Tuesday, February 26, 2013


At some point this morning, I ran upstairs to my bedroom, and found my prince of a grey tabby cat stretched out in the sun on my striped rug, taking a gloriously lazy nap.

Of course, I felt the need to grab my camera and capture the cuteness forever. 

Instantly, Ranger noticed the shift in my attention, and cleverly inserted himself into the scene. Notice the large red paw staking its claim next to the lounging cat.

Notice the eyes of the cat are wide and alert. Relaxed no more, Cedric realized that his turf had been invaded. How dare the peasant dog tread upon his royal slumbering grounds? 

As Cedric pondered his options for responding to this outrage, Ranger did a bold thing. He bent down, pushed his nose right up close to Cedric's face, and gave him a good solid sniff. 

It all happened much too fast for me to get a shot, but Cedric was clearly appalled. He gazed up at Ranger, with equal parts surprise and disgust, plotting his revenge, I'm sure.

Again, much faster than I could react, Ranger glanced down at the startled cat, and did what any big brother would do. He repeated the provocation with great exaggeration and style. He buried his inquisitive nose in that kitty's soft furry tummy, rubbed it around with gusto, and gave a big lusty snort. 

It was a powerful triumph of brotherly domination.

Once again, the animals were faster than me. I missed the whole smackdown, but I caught the inevitable aftermath.

Cedric leapt to his feet and strode off with as much regal dignity as a nap-interrupted, belly-sniffed cat can muster.

And Ranger, wagging his tail and looking entirely pleased with himself, smiled back at me as if to say, "That was fun. What should we do next?!"

The whole episode cracked me up, and served to remind me why I am willing to share my home with four pets. It's the same phenomenon that convinced me to bear four children. The moments I share with my little ones are precious and tender, but the real fun comes from watching them learning how to share life with each other. The crazy stuff they think up to do to each other, the good-natured sparring and testing that comes from life with siblings, is a necessary and highly entertaining part of life.

* * * * *

A few hours later, I found myself in Target where I overheard a weary-sounding mother of four scolding two of her daughters. They were maybe nine and eleven years old, and they were face to face, locked in an embrace, with each girl's arms wrapped around the other's shoulders as they wildly tried to kick each other in the shins. In the middle of Housewares. At five thirty in the afternoon. Shrieking and giggling all the while. Maybe I would have been less amused if I was their mom, but honestly, I found the whole thing to be delightfully crazy good fun.

Somehow, that incident reminded me of exactly what Ranger and Cedric had done on the rug. Life with siblings, human or otherwise, is full of pure and simple shenanigans, and I love every single minute of it.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


A kitchen full of white frosted sugar cookies.
A white-painted fire hydrant, peeling here and rusting there.
A pile of white loose-leaf notebook paper, covered with algebra problems.

Today was a white kind of day. Neat and simple, clean and pure. Just like this song.

Musings About Mangoes

This morning, my eldest and I dropped by Whole Foods Market, in search of a healthy lunch.

As usual, I was met in the entry by a beautiful display of produce. This incredibly artistic explosion of fresh, ripe mangoes captivated me with its complementary colors of green and red, and the neatly piles rows of friendly oval shapes. I took several shots, and moved on with my shopping trip and the rest of my day.

A few hours later, my mind skipped back to this scene, and I opened my camera roll to take another look. Seeing the display through the confines of the image, I was hit with a completely different perception. 

What an incredibly bountiful world we live in. This is literally a mountain of mangoes, flown in from some distant subtropical region, and available to me at a very fair price.

I bet I could eat my weight in these mangoes, and it would barely make a dent in this pile.

If I gave one mango to each shopper as they walked in the door, I bet there are enough to keep my giveaway going for days on end.

I wonder if all of them will be sold before they start to go bad. 

If there are this many mangoes at one store, and there are easily ten more grocery stores in a five-mile radius, I would really like to see all of them piled together in one giant heap.

I would like to jump into the middle of this display and start eating my way out. 

Now that would be a very healthy lunch indeed.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Mothering Is A Tough Job

Today is my youngest daughter's birthday. For the first time in her life, she is not here to celebrate the day with me.


Now it's not the first time a birthday girl has been away from home. There have been senior trips and study abroad sessions that have kept my older daughters separated from me on their special days, and I've managed to survive. 

And while I can honestly say that I do not play favorites with my daughters, I readily admit that it's different to be apart from the youngest. While the older girls have been coming and going for years now, the youngest child in any family is like a little piece of bedrock. They are the ones who still ask to borrow the car, who still need a plate at the dinner table, who still drain your wallet for lunch money, long after the older kids have moved on.

So when the baby of the family grows up and flies away, even if just for a semester at a time, it is a new season of learning to let go. 


I visited my baby at college just last weekend, and before I left, I hid some birthday surprises in her closet. Tonight, as the clock struck twelve, I called her to wish her a happy birthday and to reveal the hiding places so she could find her gifts. Shortly after our call, she sent me this picture of her new birthday banner and balloon on display in her room.

{I know. It's not a birthday balloon. I couldn't find any cute ones so I went with a school logo.}

Somehow, this image put everything into perspective. Her handmade mobile of tiny origami cranes and her topographical map of Mount Rainier - precious treasures of her science-loving soul - remind me that she is not just living away from home.. 

She is pursuing her dreams. 
She is fulfilling her destiny. 
She is becoming the person she was born to be.


And rather than lament over the physical distance between us, my mothering heart overflows to realize what an interesting, confident, accomplished person my itty bitty baby has become.

Now that is something to celebrate.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Roger That, Tucson

As I was flying away from Tucson the other night, I glanced out the window and saw an old friend.

It's such an endearing and comforting touch, in a world of interchangeable airports and blurred time zones and indistinguishable takeoffs and landings, to see the name of your current city in bold letters on the tallest building around. I couldn't resist taking a few shots of the bright shapes shining out in the darkness. Those letters that spell out T-U-C-S-O-N make me feel settled, like I know who and where I am, like I'm visiting home.

Of course, Tucson, Arizona is not my home. Until nine months ago, I had never been there in my whole life. But with a daughter attending college there, I've visited four times now, and I'm starting to feel a connection, a fondness for this new place. I never thought I would be a fan of the desert, but the city and the land are starting to have their way with me, and I can feel myself opening up to their new possibilities.

As my plane taxied away down the runway, I clicked over to my camera roll and I was pleased to see how the photos turned out. I like the way my face and the name of the city blend together in these funny reflected shots. And it reminds me that my visits may be affecting this desert town in some small ways, and she is certainly making an impact on me. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

iPhone Therapy

When I was in Tucson, Arizona this week, I accomplished two important tasks:

1. I worked out a phone deal with my fourth-born, in which various bits of hardware were bought, sold and swapped around so that in the end, we both ended up with new-to-us iPhones. 

2. Thanks to my aforementioned youngest's highly cultivated appetite, I ate an extraordinary amount of delicious food including this bag full of yummy from Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Which led to many scenes just like this one. The two of us, lingering over a meal with our phones in hand, doing various tasks of uploading, downloading, organizing and personalizing our new handsets. We swapped some contacts, critiqued the default wallpapers, debated the merits of various games, and wrestled with the age-old question: Safari or Chrome?

And while many critics of this postmodern era would click their tongues and shake their heads at our obsession with empty technologies that create walls instead of relationships, that strip meaning from everyday events, and that envelope us in an ongoing state of disconnect, I would disagree.

We had an awful lot of fun setting up our new phones together. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunset Chaser, Tucson Edition

I've got a longstanding and questionable reputation as a sunset chaser. One minute, I'm going about my everyday business around town when suddenly I'm hit by the realization that there's a glorious sunset going down. Next thing you know. I'm frantically racing around in my car, trying to get myself to the best possible vantage point before the solar display slips away, shooting pics through my windshield as I careen one-handedly through the streets.

That's the honest truth. I kind of lose my head for a pretty sunset.

It happened again today, here in Tucson. These desert sunsets start out pale and pastel, then build and intensify into deep, rich tones. They are a glory to behold, and I'm glad I pursued today's event with gusto.

After darkness fell, and my adrenalin returned to normal levels, I found myself wondering, as I often do, why I'm so obsessed with this daily phenomenon. After all, isn't it a sure thing that there will be more sunsets, tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, all for me to enjoy?

No. There are precious few sure things in this life, and certainly there are no guarantees that I will watch an infinite number of sunsets. Someday, I will look upon my last one.

So while I plan to see a good many more, I drink in every day's sunset as if it might be my last. And that, in my mind, is a lovely way to live.

* * * * *

Sunset chaser: A traveler who spies a gorgeous display on the evening horizon, and, throwing all other thoughts aside, pursues a prime viewing location from which to photograph the sky. 

I am a sunset chaser and here are just a few of the stories of my adventures:

A Fish Out Of Water

Today I had a lovely adventure. After driving about thirty minutes west from the center of Tucson, I came upon a place called the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. Part zoo, part arboretum, and part wilderness adventure, it was an interesting place to explore on a warm winter's afternoon. There were acres of wild desert within the park, surrounded by many more. There were dusty gravel trails for hiking, and many opportunities for up close and personal encounters with many native desert plants, including my most favorite, the tall, rumpled and sometimes armed saguaro.

And there were native animals. Mountain lions, black bears, Mexican wolves, and bighorn sheep; beavers and river otters. Countless wicked insects, snakes, and spiders. I adored the former, and skipped most of the latter.

The park itself was beautiful. I was particularly smitten with the cool, handmade rest areas, sprinkled here and there. Featuring a variety of rustic wooden and sometimes canvas roofs, each structure was different and special in its own way. They were also blessed with water fountains, running with cold, clear water. Quite refreshing.

When the park closed at 5 p.m., I jumped back into my car and headed back along the narrow two-lane road that bobbed and weaved its way back toward the Tucson Mountains.

I reached Grant's Pass just in time to take in the sunset. The perfect blue sky denied me the most extravagant of desert displays, but I will try real hard not to complain.

When the sun had slipped behind the mountains to the west, I pointed my car down the last hill and returned to town. And though I still feel very much like a fish out of water in the desert, I am learning to enjoy my southwest adventures.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

There Is Always Something To Miss

On Thursday morning in Michigan, I packed my bag, hugged my mom goodbye, and hopped on the expressway to drive to the airport.

Southbound US 23. I can't imagine how many times I traveled that route in the first eighteen years of my life. Past the exits for South Lyon, Hamburg, Pinckney, and Whitmore Lake. I know every inch of that road.

I remember countless trips to Ann Arbor to buy new shoes and fabric for homemade dresses. There were visits to the doctor, and once when I was four years old, I put a raisin up my nose and had to go to the hospital to get it taken out. My teenage friends and I made our first no-moms-included trips to Briarwood Mall along this route, and I recall a few away football games in nearby Chelsea.

And while I don't exactly recall the details, I know this was the drive my parents made on their way to the hospital for my birth. It was a dark and stormy New Year's Eve, and the sleet-covered streets made for a long and nerve-wracking trip. Or so I've been told.

As I thundered along with the last of the morning rush hour traffic, these memories flooded over me and I felt my emotions rise. How did it happen that I moved so far away from this familiar place? Why have I been gone so long? And even after all these many years, how can it be that this place still conjures up the most primal feelings in me?

When my emotions cleared, I remembered the chain of events that led me to move to Seattle, and all the wonderful reasons why I love my life in the Pacific Northwest. I have no regrets.

But my morning drive was a good reminder of my sturdy Midwestern roots, and a lovely assurance that you can, indeed, go home again.

* * * * *

Ready for more stories about Michigan, my mitten-shaped home state? 

Sunsets And Saguaros

I don't know too much about the economy of Arizona. I suppose that optical products, electronics and copper derivatives must be right up there among the state's highest revenue producers. But if I were to wager on the top export of this beautiful desert paradise, there is no doubt in my mind: photographs of sunsets and saguaros.

* * * * *

Ready for more sunset adventures? Try these:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


When Instagram kicked off a special mid-week Valentine's Day-inspired hashtag project called "Objects of Affection," I was immediately intrigued.

First, there's my longstanding conviction that this holiday is a celebration of love in its vast and varied forms, and not just a brag fest for established couples. If I can find a non-mushy way to enrich the celebration, bet the ranch that I will.

Also, I found the title intriguing. I'm infinitely curious about the emotions we humans have about our stuff. When it comes to my possessions, I consider myself a thrower-outer as opposed to a keeper, and I'm doing alright in my goal to travel this life with a relatively light load. But like many people, I sometimes find myself struggling with emotional attachments to things I know I will never use again. Why is this so? Dunno. But the phenomenon fascinates me.

And then there's the fact that I'm always a pushover for a imaginative hashtag project.

So after a few hours of back-burner brainstorming, I came up with this shot.

I treasure my massive collection of picture books, my smaller collection of hand-carved wooden animals, and many lovely bits of paper craft. All of these things have lovely memories for me.

As my daughters grew up, we spent countless hours reading together; each book on my shelves not only tells a wonderful story on its pages but also holds precious, funny, interesting memories from the many times we read it.

The rustic animals reflect my lifelong fascination with creatures; my beasts remind me of dogs I've befriended, horses I've ridden, and the bears that I'm still longing to see.

And the art recalls my passion for making things; as I sort through my boxes and baskets full of handmade Valentines, origami cranes and folded snowflakes, the memories of good times spent making these treasures comes rushing back to me.

But more than just taking me back to a dusty archive of the past, these tokens make me a better person today. Through story, nature, and the pure joy of making things, my objects of affection connect me with the creative curiosity of children, and that is why I love them.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Also, We Watched Rugby and Sponge Bob

The interesting thing about spending a Sunday afternoon at my brother's house is that you never know quite what to expect. Yesterday's visit included:

Oil changes accompanied by heavy metal
Polka dot socks
Online shopping for running gear
Disciplining Gretchen
Feeling compassion for Gretchen
Enjoying the snowy forest outside
Admiring my nephews' great works of art

And eating a Mexican feast of nachos and tacos, which were eaten faster than the camera could shoot.

Also, there were several rounds of a highly competitive card game that simulates a road rally, called Mille Bourne.

It may sound a little random and scrambled but trust me, these are the makings of a fine day.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bringing Home Baby

The other day I went shopping for succulents.

You know. The house plants with the plump, water-filled leaves that are super easy to grow inside. Jades, aloes, cacti. Like these little beauties that I found at Molbak's, a local nursery.

Aren't they beautiful and perfect and orderly and darling?

But here's the thing. Just like puppies and kittens and baby bunnies, not to mention human babes, these tiny infant plants will not stay this way forever. Like every living organism, they will change and grow in ways that I might not expect. I will feed them and care for them but I will not be able to control them. Certainly they will be beautiful but perhaps I will be surprised by what they become.

If it sounds like I've been down this road before, I have. Let's not even start up about kittens, puppies and humanoids - just let me share some of the adolescent succulents that I have been raising.

See? They're kinda rangy and untamed. They flop here and there, as they choose, with a few brown spots and yellowed leaves thrown in for good measure.

In other words, my older plants are no longer the images of vegetative perfection that they were in their nursery days, but they are healthy and real. I love them and accept them for the individuals they have become, and I embrace their quirks.

So in that spirit, I chose a new plant at the store and brought her home. Welcome, my neat and symmetrical baby succulent; I can't wait to see who you will become.

* * * * *

Succulent stories aplenty: