Columns

The Night the Lights Went Out in North Spokane

Our family recently went through a very dark time.

It came on suddenly, without warning. One minute we were relaxing after dinner, taking respite from the heat of the day in our cool air-conditioned home, discussing our Netflix pick of the evening, and the next minute our world stopped.

My reading lamp flicked off. The fans and air-conditioner stilled, and the wails from downstairs let us know our sons’ electronics had been disrupted.

Power outages are rare in our neighborhood. The power lines are underground, so when outages do occur it’s usually something on Avista’s end and we’re quickly back online.

Neither Ice Storm 1996 nor any of the recent windstorms disrupted our happy home. While all over the city food spoiled in freezers and propane lanterns flew of the shelves at sporting goods stores, we merrily went on our well-lit way.

So. Nobody panicked Thursday evening.

I mean, the most recent blip in our grid lasted all of a minute.

We peered out the window and saw our neighbors’ porch lights were off, and no lights shone from any windows. Our street lamp was out.

“Looks like it’s the whole neighborhood,” my husband said.

Feeling confident that the outage had been called in, the four of us gathered in the living room to await the resumption of our normal routines.

It was 7:45.

Thirty minutes later, Sam, 18, said, “Well. This sucks.”

His brother sighed. “I just got my new guitar pedal set up.”

We scanned our phones for Twitter posts about the outage, but nothing appeared.

I updated my Facebook status.

“No power in North Spokane. We’ve been forced to sit in our living room and talk to each other. #HELP!”

My friend, Beth, replied, “Surely your phones have some charge left in them.”

“Obviously,” I replied. “But we’re conserving our batteries for social media. #priorities”

The thought of being cut off from the world chilled us. We hastily checked the charges on our phones and Kindles and reported the results.

“We should be OK for a few hours,” Derek, my husband, said.

Slowly the Twitter and Facebook responses trickled in from other North Side folks. Apparently, our little corner of Spokane was the only area affected.

As the sun started to set in the smoky sky, I gathered candles and piled them on the dining table.

And not a moment too soon. Darkness fell quickly. Our son, Zack, put new batteries in my three pillar candles, as I fumbled in the dark cabinet for candleholders for my motley collection of wax tapers and votives.

Flickering candles don’t emit much heat, but it had been a really hot day. The house grew stuffy. We opened the windows, but there was no breeze, just smoke.

“Everybody to the gazebo,” I announced. “If the power’s still out at 10, we’ll make s’mores.”

This mom always has s’mores ingredients on hand during the summer months, and suddenly the boys were rooting for continued darkness.

Derek had wisely installed solar lights along our deck and stairs, so nobody stumbled on the way to the gazebo.

I remembered we had a battery-operated light that can be attached to outdoor umbrellas. Using our cellphone flashlights, we ransacked the storage room until we found it. Derek went out to light the fireplace while I gathered chocolate bars, marshmallows, graham crackers, paper plates and napkins.

We roasted marshmallows and enjoyed our sticky snacks as music from Zack’s iPhone filled the night. Our flickering fireplace was an oasis of light in a neighborhood shrouded in dark.

A big truck rumbled past, and we hurried to the front yard to see an Avista crew examining the box across the street. After a few minutes they got back in the truck and drove away.

We were still in the dark, but no one wanted to go to bed without some information.

At 10:45, I finally called Avista.

A nice man confirmed that they were aware of the outage and had sent a truck out, but the crew had to return for supplies to fix the problem.

The reason I hadn’t seen anything on social media is because only 45 homes had been affected.

“We estimate power should be restored in two to three hours,” he said.

The boys and Derek were ready for bed, but I had a problem. I can’t go to sleep unless I read for at least 30 minutes.

We’d recently bought a rocking chair for the deck. I scooted it over to the solar light on the railing, and Derek affixed the umbrella lamp low enough on the stand so I could see the pages of my novel.

Around midnight, I went indoors, carefully snuffing out the few candles still lit. I brushed my teeth in the dark and climbed into bed.

An hour or so later, the blinding glare of my reading lamp jolted me awake, and the rumble of the air conditioner filled the house.

We had survived the Great Spokane Power Outage of 2018 with marshmallows to spare.

I think our pioneer ancestors would be proud.

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Columns

Boys and Backyard Buried Treasure

Lightning McQueen has definitely seen better days.

His front wheels are missing, as are both headlights. His rear tires are packed with dirt and his big eyes on the windshield peer through a layer of dust. His red paint job has faded into orange, and his plastic body is cracked in places. Years of exposure to sun and snow will do that to a car.

My husband is building a retaining wall at the back edge of our property, and his shovel had unearthed the abandoned toy.

“Look what I found,” Derek said, cradling the car in his hands.

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Like an archeologist on a dig, he’s discovered the remains of a previous civilization. He’s been working hard to eradicate the evidence that small boys once roamed wild in our backyard, but this is something he’d missed.

When we moved into our home in 1993, both the front and back yards were a mess of weeds and clover.

Derek focused his attention on the front first, so our boys took possession of the back. That summer, my dad bought them a swing set, and we installed the first of many plastic wading pools.

Very little swinging happened on that swing set. Instead, the slide was used as a launching point for cars, toys and boys. The tandem swing made it easier for them to scale to the top of the set, the better to terrify their mother.

The boys grew. The grass came back. The swing set fell apart. And a series of bigger pools kept them occupied during the summer.

Squirt guns, bicycles, skateboards and toys littered the yard making navigation perilous for parents.

When our four boys grew bored with toys and things with wheels, they took up digging in the barren patch of ground where the previous owner had attempted to garden. Bordered by railroad ties, the spot offered ample space for industrious boys to play in the dirt.

I worried about the holes they dug with plastic shovels getting too deep, the tunnels getting too long, but Derek just said, “Boys gotta dig.”

However, even he was surprised to find they’d used a few of his two-by-fours to shore up a gaping gash in the ground.

The boys grew. They mowed the grass. They stopped playing in the dirt. And Derek built a beautiful cedar shed where the swing set once stood.

Our two oldest sons moved out and their dad built a beautiful deck, and we added a gazebo, and raised bed gardens. The retaining wall is just another step in the beautification of our kids’ former playground, and it seems Derek had stumbled upon a toy graveyard while constructing it.

“I’ve been finding a lot of green army men,” he said. “I rebury them with full honors.”

But it didn’t seem right to leave Lightning in an unmarked grave, especially since it looks like he’d been the victim of violent crime. Someone had used permanent marker to print “Help Me…” on his hood, leading us to conclude the toy had been carjacked and possibly held for ransom.

The printing looks exactly like our second son’s writing, and our youngest son, Sam, was a huge fan of the movie “Cars.” He was 6 when the first movie was released, and he went “Cars” crazy.

He had a Radiator Springs play set and the full fleet of cars from the film. But Lightning was always his favorite. In fact, if I venture into his teenage lair, I know I’ll still find at least two versions of Lightning McQueen that he’s not ready to part with.

Derek went back to work on the wall, leaving the dirt-encrusted car on the deck railing. Weeks later, it’s still there, parked facing our outdoor dining area, where Lightning can watch the boy who loved him come and go.

Last night, I swear I saw his eyes shining through their dusty coating when Sam sat down to dinner.

And then old Lightning smiled.

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Columns

Low-Tech Cindy Meets High-Tech Ruby Sue

The newest member of our family arrived just in time for Mother’s Day. Her name is Ruby Sue, and I’m absolutely in love.

I’m worried my friends will tire of hearing me extol her virtues, but she just has so darn many! She’s helpful, easygoing, and so far has been remarkably patient with me as we get to know each other.

What’s odd is I’ve never found black leather and tinted shades particularly attractive. Until now.

Ruby Sue is a 2015 Ford Escape Titanium.

Our youngest has been driving the 1995 Dodge Caravan that his three older brothers drove. The slider door doesn’t open. The passenger door opens from the inside only. There’s no radio. No air-conditioning. It’s been wrecked at least once by each driver, but the Green Monster seems impossible to kill.

Still my husband said the beast won’t live forever, and it was time to pass Golda MyDear, my 2011 Oldsmobile Intrigue, down to Sam.

“It isn’t manly,” Sam protested.

Who knew aging minivans with peeling paint were manly?

Anyway, Derek diligently searched the internet and found the Ford Escape at a local Subaru dealership.

He showed me the photo and the specs.

“What do you think?” he asked. “Shall we take her for a drive?”

I smiled, already enthralled by her sparkly red paint job and sporty trim.

Ruby Sue drove like a dream, but the back-up camera proved disconcerting. Both Derek and I swiveled our heads and peered at the side mirrors while ignoring the screen in front of us.

The salesman left us to discuss the purchase. Taking a car for a test drive is like going to a shelter to “look” at cats or dogs. You’d better be prepared to shell out some cash and take one home because chances are you will fall in love.

Our discussion was brief thanks to the research Derek had already done. All he needed to know was would low-tech Cindy be happy driving high-tech Ruby Sue.

I nodded.

“I’ll read the manual,” I said.

After a sheaf of paperwork completed the adoption, Derek asked if I wanted to drive her home while he drove Golda back to work.

“Of course!” I said, as I kissed him goodbye and approached my new red ride.

The salesman had already explained the keyless ignition meant I just had to be within a few feet of the door and when I touched the handle it would unlock, which it did. What he failed to demonstrate was how to start the car.

Sliding behind the wheel, I adjusted the mirrors and the lumbar support on the smooth leather seat. Then I pushed the start button. Nothing happened. I fiddled with some things and tried again. The radio came on. I pushed more things on the touch screen. The air conditioner came on.

Finally, I read the screen. “Push brake to start car.”

“Thank you, Ruby Sue,” I said.

It’s been two weeks since I drove her home, and I must admit the learning curve is a bit steeper than I anticipated. I did scan the manual, but I’ve always been a learn-by-doing person.

This rig comes not so much with bells and whistles, but with beeps and bleeps, that I’m still deciphering.

For example, when I pulled into a parking space, Ruby Sue started beeping. I slammed the brake and looked around. No lights were flashing. Auto self-destruct mode hadn’t been activated. It took a few more trips for me to realize the car was just alerting me to the proximity of the curb.

Ruby Sue is quite chatty. Bluetooth technology enabled her to sync with my phone automatically. No more ear pieces or headsets to lose! I can receive and send calls and texts using the buttons on the steering wheel. In fact, everything in the Escape Titanium operates through voice command – the radio, the climate control, even the built-in navigation system.

So far, Ruby and I haven’t had any arguments about the best way to get somewhere.

But we’re still working out a few glitches – mine, not her’s. The trunk is supposed to open and close when I swipe my foot under the tailgate – no more juggling grocery bags and fiddling with keys. Alas, only Derek has figured out how to activate the sensor with one swipe of his foot.

And frankly, the self-parking option freaks us both out. Last night we decided to try it for the first time in the safety of our neighborhood.

We pushed the parking assist button and watched, stunned, as Ruby Sue ably parallel parked herself between our son’s car and our garbage cans.

It’s a surreal experience to sit in the driver’s seat and watch the steering wheel spin as your car parks itself, but I have to say this could be a game-changer and a solution for my frequent downtown parking dilemmas.

My least favorite part of my job used to be all the driving. But now, I take the long way everywhere just to spend more time with Ruby Sue.

It’s safe to say I’ve left Intrigue behind, and now that I’ve Escaped there’s no turning back.

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Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” Her previous columns are available online at http://www.spokesman.com/staff/cindy-hval/ Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval

Columns

Spa Daze

Soothing music. Delightful fragrances. The absolute absence of ringing phones or pinging emails. And best of all, the only time anyone says my name is to ask me how I’m feeling.

There’s nothing like a spa day to refresh my soul.

The Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area is blessed with ample places to bliss out, and I’ve visited most of them. For work. Seriously.

A few years ago, I took on a bunch of travel writing assignments for several regional magazines. Interestingly, most of them wanted me to cover spas and resorts. It was a rough gig, but somebody had to do it.

Not all experiences delighted. At a media day at one resort, my masseur looked like Bill Gates, and sounded like him, too. I closed my eyes and tried to relax, but all I could think about were the questions I’d like to ask Mr. Gates. Like would he care to subsidize my writing career? And what the heck is up with the Blue Screen of Death?

And sometimes the choice of music in the massage rooms isn’t exactly restful. Many places use the sound of ocean waves or a tinkling stream. It may sound soothing, but isn’t if you’ve had a mimosa or a cup of coffee before your appointment.

One of my favorite spa experiences involved my husband. An airline magazine had asked me to write about fun local activities for couples including a spa day at a local resort.

Derek had never been to a spa and was a little apprehensive.

“I don’t have to get my toenails painted, do I?” he asked.

“Only if you want to,” I replied.

The couple’s package included a soothing private aromatherapy bath in a huge jetted tub, and then a candlelight massage.

Derek followed a male attendant to the men’s changing room, and I went to the women’s. Luxurious robes with our names stitched on the lapels awaited us.

The attendants then ushered us into a suite, lit by flickering candles. They poured lovely smelling things into a tub that could easily hold a half dozen of our closest friends. Then they gave us each a glass of wine and told us they’d be back in an hour.

As they closed the door behind them, we got ready to climb into the tub.

That’s when I knew Derek was out of his depth. He dropped his robe and revealed he was wearing swim trunks.

I doubled over with laughter. He says I hooted and shrieked. I say I chuckled softly.

“Hey,the guy said I could wear them if I felt more comfortable! I didn’t know we were going to be ALONE,” he said.

I may have giggled intermittently throughout the hourlong massage that followed, but it was just because I was having such a fabulous time.

While I enjoy massages, manicures and pedicures, there’s one traditional spa activity that I haven’t cared for – facials. Be they European, aromatherapy, collagen or paraffin, I just haven’t found the facial experience relaxing. For one thing, I’m pretty claustrophobic and having my face wrapped in a hot towel with only my nostrils exposed feels suffocating. And once, the aesthetician got a little exuberant with an astringent and splashed some in my eye. My skin looked pink and rosy. So did my eye.

But recently with a gift card to my favorite spa burning a hole in my pocket, I decided to give facials another try.

And you know, it wasn’t that bad. The aesthetician explained each application and treatment, was careful with the hot towel mummification and didn’t splash anything in my eye.

One thing gave me pause: Most of the products used, she said, were to help with “fine lines and wrinkles.” After hearing “fine lines and wrinkles” for an hour, I started to get paranoid. Just how fine were those lines? And by wrinkles, did she mean laugh lines or wadded up linen blouse tucked in a drawer wrinkles? I was afraid to ask.

However, the organic masks, toners and scrubs smelled delicious, delectable even. There were applications of strawberry-rhubarb stuff, pink grapefruit potions and liberal lime mistings. In short, a fruit salad was applied to my face.

While facials still aren’t my favorite spa experience, I’d probably do it again. Especially if I’m hungry.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

Columns

Guilt-Free Mothers and Other Mythical Creatures

Flowers, cards, breakfast in bed. You know the drill.

If you’re a lucky mom, Mother’s Day comes with a fairly predictable playlist. But often, an unwelcome condiment comes along with the coffee lovingly poured into the World’s Best Mom mug – a heaping side of guilt.

Don’t believe me? Google the words mother and guilt and you’ll get more than 10 million hits. That’s not a side dish, that’s an all-you-can-eat buffet of remorseful regret.

No matter how many articles, books and blogs advocate guilt-free mothering, I don’t know any moms who don’t struggle with feeling bad about some aspect of their parenting. Much like unicorns with rainbow wings, guilt-free moms are mythical creatures.

The things we feel guilty about are myriad. We feel bad that we worked outside the home or bad that we stayed at home. We regret not having more children or terrible that we had too many. We agonize over every time we lost our tempers and shouted things that shame us, and worry over all the times we were too lax, too soft, too permissive.

Most of us have a mental checklist of our perceived failures, and all the sweet Mother’s Day cards in the world can’t make us untick even one of those boxes.

No matter how we came to motherhood, whether by birthing, adopting or step-parenting, each of us has an ideal mother in mind – that’s the goal we struggle to achieve. Sometimes the ideal is our own mothers and sometimes it’s anyone but them.

None of us really dreams of being June Cleaver. Once, I actually tried vacuuming while wearing a dress, apron, heels and pearls. It was every bit as silly as I imagined.

But the home June created? Now, that still seems magical. Spotless, warm, love-filled – a place where every childhood problem was happily resolved by the end of each episode. Who wouldn’t want that?

Even worse than trying to live up to mythical ideals is the way we constantly compare ourselves with each other. Oh, we swear we won’t. Vow we don’t. But we do, we certainly do.

We look at the Facebook photos of our friends’ brilliant, talented, successful offspring, and we weigh and measure our mothering skills against theirs. As if being a perfect mother would guarantee perfect children. As if any kind of perfection among humankind is attainable.

For some, the Mother’s Day tally of gifts and sentiments either verifies our value or proves our unworthiness – either temporarily assuages our guilt or fans the flames of self-recrimination.

And this year, what I most wanted for Mother’s Day created a week’s worth of angst for me. You see, I wanted something different. Something I was sure other moms would judge me for. Something I felt guilty even mentioning.

Ala Greta Garbo, I wanted to be alone.

I felt incredibly selfish even mentioning it to Derek. I mean, what kind of mother doesn’t want to spend the day surrounded by her children? Plus, we usually have both of our moms over for dinner. What kind of daughter messes with tradition?

A tired one, perhaps?

It’s been an especially busy season in our household. Kids coming and going, juggling jobs and community commitments, maintaining friendships and important connections. As someone who needs a certain amount of solitude to recharge, I was drowning in a sea of obligations of my own making.

Thankfully, I married a man who knows me well. When I dithered and dallied over Mother’s Day plans, he encouraged me to give myself a break. So I did.

We took our moms out to brunch on Saturday. And on Mother’s Day I didn’t leave the house. I relished a solitary breakfast in bed, while reading the newspaper. Then I enjoyed long phone conversations with two of my sons and briefer conversations with the other two. Then I turned my phone off.

I didn’t get out of bed until noon. Stayed in my sweats sans makeup all day and binge-watched the new “Anne of Green Gables” on Netflix.

It was heavenly.

The flowers, cards and gifts from Derek and the boys were sweet, but the best gift was the one I gave myself – a feast of solitude minus the side of guilt.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval

Columns

Montana, Milestones and Wascally Wabbits

When several Facebook friends posted about their fabulous experiences at Quinn’s Hot Springs in Montana, I knew I’d found the destination for our anniversary getaway. Especially since a hot springs visit meant I could actually wear the swimsuit I’d purchased last year to wear on Hawaiian beaches. The suit that arrived shortly after our plane took off for Oahu.

I booked the “Cabin Fever” special for two nights, and on March 21, our 31st anniversary, we hit the road. Less than three hours later we were greeted by a friendly front desk clerk.

Our room keys were attached to tiny flashlights.

“Press once to turn on the flashlight,” the clerk explained. “Press twice to scare away any bears. Press three times to attract a bear. Nobody’s survived pressing it four times.”

You have to love a Montana welcome – and Montana scenery. The resort, located on the Clark Fork River in the Lolo National Forest, is tucked in a hollow and surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

We briefly explored the grounds, checked out the hot springs temps (106 degrees in the warmest pool!) and headed to the historic Harwood House for dinner.

Built in 1948, the log restaurant features the original fireplace and offers a menu comparable to any big city fine dining establishment.

After we let our prime rib dinner settle, we donned our suits and robes and headed out for a late-night soak.

It took a certain amount of bravery to take off my robe when the outside temperature hovered at 50 degrees and a light misty rain was falling, but by golly, I had my Miracle Suit on, so off went the robe and in went Cindy.

The glorious heat of 100-degree mineral waters quickly quelled my shivers. Though there are six pools for soaking and swimming, we braved only the three warmest pools that first night. The faint smell of sulfur proved a small price to pay for the delicious luxury of sinking chilled shoulders into warm water that left our skin feeling silky soft.

The steam from the pools wafted upward into the moonlit sky, adding an otherworldly air to our scenic vista.

In the morning, after a hearty breakfast, we hiked along the banks of the Clark Fork. So far we hadn’t seen any wildlife other than the elk head in the dining room and the moose head in the lodge.

A flicker of movement caught Derek’s eye.

“Look!” he said. “It’s Peter Cottontail!”

Indeed, just a few yards away, a rabbit sat munching on something he’d found in the tall grass.

“Oh, he’s so cute!” I exclaimed. “I want to pet him! Can we keep him?”

“If you can catch him, you can keep him,” Derek said.

Now, regular readers know my husband has issued an edict that we are a two-cat household. No matter how many sons move out, I’ve been forbidden to continue replacing them with kittens. It’s the price I pay to stay married to a pretty great guy, but with son No. 3 exiting the nest at the end of the month, my nurturing instincts are in overdrive.

So, imagine my joy – my exultation, when I was this close to getting a pet bunny. THIS CLOSE!

Unfortunately, my rabbit-stalking skills leave much to be desired.

I figured a direct approach was out, so I carefully inched sideways across the grass, avoiding eye contact at all costs.

“Um. What are you doing?” Derek asked.

“Shh! I’m catching a rabbit,” I hissed.

But his question distracted me, causing me to look up and meet the wary black eyes of my prey. In a flash, he bounded off.

“You did that on purpose!” I said.

Shoulders shaking with laughter, Derek said, “I have never, ever seen anyone hunt a rabbit like that!”

My annoyance dissipated a short while later, as I sipped a fizzy, fruity drink while lounging in the pool. It wasn’t a mai tai, but when the sun came out, I closed my eyes and soaked in the rays and the mineral water and didn’t miss Hawaii a bit.

Then Derek decided to visit the polar plunge pool.

Lots of bad ideas begin with the words, “Hold my beer,” but I didn’t try to dissuade him. Gamely, he swung his legs over the edge and into the 55-degree water of the cold pool, lowering his body into the chill.

Boy! I haven’t seen my husband move that quickly in a long time. He was back in the soaking pool before I had time to sample his beverage.

“I think my heart just stopped!” he said.

Later, on our way to dinner, we decided to visit the casino inside Quinn’s Tavern. Apparently, in Montana a few gaming machines make a casino.

We’re not much for gambling, but Derek recently took a trip to Laughlin, Nevada, with a buddy and wanted to show me his newfound knowledge.

I picked a slot machine and slid in $2, while he explained about lines and bets and a lot of other stuff I didn’t pay attention to. When our $2 had more than doubled, I was ready to take our $8 winnings and head to the restaurant.

“No,” he said. “We gotta keep playing. This machine is hot!”

I let him take over pushing the buttons and watched the $8 dwindle down to $1, and then the tide began to turn. In ten minutes, with our winnings at $101.52, we decided to take the money and run.

The next morning, flush with victory and hot springs water, we returned to Spokane.

Our sons were eager to hear about our adventures and wanted to know what we meant by “sulfur smell.”

“It smells like the fart bombs Santa used to put in your Christmas stockings,” Derek explained. “Next time you guys should come with us!”

They smiled and quickly left the room.

It’s a pity, because I feel like with their help, next time I could actually catch a bunny.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval

Columns

Illness, injury, indignity & inspiration

Sometimes when it rains, it blizzards. At least in Spokane, anyway.

This past month of endless precipitation was echoed by a round of illness and injury for me. It’s worth noting that I only get sick once a year – always in February. I tolerate my yearly cold as a minor disruption and a gentle reminder to slow down a bit.

It’s also worth noting that I routinely ignore gentle reminders.

What became an epic stream of misfortune started with a trickle – from my nose. One Friday morning, I woke up sniffly. My throat was scratchy and my head ached, but I’d just signed up for 30 hours of training to become a court-appointed special advocate – or CASA/guardian ad litem – for Spokane County Juvenile Court, and there was no way I was going to let an inconvenient cold interfere. I slurped down some orange juice, grabbed a packet of Emergen-C and set out.

By Saturday, it seemed like everyone was speaking underwater, and when I croaked out a question, I sounded like Darth Vader.

I tried to take it easier during the week, and when Friday rolled around again I was feeling much better. Perhaps because I’d gifted my cold to my friend Sarah.

Mindful of the need to take it easy, I collapsed in bed when I got home, fully expecting to bounce out of bed after my nap with my vitality and vigor restored. But when I woke and tried to sit up, a shooting pain exploded from somewhere in my midback. There would be no bouncing. Apparently, I pulled a muscle while sleeping. I didn’t even know that was possible.

Having never before experienced a back injury, I did the only sensible thing – I took two ibuprofen and asked for advice on social media. Hey, I said I was generally healthy, not universally smart.

I received a wide range of guidance regarding back pain and promptly followed what I now know to be a piece of spectacularly ill-conceived advice. This is what happens when you seek medical help on Facebook. Despite that setback, the pain gradually subsided over the weekend. This was great, because by Tuesday I was having difficulty seeing out of my right eye.

Last year, I was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration. It’s bad enough to have poor vision, but to tack “age-related” in front of it is just mean. Anyway, a large floater suddenly appeared in my right eye. I guess having one in my left eye wasn’t enough. Because this can sometimes be a sign of a detached retina, I had to schedule an emergency eye exam.

Thankfully, the new floater was nothing serious, just annoying. Vitamins have been shown to reduce or slow the affects of the disease, so I redoubled my commitment to healthy eyesight and even added a supplement my husband assured me would help.

I should note that my husband is not a doctor. He doesn’t even play one on TV. But he’s well-read and has done a lot of research about the effects of supplements on certain ailments.

Sadly, I woke up violently ill in the middle of the night. Even worse, it just happened to by my birthday. I couldn’t believe after surviving a cold, a back injury and an eye problem, I now had the stomach flu. The health downpour had reached flood stage, so I was hopeful the waters would recede.

They didn’t.

On Valentine’s Day, I prepared a lovely meal for my family. Shortly before Derek came home, I diligently took my vitamin and supplement for the first time since my birthday. Within an hour I was desperately sick.

“Did you take out life insurance on me?” I wailed at my husband. “Those supplements are poisoned!”

Distressed at how ill I was, he Googled the ingredients in the supplement. Turns out one of them, “curcumin,” affects a small percent of the population the way it did me.

Lesson learned – the hard way.

As I write, heavy snow falls once again. I wish I’d taken a picture of the grass I’d spotted peeking out from the edge of our lawn Sunday. However, no matter what it seems like, winter really doesn’t last forever. Cold and flu season passes, too.

Crocuses and daffodils wait patiently beneath the frozen ground, biding their time. They will bloom. They always do. Sunshine and fresh air clears stuffy heads and brightens tired eyes.

And sometimes, it takes a long, bleak winter and a bout of illness to renew our appreciation for beautiful spring bulbs, and to revel in clear nasal passages that can breathe in their fragrance.

 

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

Columns

I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can

Lately, I seem to be in the groove. I even mosh-pitted!
Boogie on, friends 😉

My feet are tired. Lately, I’ve been dancing as fast as I can.

In early October, friends Craig Heimbigner and Karyn Christner offered us tickets to see Arrival From Sweden, an Abba tribute band.

The music of Abba dominated my middle school years. The fact that their songs still get continued radio play shows the staying power of classics like “Dancing Queen” and “Take a Chance on Me.” In fact, I’ll wager you’re humming those songs as you read.

The Broadway musical “Mama Mia” and the movie that followed means new generations have been exposed to the music of the Swedish band that broke up in 1982.

That multi-generational impact was visible on October 7, as I scanned the crowd packed into the Coeur d’ Alene Resort. Rows and rows of gray-haired folks sipped their drinks as we waited for the show to begin.

“Oh my goodness,” I whispered to my husband. “Do they know this is a rock concert?”

He stared at me.

“This is not a rock concert,” he informed me. “This is a pop concert or a disco concert, but is absolutely, positively, definitely not a rock concert.”

Whatever.

Then I did some mental math, not my strong suit I admit, and figured those gray-haired folks were probably around for the heyday of rock-n-roll and could certainly handle the raucous strains of “Knowing Me Knowing You.”

As the band worked its way through the Abba oeuvre, dancing broke out across the room– most notably in front of the stage, the area cleared for such moves.

“I’m going to the mosh pit,” I hollered at Derek as the crowd swept me away.

“That is not a mosh pit!” he yelled.

I don’t care what my husband or the features editor of this newspaper say, I most definitely mosh-pitted that night.

By the time the band concluded with “Dancing Queen” we were packed together tighter than an unopened roll of Life Savors. I had a great time, even though I didn’t feel “young and sweet, only 17,” the next morning.

Thankfully my dancing shoes got a break before the Spokane Public Library Trivia Championship on October 19. That’s when Linn Parish, deputy editor at Spokane Journal of Business, and I resumed our roles as dancing scorekeepers for the event.

I must point out that when Sarah Bain, director of development for the Spokane Public Library Foundation, asked me to do this for the inaugural competition; there was no dancing in the description of scorekeeping duties.

Believing no journalist should do math alone, I convinced Linn to share the scorekeeping stage with me. Our responsibilities involved making hash marks on a white board and knowing how to count to 10. The dancing came about because Sarah instructed us to make scorekeeping “not boring.”

Making math “fun” and “exciting” can be hard on your dancing shoes.

This year, Sarah lobbied hard for costume changes and feather boas. Linn and I declined to stoop to such silliness, and shimmied and shook our way featherless to the final round.

In the end, The Spokesman Review team triumphed, proving beyond all doubt that journalistic knowledge remains trivial.

My toes got a bit of a break before a concert billed as “Hot Rockin’ Blues” at the Bing on October 22.

When Derek saw the opening act was Peter Rivera, he snapped up tickets for the whole family. We are huge Peter Rivera fans and the headliner, Paul Nelson, was the longtime guitarist and friend of legendary blues musician Johnny Winter. We love blues and Johnny Winter, so we eagerly anticipated this concert.

As always, Rivera didn’t disappoint. The 72-year-old former Rare Earth singer/percussionist was in rare form. His energy, showmanship and skills had us on our feet. Well, Derek and me anyway. Our sons are not fond of dancing with their parents in public. Go figure.

I wish I could say the Paul Nelson Band followed Rivera’s dynamic lead, but they didn’t. The group may have been rockin’ but they were not hot, nor did they play blues. Unless you consider a rather horrific version of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” blues music. While some of the crowd stayed up front to dance, many people voted with their feet by leaving the venue after a few songs.

So, October has boogied on by and I’ve returned my dancing shoes to their box on the top of my closet shelf. When I complained about the lack of winter grooving opportunities to a friend, she said, “Well, there’s always ice dancing.”

My heart leapt. I’ve always wanted to wear one of those glittery costumes and glide across the ice! I mean, I’ve never actually ice skated on purpose or anything, but suddenly winter seems to sparkle with possibilities.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

Columns, War Bonds

Sometimes the next chapters aren’t yours to write

Writer’s fall in love with their characters. It’s just a fact. But sometimes the rest of the story isn’t yours to write– especially when it’s the true, ever-unfolding story of your children.

When it comes to books I’m a sucker for a good title, but it’s the opening lines that determine whether I’ll delve into the depths of the story.

There’s something satisfying about cracking open a book when the first few chapters are so engrossing and engaging that you know you’re in for a good read.

I’m to the midway point of writing my second book, so my thinking is fogged by pages, outlines, indexes and introductions.

Perhaps that’s why when a new friend commented that it must be hard having my two oldest sons gone from the nest and completely independent, a book metaphor immediately sprung to mind.

“Not really,” I said. “I’m blessed to have been able to write their introduction and the first few chapters, the rest of their stories are their own to tell.”

Those words have stayed with me as I watched two close friends send sons off to college recently.

It’s been eight years since my firstborn flew the coop, and it wasn’t an easy transition for any of us. But he was home so often to do laundry or eat dinner that aside from his empty room it was hard to tell he’d really gone. Our youngest quickly moved into the empty room, delighted to no longer have to bunk with a brother. Plus we got a cat, so there were still five living things for me to take care of.

Six years ago our second son moved out. Again, it wasn’t far and again there were laundry visits and family dinners and yes, another cat. Then Alex moved to Houston. No more popping in for food. An empty place at the table on Thanksgiving. And Christmas. And his birthday.

Happy that he was flourishing in his new place, I encouraged and applauded from afar, but the first time he admitted to being homesick, I hung up the phone, went to my room, shut my door and wept.

My tears were not only for his loneliness and for the ache in my heart from missing him, but also because I knew his homesickness was probably temporary. And it was.

Now our third son is preparing to move to Nashville this spring to pursue his dream of a music career. I try not to think about it too much, but my husband has already vetoed any additional cats.

I’ve done some reading and I looked at a map. There are 2,112.82 car miles between Spokane and Nashville. I’m pretty sure Zach won’t be coming home to do laundry or eat dinner.

Number two son is also on the move again. Next month he’ll move from Houston to Columbus, Ohio. Columbus is where his girlfriend is from. She’s the one who eased his homesickness. I haven’t met her in person yet, but I already love her because Alex is so happy.

At first I was excited. I’m geographically challenged and assumed Columbus would be closer to Spokane than Houston. Columbus is 2,117.27 miles by car from Spokane.

It’s not any closer.

If I was the author of my sons’ stories, I would write them successful careers and happy relationships here in Spokane, with homes just a few miles away – not quite within walking distance.

I didn’t lie when I said it wasn’t hard to see them living independent lives. After all, the goal of parenting is to release competent contributors into the world, not to keep them dependent on their parents.

I’m truly thrilled when my sons embrace new opportunities. But perhaps I should have added that sometimes I struggle with wanting to take out my red pen and edit certain parts of their stories, and occasionally I long to rewrite entire sections.

Yet, I’ve relinquished creative control of these characters I helped create. They’re writing the storyline now, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

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My sons. My heart. 2008.

Columns

A visit from the Frown Fairy

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In which I’ve come unglued. Or something. Seriously, aging isn’t for the faint of heart– or weak of ankle.

Squinting at my phone, I rubbed my thumb across the screen, certain there was a smudge on it marring the photo I’d just taken of my friend and me.

After posting it on Facebook, I checked the enlarged photo on my computer and that shadow I’d seen between both of our brows was still there. Only it wasn’t a shadow – it was most definitely a crease. How had we both suddenly developed frown lines right between our eyes? Neither of us is prone to frowning.

And not for the first time, I realized I should have listened to my mother.

Sometime in her late 40s in an effort to combat wrinkles, my mother came up with an innovative solution to prevent pesky frown lines. Before going to bed at night, she affixed a corn plaster right between her eyes. She dubbed them “frownies” and was confident the plaster would prevent wrinkles from creasing her forehead while she slept.

 The only problem was sometimes those frownies migrated during the night. She’d come to the breakfast table with one in her hair or on her cheek. This was the subject of great mirth to me and my siblings. To Mom, not so much.

I’ve noticed other signs of increasing decrepitude. A few months back I started having severe pain in my right elbow that radiated down my forearm.

“How could I have tennis elbow?” I moaned to my husband. “I haven’t played tennis in 25 years!”

I took ibuprofen and soldiered on, unwilling to spend time or money on a doctor visit. A colleague heard my groans and diagnosed the issue. Turns out it wasn’t tennis elbow – it was “mouse elbow,” a common problem for people who work at computers all day.

She sent me a chart about how to sit at my desk to help alleviate the pain. I adjusted my chair and desk, bought an elbow brace and before long, the pain was gone. Who needs a doctor when you’ve got a journalist?

It’s a good thing my elbow felt better, because lately I’ve been limping. The pain radiates from my Achilles tendon, making walking miserable. This is not good news because I walk several miles three to four times a week and need this exercise for both my physical and mental health.

Achilles tendinitis is most common in runners, and I can assure you I only run if something or someone is chasing me. Baffled, I tried ice and heat and ibuprofen. Nothing seemed to work.

I took several weeks off from my walking routine, but it’s not like I can go through life without walking anywhere.

Even my journalist friends were baffled.

Then one day while sitting at my desk, I discovered the source of my strain. While writing, I often cross my legs and push my right foot against the back of my desk, flexing my Achilles. I also often tuck my legs behind me, flexing my right foot against the chair leg.

Bingo! Pain solved. Kind of.

Keeping my feet on the ground while working has fixed the source of the problem, and I’ve been able to resume my walking routine, but hills are still painful and if I walk too much, the limp returns.

According to Google, this type of injury can take up to two years to heal. Google further said this problem is also associated with the aging process.

Sometimes I really hate the internet.

So, there you have it. Apparently, I’ve reached the age where frown fairies sneak into my room and slap a crease between my brows while I’m sleeping. I can hurt my elbow by typing and my Achilles by sitting at my desk.

This morning I woke up, stretched my arms over my head and sighed when I heard my shoulders snap, crackle and pop. I didn’t bound out of bed, I cautiously tested my tendon and groaned when I felt the familiar ache that told me I’d walked too many miles yesterday.

I took the stairs to my office one at a time and carefully adjusted my mouse pad, keyboard and chair before I began writing.

As I type my feet are firmly on the ground. At this rate, they’re going to be the only firm thing about me.

Like Bette Davis famously said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”

Which could be why she also said, “There comes a time in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of Champagne.”

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.