Thursday, June 30, 2016

Out In Left Field

Here's a weird thing about my family. Whenever we take in a day at our hometown Mariners' ballpark, we invariably root for the other team.

It's not that we're anti-Mariners. We harbor no ill will to our local Seattle team. 

The truth is just that most of us have developed a love connection to another MLB franchise. My husband still wears his heart on his sleeve for his childhood hometown heroes, the Cleveland Indians. 

My first- and fourth-borns, huge baseball fans each, carry a torch for the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers, respectively. The story goes that each of them watched their future favorites in multiple World Series performances and fell in love. 

As for me, Chicago Cubs all the way. Back in my Windy City days, I spent many a pleasant afternoon in the friendly confines of Wrigley's left field bleachers and my loyalties since then are unquestioned.

So last weekend, when the aforementioned Rangers were in town for a series against the Seattle Mariners, we enjoyed a few games from my favorite section in the whole ballpark.

^ Looking up in left field.

^ A clean view of the left-field turf... and my scorecard. Love to capture the game data. plus it keeps me paying attention to the action on the field instead of wondering what to eat next. 

^ Friday night was Fireworks Night. As the players trotted off the field at the end of the game, 
we left-fielders were hurried out of our seats as well, since the pyrotechnics were about to explode right over our heads. 

* * * * *

Sure, we Streichers get a few weird looks from the hardcore hometown fans as we stroll in to the stadium with our mismatched team gear and clap for the away guys' runs. But, devoted as we are to our various teams, we don't mind being a bit different.

You might even say we're comfortable being out in left field. 

Last Day In Danang

It was our last evening in Vietnam, so my second-born and I decided to celebrate the sunset with one last motorbike adventure around Danang. 

We headed up the beach road toward Son Tra, then turned right across the tiny peninsula of land at the north end of the city.  Then it was up and over the biggest of Danang's four bridges, where we crossed the Han River. Midway, we opted to pull over for a view of Danang Bay, where the South China Sea lies strangely to the west. 

Our timing was perfect. 

^ There on the sidewalk of the busy bridge, we watched as the sun slowly dropped behind the Asian continent. Awestruck by the moment, we silently marveled over how we came to be standing in this spot, so far from home, and drinking in this glory.

^ Later that night, we wrapped up our final outing with one last trip across the illustrious Dragon Bridge, which is festive in its own right.

^ But nothing can compare to the sunset we saw on our last day in Danang.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Morning Sadnesses

Last night, life was just a bowl of cherries but this morning, I feel kinda sad

Some mornings, you are jolted abruptly from sleep. And instead of feeling fresh and excited for a new day, you already feel tired and used up. All the trials of yesterday still blaze in your brain; the frustrations and heartaches have only intensified during the night. 

That's a situation that calls for immediate action:

A bowl of leftover stir-fry, brought upstairs to be eaten in bed while it's still piping hot. 

Moments of peaceful non-thinking  while listening to the gentle deep breaths of a loyal and sleepy dog. 

Prayers for wisdom and peace. 

And a reminder that these burdens are nothing more or less than a part of life. They will lighten as the sun climbs higher in the sky; they may or may not return tomorrow. And that's okay. 

Then you shake off these morning sadnesses and begin the rest of your day. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Worth Every Penny

Last April, when Target launched a new design collaboration with Marimekko, I knew I would have to treat myself to a little something.

Designer collaborations are a thing where fancy pants big name designers dream up some special new products in their classic style that Target then produces on the super cheap and sells to the masses. 
And my obsession with Finnish designer Marimekko dates back to the early eighties and a set of pink bedsheets - one flowered and one striped - that literally made me smile every time I put them on my bed.

So after scrolling through a long list of Marimekko products on and strolling through the special brick-and-mortar displays, I settled on an iconic Marimekko graphic black and white outdoor rug.

I know. Maybe not the most practical or necessary purchase I ever made in my life. With a price tag in the range of $90, I felt a little guilty about blowing a C-note on a pure frivolity

But then this happened.

^ Ranger, it turns out, LOVES the concept of a Finnish outdoor rug.

In summers past, while his humans worked and played in the backyard, he would anxiously pace back and forth between a shady but secluded napping place under a bush and a sunnier spot with better sight lines that always left him panting and hot.

In short, my boy spent many a summer day feeling stressed, uncomfortable, and unsure of where to park himself.

^ Other sights and scenes from the back patio that Ranger cares less about.

But with our new Marimekko rug, my boy now snoozes in style and comfort, right in the middle of the action. 

And while I realize that a hundred dollars is a bit much to spend on what has essentially become a designer dog bed, seeing my good boy Ranger resting easy in these golden days of his life is well worth every penny.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Ranger's new post-walk trick: he stretches on these stones up by the front door to cool off and positions himself so he can drink out of the birdbath at the same time. 

"Your dog is so sweet! I mean it. He's such a sweetheart." 

I was barely within earshot when the woman approaching me on the sidewalk began her stream of compliments. And looking down at the friendly red fellow wagging along next to me, I couldn't help but agree. Little did this woman know, however, just how right she was. 

The day before, Ranger and I had been tailing another pair of walkers, a woman and a small brown and white dog. As we slowly caught up with them, the fluffy pup kept us on his radar: glancing back over his shoulder, slowing his pace to gawk at us, and barking on and off. There was a sharpness to his tone, but given that his head was about ten inches off the sidewalk, neither Ranger or I viewed him as much of a threat. 

As the gap between us closed and we came up on the heels of this pair, the woman finally turned around and spoke. "My dog would really like to say hello to your dog. Is that okay?" 

Well. Since Ranger was attacked and gravely injured by another dog a few months back, I've been outrageously protective of him and careful about his interactions with unfamiliar dogs. But this little dog hardly seemed dangerous so I said, "Sure." I paused and Ranger stopped beside me. The little dog approached and my gentle giant slowly lowered his head until the two dogs carefully touched noses.  

Snap. Snap, SNAP. 

Without warning or provocation, the little dog bit Ranger right in the face. Three times. Fast. 

Poor startled Ranger swiftly pulled his head out of danger and took three quick steps back, all in one fluid motion. He didn't bark or snarl or snap. He didn't make any forward movement. He remained perfectly silent. 

The little dog's owner shrieked in surprise, scooped up her dog as if he were in peril, and assured me, "He's never done anything like that before." Quickly, she walked off, her dog in her arms. 

I held Ranger's head in my hands as I gave his face a good looking over for wounds. It wasn't until I got home and found the blood smeared on my wrist that I realized he had a gash on the tip of his ear. Blood crusted in his fur and dripped down onto the grass as I ran to get a cloth to clean him up. 

Looking back, the whole incident was just further proof  of Ranger's gentle disposition and peaceful soul. I couldn't be more proud of how my dog has responded to his attackers. I couldn't be more grateful to have such a fine animal as my pet. 

And so, when the woman on the sidewalk told me one more time, "I've seen him out walking so many times and he is always so sweet," I smiled at her and nodded. But in my head, I was rhinking, "You just have no idea how truly right you are."

Monday, June 20, 2016

New Kid On The Block

On my last day in Danang, I decided to go out for a walk.

Ordinary as this may sound, it was quite the novel event. In Vietnam, one does not walk much of anywhere. 

One rides. Motorbikes are the preferred mode of getting around.

But just this once, I left my rented Nouvo parked in the shady garage, and headed out to take a walk around the block.

^ This year, my daughter has moved out from the older neighborhoods of Danang City and taken an apartment across the river on the new side of town. New hotels, resorts and spas springs up right and left, as the tourist industry capitalizes on the beautiful sweeping South China Sea beach, and my daughter's high rise joins a bustling new area of residential homes and flats. 

A tall stand of palms guards the entrance to my daughter's building. 

^ Purple flowers against the white walls of this villa are punctuated by red letters from a nearby hotel  floating against the blue sky. 

^ The first few homes are chic and deliciously designed. Geometric gates on stone pillars fringed with blooming vines offer a glimpse into this darling courtyard. 

^ Pink and white bougainvillea - seemingly the official flower of Southeast Asia - flow toward a tiny alley, one of the few visual reminders that this is not an elegant American neighborhood. 

^ Orange flowers against a blue wall with a pair of floating French doors. Though still charming, this residence on the other side of the block is older and less well kept than the others.  

^ Back to the ritzy side of the street. This grand home stands tall and proud, with the Vietnamese flag flying at the third floor balcony.

^ Another gorgeous modern courtyard draws me in. As much as I love the greenery and wooden vertical fencing, I really want to hop inside and see where that staircase leads. 

^ One of the few other high rises on the block, this steep, stark apartment canyon filled with steel windows and air conditioning units sets a somber tone. but the peekaboo window out front with some greenery poking through adds a touch of much needed playfulness. 

^ Now we're back where we began, at the foot of my daughter's building.

* * * * *

And if you enjoyed stepping around that block with me, here's another little treat I offer to you. 

You're welcome.

Spinning Gold Out Of Straw

A perfect portrait of my first family.

Another Fathers' Day rolls up on the calendar and I receive it with my usual ambivalence.

Social network feeds are bursting with adorable photos and amazing accolades for all the great daddies of the world. And mine, I impassionately note, was a total dud.

Well. Maybe that's not fair, my superego reminds me for the umpteeth time. He wasn't a drunk or a thief or a murder. He could have been worse.

So in the interest of forgiveness and compassion and recognizing that no one in this world is perfect, I once again challenge myself to offer the Top Ten Good Things About My Dad:

10. I could always tell he was smart. And based on simple genetics, I always figured that I must be smart too.

9. Not sure who convinced whom to make it happen, but together, my parents bought an old one-room fishing cottage and fixed it up to be my childhood home. I can't imagine growing up anywhere else.

8. He had a highly refined sense of order and always kept his socket wrenches, drill bits and screwdrivers in precise, immaculate, pristine order - lined up perfectly in drawers that were forbidden to me, but I peeked in just the same. Thus, my appetite for delicious OCD perfection was whetted.

7. Bridges, ore boats, Saturn rockets, Indy 500, flying saucers and slot car racing - he was interested in some things that interested me too and grew me in new directions.

6. We took exactly two vacations in my entire childhood - twice we visited Rocky Mountain National Park with side trips to the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, the United States Air Force Academy and a giant meteor crater in Arizona. But in those two trips, my love of travel was born.

5. He worked at University of Michigan and helped to develop the computer systems needed for the space race. I thought that was cool.

4. The story goes that during my first few months of life, I was quite the colicky little miss, and he rubbed my back in such a way to bring me peace.

3. As a toddler, I was fascinated with buttoning the tiny little buttons on the back pockets of his dress pants. It was my job to check them every morning and I took great pride in that responsibility.

2. For the most part, he was endlessly cheerful. I remember much good-natured banter and joking, telling us, "Hold onto your hats," as he drove round countless curves on our winding country roads and reminding us, "Write if you get work," when we headed outdoors to play. I definitely inherited that knack for running commentary and goofy gift of gab.

And the Number One Good Thing About My Dad:

1. After nearly a decade of shamelessly cheating on his marriage, instigating horrible fights at all times of day and night, and neglecting his duties as not only a husband but also as a father, he moved out when I was eleven years old and, barring a few awkward Christmas visits, did not ever come back.

* * * * *

And for all these things, I am grateful.