The ship had already begun shifting course. For such large, cumbersome vehicles, phrases like “turn on a dime”, “tight turning radius”, or even “quick turn” are the stuff of dreams and fantasy. Change occurs in a matter of degrees, movement barely noticeable to an untrained eye, but with time, north becomes south, east, or west. Eighteen months in the making, the event marked by today merely confirmed and sealed the direction our lives had already started taking.

Finished with the first round of remodeling, the garden established, chickens cooped, occupations well in hand, we felt ready. Hoop after hoop were presented and cleared: paperwork, classwork, bloodwork, casework(ers). Pictures, bios, heartstrings, doubt. How do you know? How do you decide? At the point of giving up, in October of that year, an email with image attached came through. It was him. I sat stunned and breathless, nerves on end, knowing, however you do, doubtless: it was him. I also knew that this photo was only the beginning. Our yes would bring more hoops, each one more critical, culminating in the decision of a State committee, a committee charged with choosing one from three.

As winners, more paperwork & caseworkers, 3-ring binders of why, had to be trawled before we could consider meeting. I watched as we drove to the tidy home in the south sound neighborhood, watched as we walked sidewalk to door, watched as my hand stretched to shake the other. Empathetic, shy, feeling every inch of the awkward, we met our child-to-be at home with the only family he had ever known during his as yet short, sweet, little life. We were expected to play and interact  with this child, someone else’s child, someone else who selflessly loved, cared for, and attached to this child, knowing he wasn’t to stay. This selflessness a gift greater than the child himself.  The first day of a 2-week whirlwind courtship that led to moving in together, housemates for 9 months. I thought I was ready. I had read the books. I was still reading the books. Baby gates, plug covers, hooded bath towels, and crib; menus, work from home, nap time, bath time, and play. Set.

In time, however, I began to unravel. All that was me, that had been me, things I believed about parenting, people, cooking & food, about faith & family, about happiness & joy, began to shift. This new life connected to mine: the bright set of eyes, the strong little body, the complexity of mind, the heart, joy, laughter, will,  took me apart.  Over time I had lived less and existed more. Life, disappointment, deferred dreams can do that. It’s easy to become usual and dull. Face to face with this vibrant life, a life I was to love and guide, woke me up. Who was I? What did I want to do and be? What did I want this child to see in me? Beautifully, there are always 2nd chances, always chances for change. Over and over it’s this relationship that illuminates what to change, what to hone, what to discard, in me.

So it’s on this day, the day when the last of the paperwork was completed, when the judge gave her consent, I know I am blessed & lucky. I know I’ve been given a treasure to help and to hold,  on loan for only a short time. I take time to remember, to feel it all: the joy, the awkward, the grief, the hugs, laughter, self-stretching, love. Grateful always, it’s now time for pie.


I chose to be busy this summer. All that sounded SO exciting in April is now all around me, making me tired.

I chose 2 to 3 days each week to guide groups of 8 to 15 year olds, making foods from Syria or Brazil or foods from the Southwest or East Coast of this country. On another 1 to 2 days each week, groups of 7 to 9 year olds and I imagine we’re making foods at a campsite, using much foil, wielding tongs, eating with fingers. Further still, I added groups to my own Tiny Kitchen, making Empanadas, Enchiladas, and Ice Cream Treats. Five menus, five timelines, five class flows rotating the days of the week, wild card additions, plus planning & testing for Fall & Winter & Random Classes that will be in between.

Though my brain pegs full, I am still Mother, Laundress, Accountant, Chauffeur, Gardener, Wife, and Cook. I am the Finder, the Organizer, the Cleaner, the Buyer, all of which must go on, positions I didn’t think would need temporary assistance, but I broke. Sort of. Saturday night.

If you’ve read Beatrice Potter, you might be familiar with The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse. The protagonist is a busy creature, obsessed with footprint-free floors, bee-free rooms, and guests who are careful not to leave a soggy signature. Saturday I chose not to be that Mouse. In very indelicate fashion, I made proclamations to my family, the details of which aren’t Need To Know. Saturday ended and Sunday began, a better day, mostly.

Then there was this morning. Sunny, quiet, alone at the patio table, listening to the sprinkler’s spitting rhythms, watching the chickens forage, shelling the just-discovered-in-the-produce-drawer garden peas, waiting to remove the oven’s bread.

Peace. Center. Calm. Beauty.

This morning I saw what, for me, cannot be disregarded or abandoned. This is what puts me back together, what makes me happy, what gives me something to give. This space outside, the repetition of movement & sound, the green & blue & gold, it lifted everything, even giving space for words to circle and gather. How fortunate am I to be and breathe, to have this luxury, this peace.

I will continue my summer. Continue with the busy-I love what I do! But I will make time on the patio, give myself early morning moments, moments before the day gets warm, before the chickens get chatty, just me and the light, the trees, the sky and my garden.



I’ve lived in one since Christmas. I’m still living in one, but this morning, for any number of unknown reasons, the noisy crowds of Busy Brain were quiet.  Maybe because I tend to the tangential, it’s difficult to push pressing thoughts aside, to heel them into submission; instead, they pull madly at the leash, yipping & barking until my attention is unmercifully theirs. But this morning I’m here.

These last 3 months have been full. We’ve gutted and begun to refit the kitchen. Not finished but very usable, I proceeded to start daytime cooking classes in it, each week sharing, Carol Merrill-style, each new addition. The classes have been kids & cake, soup & breadsticks, many moving parts, non-stop chatter, lots & lots of dishes. This week our class will have a dishwasher, the First World mechanical sort, a supplement, or augmentation perhaps, to my mom, my mom who wanted to be my assistant.

For Christmas, I gave my folks a cooking class, a hands-on Winter Soups & Salads class. They went on a Tuesday evening, worked with an instructor and other students they didn’t know, producing some tasty, tasty food. My dad thrilled to finally know the proper way to hold a chefs knife. They were able to experience what I do for work: the black coated-instructor, the purple-aproned assistants, the trays of mise en place, the cutting boards, the cooking, and all those dishes. On the heels of this, my mom became my assistant here.

The first week, as there was none in the kitchen, she ferried each and every dish downstairs to the laundry sink, washing, racking, stacking when dry. She took home the dinner- & silverware to run through her dishwasher, along with the bar towels & aprons to her laundry. On rising next day, she felt the burn of those stairs. Thankfully, we’ve had a convenient sink since, something to never take lightly.

Each week, she arrives early, helps me set up what needs to be. She greets the students, gets them name-tagged & aproned, and ensures each knows the hand washing routine. She whisks away the dirty bowls & spatulas, packs up the ingredients we’re done with, helps this one or that get the cake batter into the muffin cup. She doesn’t stop until my dad arrives with the insulated carafe of coffee and we sit down to sample the day’s offering. Where this seemingly wasn’t enough, she decided to take home any ironing that needed doing, each week pressing Spouse’s shirts better than I ever can (or care to), returning them, the closet magically filling as if the work of Storybook Elves.

My mom is a flurry. I’ve learned how to work from her. I first learned to cook & bake from her. I channel her when I need to “grub out” the aluminum tracking of the windows, or the grout of the bathroom floor. We even use the term  Harness the Power for how effective she is: when something needs doing, she was always the team top pick. I think she has always held a list of what needed to get done on any given day, and has been able to check off each item when completed. I’ve only glimpsed occasional wandering: like the time she was readying her living/kitchen/dining rooms for a baby shower and ended up repainting her bedroom closet doors. She saw the irony but was still happy to have a fresh lift in her room.

With all the busy, my mom likes to sit down for coffee. She gives great hugs. And I know without doubt that she loves me. My earliest memories of mom being still are when she read to us (my favorite: The Secret Garden) and when I knew she had been praying: the right side of her face pressed onto her bed leaving a telltale imprint. Think what you may, believe what you do, but my parent’s have always tried, doing the best they could for who they were/are at any given time, to live a true faith. I’ve never doubted that. And though our theologies haven’t always aligned, I have always been buoyed, remembering that chenille-print cheek from waybackwhen, to the Right Now, wherein both my parents pray for the All Of Us every day.

This morning, before I leash Pup for a brisk walk, before we head out into the lion-like weather of this mid-March, I will enjoy these warm waters of memory, these few moments of word-flowing-through-fingertip. I won’t lament the I Don’t Do This Enough, this has been respite. Maybe there will be a sooner rather than later return to this pool. I don’t know. What I do know? I am blessed. I am lucky. I am loved. I wish the same for you.


I suppose most people live with some level of some expectation. On Tuesday, people with weekday jobs most likely expect to be at work on Wednesday. Those who left their car in the garage one day, expect it to be there the next. People who live near me expect to have electricity, clean drinking water, streets to drive on, basic accoutrements of a mid-size town, in an economically thriving part of the U.S.

I suppose there are those so enlightened that upon waking each morning they truly give thanks for another day. People who expect nothing past the Right Now, who when falling asleep don’t know if they’ll wake up and are okay with that. Maybe I’d find people like this among the Contemplatives, but for now I don’t know any. I had a political science professor in college who lived a grateful life, but his gratitude stemmed from negative expectation. An immigrant who escaped China’s Cultural Revolution, Jesse Chang was grateful for two particular things: 1) “Thomas Jefferson, I am so indebted to that man”, and 2)”That the B-1 Bombers have not come”. I imagine he was grateful for many other things, but these he repeated in every class, usually at the start of each class. Each day, he expected the nuclear war of the early 1980s to begin, and each day so very grateful that it did not.

Expectation is tricky. I expect the overpass not to collapse, therefore I can drive over it. I expect the air quality to be breathable, so I go outside without a mask. I expect the elevator cable not to snap so I use it instead of climbing 10 flights of stairs. However, when I expect Junior to always do what I think he should, when I expect Spouse to telepathically know what my emotional needs are, when I expect to be noticed or included or whatever, things go bad, quickly. Gratitude softens expectation, and can make life better, quickly. If I begin to express thanks on the other side of the overpass, not for avoiding certain death, but because the overpass made my commute easier, my day lightens. If I express thanks for fresh, breathable air, for living where I get to enjoy what some never do, my heart lightens. If I give thanks for Junior’s clothes and Lego’s and action figures and papers strewn over the floor because they’re HIS and he’s in my life-my world changes.

There is much more that could be said of expectation: positive or negative, high or low, unrealistic & unexpressed. I don’t need to delve any deeper. For today, I’m accepting that I will continue to expect things. I’ll expect the car to be charged, that Junior will wear his Gi to karate, that the stock on the stove will finish cooking. I choose, today, to temper these, and all the other expectations, with gratitude. Additionally, I will work to accept Junior’s style of room keeping, and keep communicating with Spouse. I hope to choose this all again tomorrow.

Old & New

A post on New Year’s Eve. Cliché? Probably. Nonetheless, I am posting deliberately since I won’t have this chance again. Tomorrow is all the new and I am grateful for all the old. This year that flew by, the one where we just communed with Saguaro, just celebrated Junior’s birthday and my parent’s turning 80, just recovered from a sweltering summer, just taught that Minestrone & Breadsticks class, just put the last of the raspberries and green beans into the freezer. All the events intermixed with morning espresso & evening dishwashing, loads of laundry & hours at an office, park days & play dates & projects; mixed together as one yet still distinct, colors intact not blended. Stopping for a moment to reflect may be cliché but I think it’s the best part of being alive.

I am grateful for Spouse and Junior. The life we live is simple and silly, but not necessarily easy.  Over and over I get the chance to extend grace to these people I live with, but usually not before getting really mad. I am continually challenged and stretched as I work to be The Mom I Want to Be, as I work to be aware when I fall short, so I can reconnect with the best gift I was ever given. This gift, this person who is as tall as me, who is loving & kind, who is getting ready for life’s next big leap. Gah! I’m overwhelmed-again.

I am grateful for our space, this place we call home. I am grateful for our families, people we get to see often, people who also help with life lessons. These people who have known us longer than anyone else. The people who are our reason. I am grateful for our friends, little gems plopped onto our path, making life rich. I am grateful for our jobs, that Spouse is willing to give so much time to his, that mine can shape shift around the rest of life, grateful for the people we work with-some easy connections, some not. I am grateful for all that is familiar and cozy and warm.

There will be new here in the coming year. Junior will get taller, projects will get done. The kitchen should get a bit bigger. People in that kitchen will cook or bake things they never have before. There is the potential new that is entirely unknown. We can’t see around corners or very far down the road. Really, we can’t see further than our next footfall. This is scary. Will there be new that’s hard or crushing? Will there be loss or pain? There may be. Sometimes I want to insulate myself from that sort of new-keep my head down, keep my heart wrapped. In order to live, though, I have to allow myself to feel: joy is only joy when there is sorrow.

So, beginning tomorrow we will have dinners, play games, watch movies, celebrate lives & love. We will vacuum floors, hang laundry, grow plants, tend chickens, mow lawns, throw footballs. We will laugh. We will fight. We will connect. May this coming year be the one where we all lived our lives, fully open, fully aware, fully light. Blessings and grace to you.














ps. I have no control over these ads.

As Is

We wanted hardwood floors, a fireplace, room for a garden, and overall, character. We wanted a fixer to change how we saw fit. A fixer, by default, I suppose, meant a non-HOA neighborhood, a detail also fine with us. We found such a structure on an almost quarter acre; a very large canvas, or lump of clay, with which to create; not one fireplace but three; hardwoods and character hiding behind the late 60s “upgrades”. Sprinkled throughout the paperwork were the words “As is”. The elderly seller concerned that potential buyers might ask too much in way of pre-sale demands. Our bank did demand that a portion of roof be repaired, and we did hire an inspector to pry, prod, and sniff his way from attic to basement. Even so, Mrs. Carlson struck gold, pulled Lucky 7s, won the lottery when she got us as buyers. Papers signed, she was now free to move east, closer to her children’s lives.

An original 1935 Freeway House lifted from its original foundation, somewhere along the under-construction I-5 corridor, and moved to a new foundation, a full basement no less, prepared for it by the newly weds who bought it. The hardwood floors, double hung windows either side of the fireplace, the dining room nook and enclosed kitchen, the octagonal bathroom floor tile, and the fir siding all made the trip in good condition, only the lathe & plaster suffered some dings and cracks. The newlyweds, unfortunately, didn’t survive. The house sold 2 years later, as part of divorce proceedings. Change moved in with the Carlson’s.

We like to think that the changes began from necessity: instead of 2 people living with a 2 bed, 1 bath, full basement, there were now 2 adults and 4 kids. We imagine that the Carlson’s worked quickly to dig more basement on the south end of the house, the end facing the lot next door which they also owned. Atop the basement foundation appeared a larger, though never finished, bedroom, a more formal living room, with large picture window facing that undeveloped 2nd lot, and 2 more fireplaces-one upstairs and one down-2 flues sharing the same chimney. Perhaps to avoid repainting the wide plank fir siding, mint green metal siding soon covered the house, with areas of brick added to the front elevation. A new, Soviet-era-sturdy cement entry way emerged, with a fiberglass corrugated roof and ornamental wrought iron vertical supports.

Given the design sense of the time, most of the, perhaps cracked from the move, lathe & plaster walls of the new family room now sat covered in faux wood paneling. You know, the imprinted 4×8 sheets of wallboard veneer? A plastic transition piece covered the seams between veneer sheets, floor to ceiling. The hardwoods worn down by construction and 4 kids, became covered with golden brown medium-pile carpeting. With the new addition, the front entryway moved from the center of the original house to the living room, a door facing the driveway, much more feng shui then a doorway facing the street. The new construction brought “modern” aluminum-framed windows to the living room and new bedroom. With the original house windows so dated, they could have needed replacing, so someone installed louvered or jalousie windows, with storm window and summer screen options.

The now 2nd bedroom sported a new sliding glass door, also aluminum framed, giving access to the backyard via the rickety not-attached-to-the-house “deck”. A door to the new living room replaced what was most likely a window. The original door to the hallway and bathroom remained. The third bedroom, the north-east corner room, painted mustard yellow with white shag carpet, its exterior walls each holding a window, 2 of the 3 double-hung windows left in the house, both so layered with oyster enamel that they could only muster an opening of 8 inches. Hardly the egress required by code. This room contains the “walk-in closet” mentioned in the sales material. A walk-in, after a step-up, two-thirds the size of what most consider a standard size bedroom closet. More 70s updating had adhered loam-brown cork board to 3 of the lathe & plaster walls. Undoubtedly, wall space was needed for posters and calendars and perhaps even strings of beads to hang. Anyone who has ever tried to push-pin lathe & plaster understands the cork board. Carpeting covered the very cool bathroom tile and a vanity sat the distance between doorway and commode. A counter to ceiling mirror filled the wall.

The kitchen was a cave. Kitchen carpet, a darling of the house’s renovation period, all browns and golds, covered the floor. The dark brown veneer cupboards, certified Pay-N-Pak, a long-since defunct precursor to Ace or McLendons, lined the walls. The upper cabinets were small, the space above them closed off with veneer sliders, much like a vintage travel trailer. The range stove was a  smooth-top, probably cutting edge when installed, and the area adjacent boasted a food warmer set into the counter top. The Sear’s manual advised savvy housewives to keep their husband’s dinner warm using this new-age convenience. The room was lit by fluorescent lighting housed in an oversized ceiling fixture, its plexiglass cover yellowed with smoke and grease and insects and time. The counters were a classic laminate, white with gold space-age starbursts and aqua blue outlined boomerangs . This covered the counters and about 10 inches of wall too. The laminated portion of the walls stood out almost a full inch. The end of the room contained a window to the garage, space for a fridge, and the access door to landing, outside, and basement. A pocket door closed all of this from the rest of the house.

There are more details, oh so many more, of what we purchased, but I think I’d lose you. As to the basement, I will just say we tore out walls, covered up black painted cinderblock, acid-stained the main room floor, added walls for a laundry room, shop, and under-stair storage, and put in lighting. All the details, including what we found behind those portions of laminated kitchen wall or that large bathroom mirror, all that we found outside, the full story, can be shared while we tour the house, red wine in hand. What we found funny, beside that Mr. Carlson fancied himself a handyman, was that this house, a stick-frame, wood construction building, wanted to be a mobile home. The louvers, the metal siding, the flimsy black metal porch supports, the corrugated fiberglass all screamed TRAILER PARK. While there is nothing wrong with living in a trailer park, one usually finds the opposite: mobile homes want to look like they are not. We loved this and we hated this and we’re still working to make it less so.

This has been our project for many years. We DIY. I demo. Spouse rebuilds. I clean up. Spouse works full-time in an office so the rebuilding is slow-going. Spouse is a visual thinker. He stares, he thinks, he pictures, he draws on paper, he goes to Home Depot. Some projects get waylaid and are hard to get back to. But each of them, when finished, are amazing. We like our funny house. We like that we don’t owe a ton. While there are things we’d like to have finished, our house is warm & dry. We have indoor plumbing & running water. We have garbage pickup at the street. We have space to garden & play. While we now stare at closer-than-ideal neighbors through those south-facing windows, we have a place to be. Sometimes, as with any older structure, things go wrong. During those times we don’t get to choose the project: the project demands attention. Our recent heavy rains presented one such situation, but we handled it. It was hard and almost terrible, but with the support of our village, by diving in, somehow instinctually knowing what needed to be done, shoulder-to-shoulder though not really speaking, we tackled it. Together. While this place isn’t House Beautiful, it is our beautiful house, the place we make beautiful, together.




Life, Lemons, and Colonoscopies

Forty years ago, my dad had cancer. Colon cancer. Dad, relatively young for the disease, discovered the cancer in the worst possible way, the way that usually only foretells bad tidings. Forty years later, he’s still here, still active, and he’s screened yearly.

Our mid-70s family was nutritionally mainstream, healthcare conventional, with a diet that fit our monthly budget. We didn’t discuss nutrition the way my son and I discuss it now. Food happened. The great Fat Will Kill You mindset was still a few years away from hitting our home, so it was a new thing when my parents began researching healthier food habits. The Seventh-Day Adventists were, and evidently still are, very nutritionally aware. My folks found studies linking those who followed SDA diet principles with better health. Their primary takeaway: more veggies and zero beef.

During the intervening years between then and now, my parents have experimented tangentially with diet and nutrition. My mom “cut out the fat” with many others during the 80s & 90s, only to have her serum cholesterol numbers remain high. With “all U.S. soil depleted beyond recovery”, my parents consumed megavitamin/mineral elixirs, manufactured from ingredients grown in pristine New Zealand. They dabbled with supplements of all kinds, internet-purported super-foods,  all the Next Big Thing, until the next next big things came along. These days, they eat a lot of organic fruits & vegetables, minimal animal protein, and limit their intake of sugar.

At some point along Dad’s Gastroenterological path, the doctors shared that his cancer could very well be genetic. Genetic testing wasn’t the thing then that it is now, so my sisters and I were tagged for screening. For best results, our screening would begin 4 years before the age Dad was when his cancer was found. They wanted a benchmark. Screening sounds so easy, so innocuous, mundane even. If you’ve not ever had the pleasure, be assured that THIS screening is anything but (no puns). Last week, I experienced my fourth.

Each of my screenings has been 3 or 5 years apart, the timeframe dependent on any findings. During the years between procedures, changes occur in the screening prep process. This year, the process began 10 days in advance. At this early point, patients avoid eating breads loaded with nuts & seeds, with Dave’s Killer Bread given as example. As someone who does not usually eat commercially prepared bread, yet who consumes nuts and seeds in granola and smoothies, I needed clarification. My nurse seemed slightly stymied, giving the impression that she hadn’t encountered my question before, but assured me just to avoid the bread. Five days in advance, the patient is to stop using Ibuprofen or Aleve, and certain supplements like iron. I did ask about my precious nettle, something else my nurse had no experience with, but said to stop using, just in case. Three days in advance, one has to switch to a Low Fiber Diet, and is given choices:


This part of the preparation is always difficult. I don’t eat cereal. I limit dairy. White flour makes me sleepy. I avoid white rice, and while I will use white pasta, I cook it just to al dente to slow down absorption. I don’t consume instant breakfast products or protein drinks. I do produce my own canned fruit and apple sauce, but they are like sugar to me. I do eat: **seeds, nuts, whole wheat & grains, fresh vegetables, fruit and salad**

Anticipating my dilemma, I made some delicious vegetable broth. I also simmered ginger and garlic in my from-the-freezer chicken stock. I combined the two strained broths and used for “Soup (chicken noodle)”. I paired cultured cottage cheese with my Jar Pears, the tart curds toning down the sugar considerably. A month earlier, anticipating this happy event, I had begun weaning a small portion of sourdough starter off of any whole wheat flour. I maintained it daily using only white unbleached flour. At the appropriate time, I made an all-white flour levain, which in turn transformed into a single all-white sourdough boule. The levain and dough were like paste. They were what I had smeared over inflated balloons for Juniors birthday piñata. My breads are usually 75-85% whole wheat, fresh-ground whole wheat. I persevered and the loaf baked up lovely.IMG_1585

If I was to have 100% white bread, it was going to be long-fermented, wild-yeasted. Toasted and buttered, this bread made a suitable companion to the breakfast scrambled eggs.

In my case, 12:30P on the final Low Fiber day was the cutoff for any solid foods. From that point forward, only clear, non-red liquids were to be consumed. Another list, complete with Crystal Light, Gatorade, Soda/pop, and Jell-O, outlined the approved items. I had my beautiful clear broth, along with a strained infusion of simmered ginger, fresh-squeezed lemon juice & a touch of honey, Perrier and water. Later that afternoon I drank some additional clear liquid, a nasty prescription mixed with water, followed by lots more water, a performance repeated early the next morning. No further details, no further explanation.

My mom taxied me to the procedure venue. It was a beautiful, Fall-warm, sunny midday. The office staff and nurses were very pleasant. Wearing hospital gown, regulation non-skid socks, and a fresh-from-the-oven blanket, I was escorted by Laurel, the nurse assigned to me, to my assigned room. She was smart, fun, empathetic, thoroughly explaining anything I wanted to know. I lamented not having a camera for the perfect shot of socked-toes peeking from under blanket with the Vacutron2000 mounted on the wall beyond them. Warm, as cozy as can be while laying on a blood pressure-cuffed upper arm, a hello from the Doctor just before the sedation began, and it was over. The post-procedure nurse encouraged me to wake, helped me dress, and walk to the waiting area to meet Spouse. Spouse had a Triple Grande 2/3 Decaf 2% Latte and a shortbread cookie waiting for me in the car. A little white flour is ok! Home to lounge for as long as I wanted/needed to, I binged on Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, started this post, and on the advice of an easy first meal, had some more cultured cottage cheese and Jar Pear.

I do not like this screening. I do, however, feel so grateful that I can have the procedure. So much gratitude for the village of understanding that surrounds me at this time in my life. I’m at risk and early detection, along with exercise and a high fiber diet are the best prevention. I will continue the practice, not from fear of the disease, but from a feeling of stewardship: I’ve been given this body, given this life; I will take care of it. I don’t take the best care of it every day. There have been, and, realistically, will be again, times of slack for which I apologize to myself for. Each day is a new day. I will try to do the best I can, for who I am, right now.

(I will find it beautifully ironic if the ads shown below are for any of the nasty items on the Approved Low Fiber Foods or Clear Liquids Lists! More ironic would be ads for foods that promote cancer-thriving habitats in the body. Make good choices!)

Whole Cookie

Because of the economics of my childhood, my parents were thrifty. Because of the economics of their respective childhoods, they knew how. There was never enough money to be miserly, and my parents practiced generosity whenever, and, however, they could. They set aside money for church and charities, and birthdays and Christmas never lacked the magic of Special or Thought Of.

Frugality was in the day-to-day. With yards of fabric still less expensive than pre-sweatshop ready-made, mom sewed many of our clothes. Back to school meant pattern books, cutting tables, buttons, and thread. Fabric stores were places of unlimited possibility, always a good feeling to garner at the start of any new school year. We did shop the mall for shoes & socks & shirts & sweaters, the only time of year we did so, but only at the less expensive stores. The end of August, still, has a pull, a visceral memory of new.

I’ve mentioned before how we canned and/or froze vegetables from the garden to eat throughout the winter. From berry patches, our own and U-Pick, we’d freeze strawberry and raspberry jams. We processed peaches and pears from our neighbor’s grandparent’s orchards, food at the ready in that basement cupboard, the one squeezed in, between the crawl space and the stairway, the one intentionally designed for canning jars.

My mom shopped for the lowest priced foods, which until they went out of business, was the Prairie Market. I don’t know what made it Prairie, but it was definitely a precursor to the bulk-buying monoliths of today. The only carts available were the large, unwieldy, flatbed kind. Bins piled high with empty boxes flanked the automatic entry. Customers piled empties onto a cart, while kids enjoyed being ferried throughout the store, ferried until the potential purchases pushed them to their feet. I most remember the coffee cans of mechanical grease pencils, pencils to mark shelf-tag information onto the products being purchased. This was the dark ages before POS or UPC or SKU. It was easier to change shelf tags than re-price all the product? Sometimes we helped mark things, sometimes we drew on the empty boxes, regularly marveling at the audacity shown by previous shoppers, those who’d taken time to embellish the Quaker Oats guy with angry eyebrows, or Tony the Tiger with earrings and eyelashes. Our trip to Prairie Market was always at the beginning of the month, coinciding with PayDay, and we always left with a cart loaded with product. My mom stuck to her list, knowing what we needed for the coming month, what meals she’d be able to pull together, knowing that things would get tricky as the days wound down toward another PayDay. There were those days with shopping treats, maybe of Hostess Cupcakes, or the occasional bag of Popsicles. I never felt any lack or deprivation. We had plenty.

My dad was, and still is, a fixer. He kept our stuff in service. Lawnmowers, rototillers, wheelbarrows, bicycles, automobiles, all repaired, patched-up, sometimes MacGyvered with baling wire and nuts/bolts, especially where nuts and/or bolts had not been a part of the equipment’s original design. My mom budgeted for replacements, but those replacements never occurred until all other attempts at resurrection had failed. After full days of Middle School Teaching, Dad came home and DIY’d the house repairs, plumbing repairs, electrical repairs; he’d build up the firewood supply, weed the vegetable garden, prune the apple trees, and re-gravel the driveway. Just this year, now that my parents are 80, they have hired landscapers to show up once a week, only to edge all the flower beds, AND they’ve hired the occasional help to fix the roof, put down new bathroom vinyl, or re-carpet the house. Only lately.

But getting back to my mom, with all the tasks she took on: gardening, house painting, household accounting and procurement, all things clothing and laundry, she had no fear in the kitchen. She could make bread or cinnamon rolls with her eyes closed, roast turkeys without breaking a sweat, was, and still is, a legendary potato peeler. Canned salmon, boxes of Jello, melon-balled watermelon, not always epic in their final presentation for a meal, she handled all deftly, confidently. We had to eat, we ate on a budget, and I know I didn’t always like what she served.  Tuna Noodle Casserole? Not so much. I’m sure some of those You’ll-Eat-It-And-You’ll-Be-Grateful speeches were delivered, most likely by my dad, but I don’t really remember that. I do remember my mom’s Kitchen Can-Do, a memory I still feel and work to harness for my kitchen practice.

Like many, I have Dad- and Mom-isms that pop in and out of my consciousness. Most of mine are harmless and even endearing. One of my favorite Mom-isms, one that I hear repeatedly during many cooking projects, stems from cookie-making as a child. One learns early on that when scooping cookie dough, if the bowl isn’t spatula-scraped clean, the baker gets to indulge in the remnants. Gets to indulge until the efficient, frugal mother looks into the bowl and says “Oh Honey! There’s a whole cookie in here!”, and who then proceeds to get that last cookie onto the sheet pan.


My first choice was a former manager’s backyard, a teetering bluff overlooking Admiralty Inlet. Unfortunately, I didn’t know you couldn’t expect people to take a ferry. I then felt an early afternoon gathering, followed by an abundant potluck dinner would be a pleasant second choice. I, however, didn’t know you couldn’t ask people to bring food. Beginning to feel the edges of conformity moving closer, I suggested a mid-morning affair, coupled with a cozy pancake breakfast. Regrettably, I didn’t know that some ideas were just plain ridiculous. In the end, we found ourselves at a suburban protestant church, complete with narthex, nave, sanctuary, and basement. It was the right size, the right price, and accessible to all.

At 2:00PM, our friend and pianist began singing Bob Franke’s Hard Love, while my sisters, my cousin from next door, and the 3 young flower girls made their way from back to front, taking staged places. In shiny pink below the knee dresses, the women anchored the platform opposite a line of black and white tuxedoed male counterparts. The singer segued from the realism of Hard Love, to a song of her own pen, one of laughter, light, and hope. Intentional juxtaposition.

Wearing a simply designed, sewn-by-mom, silk-brought-back-from-Hong Kong dress, I linked arms with my dad and paraded my way past rows of respectful guests, guests who probably really would have enjoyed stacks of pancakes, on towards the pink-dressed, black-suited people watching me. Not something to be given away, I kissed my dad and joined an already teary-eyed spouse-to-be in front of the ministers.

The mid-1980s were all about videotaping and our event, no different. Two cameras, one positioned at the back of the room and the other facing us, captured every detail. Our friend delivered the ceremony speech, telling stories of shared times and what, in his opinion, it meant to be married. In his nervousness, he forgot to ask the guests to sit down.  The video shows my very skilful work of mouthing the words “sit dooowwn”, eyes widened for emphasis, with a slight directional jerking of my head toward the people. Regardless, the guests continued to stand for 20 minutes. They really deserved pancakes.

The event went on with talk of rings and vows and candle-lightings. At the end we were magically pronounced husband and wife, exiting the room while bluegrass banjos played. Our shared relief, palpable.

Church Ladies arranged the basement with flowered tables supporting coffee, tea, and punch bowls, mints, nuts, and cake. The very setup I had seen countless times growing up. A formal receiving line allowed us, flanked by our parents, to face-crackingly smile at all the attendees, making introductions, shaking hands or giving hugs. We fed each other some cake, I threw a bouquet, then a designated person drove us away to rendezvous with our car and our stuff and a honeymoon.

Getting married was the strangest thing I’ve ever done. When finally alone, I found myself repeatedly remarking, “We’re married”, incredulously pondering the before/after, the abracadabra of the day, the superficial change that changed everything. We had jumped through some hoops, hoops not entirely to my tastes but funded by my parents, answered a couple of questions, and signed a paper. Blammo.

Looking back at the pictures, we were babies. To some it may seem we jumped too soon, but we knew what we wanted. We knew fairy tales weren’t true, that nothing would be in-love easy. We wanted to be together, why not be married? We didn’t plan any exit strategies, we didn’t have anything to pre-nup. For better or worse, we became a package deal. Being a young married couple, having space and time to grow into our full adult selves together, before becoming parents, cemented the deal. We, each other, were our family, our community of 2.

I have loved being with Spouse. He smugly agrees that I am a better person because of him. The deepest emotion that I’ve ever felt before or since, was the night, while grieving a friend’s death, I worked through an overwhelming sense of loss, the chest-caving pain of letting go of Spouse. He is not mine to have or hold, to grip with fear for losing. He is mine to love, while I can. He is mine to cherish, mine to lighten, mine to lift up. That is my aim. Blessed and lucky, Spouse feels the same toward me.

We do.

One At A Time

I’ve been busy. My writing has been entirely other. There has been no room for anything birthed by the beautiful push of Muse. Nothing deep or soulful, nothing but lists and formulas and direction. My time consumed with readying for class: the class in 2 days, the class in 2 months, or the potential class, 6 months from now. Ingredients and method, time and temperatures, facts and figures. This, on the tail of my year-end cleaning binge, has me feeling empty, creative bits alone, unable to find a foothold in the vast cavern where they usually have many. So, yesterday, I collaged.

My collaging hiatus has been far longer than my writing. It’s been almost a year since I’ve bellied up to my collage bar, when I finished and mailed the most recent Candace Card. My Candace Cards are for my friend who moved away, a reason to collage on an almost 5×8 sheet. These collage are random, stream of consciousness, whatever-ephemera-grabs-my-eye, feeling-about-my-friend-based things. Sometimes they’ve been fantastic, other times too busy, too strained, but I still send them, the back covered in chit-chat. Yesterday I created a Candace card and will mail it today.  While it felt rough, and I found I do not care for glitter, it was a start, a spark.

Letting myself collage was an opening. While initially only for myself, I was tentative, afraid of doing it wrong, afraid of not being good enough, creative enough, whatever enough. I read books and looked at many images, seeing the layers, feeling their depth, catching glimpses of the backgrounds, beautiful on their own, but almost completely covered by the end product. I loved the idea of Art Journals, notebooks devoted to whatever medium, most often mixed media collage. I found a small spiral bound notebook which I had used to plan weekly meals and shopping trips. I began adding color and cut-outs to its pages. With each week dated, I could use the events surrounding those dates as a catalyst for idea. For color, I started with what was on hand: Jr’s toxic-free tempera, kid-grade watercolors, and any pastel crayon stubs large enough to hold.

Cautious at first, I found images, bits of magazines, greeting cards, wrapping paper. I used colored tissue papers. I highlighted original bits of text with markers. I incorporated existing torn pages to make layers of image. I love words and paper and texture and color. Letting myself play without judgement was an unmistakable Spring gust, the breeze of a perfect morning in May flapping about my soul. I couldn’t wait to work on my notebook. Lucky for me, that while I ignored dinners and housework and child, Spouse is a far deeper Creative, one who knows how everything falls away when you’re in the middle of It.

Since that beginning notebook, I’ve worked on others, made greeting cards, and, more significantly, did an art journal that encompassed the year leading up to my 50th birthday. This journal, meant as a daily, had some days spent catching up for several missed. It was here that I moved to acrylic paint, that I started blending on the page, trying different colors, experiencing the feeling those colors produced. Messing about with my 50th year journal led me to collage on stretched canvas. I purchased papers and background images for scrapbooking to use in collage. I fell deeply in love with creative services directories and image catalogs. Everything gleaned for images or design elements before meeting the recycle bin.

At some point during the year, Spouse said he’d like me to do a large canvas to hang over the mantle. I felt shocked and pleased. His work has always occupied that space and I’ve loved him for it. The thought had never occurred to me to go big. The experience was significant. Spouse knew what he was doing. I had to try things, try colors, cover it all up with different colors. I stamped images, I tore strips of text, I transferred black and white toner images, I painted over most of it again. Finally, the image started to appear, the gist of the thing began to emerge. It was about story. About telling. It was perfect to me after I dry brushed a lot of black over most of the images. What I’ve felt when I write happened with this collage. Never before have I been so viscerally connected to an image. I never thought I would be. The piece looked like crap above the mantle-wrong color. It didn’t work in the living room either. It did, however, find its place in the small hallway connecting Lego Room and Jr.’s Room. The large canvas, dominate in the small space, sits directly across from the bathroom door. Each time I face it, it draws me in, sometimes just to stand and stare.

I’ve not done any collaging since, save for my Candace Cards. Perhaps, as Monty Python puts it, I was “shagged out after a long squawk.” I’ve written things, I’ve cooked and baked, I’ve worked in my garden, but seldom do any of those overlap. This year I will try to change that. Rather than post nothing, to feel empty of words, I’ll show my latest card or a page from a journal. The 2nd Volume of my year-long journal still has empty pages. While I stopped on purpose, not quite 2 years later I’m going to fill it up. This time I have clear gesso to ready the 20-pound bond pages, letting the faint blue lines show through if I choose only a wash for background.