As I sit down to write this, I’m in my office hoping my crazy schedule will help distract me from the events of last night (I know a bit dramatic, but that’s me, whatev).
You were one of my family’s best friend; a fuzzy warm body in a little girl’s bed that would listen to her endless talking, a companion for a little boy as he watched scary movies, and friend when we came home from a bad day. You were always happy to see us with a wag of your tail and wet lick. You were always there to help clean up the little messes from dinner or accidents in the kitchen.

Yes you had gas (horrific gas that would clear the room), yes you were allergic to people (seriously), cats (of which we had 2), trees, grasses and dust mites, but you were our friend and companion and never complained.  Thank you for the countless hours on the floor playing with Ruby as life ran by. I’m looking through pictures and I can’t believe how many there are of you two hanging out, playing and running together (god this is going to be hard to do).

You had a rough road in life with all of the allergies, crazy food problems and seizures. We did all we could to make it a good one, a comfortable one, full of playing and love. I spent many nights sleeping on the floor with you when you were a puppy in the crate, holding you while you had your seizures, and helping the children learn that “tails aren’t for pulling”. You were the best dog ever,  crazy obedient with my stupid human rules, ever so patient with the children as they pulled, pushed, rode and rolled with you and you even put up with that ahole cat. We knew this day was  coming but you never really are prepared. Perhaps we just hoped they were wrong and you would grow out of it and things would be better. 

Tonight  I/we have to break 2 little hearts (and try to hold ours together) as I/we inform them you’ve gone to a better place; a place where there is no itching, no seizures, no injections; an endless river to swim in and an open field to run in. We’ll have little ones sleeping in our bed (or at least starting there), lots of tears and hugs as we tell silly stories about you.  Five years is too soon for you to go, but we know it’s better for you. 

In the end I’m glad you were in our lives and I am very thankful I was there for you. Namaste my dear friend, I love you.

Forever in our hearts and never forgotten.
RT Dec 2007 - Oct 2012
I want to start this by saying that Linda and I are in fairly good shape. She teaches Zumba multiple times a week, and I workout 4-5 days a week (well I was and will be again soon). This is important because it lends itself to later bits of this story.

We decided to use our Groupon (World Resort International 7 night stay to any where in North America, Mexico, or Hawaii - HELLA DEAL) to stay somewhere relatively local and have an adventure. Considering we live so close to good skiing and neither of us have had lessons, plus we have to be able to keep up with children, this is how we decided to spend our vacation... All four of us were going to learn how to ski.
I did a little research online and found a great deal at Mt. Bachelor in Oregon (Ski or Ride in 5). Basically for $200.00 per person you get everything you need to learn how to ski including 5 lessons with some of the best instructors around.

 We planned ahead and took the children out of school for a week.  We then headed out to Redmond Oregon, where we stayed at the Eagle Crest Resort (remember Groupon = WINNER deal). In order to do this we tortured the children by making them do 2 weeks worth of homework before we left, freeing up our vacation to be just that - a vacation!

In order to keep food and living costs at a minimum we picked a location that offered a kitchen, washer/dryer etc. We hit the local Fred Meyer multiple times to stock up on the essentials for the week. Talk about a money and time saver. The commute from the resort to the mountain was about 45 minutes, so being able to just get up and hit the road was important to us. Eagle Crest is in Redmond, OR which is surrounded by hiking trails that run along the Deschutes River, Mountain views and various wildlife. We loved it! The condos were very nicely decorated and well furnished.

After spending Sunday on the road and visiting Crater Lake (what a long crazy trip that was) Monday marked Day 1 on the slopes. We were all very nervous and anxious about taking our first lesson. The weather wasn't that great as it was snowing with light fog and wind. After finding our way up the mountain, we were fitted for boots, skis and poles....and we were off.  After talking to the instructors we decided it would be better for all involved if the children went with one instructor, Eric, and Linda and I with another, Laurel. I knew the children would listen better and I'd be way less stressed. The beauty of taking lessons during the week - No people! The Ski or Ride in 5 program included 5 group lessons. We decided to go Monday thru Friday in Mid Feb = PRIVATE LESSONS ! The children had their own instructor as did we.

We started with basic drills; learning to balance, slide and making nice slow turns on a very mild grade. We were riding on the "magic carpet" up the hill then slowly making our way down.  I was amazed at how fast the children picked it up and took off, especially Ruby. She was flying down the little hill, making nice turns and duck walking up the hill like she'd been doing it her whole life. Turns out all the rollerblading she's been doing in the house was good for something (she never takes them off, she eats dinner in them, does homework in them, etc). Tristen however, had a little harder time. We found out why on Day 2.

Linda and I made good, steady progress. There was a local reporter/photographer on the mountain that day doing a story on new skiers. I guess we fit the bill as he took plenty of pictures of us (more later on this). We graduated from the training hill to Mt. Marshmallow in no time. First we had to tackle the chair lift. Now we've been told repeatedly the chair lift is one of the hardest parts of the whole skiing experience. Getting on the chairs wasn't so bad, getting OFF the chair was a little different. Laurel did a great job keeping us (Linda) distracted and not looking down. 

We spent the rest of the lesson learning the intricacies of the Marshmallow green run. By the end of the lesson we were ALL very tired with wobbly legs. We called it a day and headed home.

Day 2

When we woke up on day 2 we were expecting to be extremely sore, but surprisingly we weren't (at all). It was strange, but this is where Linda being a Zumba instructor and me working out so much paid off. We didn't feel a thing. Needless to say we were very happy about this.

The drive up the mountain was a bit long since it was snowing so hard and visibility was limited. Once suited up and ready to go, we headed out to meet our instructors for the day. The children were introduced to Daredevil Darius and we were matched up with a middle-aged, humorous woman named Deb. Darius was fantastic with the children. We started the day by heading up the chairlift. This is when both Deb and Darius informed us that it was very obvious that Tristen had recently gone through a growth spurt. They were right! He had grown at least 4 inches over the last 6-8 months. Turns out if your child has gone through a spurt like that, their muscles have a very hard time keeping up with and coordinating with the bones. They see it all the time and know how to work with children in this situation. As we started down the hill, Deb took Ruby, Linda and myself, leaving Darius and Tristen to have some 1 on 1 ski time. They went over the basics again and really spent some time reviewing how to work with the skis.

Deb was a hoot! She was very outgoing and a great instructor. The weather deteriorated into almost a white out, dumping a ton of fresh powder on the slopes. We headed down the hill and split up into our normal groups.  Linda and I continued working on making clean turns, while the children tackled Dilly Dally Ally.

By the time the day's lesson was complete I was ready for some runs. Linda and Ruby were DONE. Tristen, on the other hand, decided to brave another run with me. This is when he decided to introduce me to Dilly Dally Ally. First let me explain what this is. Picture two columns of trees spread wide enough apart to form a semi half pipe shaped narrow run, full of little mogules, curves and bumps. Tristen had a lesson on how to make it through this tortuous cavern of hell. I had not. Let's just say I almost hit a few trees, ejected myself out up and over the side, then was spit out the bottom, on my bottom. While I can laugh about this now, during the run I was not a very happy camper. Needless to say, that was the last run of the day.

Day 3
On day 3 we woke up a little sore, but not bad at all, just some tired muscles. The major difference on this day was the WEATHER. Holy crap it was gorgeous! Truly a magnificent day on the mountain. It was crazy busy with local peeps taking advantage of the sunshine and the fresh powder from the night before. The weather was so nice, we all ended up stripping off our jackets for the day.

The children were assigned to yet another good instructor, Ray.  By the end of the day Tristen was way more confident and skiing much better. Ray was also able to get "Ruby the Rocket" down Dilly Dally Ally. Our instructor for day three was Eric (the same Eric the children had day 1). He was informative, and took the time to really explain things in detail to us. By now we were doing very well.

As you can see the lessons are really paying off. What's funny is the difference in the way Linda and I ski. I tend to be faster down the hill making sharp turns, while she takes her time gently gliding down the hill making perfect 'S's. We took morning lessons so we could spend the afternoon skiing. By the end of the lessons we were ready to take our first family trip up the lift. Tristen and I were the first to rocket down the hill while Ruby and Linda just took their time. We spent the better part of the afternoon just riding and skiing. One note worthy incident happened as Tristen and I were on our final run. He and I were having a good time when I noticed a little person had fallen in front of me down the hill a bit. I quickly calculated my turns and figured I could avoid her and the person she was talking to. I guess she saw me as well and decided she needed to try and crawl out of my way. Well, that didn't work out very well as she moved right into my path. I barely missed running her over, all the while crashing to avoid her. I'm sure it looked worse than it was, but my knee wasn't happy afterwards. All's well that end's well. We packed up and headed home after hours of lessons and free skiing!

Day 4
Day 4 was just crazy.
First off, we were in the local paper and all the ski instructors saw it.  They even had the article posted in their office. The story itself was about one of the ski instructors and the reporter, but all of the pix were of mi familia, see for yourself - Bend Bulletin (be sure to check out all the photos). Secondly, the weather was horrid. It was raining and sloppy all over the mountain.
Lastly, it was school day on the mountain. There were bus loads of children all over the place, This also represented the first day we had other non-St.Clairs in our "group" lessons.

There were so many children of varying ages, Tristen and Ruby ended up in different group lessons with children their own ages. While he wasn't too excited by this, Tristen received his first lesson with poles. He found the poles to be distracting and felt they just got in the way. Ruby was assigned to a group with other little girls.  As it turned out they weren't so nice, but she managed to hold her own, and had a good time despite them.

Once again, Linda and I were assigned to yet another good instructor (forgot her name).  I especially liked the way she would ski alongside/behind us and give us on the spot instructions to help correct problems as they were happening. She also carried a little goggle squeegee that came in very handy. Part way through the lesson it was time to move off the Green runs and over to Blue. This was a bit nerve racking at first, especially given the weather. At the top of a run named Carnival, I got my first introduction to a Pine. I tried to turn one way and ended up going the other way right in to that old tree. Oh well - it happens. The fog started rolling in making visibility even worse. Turns out that wasn't so bad, as it kept a lot of people off the mountain and helped us not  see how steep the runs were. These more challenging runs were a nice change of pace, although my legs were being pushed a little more. By the time lessons were over we were soaked, and with the change of runs our legs were DONE. I also spent a bigger portion of this day on my arse. For some reason I just kept falling and running into the instructor. At one point my skis were crossed, I was bent over and just slowly sliding right in to the instructor AGAIN. Linda still gets a laugh out of that.

Here is a little tour of one of the Blue runs we did,  It is shown here in MUCH better weather than we had (we obviously didn't take this video).

Day 5

Graduation day - Another fantastic day on the mountain. Being that it was the Friday before a 3 day weekend, it was a bit busier than earlier in the week. The weather was awesome for our morning lessons.  Again we had an actual group lesson (with the same people from our last class). The children were again split up by age which worked out perfect.

Tristen and some other older boys in his group went crazy. They actually left the east side of mountain and skied some pretty advanced runs on the main slopes.  They also traversed along a few connector paths between the runs (Pine Martin, West Village Getback, etc.)  Below, Flat Stanley is standing below some of the beginner runs. It looked and sounded like they had an amazing day on the mountain. Ruby had fun with her group as well. They spent a lot of time maneuvering over the bumps and grooves that make up Dilly Dally Ally (a.k.a. the Crack run for children).

Linda and I were matched up with an instructor referred to as Orange Coat Dave. This is the Orange Coat Dave from the newspaper article we were featured in above. He really pushed us since it was our last day. We spent the entire day on the Blue runs, still trying to perfect our turns. By the time we did our last run of the day Linda had had enough. Her right knee was getting very tired (I can see how after 5 straight days of skiing). Dave decided to push us a little further by taking us on an advanced run known as Rooster Tail. This was to teach us how to ski down extremely steep runs or parts of runs. As we approached the run we began hearing a lot of crying and screaming. Turns out a dad was trying to teach his young son this same thing, only he was having nothing to do with it. He was part-way down and not moving. So now we are having to head down this fairly steep, fairly narrow run while trying not hit this poor child or his father. The lesson was all about making very short and sharp, full 1/2 circle turns to control your speed. We successfully made it down to the next run (although I almost lost it at one point). What an amazing feeling to know that we went from first time skiers to being able to make runs like that!  By the time lessons ended we decided to make 2 more family ski runs before calling it a day/week. We were all very tired, with sore/tired legs and ready to just be done on skis.

All in all, this was one of THE best vacations ever! We all had an exceptionally good time doing something that I hope we continue to keep up with. I simply can't recommend the Ski Ride in 5 Program at Mt. Bachelor enough. The people were friendly, the instructors were awesome, and the whole experience was just fantastic!





What is Fear?

According to Wikipedia:
"Fear is a distressing negative sensation induced by a perceived threat. It  is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such  as pain or the threat of danger. In short, fear is the ability to recognize
danger leading to an urge to confront it or flee from it (also known as the  fight-or-flight response) but in extreme cases of fear (terror) a freeze or  paralysis response is possible. Some psychologists such as John B. Watson,
Robert Plutchik, and Paul Ekman have suggested that fear belongs to a small set  of basic or innate emotions. This set also includes such emotions as joy,  sadness, and anger. Fear should be distinguished from the related emotional  state of anxiety, which typically occurs without any certain or immediate  external threat.
 Additionally, fear is frequently related to the  specific behaviors of escape and avoidance, whereas anxiety is the result of  threats which are perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable.It is worth  noting that fear almost always relates to future events, such as worsening of a  situation, or continuation of a situation that is unacceptable. Fear can also be  an instant reaction to something presently happening. All people have an  instinctual response to potential danger. This emotion is described as fear and  it is pre-programmed into all people. Fear, whatever its source, can become a  controlling factor in a person’s life."

Fear was the topic of a meeting I was at last week and it got me to thinking. When we're children we fear the dark, the boogie man, falling off our bikes, etc. When we're teens/young adults we fear not being accepted, being abandoned (and yes I think we all have this inert fear), what that girl (or boy) in Homeroom thinks of us. As we enter adulthood we start to fear the future and what happens if we don't succeed, what if we don't know what we are going to do with our lives, being alone, etc. When you're parents you have fears (rational or not) about yourselves, your marriage (if we choose to go down that path) and your children. I remember when we brought my son home that first night, we sat on the couch crying, asking ourselves "how can they let us just bring this little child home with no training, no one to step in and keep him alive"; quite comical to look back on now (little did we know "help" was on the way, in the form of in-laws and SLEEP (every new parent's hero) ). We fear what to do with our children;  education, too much TV or electric babysitter, over protect or let them be free, all those moments when you stop and think "damn there's a future counseling session waiting to hppen". We constantly ask ourselves if we are doing the right thing. Then as they get older and start down their own path, we realize... did any of that matter? They are who they are, and we can only help them so much.

I think the thing about fear is what we choose to do about it. A lot of people choose not to deal with it, not acknowledge it or just ignore it. Some people internalize it, or mask it with other emotions. Personally I've masked it or just not dealt with it. I don't think I've thought too much about it until lately.

I've always wanted to paint, write, cook, be a good husband and parent, and be successful. But the fear that my paintings would look like something done by a 4 year old with finger paints or that the expensive turkey I just bought would come out tasting something like from Christmas vacation

has, in the past, kept me on the sidelines. But it's also what drives me to pick up the paint brush; get in the kitchen; break out my laptop, logon and put these words to print (so to speak). I think It's also what drives me to sit  hour after hour talking to a complete stranger.

Over this last year I've done quite a few things I've always wanted to in hopes to bring these fears to the surface and put them behind me. I've also made a  few decisions that I didn't think I would have the courage to make let alone  talk about. 
  • I will paint, and post my paintings in my online. I'm very self critical, but it's a learning experience,right. Paints Album
  • I have quit drinking (long story for another day).
  • I will write (here mostly). Normally I have Linda, my sage editor and grammar checker, keeping me from sounding like a baboon chattering away behind the keyboard; however this is not "our" rambling blog now is it.
  • I will cook things I've never made, along with things I have. I want to impart my passion for food, cooking  and being in the kitchen to those that are forced to eat the outcome (or at least suffer through a taste test).. and you know who you are.
  • I will be more assertive and not apologize about it... after all what's the worse thing someone will say: no, piss off, leave, stop - none of that really matters.
  • It's OK to be wrong and admit it; hell it's actually helpful (don't tell Linda I said that). I see it everyday, people can't admit it, won't admit or worse and it drives everyone around them mad.
There are more, but those are more personal and don't need to be put on paper for the world to scrutinize.
I've come to realize there are more irrational fears driving my decision making process than I once thought. Now the question is what to do about them.

What are you afraid of and better yet, how do you going to deal with them?
As much as I complain about crappy weather here in Seattle, I must say I LOVE the fall. It's a a beautiful time of year. It's nice to bundle up and walk amongst the colorful trees, or listen to the rain and wind beat against the house. Now granted ask me again in January and I'm sure I won't be so happy, unless of course it's snowing :)

That also means it's close to Thanksgiving, and my time to be in the kitchen for days and days doing what I love. This year will be a little different and won't feel the same, but should be just as fun (I hope). Guess we will just have to cross that bridge when we get to it.