Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Good Dog Goes To Heaven

Handsome to the end. 

Yesterday evening, my sweet dog, Ranger, was delivered to heaven. 

It happened like this. He lay on a soft blue rug in the middle of our family room floor, with all of his family gathered around him. We gently petted him, held him, rubbed him just the way he liked, and whispered encouragements to him as his heart rate fell away and he breathed his last. 

We knew this was his day. He struggled in the early morning, and I didn't expect him to make it till noon. But he found more strength, and napped peacefully for most of the day. By evening, things took a bad turn and the end was clearly near. Hoping to track down a vet who made house calls, I called my dear friend and veterinarian, Jackie, who offered to race to her office, an hour's drive away, and bring us the medicine to help his transition along. 

But Ranger passed quickly and peacefully before she arrived. 

I could not be more proud of my boy. He was gentle and tender to the end. My heart breaks to lose him but his body was all used up and he needed to go. My tears fall freely but I smile to think of him romping through heaven, whole and healed, with every doggy playmate he ever loved. 

I smile to think of my mom, who surely welcomed him to heaven with open arms and a handful of treats. Or maybe a steak. 

Surely there are plenty of steaks for good dogs in heaven. 

I thank God for the tremendous blessing of sharing my life with Ranger. My dog and I had a special bond; Ranger adored everyone but I'm humbled to say that he loved me most of all. I will always carry his love in my heart but now I must face the task of living without him at my side. 

What gives me great peace and joy is knowing that he never had to live without me. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My Friend, Yusoff Bin Ali

Yusoff and his lovely wife, ready for hajj. 

The first time we met was over breakfast. After a tedious overnight drive through the Malaysian countryside, I'd arrived on his doorstep just in time for the morning meal. His wife hustled me in to dining room and sat me down in front of a packet of nasi lemak. That's when the man of the house came into the room to join me, no doubt curious to see how this pale American would handle her spicy breakfast. 

"Eat, eat!" He sat down on a nearby couch to watch me. "You like?"

I'd been warned he couldn't speak English. 

Between ravenous handfuls of rice and sambal, I nodded and said, "Yes. I love it." He grinned from ear to ear, and with the motion of his hands, encouraged me to keep going. 

I'd been cautioned that he would be reserved around a strange woman. 

My new friend sat and watched me wolf down that fiery feast. I ate every bite with my right hand, Malay style, and smacked my lips with pleasure. 

He beamed his approval and I knew that Yusoff and I had just become friends.

At the wedding of his eldest daughter, Yusoff holds down the back row with his two sons.

Our last encounter took place a year later, at a housewarming party. Though the event was still in full swing, I needed to leave and so my grand exit was orchestrated. 

Family members came at me fast and furious - Yusoff's wife, four daughters, two sons, and too many in-laws and grandchildren to count - to say goodbye. Sweet salams from the children, hugs and kisses from the women, and even handshakes from the young men, who only on rare occasions greet a strange woman with a physical touch. Older men never do.

Entirely overwhelmed by this rapid-fire show of emotion, I could barely keep up with all the greetings. Whirling this way and that, trying to extend each person the courtesy they deserved, I quickly found myself operating out of my American instincts.

And so it was that when Yusoff stepped out from the nearby tent to say his goodbyes, I automatically offered him my hand. 

Uh oh. 

Our eyes met over my extended hand, and I knew I'd gone too far.

Yusoff's eyes softened with a smile, and he made a playful gesture of refusal, simple enough for me to understand and subtle enough to be our own private exchange. Gently, wordlessly, Yusoff reminded me once again that, handshakes or not, we were friends. 

A family portrait from several years ago, with four of his six offspring and ten of his twelve grandchildren represented. The man has been busy. 

But my all-time favorite moment with Yusoff happened on the night before that party. A year since my nasi lemak breakfast at his home, I flew back into town during a late evening thunderstorm. Caught up in an entourage led by Yusoff's eldest daughter and her family, I stopped by his second-born daughter's home to say hello. We tiptoed in the door and found the front room dark and heaped with sleeping children.

Before I could follow my group to the back of the house, I heard an excited whisper in the darkness from another direction. "Hello, Diane! Salam."

A small light came on, and there, sitting up on an improvised floor bed, was Yusoff's wife. I was delighted to see her again; I hugged her and sat down for a quiet chat. We talked for several minutes when something most unexpected occurred.

The shadows beyond my friend began to shift, and suddenly, a big, brown, entirely bare chest rose up from the darkness. The faint light fell on this person's face, and there was Yusoff, in all his half-naked glory, with a smile the size of the Pacific Ocean and a steady stream of cheerful English greetings for me.

We laughed together and somehow this incongruous reunion felt effortlessly friendly and entirely natural.

* * * * *

I'm sorry to say that my friend, Yusoff Bin Ali, passed away this week. His wife and family - including each one of his six beloved children - gathered at his bedside and so Yusoff spent his last days surrounded by those who loved him most. I'm so thankful for that.

Still, I wish I could have been there with him to share

one more smile,
one more flash of his sparkling eyes,
one more exchange of hand gestures and simple English,
one more sweet moment of friendship.

I might have even held his hand.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Good, Good Day

As the end of his life draws near, my sweet dog, Ranger has good days and bad days. 

On this day, he enjoyed a series of long, leisurely naps, monitored the comings and goings of the family, and took two outings to ramble around the neighborhood. 

After midnight, he woke up hungry and wolfed down four beef sausages and half a package of deli sliced roast beef. Then he walked out to the backyard for a long drink of cool water, some patrolling around the bushes, and a bit of spirited barking at the full moon. 

Now he's stretched out across the couch, deep into his dreams. 

For my boy Ranger, this has been a good, good day. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Three Tiny Flowers

"So I show appreciation for the little gifts that have been handed to me." -Terrence Howard

^ Right on schedule, my Christmas cactus has burst into bloom. See? Three pink flowers cluster together at the tips of long green tendrils. 

^ They take my breath away with their exquisite form and vibrant color. Year after year, this plant has bloomed, far beyond my ability to remember exactly how many times. But this cactus is faithful and I'm delighted whenever it treats me to a display.

^Of course, I see the irony here. Three tiny flowers barely make an impact on this oversize specimen, and this year's output falls far short of what a healthy bloom should be.

But I am content. Because if life has taught me anything, it is to give thanks for what I have, rather than wish for what I don't.

So thank you, Christmas cactus, for speaking truth to me with your three tiny flowers.

Saturday, January 7, 2017


 "I don't love my daughters equally, for that implies they are all the same. I love each one for exactly who she is, and I love each one with my whole heart." -me

Oh, a nap with Cedric is a magical thing.

As it is with daughters, so it is with my three cats.

Yes, they are all three smart, loving and adorably personable kitties, but I love each one for entirely different reasons.

Luna is bold and brash, ever the explorer, always attuned to his finely honed instincts. He's a wild man and I love him for his sense of adventure.

Sirius is tender and cautious, yet probably the most people-oriented of the three. He is sweet and communicative, and when I find him waiting for me to come back from my walk, he melts my heart.

And Cedric? Well, this guy lives for comfort and affection. He sleeps in poetic ease, heathery stripes and rusty tummy posed just so for maximum adorableness. And when a human draws near to this perfect snuggling machine, he gently stirs. Stretching luxuriously and purring irresistibly, Cedric commands affection and usually gets exactly what he wants.

The camera loves Cedric and so do I.

He is my extravagantly handsome green-eyed hedonist and I wouldn't have him any other way.

* * * * *

I love to write about my pets. Check out all my Pet Love stories here.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Feast From The Heart

"When I eat with my friends, it is a moment of real pleasure, 
when I really enjoy my life." -Monica Bellucci

Yelena's Russian blintzes in my humble American kitchen. 
Served with a Russian confection of sunflower seeds and honey, over yogurt. 

If there's anything better than being invited to a friend's house for an authentic home-cooked Russian meal, it's being sent home with even more delicious treats.

Yes, my friend Anya set her mother, Yelena, to work on a borscht-inspired dinner that transported me all the way from Mukilteo to Mother Russia. Besides the signature beet soup, sweetly flavored with cabbage and topped with a generous dollop of sour cream, we enjoyed a feast of classic Russian go-withs:

beef cabbage rolls garnished with pomegranate
salted salmon
roasted peppers and green olives
and a irresistible loaf of fresh rye bread.

Every bite soothed my soul, as I ate under Yelena's generous and gracious supervision. Anya's stories of her days in Moscow held me transfixed until dessert arrived, with Russian chocolates galore and endless pots of fresh steaming tea.

But as the evening wound down, Anya and Yelena had even more in store for me.

Here, take these blintzes home with you. They're like crepes, and filled with homemade ricotta cheese. Fry them up with a bit of butter, and serve with sour cream and maybe some jam.

I did exactly as I was told.

The blintzes were delicious. Just as I had during dinner, I felt transported to a warm kitchen in wintry Russia, windows steamed with the heat of cooking, a flowered cloth on a simple table, chairs drawn close together against the dark, and candles flickering around the room. 

This is the power of food - to take us places we can't otherwise go, and to connect us to people in ways that transcend ordinary conversation.

Thank you, Anya and Yelena, for sharing this delicious feast from your hearts with me. 

A feast for my eyes and stomach as well as my heart. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The New Pink

Oh, how I've dreaded this day.

I've known it was coming for a long, long time. 

It's been at least five years since the writing appeared on the home design wall. The 80s in all their pastel glory, would eventually be back, and then we would be facing the return of that nemesis of all 80s colors: 


Also known by its alias: dusty pink

This color committed many decor designs in its day and along with my dread, I've been curious to see how it would be reworked to look something less than dated, frumpy and awful.

Which seemed an impossible challenge. 

But miracles do happen, people.

Mauve has been reinterpreted for the post-millennial home as blush.

Blush. Like a young girl's cheek. That's so sweet.

And the color has been reformulated from its dusty greyed-out tones that look like they'd been put through the wash a few too many times to a gentle, just-this-side-of-pale-peach perfect-as-baby-skin pink.

I'm shocked with myself for saying this.

But I kinda love the new pink.

rose quartz, ohio flint | the wishing stone, edmonds, washington
ring bowl | gunn and swain
to do book | target