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Surrounded by stories

Writers see stories everywhere.

In a little boy in full pirate regalia standing under an oscillating front yard sprinkle.

In an overheard conversation at the grocery store. “It’s not his baby. I don’t care what she says!”

In a tattered “Missing Cat” flier fastened to a streetlight with pink duct tape.

These bits and pieces of everyday life call to us and beg us to fill in the blanks – to uncover the rest of the story.

One place in particular teams with tales – the Washington State Veterans Cemetery in Medical Lake. Each year on Memorial Day weekend, after placing flowers at my father-in-law’s grave, I wander among the headstones and wonder about the people buried here.

Harold Schoessler lies here. According to his gravestone, he was “Washington State’s last horse soldier.” Born in 1918 and died in 2013, I would have loved to hear his stories.

The marker of a World War II Army private reads, “I have ways to make you laugh Blackie.” Full story. Cindy Hval, SR

Izzit just me? Or do you see stories everywhere, too?


Visitors Already Miss Coldwater Creek

The sun took the edge off the early spring chill as I enjoyed the view. Towering evergreens provided a picture-perfect frame for snow-capped Schweitzer Mountain. Sighing, I sat in a deck chair, cradling a cup of steaming coffee while gazing at the pristine beauty of Lake Pend Oreille. Derek settled into a chair next to me and grinned. “I’m glad we came back,” he said. In March we spent our 28th anniversary at the same place we spent our 27th – Sandpoint. Friends recommended The Lodge at Sandpoint and we fell in love with the beautiful inn and its amazing amenities. Sandpoint has long been a favorite getaway for our family. When the boys were little, we took many picnic lunches to City Beach, and played in the sand and water until exhausted. But lately, Derek and I have discovered the joys of off-season grown-up time in the lakeside town/Cindy Hval, SR Front Porch. More here.

Question: When did you last visit Sandpoint?

Cindy: ‘Cos’ Still Has It

My ribs hurt. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I gasped for breath. I was 5 years old and my brother David had just introduced me to Bill Cosby. He’d brought home the “Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Fellow Right!” album, and we listened to it repeatedly that summer while David packed for college. In 1970, there was no comedy channel and no YouTube. We watched our comedy on one of four television channels or listened to our favorite comedian’s albums. And Cosby became an instant family favorite. My siblings and I can still recite his Noah routine (How long can you tread water?) and his classic football pep talk. Forty-plus years later, I sat in the Beasley Coliseum at WSU and laughed until my sides ached. The roar of appreciative applause that filled the auditorium proved the Cos has still got it/Cindy Hval, SR Front Porch. More here.

Question: Who is your favorite comedian? Why?

My happy place

The morning sun warms my legs as I write. A pair of white butterflies flit above the petunias, daisies and geraniums that overflow the planters. A slight breeze ruffles the pages of my book.

I’m in my happy place, otherwise known as the Great Gazebo.

Longtime readers might remember that while my husband and sons are ardent outdoorsmen, I’m mostly an indoor kind of gal. That changed this spring when we started planning for Zack’s graduation party.

Our ’70s era home had a rickety balcony attached to the back of the house. You couldn’t really call it a deck. We’ve long talked about building a proper deck, and Zack’s graduation gave Derek the deadline he needed.

While Derek hauled in wood and bags of concrete, I finished a significant magazine project. When the check arrived, I knew exactly what to buy – the Great Gazebo.

We’d seen this beauty at Costco and marveled at its size, attachable tile counters, planter racks and most of all, its sturdiness.

You see, we’ve had quite a succession of gazebos and awnings fly through our backyard over the years.

Yes. Fly. Read more. Cindy Hval, SR

Tell us about your 'happy place'.

Cindy: Little Ricky & Kids In The Hood

The June sun warmed my shoulders as I powered through the last leg of my 3-mile walk. Kenny Loggins’ “I’m Alright” filled my headphones as I mentally reworked an article due by the end of the day. A school bus stopped across the street. It pulled away to reveal one small boy standing by the curb. I smiled as I walked by. I saw his lips move and pulled the headphones from my ears. “Hey,” he said. “I don’t know where my house is!” I scanned the street. No adult sat waiting for him in a nearby car. No parent hustled down the road. He looked impossibly small and very alone. Crossing the street, I asked, “What’s your name, sweetie?”/Cindy Hval, SR Front Porch. More here.

Question: Do you interact with children in the neighborhood?

Front Porch: Blue again

My hubby and sons at Old Mission State Park. Zach obviously thinks he sees an eagle. Or something.

We got the blues again. All four of us.

Last year’s pilgrimage to Wallace for the Historic Wallace Blues Festival was such a hit, our sons clamored to return again this year. Anytime a 13-year-old and an 18-year-old actually WANT to do something together is special.

Turns out we weren’t the only ones to think the event was something special. The Inland Empire Blues Society voted it the Best Blues Event of 2012. Pretty remarkable for a first-time outing, put together in 90 days and hosted by a town of 784!

We found out how quickly the word had spread when I phoned the Wallace Inn in April to reserve our room. There was no room at the inn, though the Festival wasn’t until July 12-14. The helpful woman at the desk referred me to a Kellogg hotel, adding, “A trolley will shuttle guests back and forth to Wallace.”

Now, that’s good planning. Cindy Hval, SR

Couple questions: Have you ever been to Old Mission State Park? And, what's the deal with Cda restaurants not opening 'til 4 on Sundays?

Front Porch: Little Things Shine Bright

Discouraged. Disheartened. Disappointed. Those three D’s dogged me like an annoying kid brother tagging along, uninvited. It was one of those days. The kind that starts with an empty coffee pot because you overslept and everyone else didn’t. The kind that continues with the first email you read being a resounding “no” to a request you thought reasonable. The kind of day where every train crossing you encounter actually features a train crossing and every light you approach turns red/Cindy Hval, SR. More here.

Question: How do you combat discouragement?

Front Porch: Tombstone Epitaphs

The sun warmed my shoulders and a breeze ruffled the flags that stretched out along the horizon. I laid the red, white and blue bouquet next to a pot of yellow roses, and Sam stuck a pinwheel into the ground that soon spun in a blur of colors as the wind reached it. Tombstones jutted in orderly rows like soldiers standing at attention. The Washington State Veterans Cemetery in Medical Lake is a beautiful spot and my father-in-law’s final resting place. For 18 years, my husband, sons and I have paid Memorial Day weekend visits to my father’s grave at Fairmount Memorial Park. My father-in-law’s death two years ago added this new destination to our pilgrimage of remembrance/Cindy Hval, SR Front Porch. More here.

Question: What will your epitaph say?

Front Porch: 75 years of inspiration

They don’t make anniversary cards for 75th anniversaries. At least they didn’t have any at the stores I checked. After all, 72-day marriages like Kim Kardashian’s are probably more common now than unions spanning seven decades.

On Saturday, my husband and I attended the 75th anniversary celebration of Warren and Betty Schott. I met the Schotts six years ago when I featured them in a Love Story. They were one of the first couples I wrote about for the ongoing series.

Ensconced in comfortable chairs at Harvard Park retirement community, Betty, 96, and Warren, 95, greeted their guests. When asked about the longevity of their marriage Betty quipped, “Well, we got married in a cemetery and honeymooned in Death Valley, so we got all that out of the way!” Read more. Cindy Hval, SR

What's the secret to a lasting marriage?

Front Porch: When The Nest Empties

One by one they arrived at two-year intervals. First Ethan, then Alex, then Zack. Each baby welcomed with joy until our home overflowed with boys. Three is plenty we said. Three is more than enough. Yet something seemed missing. We had room at the table and space in our hearts, and following a five-year gap, an unexpected blessing arrived – our fourth son, Sam. At last our family felt complete. The years sped by in a blur of busyness. At one time I had kids in elementary, middle and high schools. I lived in our minivan shuttling boys from here to there and back again. “Enjoy it while it lasts,” seasoned parents advised. “One day they’ll all be gone”/Cindy Hval, SR Front Porch. More here.

Also by Cindy:

Question: If you're an empty-nester, how well did you adapt to the change?

Saturday’s highlights

At It’s a Soccer Life in Spokane Valley, the Spokane Shadow U13 team practices Monday. The soccer center has an enclosed turf field and a smaller futsal pitch. Weekdays at the center are usually filled with practices and weekends are packed with league play from morning until night. SR photo/Jesse Tinsley

It's a sunny if somewhat nippy Monday morning out there, so lets take a look at some highlights from Saturday's Valley Voice. Correspondent Jill Barville checked out a new indoor soccer facility in the Spokane Valley Industrial Park called It's A Soccer Life. The business opened in January and hosts games and practices for area teams.

The city of Spokane Valley got some input on the future of parks in the city during a public meeting last week looking for input on the city's proposed Parks and Recreation Master Plan. A recent survey showed that local residents are most interested in urban trails, splash pads, outdoor aquatic facilities and indoor recreation facilities.

Reporter Nicole Hensley has a story on the newest West Valley School District board member Adam Mortensen, a 1997 West Valley High School graduate. Richard Chan, husband of longtime Front Porch columnist Deborah Chan, has a column about how he has been dealing with his wife's cancer diagnosis and treatment.

The Spokane Valley City Council spent more than two hours talking about the future of trash in the city during their daylong winter retreat last week. They have teamed up with Spokane County to do a study on the costs of various disposal options in the future.  

Front Porch: Embracing Pig Out

I’m not a crowd person. I’ve never done Bloomsday. I avoid the interstate fair, and I’ve attended Hoopfest only once – and that was just to support my son. But there is one highly peopled annual event I never miss. That’s right. I’m a Pig Out in the Park participant. Or porker. Pig Out is a Labor Day weekend family tradition. A chance to savor strange and exotic foods like Sausage Jambalaya or Fried Pop Tarts, and hear great music from bands like The Yardbirds or Big Mumbo Blues Band. This year marked the event’s 33rd anniversary. Despite complaints about its inelegant name, Pig Out in the Park remains one of Spokane’s most popular festivals/Cindy Hval, SR. More here.

Question: Which Spokane events do you attend?

No floatie, no lake-y

Like many Spokane County residents, my summertime conversations are peppered with references to “the lake.” I’m usually referring to Diamond Lake, where my brother-in-law owns a home.

I love being on the lake.

I adore looking at the lake.

I just don’t like being in the lake.

My idea of swimming involves plenty of concrete, chlorine and NO fish or seaweed. My mother traces this aversion to when we lived on Guam. While my siblings enjoyed the white, sandy beaches, I refused to get off the blanket unless I was carried or wearing shoes. “It’s dirty!” I insisted.

So recently, when our family packed to spend a week at Diamond Lake, one purchase was absolutely essential – I needed a new floatie

A few summers ago the boys had popped my beloved aqua floatie with its comfy cushion, cutout for leg-dangling and built-in beverage holder. Read more. Cindy Hval, SR

When you talk about "the lake," which lake are you referring to?

High Noon: A Pet’s Birthday

February is a busy month at our house. In addition to Valentine’s Day, we celebrate three family birthdays: Milo’s, Thor’s and mine. The less said about my 40-something-and-counting birthday, the better. But Milo’s third birthday and Thor’s first are truly reasons to celebrate. Pre-Milo, our family had been petless, unless you count goldfish. Alas, the boys and I had grown weary of watery funerals. When we adopted Milo, he was an 8-week-old fuzzy furball of need. He skittered around his metal cage at the pet store during pet adoption week like a kid in desperate need of Ritalin/Cindy Hval, SR. More here.

Question: Do you celebrate your pet's birthday?

Tweeter Atwitter Over Notoriety

When Spokesman-Review columnist/blogger Dave Oliveria started bugging me about Twitter, I scoffed at the notion that I needed any more social media in my life. Facebook already ate up too much of my time. Oliveria insisted that Twitter is far more valuable than Facebook when it comes to tracking and reporting breaking news. However, the only breaking news I usually cover is when I break a fingernail. Yet as more and more of my media friends started jumping on the Twitter-wagon, I wondered if I might be missing out/Cindy Hval, SR Front Porch. More here.

Question: How long will you resist the Twitter bug.

Noon: Toast To All Things Scottish

Second grade at Jefferson Elementary, Mrs. Pendergast attempted to teach us about cultural heritage. She explained, “For example, my mother’s family is from Germany and my father’s family came from Ireland, so I’m half German and half Irish.”Excitedly, kids raised their hands to share their family backgrounds. I pondered what I knew of my own history, and when Mrs. Pendergast called on me I was ready.“I’m part German, part Scottish, and part Arkansas,” I said.My classmates seemed impressed until Mrs. P. ruined everything by informing me that though my father was born there, Arkansas was a state, not a country, and therefore not culturally significant/Cindy Hval, Front Porch. More here.

Question: Do you know much about your cultural heritage?

Cindy: Riding In The Car With Boys

I could tell something was wrong the minute he got into the car. His face was flushed and his eyes bright with unshed tears.As I slowly navigated the school parking lot, an avalanche of words tumbled out. “Alex went to California for Christmas break,” said Sam, 12. “And he’s not coming back!”While I drove, Sam expressed his sadness at the sudden move of a boy who’d been his friend since preschool. “It was just supposed to be a visit,” he said. “But now they are staying in California, and I didn’t even get to say goodbye.”By the time we reached home we’d decided he would write a letter to Alex to tell him how much he’d miss him. Sam said his teacher had his friend’s new address/Cindy Hval, SR Front Porch. More here.

Question: How many times did you have to say goodbye to school friends during your formative days, as a result of moves made by your parents?

Cindy: Hanging Onto Holiday Tradition

When Tevye and the cast belt out “Tradition” in “Fiddler on the Roof,’ they’re singing my song.I, especially, love the ritual, familiarity and comfort of holiday traditions. For me, it begins on the day after Thanksgiving. While many folks shop til they drop on Black Friday, I decorate til I drop.My sons unearth the red and green plastic tubs bulging with garlands, angels, Santas and candles, and lug them to the living room. Then I pop a Christmas CD in the stereo and spend the day awash in memories of Christmas past/Cindy Hval, SR. More here.

Question: Is it hard for you to let go of old traditions?

Cindy: Seasons, Lives Change Quickly

A northerly blast rattles the windows and threatens the few leaves still stubbornly clinging to our apple tree. The russet and amber brilliance of autumn is fading fast. Seasons change.I can’t stop the days from growing darker any more than I can stop my children from growing up.Two weeks ago, my third born got his driver license. Zack flashed me a grin and two thumbs up as he walked into the waiting area at the Department of Licensing, after completing his drive. “Way to go!” I said, and gave him a high-five.I’ve learned the hard way not to jump up and give a new driver a hug and a kiss – in public, anyway/Cindy Hval, SR Front Porch. More here.

Question: Do you fight change or embrace it, or something in between? Or What life/season changes have been hardest for you to adjust to?

Cindy: I ♥ My Bluetooth

I used to make fun of them. The people who walk through grocery stores, animatedly chatting with invisible friends. The folks at movie theaters with winking blue lights behind their ears. The self-important ones who cannot disconnect from their Bluetooth devices while dining out, visiting the library or exercising at the gym. And then I became one of them. When Washington made it illegal to talk on a cellphone while driving, I was forced to join the hands-free generation and buy a Bluetooth device. You see, I do a lot of driving and I make a lot of phone calls. With the amount of kid-hauling I do, I’d never be able to schedule interviews, make appointments or catch up with friends if I confined my talk time to my scarce stationary moments. I recently discovered, however, just how talk-technology dependent I’d become when I lost my hands-free device/Cindy Hval, SR Front Porch. More here. (AP file illustration)

Question: How dependent are you on your Bluetooth?

Knee knocking fun

I’ve always been a hands-on journalist, because I believe the best reporting comes from actively experiencing community life. I’ve sat on a $600 toilet, flown in a biplane and fired fancy handguns, all to accurately report a story. But Saturday, I took hands-on to a whole new level when I was invited to judge the Knobbly Knees and Bonny Knees contests at the Spokane Highland Games.

For more than 50 years, folks from around the region, and even the world, have gathered at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center to celebrate all things Scottish. The heavy athletics competition anchors the annual event. Kilt-clad contestants throw hammers and toss cabers among other traditional contests.

Pipe bands and highland dancers add musical flair, and savory haggis (sheep organs mixed with onion, oatmeal and suet) tempts brave-hearted foodies.

Organizers strive to keep the games fresh and exciting. Last year, they introduced the Pull for the Haggis, a tug of war between Irish and Scots. And this year, co-chairs Steven Schneider and Ruby Devine decided to launch a contest for fearless fellows with nice or knobbly knees.Cindy Hval, SR  More here.  Pictured:  John Forsyth, 35, winner of the Knobbly Knee contest.

Have you ever judged any kind of contest?

Cindy: Driver’s Lesson For Mom, Son

He tossed his head and his shaggy blond bangs shrouded his blue eyes. “How’s this?” he asked as he flashed an oversized grin. “The girls call this my Joker smile.” I sighed and squirmed, trying to get comfortable on the beige plastic chair at the Department of Licensing. “I like it. It’s cute,” I replied to my son. “Gosh, Mom! It’s supposed to be scary – horrifying, even!” Zachary and I were at the DOL to get his learner’s permit. In a few months’ time I’ll have three children who are licensed to drive. Don’t say I didn’t warn you/Cindy Hval, Front Porch. SR. More here.

Question: Are you happy with the photo on your driver's license?

Angels I didn’t hear

They arrived at 10:30 p.m., which is a bit late for guests. I opened the door and a gust of chill winter wind swept through the entryway. Somewhat self-consciously, I read a prepared speech: “Hello and welcome archangels to our home.”

My husband shook his head and the cat slipped out through the partially opened door. After herding Milo back inside, I found myself at a loss. I’ve never spoken to one angel before, let alone hosted five of them.

A few weeks prior, I’d received a note from my friend Beth asking if I’d host five archangels for five days. In return the angels would grant me three wishes, one for the world, one for my family and one for myself. “So, are they breakable?” I asked, picturing the havoc my boys could wreak on porcelain or pottery figurines.

“No,” she replied. More here. Cindy Hval, SR

Do you believe in angels? Have you ever been visited by one?

Cindy: My Home’s A Work In Progress

Our house is in a constant state of home improvement. It’s a veritable ode to unfinished projects. I marvel when friends say they painted their living rooms or stained their decks over the weekend. “You mean it’s done? Finished? Completed?” I ask. I painted my dining room last fall, but ran out of time, energy and impetus by the time I reached the kitchen. So half of the large room is Desert Sand and the other half is Aging Apricot. For 17 years we’ve lived in a 1978 split-level that needs more TLC than we can usually muster. Due to a limited budget, our handyman and home repair staff currently consists of my husband Derek/Cindy Hval, Washington Voices. More here.

Question: Is your home a work in progress?

Noon: Next Time, Mascara Runs Alone

A strange affliction seems to have overcome many of my 40-ish friends. It began with vague murmurs about cholesterol and too-snug jeans. Soon, discussion became peppered with talk of morning walks and gym memberships. And suddenly, marathons were being mentioned as casually as lunch plans. Seemingly overnight, these folks took to wearing expensive Saucony or Asics running shoes and talking about doing the “Peak Performance in Portland” or the “Bellingham Bay.” When they talk about “Leavenworth Oktoberfest,” they aren’t talking about beer-drinking. Much. When a friend recently posted on her Facebook page, “Just ran 3.5 miles,” I asked, “Who was chasing you?/Cindy Hval, SR Washington Voices. More here. (SR file photo for illustrative purposes by Christopher Anderson)

Question: Do You enjoy running?

Cindy: On Being A Mom & Why

More than 20 years ago, for reasons now unclear, I decided to have a baby. Derek and I had been married three years, and I guess it seemed natural to want to expand our family. Of course, we could have bought a dog, but we didn’t. Truthfully, I’ve always wanted to be a mom. As a child, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up my standard answer was, “Flight attendant, actress, librarian and mother”/Cindy Hval, Washington Voices. More here. Also by Cindy:

Question: What’s the best/worst thing about being a parent.

Front Porch: Mother of 4, Heel Thyself

They called to me. They twinkled at me from among sensible square-toed pumps and frivolous flip-flops trimmed with plastic daisies. They glittered. They sparkled. They shone. I didn’t even intend to look at shoes as I scanned the racks at my favorite thrift store, but a shaft of sunlight lit up the golden shoes. If angel choirs approve of 4-inch stiletto heels made by Fredrick’s of Hollywood, than those angels were singing hallelujah, as I reached for the shoes/Cindy Hval, Front Porch, Washington Voices. More here. (AP file photo: Six-feet-tall ruby red slippers are shown outside of Madame Tussauds in New York in mid-July)

What kind of shoes are you wearing at the moment?

High Noon: A Purr Never Hurt Anyone

Several years ago, local author Niki Anderson wrote a best-seller titled “What My Cat Has Taught Me About Life.” I thought about that title as our own kitty, Milo, recently celebrated his first year of owning us. We had set out to adopt an older female feline, so I wouldn’t be the only girl at home. We ended up with another hyperactive baby boy. Go figure/Cindy Hval, Washington Voices/SR. More here.

Question: Have you learned anything about life from your pet?

High Noon: Unlikely Friends

Some siblings look so much alike it’s hard to tell them apart. Not my four sons. While there’s a familial resemblance, they aren’t mistaken for each other. Their temperaments and talents are equally dissimilar. But during a conversation with my youngest, I discovered that when comes to choosing friends, my children are very much alike.

One afternoon, Sam slumped into the car after school, his eyes brimming with tears. “Tough day?” I asked.

He nodded.

“Want to talk about it?”

“No,” he said and looked out the window. A few minutes later he burst out, “Everyone’s making fun of me because I hang out with Marcus. They say he’s lame, and if I’m his friend, I’m lame, too!” Cindy Hval, SR Full story.

Did you ever have a friend others labled “lame” or “loser”? What did that friendship teach you?

A Baby Changes Everything

In the midst of unearthing Christmas decorations, I surveyed the downstairs family room. Actually, “wreck” room is a more apt description. Green and red bins burgeoning with tinsel and ornaments perched precariously on tabletops. Blue bins overflowing with winter garb towered with ominous instability in opposite corners. And stacks of paper on the floor revealed last year’s resolution to stay current with filing has been a dismal failure.

Overwhelmed, I looked for a place to sit. And then I saw it – my rocking chair. Banished to the basement when my youngest grew too big to cuddle comfortably with me in its confines.

I removed the mountain of snow pants and ski gloves that had buried it and sat down and began to rock. As I swayed, I remembered the first time I saw this chair, on a Christmas morning 20 years ago. Cindy Hval, SR. More here.

Has a baby changed your life?