitted to Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa, weak from blood loss from an advanced, externalized breast tumor. I’m afraid my claim of coming down with the flu was completely false.

After a number of blood transfusions I felt normal again. At first it was thought the tumor was inoperable. But the surgeons doggedly pursued a strategy, and on Dec. 23, performed a miraculously successful operation. The surgeons are proud as peacocks and I am thrilled.
The cancer has spread, but an estrogen-blocking pill should at least shrink what cancer is left. The complete success of my surgery hugely simplifies my on-going treatment plan and preserves my on-going independence.

In the haze of forest fires
For your own sakes I hope you can forgive me for not revealing my current condition. It has been such an intimate, personal aspect of my life that I simply and absolutely could not share it with anyone but my angels and ancestors. I could not bear the current draconian cancer treatments or even a medical atmosphere in which such a personal experience would be given over to the impersonal control and judgments of a technological establishment. I wanted to either succeed in healing myself or keep the best quality of life possible until the end.
Finally, I was so weak that I had to make a decision whether to seek medical intervention or simply consider that my time had come. I chose to seek blood transfusions and tumor removal. I called Paula, a friend in Gualala, and broke the news to her of my real illness. Another friend, my neighbor Ellen, got me to the hospital and Paula came later to act as my advocate.

Soon after discovering in early summer 2010 that the growing lump was more than a cyst, I learned to regard this illness as one of life’s wondrous journeys. Except for a few brief moments of terror, I have never experienced the fear and grief that I would have naturally expected. I am awed by this completely unique experience for me. It has taught me that all of life is a series of adventures no matter their nature. Every life adventure is valuable and important.
The cabin in Spring
My experience here in the hospital has been one of unexpectedly profound discovery. Most of the staff has gone out of their way to assure me that I am in control of what happens in my treatment. Some of them have even said it was none of their business why I declined to approach the medical community much earlier. Most disagree with me on some points and a few have been opinionated and judgmental, but at least I have confronted the inevitability of such attitudes and am learning to hold my own.

The most sensitive and compassionate – and those are many – have given me unbelievable blocks of time for earnest, respectful and thoughtful consultations and counseling. The strength of the love behind their work is almost overwhelming. As a result I have learned that rigid resistance and purism based upon principle on one hand, and fear of being over-powered on the other, serves no good purpose. I am now better able to discuss my case with oncologists and staff with a more open mind and willingness to wholly commit to our decisions.
Everyone’s case has a whopping team behind it and when there is harmonious cooperation it is a beautiful thing to behold. And I can say all this while continuing to believe that the actual treatmentis a combination of ritual and the medium through which love does the actual healing.

I am well aware that all hospital experiences are not equal but it has been my great good fortune to have had mine on the oncology unit of this one.
I am finishing this in the hospital, not yet knowing when I will be discharged. I have no idea if you have noticed that I am “missing.” But this is just too big for me to handle in a phone call. Please forgive the snail mail.

My deepest love,
Mom, Sister & Cousin Sarah.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Winter Solstice!

As far back as humans can remember, earth folks have indulged in mid-winter celebrations. It may have begun with stir-crazy cavemen seeking variety in the long, dreary nights. It attained a more specific schedule from sun-savvy ancients like the Egyptians, Druids, Aztecs, etc. From thence it was celebrated with the knowledge that the worst of winter was officially over.  The Romans set aside seven days (Dec. 17-23) for lawlessness and debauchery called the Saturnalia. I suppose we can thank the Winter Doldrums for the fact that this practice persisted into feudal times.

By now most people know that the birth of Christ was not December 25th.  Cuneiform scholars, working from ancient tablets inscribed by the Magi in Babylon at the time of the birth, have identified a date equivalent to September 11, 3 BC. (A much nicer reason to remember Sept. 11…) But there are other authoritative sources that place it anywhere from our current June to the end of harvest.
The point is, it was the raucous Saturnalia that prompted early Christian priests to choose the winter solstice for this solemn holy day. That settled things down nicely. But Christ really is the reason that we celebrate His birth on December 25th  ... no matter when He was actually born!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Win a copy of INHERITANCE Book 4 by Christopher Paolini

Actually I’ll just send it to you. No contest. I have an extra copy on my hands because someone already got it for my daughter. So, as they say in the pet section of the want-ads: “Free to good home.”

It’s still in the box - a brand new deluxe hardcover edition with dust jacket. Just be the first to tell me you want it, give me a shipping address, and it’s on its way. Hurry if you want it by Christmas.
Now, of course, I’m stuck again for a Christmas gift idea for my daughter. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Finally! Book 4 of Inheritance is Here!

Seems like I’ve been waiting for eons! I’ve been trying to reach Christopher Paolini, the wunderkind who penned Eragon at the age of 15, to find out how he was doing on it. I wanted to tell him I’d bake him cookies –any kind he wanted – if he would please get that last book finished.

It was my daughter who got me hooked on the series. She’d asked for Eragon for Christmas one year, and later got the next one, Eldest, on her own. I read them both when I was there for the birth of her third baby. When Brisingr was released, I bought copies for both of us and sent her the movie version of Eragon that Christmas.
Then the long dry spell.

I Googled everything to do with Christopher Paolini and his titles. I tried to find him on Facebook. I haunted for the slightest hint that Book 4 was ready for pre-order. Amazon, BTW, is strangely silent on the subject. A best-selling author like that should rate a fat headline on their opening page. How did I find out? From a brief article in the book section of the Houston Chronicle! Where is this kid’s publicist??  C’mon, people!
Cyber Monday found me hard at the keyboard scoring Inheritance for me and Daughter. And, Chris, wherever you are, the offer of cookies is still open.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Whatever Happened to Women’s Intuition? Dr. Olakunbi Korostensky knows how to get it back

I just discovered the most extraordinary woman! Dr. Korostensky was a guest today (Wed., 11/16/11) on my friend Jahnavi Foster’s weekly Wellness Radio podcast. Hailed internationally as an “inner flame rekindler,” Kunbi, as her friends know her, is determined to reawaken this valuable gift. 

For over 30 years she has dedicated her life to integrating spiritual consciousness into daily activities. A naturopathic doctor and psychologist with a master’s in energy psychology, her real break-through came during a near-death experience. “It wasn’t pretty, what I saw,” she reported. Women have become masculine; seeking validation by tuning out instincts and embracing intellect. Education and the need to succeed, it seems, are barriers between a woman and her natural gifts.
But it doesn’t have to be.
“It is my conviction that women have been endowed with very special gifts and we have not been placed on this earth to simply survive or to suffer,” she states on her website There is no situation so hopeless, no problem so overwhelming, and no challenge so gigantic that you can't overcome it with the right perspective, right mindset and strong connection with your inner guidance.”
Dr. Korotensky participated in the podcast via phone from her home in Switzerland, which is why it came on at noon, EST, rather than the usual 6:00 PM. I dang near threw it off the air trying to call in – I just had to talk to her! Fortunately my publicist, Miranda Spigener, was tuned in. Hearing the program cutting in and out, she quickly texted me to for Pete’s sake turn off my radio.
When things settled down, I related that I had experienced heightened intuition during my pregnancies. Was that typical? I mean, I’m educated, pragmatic, and haven’t a lick of clairvoyance. Yes, she responded. The baby within can and will crash through the barriers. (Hence the cravings for pickles with ice cream?) I had never thought of this before, but the presence of the baby’s intuition goes a long way toward reinforcing the mother’s.
Kunbi’s book, Intuition Involution, Living By Intuition for a Balanced World in 2012 and Beyond is due for release even as I type. I’ll do a full review as soon as I can get my hands on it. Meanwhile, look her up. This is empowering stuff!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: The detective who was forbidden to die

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
In 1893, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle decided to kill off his most famous creation: detective Sherlock Holmes.  Six years of writing these cleverly concocted mysteries, he explained in a letter to his mother, had left him weary of the character.  Thus, in The Adventure of the Final Problem, Holmes and his nemesis, Prof. Moriarty, plunge over a Swiss waterfall while locked in combat.

Basil Rathbone as Holmes
Obviously Sir Arthur seriously underestimated Holmes’ popularity.  Shocked to the point of wearing black armbands, Doyle’s readership launched a stunning protest.  Even Queen Victoria was not amused, personally requesting the author to revive the legendary detective.
Caving to the outcry, Doyle penned The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1901, as a prequel to previously published adventures.  But that wasn’t good enough.  Clamoring fans wanted Holmes alive.
"We are not amused"
So Doyle dutifully produced The Adventure of the Empty House, wherein Holmes explains he’d flung Moriarty down the falls and then faked his own death to escape the professor’s henchmen.  With satisfied fans back on board (and a record sum of money from his publisher) Doyle continued writing Sherlock Holmes adventures, stopping only three years before his own death in 1930.

 Sherlock holmes, however, is still going strong.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Let Me Know When You’re in a Better Mood

“Zombies often rise in theaters and on television when times are tumultuous,” observes Andrew Dansby, the Houston Chronicle’s entertainment writer. His Sunday, 10/30/2011, article points out that anxiety is at the root of allegories in movies. It’s not a cyclical thing. It’s not just for Halloween. The trend was wildly evident way before this. It’s the global angst produced by war, disaster, and economic woe.

The leading edge of this recent spate was Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Now zombies, vampires, and assorted other horrors are popping out of the ground everywhere. It’s a sure-fire indication that economic recovery is equally mythical.
Well, I for one will never give in to dystopian scenarios. Flowers grow even on the bloodiest of battlefields. Most people don’t go cannibalistic because of market downturns. And there’s as much drama under the sun as there is under a full moon. C’mon, People! You don’t need Hollywood ripping flesh from bone to get through this!

Granted, we are in dire need of escapism. But why turn to something even more hellish than our actual situation? Get out of this funk. Come to Ammanon!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Requiem for a Worthy Woman

Aunt Vivian at her 100th birthday party
High-spirited socialite, community activist, inveterate gardener; she stood ram-rod straight, walked at least 80 mph, and had a smile for everybody. She didn’t give up mowing her lawn until she was in her hundreds, and even then still worked at her flower beds.

Aunt Vivian, elder sister of my husband’s mother, died Monday morning, October 24, at the age of 103.
She was raised in Galveston, Texas, during the glory days; the days of live bands on the beach, lavish parties in wealthy homes, and a social circuit that rivaled anything on the East Coast. Even though Aunt Vivian lived in modest circumstances with her little sister and single mom – working hard to support both - she kept in the thick of things. Her gregarious nature relished the social whirl.

During WWII she met and married a Navy man, John Smith, a quiet mechanic/gunsmith. After the war, they settled in Mathis, a depressed resort community 50 miles from Corpus Christi. Even after her teenaged son, her only child, was killed in a car crash, Aunt Vivian remained involved in youth work, her church, and the community. Her tireless efforts and dogged determination to inject pride into shabby little Mathis, TX, led to an oleander-lined highway known as the Vivian Smith Parkway.
Two years ago she returned Galveston where she could go into care near kinfolk. To the end, she was a cheerful and gracious woman, aware of her dementia but pushing ahead anyway. I last saw her on Thursday, our day to go out and eat shrimp. There was no sign that she was nearing the end. She was alert, chatty, and eating well. She simply went to sleep Sunday night, and failed to wake Monday morning.

Way to go, Aunt Vivian. Seriously.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Farewell to Arms, Hello Obscenity!

When Scribners published Ernest Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms in 1929, the publishing house replaced all potentially offensive words with a series of dashes. This intriguing fact is part of an article, “Up In Arms,” by Ethan Trex in the hilarious magazine Mental_Floss (where knowledge junkies get their fix), the 2011 Golden Lobe Awards issue. No, my IQ is nowhere near Mensa levels, but I still get a huge kick from cleverly written stories about mind-boggling facts.

Back to Hemmingway. Although the author was understandably miffed that even such mild obscenities as “balls” weren’t permitted in a novel about war and sex, he caved in order to get the work published.
And then (get this) he grabbed up a few copies and reinserted the vulgarities by hand. Mr. Trex knows of at least two corrected texts that survive today. One copy went to French literary translator Maurice Coindreau; the other to Irish novelist and poet James Joyce. Joyce’s copy now resides at SUNY-Buffalo’s library in upstate New York.

Wouldn’t Hemingway love writing in this modern atmosphere of obligatory and gratuitous obscenity? Well, maybe not. Where’s the shock value?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Got 3 minutes to kill? Have a look at these movies from Mars

On the news last night Brian Williams showed some clips of a landscape he compared to the Jersey shore. It was all pretty boring until he announced that it was, in fact, Mars.

The probes, Spirit and Opportunity, were launched June and July 2003 and landed January 2004 in widely separated equatorial places on Mars. This video was shot by Opportunity. Conspicuously absent is the Travelocity Gnome.

 Sadly, the logistics of success dictate a landing in the safest location; i.e. flat and boring. These explorer vehicles cost $850 million, after all. Let’s not jeopardize the mission with unnecessary risks. Of course they can be designed to negotiate steep inclines and torturous terrain. But if I remember correctly, there’s something like a 45-minute delay between the sending and receiving a command.

So say you see the rover approaching the edge of a crater. By the time this data reaches you it's 45 minutes old. By the time your frantic “STOP!” command arrives 45 minutes hence, Opportunity has been a mangled splatter of nuts and bolts for 90 minutes. Now you know why this particular area of Mars looks like the Jersey shore.

Click and see:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I Take a Grandson to the

This is the one on the Kemah Boardwalk. The downtown Houston location is much more spectacular but Grandma doesn’t take on the high-speed maze of crisscrossing Interstates unless absolutely necessary. I owed him. Before his big brother Mikey started Big School (kindergarten) I was always snatching him up and heading for the Rainforest Café in Galveston. Such a cool place.  Now it’s Gabriel’s turn.

But the Rainforest is filled with trumpeting elephants, roaring apes, and indoor thunderstorms. Since I wanted to at least try to get in a chat with my daughter-in-law, I elected to check out the Aquarium.
Bear in mind that even in the dullest of settings, kids never eat at restaurants. They’re too busy looking around and demanding trips to the bathroom. Given the overstimulation of wall-to-wall live, swimming fish, you can totally save your money. Oh, they might grab a fry or something off your plate in between the piranha tank and the one with Nemo and Dory, but they certainly won’t do any serious eating.
We adults were most mesmerized by the main tank. Interspersed with three sharks, a tiger and two smaller reef sharks, were several enormous groupers. The waiter said they could get up to 800 lbs. Most surprising to me were the two long, green moray eels. I had no idea they were so big.
The food was top quality and elegantly presented, but way overpriced. Here the usual dinner salad was extra. Like, $5.99 extra. So not an everyday lunch spot.

After the meal we went down to the stingray pool. Yes, we petted the stingrays. Very smooth, rubbery and slippery. They’re friendly to humans but not so much with each other. One slapping set-to sent me scrambling aside to wipe off my camera and eyeglasses.
We capped off our adventure with a train ride around all the Boardwalk attractions. It was a good time. But now I feel I owe Mikey again…

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why can’t SOMEONE offer chronological listings?

I mean, nothing like buying two books in a series, using publication dates as a guide, only to find those two books worlds and years apart. The reason? There were several books in between, but they weren’t shown on the same screen. Even author sites and fan sites do this.

Take Lilian Jackson Braun’s quirky and delightful The Cat Who… mysteries. If you go by the order of Amazon’s listings, methodical journalist Jim Qwilleran and his two crime-solving cats may suddenly jump from a big city newspaper to “400 miles north of everywhere” with no clues whatever. And there are dozens of The Cat Who… books.
Although Tony Hillerman isn’t quite so prolific, attempting to arrange his absorbing adventures of modern Navajo cops by release date is still a tall order. Futile, too. Each book isn’t always listed. Some may pop up on one click that didn’t show on a previous visit. Why the heck is that? When I first started following Officer Jim Chee, (the first books in Hillerman’s listing) his superior, Lt. Joe Leaphorn, was a grizzled, gray-haired veteran. In the next book I found featuring that venerable soul, he was a rookie patrolman. And I still haven’t found the original Jim Chee title that got me intrigued in the first place. It was a Reader’s Digest Condensed selection. And we donated our entire collection of those volumes to a library sale. So I may never know.

You will not have that problem with me, folks! If you’ll notice the left column, I have clearly placed “Book One,” “Book Two,” etc. in each book’s title. This will get very important when the first three are re-released by my new publisher, VerveStar, with differing covers. There are 5 books in all.

Seriously, if anyone out there knows where to find chronological listings of authors’ works, please let me know!  I prefer reading things in proper order!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Say WHAT? (Pretty far out…but do-able)

  Since I’m in Future Mode at the moment, I think I’ll share some of the other stuff I pulled up while researching the last couple of posts.  These mind-boggling concepts are so far out, so beyond sci-fi, it makes me think of Carmen. Carmen was the beleaguered secretary that held the IT Dept. of United Space Alliance together through Y2K, John Glenn’s second up, and Newt Gingrich. I’d storm up to her desk waving the latest directorial memo demanding, “Whoa! Just how are we supposed to do THIS?”

And Carmen, bless her heart, would resignedly set down her coffee, grit her teeth, and utter her perfected mantra: “I know it’s ridiculous. I know it’s gratuitously complicated. But it’s do-able. So, like, DO it!” And I would, of course. Sometimes without overtime.
Now you’re going to see what I mean. Folks, I give you The Space Elevator. As NASA gets out of the manned spaceflight business, new and cheaper ways of getting into space – without rockets – have been developed by private companies. Running on a strand of woven fiber carbon nanotubes, a space “elevator” will whisk you 22,000 miles above earth to an inflated kevlar-and-fiberglas space station. According to, the iSpace Corporation is holding a drawing to win a two-week vacation on the moon. iSpace is already negotiating for land to build this thing. Enter today!

Are you ready for the ultimate cruise? I actually saw this on Discovery, or The History Channel or PBS or somewhere. Freedom Ship, a floating city of thousands, is an idea that has been tossed around for a while. Now the Freedom Ship Company has a new set of designs for the floating urban space, which looks sort of like a giant mall parking lot, and sort of like a really giant Love Boat. According to the company’s site,, it’s not a cruise ship per se. It’s a place to live, work, and retire. A place that just happens to be continuously traveling around the world.

While casting about online for images, I found this on, a sort of comic book site. The caption reads: “This is the Libertania. It's a huge ship designed as a floating nation. The president of the US is visiting, and tension is brewing between the upper & lower decks. Now watch everything go to Hell.”

So…I suppose it’s not so much a question of is it do-able, but what will happen if we do?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Back to the future – The Future of Flight, that is

And I promise you this will be my last article on my Boeing plant tour! The museum at the visitor’s center is actually called The Future of Flight. Hence, my title. Some of these flights of fancy are seriously on the drawing board. Some of the next generation space shuttles actually went to prototype years ago and now will probably never come into use - unless some corporation or multi-gazillionaire buys them for space tourism.

This powerful little twin engine jet is a NASA project called Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS). The object is to provide high-speed transport between local community airports at current airline prices, sans the delays and extended travel times incurred by hub-to-hub routes. Wouldn’t you love to see this get off the ground?
Have you ever noticed the way birds adjust their wings in flight to perform various maneuvers? This NASA design is The Morphing Project which allows planes to change shape in flight. Flexible materials will bend and twist, adapting safely and efficiently to changing flying conditions like the wings of a bird. This morphing technology promises a wide variety of futuristic applications.

This high-flying, solar powered Helios prototype was developed by NASA primarily to aid coffee growers. Flying at altitudes over 50,000 feet for up to four days, it can determine the optimal harvest time on remote, mountainside fields. It can also act as a relay platform for telecommunications systems, enhance weather observation, and provide a disaster-monitoring.
  The blended wing body is a research project of both Boeing and NASA. This design could carry 450 to 800 passengers for up to 7,000 miles at a maximum speed of 560 mph while consuming 20% less fuel than today's jetliners. The wingspan would be just slightly wider than a conventional Boeing 747 and could operate from existing airports.

While the benefits of these projects are huge and obvious, I fear the development costs – in the current economy - will strand our access to them indefinitely.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001?

You will never forget what you were doing November 22, 1963 when President Kennedy was shot.  You know exactly where you were January 28, 1986 when the Challenger exploded. You’ll never forget who called you February 1, 2003 to tell you the Columbia was disintegrating over Texas. How much more vividly do you recall the moment you began to grasp the magnitude of the terrorist attack in New York City?

I thought it was just a persistent promo for a new disaster flick.
The image of two furiously burning towers stayed prominently on the AOL home page while I checked and briefly answered my email before heading to work. It was in West Lafayette, Indiana, where I was taking care of my folks in their beautiful rural home.  It didn’t sink in until I saw the same thing on the TV as I headed out the door. By the time I arrived at the office in Purdue’s Research Park, the whole world was in a state of shock. Voices were hushed. Every TV and computer screen showed variations of the same thing. I remember that after an hour or so of numbly staring at each other, we closed up and went home.

Most of all I remember how Dad, still partially paralyzed from his recent stroke, painfully limped out to the pole by the giant sycamore tree, and raised the American flag.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hey! It’s raining in here! (Other neat stuff about the Boeing plant)

The Boeing factory in Everett, WA is so massive; it once began generating its own weather systems. Rain clouds, the result of warm air and moisture accumulating, were actually forming inside. About 25,000 workers added to the heat and humidity.

Covering almost 100-acres, the world's biggest building by volume houses Boeing's 747, 767, 777, and 787 aircraft production lines. Roughly 2142 average-sized homes could fit inside this factory. The hangar doors alone are each roughly the size of an American football field. Among other things, it boasts its own security force and fire department, a fully equipped medical clinic, a childcare center, a water treatment plant, its own electrical sub-stations, and 19 cafeterias.

But what to do about the rain? Actually, a state-of-the-art air circulation system was installed inside the monolithic manufacturing plant early on. I wasn’t able to find exact dates, but obviously you can’t work with complex electrical systems under such shocking conditions.

Nevertheless, it’s true that there’s no A/C on the production floor. First of all, the weather in the Seattle area rarely peaks over 90. If the factory gets too warm, they open the huge doors and turn on the fans. Too Cold? As if. There are over one million light bulbs illuminating the work areas. Remember how your kid could actually bake a cake with a 100-watt bulb in her Hasbro Easy Bake oven?
I know, I know. Am I ever going to get over that tour of Boeing? Well, maybe after one more post. I’m an airplane freak who’s worked at both United Space Alliance and Boeing Aerospace. Before the kids came along I flew small craft: Cessna 150s and 172s. So cut me some slack…

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Travels with Giselle, or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the GPS

“Honey, I-5 is right over there! See?”
“I paid for this thing and I’m going to use it!”
I clench my fists in frustration. I have the map right in front of me. I know exactly how to get there. But here we sit in the motel parking lot while he fusses and cusses at that obstreperous gadget he’s named Giselle.

Granted, a manual from the car rental agent would’ve been nice. And, granted, a GPS app on Miranda’s cell totally saved us in New Jersey last May. But right now I’m ready to chuck it full force into the street to which it’s pointing. As if that street was anywhere near us. Husband notices.

“Look, I brought you all the way up here for your birthday, spent all this money, and all you do is complain!”

Realizing he’s building up for a ten-minute tirade, I quickly backtrack, reassure him of my undying gratitude, and pull a paperback copy of Where Eagles Dare from my bag. Five minutes later I hear Giselle’s dulcet tones: “Please fasten seat belts.” We did that ages ago. “Drive to highlighted route.”

I glance over but see nothing but a fat green arrow on an otherwise blank screen. Not wishing to escalate either his ire or mine, I calmly return to my book. Too late.

What highlighted route?” Husband thunders.
“Dear, just turn left onto Pine, right onto Hewitt, and the I-5 ramp is less than a block away.”

Big mistake. The explosion that just caught Alistair MacLean’s heroes pales beside Husband’s. Giselle was supposed to say that! Why can’t I leave him alone? Why am I always so negative?

Finally I understand. Giselle is a man-toy. And men are Über-serious about high-tech toys. Any hint of disparagement from a female can fling a normally equitable man into a towering rage.

Unfortunately, Giselle also aggravates the male ego. The problem, of course, is that the voice is female. No man wants a woman telling him where to go.  For example, when we returned from our outing she clearly and correctly told him to exit on Pacific Avenue. He decided not to.
He ignored her again. He would do it his way – here in a neck of the woods where we’ve never been before.
I had the map in my lap, but by now I knew to keep my mouth shut.
Eventually, after an extensive tour of Everett, WA, we did end up on Pacific Ave.
“In .2 miles, turn left at motel.”
 Which would’ve taken us to the Holiday Inn. Happily, Husband turned right into the Best Western where we were staying. Even after we more or less learned how to use her, Giselle did her level best to take us to the Holiday Inn.

So…would I ever want a GPS of our own?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Travel Diary – Day Eight

Aug. 30, 7:45 AM – Another foggy morning. Can’t see Mt. Ranier. This is the La Quinta in Seattle again, so we’ll be going to the Denny’s next door for breakfast. The difference in motels is almost amusing. This lobby is palatial by comparison to the Best Western in Everett, and the beds are the best ever. But the towels are thin and rough, there’s only a cold continental breakfast, and no in-room fridge or microwave. The BW had it all, including soft, thick towels and a sumptuous breakfast buffet. But both have what we came for: Cool Temps!

Aug. 30, 8:30 AMRain! Well, okay. Drizzle. Not enough to bottle and take home. Here we are ready to leave for the airport and NOW Seattle starts acting like Seattle! No matter. It’s about 57 degrees, and the air is filled with the bracing scent of evergreens and spicy cedar. I don’t wanna leave!

Aug. 30,10:30 AM – At SeaTac airport. Slowed up the security process by neglecting to remove my laptop from its case. Coulda swore I read somewhere that it wasn’t necessary anymore. Husband thoroughly ticked.

Approaching Houston, the pilot comes on the intercom: “Ladies and gentlemen, the weather at our destination is partly cloudy with a temperature of 100 degrees.” Groans filled the cabin and not a few of us called out, “Turn around!”

Aug. 30, 8:00 PM – and home. We were immediately flattened by the oppressive heat coming out on the jet way. Two good things: Everything in my suitcase smells like evergreens and the gourmet coffees I picked up in Everett; and the rain gauge showed 2 ¼ inches. Can you believe that? Guess it took us leaving this super heated, drought-ridden area to make it rain!

Also, the publicists at VerveStar report progress on my new page. Now I’m getting excited again about the impending fall re-release of Book One. Ready to get back to work!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Travel Diary – Day Seven

 Aug. 29, 7:30 AM – Now this is the kind of day we were expecting up here: heavily overcast. That’s what you always hear about Seattle, right? Gray and rainy. I promised the home folks I’d return with bottles of rain, proof that the stuff still exists somewhere on the planet. But until this morning it’s been bright and sunny. Nary a drop of rain in sight. And there still isn’t. Nevertheless, we got what we really came for: blissfully cool, blessedly sane, weather!

Aug. 29, noon – Toured the Boeing plant today! The factory here in Everett is the largest building by volume in the United States. I can’t remember the exact figure, but the square footage runs into the millions. The place is gratifyingly busy with over 3000 employees working 24/7. If you were to order a 787-8 right now, you wouldn’t get it until 2020. So it seems Boeing ain’t hurtin’ as much as the rest of the economy.

No cameras, purses, fanny packs, cell phones, or electronics of any kind are allowed on the tour. (You have to rent a locker to stash your stuff.) So I can’t show you the monstrous 747s being assembled on the cavernous factory floor. Or the luxurious interior of the 787 Dreamliner commissioned by Korean Air.

Positioning pics in this blog is terribly tricky. That’s why I resorted to PowerPoint to position them en masse. But that’s not great, either. Bear with me, folks. I’ll figure it out sooner or later.

Aug. 29, 4:00 PM – We moved from Everett back to Seattle before our flight tomorrow. As I’ve mentioned, traffic around here is even worse than Houston’s. This motel is just a few miles from the airport.

Husband is eager to get home. He’s got fall tomatoes planted. Me, I can’t imagine returning to the fiery, unrelenting heat of Texas after this brisk, exhilarating evergreen air. But we can’t have it all, can we?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Travel Diary – Day Six

Aug. 28, 9:22 AM - No scenery today! We’re socked in with fog. Nevertheless we’re thoroughly enjoying the glorious cool. Husband has the windows open to the 55-degree euphoria. I was up around 7 AM when it was even cooler, walking laps around the motel before coffee. Speaking of which, we’re about to head to the supermarket up the street. Last time we were there Husband noted they had a coffee collection I may wish to explore. Would I ever! Then maybe some more shots of local color.

Aug. 28, 6:45 PM – More local color, more mountain driving! Let me put together another PowerPoint photo essay here.

Travel Diary – Day Five

Aug. 27, 10:00 PM - Today I’d planned to post a gallery of local color. Between struggling with maps and GPS gadgets, however, I didn’t get nearly the shots I wanted. Well, maybe tomorrow.

I’m really blown away by the floral sense of this area. Even the more modest homes have showplace yards: sculpted greenery and brilliant colors. They have flowers here I’ve never seen before.

Seattle, Everett, and all the towns we’ve wandered through maintain bowers of flowers along roadways, colorful hanging baskets from light poles, and planter urns on every corner.
Sightseeing was the main thing today, but we also spent an unreal amount of time trying to find a steak house. I mean, we’re from the Gulf Coast, okay? Seafood – even that unique to the area – gets old after a bit. We found three steak places. One didn’t open until evening. The second wasn’t even there. The last was run like Burger King: place your order at the counter and find a seat. Not exactly what we had in mind.

So where did we end up? A Mexican restaurant. Yes. We Texans come within a stone’s throw of Canada and go to a Mexican restaurant. They’re everywhere up here. More than in Houston.

It was excellent, by the way.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Travel Diary – Day Four

Okay, I’ve got it now. The internet crashes every evening between 6:30 and 7 PM. I confirmed it at the front desk. So I’d better get busy here!
Aug. 26, 6:15 PM – Today we headed east out of Everett on US 2, the lower loop through the Cascade Range. Again the drive offered spectacular views, but this time we pulled off at Deception Falls to marvel at the rushing water and take a woodland hike.

One of the towns we cruised through was the Bavarian berg of Leavenworth, WA. Why that name for a totally Alpine-themed village is beyond me, but it was quite charming.

One thing we’ve noticed about this region is the abundance of flowers. They’re very serious about plant life around here. Since we’re old and rather exhausted from the day’s exertions, that may be all I do tomorrow: take pics of all the riotous vegetation.

Now let’s see if I can get this published before Comcast pulls the plug for the night.