Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Happy Holidays !!

Hello everyone !

Happy Holidays to you all. I hope that this season, and every season, brings you warmth, happiness, and lots of chocolate. Did I say that ? I meant joy. Yeah. Lots of love from relatively warm, not-so-sunny-right-now California.

As you may have already guessed, Scott and I will not be in Toronto this Christmas. The holiday falls on a Wednesday, and Scott has no more time off work. We have invited some friends of ours that also do not have family in the area for dinner. We call it our Orphan Christmas. It should be fun.

My summer was filled with many activities, some new and some old. I am still playing softball, and have added a few new sports to my arsenal of favorite activities. I played volleyball in an inter-company lunchtime league throughout the summer. My friend Meredith, who was a championship tennis player in high school, coached me in tennis. I have been bitten by the hiking and walking bug. I have enjoyed a few lovely hikes through some beautiful Bay Area parks. I have also participated in a number of fundraising walks in San Francisco, including the AIDS walk and the Light the Night walk for leukemia and lymphoma. I've also started taking Spanish classes. Que tal ? :)

Remember last year when I whined about how the Christmas stuff was on the shelf at the beginning of October ? Well this year, the commercialists have outdone themselves. The first day of the year that I see Christmas stuff is a day I'll call Christmas Push Day. This year's Christmas Push Day ?

August 15th.

That's right ! I saw Christmas ornaments at the main entrance of Long's Drugs on the 15th of August. It was 95 degrees outside, the brats weren't even back in SCHOOL yet, and here was the Christmas stuff, sitting there for the whole world to see. I went to Costco to look for a cooler for our nice summertime road trips, and all they had was Christmas decorations. Not one cooler was to be found.

Four months and 10 days to the event. Lord help us.

At least the commercialistic Christmas crap didn't get in the way of us celebrating a most excellent Halloween. This year, we decided to get into the spirit of the holiday and decorate our house a little. We set up a skeleton whose bones stick up out of the ground and whose head lights up and flashes. We put flashing eyes in the bushes, a strobe light, and a big light-up bat in our yard. Cobwebs went around our door. I carved a most excellent pumpkin from a kit I got at Wal-Mart. And the final touch was a spooky CD playing Halloween sounds, piped from a speaker taken from Scott's four-channel surround-sound garage stereo system. Some of the kids even complimented our decorations. One said "Your house is scary !" Glad it was. :)

Many of you have already celebrated it and forgotten it, but American Thanksgiving this year was the last weekend in November. Of course, since we were inundated with Christmas since August, Thanksgiving is more of an afterthought than anything else. But we brought the Thanksgiving spirit into our home. I put some cool mini-pumpkin and corn arrangements in our dining room, and a colorful turkey flag in our front window. When I went to the party store to buy Thanksgiving decorations, they were jammed into a small corner of the store, overrun by the massive Christmas displays. I absolutely REFUSED to buy any Christmas decorations until AFTER THANKSGIVING. So there.

I heard a rumor that some people have started putting BOTH Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations outside their homes. At the same time. Say it ain't so !

[see next post]

Green as they Come

I am happy to report that as of August, we are now official permanent residents of the United States. We received our Green Card approval after just under two years in the country. The Green Card process itself took 1 year, 8 months from first filing.

What a relief ! We no longer have to deal with border guards that question our every motion and motive. We have the freedom to work at any company we choose, even though we are blissfully happy at our current jobs. The biggest risk we took in moving down here was that we wouldn't get work authorization before Scott's time-limited work visa ran out. As it turned out, we got it a full 6 months in advance. We were lucky !

When it came time for us to get our passports stamped, we approached the task with dread. I'd heard horror stories of people lining up at the INS offices at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning, and waiting 6 to 8 hours to be seen. I asked my lawyer's office if this indeed was true. The paralegal advised us not to show up after 6:30am. She said that since our approval notice had a time range on it (8-2), we could take the notice to the information officer and ask if we had to wait in the big line or not. But she wasn't sure this would allow us to bypass it.

As instructed, we showed up in San Francisco just before 6:30am. The line, five people across, already stretched down the street and around the block. We looked at each other in dread and resignation. Good thing we had brought books.

I took the approval notice to the information officer as instructed, not expecting any miracles. The officer looked at our paper and informed us that we were in the wrong line. We had to go to the appointment line on the other side of the building. I gathered Scott and headed to the appointment line.

There were a grand total of 5 other people waiting.

All we had to do was wait for the office to open. Within 2 hours, we were processed and out of there. Since we had told our respective jobs that we would be gone all day, we spent a lovely day riding the cable car, shopping, and taking in a most excellent movie. Not bad for a day's work !

The INS told us it would take 3-12 months to receive our physical cards in the mail. We received them 3 weeks after our visit. The cards aren't even green. But they're cool. And they're proof of our legal status in this country.

In five years, we will be eligible for citizenship. We fully plan on pursuing dual Canadian-American citizenship when such a luxury is available to us.

[see next post]

Softball Update

Blind Confusion finished out another season, with somewhat disappointing results. We ended up fifth in our division, robbing us of a chance for the playoffs. For the summer and fall season, I have taken on a new team and a new responsibility coaching.

One of the Emergency Response Team members sent out an email shortly before the summer season asking if anyone would want to play in a Wednesday early-evening league. As to be expected with such a wonderful sport as softball, there was ample interest. Thus was formed the ERT softball team.

The team was put together by a very enthusiastic individual, but she lacked the in-depth knowledge of the game to coach. She asked for volunteers, and I stepped up. I assess the players, decide what positions they play, decide on batting order, and help them build their skills and knowledge of the game. It's a pretty daunting task for one person.

Coaching has given me a new perspective on the game and on managing people. I have to admit it is much more difficult than I had anticipated. Having so many people with varied preferences, and keeping them all happy, is a difficult task indeed. I have one player who is just excellent at both infield and outfield. I kept putting him in the outfield because I needed his talent there, but he decided he preferred the infield, and was very vocal in declaring this. I had no choice but to do what made him happy. To do otherwise would be counter-productive.

We didn't win any games in our first season together this summer. However, I was absolutely delighted at the constant optimism and enthusiasm from every member of the team. It was such a refreshing change from my Tuesday team, whose members tend to become frustrated and impatient when things don't go their way. I hate to admit it, but I had way more fun on the new Wednesday team than I did on the Tuesday team.

This fall provided another challenge for the ERT. I had 4 first baseman, one pitcher that could only make half the games, and no shortstops. A coaching nightmare ! I solved the problem by grooming one of our infielders (who normally played second base) as a shortstop. He is doing remarkably well in his new position. I've trained one backup pitcher, and another pitcher has come out of the woodwork. (He never told me he pitched before !) First base, and other popular positions, are shared between those who prefer them. And I'm not afraid to try people in new positions. They love it, and I see it as a learning and building experience for them. It's very satisfying.

The ERT won three games this fall season. I am absolutely positive that more wins are on the horizon. Of course, winning isn't everything, but it does make it a little bit more fun. :)

[see next post]

S#*@ Magnet

After a very interesting two weeks in September, I have given myself the dubious nickname of S#*@ Magnet. In those two weeks, I came across three in-progress traffic incidents within mere minutes of them occurring. Ironically, in all three cases, I was either going to or coming from softball games. There were two rollovers and one blazing car fire.

Rollover #1 occurred on Vasco Road, the windy mountain road that takes us from the freeway northbound. The two women in the car that rolled were very, very lucky. They came out barely scratched. I reached into the overturned car to retrieve their wallets and shoes, but that was all I could do. The CHP showed up and kicked all of us out who had stopped to help. Still, it was nice to know that I was able to help a little.

The car fire was an interesting event. I was driving up the 680 freeway, and noticed a car on the side of the road, ablaze. I always carry a fire extinguisher in my car (and I had replaced the one I'd used on that guy's truck a few months ago). So I stopped, whipped out the extinguisher and went at it.

Unfortunately, it was not enough. Three other people also spent their extinguishers, but the car was determined to burn to a crisp. The fire department eventually came and put out the fire.

The two people in the car were visibly and understandably agitated. I asked them how old the car was, and they said it was from 1985. I looked at them, grinned and said "Well, if you're going to go, you may as well go with a bang !" With that one little joke, their stress completely dissipated. It was an amazing transformation. Sure, their car couldn't be saved, but with my help, were able to dry their tears and laugh about it.

Rollover #2 was much more serious. I was heading onto the off-ramp for the softball park when I saw the car on its roof. There were no emergency vehicles on the scene. It was obvious that help was needed. I pulled my car into the shoulder between the off-ramp and the right lane, put my hazards on, and took my medical bag out of the trunk.

When I arrived on the scene, I found out there were two victims. A 40-year-old man, and his 10-year-old son. The boy was absolutely fine. He had a few scratches and that was it; he was being cared for by a bystander. The father was in worse shape.

He was lying on the freeway shoulder, having been pulled out of the demolished car by Good Samaritans. One person, a chiropractor, was already tending to him. I whipped out my notepad and paper and started taking down relevant information vital signs, signs and symptoms, medications, and so on. We assessed him for level of consciousness, took his pulse, checked his pupils. He was complaining of neck pain, and we were careful not to move him.

When the ambulance arrived, I had all the necessary information for both victims. The ambulance attendants took my notes, and then surprisingly, asked me to help them ! I held the father's neck and head straight while they did a secondary exam and put him on the backboard. The whole time, I was talking to him and reassuring him. Here he was, hurt, yet his main concern was his son. I just had to tell him over and over that his son was fine. They both were visibly shaken, but just the presence of all of us who cared enough to stop made a difference.

[see next post]

Grief, Sorrow, Loss

Out of respect for the patients, I normally do not talk much about the medical calls I receive as Team Lead for the Emergency Response Team. However, this particular one was so profound and affected me so deeply that I must describe it to you. This wasn't your ordinary medical emergency call. It turned out to be the single most difficult situation I have ever dealt with in my life.

I received a page stating that we had a medical emergency and that the patient was 'hysterical'. Immediately a few things ran through my head. Was it someone who had gone postal ? An anxiety attack ? A nervous breakdown ? I hurried to the building and found the conference room where the patient was located.

The patient, a woman, had just put her 4-month-old baby into a private daycare that day. When she called the daycare to check on her child, the daycare worker insisted on talking to her manager. The manager pulled the mother, and her sister who worked in the same group, into a conference room and gave them the most horrifying news possible.

Her baby had passed away.

4 months old, and its first day in daycare. For no apparent reason - the child had no obvious or existing medical conditions. There was just no making sense of it. The baby was fine that morning, and when the mother called to check on her, she was gone. The mother and her sister, obviously, went to pieces.

My co-lead and I arrived first, and went into the conference room with them. Medically, they were fine. We had the paramedics check them out, they asked a few questions, then left. But emotionally, they were a mess.

I comforted them, talked to them, got them water, and listened. They both cried on my shoulder. Even though this wasn't a medical call, we were there for them in their time of need.

Seeing their pain and their grief, and remaining composed through it all, was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. What can you do for someone who is going through something so unthinkable ? What do you say to someone who is on the verge of losing all hope in life ? I told them over and over that they would get through it. That it's ok to cry and grieve. That they had family and friends that loved them and that would help them heal. That life will go on, even though it doesn't seem like it right now.

We, as ERT, were there for them in their darkest time. We let them know that someone cared. It may not have been much, but it was probably the best thing anyone could have done for them at that time.

We were asked to leave the room when the father arrived, to give them time to grieve. We took our cue and left.

I remained composed as we slowly walked out of the building. When the fresh air hit us, we, too, went to pieces. My co-lead has three children of his own, and this hit way too close to home for him. Although I don't have children, I was affected in a similar way. We could do no more than lean on each other and cry. Both of us went home early that day; he, right away, I, on the early train.

To this day, we do not know the cause of death. The word SIDS was mentioned, but what is SIDS, really ? Just a bucket that they put all the sudden-death cases that have no apparent cause. Unfortunately, being in a position of support, that is the only closure I am allowed.

Hug your family a little closer tonight. Life is fragile; never take it for granted.

These experiences have made me realize that I have the ability to make a difference in people's lives. Whether I am putting out car fires, assisting with accidents, or just being there in a time of need, I can make a difference in someone's life. The Emergency Response Team is no longer something I volunteer for as a side-activity. It is now integrated into my very existence. It is a part of me, just as much a part of me as my sports, my work and my home life.

At the Emergency Response Team All-Hands party, I took the microphone and praised every single member of the team that was present. It takes a special type of person to volunteer for the ERT. It takes a unique personality to want to reach out and help others in their time of need. I am truly proud to wear that orange ERT vest, and to be a part of a team of so many caring people.

Last year, I was awarded the Outstanding ERT Member award. This year, at the All-Hands, I was honored with the Outstanding ERT Lead award. I proudly display both crystal plaques in my cube. Being a part of the ERT has changed my life, and has made a difference in the lives of many others. I am truly blessed.

[see next post]

Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York

Some of you may know that Sarah Ferguson (Fergie), the Duchess of York, is a spokesperson for Weight Watchers. She lost a significant amount of weight on the program, and now periodically tours around the US drumming up support and inspiration for current and prospective members. In September, she appeared in Sacramento, which is just over an hour away from [my city].

It was a most powerful and eye-opening experience. Sarah Ferguson is a happy, charismatic person, but we could all see the inherent shyness in her as well. She was so candid and honest about her issues with her weight, body image, and how others (including her family) affected her self-perception. It was very powerful to see a 'celebrity' of sorts getting up there and admitting to having deep-seated issues; the very same issues that us average Janes in the crowd had !

She mentioned a few incidents that were beyond hurtful. The press referred to her as the Duchess of Pork. One tabloid published a survey that said 82% of people would rather sleep with a goat than her. The reporter had the nerve to say to her that he was only joking ! And of course, the magazine that refused to run an article they had interviewed and photographed her for, because she looked too 'weighty' to them. How horrible. My heart went out to her for having to go through all this, and in the public eye.

She runs a children's foundation that sells dolls and uses the proceeds to benefit children across America. Their office was on the 101st floor of the World Trade Center. One of these dolls sat in the window and watched over the City for a long time. When the planes hit the towers, a fireman took the doll, put it in his helmet and brought it down. She had that doll (or perhaps one like it, I don't remember) present at the meeting. It was a true symbol of perseverance above all.

Towards the end of the meeting, a 9-year-old girl named Hayley put up her hand and asked Fergie what it was like to be royalty. She answered that royalty was about being yourself, helping other people, and putting other people ahead of yourself. She said it was about giving to others and helping them in their time of need.

Then, as if inspired, she gave the little girl the doll. I couldn't stop a tear from forming in my eye. It was so powerful to see her give such a symbol of freedom and perseverance to a wide-eyed, admiring young girl.

I left that meeting with the highest respect for Sarah Ferguson. She is a truly remarkable human being.

[see next post]

World Series: So Close, Yet So Far Away

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that my San Francisco Giants defied all odds this season. They won the Wild Card race, sending them to the playoffs. Methodically, they picked off Atlanta and St. Louis to advance to the World Series. I was absolutely ecstatic. Here was a chance for my local team to bring the ultimate honor to its city and its fans. The Blue Jays did it in 1992 and 1993. It had been a decade. I was ready to ring in that triumph with my new team, the Giants.

Game 6 of the World Series was the game that was supposed to be the final victory for the Giants. It was played in Anaheim. The city of San Francisco put up a nice-sized Jumbotron in a big clearing behind the Metreon complex. Hundreds and hundreds of fans braved the cool evening weather to cheer on their team. There were many cops milling around, but of course, nobody was misbehaving. The cops were doing little more than drinking coffee and watching the game. Everything was perfect.

I went to the City, along with many other die-hards, to bear witness to sure victory. I was ready. I had a cooler with soda and a Subway sandwich. I had my stadium blanket and jacket (San Francisco does get cold in October when it's dark). I had my Giants hat and camera. I was ready to watch the game, cheer the team to victory, then take to the streets and celebrate, cheering and dancing, with thousands of others. I was READY.

And they blew it.

When people talk about this World Series, undoubtedly what they will talk about is how the Giants gave up a 5-0 lead in Game 6 and meekly retreated into the shadows as Anaheim decisively trounced them in this game and in Game 7.

I was ready to ring in the World Series for the San Francisco Giants. I was ready to watch them defy all odds and bring home the ultimate victory to their city. I was ready to take to the streets with hundreds of fans and celebrate. Instead, all I could do was go home and mope.

I couldn't watch the news for 2 days afterwards. It was so depressing.

Next year ? Perhaps. But I'll never forget how close they came, and how they let it slip away like dry sand through their fingertips.

[see next post]

First In Place

In August, Scott and his friend Curtis made the trek from Dallas to Cleveland, Ohio for the annual national J-Body car show and races. Curtis, a tried-and-true car buff, built the fastest, craziest Cavalier currently in existence on this continent. He and Scott, virtual equals in their vast knowledge of automotive performance as well as goofiness, have worked together on this car for the past three years. When they race, Scott drives, complete with his professional-caliber racing helmet.

Last year, they came in second place at the J-Body drag races. This year, they were determined to do better. They trailered the car from Dallas to Cleveland (a two-day journey). I hopped a flight and joined them for the weekend.

When I told my coworkers I was going to Cleveland for the weekend, many of them looked at me strangely and asked "WHY ?" One friend described it as the "Armpit of America". It seemed that the only thing of interest to anyone was the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame. Not too enticing for someone who is into electronic music. But we were there to meet friends, socialize, and race cars. Everything else was secondary.

Some of our friends from Toronto made the six-hour drive to the event, as well as our friends from New York. We had a great weekend catching up with old friends and solidifying newer friendships.

And who do you think came in first place in the drag races ? You guessed it. Scott and Curtis. The trophy is proudly displayed at Curtis' house for all to see.

Even without the car show, the trip to Cleveland was worth the splendid evening we spent at an establishment named Dick's Last Resort. This was more than a bar, and much more than a restaurant. It was truly an experience.

We were greeted at the door by an employee wiggling his plumber's crack butt at us. When we told them we had a reservation, he said "I don't care, sit down !" Such is Dick's the place where insults are expected and politeness is shamed.

The menu was excellent, as was the quality of food if you could get past the fact that it was served in buckets. The server simply placed food and drinks on the table and walked away. I yelled after her "Which drink is the diet Coke ?" She yelled back "Multi-straw !" Sure enough, there was one drink with approximately 10 straws stuck in it. Quite obvious.

There were some patrons who were given very tasteful paper hats in the shape of condoms. Each hat had a special saying, such as "I Love Dick". I asked the server where one could obtain one of these special items. She responded by pulling a (real) condom out of her pocket.

What happened next is shocking, and not for the faint of heart. She stretched this rubber prophylactic between her hands, more, and more and moreā€¦ then placed it on her HEAD. That's right, on her head and over her eyes and nose. Even more shocking was what she did next. Hands at the rim, she began blowing out her nose. The condom inflated bigger and bigger until it extended approximately 1.5 feet from the top of her head. She proceeded to walk around the bar for the next 10 minutes like this, with this massive, inflated condom on her head, much to the amusement of the patrons. I have pictures. Email me if you'd like to see them.

[see next post]

Liberty and Justice for All

Our second trip since Toronto was a very nice surprise for Scott. Through the J-Body activities in Ontario and Ohio, Scott and I met a group of very cool guys from the New York area. Eric and James from Staten Island, and Al from New Jersey. When we lived in Toronto, they drove for 8+ hours, several times, to participate in J-Body events and hang out with us. They also drove for 9+ hours to get to Ohio. I figured it was time we made the effort to go and see them in their hometown. During our visit to Ohio, I put the plans in motion for a Labor Day weekend trip to New York.

I told Scott we were going on a trip for his birthday, but I wouldn't tell him where. He assumed we were going to So. Cal, because I'd always talked about going to Disneyland, Los Angeles or Pismo Beach. He continued to believe this right up until 2 hours before our flight. When I dropped the bomb that we were going to New York, he went crazy. He'd always wanted to visit James, Al and Eric, but didn't think we could afford it. My persistence and well-developed sleuthing skills made that possible. By flying into New Jersey and staying at a Days Inn 20 minutes south of the airport, we saved a substantial amount of cash. Gotta love the Internet.

Our weekend was one to remember. Almost one year before, to the day, I was sitting in a tour bus at the base of the still-standing Twin Towers with my sisters, marvelling at how two buildings could be so tall and still stand. I remember the tour guide saying that 50,000 people worked in those buildings. I wanted to take a picture, but the angle was all wrong because I was looking straight up at them. I told myself I would take a picture later.

I never took the picture. Two days later, the towers were destroyed.

And this weekend, one year and one week after the tragedy of September 11th, I stood at what was the base of the Twin Towers - now, a large hole in the ground, a void where a symbol of greatness once stood.

The mood amongst those who gathered there was somber and reflective. Many took pictures and video, some talked amongst themselves, some stood in silence. For me, and for many others, standing there was a time for reflection, prayer, mourning and even some tears. I knew that visiting the site of the greatest tragedy against the American people in my generation would be difficult. But this day, one year after I looked up at the massive towers from that red tour bus, I was ready for closure.

I leaned against the chain-link fence, closed my eyes, reflected and prayed. For all the victims of this deliberate tragedy. For all their friends, families, coworkers and those whose lives the victims touched. For all the brave firefighters and rescue crew who gave the ultimate sacrifice to save others. For the people of New York, the United States, and the civilized world, all of whom who have been affected by this act of pure evil.

I also prayed for the hearts and souls of those who feel that violence and death is their way to approval, justice and eternal life. I hope someday that God would show them the real truth; that violence and killing is never justified, in His name or anyone else's. Someday, I hope, people of all races and religions will peacefully coexist, accepting each other's differences without judgment or condemnation. And someday, I hope that the Palestinian people will be given back their home that was ripped from them with the sanction of the United Nations. I hope that they will prosper, and will be able to sustain themselves and feed their children. And I hope that they and the Israelis will find it in their hearts to forgive decades of violence, terrorism and injustice and coexist in peace.

Someday. Maybe in my lifetime. I hope.

We spent a most excellent weekend touring the city of New York, shopping, running go-karts and having a blast with our friends. Next year, they say, they will come and visit us.

[see next post]

The Biggest Little City in the World

Not to be outdone, Scott planned a little surprise for my birthday. Approximately three years ago, I saw a piece from a touring entertainment group called Tap Dogs on Just for Laughs. These guys are not your average everyday tap dancers. Far from it ! They are decked out in jeans and boots, stylish and downright hunky. And they can DANCE !

Their act is similar to Stomp. They create rhythms and moods by tap dancing. The piece I saw was them creating an entire musical track by tap dancing on the floor and hitting sound pads that each made its own sound, such as 'boom', 'tsss', 'clack' and 'whoop'. When I saw this piece, I vowed someday to see the Tap Dogs in person. I then promptly forgot about them.

Reno, dubbed the 'Biggest little city in the world', is a 3.5 hour drive from our house, just across the Nevada border. While dwarfed severely by Las Vegas, it still is a hopping town for shows, gambling, dining and nightlife. By accident, Scott found out that Tap Dogs were performing for a three-week stint in one of the theatres. We set out in November, adrenaline rushing, hopes high.

That weekend was the first storm of the year.

Going to Reno on Highway 80 is an interesting drive. One ascends up the Sierra Nevada mountain range for approximately an hour, to a top height of 6,000 feet. At those heights, the weather is much different than the moderate climate of the Bay Area. It was raining in [our city] when we left. By the time we hit 4,000 feet, it was a torrential blizzard.

California law requires the use of snow chains on all non-4x4 vehicles during periods of heavy snowfall. Although we had outfitted my car with our top-notch Pirelli Winter Ice snow tires, we were still required to stop and put on the chains. Grudgingly, we did so, while being passed by many SUVs with their wimpy car-like tires. Many SUVs have tires that are no better than those of cars for 'rideability'. But we, with our special snow tires, were made to put on chains.

You can't go more than 30 miles an hour with snow chains on.

Our 3.5 hour drive became 5 hours. We wanted to go to a steakhouse for dinner before the show, but ended up having just enough time to go to the local Sonic Drive-In. The only thing that saved our sanity was our new Sirius Satellite Radio systems in our cars. The variety of music and complete clarity for the entire trip kept us entertained for the long, long drive.

Tap Dogs were even more phenomenal in person than on TV. They tap danced up and down scaffolding and ladders. They did the piece with the music. They even tap danced in a trough of water. The first three rows of spectators were given rain ponchos, but I, in the 5th row, got a huge spray of water right in my eye from one of the more good-looking dancers. If any of you have a chance to see Tap Dogs, GO SEE THEM. You won't regret it. I do absolutely no justice to their greatness on paper.

[see next post]


Because we are not able to visit Toronto this holiday season, my parents were kind enough to send my sisters down here for a weekend visit. We had a fabulous three days shopping, socializing and touring. There were two great highlights of our weekend: the Winchester Mystery House and Cirque du Soleil.

The Winchester Mystery House was built originally by the Winchester family, owner of the rifle company. After the premature death of her husband and child, Mrs. Winchester was left with a large house and a $20 million inheritance. It is believed that she was a few cards short of a full deck.

The house itself is one big, massive maze. Construction on it continued for 36 years straight until her death, as she believed she was keeping the spirits of those killed by the Winchester rifles at bay. The workers built tiny doors, doors that open into walls, stairs to the ceiling, a window in a floor, and doors to the outside that open into 20-foot drops to the ground below. If the passages throughout the house were not roped off, it would have been very easy to get lost. The whole house, and the psychology behind the woman who built it, is fascinating, and creepy at the same time. Check out the whole story at the Winchester Mystery House website.

Cirque du Soleil was another experience, much like Tap Dogs, that must be seen to be believed. No email, newspaper article or camera can do even a small bit of justice to the phenomenal experience it is. The costumes, the colors, the lights and the music all combine to form a truly mesmerizing and entertaining show. There was humor, as well as incredible displays of human capabilities. I took a few non-flash photos with my camera, but the pictures are a mere shadow of the true greatness of this show.

GO SEE CIRQUE DU SOLEIL. You heard it from me. You won't regret it.

[see next post]

Time for Santa

As Christmas day approaches, it is time for us to clean our house for our upcoming guests. I am wearing a red Santa hat today, and will wear it tomorrow as well. Our Christmas tree is glistening and the gifts are under it, waiting to be opened. It will be a memorable day, even though we are not with our families. To all of you reading this message, I wish you and your families the very best for this holiday season, and for the year to come. May you all be filled with the happiness and joy that having friends and family brings. And may you all be given lots of chocolate. Did I say that ?



Left to right: Vicky, Santa, me, Diana. Taken 11/23/2002.
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