Saturday, August 31, 2013

Super Succulents: A Happy Variety

Let me introduce you to some of my friends.

Here is a group of happy succulents who live on a blue bench in my dining room. While all have plump, fleshy leaves that can retain water, each one has a certain personality all its own, and a little story to tell.

The first succulent I ever owned was a jade plant, Purchased when I was a teenager, he moved into my dorm at college, and traveled back and forth with me for every break and holiday. Eventually, he was replaced by another jade which has since grown to be a giant; this one is my third-born. I adore jade trees for their smooth, temptingly touchable leaves and their sturdy, tree-like stems; I especially love this friendly chap for the bright touches of red along the edges of his petals. 

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Last February, when I left for Malaysia, I had a beautiful, huge, long-lived aloe plant. When I came home two and a half months later, I had a very dead aloe plant and an apologetic family. Alas. I could not live without the strong vertical spiky leaves of this bold gentleman, so I quickly bought a replacement. 

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At the beginning of her summer break, my fourth-born bought an cactus with a bright orange flower, and planted it in a turquoise ceramic pot. She kept it on the blue stool with my plants until it was time for both of them to go back to school. I couldn't stand the thought of an empty place where such a colorful little morsel had once stood. so I treated myself to this spunky clone. 

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This little sweetheart might be my new-found favorite succulent. I love the geometric arrangement of the petals, the delicately pointed tips, and the incredible shades of grey-green and rosy purple-pink. Serene and precise, this little princess always makes me smile.

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Now, just as every succulent has certain personality, so it is with their containers. The pot, in my humble opinion, should not only complement the succulent inside but also help to express its particular style. 

I know. I make things complicated.

But honestly, you can't go wrong. Succulents, like friends, are best when you have a happy variety. 

plants | home depot
terra cotta and turquoise pots | home depot
brown pot | a candle holder from target similar to this

Super Succulents: In A Bowl

There are a lot of great things about getting older in this life, but one of my favorites has to do with trends. Because here's the truth: after the first three decades of my life, most every "new" fashion, style or hip thing that has come along is more or less a rehash of something I've already experienced. 

Except for maybe skinny jeans. 
And lip piercings.

But you get my drift. Everything old eventually becomes new again.

And a perfect example of that phenomenon is succulents. In the past year or so, homemakers all over the internet have fallen in love with these cute, easy-to-tend, ridiculously picturesque house plants. They are definitely a hot new thing.

I'm all for that trend. It's just that I've had my own collection of succulents since I was a teenager, and my grandmother's house was full of of them for as long as I can remember. I used to stare at her little cacti, thinking they were much too cute to actually hurt me, and then I would slowly, gently reach out and touch their bristles. Ouch! 

Anyway, I embrace the Great Succulent Craze of 2013, and I've happily added a few new fellows to my collection. Welcome to the family, guys!

plants | home depot
wooden bowl | target
end table | target hack
wall decor | thrifted
art | my darling fourth-born

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Succulent stories aplenty:

Bringing Home Baby

Friday, August 30, 2013

Virtual Road Trip

We were driving through New Mexico on a family road trip.

Well, 3/6 of the family was road-tripping. My two eldest were at home, minding the pets and working for The Man. My third-born is spending a year in Vietnam, so yeah, she was not in the car with us.

But then again, she was closer than you might expect. Because Little Miss Vietnam Girl likes to Facetime with her mummy, so as we were cruising along through the Land of Enchantment, she was right there with us, enjoying the scenery and chatting away.

Then it was time for our mid-morning snack. We pulled into a Starbucks, and she went weak with desire for her favorite American drink, a carmel frappucino with no whip. 

"Not a problem," I said. "I can't exactly send it to you, but I'll order one and drink it on your behalf. "

Now I was on a mission to document the entire drive-thru experience for my girl. I held the phone up to the window, so she could watch her beloved beverage coming across the counter. The Starbucks employee was a little surprised to see a camera apparently filming the transaction, so I explained that we were beaming this sequence of events straight over to Vietnam. She rolled with that pretty well.

The drink arrived. I panned around it from all angles, giving her plenty of time to ooh and ahh at its beauty, and took a few still shots for good measure. I quickly edited and WhatsApped the best one over to her for future reference.

We chronicled the life and times of our cookie just as thoroughly. 

And as we continued on our way, road-tripping and coffee-sipping and talking about life on both sides of the planet, I marveled at what an extraordinary thing it is to live in these digital times.

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To learn more about my travels this summer, read:

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Some Pigs

I went to the fair yesterday.

I don't want to say it's been a long time since my last visit, but this might be the first time I've gone to the fair without a diaper bag.

But that's one of the great things about a state fair. What with the rides, the animals, the prizes and the overeating, we all feel like kids again. One of my daughters, who shall remain nameless, went ahead and threw a little tantrum for me, just for old time's sake. Come on, her feet hurt and her ice cream cone gave her a tummy ache. As I sat next to her on the bench and listened to her fuss, I noticed a dad heading toward the parking lot while hauling a screaming three-ish year old boy over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, and suppressed a smile. At least I wouldn't have to carry my fussy young'n to the car.

And you know, as long as I'm complaining, can I just say that when I challenged myself to a three-month moratorium on sugar and carbs, I had no idea that I'd be going to the fair in two days. My all-time favorite yummy fair food - the blackberry ice cream waffle cone - was not only off limits, but I got to sip my Diet Pepsi in silent misery as my daughters ate theirs. 

Still, the day was a smashing success and I'd do it all again in a heartbeat for one simple reason.

Baby pigs

I love them with an irrational passion.

And twenty years after her first fearful encounter with the little darlings, so does my little girl.

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Here is another nice story about a pig, though this one is not quite so soft and pink.

This Little Piggy

On The Hilltop

On April 20, 1999, when two troubled students tried to blow up Columbine High School, I barely noticed. 

As the shocking truth of the incident slowly came to light - thirteen victims shot dead, bombs littering the school, and a well-documented attack plan left behind - I blatantly tried to block out the news. 

Because at the time, I was busy with four little daughters of my own. And the terrifying character of the events in Littleton, Colorado - students killing other students - made me sick with pain for everyone involved. The story threatened to overwhelm my emotions, destabilize my energy, and throw my happy home into a tailspin. So with a strange mixture of compassion and self-preservation, I simply turned off the TV and went on with my life.

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Fast-forward fourteen years. One sunny summer day last month, my third-born asked me, " Mom, what do you know about the shootings at Columbine?" Precious little, I realized. And the time was finally right to dig into the story.

For the next three weeks, I read and watched everything I could find on the subject. By far, the most interesting things I found were the definitive Columbine by Dave Cullen, and a sensitive, articulate essay by Susan Klebold, mother of one of the killers. Day and night, I sorted through the details of the case again and again, grieving for the victims, agonizing with the survivors, and despairing over the broken and lost young men who held the guns. 

Then, without any planning or foresight, I suddenly realized that my family road trip was routed to pass within just a few miles of Columbine High School and the nearby memorial. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was perfectly timed to help me come to terms with my belated grief, and a quick stop in Littleton was hastily scribbled into our itinerary.

The memorial itself is serene and elegant. Tucked into the western side of Rebel Hill, a grassy mound that rises up beyond the school, the granite carvings and rings of trees offer a peaceful place to remember all that was lost on that April day.

We were alone in the memorial. That seemed strange, since the playing fields in the park surrounding the memorial were absolutely jammed with people and hopping with sports-related activity. 

Then I noticed that there was a steady stream of people running, walking, and meandering up the curve of Rebel Hill. I could see benches on the summit, and a handful of folks up there, presumably choosing to rest on the hilltop, rather than in the memorial below.

Interesting. I decided to go to the top of the hill myself. What I found up there is hard to describe.

Three miles to the west, the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains lifts up toward the heavens. Majestic, powerful, eternal, and grounding, these waves of bedrock are profoundly reassuring. 

Whistles and cheers from the park fade into the distance, and the wind blows gently through the golden field. 

The air smells sweet, like warm grass. 

Overhead, the enormous prairie sky is filled with color and light. High clouds reflect and amplify the sunbeams with a crisp white glow. 

I was deeply moved by the wild beauty on Rebel Hill, and I understood why the others chose to venture up to the top.

Memorials are important and necessary. But they remind us of what has passed away.

True healing - the kind that purifies our hearts and steadies our souls so we can move on - comes to us on the hilltop.

To learn more about my summer travels, read:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

On A Monday Morning In Wyoming

See, this is why I love to go on road trips. Few things in life satisfy my soul like the wide open sky, a full tank of gas, and an 80 m.p.h. speed limit.

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To find out more about this panoramic adventure, read:

Along Interstate 80

On a certain bluff in Wyoming, along Interstate 80 between Cheyenne and Laramie, sits a certain rest area that is near and dear to my heart.

This rest area happens to be sited at the highest elevation of the entire highway, which runs from New Jersey to San Francisco, California. I-80 also happens to be the modern-day route that most closely follows the old Lincoln Highway, which was the first road across America built in 1913.. Along with neat restrooms and shady picnic tables, this rest area has exhibits that offer visitors a thorough explanation of this place's particular role in history

Which is all well and good. But those facts don't explain my emotional connection to this place.

What matters more to me is that this rest stop is like an old friend. Sure, we stopped here last week, as we were heading off to deliver my fourth-born to college. But this wasn't our first time. Over the course of the years, my family and I have visited this place quite a few times.

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In 2008, en route home from a cross-continental trip from Seattle to Halifax, Nova Scotia, we stopped here for a picnic lunch. Our party of two adults, four teens and a big red dog had been jammed in the van for several weeks, and we all needed a little room to breathe. So we hauled our cooler over to a shelter and settled in for what we hoped would be a calm, relaxing lunch. However, Ranger had other ideas. Ever the field dog, he was frantic with energy, pacing back and forth under the shelter, trying to sniff every inch of the wild terrain. Since he was attached to a fifteen foot lead, he ended up wrapping his extra long leash around the table, the stone pillars, our legs, the cooler, and everything else in sight until I thought we would all be trapped there forever.

I also remember stopping here when my daughters were quite young, the little ones not much more than toddlers. Those were the hectic days of corralling and controlling four little girls through the potty process in a busy place full of strangers. Since my two eyes could never keep up with four kids dashing for the bathrooms, I learned to post my husband outside the doorway, to thwart any potential kidnappings, and then buddy up the girls so they could essentially watch each other. The older girls were fast and efficient, and caused me no worry. It was the younger two that I kept my eye on, as they would merrily lock themselves into a stall together, chattering happily while reveling in their new-found independence.

Even further back, my husband and I stopped at this very same rest area on our honeymoon. On our way out west, from our home in Chicago to the California coast, we ate summer sausage and sweet cherries from our new wedding-gift picnic basket. Little did we know that this place, which always seemed to be "out west" from our Midwestern perspective, would soon become "back east," once we moved to Seattle. 

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Those memories were drifting through my mind during last week's visit and I thought how pleasant it is to have these bonds to such a particular place on this earth. What a sweet thought it is to know that a tiny patch of countryside, so far from my everyday life, is so familiar to me. Someday I'll be back, little rest area, and all these fond memories will come spilling out once again.

To find out more about this summer's trip, read:

Monday, August 26, 2013

Two Opposing Landscapes

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." -F. Scott Fitzgerald

Welcome to southern Idaho.

Drink in those golden windswept plains, the distant purple mountain range, and the huge, pastel, wide-open skies. Beautiful, right?

Of course, this awe-inspiring stretch of landscape is the exact opposite of the forested and foggy charm of my beloved Pacific Northwest.

Which just goes to show that I think Fitzgerald has a very good point.

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I went on a family road trip this summer. For more on my travels, read:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Gateway To Adventure

Last week, I set off on a road trip. 

As I often do, I began my journey by hopping on Interstate 90 and heading east. This beautiful route takes me from the heart of downtown Seattle; across big, blue Lake Washington; through the lush, green forests of the foothills; and up into the Cascade Miuntains. 

In other words, I pass right through the heart of the glorious Pacific Northwest.

Now I'll be the first person to say that there are many beautiful places on this earth, and I think I could be happy living in many of them. 

Still, I feel blessed beyond words to call this lush paradise my home. 

That's why, when I'm making my way out of town, I'm always a little sad. Because about an hour beyond Seattle, just past the summit of Snoqualmie Pass, the world changes. The towering evergreens disappear, steep mountains and deep ravines are replaced by the rolling Palouse, and parched brown grasses color the landscape. 

And when I find myself suddenly surrounded by these barren hills and scruffy tufts of tumbleweed, I know two things for sure:

I've left the cozy bubble of the Pacific Northwest and all the familiar sights of my home. 

I'm out in the big, bold world and ready for some new adventures!!

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To find out more on this road-tripping adventure, read: