Friday, December 31, 2004


Well, we're back from Phoenix. Actually, we've been back since Monday afternoon, but I've been avoiding spending too much time on the computer. In the Seattle area, we're very enamored with ourselves as regards to our tech saviness. We tend to get reminded of this when we speak to friends or skelatives from other parts of the country who call us to just chat or, as if often the case, fix their computers. Frankly, I've been becoming a bit more skeptical of our tech world we've developed - not the technology itself, mind you, but rather how we use it and apply it to our lives both at home and at work. I wonder if we're moving forward in a meaningful way or if we're creating at artifice that one day is bound to collapse on us in big and small ways. This is a topic which I don't want to post about completely yet as the ideas are still fermenting in my mind, but it is an explanation as to why I haven't posted much lately.

Phoenix was wonderful, by the way. We stayed with Shawn's uncle Michael and his partner, Kathy, and their kids. The best gift this Xmas was seeing the look of shock on Shawn's grandmother's face upon realizing we were there. Our plane had arrived late Wednesday night and Virginia had gone to bed by the time that Michael had gotten us to his house. Shawn and I were up early the next morning, sharing a light breakfast and chatting with Kathy, when Kathy went off to get Virginia. They came out and the look on Virginia's face was precious. She was dumbfounded. She just stared at us for at least a full minute and Shawn said, "Hi, Gamma." Virginia continued to stare, not knowing what to say, not believing her eyes, thinking "This does not compute", and wondering what we were doing there as well as how did we get there. Shawn got up, went to her gamma and gave her a big long hug as she said, "Merry Christmas. We thought we'd come down and surprise you." Virginia hugged back tightly. The two embraced for at least a couple of minutes and when they parted, I could see a tear of joy in Virginia's eye. It was beautiful.

Michael and Kathy were great hosts. They were fun to be around. They both like to cook and Michael enjoys his drinks as well as his wine. The kids, Robbie and Grace, were well behaved, for the most part.

Thursday was spent hanging around the house and spending time with each other. We cooked and drank and talked a lot. We ended the evening around the fire pit in the back yard, but it was too windy, so the party died down fairly early. That was just as well as the real celebration and accompanying work was to begin the next day.

Friday, Shawn and I took the rental car Michael had generously gotten for us out to see Shawn's uncle, Tom. Tom is her stepfather's brother. He's a nice man who puts me to shame in the conversation department. He took us to lunch at a large Asian buffet place that had some good food. More important, we got to see Tom and catch up with him. Afterwards, we drove to the Desert Botanical Gardens, which are pretty cool. Shawn and I had each been there before, but not together. The place is filled with lovely and interesting species of cactus and aloe. It's a good place for a stroll. Bonus: we arrived with only an hour to go, so the admissions person let us in for half price! Kathy had invited us over to her parent's for dinner that evening, but we opted to spend a night out alone. So, I baked an apple pie and sent that with Kathy as a way of having some presence at her parents while Shawn and I went out to The Bamboo Club for dinner. We had been there before as well. It has a Pan-Asian menu and one killer Bloody Mary (made with Thai Chili sauce and hot Chinese mustard). When we got back, we helped Kathy out by wrapping the last of her presents for the kids and Michael.

Saturday was the big gift opening day. The kids were, of course, excited. Everyone got some nice gifts and all seemed pleased. Michael put me to work making breakfast and, with his assistance, I threw together a fritata and some toast. After breakfast, we did some prep work for dinner that night, then took Virginia for a walk, then I got humiliated by Robbie on his new X-Box games. Shortly before company arrived, we began pulling together dinner. Shawn made green beans cooked in white wine with almonds and mushrooms. I helped Michael with brining the salmon and putting it on his Texas smoker. Shawn and I through together an appetizer tray featuring cheeses and olives, smoked salmon, and - get this - smoked reindeer sausage. That last bit was Michael's contribution. It's a tad sacrilegious and I like that about him. The family arrived and we all shared a good time. I went out to the fire pit for a while, but I was sleepy and retired early, as did Shawn. The family was up until after 1AM.

Sunday, Michael had his oldest daughter and her family over. We had leftovers for breakfast (I got to taste my pie - it was good, but not as good as the apple crisp I made at home the prior week). Most of our meal was made up of leftovers, but one new thing we did was make tamales. I had never done that before, so I quite enjoyed it. Veggie and meat tamales were put together in assembly line fashion. They turned out pretty tasty. I'm going to have to make them at home sometime, now that I understand how to do them. It was another early evening for me. Shawn stayed up a little later, but she was having digestive problems, so she turned in early as well.

Our flight back was uneventful except for two things. First, our steward who read off the safety crap was pretty funny, though no one in the cabin seemed to notice except for Shawn and I. He said things like, "Pull the oxygen mask over your face and soon the nitrous oxide, I mean, oxygen, of course, will begin flowing." He was also quite helpful, pointing out as we got on the plane that the picture we were taking back (an old photo from the 50s of Shawn's grandfather training sled dogs outside of Anchorage, given to Shawn by Michael for Xmas) would fit in the portfolio compartment at the back of the plane. The second even was that our pilot flew us east and around Mount Rainier before landing. It was a bright, sunny, and clear day and the view was spectacular. I don't think I've ever flown in that way before. It was awesome. It was also a great feeling as I felt very much at home at that point.

When we got home, the cats were a bit skittish. Chaiyo was hiding behind some suitcases in our closet. We had to pull him out and show him that all was OK before he got back to "normal". The cats were out of food, which irked us, but all was well in the house. Two of my dear friends, John and Ellen, each had packages waiting for us when we arrived. We also had a book to read and a CD, so plenty to keep us occupied. Shawn clearly didn't want to do anything except sit and gel when we got back (she hinted about going out for dinner several times on the way home), so I threw together a pizza and a salad.

It was a good trip. Lots of sunshine, good food, and good company. We're lucky to have such thoughtful and nice folks such as Kathy and Michael in our lives.

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