Columns

Losing Lance

As I write this, there have been 778 deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County residents. By the time you read this, there likely are more.

On Sept. 6, those numbers became deeply personal when a longtime family friend died of the coronavirus.

Lance Lehman and I were born the same year. We met him and his wife Jodi at church in 1992, and soon Lance joined my husband’s men’s group. Every Friday morning a small group of guys met for Bible study and prayer. Before long, those friendships grew to include their wives – most of us at-home moms with young children.

The friends you make when your children are young often become like extended family. Baby showers, birthdays, girls’ nights, guys’ outings, all that time shared weaves cords of connection.

When Lance and Jodi and their four kids moved to Colville in 2005, those connections loosened but didn’t break.

What broke were our hearts at the devastating news of his death. He was 55. He and Jodi looked forward to celebrating their 30th anniversary in November. His three grandchildren adored their “G-Pa.” The adoration was mutual.

Lance often said, “If I’d known being a G-Pa was so much fun, I would have done that first!”

Lance and Jodi Lehman, December 2019

Here’s what I remember about Lance Lehman.

I remember his years working at Costco (18) and how brave he was when he decided to go back to school and pursue a career in dental hygiene.

Playing trivia-type games with him and Jodi was hilarious because he was six years older than she, and got our ‘80s music/movies themes while poor Jodi was still grooving to the ‘90s vibe.

He ALWAYS wore shorts. Even in winter. Even though his legs were as white as snow!

I remember the camping trips, game nights, Fourth of July celebrations and countless potlucks our families shared.

Lance adored his two girls and did his best to figure out the whole hair situation.

He delighted in his two sons.

I remember his unwavering faithfulness to Derek’s men’s group and how he never missed a meeting. How after they moved to Colville he pondered coming to Spokane, just for their Friday morning gathering.

Lance loved to golf and planned and organized many outings for the guys. He was complicit in an epic prank at one of those. I was pregnant with Sam, and one of Derek’s friends pretended to get a call from his wife, saying I was trying to reach him because I was in labor. I wasn’t. But the guys enjoyed watching Derek panic, and throw his golf bag over his shoulder while scrambling to the parking lot.

I remember the very distinct, Lance-way he said my name.

can still see the beaming glow on his face when he walked his daughter, Lexi, down the aisle at her wedding.

On Friday morning amid funeral preparations, Jodi shared more memories with me.

“He loved to sing,” she said. “If he didn’t know the words, he made them up. Lance enjoyed going into the kid’s rooms in the morning to wake them up by singing ‘I Saw the Light.’ He thought it was hilarious. They did not.”

Lance loved camping, especially at Haag Cove Campground on the Columbia River near Kettle Falls. They’d recently purchased a new trailer and in July they took it up to the Cove. They had so many plans for that trailer.

They had so many plans.

His favorite food was Bonzai Burgers at Red Robin. Every time they came to Spokane, he had to have one.

His faith was vital to him, and he wanted to share it whenever he could.

“Lance’s heart was to reach the lost for Jesus,” said Jodi. “He’d offer to put his clients on his prayer list. His work became his ministry.”

She grieves for their three grandchildren, the oldest is only 4.

“I miss him on behalf of my grandbabies,” she said through tears. “They won’t remember him.”

She drew a shaking breath.

“Someday it will all make sense.”

While we wait for that day, I ask you to remember that those listed on the COVID-19 death tallies are more than sobering statistics. Each number represents an individual who left behind a grieving spouse, children, parents, siblings or friends.

To someone that number was a person like Lance, who meant everything to those who loved him.

Columns

Procrastination: it’s keeping me waiting

I would tell you how many times I started this column, but somewhere along the way, I lost count.

What no one warns you about working from home is that if you’re prone to procrastination, your house will give you ample opportunities for postponing pesky deadlines.

In more than 15 years in journalism, I’ve never missed a deadline, nor even been significantly late, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t cut it close to the wire.

Not long ago I wrote a column about anticipation, referencing the Carly Simon classic hit song “Anticipation.”

Guess what? That tune works fine if you substitute procrastination for anticipation. (You know you just tried it.)

I hummed that tune as I started a load of laundry after typing the header on this column. Since the washer is next to the freezer, I thought I might as well grab the roast I was planning to cook for dinner.

I set the frozen slab on my desk and typed my byline. Then I checked Facebook and time melted as I scrolled through a friend’s vacation photos. The roast also started melting, so I hustled it upstairs to the kitchen.

Opening a cupboard, I searched for the seasonings I’d need for the roast. Searched, because tall bottles of cooking wine, vinegars and oils had hidden the basil and oregano.

Then I eyed the cupboard with baking supplies. We’re in the middle of zucchini season, and every week I’m churning out breads, cookies and muffins. Why was the baking powder on a shelf so high I had to climb on a chair to reach it?

Obviously, the cabinets desperately needed organizing. I pulled everything out of each cupboard and wiped down the shelves, racks and lazy Susans.

Hysterical meowing broke my cleaning reverie as my cats, Thor and Walter, notified me lunchtime was past due. I filled their bowls and heard the timer on the dryer ringing. When you don’t iron, you can’t afford to let your clothes sit in the dryer.

My blinking monitor reminded me I’d barely started this column, so I sat down and wrote the first sentence. That’s when I noticed my email flag waving. After answering and categorizing a multitude of messages, I realized I’d left everything out on the kitchen counters.

Organizing puts me in an absolute Zen state of mind. The beauty of a well-stocked kitchen delights me. By the time I was done, all of the baking and cooking spices were within easy reach, and I’d rearranged the canned and box goods, too.

It was picture-perfect, so of course, I grabbed my phone and took some photos. I posted the pictures on Instagram and congratulated myself on work well done. Then I remembered my paying job. I’d only written about 50 words. Back to the basement I trudged.

As I finish this, it’s almost time to start dinner. Which has me thinking about my pots and pans. Why are the baking sheets so hard to reach? Wouldn’t the colanders and mixing bowls work better in a larger cupboard?

That’s when I started humming. Feel free to sing along.

Procrastination,

Procrastination

Is making me late

Is keeping me waiting

Columns

Hear this rebel yell

Two years.

That’s how long it’s been since we’ve enjoyed live music.

We couldn’t have known that the Aug. 24, 2019, Sammy Hagar concert at Northern Quest would mark the beginning of our live-performance desert, as a global pandemic wiped clean our event calendars.

Thursday night the first drop of musical rain fell for us as Billy Idol wowed a sold-out crowd at Northern Quest.

Sporting more leather jackets than a motorcycle club, Idol and his amazing band brought back my high school memories with a vengeance and reminded me just how much I’ve missed the joy of live music.

Black leather isn’t really my thing, but if I could rock it when I’m 65, the way Idol does, I might reconsider.

After glancing around the dancing crowd, Derek nixed that idea.

“I’m pretty sure Billy’s the only one who can squeeze his 60+ body into his ‘80s clothes and look OK.”

Cindy and Derek Hval at Billy Idol, August 2021

Actually, when Idol first broke into the music scene with Generation X, I was still in middle school wearing culottes with matching vests, handmade by my mother. So, yeah, I was definitely more One Hundred Dorks than “One Hundred Punks.”

By the time he launched his solo career, I was more than ready to give a “Rebel Yell.” Uh, as long as I kept the volume down, so my mom didn’t know I was listening to the “devil’s music.”

One afternoon I thought I was home alone and blasted “White Wedding” on MTV. Let’s just say Mom didn’t believe me when I told her the song was about every girl’s dream wedding.

“Why is he wearing more makeup than the bride?” she asked. “And why isn’t he wearing a shirt?”

Speaking of, evidently, Idol hasn’t added many shirts to his wardrobe since the 1980s. That delighted the Thursday night crowd when he showed off his still youthful abs and flexed his biceps to the accompaniment of the screams of his enthusiastic fans. Out of deference to my husband, I clapped politely and did my screaming on the inside.

His music probably doesn’t make sense to everyone. After all the lyrics to his version of Tommy James’ “Mony Mony” are still pretty incomprehensible.

“Cause you make me feel (like a pony)

So good (like a pony)

So good (like a pony)

So good (Mony Mony)”

Even so, it’s impossible not to dance a bit when that song plays on the oldies station. Yes, I’ve made peace with the fact my high school soundtrack has been relegated to the oldie channels, or worse played in supermarkets and on elevators.

By the way, Idol is a grandparent now, just like many of us who came of age during his prime.

That’s not to say his work is dated. At the concert, he sang his recently released “Bitter Taste.” Recorded during the pandemic, the song reflects on his near-fatal 1990 motorcycle accident.

“Hello, goodbye

There’s a million ways to die

Should’ve left me way back

Should’ve left me way back

By the roadside.”

The contemplative song gave way to more upbeat tunes like “Rebel Yell,” and he ended the show with “White Wedding.”

All in all, Idol’s concert was a fun return to all the things we’ve missed during the pandemic, and it sounded a hopeful note that better days are still to come.

Columns

Happiness Times Two

Absolute joy.

There’s just no other way to describe what it’s like to hold your grandsons in your arms. Though it’s only been three and a half months since our last visit, toddlers grow and change with lightning speed.

When Derek, our youngest son, Sam, and I arrived at the twins’ new home in Newark, Ohio, earlier this month, we wondered if the boys would remember us.

We didn’t wonder long. Sam captured their reactions in a photo. Nick reached for me and buried his head on my shoulder, and Adam gleefully bounded into Derek’s arms. It was so thoughtful of Alex and Brooke to have twins, so each of us gets a boy to hold. And at 20 months, they’re definitely more boys than babies.

Nick has hugs for Nana, while Adam plays with Papa.

In fact, it seems I took more videos than pictures of them this trip because they’re always on the move. One afternoon, as we explored their new town, we decided to let them stroll around the courthouse square. But, just like their father at this age, these guys prefer running to walking.

After all that exertion, we needed to cool down, so we stopped for ice cream. Holding a toddler with an ice cream cone is every bit as messy and as fun as I remembered.

The twins enjoyed exploring the Airbnb home we rented and the wooden blocks we bought were a huge hit. They spent lots of time building block towers and had fun dumping the blocks out of the bucket and putting them back in again.

Speaking of cleaning up, Nick has a passion for sweeping. Every day, he grabbed the broom and made a circuit. Then he went back for the Swiffer. And then the mop. Those wood floors gleamed by the time he was done!

In the evenings we returned to our son’s home for dinner. The house sits on almost an acre and features an in-ground pool. Plenty of room for boys to roam when they get older, but on this visit, the grown-ups cooled off in the big pool while the little ones splashed in their kiddie pool on the gated deck under their mom’s watchful eye.

The days flew by, filled with play, Popsicles and naps, followed by evenings with barbecues and lots of laughter.

I was so delighted that though the twins are busy, active boys, they both enjoy cuddling. They also adored their Uncle Sam. It seems every time he sat down, a twin would run over and climb up on his lap.

Best of all, that snuggling made for perfect story times. As I mentioned in my previous column, I took a stack of board books for the boys with me. Derek gamely packed them in his bag, so I didn’t have to wear the same outfit the entire trip.

Story time with Nana and Adam

We plan one more visit this year before winter and before the twins’ second birthday. I’m already counting down the days – and picking out the books.

Columns

Raising Readers

Hval boys

The photo tells the story.

“Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss opens across Alex’s lap. He beams because he’s the designated reader. Ethan clutches 6-week-old Sam. Ethan smiles because he’s the chosen baby-holder. With neither baby nor book to hold, Zach sits glumly chin in hand, pondering his new role as middle child.

As far as I can tell, it’s the earliest picture with all four of our sons together – and of course, someone is holding a book.

Lest you worry about Zach, another snapshot shows he’s finally achieved story-reader status. A toddler Sam leans against him as Zach reads, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

Sam and Zach

Bookish moms tend to have bookish kids, which led to unforeseen consequences. More on that later.

Perhaps a love of reading is genetic, imprinted in our DNA. All I know is my parents were readers and my siblings are readers. As soon as we could print our names we all got library cards.

I still remember the thrilling moment when I realized I could read. I huddled in the children’s area of the South Hill Library with a picture book in my lap. Suddenly, the letters became words. I was reading! I was reading “Fun with Dick and Jane!” I haven’t been without a book nearby since.

Few things are as magical as picking up a good book and finding yourself transported to another world, another time, another life.

From the moment I knew I was expecting, I read to my unborn children. I wasn’t hoping for a baby Einstein, I just wanted them to learn the rhythm and flow of language.

Cloth books and board books filled our nursery – as indispensable as the stacks of diapers and wipes on the changing table.

Bedtime rituals always included stories, songs and prayers – each offering a different experience of the wonder of words.

As the boys grew, storytime at the Shadle and later Indian Trail libraries became a weekly outing we all eagerly anticipated. Soon my sons could sound out words, choose books by themselves, and discover favorite authors and series independently.

Even as the three oldest approached adolescence and outgrew the bedtime ritual, I’d frequently read aloud to them after dinner. When Sam discovered Patricia Polacco books and brought home “Pink and Say” from the school library, I read it to the family. The book is based on a true story of two teenage boys, one Black and one white, who fought during the Civil War. Every single one of us cried at the ending – even the teenagers.

That’s the power of reading aloud – it offers a shared experience that television and movies cannot replicate.

Often the boys would read to me, especially Ethan and Sam. In fact, Sam 21, and I recently read “A Monster Calls” aloud together as he prepared a lesson plan on the book for a college class. He loves literature so much; he’s halfway through earning a master’s degree in English at EWU.

All of our adult sons are readers, which resulted in the aforementioned consequences – they tell me about books they’ve enjoyed and loan them to me. Now, a stack of their recommendations teeters next to my pile of library books.

When I mentioned I wanted to read “Talking to Strangers” by Malcolm Gladwell, Ethan said, “I have it. You can borrow it.”

Zach read a book about modern media he thought I’d enjoy and brought it over. Derek started reading it before I got to it.

Sam buys books like the printed page might grow obsolete. My son-stack grew when he added another book by Patrick Ness, the author of “A Monster Calls,” and a book of short stories by Ted Chiang.

With twin toddler sons, Alex doesn’t have much time to read, but he loved Stephen King’s “11/22/63,” so I’m currently 100 pages into the 849-page volume.

I couldn’t have imagined all those Dr. Seuss books ago, that my grown-up sons would aid and abet my reading addiction, but at this rate my to-read stack won’t shrink any time soon. And that’s a consequence I’m happily enjoying.

Columns

Wedding Gown Memories

I felt like a princess on my wedding day.

My white, satin gown billowed around me. Its high collar and scoop neckline trimmed in lace, with a dozen satin-covered buttons down the back, and more along the sleeves. Yards of tulle swirled from the Juliet cap that anchored my veil.

It was perfect for a late March wedding, and even better I found the Jessica McClintock gown at Frederick & Nelson where I worked, so I got to use my employee discount.

If there’s one day in every woman’s life where she feels absolutely beautiful – it’s her wedding day. Alas, like Cinderella, midnight comes for all of us, and our beautiful gowns become memories.

Some women carefully pack away their dresses to save for future generations, some donate them to programs like Angel Gowns, and the more practical among us, sell them.

After I had my third son, I simply couldn’t imagine why that gown was still in my closet. We were always strapped for cash, so I took it to a consignment store and brought home $75 when it sold. The veil I kept. I reasoned that perhaps veils weren’t as trendy as dresses, and maybe I’d have a daughter-in-law who’d want to wear it.

In my previous column, I invited readers to share their wedding gown stories, and share they did.

“I still have my wedding dress from 1990,” said Lyn Mills. “I’m saving it in hopes that my daughter or one of my relatives will want to wear it as is or remake it for their wedding some day.”

Donna Scripture’s two daughters, Joan and Mary, wore the gown she purchased at the Bon Marche in 1956.

“Mary is short, but she wanted to wear it, so my neighbor, Pat, took the whole gown apart, made the alterations and put it back together,” Scripture said.

Beth Viren wrote, “I hand-sewed my wedding dress back in 1974. I was a senior at Whitworth College and was living in a dorm. The pattern was a very complicated Vogue pattern with full skirt and a train, made of crepe backed ivory satin, and had 36 tucks in the front and back of the bodice with fabric covered buttons, sheer fluffy sleeves with satin cuffs.”

When she made a mistake, her grandmother came to the rescue from Seattle and helped her finish the gown.

Viren and her husband recently downsized, and she came across her gown. She called Marcella Davis, owner of Marcella’s Bridal.

“She said that she actually takes old wedding dresses and hangs on to them,” Viren wrote. “She says that whenever she has a customer who comes in looking for their own special dress, and she knows ‘they may need a little extra attention,’ she goes to her stash of dresses. I loved that idea, and she assured me she would find the perfect person to be able to wear my dress again.”

Tamara Dees has a special plan for her gown.

“My wedding gown will be used to line my mother’s coffin. My mother is pleased, and I am honored,” she wrote.

Sandra Zikiye-Jones wore a lace dress that had been made in England.

“It had an attached train of ruffles, and the sleeves were long and pointed over my hands.”

When Eileen Mabee married in 1972, she wore the gown her mother wore in 1937.

“The dress was made by a friend, Julia Tobias, who was just beginning to design clothes in Omaha, Nebraska,” Mabee wrote. “Julia went on to become a sought-after couture designer in Denver and had her own boutique. Her dresses are in Denver fashion museums. I still have the dress, and I’m sure it will stay in the family.”

Barbara Stimers also had an original design.

In 1970, she went bridal shopping with her parents in Toronto.

“All the dresses were so fancy, and my dad thought they were too expensive,” she recalled.

Seeing she couldn’t find what she wanted, the two ladies who owned the shop stepped in. They ask her what she liked and quickly sketched up a design.

The result? An empire waist gown of white and off-white linen with knotted fabric buttons on the back and the sleeve cuffs.

“I borrowed my sister’s long veil and wore daisies in my hair,” Stimers said. “I still have my dress.”

Isabelle Green’s original wedding gown was lost before she could wear it.

“The Spokesman-Review reported a fire at Arthur’s Bridal Store in downtown Spokane in early 1956. I read the headline at my dorm in Pullman on the WSU campus,” she wrote.

Her wedding dress was in the shop and was lost in the fire.

“They allowed me to choose any gown I wanted to replace it, and since my wedding was not until July of 1956, I had plenty of time to recover. To my knowledge not one customer was without a gown on their special day. The store flew in gowns from all over and made sure every wedding went on without delay,” Green said.

Whether we’ve kept them, sold them, or donated them, memories of our wedding gowns don’t dull or fade like the fabric they were made of.

Instead, they remind us of that magical day when we felt like royalty, and happily ever after seemed guaranteed.

More photos at https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/jun/10/front-porch-wedding-gown-memories/

Angel Gown update

Peggy Mangiaracina and RoxAnn Walker are still accepting dresses for the Angel Gown program. They take donated wedding dresses and create gowns for stillborn infants or babies who die soon after birth.

If you’d like to donate your gown please email spokaneangelgowns@yahoo.com

Columns

My Outlook’s Getting Brighter

I don’t like change.

I like reliable routines, familiar faces, and grocery stores that don’t rearrange their aisles every few months.

I’ve kept the same husband for 36 years, still live in the house we bought in 1993, and use a paper planner and a wall calendar with cute kitten photos to track my days.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Then my email broke, and I couldn’t fix it.

It was a catastrophic computer event that I couldn’t blame on my kids, since I’m the only user of the device.

I’ve used the same email program since before my youngest son was born. My current email address is only my second. (My first was an AOL account. Yes, that’s how old I am.)

If I just used email as an old-fashioned way to stay in touch with folks, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But I use it to track every single story and project on my to-do list.

My newspaper articles are assigned and filed via email, and I schedule interviews and bill clients through it. Without it, I might as well be banging away on a Smith Corona, stuffing envelopes and looking for stamps.

Tech support (my husband) resuscitated the program a couple of times. I’d start the day bright with hope, only to have it fail repeatedly. When you have more than a dozen people waiting for you to schedule their pandemic project story, you really don’t want to lose their names, addresses and the descriptions of their projects.

“The problem is you have way more email than Juno is designed for, and the company hasn’t updated their program in forever,” Derek said. “It’s just no longer sustainable.”

I gasped.

“You mean I can’t use dchval@juno anymore? What will happen to the hundreds of emails in my folders?”

Derek told me not to panic until he did some research. Meanwhile, I panicked anyway and frantically backed up several years of mail. OK, more than several. My earliest saved message is from 2009. But. I really need that note.

“I’ve got good news and bad news,” Derek announced the following day. “There’s a program I can buy that will allow me to save your Juno email, and you can still use that address.”

“That’s wonderful!” I said throwing my arms around him. “What’s the bad news?”

“You’re going to have to learn how to use Outlook,” he said.

Outlook is a personal information manager software system from Microsoft. Friends and professional contacts have urged me to use it for years, but I’ve never seen the need. My trusty paper planner and antiquated email provider served me well, until now.

Knowing my propensity to ask, “Is it fixed, yet?” repeatedly whenever he works on my computer, Derek wisely chose a time when I’d be away from my home office for the day.

When I returned, he was working in the backyard.

“Oh, no!” I said. “Is my problem unfixable?”

He grinned.

“Nope. I finished hours ago. Your email is up and running, and I don’t think you lost a thing.”

You see why I keep him? He’s an absolute hero. His heroics, however, only go so far.

“Sam can show you how to use Outlook,” he said.

Our future-college-professor son patiently showed me how to configure my address book, how to send and receive mail, and where to find my folders. That’s when we discovered one of the largest folders had duplicated contents, and another folder was a jumble of old and new contacts and projects, but most important, everything was there.

Obviously, I’ve been saving way too many emails, so now a couple of times a day I poke through a folder and delete items. Sometimes it turns into quite a stroll down memory lane, as I read encouraging notes from former editors and warm letters from readers. But I am resolute in my purging, even though Derek said I no longer have to worry about my email crashing.

I even learned a new trick. I can now categorize my emails and tasks with pretty, little colored flags. Though I’m still figuring out this new-to-me program, I already wonder why I ever balked at using it.

In fact, you could say my Outlook is getting brighter every day.

———

Cindy Hval can be reached at dchval@juno.com. Hval is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation” (Casemate Publishers, 2015) available locally at Auntie’s Bookstore, Barnes & Noble locations and on Amazon.

Columns

My Entry for Guinness World Records

If I’m ever included in Guinness World Records it will likely be for most times singing “The Wheels on the Bus” complete with hand motions.

It’s not the most scintillating song, but when it’s your grandson’s favorite, you will sing it to infinity and beyond because it makes him happy.

Earlier this month we visited our twin grandsons, Adam and Nick, in Ohio. We last saw them in October. It’s been a long five months, but we’ve been chatting with them via Skype almost every week. Perhaps “chatting” isn’t accurate. Derek blows raspberries, I sing “Wheels on the “Bus,” and we both wave a lot, but mostly we watch their busy bodies scoot, crawl, climb, toddle and lately run.

When we left them in October, Nick was just taking his first independent steps and Adam was thinking about it. Now at 16 months old Nick runs everywhere at full speed, and Adam is walking independently. In other words, we left babies and returned to find toddlers.

We hoped those Skype visits would ensure The World’s Most Beautiful Boys would remember us. All worries about that were banished the minute we walked into their living room. Adam’s delighted grin lit up the room, and Nick was so excited he giggled and did a happy dance.

As usual, we rented a nearby Airbnb, and our son dropped them off each day, and because it was spring break their big sister Farrah, 7, got to join us.

Like many of us since COVID-19 hit, Alex works from home. Brooke has to keep the twins entertained and out of Daddy’s hair in their two-bedroom townhouse.

Working from home with active toddlers isn’t ideal, but our son said he wouldn’t trade a minute of it. An unexpected pandemic benefit is that he hasn’t missed a moment of the twins’ first year.

They’re in the process of buying their first home, so by our next visit the kids will have a big backyard to explore.

Knowing how much I love holding babies, Derek cautioned me before we left.

“Don’t expect them to want to cuddle. They’re li’l dudes, not babies.”

When naptime arrived on our first full day with the boys, Derek snored on one end of the couch with Nick asleep in his arms, while Adam curled up in mine, sound asleep.

No cuddling, indeed.

Of course, they’re mostly on the go. We blew bubbles outside and walked to a nearby park to give them their first experience on a swing.

We also watched a lot of “Cocomelon” on Netflix. It’s a television show featuring big-eyed babies, and nursery rhymes and songs. I’m sure it’s very educational, but I’d rather sing “Wheels on the Bus” 99 times in a row. Honestly, J.J. and his family kind of creep me out.

But guess what? When it’s your grandsons’ favorite show, you watch it with them, especially when you get to cuddle them while doing so.

Thankfully, there was plenty of time to zoom toy cars across the coffee table and practice stacking big plastic Duplo blocks, and Nana Cindy always brings new books to read.

We even got to eat pizza with them and watch the Zags’ amazing win over UCLA.

Nick and Adam cheering on the Zags.

All too soon, it was time to return home. Every time we say goodbye, it gets harder. It’s not much fun to have your only grandchildren on the opposite side of the country.

But as our plane taxied down the runway in Columbus, my blue mood lightened when I thought about how incredibly blessed we are that Adam and Nick, born seven weeks premature, are so healthy and strong.

Not everyone who longs to be a grandparent gets to be one.

Somewhere around 25,000 feet, my sadness turned to gratitude, and as Derek dozed next to me, I softly hummed “The Wheels on the Bus,” one more time.

———

Cindy Hval can be reached at dchval@juno.com. Hval is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation” (Casemate Publishers, 2015) available locally at Auntie’s Bookstore, Barnes & Noble locations and on Amazon.

Columns

Sir Walter Scott’s Work Life

Sir Walter Scott, 15 months, takes his responsibilities seriously.

When you’re the junior feline in the family and in charge of entertainment, mischief and cuddles, it’s a full-time job and then some.

Knowing that Thor, the senior tabby in the clan, keeps a scornful eye on him, Walter adheres to a strict daily schedule.

His first job of the day is to assist Thor in obtaining breakfast. Around 7:30 a.m., they take their positions outside my bedroom door and commence polite requests for food. If none is forthcoming, Thor ratchets up the volume and intensity, while Walter sticks his paws under the door and grabs at the carpet. If that doesn’t work, they take turns scratching and banging on the door.

When I emerge, they both enter manic mode, careening through the house and dashing around the kitchen table. Then comes the wrestling.

I have to feed them in separate rooms, because Thor will wolf down his breakfast and finish Walter’s, too, and Walter will just sit and sadly watch his food disappear. Though he passively lets Thor take charge of food once it’s served, before it appears is another matter. As I dish up their kibble, Walter pounces on Thor, attempting epic takedowns.

Thor is a lover, not a fighter, so it’s a good thing he’s bigger and has a longer reach. While Walter sizes up the best way to pin him, Thor bats him away. Undaunted, Walter stretches up into full Godzilla mode and tackles. Thor hisses, which scares both of us.

I’m not sure why Walter decided this was his job, but Thor is not thrilled to find himself headlining these twice-daily bouts.

Walter’s next self-appointed chore of the day is sweeter – morning cuddles with me.

I return to bed after feeding them, because I mean, it’s 7:30 (or 8, but still). By this time, Derek is getting ready for work, so Walter has me all to himself. He jumps up on the bed, lays his head next to mine on my pillow and curls up in my arms. He purrs contentedly, while kneading his sharp little claws under my chin. Usually, he falls asleep and sometimes so do I.

Morning cuddles with Mom

We take turns deciding when it’s time to get out of bed. If I don’t have a deadline or an appointment, I doze until Walter brings me a toy and pats my face to let me know it’s playtime. If I get up first, I bring my coffee and my phone back to bed and check emails and messages. Walter fetches a toy because playtime is next on his agenda.

He usually brings a small white mouse with a rattle and bats it around until I throw it down the hall. Then he tears off and brings it back. Walter is a fetch champion until he gets bored.

After I’m ready to face the day, Walter follows me to work in my downstairs office. His favorite thing is stalking the printer and waiting for it to whir to life. He doesn’t grab the paper, he just likes the hunt.

He takes his editorial responsibilities seriously and prefers to plant himself in front of my screen or on my keyboard.

Obviously, this is not an ideal working situation, at least not for me. I repeatedly scoop him up and put him on the floor until he gets the hint and wanders off to nap.

Walter, the editor

I’m usually out in the afternoon, so Walter takes advantage of my absence to forage for carbs. I’ve previously written about his carb addiction, and I’m sad to report he’s had a relapse. We’ve taken to storing our bread in the microwave and securing any open chips, rolls or baked goods in a cupboard he can’t open. All was well until one afternoon when I went to the pantry for dinner ingredients and found a bag of barbecue potato chips scattered on the floor.

It seems Sam had left the shopping bags on the floor instead of putting the items on the shelves, and Walter got the munchies. He tore open the bag, sampled a few chips, but evidently didn’t care for their tang.

Bedtime brings a nightly dilemma.

My husband likes to sleep with me. So does Walter. I’m usually in bed first, so Walter saunters in and makes himself comfortable. Then Derek arrives.

“Okay, buddy, time to go,” he says.

Walter rolls over on his back and looks at Derek. Upside-down kitty is universally irresistible, but Derek is made of sterner stuff.

Upside down kitty fails to impress Dad

“Night, night, Walter, out you go,” he says.

Walter stretches, then curls up next to me.

Finally, Derek scoops him up and takes him to the living room.

Just as we turn off the light, we hear a faint scratching at the door and the saddest, most forlorn meows.

“Go to sleep, Walter,” Derek says.

And eventually he does. After all, he knows he has a full slate of responsibilities awaiting him in the morning.

All Write, Columns

From Pop Art to Bomber Boys

With so many favorite venues shuttered during the pandemic, each reopening is worthy of celebration. That’s why my husband Derek and I were thrilled to stroll through the new exhibits at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.

The MAC opened its doors again in August at 25% capacity, but Saturday marked our first visit since the shutdown. Enjoying something so normal is a welcome breath of fresh air, even if those breaths are taken behind masks.

The star attraction features the work of pop art icons like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and James Rosenquist, as well as contemporary artists including Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami.

“Pop Power from Warhol to Koons: Masterworks from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation” continues through Jan. 24.

If you’ve ever wanted to see one of Warhol’s famous Campbell Soup works in person, here’s your opportunity. This colorful chronology of pop art traces the movement from its genesis to the present day, and unlike some art collections, this one offers fun for the younger set, too.

“Mickey! It’s Mickey!” yelled a girl when she discovered prints of the famous mouse.

Derek and I aren’t big fans of pop art, and some of the contemporary creations left us puzzled, which is part of gallery fun. However, he did find something he’d like to hang at home – “Fiesta Pig” by Andy Warhol.

The screen-print pig with his nose in a bowl of food looks like he’s enjoying the aftermath of a great disco party. Speaking of swine, Derek was also taken with Jeff Koons’ portrait of himself with a pig. The work of art is on a plate.

Thankfully, our budget doesn’t stretch to famous pieces of pop art.

Our budget does include an occasional Spokane Symphony concert. “Music Finds a Way: The Spokane Symphony” opened this weekend and continues through Jan. 10.

The exhibit traces the evolution of the symphony, which is celebrating its 75th year.

The Conductors Wall of Fame follows the organization’s sometimes tumultuous relationships with its conductors. Since we haven’t been able to see them in person this year, it was wonderful to see photos of the current symphony members.

But the exhibit that caused us to linger longest was “Bomber Boys: Portraits from the Front,” which continues through May 23.

Bomber Boys at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture

The exhibit features photographs of the combat, crew and camp life of the 445th Bomb Squadron of the 12th Army Air Corps, which was based in Washington and stationed on Corsica and in Italy. The images, ephemera and a diary were discovered in the hayloft of a horse barn in 1996, by two daughters of the tail gunner who’d stashed them there.

It’s a fascinating walk through the daily life of a 21-year-old soldier who would eventually fly 59 missions over Europe.

Yet the story we found even more compelling was that of an Idaho boy who was shot down over Yugoslavia and spent nine days behind enemy lines. He documented his harrowing adventure and the story is told in his own words.

The exhibit also features a replica of what a typical airman’s bunk area looked like during the war. Be sure to pick up a photo card of a soldier and see if you can discover his name and rank while you tour the exhibit.

If you haven’t ventured out to the museum yet, you can now do so safely. Masks are required and with the venue still at 25% capacity, social distancing is easy to maintain. In addition, the galleries are cleaned several times a day. Also new: You must purchase tickets online in advance.

In light of the pandemic and election-induced turmoil around us, it’s important to support valuable quiet sanctuaries like the MAC.

Enjoying the vibrancy of pop art, celebrating 75 years of the Spokane Symphony, and honoring those who sacrificed much for our nation during World War II all offer timely much-needed reminders about the creativity and resiliency of the human spirit.

For more information or to purchase tickets visit northwestmuseum.org.