Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chasing Snowflakes

first snow

Kona, last year.  Her very first snowfall.  She was pretty thrilled about it.  She ran circles around the yard, trying to catch snowflakes, and I’m sure she could have kept it up all day.

This is my favorite time of year-there is that excitement in the air that makes me feel like running laps too.  But my energy will be spent on shopping and baking, wrapping presents, writing Christmas cards, and decorating.  Lots to do, but I don’t mind.  I love it all!

As this most magical of seasons gets underway, I wish all of you the joy of chasing snowflakes.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ice Skating


The year I was in the 10th grade was the year I learned to ice skate.  I remember going to the local ice rink with a friend of mine who aspired to be an Olympic figure skater.

First we would stop off at her house and she would let me borrow one of her little skating dresses.  She even gave me a pair of ice skates she no longer used.  As she’d gotten better at skating, she had gotten better skates.


For a couple hours, lost in that world of ice, I would practice staying upright, while my friend skated circles around me, spinning and doing the occasional double axel, or some other skating stunt. After several weeks, I was quite comfortable on the ice.  I never learned to do any tricks other than skating on one foot, but I still remember the exhilaration of skating around the rink as fast as I could go.


I had a tight little group of friends that same year, and all of us went to the rink every so often, as did the youth group from the church that I belonged to.  The worst accident I can remember is that a boy fell down and some other kid skated over his finger. Mostly I remember how the ice rink was one of  my favorite places to be-the brisk coldness of the ice, the rock music blaring over the loudspeakers, the laughter shared with my friends.


My family moved at the end of my 10th grade year-from Arlington, Virginia to Puyallup, Washington-and I don’t remember ever ice skating again.  I kept my skates for a while and eventually gave them away.

skating sailors

From time to time, I miss those ice skating days, but now that I’m older, I certainly don’t miss all those spills I took on the ice.

ice skates and red bow

I bought these skates last year, to use in my Christmas decorating.  Still, if I loosen the laces enough, and wear the right socks, they just about fit…

Did you ice skate as a kid?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving greetings

Today, as I am thinking of all the blessings I have to be thankful for, I count each and every one of you, my dear readers.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and may you be richly blessed today, and always.

Love, Valerie

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Arriving in Style

train train

Back when I was still a college student, I decided, one year, to have an adventure and take the train home for Thanksgiving.  With romantic visions of club cars, and steamy railroad station platforms in my head,  I laid out the clothes I intended to pack.  I set aside my travel outfit.  A skirt and sweater, sensible heels, and my long wool peacock green coat.

Valerie!  My friend Heidi said.  No one dresses up to ride the train anymore!

But I still did.  And yes, I was in the minority.  As for the actual trip, well-I got to Tacoma just fine, but not in the manner I would like to have been accustomed to.

I often feel like I was born into the wrong era.  And the way train travel has changed over the decades is just one more reason why.  Sure, it is still wonderful to travel, by any means, to see family and celebrate a holiday as wonderful as Thanksgiving.

But just imagine what it would have been like to get to your destination like this…

train car

Champagne cocktail, anyone?

Monday, November 21, 2011

After Dinner Wisdom

fortune heart_thumb[2]

Two fortune cookies.  Two possibilities. 

Amy told me to choose first.  I debated for a second, and made my decision.  Wow, I thought.  What a meaningful and timely fortune!  I’m going to hang this little piece of paper up where I can see it every day.  Have it become my mantra of sorts, because it’s true.  To be able to follow your heart is the key to happiness, in my humble opinion.

I was distracted from these inspiring thoughts by the crack of the second cookie.

And then I read Amy’s fortune…

fortune luxury_thumb[3]


I could have  lived with that.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Writing Lesson


A few evenings ago, I was sitting at my computer, ostensibly working on my NaNoWriMo work in progress, but I was really watching the stiff breeze outside scatter thousands of leaves in every direction.  Kind of like words.  Lots of possibilities, but I could not seem to choose the right ones.

I feel like baking something,  I announced to Amy. Something like pumpkin bread.

Since Stuart was already headed out to the store, to roam the aisles in search of a dinner idea, Amy offered to go along and get the necessary ingredients for the pumpkin bread. 

You stay, mama, she told me. Try to get your writing done.

I continued to stare at the leaves, thousands of them, and I realized that I needed to embrace  the luxury of NaNoWriMo:  That all words are good words. The goal is quantity, and not quality, so much.  This is an uncomfortable concept for me.  Normally when I write, I tend to choose words carefully, and use them very sparingly.

It wasn't long before Stuart and Amy were home, and I was actually writing away.  Amy called to me from the kitchen.

Come here mama, I have a surprise for you!

A reward?  For working so hard?  I imagined the possibilities.  Chocolate perhaps, or some flowers?

And then Amy handed me a butternut squash.

I know how much you wanted to grow these in the garden this year, and how disappointed you were when you had actually planted acorn squash instead, so I thought you would really like to have this.

Her face was beaming.

A lot of sentiments were running through my mind just then.  That I love my daughter with all my heart, and any kid who picks out a squash as a surprise present is pretty darn special.  I am already imagining how good that beautiful butternut will be, cooked with a little brown sugar and butter, and I realize something else.  That finding the right words isn’t really so hard, after all. 

Now when you have a butternut squash to inspire you.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Guest Blogger: My Daughter Amy


This is an essay Amy wrote for her Sophomore Honors English class.  It makes me more than a little proud.

Veterans: For Sale?

Each year on the 11th day of the 11th month, people across America observe a day of remembrance. Veterans Day is supposed to be a day of remembrance; a day to remember all those men and women who have served or are serving in the armed forces. It was never intended to be a day for people to flock to the stores in search of good deals, or a day for businesses to make a few extra dollars. The real meaning is being lost—obscured by the “Veterans Day Sale!” posters plastered all over store windows. If they aren’t torn down soon, the idea of remembering veterans will be replaced by the idea of buying and selling.

Originally called “Armistice Day”, November 11 was a day to celebrate the end of the First World War and commemorate those who fought in it. It was later renamed “Veterans Day” and the commemoration extended to all veterans—past, present, and future. Unfortunately, there was another, bigger change. Businesses began to see this day as a time to advertise sales, attract customers, and make more money. People started associating this noble occasion with terms akin to “Veterans Day Sale! 50% Off” and “Big Savings This Veterans Day!” However, the commercialization didn’t stop there. Several years ago I was at Fred Meyer’s around the 11th, and there was a rack stuffed with American flags, some spilling onto the floor. There was a sign on this rack which proclaimed “Clearance-Flags 50% Off.” Is this right? Are American flags, the symbol of our country, so insignificant that they can be crammed onto shelves and dropped on the floor for the purpose of putting a few extra dollars in someone’s pocket? This was not the idea in mind when the 11th day of November was christened Armistice Day, nor even when it was renamed Veterans Day. It was not meant to be a day of making and saving money, or a day to sell flags at half price. It was a day to remember.

Veterans Day is a day set aside to honor the men and women who have served or are serving in our armed forces. These veterans have given us the freedom to live our lives, even at the cost of their own. This day was set aside to remember these brave people and pay tribute to the sacrifices they have made for their fellow countrymen, and yet they have made it into a day of big deals and big savings. We are forgetting that the real purpose of Veterans Day is not the sales in the stores, but the salute to our veterans who defend this piece of land we call home. My great uncle fought in WWII and was killed while imprisoned by the Japanese. He fought for his country alongside millions of other men and women. For the sake of all veterans and their memories, we cannot forget that the reason for Veterans Day, is the veterans. The name “Veterans Day” helps to remind us that this is a day belonging to veterans, as well as a day to show them that they are not forgotten. Let’s hope that in years to come the name of the 11th day of the 11th month is not changed again, or that if it is, it does not become “Sale’s Day.”

We cannot afford to forget the true meaning of Veterans Day. It holds too much importance to become a date of barely remembered significance. This holiday pays tribute to the very people who make it possible for us to live the lives we do and give us or freedom. Forgetting or dismissing the meaning of this day would be like saying “veterans aren’t as important as saving money,” but veterans are important. If there were no veterans, there would be no United States of America or, for those people who would rather observe the occasion with sales, Veterans Day sales.

The 11th day of the 11th month was designated a holiday as a way to remember the veterans of WWI. Now it is called Veterans Day, but the idea is still one of the remembrance of veterans. However, the shadow of commercialism is falling over this date as it has many others, and is threatening to obscure its true purpose. We must make sure that Veterans Day never loses its meaning, for that is one far too important to lose. As it stands, we are far too close to saying “don’t forget that sale” instead of “don’t forget that veteran."

Photo credit:  Alan Berner

Friday, November 11, 2011

No Sacrifice too Small

Veteran's Day_thumb[1]

It will forever seem like a cruel twist of fate:  That my Uncle Pete missed the arrival of the American forces in Manila by just some 50 days.  When the Bilibid prison camp, where he had been interned for nearly 3 years, was liberated in those first few days of February 1945, my uncle was already gone.  He, along with over 16oo other men, had departed on the ill fated voyage to Japan, shipped out December 13, 1944.

50 days.  A length of time that might very well have made the difference between my uncle becoming a veteran of World War II, instead of the casualty that he was.

I’ve read about the guilt that returning veterans, of any war, often feel over the fact that they were lucky to survive and return home, when many of their buddies did not. They wonder, Why was I the lucky one? And, Why was the other guy asked to make the ultimate sacrifice, and not me? In reading the memoirs of men who knew my Uncle Pete, they asked themselves those same questions. 

But sacrifice comes in many forms.  I know that every man and woman who has served our country has paid some part of the price that has bought the freedoms we enjoy today. Our veterans need to know that just as they will never forget that they were the “lucky ones”, we will never forget what they have done for us.

To all of our veterans on this day, and forever-

Thank You!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

When a Pet Dies

This past week has not been fun for Amy.  Usually healthy, she caught one of the  “bugs”  going around school and missed three days.  Yesterday, finally, she was able to go back to school.  She made it through the day, but was pretty tired yesterday afternoon and evening.

And then this morning, Amy really didn’t want to go to school again.  She woke up tired, and the thought of a full day of classes seemed overwhelming.  I gave her the option of staying home-and it helped her rally herself and make the decision to go to school anyway, and finish out the week.  I promised her a nice long and relaxing weekend to completely recuperate and catch up.

And then, as I was saying goodbye to Amy this morning, we noticed that Amy’s pet parakeet Coral was not looking too good.  She didn’t seem to be able to fly, but clumsily maneuvered around  her cage using her feet and beak.  The slightest exertion seemed to exhaust her, and she would pause, close her eyes and rest, all the while trembling.  Amy was visibly upset when she headed out the door to school, but I told her not to worry.  I promised I would take good care of Coral today.

But as I write this, Coral is sitting on the bottom of the cage, and I  know what is coming.  Coral is going to die.  And even though  Amy is a “big” girl now-she’ll be 16 in just under a month-she is going to be very, very sad when she gets home.  Because the loss of a pet, no matter how small that pet may be, is still a loss. 

It’s one of those things that happens in life.  I just wish it didn’t have to be this weekend.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mug Shots

There is no shortage of coffee cups at my house.  When I pour that first mug of steaming heaven in the morning, I could choose one of the lovely coffee cups we’ve collected on our trips to Hawaii.  I love these mugs.  Every time I look at them I remember it all.  Palm trees, sandy beaches, tropical flowers, coconut shrimp…

Or I could use my custom For the Love of Pete mug.  It’s my choice of cup when I have coffee out with my friend Paula on Fridays.  I figure a little advertising never hurt anyone, and using this cup is so much more practical that wearing a sandwich board…

And then there are these beauties.  These cups and saucers are among the few remaining pieces of my mother’s wedding dishes.  They are classic 50’s style-and the pattern is called Caribe by Carlos Montez.  How I would love to have a whole set some day, and there is something so sophisticated about drinking coffee, or tea from a cup and saucer instead of a mug…

This however, is the mug that I search for each morning.  I can’t explain my attraction to it, other that I just seem to find it really pleasing to look at.  It’s a Fiesta ware mug in the color periwinkle.  Normally I’m a green person, and I have Fiesta mugs that are green.  I don’t know, there is just something about this mug…

So tell me.  Do you have a favorite mug that you like to  drink your morning coffee or tea out of ?  Or will any cup do, as long as it doesn’t leak?

Friday, November 4, 2011

For the Love of Pete

Roly portrait 

I’m reposting this today-I wrote it almost 3 years ago and thought I should give it a bump .  Since I first posted this, I’ve also learned how to scan photographs, so they are easier to see.  I continue to crunch out words for NaNoWriMo and at this moment I have around 8,5000.  I am also taking care of Amy today, as my darling daughter is home sick.  Here’s wishing all of you a wonderful weekend!

Baby July 1 1914

with Grandmother

My uncle, Roland Erich Going, July 1, 1914-January 9, 1945. The origin of the nickname Pete remains a mystery to this day.

Naval hospital Honolulu 1936 Pete at Pearl Harbor. Pete enlisted in the navy in 1934 and became a pharmacist's mate. He was sent to Pearl Harbor for his first duty assignment. He adored Hawaii. He was transferred to Manila, Philippine Islands in 1940.

with Adeline Manila 

Pete and Adeline. A love story doomed from the start. Manila fell to the Japanese in January, 1942 and Pete was taken prisoner, as was Adeline. In May of 1942 Pete was moved to the infamous Bilibid prison camp. Because of his carpentry skills, he was given the job of making wooden grave markers for prisoners who died.

Christmas card envelope

Family Letters envelope 

After Pete was taken prisoner, his family began their long and agonizing ordeal of not hearing from him and not knowing his fate. Letters written to him during this time were returned.

hidden letter 

A note Pete secretly wrote and kept hidden at Bilibid prison. He left this note behind at the camp when the Japanese moved the prisoners out of the camp around Christmas Eve 1944, and loaded them on transport ships known as hell ships, so called because of their horrible conditions. The prisoners were to be sent to Japan to be used as forced labor. While Pete was aboard the Enoura Maru, the second hell ship he had been on, the US bombed the ship. They were unaware that the ship contained allied prisoners of war. Pete was killed, along with many other men. Pete's note was found by the American  forces when Manila was liberated a short time later.


My father visiting the grave of his brother Pete around 1950. Pete is buried in the beautiful Punchbowl Cemetery on the island of Oahu. In a final token of love by a father for his son, my grandfather chose Hawaii as Pete's final resting place. My grandfather was given the choice of having Pete buried in a local cemetery where he could have visited his son's grave, but instead chose the place Pete loved best. Towards the end of his life, my grandfather was able to visit Hawaii and finally pay his respects to his son.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

No Time for Dilly Dallying


A few days ago, I signed on with NaNoWriMo.  As many of you already know, it’s a 30 day writing marathon (November 1-30) where the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Achieving that final goal of 50,000 words  averages out to having to come up with approximately 1667 words per day. 

In typical Valerie form, I’ve already written close to 5,000 words.  I am so determined to finish NaNoWriMo that  I am trying to write as much as I can during these early days.  Those 50,000 words are nipping at my heels, and I want to get a good start by exceeding that daily number,and leave myself some wiggle room in case, for some reason, I can’t write on a given day.

It seems overwhelming right now, but like any big task, just jumping in and doing the work is my best strategy.  It works when I decide to paint a room, or can 50 pounds of peaches, or whatever.  At some point during the project, I know the balance will shift from what I have left to do, to what I’ve already done, and the end begins to come into sight.

I won’t be blogging as much in the next four weeks, but I’ll still be reading your blogs.

Wish me luck.  And for those of you doing NaNoWriMo as well, good luck to you.  We can do this!