Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


CHiPs 1, Nikchick 0

Though I've been active on Twitter and doing a little linking at Facebook, I realized I haven't yet blogged about what's been going on in the last few weeks. Time to rectify this.

At the beginning of February my grandmother was scheduled for a biopsy for a suspicious breast lump. This surgery had been put off last fall because of an infection in her leg and considering all of her other health problems we were a little anxious for her. It turns out that they've postponed the surgery yet again for reasons I'm not exactly clear on because by the time word came in I was already off and focused on my mom, who was scheduled for surgery herself.

Mom's surgery had the potential to be fairly serious and was anticipated to need six weeks or more of recovery, which itself made me nervous just because of her home environment and support network (or lack thereof). Thankfully, everything went even better than we could have hoped and they had to do far less surgery than they'd thought. Mom was out of the hospital several days early and a week later was doing great. Very happy and greatly relieved by that!

Because of the timing of DunDraCon and Kate's mid-winter break I was able to schedule the drive so I could be in Portland on my way down (in time for mom's surgery) and on the way back was able to stop in and check on her again. I'm so grateful that everything worked out so well in that regard.

In fact, the entire trip was unbelievably excellent. I got to see my brother and spend time with my family, the convention was a great time to reconnect with fans, associates, and friends, and I got to spend time with my daughter in my off hours to boot. A couple of mom friends of mine met up with me and we toured the Berkeley campus with Kate and enjoyed decadent desserts and a gorgeous view from my friend Susanne's house that just stunned me. I wish we lived closer so these meet-ups didn't have to be every couple of years. Even the weather cooperated and gave us several beautiful, sunny days.

The one downer of the whole trip is there in the subject of this post: I was stopped by the California Highway Patrol and earned a speeding ticket of unknown cost. I'll admit right off the bat that I was speeding along I-5, because EVERYONE was speeding. I'm not kidding, every single car on the freeway was clipping along 10 to 15 miles over the posted speed limit and I was driving along doing the same. We were 10 hours into our trip and we were laughing together and generally feeling pretty good, anticipating being close to our destination. Next thing I know the red lights are blinking behind me. I'll admit, I was confused at first because the lights were not the kind I'm used to seeing on police vehicles. I thought it might be an ambulance behind me. Despite my bad girl reputation I'm really kind of a goody two-shoes and I haven't had a traffic ticket since Kate was an infant. My first thought was "get out of the way! but since I was in the far left lane, it was dark, and there was traffic for three lanes to my right, I pulled off into the left median. It was quite wide and there was plenty of space. The red lights followed, so clearly it was no ambulance and yes, they were after me. I put the car in park, turned off the engine, and started to pull out my license like a good girl.

Next thing I know a woman's voice is barking over a loud speaker: "MOVE TO THE RIGHT, NOW! NOW, GO, GO, MOVE!" Flustered, I fumbled to restart our rental car and get it back in gear. The officer is getting more agitated, "I SAID MOVE TO THE RIGHT. DO IT. MOVE!" I coax the car back into the freeway trying to get to the right, while the voice yells, "DON'T CUT ANYONE OFF! GET TO THE RIGHT!" Finally on the right hand side of the freeway, I'm beside myself, thinking what the hell did I do? The officer comes to the passenger window (substantially more dour and aggressive than those portrayals of Ponch and Jon from my youth) and orders me to get out of the car. By this point I'm seriously thinking I'm going to be told to get down on the ground. It was like an episode of COPS or something. "What did I do?" I asked. "You were speeding..."

Holy crap, I've never been treated that way by the police in my life. The closest thing to this experience I can think of is the infamous incident I had with that out of control airline attendant on our way to GenCon SoCal many years ago. For a speeding ticket? On a freeway where literally every single car was speeding? After the cop let me go I did a little experiment and set my cruise control to exactly the speed limit for the remainder of the drive (40 minutes or so, I guess). Every single car on the freeway blew past us. Kate and I counted them: 112 cars, some overtaking me from very far behind.

In my conspicuous red rental van, with its conspicuous out of state plates, I guess I was an easy target. My local friends believe that the budget in CA is so bad at the moment that hitting out of state speeders has been an easy way to get some cash in the coffers. The worst part is I don't even know how much the ticket will be but one friend sadly informed me that it could be up over $500 because they've jacked up the fines lately (see aforementioned budget crisis). This is very, very bad news. I even looked up to see if I could plead not guilty or extenuating circumstances or hardship or anything because a $500 would be dire and all I saw at the county traffic fine website was something about having to post BAIL if you plead not guilty or appeal your ticket, even by mail. I've never seen anything like this. Definitely the downer on an otherwise successful and pleasant trip.

Back in Seattle, it seems we've brought the nice weather we had in Cali home with us. It's been 60s and sunshine. The mountain has been out every day and flowers are blooming. I know this is Seattle's tricky "fake spring" that happens every February but on the heels of an historically mild January any further wintery weather seems distant and my mood (but for the worry about the ticket) is remarkably cheery.

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Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines

Tomorrow may just be the day when I finally get the plumber into the house to install the heat exchanger and pressure gauge for our defective heating system. We got our settlement in October and have been talking with this plumber for weeks trying to schedule him to come in. I can't imagine how frustrated I'd be if we'd actually had to go with the full-on "rip out all the walls and pipes" plan at this point, with the cold weather upon us and scheduling conflicts abounding. Fingers crossed for good news and an effective solution this week!

Kate celebrated her 14th birthday this weekend, with a girly sleepover on Friday that dragged well into Saturday afternoon. Red velvet cake was made. I used Pinch My Salt's recipe and dirtied about every bowl in the house in the process but managed not to ruin anything in the kitchen with red food coloring. The girls were gleefully using the Domino's online pizza creation tool to create concoctions but Chris talked them into getting their actual pizzas from Stellar Pizza so they'd be, you know, edible. One Beanie and one Fidalgo Four Cheese later and the girls settled down to watch Star Trek together. One of the girls couldn't stay the night so I drove her home a little after midnight and, aside from having to put a stop to some rough-housing at 1am, the whole thing went off well and Kate was happy.

It was poignant for me because I'm all too aware of the changes looming in the future for these girls. Not bad changes at all, just that they're on the road to becoming lovely young adults. The girl who left early had to do so because she needed to spend the weekend working on her high school applications! Some of these girls have known each other since kindergarten but with Seattle's new school boundaries they're all most likely going to different schools by next year. Some are applying to private schools or magnet schools or out-of-district schools because the choices we're presented are difficult or dubious.

Kate's got three options under the new school plan. One is a small alternative school that had historically been good but last year was merged into a building with another orphaned program and an existing middle school. Parents complained that the new building didn't have proper science labs for high school science requirements, the building has several million in needed building upgrades that haven't been addressed because of the Seattle budget crisis, etc. There's not even a Nova school webpage anymore, so I don't know what to expect from that program, though it is a natural transition for kids from a school like Orca (250 or so kids, alternative education curriculum).

The second option is a new math and science magnet school. This is currently a regular high school in a recently upgraded building. It's the closest HS to our house and currently one of the worst programs in the city (lowest WASL scores... frex, less than 7% of students passing
the state's science requirement, highest dropout rate, highest suspension rate, lowest SATs). The new superintendent has decided to remake this school into a School of Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM). The school will have accelerated math and science "academies" and an extra-long school day to add an additional full period. High focus on math and science with few to no options for electives and extra-curriculars and a school population of 1600 students. Kate is good at math and science and is currently on track to be able to enter HS having completed freshman math but that's all a huge switch from her educational experience up to this point. No idea if it would be a welcome change or a complete disaster for her.

The last option is the default high school: a failing high school with about 1500 students where 1/4 of freshman fail to earn the 5 credits necessary to advance, where only 28% meet standard in math and 18% meet standard in science. And, of course, there's also the issue of gang problems in the big Seattle high schools. Not exactly high on my list of places to send my child.

Of course all of this is what I see through my mom glasses. The kids are only vaguely aware of what lies ahead for them, nervous but excited about high school's opportunities. Four years of high school seems like a long way off and long time to get through when you're 14. When you're 40 and looking back at how fast those 14 years have flown by, being one high school career away from adulthood is more akin to a race car hurtling into the final lap, checkered flag in sight.

Speaking of mothers, my mom called Kate for her birthday and then talked to me for a while. She shared the results of some of her recent medical tests and will be needing more surgery in 2010, this time it'll be removing a section of her colon and will be a much bigger deal than the relatively minor sinus surgery. She hasn't talked to the surgeon yet so I don't know what the timeline is. She seems to think that she can put it off until the summer but I told her to let me know what the surgeon actually says. I suppose there's a chance that this will spoil the cruise we're supposed to take with Kate's class in May and, of course, if our experience with her sinus surgery is any indication she's going to need a lot of outside help with her recovery whenever this surgery takes place. I'm steeling myself, as I will inevitably be called up for duty.

Nothing to be done about it now, so I'm setting my sights on Christmas and chugging ahead towards the new year. Must decide on a holiday menu since it will be just the three of us for the first time in years.

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