Friday, December 10, 2010


Last week, we lost a remarkable young man, Nathan Larson, in horrible tragedy. I'll start with two links: a news report about his accident and his obituary.

I unfortunately didn't get to know Nathan very well. He had only been a member of my Toastmasters club, Hog Heaven in Moscow, Idaho since this summer. He'd given five speeches; actually, he was scheduled to give his next speech this very week.

I heard about Nathan's death at church, when a deacon "announced" it during the prayers. My initial reaction, of course, was shock and disbelief. After mass was over, I even approached the deacon to make sure it was the Nathan that I knew, and after talking to him, I was fairly certain that it was. Then I went home, and true to my form, I researched it right away. Actually, I was looking for a picture, but didn't find one, but again was fairly certain that it wasn't another young man with the same name.

I'm Vice-President of Education for my club, so I sent an email to everyone informing them of our loss. I kept checking my email all day, hoping against all hope that we'd get an email back with something like, "It wasn't me! I've been dealing with this all weekend!" But alas, that email never came.

As a counselor, I'm full aware of the stages of grief. I know that on that first day, I went through denial and bargaining. I also know that the grieving process isn't neat or orderly. As I've said, I didn't know Nathan as well as I would've liked, but he had a big influence on my life, even after a few months of his participation in Toastmasters.

I have to admit, that after I read some of the news reports about Nathan's accident, I went through some anger, directed at Nathan himself. I mean, what idiot drives a 1990 Toyota Tercel in Northern Idaho? The answer came at his funeral on Tuesday morning, and was this simple: Nathan would. As was said during the homily, Nathan was a mixture of extravagance and thriftiness. He dressed sharply, but he lived in a cheap apartment in Moscow and was driving a car until it literally outlived it usefulness.

After hearing everything that was said about Nathan at his funeral, it occurred to me that his car was indicative of his personality. It was functional and served his purposes--nothing more, nothing less. What if he had been driving a newer car with more bells and whistles? Would he have survived? What about the people in the other car, which had three children in it? Would they have died, or been injured more severely? What if they had hit someone else?

In some ways, by driving that Tercel, Nathan gave his life for those children. At his funeral, it was said that was what Nathan was all about--living his life in service for others. I chose to think that's how he died as well.

One thing I always appreciated about Nathan was that he was who he was, with no apologies. He lived his life exactly the way he wanted. His uncle, who gave the eulogy at Nathan's funeral, said that Nathan was "eccentric." Nathan had his beliefs and convictions, and lived them out to the end. Both his uncle and the homilist, Father Caleb Vogel, pastor at Nathan's parish St. Augustine's Church, also said that Nathan loved the Lord and believed in serving others. He even used the car he died in to serve others, to the very end.

This week, as sad as it's been to go through this loss, I'm honored to have known such an exceptional young man, even for a few short months. I wish that there was more time to have gotten to know him better. I wish that I had the opportunity to see Nathan do great things in Toastmasters, because I know that he would have. Just last week, at his last meeting with us, I could tell that he was soaking in things and learning.

It was a joy, a privilege, and a pleasure to witness Nathan grow, even in just a few months. My life has been enriched by having known him.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I'm back

Wow, it's been five months to the day since last I posted to this blog. It really is difficult to be motivated to write anything when you know that nobody's reading it, anyway. Motivation, to be honest, is probably the biggest issue for me the last five months. Writing, for example, has been really show (although it's starting to pick up now).

For the last several weeks, I've been waking up fifteen minutes early to do some prayers and spiritual reading. It's the lesson I learned when I was a college student--if you don't have time for that kind of thing, you make it, even if it means getting up a little early. Fifteen minutes isn't cutting that much into my precious sleep time, anyway. And it needs to be in the morning, since usually the kids are still asleep and I can truly be alone.

It also helps to read more blogs, by people who don't care if they have an audience or not. You know a blog has potential for greatness when it states: "You know you're Catholic when the top five blog posts of the week have to do with drinking, sex, and secrets." And the kicker: "Oh lighten up you with the frown." I must say, I was not one wearing the frown; actually, I was smiling. Everyone who knew me when I was much younger and more judgmental might be surprised at that. At any rate, I'm going to have to follow that blog.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I just wrote a tweet that is me exaggerating again. These days, I've been in kind of a funk. It's something I go through from time to time, mostly when I'm feeling overwhelmed by the whole parenting children with disabilities thing. We can get in such a rut with these kids. At times it feels like I'm going to be watching the same episode of "Blues Clues" over and over again for forever. And I'm going to have to deal with the same workers who don't have a clue (har-har).

I've been hearing the word "no" a lot. No, what you're doing for the kids isn't good enough. You know that writing project you really wanted to do? No, you can't do that. It can really get old really fast, and it can just get a person down. This restlessness won't last, I'm sure--it never does. The academic writing has really dried up, it being summertime and all, so I've done some pretty tedious contracts these days.

Here are some random thoughts, before I leave to meet Anna at her speech therapy appointment.

I've still been able to notice the parallels, as I've talked about here before. The last writing project I did (which I really hated) consisted of going to webpages and summarizing them. Then I gave a speech about the Secretary position in Toastmasters, and it was about how important it was to have summarization skills as a secretary in any organization.

This past weekend, my pastor, Fr. Joe Schmidt, retired. There was a huge party for him on Sunday. Fr. Joe's final homily was about letting go, so I couldn't help writing about that in a 300-word essay I had to write for a kid going off to college for the first time. I've been thinking a lot about that this week. I suspect that's been the source of my funk.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Miracle

People who know me know that I tend towards exaggeration, kind of like my daughter announcing to her classroom a couple of days ago, "This is the best day ever!" Of course, while she was expressing her happiness, she was doing it in her true canned-phrased form. (Much of Anna's communication is via songs, phrases, and entire segments from things she's heard, usually from one of her favorite TV shows.)

Unlike Anna in that situation, though, I think that the event I'm about to describe really was a life-changing event, or series of events. It's actually a speech I gave in Toastmasters, but I thought it would be a good thing to reproduce here.

I would like to tell you about a miracle-—not the one we celebrated a few months ago, but one that’s related, as all miracles are related to that one. It’s not a very “splashy” miracle, unlike the aforementioned one, but significant nonetheless, at least to me.

See, there are miracles all around us. Most of them, though, don’t consist of the risen-from-the-dead, walk-on-the-water, heal-someone-from-a-deadly disease kind, although I believe it those, too. Most of the time, miracles are small and subtle. They’re often a challenge to recognize, and we miss out on so much when we don’t. That’s the kind of miracle I’m talking about, and it has come to us in the guise of a seven-year old severely developmentally disabled little girl, my beautiful daughter AnnaRose.

Now, we tend to talk more about her older brother George, because he’s had some medical scares that she hasn’t had, at least not up to now, but she has the exact same very rare genetic disorder that he has. They express it very differently, though. Anna’s seven, but she still wears diapers. She needs constant supervision; she can’t feed herself independently, or dress or bathe herself. Like her brother, she has global delays, but whereas people tend to underestimate George, we tend to overestimate Anna.

That’s because she’s so vocal, but not like a typical seven-year old. She has this amazing rote memory; she can recite whole segments of her favorite TV shows, and has an amazing repertoire of songs. She uses all that memorized material to communicate, sometimes quite appropriately, and very few of what she says is spontaneous. Most of what she says or sings is quite funny. I say that she’s the funniest person I’ve ever met in my life, and except for the week she spent in NICU as an infant, she’s made me laugh everyday of her life.

One day, right out of the blue, at least to me, her father tells me, “I think it’s time to get Anna baptized.” To be honest, his suggestion blew me away, because it’s been something, like the Virgin Mary, I’ve been pondering in my heart. We talked about it amongst ourselves, talked to my priest about it, and all of our concerns and questions were addressed. If you know Jon and I at all, you can see how much of a miracle that was.

One of those concerns was the question of who would be the godparents. For me, asking my brother Rick to be Anna’s godfather was a given, but we needed a practicing Catholic. Then we heard that Jon’s sister was joining the Church, which she did this Easter. Then it was whether she could come here for it, and she could.

Then I called my brother and asked him. He couldn’t believe that I would ask him. See, he had stopped going to church regularly because of some things that were happening in his life. We both agreed that this was a sign that he should return. So we got the godparents lined up.
The next miracle that happened was with my dad. See, we’ve had kind of a difficult relationship pretty much my whole life. I risked and called him, asking if he would make the trip from California. This weekend, he told me, “I’m 90% there.” Then I called my brother back, and he asks me, “What did you do?’

I answered, “It’s all AnnaRose!” Then Rick says to me, “You know, I’ve been asking Dad to come visit me here in Seattle for 13 years. You’ve said your whole life that Dad doesn’t love you, but it’s not me he’s coming to see; it’s you and your family.”

At first, I grimaced as only one can grimace when someone has nailed you. Then I laughed, and since it was Easter Sunday, I said, “It’s an Easter miracle!”

This baptism won’t be the typical baptism, that’s for sure. Anna will squirm and be difficult to control. Jon will have to put her on his shoulders to get her to stay still. There’ll be a running commentary on everything that happens, and a song or two. It will be hilarious. My goal is that Anna’s family members will pack out three pews.

So remember, miracles aren’t always splashy or huge. Sometimes they’re subtle and come in the package of a sweet, funny, beautiful little girl. I’m certain that there are miracles all around you, too. You just have to look around for them.

Monday, May 31, 2010


Gotta blog about the final episode of "Lost." Spoilers follow.

Way back during the first season, I speculated that the island on "Lost" was actually Purgatory. Back then, I regularly listened to the show's podcast, and the producers denied it. Perhaps they were thinking, "No the island is not Purgatory, but the side forwards we're gonna show you in the final season is."

What makes "Lost" a remarkable series is that it's one of the few mass-market entertainment that honestly looks at spiritual issues, even Christian ones, with the character names and the literature references. Another thing that makes it unusual is that it's rooted in history and literature. It's smart, and it assumes that its audience is also smart, even if sometimes it isn't.

I'm specifically thinking of the post I read, just yesterday, in which the writer expressed her wish that the writers had been more clear about Jack's dad's name, Christian Shepherd, before the finale when Kate commented on it. Makes me wonder if the poster got the significance of Jack's name, either. Or the significance of the title of the series--how all of the main characters were lost in some way, and how the island and their relationships with each other brought them to redemption.

It's been said that "Lost" is a character study. I agree, because for me, all the questions that didn't get answered matters little to me. The finale was satisfying to me because I cared deeply for the characters. After Sun and Jin's death, my favorite characters and my favorite storyline, I cried everytime they were on screen. I spent a great deal of time in tears during the finale, because the end of their journey touched me profoundly.

There were plenty of the little "moments" I'm so fond of in my media. For me, the best moments were when each character realized the nature of the flash sideways. "Did you see it?" they asked each other. I loved how Jack volunteered to be Jacob's replacement, and how Hurley (who I thought would be the ultimate replacement) stepped in. I loved it when Hurley told Ben that he was a good "number two" and how Ben wasn't ready to join the others in the church. I loved how both Ben and Hurley were there, even though their deaths obviously happened later. (I do wonder what happened to everyone in that plane, though.) I loved how Locke was able to tell Ben that he forgave him.

I loved it that "the Man in Black" was never named, although in my mind, I called him, "Esau." I mean, he was Jacob's brother. And finally, I loved that the series ended as it began, with Jack on the ground and looking at his eye, and with all these characters I grew to love through the years experiencing true love, acceptance, and forgiveness.

Undisciplined me

Ugh, I have really neglected this blog in the past few months. When you know that no one's reading it anyway, the motivation to blog is really low. I notice that I return when I'm applying for a new job and/or project (which I have, just today). The writing has really picked up, so I'm busy, and blogging is always the last thing to do on my list.

I know it's important, since the only way to increase readership to a blog is to actually write in it. I'm the kind of person that if I don't have a deadline looming over my head, it just doesn't get done. I can be very disciplined, but it's gotta be imposed on me from the outside. If it's something personal, I have to impose my own deadlines. If there are no deadlines, or if the timetable for completing tasks is open-ended, it simply does not get done.

Work for which I'm actually getting paid trumps the other stuff everytime. As a result, this blog doesn't get written in for over three months, and my Wikipedia articles get neglected. It's not as if I don't have anything to write about. My daughter's baptism in late April, for example. And the TV has been great: Evan Lysacek on Dancing With the Stars, American Idol, the end of Lost.

I just haven't been able to figure out how to blog more regularly when I'm so busy. I have the feeling that the only way I'm gonna be able to do it is if someone pays me to blog. Sorry, don't see that happening any time soon.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Olympic Blogging, As Such

I haven't blogged or tweeted as much as I wanted to this week, during the Olympics. There are basically two reasons for this. The first is general busyness; people have finally figured out that I'm back from vacation now, so I'm getting more work. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. One of my contracts has finally come through with some nice semi-lucrative work.

The other reason/excuse is my residence, out here on the west coast. I don't want to know what's happened until I actually see it, so that I'm surprised. In some cases, it's okay to know the result of competitions before I get to see them when NBC shows them during prime time here, but that's three hours later than many of the other folks on Twitter or Facebook. As a result, I'm reading what they're saying hours after the fact. I'd rather have the fun of being surprised than being up on everything.

So by the time I'm exposed to everything, I don't much see the point of adding anything. In my old Usenet days, we called that "lurking," and it's a perfectly valid way to do things. That being said, here are some brief impressions, this fifth day of Olympic competition.

The Opening Ceremonies. In some ways, I enjoyed this opening ceremony more than Beijing. Unlike Beijing, where my mouth hit the ground in amazement, I was touched. It was quintessentially Canadian, even down to the Great One waiting to light the torch. It was more subtle, and in some ways, more beautiful.

Apolo Ono. That was such an exciting race on Sat., and I'm looking forward to his next one. Today or tomorrow, I can't remember which. I helped pass his Wikipedia article to Good Article, so it's on my watchlist. The article's traffic has been huge, so it's been fun watching what's been going on with it. Like Ono, it has had its share of controversy. Speed skating is so much fun, almost as much fun as...

Figure skating. The skating, as is normal for an Olympics, has been outstanding. I am in heaven! It's had all the normal emotional ups and downs for me. I cried when
Shen and Zhao won their gold, and felt sad for the end of the Russian dynasty. I thrilled at Pleshenko, smiled with Johnny Weir, pumped my fists in the air after Evan Lysacek's marvelous short program and cried as I watched his tears in the Kiss and Cry, and felt Jeremy Abbott's disappointment. Can't wait until tomorrow night! It's a virtual tie, and I so want my prediction about Evan winning the gold to come true.

There are other reactions, of course, but time is short and I'll stop here. It's my hope to blog a bit more, but with my schedule this week, I'm not promising anything.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Olympics

I'm very excited about Opening Ceremonies tonight, and everyone in my life knows that I own the television set for the next two weeks. I thought that I'd try to do what I experimented with at Nationals, and utilize more social networks--Facebook, Twitter, and this blog. It's been so much fun to read some of the athlete's posts as they've arrived in Vancouver this week. I expect that it will parallel my experience at Nationals, and I'll feel more connected to what's going on, as it's happening.

Tonight, while I'm watching the Opening Ceremonies, I'll have my computer open and read what everyone is saying as they walk into the Ceremonies, even though it won't be live for me here on the West Coast. As the games progress, though, I'm sure that the connectedness will improve my experience of watching as much of the competitions as I can.

To that end, I've promised to put a link on this blog. TeamUSA is a great way to support the American athletes in Vancouver. I'll put the link on my sidebar as well. Also, see my Twitter and Facebook accounts for more from me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Some of My Own Stories in Spokane

I had stated previously that this blog, while I'm in Spokane, wasn't going to be a "I did this, and then this happened" kind of thing. I'm going to break that commitment now, because I think that yesterday's experiences are bloggable and part of the overarching theme discussed here.

I was very burnt out yesterday. I was exhausted, because I haven't been sleeping very well in a new bed. I was weary after all the emotional highs and lows of the long weekend. I was peopled-0ut. I was homesick, missing my kids. It didn't help that kids were all around yesterday; it was a holiday, so the Arena was full of children and their families. Even though I spent the morning at my hotel, there were times, while watching some of the skates, I kept nodding off. I didn't even bother to leave the Arena and spend the energy to go somewhere else to eat dinner.

The evening sessions, however, changed all that. The novice men's final was almost as exciting as the senior men's. The skater who won, Nathan Chen, is just ten years old, and the silver medalist, Emmanuel Savory, is eleven. To be honest, that was part of the emotional ups and downs of the weekend. Nathan is only fourteen months older than my George, who's so developmentally disabled that he can't even throw a ball. As I've said before in this blog, the comparison can be difficult to face.

It was very exciting, though. Both Nathan and Emmanuel are so charming and cute. They reminded me of Ryan Bradley's charm and connection with the audience. Nathan fell twice, and he still had amazing scores--over five points ahead of second place. And the third place winner, who won the long program, came back from ninth place. One of the most striking things about being at Nationals in '07 was the level of the skating at even the lower levels. Not being exposed to novice and junior skaters, I came into those Nationals with low expectations and was amazed.

During the novice free skate, my seat mate and I were joined by these two young women, who introduced themselves as Amanda and Samantha. They happened to be training this week as pairs judges, and they remained there for the junior pairs free skate. What are the chances of that kind of thing happening? I moved myself to sit closer to them, and listened in as they discussed the technical elements of the skating. Amanda was so generous about sharing her wisdom, knowledge, and experience. It was so much fun, and it completely rejuvenated me.

I felt so smart! Here I was, a lowly stay-at-home mom at the second figure skating competition in my entire life, and I was actually able to keep up with these girls. I told Amanda that I've never been able to identify the jumps (i.e., the difference between an axel and a toe pick), and she gave me some pointers. She even supported some of the impressions I've had about the more technical elements of skating. As I told her, "Everything I know about skating I learned from Scott Hamilton."

I had a friend in college who often said, "It's a God-thing." I think last night was. I was at a low point, and things just came together to remind me of why I'm here and that it's okay to be me. I even managed to embarass myself in front of a famous person again. Brandon Mroz happened to be sitting in the next section over, so I ran over for an autograph. He totally broke my pen! I told him that it was chancy anyway and said, "Guess I have to get a new pen." It was so typical of me and how I interact with people in general, and especially celebrities.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Stories From Spokane

In yesterday's blog post, I talked about the stories that if they were told, more people would be interested in and follow figure skating. There are stories all around me this week, as I sit in the stands and ride the shuttles and watch the skaters.

Each person in the stands has a story--why they're there and why they're into the sport enough to buy tickets. My seat mate, for example, is an African American woman in her fifties who's a counselor at a middle school here in Spokane. How is that a black lady is interested in figure skating? As I said back in '07, the demographic for this event is middle aged white women. A few seats away is a couple who seem really into it, and who are even more knowledgeable about the sport than I am. How did that happen?

Last night, I rode the shuttle, and met Justin Gaumond, a beginning senior pairs skater who was sitting with his sister. He seemed a little down, especially when Keegan Messing, who did very well his first time as a senior at Nationals, got on the bus to female squeals. Justin admitted that he and his partner, Lisa Moore, didn't do as well as they would've liked due to the deep field here this year, and his sister told me that he was tired. That's a great story there.

Justin's sister also said that their mom was in Spokane this week. I commented about the great amount of support, encouragement, and cheers from the skaters' family members and friends. My section is next to a group of young skaters from a skating club, and it's been fun to witness the support. Each skater has that kind of story--his or her family, support system, what it took to get here, no matter what level they're at.

I'm looking for these stories, not necessarily because I want to write them down, but because I'm looking at the world like a writer now. I also think, as I've stated before, that if more people knew these stories, and if they were presented in an interesting and inspiring way by someone with the skills to do that kind of thing, more people would be interested in figure skating.

Maybe someone like me?

If Dancing With the Stars Can Do It Why Can't Figure Skating

Dancing With the Stars is one of my favorite television shows. When it’s on, I get practically religious about it. The only other thing that compares in my devotion is figure skating, so being at Nationals, where I can immerse myself in the sport, is a great experience for me.

The difference, though, is that DWTS has consistently high ratings. For most of the show’s nine seasons, the only show that has been able to beat it in the ratings has been American Idol. This changed this past season, when according to USA Today, ratings decreased 17% from the previous season. (I again experienced a disconnect with the rest of the world, since I couldn’t get enough of the show last season because of Donny Osmond, who I’ve been in love with since I was eight years old.)

For me, watching figure skating naturally makes me think of DWTS. I’ve always thought that figure skaters would be a natural fit for the show, and Kristy Yamaguchi, who won in season 6 proved me right. There are all kinds of similarities between figure skating and ballroom dancing; an entire discipline of figure skating, ice dance, is based upon ballroom dancing. It makes sense to me, then, that if ballroom dancing can capture the imagination of the American public, so can figure skating.

I have a feeling that it all goes back to what I was saying in yesterday’s blog post. DWTS has had the support and promotion of an entire network. I understand that figure skating has some competition that, like football playoffs, which occur at the same time as Nationals. It occurs to me, though, that if figure skating was promoted more like DWTS is, it’d be much more popular. Actually, the thought occurred to me yesterday when the guy that U.S. Figure Skating has hired to entertain the crowd in between came over to my section. He was very funny, even when the camera wasn’t capturing him. I think that if that kind of thing was presented, more people would watch.

The disconnect that I’ve been talking about will probably continue, though, as the week goes on, even this weekend, when the “biggies” are back—the women and the dance teams.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Figure Skating and Stories

One of the things about being as into figure skating as I am is that it often makes me feel so out of touch with the rest of the world. For the next week, my entire life will be about the sport--about these Nationals--and if you look at what the world is talking about, you'd barely know that it was even happening.

I'm not talking about the Haitian earthquake, which should be covered and talked about. I'm talking about the other buzz that's going on--Conan/Leno, for example, and other things in the news that I just don't care all that much about. I've never been able to understand why certain things get attention--why people talk about one thing and not another. I've read "The Tipping Point," which tries to explain it, but it doesn't explain it completely, at least not to me. It seems that I care about things that, if you look at NBC News and The New York Times and even Fox News, that most people don't even think about.

Figure skating is one of those things. A few days ago, there was a New York Times piece on Nationals and the state of the sport, in which the writer actually stated that figure skating needed another Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan type of scandal. Sure, figure skating had all kinds of attention and cash back then, but it was hot way before that happened. I think that there are other explanations for its surge in popularity. I'm certain that helped, because there's nothing like a good scandal to get people to pay attention, but the million dollar contracts were already happening.

There has to be another explanation for the slump in the sport's popularity. I'm not sure what it is. As a normal fan, I don't have enough information to make a guess. I suspect, though, that it has to do with PR and promotion. ABC certainly failed to promote the sport like it should have. I also believe that U.S. Figure Skating made a lot of mistakes in promoting figure skating in the last several years.

Sports is all about stories. One of the things that struck me about coming to the Nationals in '07 was that as a spectator in the crowd, I was able to see and hear all these great stories--stories about the skaters, even about the other fans. If you depend upon just the broadcasts, which tends to show the top skaters, you miss that. Sitting through twenty skaters' performances is worth it to me because it allows me to witness a story of a certain long program, something I've never got when I only watched the broadcast.

I think that if figure skating was presented in this way, it would be a lot more popular here in the U.S. In Canada, for example, where figure skating is more popular, that's how it's presented. Perhaps I'm thinking about this because I'm a writer now, and I'm thinking about how I would present what I'm experiencing to a reader, in an interesting and engaging way.

There's plenty interesting and engaging about the sport of figure skating, and it's a shame that the rest of the world is getting exposed to that. I think that lots of people would eat it up, since there's nothing the world needs more than inspiration and hope. There are so many stories with that all around me in Spokane this week.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Nationals, Day Two

One of the most interesting things about being at Nationals this time is the whole internet connectedness thing. It certainly is different than in '07, when it felt like I was the only person here who was on the internet trying to talk and report on my experiences. This time, with Twitter and the trend on the internet of more social connectedness and networks, my experience of Nationals is very different in that respect.

I don't feel compelled to report about what's been going on like last time. If anyone wants to know anything about a particular skater's score, it's easy enough these days to find them. Someone from Figure Skaters Online, for example, has been tweeting her little heart out all through the competitions. Someone who wants to know that kind of detail can simply follow her on Twitter. If I had a laptop at the Arena, I might do that same, but it's a little unwieldy on my phone. It's fun, though, to follow her tweets and the tweets of the other skaters here. I think I'm the only fan that's been on Twitter here, though.

So I'm feeling more connected to what's been going on here this time. In just three years, it's so much easier to access all kinds of information and opinions. I don't feel as alone here this time. That's an odd statement, I realize, since there were over 200,000 attendees in '07, but because of the social networks out there at this time, I feel like I'm a part of a community that's here.

So this blog has a very different focus this time. I feel more compelled to be a writer, and to record my meta-experiences. I'm compelled to go a little deeper than things like, "After the short program, Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir are only .18 points apart and in 2nd and 3rd place." Anyone who wants that information can get it easily, so I don't feel much a point to do that.

That being said, yesterday was very fun, with some frustrations. I'm happy to report that I now have my inerrant luggage. My husband sent it on a shuttle that travels from Pullman to Spokane. Without going into the excruciatingly boring details, it was a real comedy of errors that in some ways, paralleled the strangeness of the senior pairs' short program earlier that afternoon, made me miss the Opening Ceremonies, and cost us $50. I got back right in time for the senior men's short program, so all was forgotten.

Perhaps I'll go into more details at a later time. For anyone who's following the Nationals, I'll tweet from time to time. I also suggest using Twitter to find out the particulars.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nationals, Day One

I left Moscow at about 11:15am, about an hour after my goal. Man, sometimes getting ready for a vacation is a lot of work! Got here safety, and in good time--the weather was great, and supposed to stay that way for the next ten days. Well, it's supposed to rain, but in the 40s. I was so intent on getting out of town, I went and left one piece of luggage behind. Fortunately, it wasn't anything I need right away, so my husband is kind enough to ship it to me.

In 2007, the last times the Nationals was in Spokane, they divided up the events in two venues; this time, the competitions are all in one place--the Spokane Arena, and the additional events will be at Riverside Park. I think I like it better that way. I don't know what I think about the senior events being separated into two weekends, though. I understand the reasoning behind it (the Olympics), but we are talking about NBC, the network who (just today!) screwed over Conan O'Brien.

I got at the Arena at the perfect time; just as I arrived, the senior men were starting their practice session. So I got to see Evan Lysecek practice! He looked so strong. There are reports that he's planning on a Quad for his long program. He didn't do one in practice, but he hit all of his triples and looked healthy and well-prepared.

Johnny Weir and Ryan Bradley were in the same practice group. Johnny's practice didn't go as well, but I understand that he tends to spend his practices during competitions all up in his head, anyway. There was one point, where another skater had a spectacular fall, right in front of Johnny, and you could tell he was embarrassed for falling in front of the great J. Weir. A little while later, Johnny fell too, and made it into a clownish fall that made the spectators laugh. I think that he did that on purpose--to make the younger skater feel comfortable about his fall. If that's true, that was a very sweet gesture.

Ryan Bradley's practice was worth the price of admission. I love his short program; it's funny and shows off his great personality. He had the crowd laughing and cheering; I'm really looking forward to his performance tomorrow night. I'd so like to see him at the Olympics, but he's had a tough season this year.

Anyway, the rest of the week should be good. I think I like my seat; it's on the short part of the rink, but almost directly behind the commentators' desk and kitty-cat to the Kiss-and-Cry. I sat directly behind the great Scott Hamilton! What a wonderful man he is. I went up for an autograph, and he politely listened to this elderly woman tell him her whole life story. Then I was able to see him interact with a bunch of other autograph-seekers (including some little boys who were impressed when their mom told them that Scott had won a gold medal at the Olympics) when I stayed behind to make sure the elderly woman made it back up the stairs.

What is it about me embarassing myself in front of celebrities anyway? I was making my way to the restroom tonight, and was fairly certain that Peter Carruthers passed me. I could tell he knew that I recognized him, even though I tried to be all cool about it. But how cool can you be when you're making your way to the restroom? Famous people are able to see that double-take of recognition, no matter what the circumstance.

So tomorrow I've got to buy a program and a bus pass. It's gonna be a long day. I will be tweeting from the Arena and trying to take pictures to post.


So I never got around to completing posting all my fluff articles. Actually, I've been neglecting this blog horribly, even more than usual. The reason for that is that I was busy preparing for the vacation I'm currently taking.

I thought about reverting the title of this blog back to its original one--"Figure Skating Fan," because for the next ten days, that will again be the focus of this blog. As my Twitter account has shown (see the right panel of this blog), I've been crazy with preparing to complete my few contracts and everything else that going on vacation for ten days entails.

But I'm here in Spokane now, and for the next ten days, I'll be blogging and tweeting about my experiences, just like I did back in 2007, the last time the Nationals were in Spokane and back when the focus of this blog was figure skating.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Fluff post #7: Summer reading list

President Obama is on vacation right now, so there have been articles written about what he’s reading during his time off. Can you imagine being so famous that people talk about what you’re reading?

This is what I’m reading this summer, in spite of the fact that I haven’t been able to take a vacation this year.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. I first heard about it when I was asked to review its Wikipedia article. What an interesting book. Clarke creates this entire alternative history about the use of magic and magicians in England. It’s about the resurgence of magic in the early 1800s in Britain, and focuses on these two magicians. There are footnotes surrounding the study of magic. It’s written in the style of Jane Austin—funny and witty, and just as much a commentary about modern society as the time it’s about.

Mary, Mother of the Son, by Mark Shea. This is actually a series of three books about the Virgin Mary; I’ve read the first volume so far. Mark Shea is an acquaintance of mine, although my husband knows him better. Mark is a Catholic writer from Seattle with his own blog, kind of famous in the Catholic blogosphere. He does a good job of explaining the reasons Mary is so venerated by Catholics.

Kermit Culture, edited by Jennifer C. Garlen and Anissa M. Graham. A book of articles about Jim Henson’s Muppets, specifically the “Muppet Show” Muppets. Very cool.

The Heart of a Woman, by Maya Angelou. Angelou’s fourth in her series of six autobiographies. I’m reading it because she’s someone I greatly admire, and because I’m working on all Angelou articles on Wikipedia.

Fluff post #6: Hell's Kitchen

I watched this week’s episode of “Hell’s Kitchen” tonight. Man, sometimes that show makes me so mad!

Like all reality shows, “Hell’s Kitchen” has a standard cast of characters. There’s the obnoxious, bitchy woman so Gordon Ramsey can call her “a cow.” There’s the cocky chauvinistic male. Then there’s the fat guy, who Ramsey calls “you pig!” I suppose that as a fatty myself, I’m a little sensitive about the last one.

For the last two seasons, the fat guy on “Hell’s Kitchen” is a fellow named Robert. He’s morbidly obese, probably well over 300 pounds. He went pretty far last season, before he had to pull out because he developed heart problems, so they invited him back this year. It’s obvious that Ramsey likes the guy.

Ramsey sent him home this week, though. In last week’s episode, they had his team, who had lost their challenge and was being punished, pedal a bike up and down a hill transporting supplies. The result wasn’t a huge surprise—it overexerted poor Robert and he was sent to the hospital, making him miss a dinner service. This week, he was weak and everyone took advantage of it and he was sent home.

I get that the guy is probably not healthy enough to be a chef. I get that his obesity has, for the second year in a row, hindered him from succeeding in the show. I think that what they did to him, though, was unfair. Whoever decided to put him on that bike is directly responsible for his ambulance ride to the hospital, and for his ultimately leaving.

Fluff post #5: Wikipedia and quality control

I’m not the only editor on Wikipedia that has spent my own money on books for research. One of my Wiki-pals (i.e., people I’ve met on Wikipedia) has spent wads of money that way. Of course, she actually takes a trip to her local university library to conduct her research. I haven’t gone that far, at least not yet.

I have plunked down loads of cash for books, though. It’s worth it, though, and they’re all books I’d be inclined to buy, anyway. I don’t spend time working on articles that I’m not interested in, you know. I’d rather own the book straight out, instead of worrying about library fines. I can also write notes in the books I own, or dog-ear them to mark areas I know I’ll need.

I’ve recently submitted one of my articles for Good Article (GA), which is the level of quality directly below Featured Article (FA). The difference in process between the two processes is that for an article to pass to GA, it only has to be reviewed by one person, whereas for FA, there are several reviewers involved. The criteria are also higher for FA.

Anyway, one of the issues the reviewer for GA raised was that my article didn’t have enough sources he could check easily, meaning sources that were on-line. My response, which I’m pretty sure was reasonable, was that there are loads of articles on Wikipedia (even FAs) that used those types of sources. I’m glad that isn’t a requirement, because all kinds of articles couldn’t be written, or at least they couldn’t be brought up to the level we all want in Wikipedia.

For Wikipedia to survive, the quality of its articles needs to be higher. I believe that I’m helping accomplish that goal. Eventually, there’s going to be less new articles written, since there really is a limit to the topics of knowledge, and the quality of the articles that remain will need to be higher.

Fluff post #4: Wikipedia and reasonableness

Speaking of Wikipedia, as time goes on, it’s becoming more and more respectful. There was a time, in academia, when it was “illegal” to use it for term papers. You couldn’t even say the name inside a college classroom.

These days, as more articles are improving in quality, that’s not as true. Some college courses are creating and/or improving articles as part of their curriculum. It teaches students how to research, cite sources, and write in a collaborative fashion. They use the peer review process, and the “FAC,” or “Featured Article Candidacy” process. Not only do they learn collaboration, they learn how to interact with others, and sometimes even conflict resolution.

One of my Wiki-pals (i.e., people you know through Wikipedia) likes conflict. I swear, she picks the most controversial articles and works on them. Then she steps back and waits for the attacks. I think that’s what she lives for, although she does seem stressed out about it. As for me, I tend to choose articles with very little controversy. It so fits my personality; I’m one who avoids conflict at all costs.

I was certain, then, that when I “adopted” the Wikipedia article about “Sesame Street,” that I’d get all kinds of controversy. I’m honestly surprised that I haven’t. It’s somewhat highly vandalized, though, but hardly anyone has objected to my large-scale edits. I mean, I have literally taken chunks of content from it and thrown it away.

Not without substance to replace it with, though—at least what I think is substance. Because before I got a hold of it, it was crap. It had very little (okay, almost no) information that was backed by a reliable source. Now that I think about it, perhaps I haven’t been confronted about it because any reasonable person would look at its previous version and be glad that the crap is now gone.

Fluff post #3: Wikipedia, my addiction

The one website I live for these days is Wikipedia. I have such an addictive personality, and Wikipedia plays right into that. At night, after my husband and two kids have gone to bed, I turn off the TV, put on some nice music (or sometimes I don’t, and enjoy the quiet), and edit my articles. It’s the way I unwound after a long, stressful day.

At first, I would go to the library to do my research. Now, I’ve spent so much money on books for my articles. Of course, you have to remember that there’s no “ownership” of articles on Wikipedia. Since everyone is open to edit on Wikipedia, no one person is the writer of any article. Wikipedia uses phrases like “main editor” to describe a person who has led the article to improvement, even if it means that the main editor has written the majority of the article.

My trouble, and I freely admit it, even on Wikipedia, is that I spend hours and hours on an article, and I work very hard to improve it. Yes, I get emotionally involved with these articles. I’ve noticed that I’m not the only editor who has this propriety attitude about the articles they nurture. It’s only natural, and I make no excuse for it. I do recognize, though, that the ideal is that lots of editors contribute, and the best articles (even the featured articles, the ones that make it to the front page) are the ones who have had several contributors.

Fluff post #2: Computer games

One of the things I do on the computer is play games. I have a subscription to Real Arcade, and I spend way too much time playing their games. I love to sit in front of the TV and play a game. Just tonight I watched my soap, “General Hospital,” and last night’s taped version of “Hell’s Kitchen,” which is just another soap. Mindless stuff perfect for playing mindless games.

My favorite computer games are variations of puzzles, games where you actually have to figure stuff out. These days, I can’t get enough of a game called “4 Elements.” It consists of a board with different color discs that you have to clear off. There’s a fog underneath the discs, and sometimes it takes several clicks to clear them. There’s a time limit, and if you don’t get to the end before the time runs out, you have to start over. It’s quite addicting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, “Oh, it’s really late and I need to go to bed, but I’ll play just one more level.” It starts out easy at first, of course, and becomes more and more challenging. I keep playing it over and over again.

Another game I’ve been into lately is “World Mosaics,” which is basically just a variation on “Mine Sweeper.” I love “Mine Sweeper,” and have for years, but the “World Mosaics” game is more interesting. Like most games, the board gets larger and more challenging as you go along. I’ve already won, and I’ve played all the “extra games,” but I keep going back to the harder boards, the 20x20 ones.
I spend way too much time on these games!

Fluff post #1: Flitter and Ashton Kutcher

I spend way too much time on the computer. From what I hear going on in the world, though, the stuff I do on it doesn’t seem to match what everyone else is doing.

I do have a Twitter account, though, mostly because I wanted to check out what all the commotion was about. At first, I thought, “160 characters? How can you can any substantial conversation with anyone with 160 characters?” Then I read that Time Magazine article about Twitter last month, and I was intrigued.

At first, I resisted following the people everyone else follows, like Ashton Kutcher and Ryan Seacrest, with their 2 million followers. But then Kutcher guest co-hosted on “Live With Regis and Kelly” a few weeks ago, and that was the end of that. I love how he, as Anderson Cooper put it a few days later on the very same show, “mentored” Kelly Ripa into Twitter. And for a couple of weeks, she got totally into it.

I mean, there’s a reason Ashton Kutcher has 2 million followers on Twitter. He’s an interesting young man, smart as heck. I’ve always thought it was cool that he married a woman much older than he, helping her raise children who are not that much younger than he and that Demi Moore’s ex-husband Bruce Willis seems all right with it. They seem to all get along and are having this unusual family life. It’s very honorable in this day and age.

One thing I will not do on Twitter, though, is follow or be followed by anyone whose picture on their home page shows them naked or semi-clothed. For some reason, when I first got on Twitter, I kept having follow requests by these women. I first, I accepted them, thinking, “Oh, they just need a good model.” Then I thought better of it. I mean, heck, it’s not my responsibility to bring morals to these young women! I am no longer Evangelical, for Lord’s sake, and I’m not gonna be the one to save them.

But Ashton Kutcher, he epitomizes everything that’s good about Twitter.

Happy New Year!

This is an impossible-to-get-any-work-done day. My husband and his dad are spending the day putting in our new wood floor, for which I grateful because we really needed it, but that means that I'm stuck monitoring the children. I can't concentrate enough to write, so it's not worth it. Fortunately, the client is willing to extend today's deadline until tomorrow.

I'm been meaning to do this for awhile, and this seems to be a good opportunity to complete the task. This summer, one of the first writing jobs through Elance I got was a project the client and I dubbed "Fluff articles." The assignment was to write about twenty articles about anything, as long as it had the name of the product in them at least once. Pure SEO writing, which is cheap and tedious as heck to write.

The positive thing was that even though it was a pain-in-the-arse kind of project, I gained one of my most loyal clients, a hilarious lady from Canada. We've actually become friends, chatting about our lives with each other as we both try to avoid work. She has never tended to pay well, mostly because she accepts jobs that pay low, but it's come to the point to if she has something for me, and I've available, I'll do it for her, even if it's $5 per 300-word article.

Some of these fluff articles are really silly, but I've always thought that they'd make good blog posts. I'm sure that enough time has passed to make it okay to re-publish here, without the product mention, of course.

Monday, December 07, 2009

More Christmas music

As promised, I'm listing my favorite Christmas music. As a matter of fact, I'm listening to some right now. I suppose it should go on the list!

1. One of my favorite ways to listen to music is to stream it. Most of the music I stream is from actual radio stations; there are few that I regularly turn to, from all over the country (mostly, places where I've lived). When I'm in the Christmas-music mood like I have been lately, I listen to a lot of classical, because the more traditional music I prefer tends to be played on classical radio stations. For example, KDFC out of San Francisco has been playing a lot of Christmas music the past few weeks, and currently they'll playing it constantly.

2. Amy Grant, A Christmas Album
Amy Grant has recorded a few Christmas albums in her career; this album was her first and in my opinion, her best. I listen to it all year long, and it's always the first one during the Christmas season. It has this spiritual edge to it that few artists can match.

3. The Priests
I "discover" a new album each year, and last year this was it. The voices of these Irish priests are exceptional. Their version of "Ave Maria" is the best I've ever heard.

4. If On a Winter's Night, Sting
This year's discovery. I love Sting, and I love his foray into classical music. He does a very nice job with this album.

5. Charlie Brown Christmas
For me, Christmas isn't Christmas without reviewing this album. No more needs to be said!

6. A Christmas Together, John Denver and The Muppets
Another of my all-time favorites. Funny, weird, and sweet all at the same time.

I'll stop now. I could go on and on. Perhaps I'll continue the list in another post.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Christmas music

As per my "promise" to blog at least once a week...

The holiday season is now upon us. For me, with my disabled kids who don't really "get" Christmas, it can be a bittersweet time. We've never put up decorations or even a tree, because our house just isn't set up for it. Plus, a tree is something that the kids will just get into (or want to) and it's simply not worth the hassle.

It can be sad sometimes having kids who aren't developmentally to the point that they don't get excited about Santa or presents or the anticipation of Christmas. I try, though. I take them out to get pictures with Santa and send them to family and friends. And we try to expose them to Christmas-y things, like Santa and dressing up and celebrating on the day.

So I try and get into the season, even if it's just for myself. It can be really hard, though, and there have been years when I haven't even made the attempt. It almost takes real discipline, but I've learned that for me, it's necessary because the alternative isn't fun at all. The holidays can be hard enough without making it worse on yourself by having a bad attitude.

One of the biggest helps for me during this time of year is remembering the spiritual aspect of the holiday. I try and remember that this is Advent, the time when we're to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ, both into the world and into our own lives. I try to use this time to anticipate experiencing Him in a more profound way.

One way is the use of music. I'm the kind of person who listens to Christmas music all year long, but in December, I try and immerse myself in it. I try and "discover" at least one new Christmas album each year. I will make a list of my favorite Christmas music in a future post. I used to say that Christmas is the only time that it's socially acceptable to listen to "Christian" music. I love it. It reminds me of the really corny saying, "Jesus is the reason for the season."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Angelou and Norrell

The last time I was blogging regularly I was on a roll about the "coincidences" I tend to experience. In that vein, I'd like to share one more. It seemed that their regularity stopped after this experience, or perhaps I stopped being so aware of them.

As I've shared here, one of my Wikipedia projects is their articles about Maya Angelou. I read her fourth autobiography, "Heart of a Woman," and was ready to re-write the article, and went looking for one of the books. I swear, I spent a good part of a morning tearing up my house looking for it, but it was no where to be found. Eventually, I gave up and re-ordered it from Amazon.

Later that day, I brought the novel I was reading, "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell," to lunch with me. It's a fun read, kind of a mixture between Jane Austen and fantasy. I was inspired to read it after I helped review the article when it was up for featured article. I got to the place in the novel when Strange has published his book on English magic, and his ex-mentor, Norrell, who was opposed to the publication, put a charm on the books that made them disappear after the reader bought it.

I had to put the book down after I realized the coincidence! That's what happened to my Angelou book--some pesky magician put a charm on it, and it disappeared! I did go out and purchase an additional book, so there might just be some credence to that.


It's been a while since I've been here. It's terrible how sporadic my blogging is at times. I just need to schedule it into my week. I've read that it's not as important to blog a lot than it is to at least blog regularly. I'm not even doing either of those things.

Part of it is simply busy-ness. I've been getting more writing work, including some nice leads for more regular and more lucrative contracts. I've learned that using Elance is a good way to get your feet wet--to gain the confidence with the little, low-paying contracts. That has happened for me. My confidence increased to the point that I actually quit my job to work at home and focus on this new, fledgling writing career. I think it was a good decision for me and for my family.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Celebrate the Child

Real quick blog post, since I'm running up against a deadline: 9 500-word articles by tomorrow.

From time to time, I go through my music from A to Z, to delete clips I no longer want or to delete copies in my iTunes files. Right now I'm on the C's.

As I've been blogging for the past week, I've had several of those weird coincidences happening to me. As I've said, this kind of thing happens to me quite often, but for some reason, in the past two weeks, it's been occurring more often than normal. Perhaps it's just that I'm noticing it more, or that I'm recording them here. Another one just happened!

Like I said, I'm on the C's. "Castle on a Cloud," from my "Les Mis" soundtrack came up. That song is the child Cosette singing about her fantasies to get through her miserable little life, full of abuse, starvation, and humiliation. The very next song on the queue: Michael Card's "Celebrate the Child," which is about the Christ child.

There can't be two songs more different in their themes and sentiments than those two songs. The first is about how a child has been mistreated and devalued, and the other is the profound value of another child. "Celebrate the Child" implies that because Christ is precious, all children are. "Castle on a Cloud" is about darkness; "Celebrate the Child" is about the Light coming into the world. Christ teaches the opposite of what many characters in "Les Mis" believe and practice: that all life, no matter how weak and lowly, is precious. As Christ himself said, "Suffer the children to come to me."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Brer Rabbit

Something happened today that proves my point about things happening to me that are connected. Just like the above post, half of it has to do with Maya Angelou.

Today was a writing day. Not only do I have some freelance deadlines looming, I also have progress notes to complete and billing to process for my other job, which I'm currently in the process of leaving so that I can concentrate on the writing. I needed a break, and the kids were home and needed access to the dining room table where I camp out with my laptop. I picked up the book I'm reading right now, Angelou's Heart of a Woman, mentioned in the previous post.

Angelou was recounting her experience getting hired as a journalist in Cairo, in spite of her inexperience in the field. She described it as feeling like she was Brier Rabbit being thrown in the Brier patch: "Please don't do the worst thing to me! Please don't throw me in that Brier patch!" Then she recounted the story.

A few hours later, my husband and I are going through our nightly TV viewing, trying to eat dinner and not kill the children. (If you lived in our house, with two tiresome severely developmentally disabled little kids, you'd understand that statement.) First, we watched the season finale of "Warehouse 13," which is an interesting little sci-fi show that has grown on me throughout the summer. (We also watched the last episode of "The Colony" on the Discovery Channel, another oddly compelling show.)

During a scene towards the end of "Warehouse 13," the protagonists were bringing in the bad guy, and my husband cited (you guessed it!) the same Brier Rabbit story that Angelou references in her book. Before he even finished quoting the same line, I said, "It happened again!" Like I said, that happens to me all the time! Weird, huh?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I was awarded a new writing job, a book review of The Yacoubian Building, by Alaa Al Aswany. I've finished reading it, and have done some preliminary research this morning, before actually starting to write the review. It's an Arab book about life in Cairo. It's a very interesting book, very controversial for its depictions of sexuality and even of homosexuality. It's nice that I'm actually enjoying the task of writing for something, instead of the insipid product descriptions and SEO blog posts that I've been doing so far.

I've also been reading The Heart of a Woman, by Maya Angelou, for her Wikipedia articles. Sometimes it's really weird how the things I'm reading, watching, listening, and thinking about become connected. It's happened so often, I'm no longer surprised about it. This time the connection was Cairo.

The Yacoubian Building is set completely in Cairo. It reminds me of Les Miserables in that it depicts the lives of the poor and working class of Egypt, at the time of the first Gulf War in 1990. (And of course, as I'm writing this, my point is made: a song from the musical "Les Mis" comes on iTunes, which I have on shuffle.) Angelou's book is also set partly in Cairo, but before the Egyptian revolution, in the early 50s, when Westerners were welcome there and when the society was freer than it is now.

The difference in the descriptions of Egyptian life is quite different in both books. Angelou describes her and her husband's opulant lifestyle, while Aswany describes something much different. I'll go into more detail when I have the review completed.

Friday, September 18, 2009

New blog

I have changed the title and appearance of this blog, to better reflect my change in status. I've decided to change my career focus to freelance writing, and I want to use this blog to talk about that. So instead of this blog focusing on figure skating, like in the past, it now focuses upon my new career and what it's like to be a newbie freelance writer.

That doesn't mean, though, that figure skating is off limits. Actually, nothing is off limits on this blog. That's been what's going on here from the very begining, anyway. For example, in January, I will be attending the US Figure Skating Championships in Spokane, and I will blog about it, just as I did the last time the nationals was in Spokane, in 2007. I will most likely also discuss television, parenting my beautiful developmentally disabled children, and my Catholic faith.

Again, very little has changed about this blog. I'm just changing the title to better reflect what it's been about all along, and to give folks an idea about what I'm about and "how I can fulfill their writing needs."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Blog title

The title of this blog, "Halfway Up the Stairs" is taken from an A.A. Milne poem that was put to music and performed by the Muppets. I think it perfectly describes my feelings about life, that none of us have "arrived" yet. We've all stopped at that middle stair, where "there isn't other stair quite like it."

Here's a clip of Robin the Frog, singing it on a "Muppets Show" episode, performed by Jerry Nelson:

Of course, the best version of this beautiful song is Jerry Nelson's performance at the 1990 funeral of Jim Henson (5:14 in):

And here are the lyrics:

Halfway down the stairs is a stair where I sit.
There isn't any other stair quite like it.
I'm not at the bottom, I'm not at the top.
So this is the stair where I always stop.

Halfway up the stairs isn't up and isn't down.
It isn't in the nursery, it isn't in the town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts run round my head.
It isn't really anywhere, it's somewhere else instead.

Halfway down the stairs is a stair where I sit.
There isn't any other stair quite like it.
I'm not at the bottom, I'm not at the top.
So this is the stair where I always stop.

Christine's resume

Work Experience
Counseling, 2003-2009
I worked in service coordination and psychosocial rehabiliation, which are Medicaid programs in the state of Idaho, focusing on clients with chronic and persistent mental illnesses. I wrote and developed psychological assessments and action plans.

Sign Language Interpreting, 1986-2000
I translated American Sign Language and English for Deaf and hearing clients in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Eastern Washington areas.

San Francisco State University, 1999 - 2003
M.S., Marriage & Family Counseling and Rehabilitation Counseling/Deafness
Member, Chi Sigma Iota honors society.

California State University, Hayward, 1998 - 1999
4 credits short of a B.A. in psychology

Fuller Theological Seminary, 1994 - 1995
Theology, Christian ministry, church history.

California State University, Northridge, 1986 - 1989
B.A., Deaf Studies/Sign Language Interpreting
ASL studies, history of Deaf people in America, linguistics, Deaf education.

Related Experience
“Experienced and established editor “in Wikipedia (Userpage:
Near-native fluency in American Sign Language.
Extensive experience in Internet, webpage development, and research.
Parent of two children with developmental disabilities.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stanford Memorial Church

I'm very proud to report that I've reached another milestone in my Wikipedia editing career: my third featured article to be placed on the main page. Stanford Memorial Church, which is a real effort of love on my part, is there today, Sept. 16.

It's a great accomplishment (all three of my FAs have been on the main page), but there are drawbacks to it. The added attention brings out all kinds of people who take issue with the article, even though it's been thoroughly worked over in the process to become a FA. Sometimes the feedback is quite bizarre, as the statement below, which is on the article's talk page. (I can reproduce it here, since everything on Wikipedia is free use.)

A lot of this seems fairly biased... particularly the section about the church's influence. It paints secularism in a bad light by repeatedly quoting people for the church as opposed to the more NPOV [non-point of view] approach of quoting someone painting secularism in a bad light as well as quoting the opposing view. Perhapsif there were more than one sentence with a conflicting view from "this church made stanford, a former bastion of LIBERAL ATHEISM, great!" then this article would be more deserving of being featured.

My first reaction, upon reading this, is to make some sarcastic and snarky comments. I even wrote a response, but I deleted it because I've been advised to refrain from that kind of thing if I want to submit myself for administrator sometime in the future. I can, however, record it here, on my own blog, where I can be as snarky as I want to be.

Huh? Excuse me if I come off as disrespectful, but anyone who knows me well would guffaw at the above statement. First off, perhaps I'm being dense as well (been known to happen!), but I'm not sure what you're saying here, your second sentence in particular. But let me explain why they'd laugh, and why I did after reading it. Anyone who knows me would say, "Former bastion?" 'Cause honey, they'd know I'd say something like, Stanford still is! But who the heck cares, doncha know? My personal opinion matters little, and after all the vetting this article has been through, you're the first person to have caught me in my ultra-conservative, POV [point-of-view]-pushing agenda. Amazing!

I have to run now, so I'll have more about this later.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Blogging struggles

I've been spending more and more time with the freelance writing thing, to the point that I may change the title and look of this blog to reflect that. The common wisdom these days is that if you're a writer, you need to have a blog. That's been a struggle for me, mostly because if I'm writing all day, the last thing I want to do is blog.

It's not like it's an onerous task, though. One thing I've learned about writing is that it begets more writing. It's like the creative juices are flowing, so finding more things to write about isn't hard. The problem is that I'm the most undisciplined person in the world.

In my research for some of my freelance writing, however, I read some really good advice about blogging. The most successful blogs aren't updated several times a day; instead, they're updated 3-4 times a week. That's certainly manageable, even for me. I need to do what I tell my clients in my other job: work it into my schedule. In other words, make an appointment with myself every other day to spend ten minutes blogging. Eventually, it will become routine for me, just like every other blogger in the universe.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

More Wiggles

This blog is no longer about figure skating (although the new season is due to start soon); it's about The Wiggles!

In that spirit, and because I haven't blogged for a while (I really need to be more disciplined about it), here's the perfect Wiggles-centered blog post. I saw this interview on YouTube:

A guy from Comcast is interviewing the guys, and as usual, Anthony takes point and does most of the talking. At one point, the interviewers says something like, "I heard on the internet that you got your name from a Cockroaches song called 'Get Ready to Wiggle'..." And then they all smirked knowingly and Anthony corrected him, saying that the song was called, "Mr. Wiggles Back in Town." Of course that got my little mind going:

"The internet? Could that really be code for Wikipedia? But I wrote that! That's what the New York Times Magazine said!" And I imagined all kinds of things, like "OMG, Anthony must think I'm a total idiot that I got that piece of information wrong. What does he think of me?" Then I calmed myself down by realizing that the guy from the NYT was more of an idiot than me, and I was just using his article as a source for my article.

The interview goes on and brings to light an even worse error in The Wiggles' Wikipedia article, taken again from the same source. (It really makes me doubt the information gained from that article; unfortunately, a lot of the information I used came from it.) The NYT states that the Cockroaches' genre was "catchy roots rock", and Anthony says in the Comcast interview that they played "60s inspired pop music."

Fortunately, I can use the interview and correct the misinformation. It makes me want to write Anthony and ask that he give an interview, either filmed or in print, where he corrects all the incorrect information in their Wikipedia article. This makes me think there's a lot, and that makes me go, "Uh-oh." And that makes me re-think meeting Anthony and telling him I basically wrote that article. Yikes!

My only defense is that everything stated in it is sourced pretty well, and if anything's inaccurate in it, it's not my fault. I wonder if he's gonna care about that. I mean, the way all the guys reacted to the question makes me think it may be a sore spot with them. I suppose another defense would be that I got some things right. In the interview, he says that the only difference between the early Wiggles stuff and "the Cockies" is the lyrics. That's stated very clearly in the Wikipedia article, although I'll probably go back and change the wording to better reflect his.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hot videos!

I mentioned Anthony's YouTube fitness videos, so here they are:

Actually, doing a search on "Anthony Field Fitz" will get you lots of hot videos!

The Wiggles concert

After the meet-and-greet, we went and found our seats for the concert. We had really good seats--the fourth row back. It was the first time I had been in the INB center in Spokane, which is next door to the Convention Center. I forgot, in my last post, to mention that before the meet-and-greet, we were early, so we picked up some Sonic (my husband's favorite fast-food; he's disappointed that there isn't one in Moscow), and hung out at Riverside Park for a little while. It was the first time I had been there, too. It's a beautiful place, located next to the Little Spokane River.

As I also mentioned in my previous post, we were told that Anthony had the flu. You wouldn't have known about it from his performance. The only reason I knew was that I was told, and the only reason I noticed was because I was looking for it. You could tell he wasn't completely on his game. This year's tour has a circus theme, so he (and Paul Paddick, as Capt. Feathersord) did lots of gymnastics tricks. It obvious that the tricks took more out of him than usual. His singing was barely affected. The show must go on, you know. It's always impressed me that performers are able to perform like that, even while being sick.

I know everything there is about The Wiggles, so another thing that impressed me about this concert was how they utilized their personal interests and incorporated them into the concert. It's like a little glimpse of their lives. For example, I knew that Anthony and Paul Paddick are both into gymnastics, so it was nice to see them demonstrate it. I had even mentioned the fitness videos out on YouTube to another parent as we were waiting for the Meet-and-Greet. (I also mentioned how "hot" they were.)

At one point during the concert, a screen fell onto the stage. Everyone, including the audience, reacted, and without missing a beat, the dancers picked it up and took it backstage. It was done so professionally, it almost felt like it was part of the show. Fortunately, it didn't hit anyone, so no one got hurt. Another thing that impresses me about performers is that how well they handle things like that, and you know that this kind of thing happens often.

So it was an enjoyable show. I think it's worthwhile to attend a Wiggles concert; you see aspects about them you can't see from just their TV shows and videos. For example, Sam really does have a marvelous voice, as evidenced during his performance of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" That was one of the highlights of the show. They darkened the theater, and then shone lights that shimmered everywhere.

The Wiggles put on a show that's just as enjoyable for parents as it is for the kids. They played all my favorite songs, and it was just as fun watching the kids. Anna actually sat enraptured the entire 90 minutes; George was so excited, he couldn't sit still, and yammered throughout. It was great fun. We had to rush home, since it was also my in-laws' 50th wedding anniversary. This day, as I told my husband, will go down in the annals of the Meyer family history.

The Wiggles meet-and-greet

So we went to Spokane on Saturday for the much-anticipated Wiggles concert. Well, it was at least well-anticipated by me; remember, the kids have the mind of a two-year old.

They enjoyed it, though. Also remember that like all toddlers, the kids are all about being in the moment, and we gave them quite a moment. The meet-and-greet, which was what I was reallly anticipating, didn't live up to my expectations. Of course, they were probably too high--I was expecting something more like a cocktail party. Instead, they brought us and the other thirty or so adults and children to the foyer of the theatre, right outside the stage door. Two young Aussie guys introduced themselves as "Wiggly dancers", and then informed us that Anthony wasn't going to meet us, since he had the flu and didn't want to pass it along. They did say that Capt. Feathersword would meet us, though.

Then Murray, Jeff, Sam, and the Capt. appeared. A line of chairs were set up, and each group/family were brought to them, we said hi, and then pictures were taken by the dancers. Then they moved us to another part of the room and the guys moved to the next group, while everyone else watched. It took both kids a few minutes, but when they figured out what was happening and that it was The Wiggles, both faces lit up. The expression on their faces was worth it.

My husband, of course, felt it necessary to announce to everyone that when I woke him up that morning, I told him, "You have to wear purple. I'm wearing blue, George is wearing red, and Anna's wearing yellow, so you have to wear purple." Everyone laughed, and I said, "Shows you how much he listens to me!" Leave it up to Jon to embarrass me in front of The Wiggles.

So I didn't get the pictures for their Wikipedia article. I was so star-struck, I didn't even mention it. Murray is much better looking in public, and Sam's hair is so black! It was a nice encounter, and I think the kids enjoyed the moment.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Perpetual toddlerhood

I've just spent the last three weeks in hell. How's that for dramatic?

It has felt like that, though. For some reason, George's sleep patterns for the last three weeks have been really irratic. He'd wake up every few hours, or sleep very few hours, or wake up at 3am and be up for the rest of the day. Jon and I would switch staying up with him, but it was up to me to handle most of it, and I do not do sleep deprivation very well. For example, the other night, at the tail end of it all, George went to bed very early, at about 5pm, and woke up at 10:30 (which is about my regular bedtime), and since he requires constant supervision, I was up with him the rest of the night. By 3:30am, when Jon woke up to relieve me, I was in despair and weeping because it was the third week of doing it.

Sometimes we forget that both our children are basically toddlers, even though they're chronically much older. I call it "perpetual toddlerhood." That period's called, for good reason, "the terrible twos", and it's probably the most difficult part of parenthood. For most parents, though, they know that sleepless nights, them getting into stuff continually, and the "everything's mine" outlook is temporary. That's not true for us, though; we've been doing it for nine years and there's no end in sight.

Most of the time, it's manageable, because toddlerhood is also full of Sesame Street and The Wiggles and lots of joy. There are times, though, when it's difficult, and being sleep deprived for weeks at at time makes it difficult to handle. It's those times that I get down, become deeply depressed, and feel despair. Despair over not seeing an end to it, and over the seriousness of my kids' disabilities.

If George was typically developing, he'd be able to tell us why he wasn't able to sleep. At the very least we'd be able to tell him to go to his room, shut the door, put on his TV, go on the computer, play his Playstation, and let us sleep. The door to his room is broken, so he'd come out of his room and need constant supervision to ensure his safety. It makes me understand the parents who got into trouble for putting their disabled kids in cages. The solution was to purchase more baby gates and tie them together--not cages, but a way to keep him safe so that we can sleep.

So last night was the second night of this solution, which we know is only temporary, and it's gone well. For some reason, though, it coincided with George's sleep improving. Perhaps he's woken up, seen that he's safe in his room, and gone back to sleep. Perhaps it was just a stage. Who knows? I've had two good nights of sleep, and it's made all the difference in the world.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

RIP Michael Jackson

So I came home this afternoon, a little bummed because I was worried about some clients. I turned on the TV, and there it was, news of Michael Jackson's death. I went, "Oh my god!" and the personal care worker there agreed and asked, "Did you like Michael Jackson?"

My response was, "Well, back in the day..." Thriller was probably the fifth album I ever owned, and I graduated from high school in 1983, a year after it was released and right in the middle of all the attention he got from it. For good reason, since it was a remarkable, ground-breaking record. It's sad to think of what he became, and his death is a tragedy.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


I have changed the color scheme of this blog to green, to show my support of the resistance movement in Iran. I am wearing the color today, as are my children. It's my intention to try and wear green all week, and to put the kids in it as well. It was interesting to see how many people wore green in Mass this morning. Even the priest was wearing green, although I'm not sure if it was intentional.

Oh, and happy Father's Day, too. Jon and I were supposed to go out for lunch today, but I'm not sure if it's gonna happen, since our worker didn't show up this morning. Who knows what's gonna happen. That's the drawback of depending on others when making plans; they often don't happen, especially when the people you depend upon are flaky and young.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Elmo vs Blue

Just now, my son approached my husband and said, "Blue!" This in spite of the fact that we're right in the middle of watching "Elmo's World" on Sesame Street recorded earlier today. Understand that George loves Blue; it's the first thing he says upon waking up in the morning. If Noggin ever stops showing it, I don't know what we'll do. We may actually have to break down and buy some DVDs.

That reminded me of another instance in which George asked for Blue, earlier in the week. George approached me with the same request, "Blue!" "Elmo's World" was on the TV again, and I was right in the middle of reading some of Kevin Clash's book for the SS article, so I said, "George! You love Blue more than Elmo?! We won't tell Kevin Clash; his feelings would probably be hurt!"

After reading some of the book (the parts available on Google Books, which is why I posted on Twitter that I may have to invest in it), I think I may actually be correct about Clash's feelings about George preferring Blue over his Elmo. Not that I'm criticizing him for that, though. On the other hand, I think it's an accurate estimation of his feelings about the role and about Elmo's influence on young children, which is profound. Looking over my computer at both my kids watching him is evidence of that, at least for me.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Alan Muraoka

For us adult fans of Sesame Street, the question is always asked: Who is your favorite character on The Show? This is formost in my mind because being burnt out on the History of SS article, I decided to tackle a list this time: List of characters in Sesame Street. Of course, that begs another question: how is that taking a break? I never said I wasn't obsessive.

Anyhoo, if you were to ask me, "Christine, who's your favorite human character on SS?" I'm sure you may expect me to say Gordon, and if you did, you'd be dead wrong. My favorite character on SS is Alan. During my research for The List, I found this image of Alan, made-up for another role. He's greyed-up, but I think he's very attractive here. What a great smile!

I decided that Alan was my favorite human character on The Show after an episode that aired a few years ago. After looking it up in Muppet Wiki, it was Episode 3993, which aired in 2002. Alan and Gordon are playing chess when Big Bird passes, chasing a bouncing box. Alan leaves the game to catch the box to take it to the Mail-It Shop. I gained so much respect for Alan, both as a character and as an actor, that he'd be willing to do something so silly for The Show. It also doesn't help that now that Bob McGrath's as old as dirt, he's currently the best looking male on The Show.

Oh, the box ended up being from Big Bird's granny-bird: that month's installment of the Letter of the Month club, "a joyful jumping J", as the Wiki puts it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Daily Mass

I've come to the conclusion that I have plenty of "bloggable" experiences; I just need the discipline and self-awareness to think of my experiences in that way. It should be on my list of ways to self-improve: continue the weight loss, exercise, better take care of the housework, get on my paperwork more efficiently, edit for Wikipedia, pursue the writing career, be more tardy, don't overdraw the checking account, blog more.

So I will now relate today's "bloggable" experience. After the kids' workers arrived (they need to add tardiness to their self-improvement list as well), I went over to church. There was a special mass today, and I had arranged that I was going to meet my friend, Sister Mary David, there for the luncheon held following it. Sister and I meet weekly for spiritual direction (she's been such a tremendous help to me, and worth another blog post). I showed up before Mass was over, and had intended to just wait in my car, but changed my mind and went into church.

I'm very glad that I did, since I walked in right at the point where our priest, Father Joe Schmidt, was washing his hands. I missed most of the service, which was a special healing Mass our parish, St. Mary's Church in Moscow, has twice a year. I've never attended one, since I've either always been busy or I didn't think it was for me. What a pleasant surprise--I didn't expect that I'd be able to take Communion today, but I did. I really wish I was able to attend Mass daily, but I've never been able to, due to my kids' schedule. (Mass is at 8am, and the kids get dropped off at school by 8:20, and it just isn't feasible during the summer, either.)

I love it when God surprises me with unexpected gifts, like being able to take him in through the Eucharist. It doesn't happen often, but I appreciate it and am thankful when it does.

I have sold out

You might have noticed that I've added a new link to the sidebar. I've done that because I received an email from the owner of that blog offering to link mine if I linked hers. I'll do pretty much anything to increase the traffic on this site, doncha know. So please excuse the sell-out, and if you're visiting from there, welcome!

Monday, June 15, 2009

I have a strange life

I really should blog more. I know that no one reads this, but now that I'm on Twitter, it's probably a good idea to simply force myself. Part of the reason I don't blog often is that not really that much happens to me that I'd call bloggable. Today, though, I had an experience that's definately bloggable.

I attended my son's therapy sessions this afternoon. His speech therapy occured at the therapy center across the street from the hospital in Moscow, and his occupational and physical therapy co-treat was immediately after. (I say "co-treat" because his OT and PT work together during the same appointment.) We met at Friendship Square in downtown Moscow, a few blocks from the hospital on Main Street. Friendship Square is half-way down Main Street right in the center of town; there's a fountain on one side of the street, and a play structure and park benches on the other side. It's kinda a "mini-park".

I sat on one of the benches watching the therapists work with George, and a young woman, probably in her mid-to-late 2os sat next to me as her little boy was playing. He kept talking to her, and she replied, "What? I can't hear what you're saying." His response each time was, "Never mind," and I asked him, "Who are you--Gilda Radner?"

Of course, he looked at me blankly, and I said, "Of course, you don't know who she is." Then I turned to his mom and asked her, "Do you know who Gilda Radner is?" She said, "Uh, no," and I proceeded to explain to her that Gilda Radner was a member of the original cast of "Saturday Night Live" and one of her characters was "Rosanne Rosannadanna" and her catch phrase was "Never mind." It wasn't until I told her that Gilda Radner was married to Gene Wilder that she knew what I was talking about. My reaction to that exchange was, "Oh, I'm so old!"

Later, after therapy was over, George and I went over to listen to two 20-something young men busking in the Square, playing a drum and guitar. George loves anything to do with music, so he had a great time, especially when the drummer let George play his drum. ("Busking" is playing music in public for donations; the only reason I know the term is because of my Wiggles research, since that's something they did at the beginning of their career.) At one point, I said to the musicians, "Do you know anything from The Wiggles?" Of course, they didn't, and I found myself explaining again.

I have such a strange life. I'm basically a 45-year old mom of toddlers, so a lot of the other moms with toddlers I come into contact with, some who are young enough to be my daughters, don't have similar cultural experiences. I go around explaining my life to people all the time. It can get a little tiresome, but it also opens up conversations. It's also a bit lonely, because other than my husband, I don't know anyone who can relate to me.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Racism and rape

It looks like this blog has become more about my Wikipedia experiences than about figure skating. Perhaps when Worlds happen next month, I'll have more to say. The cool thing is that Worlds is in L.A. this year, so we'll be seeing more of it. As I've previously stated, it looks like I'm going to have to break down and subscribe to IceNetwork next season, so that I don't go to the '10 Nationals unprepared.

At the current time, I'm addressing some reviews about the Caged Bird article. The experience of editing that article has been an emotional journey for me in many ways. As I was re-editing some of the material about racism today (which I have off, at least until later this afternoon), I was struck with how inadequate I am to the task of writing about the subject. It's a bit overwhelming, and humbling. I think I got myself in way over my head once again. This is a characteristic of mine; I tend to take on things that are too big for me to handle.

At one point while addressing the reviewer's comments, I stated, "Who do I think I am anyway, taking on this article?" Here I am, this white woman with very little experience with the topic of racism. No, actually, none at all. No wonder I'm struggling with the writing, and it has more to do with my weaknesses as a writer. It's almost like my experience writing the "Organs" section of Stanford Memorial Church. It was obvious from my first attempts that it was written by a non-organist and someone who knows little about music. My solution in that situation was to elicit help from an editor who's an expert about organs.

Perhaps what would help in this situation would be to elicit an expert about this, a black editor who specializes in this kind of thing. Perhaps I'm already doing what I can, getting help from more experienced and skilled editors to get the prose right. What doesn't help is the fact that the topics (not just racism) in Caged Bird are so complicated, difficult, and emotional. I know it's been emotional for me.

For example, back in September, when I was in the research phase of the development of the article, I sat on a jury for a man accused of child molestation. (We found him guilty.) Now, I was aware of the kind of case going into it, but I thought that it would be a good opportunity to do some research while waiting for jury selection, and I brought one of the books I read for the article. I can't believe that I didn't make the connection between the rape in Caged Bird and the court case, and didn't even think that it may be an inappropriate book to read that day. Well, sure enough, I had to put the book away before the day was through.

My life is like that: I do research about a book that features a child's rape the very same week I experience my worst nightmare and sit on a jury about a child molestation case. It's not the first time a "coincidence" like that has happened to me. Racism, especially the way Maya Angelou describes it, is also emotional, and I'm finding myself having a great deal of difficulty writing about it. In spite of that, though, I'll finish improving the article, since I'm committed to seeing it pass to featured article, even if I am a white girl.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


Since it's pointless to blog about Figure Skating (see post below), at least I can still blog about Wikipedia. I wanted to point this out some way, but it didn't seem to fit on my user page, and it certainly doesn't fit on an article talk page.

Two of my main projects in the last several months are I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Sesame Street. After a flurry of editing on Caged Bird before the holidays, it's currently in a holding pattern waiting for another editor to look it over before we get more feedback before it's submitted to become a featured article. My goal is to have it FA sometime this year, the 40th anniversary of the book's publication.

While waiting, I took on the Sesame Street article. Up to this week, I was in the "research phase of article development." Basically, that means reading: G is For Growing, which is a compilation of research done on the show, and the new book, Street Gang, by Michael Davis. The latter book is delightful, and full of all kinds of usable information for the article. I highly recommend it; not only does it cover the history of Sesame Street; it covers the history of television, children's TV in particular.

What I found interesting, though, is that both of my main recent WP projects were both created 40 years ago. (I may not get the Sesame Street article to FA by November, which is the show's anniversary, but I may be able to get History of Sesame Street to that point, since it's more manageable.) The even more interesting thing is that both Sesame Street and Caged Bird were created out of dinner parties.

Jean Ganz Cooney hosted a dinner in 1966, and the discussion of the guests led directly to the creation of the show. In 1968, Maya Angelou attended a dinner party at the home of cartoonist Jules Feiffer and the discussion about Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination and their childhoods inspired Angelou to write her autobiography. I don't know what it says about me and my obsessions with the material in both articles, but the parallel is too interesting to let pass by.

The other thing to note has only to do with Sesame Street. In 1969, when the show premiered, I was five years old, the very end of the population the producers and creators wanted to reach. As I read Davis' book, it struck me: all this was done for me! Perhaps that's egocentric, but I became teary-eyed as I realized that. For me, and for my beautiful disabled children, who can recite the alphabet in large part due to the show.

Perhaps Angelou wrote Caged Bird for me as well; so that I can learn about racism the first time I read it as a young college student, and the research I've done this year, the year we elected a black man as President of the United States.