Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!


To all of you-who read my blog-let me say “Thank You.”  I appreciate every single one of you! 

With  love, and many wishes for a wonderful 2011,


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lost and Found


Poor Mary.  Joseph is missing.  One minute he was there- on the windowsill- next to the radiator, with the rest of my miniature Nativity set.  And the next, he was gone-leaving behind a scene of scattered sheep, a fallen shepherd, and a lonely wife.  The main suspect?  I think the dog did it.  What puzzles me though, is that Kona is a herding dog.  I’d have thought she would have gone for the sheep…

Yesterday, I started to put the house back in order.  Our visiting family members had all gone back home, and the tree was starting to lose needles at an alarming rate.  I got out my canister vacuum to see if Joseph was hiding under the radiator.  My canister vacuum is old and doesn’t have the greatest suction-and Joseph is also bigger than the end of the attachment I planned to use-so I figured if Joseph was under the radiator I could rescue him.  Out came several wads of dust, two marbles, and a small soccer ball-but no Joseph.  And then out came an envelope-the kind you find in the middle of a catalog along with the order form-from the Montgomery Ward company, with an address simply reading:

Montgomery Ward
Portland 10, Ore.

envelope front            envelope back

The post office implemented postal zones-like the “10” on the envelope- for larger cities in 1943, but didn’t  devise the zip code as we know it until 1963.   This envelope was very old and had probably been under the radiator  for a  long time.

It is little discoveries like this that make living in an old house so exciting. (On previous occasions, we’ve found a gold wedding ring and a coin from 1869.)  Though the envelope is not a valuable or earth shattering discovery, it is still a connection to the people who lived in this house long before we ever did.  I can picture a teen-aged girl, not unlike my own Amy, flipping through the newly arrived Montgomery Ward catalog, pouring over the latest styles, and having the  envelope fall out  and slip under the radiator…

Maybe, in 50 years or so, someone  will come along with a more powerful vacuum.  They might  also be searching for a missing object under the radiator-and perhaps they will find Joseph. They too-in their future time, will marvel over this connection to us, now in the past.

In the meantime though, it looks like Mary is on her own.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Almost Here!


These are special days-filled with an unusual flurry of excitement, activity- and anticipation.  These are the days before the THE DAYS.

This coming week,  flour and scissors will be flying as we do our   Christmas baking and Christmas present wrapping, and this old house of ours will be bursting at the seams as we welcome a visit from some of  the people I hold most dear to me-my parents, my sister and her husband, and my Adorable  (with a capital A)  nephew Wil.    Our old house will be alive with the kind of merry making  that big old houses were made for.

I know that when everyone arrives and this Christmas 2010 celebration has begun, the time will fly faster than Santa’s elusive reindeer.  And that when the last sugar cookie is gone, and the house is empty again, the post holiday depression will come crashing down.

So just for now, on this quiet Sunday morning, I am content to sit on the sofa, sip my coffee (and enjoy a handful of holiday M&M’s too!)  while I bask in the anticipation of what is to come. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Discouraged, in a Season of Hope

christmas birds
I couldn’t help but notice her-an elderly woman, perhaps in her 80’s, shoulders hunched, a cart full of groceries-and a bewildered look on her face.   She was a couple places ahead of us in line, and I could clearly see that she was having trouble.   Standing at one of the four  self checkout registers, she just couldn’t figure  out what to do.  The line of people moved around her-everyone wanting to get out of the store and go home.  I saw her ask first one clerk for help, only to get brushed off because the clerk was in the middle of doing something else.  She then asked another clerk for help, only to be told, “I’m sorry, but my shift just ended.”  Finally, I went up to her and offered to help, but she declined.  I could see by now she was extremely embarrassed, but more than that, she was worried about being a bother to someone.  “Are you sure?”  I asked.  “Yes, thank you.”  And so we made our purchases, and left.  I was trying hard not to cry.

I don’t think I need to go into the emotions I was feeling.  I bet you can guess, because I bet you would have felt as I did.    Angry, appalled, bewildered myself...  That why,  in this season of goodwill, somehow this poor woman didn’t count?

While I’ll never have a second chance to help this woman out when she needed help (I should have tried harder) I was thinking about the little things I can do to feel hopeful when I get discouraged.  Here is my list.

1.  Hug my daughter.  She is the greatest gift I have ever been given.

2.  Pet my dogs.  Without even trying to, they make my day with their antics!

3.  Say a prayer for someone-anyone.  It doesn’t even have to be someone I know.

4.  Get the name of a needy child, and buy them a Christmas present.  The fact that it’s anonymous makes it even better.

5.  Reach out and touch someone on the arm when I am talking to them.  I think people need that human connection.

6.  Bake something.  It’s like a hug from a grandmother!  And baking with the help of a child is even better.  My daughter and I have spent many happy hours together in the kitchen.  Next week, my almost 3 year old nephew will be here and Amy and I plan to bake something with him.

7.  When the living room is still dark, I like to plug in the Christmas tree and revel in the quiet beauty of the colored lights.

8. Watch an old Christmas movie.  One of my favorites is “It Happened on 5th Avenue.”

9.  Say “Thank You” to my husband.  For all the things he does that go unnoticed, because I’m too busy grousing about socks on the floor, or dirty dishes in the sink.

10.  Look for the good.  It’s so easy for me to notice the bad around me-I think we live in a culture that feeds off of it, but there is plenty of good to be found.

What would you add to the list?  Please tell me-I’d love to know!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dashing Through the Snow


We got our tree yesterday.  It’s a fun part of our Christmas preparations each year, and we like to go into the mountains and choose one straight from Mother Nature’s own back yard.

Last year it was way too cold in the mountains, and so we bought our tree from a local garden center in town.  Even at half price-it was  expensive. Still, it was a beauty-tall, full, and perfectly shaped.

Setting out with our $5 permit, we had just a couple hours to find our tree before a big storm was due to hit. It’s gorgeous up in the mountains, but it’s not a place to be when the snow falls so hard you can’t see your hand in front of your face.  There was another reason to make this trip a short one.  The snow already on the ground was so deep that it was rough going, and we quickly got tired.

mecutting the tree

We wisely left Willow home this trip-she’s  nearing  15, and she would have been helpless in all that snow. It’s a sad reality.  Willow has gone along every other time in the last 10 years, but she’s not the dog she used to be.  We did bring Kona.  At 7 months she has more than enough energy for everyone, and she was in her element in all that snow.  She didn’t  stop to rest until she was loaded back in the car for the trip home-and then she faded into sleep like a melted snow flake.

KonaAmy and Kona

We found our tree pretty fast.  Even when there isn’t a storm bearing down on us, or snow so deep it’s up to our knees, and we can afford to take a lot longer to find our tree-it isn’t really about the tree.  We are enjoying the hunt-the mystery of what lies around the next bend—or down a path begging to be taken. When measured against the gold standard of what makes a perfect Christmas tree, the ones that we find are certainly far from it-trees in nature seldom are as perfect as commercially grown Christmas trees.  But somehow,  every year-at least in our eyes-we end up with the most beautiful tree, ever.

Willow 2

Thursday, December 9, 2010

First Love

First love.  They say you never forget it.  For his sake, I hope he has.

Robin.  With his wavy blond hair and thick black glasses.  He sat in the desk behind me.  I guess there was something about my brown pixie cut and blue cat eyed frames that made his heart go pitter patter.

He would pass me notes-several a day.  They always said the same thing.  “Do you love me?  Yes or No.  Please check one of the boxes.”  And every day I would stick them in my notebook and pretend I hadn’t gotten them.

Maybe it was persistence on his part, or maybe it was curiosity on mine, but whatever it was, one day I boldly checked the box next to “Yes” and passed the note back.   I could tell Robin was elated.  At recess, he shyly held my hand.  And a few days later, he  presented me with a couple of presents.  A “Hot Wheels” car, and a gold heart on a chain.  With a pearl in the center, even.  Poor Robin.  If he had only just given me the car.  I wasn’t so sure about this love business.

Robin had a friend.  Brian.  Brian sat next to me.  He had dark brown hair, freckles, and 20/20 vision as far as I could tell.  He started passing me notes-making his bid to “steal me away.”  His notes were direct.  To the point.  “Kiss here.”  A wet spot on the paper, circled in pencil.

I guess I kind of liked that caveman approach.  I lost my heart to Brian.  Poor Robin was as forgotten as that necklace he’d given me.  Even with the pearl in the center.

Third graders can be so cruel.

Based on the Red Dress Club prompt "First Love."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pearl Harbor

Arizona memorial
Five years ago my family and I took our first trip to Hawaii.  It had been my desire, since learning more about my Uncle Pete, to visit his grave in the Punchbowl Cemetery on the island of Oahu.
As we walked along the rows of grave stones, looking for the one belonging to my Uncle, we passed many, many markers like this one.


Some of these stones even  marked  the spot of several “unknowns.”

As we later visited the USS Arizona Memorial, and saw the columns of names of the men lost that day, I couldn't help thinking that some of those names matched some of those “unknowns” we ‘d seen at Punchbowl.

For their sake, and the sake of their loved ones-who never had an actual place to say their goodbyes-I’ll remember Pearl Harbor.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Handmade Love

rag doll
I should be straightening up my studio, but I couldn’t resist writing this post based on a feature I saw on the  Etsy blog today, asking people-“If your house was burning, what would you save?” (Everyone-including pets, are safely outside.)

I would save a rag doll.  My daughter made it for me-and this is reason enough, but there is more to it than that.

It was during Thanksgiving, several years ago.  In the midst of out of town company, friends visiting,  and trying to get organized and prepare Thanksgiving dinner-I hit overload-and I got really sick.  I felt like I had a sudden case of the flu, and all I could do was crawl into bed,  feeling useless and miserable.

Amy came upstairs to see how I was doing, and then she disappeared for awhile.  When she returned a few hours later, she placed beside me  the most precious doll I had ever seen—complete with patchy braided yarn hair that stuck straight up in places, crooked features sewn on with a great deal of thread,  and wearing a dress from a discarded baby doll.  And on Amy’s face I could read a mixture of expressions.   Anguish- over seeing me sick, and expectancy- waiting for my reaction to this gift—and apology too.  “It’s not very good,” she lamented.  “Oh Amy,” I  whispered.  “She’s beautiful!  You made this for me?”  She nodded.  The doll was to help make me feel better and keep me company.

I love my daughter, but there are times when the emotion is so raw and overwhelming that I want to cry out-almost like I am in pain.  It’s hard to explain-but I bet every parent out there has felt this way.  It’s like you love your child so much-that it scares you.  Because you realize at moments like these,  that without this child, you would not be able to exist.   This was one of those moments.

This rag doll of mine always makes me smile, and sometimes when I look at it, my eyes get a little misty.   When I picture Amy sewing this doll-the hours she spent on it, and the great care she used in making it…all because she  loved me…forget the diamond rings,  or photo albums, or whatever.   My rag doll is  priceless.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Happy Birthday To My Sweet Girl!


It’s hard to believe, but my sweet heart of a daughter  is 15 today!  It’s a bittersweet time for me-she is growing up so fast, but at the same time it’s exciting to see the beautiful person she is becoming.

Today, and every day, she is the apple of my eye, the center of my universe, my heart, my soul, my life.

huge cakebirthday party
Happy Birthday honey!    mom and kids group party

(P.S.  Amy wanted me to mention that she is wearing her Halloween costume in this photo-it's not her usual style of dress LOL!)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Three Cheers!!!

A big thank you to Cheryl over at Mommypants for letting me know it wasn't possible to leave comments on my blog.  After doing some detective work, I realized that I  had a glitch with the html code on my new blog template, and my comment widget was not working properly.  (Oh the things you have to know to blog these days!)    My husband has fixed it and so everything is now in perfect working order.
Thanks to everyone who has read my posts lately-you are wonderful!

Sunday, November 28, 2010


The weather on the East side of the mountains here in Washington State has taken a decidedly cold turn, and so I had to get out the heavy comforter-and I remembered this…

The first spring after Amy was born, we were living in Western New York-where winter can last into May.  (We had snow on Mother’s Day one year!)  Our bedding was inadequate- we had recently moved from milder Corvallis Oregon-and so we decided to get a something warmer.  We went to the one and only department store for miles around and we picked out a beautiful blue and green plaid flannel comforter.

We took it home and put it on the bed-and it looked great.  Later in the day we were also expecting a visit from my husband’s sister.  As we sat on the bed, admiring Amy and the new comforter-we decided that a walk would be in order before Cindy arrived.  We bundled Amy up and put her in her stroller and went out into the brisk winter air.  After a quick trip around the neighborhood-we called it good and went home.  As we were unwrapping Amy-my heart literally stopped.  Amy’s head was blue!  I felt like I'd been hit by lightening!  Fearing she had hypothermia, or frost bite, I called the hospital.  ( 15 miles away over icy snowy roads.)  They were very alarmed and concerned as well-and gave us instructions for warming her up and monitoring her body temperature.  (Normal.)

Enter Cindy-in the midst of this crisis.  We explained what was happening-and I’m sure she was a bit unsettled at having arrived in the middle of such an emergency.  I don’t remember exactly what we did other that bundle Amy up and take her temperature every few minutes. (Normal, normal, and normal again.)  And wait.
After awhile-Amy still appeared to be ok.  She didn’t seem to be in any pain or discomfort and seemed like a typical happy baby.  We were mystified.

We didn’t get an explanation of what had happened until the next day-when I made the bed.  After smoothing the new comforter into place-I saw my hands.  Yes-they were blue!

The funny thing-is that Cindy brought Amy a cute knitted hat that resembled a blueberry.  We still have that hat too-but the comforter?  We couldn’t get rid of it fast enough!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Supercilious in Seattle

When I was 21, I went to a vocational school for a year- a student in the secretarial program.  I had dropped out of college, and it seemed that the best route to employment and independence was to learn some basic office skills.  I was also pretty immature at the time.  College had turned out to be little more than one big party for me, and I hadn’t grown up much in the short time between leaving college and starting my course at my new school.  I cringe now at the memory of myself back then.  I put on tons of makeup, and wore heels so high that I’m surprised I could even walk.  Yes-- I thought I was pretty hot.

Every day  my friends and I would have to walk past the auto shop classrooms on our way to lunch.  And every day the guys in the auto shop program would just happen to be hanging around in the hall when we walked by.  Even though we protested the cat calls and comments, we loved it.  There was one guy-I’ll call him Mike-and Mike would corner me every day and say “When are you going to go out with me?”  And every day I’d say no.  Now I could tell that Mike was really nice.  He acted wolfish like his friends when they were in a group-but alone he seemed to be really sweet.  The thing about Mike  though—his face was horribly disfigured.  I’d heard rumors about exploding firecrackers, or birth defects—but the fact remained that he looked as he looked, and in the shallowness of my youth I was embarrassed to be seen with him.  In spite of this-I found myself agreeing to a date.  I guess I figured he was never going to stop asking, and I felt sorry for him.

On the appointed Saturday night he picked me up and we headed first to a movie.  I mentally took stock of the situation.  The walk to his car from my front door: safe.  No one was likely to be around.  The car ride: safe.  Not much chance of any one really seeing him as we sped towards the theater.  If we were lucky-we could make it quickly into the theater without too much notice, and once the movie stated: safe. We would be concealed by the darkness.  It was the dinner part of the evening I dreaded.  There would be plenty of people around…and plenty of stares, and pointing, and whispering…

If Mike was trying to impress me-he did a good job.  We were to dine that night at the top of the Space Needle!  I  should have been really excited.  I tried to enjoy my dinner as best I could, but all the while I was self conscious because of  the spectacle I assumed we were making, and I just wanted to go home.  I excused myself to make a trip to the restroom before the hour drive ahead of us.  And I forgot one small detail of the Space Needle’s restaurant—that the tables—arranged in a circular configuration  are elevated one step up from the rest of the floor where the aisles are located. Instead of stepping down-I stepped into the air and came down hard on my wobbly high heels.  Losing my balance I lurched for our table to keep myself upright, and came perilously close to pulling it over.  Luckily, Mike had quick reflexes and prevented total disaster from happening.

I didn’t appreciate the irony at the time.  I was so thoroughly humiliated that the rest of the evening was pretty much a blur of downcast eyes  (mine) and forced conversation.  But now I can see that  no one probably noticed us much at all that night-- until that fateful moment-and that I drew more attention to us  than  Mike and his precious face did.  To his credit-I think he had a good time.  He’d planned a nice evening, and was a perfect gentleman.

And thank goodness he never saw where the real ugliness was—the worst possible kind of ugliness-- in my heart.

This was written based on the Mama Kat’s writer’s workshop prompt to describe a time when I fell.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

An Open Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,
It’s hard to believe that the time has come to write to you again!  I can clearly remember last Christmas-it seems like it was only yesterday-and not nearly 12 months ago. Anyway, my wish list for this year is pretty much the same as it was last year.

For starters-I wish I could sing like Celine Dion.  Anytime, anywhere, I could belt out a song at the top of my lungs.  And I’d sound amazing!  But I guess my voice is adequate-since it  always worked perfectly well for  singing Amy to sleep when she was little…

So instead of a voice that could break  windows, I’d like to be so smart that there wouldn’t be an equation anywhere that I couldn't solve, or a subject I couldn't converse on with ease…But, I’ve always been able to figure out how to make a Halloween costume from a table cloth, or reason away the fears that come after a nightmare, or answer the usual WHY’s or HOW COME’s  asked  in the course of a day.

So maybe I’d be super energetic.  I could clean all day, walk both dogs 10 or 15 miles, remodel the house… and still not be  tired.  If the truth be told though, I’ve done fine with the energy I have.  My house is mostly clean, the dogs get adequate exercise, and I’ve managed to do a home improvement project or two.  And I still have enough energy at the end of the day to do a quick load of emergency laundry or proof read an English paper.

No. What I’d really like is to be fearless and brave all the time, with the ability to face any situation without batting an eye.   Do things like stand up for myself,  tell people off (when necessary), save small puppies from burning buildings...   But in reality I’m not a lion-I’m a mouse--so instead of being the type to slay wild beasts with one swipe of my paw, I’m the type that sits in your pocket.  And when you are scared, or hurt, or lonely, or sad-all you have to do is reach into your pocket, and I am there.

So this Christmas, Santa,  what  I really want  is that you put me in the pockets of those who need me the most…just the way I am.

This post was inspired by a previous Mama Kat’s writer’s prompt-An Open Letter to Santa.
Artwork by Ralph Hulett

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Java Mama

This post  is a response to Mama Kat’s writing prompt to list 10 reason why I drink coffee.  I wrote it when I’d had one too many cups…

1.  I like it--a lot (so the other 9 reasons don’t matter).

2.  It gives me a reason to get out of bed every morning.

3.  It gives me a reason to go to bed every night (the sooner I fall asleep and wake up, well you know-reason #2).

4.  When combined with Coco Puffs or Cap’n Crunch, it’s a sure fire energy blast.
5.  Certain foods, like chocolate, taste much better with coffee. (Granted, chocolate tastes pretty good without coffee too).

6.  It requires that I go to Hawaii every so often-because that’s where you get the best Kona coffee.

7.  It really is such a lovely color naturally,  but I have so much fun creating new colors by varying the amount of cream I add.

8.  It  mixes well with other things-like Irish whiskey, for example.

9.  Because you don’t have to drink your coffee to enjoy its benefits.  Chocolate covered coffee beans, anyone?

10.  I like it—a lot (so the other 9 reasons don’t matter). Yes.  I KNOW I said that already.
I think I need another cup…

Monday, November 15, 2010


Thank you to my lovely blog friend over at the Musings of Miss 1941 for giving me this beautiful award!  I will be awarding it to some of my fellow bloggers as soon as I figure out how to post the links to their blogs.  Just when I think I have conquered the mountains in the world of cyber space-I trip and fall flat over a tiny stone.  But I won't hang up my climbing boots yet!  Ah what the heck-I give this award to every great blog on my list!
Onward and upward I go.  Charge!
And thanks again Miss 1941!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Crazy Like A Horse

When I was a kid, I was horse crazy.  Well, crazy is putting it mildly.  I was horse insane.  From about age 8 until age 11 or so, I lived and breathed horses.  I read everything I could find written about them.  I collected toy models of them.  And if I wasn’t pretending to ride an imaginary horse, I was pretending to be one.  Yes.  I had it bad.
In the 3rd grade we had to bring in a picture of the pet we had or the pet we wished we had.  Did I take a picture of my guinea pig to share?  Of course not.  I took in a picture of a horse-and a taxidermy horse at that!  And…to top it all off…I told my classmates that it was my own pet horse.  I was an instant celebrity-but my new found fame made me uneasy.  (It WAS based on a fib.)  And so, one morning, I announced to my friends that my horse had died.  (A broken neck, no less.)  Everyone grieved right along with me-and the fateful moment arose when my teacher ran into my Mom after school-and offered her sympathy.  I’m just glad I wasn’t there at that awkward moment-my poor Mom—the last to know.
Years ago, in the midst of my fever, my Dad made me a promise.  “If you still love horses when you are 15, I will buy you one.”
I still remember his name-George.  A shy boy that I got up the nerve to ask to sign my yearbook at the end of 9th grade.  And horses?  What were horses?
Yesterday it all came back to me.  The horse fever was as real again as it had been when I was just a girl.  I went to see the new movie “Secretariat.”  It’s a wonderful, inspiring motion picture-and I highly recommend it.  And by the way Dad…about that promise-is the offer still good?

Watch this thrilling footage of Secretariat’s 1973 win of the Belmont Stakes!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

In Awe of Autumn

I took these pictures this morning during a long morning walk.  I wanted to capture the fall colors before they are gone.  I am always amazed at the show that Mother Nature puts on every year-enjoy! 

alley view
   orange trees
3 trees

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Amy Scissorhands

I should have known.  I really should have known.  Amy had been too quiet, for too long.  And when I finally went to her room to see what she was up to, it was too late.  Oh sure-there were some red flags in those moments of relaxation that I had been enjoying.  But I chose to ignore them.
The scene I encountered when I entered her room was something I can only describe as resembling what I believe would be the beauty parlor from H-E-double toothpicks.  One where things have gone horribly wrong-where a hairdresser with a grudge-or some misguided sense of style, has been at work. 
There was hair EVERYWHERE.  It took me a minute to sort out my confusion.  Amy’s hair was a delicate shade of reddish blonde, and there was plenty of that.  But I also saw black hair…and brown hair… and something that looked like fur…and I seem to recall some green hair too. 
All I can say, is that Amy must have worked very quickly.  When I say that the quiet in her room had lasted too long, it couldn’t have been more than 15 or 20 minutes.  But put a pair of scissors in the hands of a child on a mission, and it’s long enough.
I don’t know who she started on first-herself, or one of the many stuffed animals that fell victim that day. No one was spared.  Not even our dog Willow, who probably figured that hair cutting  was just another form of attention.  (So that’s where the fur came from.)
Of all the hair cuts given that day-they had one thing in common.  Without a doubt, they were all bad.  (Amy’s was a real piece of work-cropped down to her scalp in several places.)  But at least her haircut and Willow’s haircut were not permanent, and would eventually grow out.
And what did Amy have to say for herself when her handiwork was discovered?  “I didn't do it--my stuffed skunk did.”
So what do you say to an otherwise good three year old child, who is impossibly cute, telling a bold faced lie while holding a pair of safety scissors in her hand and covered with hair and fur?  “Well I guess we should send skunk to beauty school then.  If’s he’s going to be giving haircuts, he should at least learn to do them right.”

   who me
Who me?

This post was inspired by Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop prompt “hair disaster.”

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thanks, but no thanks!

I know Halloween was just a couple days ago, and it’s a little early to be thinking seriously about Thanksgiving-but I thought I’d share some of the funny and quirky things that have happened on Turkey Days in the past.
Our very first Thanksgiving after we were married, we excitedly planned to cook our first holiday dinner-and then found out in the newspaper on Thanksgiving morning that our turkey had been recalled due to some food poisoning concerns.  A quick trip to the grocery store revealed that our turkey was actually ok-but still,   “A little heart attack with your stuffing, anyone?” ( Or,  how not to make a good  impression-make your guests ill.)
There was the Thanksgiving in New York.  We had just moved there, and we were still getting to know people.  We invited a serious young couple-Jean and Jim- and their small daughter Sarah over to celebrate the day with us-the “ us” being Stuart, myself and our Bassett Hound Maggie.  We tried to make a good impression.  We tried to make everything perfect.  And I didn’t want to appear  rude, but I honestly couldn’t understand what Jean was trying to tell me, making only whimpering noises, until she pointed towards the living room-and there was Maggie, with the entire cheese ball in her mouth.  No body wanted any appetizers after that.
Then there was the year that I decided to try to get the kitchen as clean as possible while some of the food was still cooking so that after dinner there wouldn’t be a gigantic mess to clean up.  I grabbed a  measuring cup full of grease and bits of turkey, and dumped it down the sink.  I realized my mistake when Stuart asked what had become of the turkey “drippings.”  Goodbye Thanksgiving gravy. (This is why you always want to have gravy mix on hand, I realized.)
Two years ago, Stuart, Amy and I went to my parents house for Thanksgiving.  Thursday morning we decided to attend Thanksgiving Day services at a quaint little church near their home.  During Communion, as I prepared to take a drink of wine from the large cup I was offered-it flew out of the Communion assistant’s hands and spilled all down the front of my sweater.  “Oh I’m so sorry!” she gasped.  “Don’t feel bad.”  I shot back.  “I like wearing my wine!” and at that holy moment instantly felt like the most blasphemous person on earth.  Afterwards, though, she came up to me and joked as well-“People will think you’ve been hitting the bars early today!”  and we both laughed.  And luckily  my sweater was red wool, so no harm was done.
Later that day, after we’d finished our delicious dinner and we were relaxing, I suddenly had the sinking  feeling that I hadn’t  unplugged my own iron (an older model-one that didn’t have auto shut off) at my own house--100 miles away.  I quickly dismissed the thought as irrational and put it out of my head.  But you guessed it-when we got home after that Thanksgiving visit-and I looked in my sewing room-there it was-my iron- STILL PLUGGED IN! 
This year-we are having Thanksgiving dinner at our house again.  And getting through the day without any surprises—for that I will be truly thankful!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Come with me All Hallow’s night
We’ll frighten everyone in sight
Such pranks for once, are justified
And fun and frolic amplified

-From a 19th Century Halloween postcard

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Losing Wendy

This is my post for Mama Kat’s weekly writing assignment.  I chose the prompt about a unique classmate.
The year I was in the 1st grade my friend Wendy died.  She fell from the top of some “monkey bars” and her injuries were so severe that she never recovered, and died a few days later.  What makes this post a little hard to write-is that the memories I have of that tragic event are the memories seen through the eyes of my 6 year old self.
When I first heard that Wendy had gotten hurt, I remember thinking that she would be back at school sooner or later.  I  didn’t even consider any other possibility.  I was visiting my grandmother when I heard the news.  Someone simply remarked, “I heard the Forbes girl died.”   I was stunned.
I don’t think it was the losing of a friend that was so hard.  It is just that when you are 6, there is a certain order to the way your  life is.  Wendy’s death changed that for me—showed me that I couldn’t be sure of anything. 
Even now, I can conjure up some some of my impressions at that time, but they are vague, and I can’t put them into words.  I don’t remember that anyone talked to us about Wendy.  There wasn’t any sort of grief counseling.  I think everyone thought that it was best to just not talk about it.
I still think of Wendy once in a while.  I wonder the usual things, like what she would have done with her life if she’d had the chance to grow up.  And whenever I see some of those same monkey bars-I am 6, and haunted, again.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Cone

I bet you’ve seen them on other people’s dogs.  I have.  And I always had to laugh to myself that it would be so humiliating to have one’s dog run around looking like a satellite dish, for all the world to see.  Well I’m not laughing now.  Poor Kona.  She has been through a lot this week-and having to wear “the cone of shame” has made her suffering complete.
Luckily for her, she didn’t know what was in store for her last Wednesday-when she went to the vet to get “fixed.”  What an ironic term, for she was more broken when she came home.  I had been dreading this event from the first day we got her.  Last week, I was a nervous wreck anticipating the event, and to make matters worse, Willow had been desperately ill and had needed to go to the vet herself.  With that crisis past, I could focus all my anxiety on Kona-and the fate awaiting her.
Everything went well on Wednesday, and she came through her surgery with flying colors-but she immediately started to chew on her poor tummy-so the cone was put on.   At first she couldn’t raise her head, and looked like some strange cross between dog and funnel-the cone pressed to the floor as though she was listening for seismic activity.  And doorways gave her trouble too-she would try to navigate through them either a little too far to the left or right and crash into them.  Willow, who is one of those “still waters run deep” types quickly learned to stay close like a shark-because when Kona would try to eat a biscuit, or play with her rawhide bone--and  invariably let go of it--the cone would act as a sort of conveyor slide delivering the treat right into Willow’s waiting jaws.
Hopefully Kona won’t have to wear the cone for  much longer, but in the event that it’s still on when Halloween rolls around, I’ve been trying to come up with some clever Halloween costume ideas.  If you have any suggestions-please let me know. (And for all of you dear ones to whom I owe emails, convos, phone calls…I’ll start catching up soon!)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Looking Back

libby flag

In my last post I mentioned how much I love paging through my collection of vintage yearbooks. I have several-from both college and high school. This year, one yearbook in particular is especially interesting-a copy of “The Edelian” from Edward Drummond Libbey High School in Toledo Ohio.

My own daughter just started high school, and I can’t help but ponder the differences between high school now, and then-1943-the year of the Edelian.

Bob Brown

Bob Brown was the original owner of my yearbook. His name is printed in block letters on the front cover. That year, like the year before, and the year that was to come-the world would be at war. In addition to the usual concerns of high school students-good grades, dances, football games-students that year worried and wondered about classmates and teachers who had left school to join the armed forces. Their after school activities included not only homework, clubs, and athletic practice, but also pursuits that helped the war effort. (The girls below sew stars onto a flag-blue for those in the service, and gold for those who have given their lives to their country. This picture gets to me every time I look at it.)

libbey stars

I would also guess that in private thoughts the shadow of the war hung over almost every man and boy at Libbey High. When to join up--what it would be like to go off to fight. (Some of those boys look so young! Well, I guess they WERE young!)

soldiers and sailors

This is where the story of Bob Brown has a twist. The previous summer he had broken his arm when he crashed on his bicycle. I wonder, did Bob Brown consider this to be a lucky break, or a heart break?

Edelian two

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Real Deal

I have this jacket. It’s supposed to look like an army field jacket-olive drab, with a serial number on the left side. As I said-it’s supposed to look real-but it’s not. It’s just some designer’s idea of a field jacket. I bought it at a thrift store because it was cheap and I thought it was kind of cool too.

Today while I was at the post office a grizzled older Vietnam era clerk was at the desk and he spotted my jacket. “Hey” he says, “How’d you get a serial number on your field jacket?” “Oh this isn’t a real field jacket-it’s just a designer look alike.” I told him. He looked puzzled-“Well I’ll be darned. A designer field jacket. I’ve got three of the real thing hanging up at home.” I hastily tried to explain that I’d gotten this one cheap, and liked it because it looked neat, etc., etc. Made a verbal fool of myself. He was very kind and smiled nicely. I uttered a barely audible “Have a good day.” and left.

I got to thinking about my jacket, and other similar things-like the leather flying jackets you can buy so that you look like a WWII bomber pilot. And I though-what a big fat joke. The problem is-the joke is at the expense of those who wore field jackets, and bomber jackets during times of conflict. During WWII a paratrooper candidate who earned his jump wings also earned the right to blouse his pant legs into the tops of his boots. It wasn’t something a guy with any integrity would do if he didn’t deserve to. So it is with a field jacket. There is no meaning behind the one I have (and how could there be-because it’s not even real.) I imagine when the postal clerk looks at his field jackets there are many memories-authentic memories-good ones and bad ones-associated with his. He may even wear his jackets, but not to look cool I bet. So what he thinks of a “designer” jacket such as mine I can only imagine. (I’m guessing not good thoughts.) But typical with so many who served their country and came home-they keep their thoughts to themselves.

I’m not ever wearing this jacket again. It seems comical and ludicrous now. I’m not sure what I'll do with it. I don’t believe in wasting something perfectly good, but to give it away would be to perpetuate the cycle. I’ll come up with a good alternative use for it. (Now that would be cool.) And I’ll start shopping for a different jacket-one that I truly can be proud to wear.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Living in the Moment

Two nights ago it was the perfect fall evening-warm, but with a hint of autumn in the air. Blue sky-the kind of blue that you only see in autumn when turning leaves have it as their backdrop. Putting homework and dishes aside, we decided to take the dogs for a quick walk, and headed in the direction of the neighborhood park. Once we got there I was immediately struck by the scene before me-a row of trees-maples perhaps-that had already turned. A slight carpet of golden leaves lay on the ground, enough to color the grass with their beauty, and in front of two of the trees were a couple of benches painted the same brilliant blue as the sky. “Rats, I wish I’d brought the camera!” I lamented. “Oh well, I’ll just have to come back tomorrow.” And off we hurried on our walk, and then home to finish our evening.

The next day, however, the Ellensburg wind came up something fierce. By the time I made it back to the park, most of the leaves were off the trees, and to top it off there was a lively soccer game going on and the beautiful blue benches were covered with jackets and water bottles and exhausted players.

The photo op was gone, but more importantly, so too was the moment.

This is the lesson. I should have lingered that first night, and just enjoyed being there in that place and time. Sure a photo would have been nice-but as it stands I have neither a picture nor a very good memory of what I saw. Just a blur really

I think there is something to be said for “living without a camera”. Appreciating the precious moments as they are given to us and not letting them pass by because we think we’ll get another chance at some point.

Incidentally, my Mom and Dad are visiting England, Scotland and Ireland right now. This time they decided to leave their camera at home and just concentrate on seeing the sights without worrying about getting perfect pictures of everything. They plan to buy a lot of postcards. Wise decision.

Speaking of postcards, does anyone know where I can get a good one depicting some maple trees,and some blue benches perhaps…….