Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Forever Family

Today is a special day.

Not just because we are smack dab in the middle of a perfect Pacific Northwest autumn.

Not just because the leaves are at the peak of fall color.


Not even because these fairy tale mushrooms greeted me along my walking path.

What makes today so special is that Gracie has now lived with us longer than any of her other human families.

First she lived with her dog mom and her human birth mom and her seven roly poly red siblings in Florida.

Then she lived for about fifteen months on a horse farm in Oregon.

And then she lived with a postman for twelve months in a nearby suburb here in Seattle, Washington.

And while those families loved her, their homes weren't quite right for my girl.

I am forever thankful for the love and care bestowed on her along the way, I am delighted that Gracie eventually came to us and for these past sixteen months we have all settled in together.

This is only the beginning, Gracie. We are your forever family and the fun has just begun.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Chicago: Doughnut Vault 

somehow turned into a road trip to Chicago. 

Not only did we squeeze an amazing amount of sightseeing into forty-eight hours, 
but we stayed a mere block away from my former office and retraced 
the streets and sights of my life in Chicago 
all those many years ago. 

Hot coffee and a jelly doughnut on a street corner in October. Our best life. 

^ If you traipse all the way to the northwest corner of the Loop, march back around the far corner of the enormous Merchandise Mart and loop back underneath its shadow and look for a tiny blue door, you will find yourself in the magical presence of the Doughnut Vault. 

This is an old fashioned. I bought it mostly because I thought it was cute. 

It's a cozy, teeny tiny gem of a place that was indeed once a vault and now sparkles with a glitzy chandelier and a gilded mirror as it dispenses with over-the-top artisan doughnuts. 

I don't even like doughnuts but a quick scroll through the shop's Instagram tags convinced me that I needed to go. 

Cheers to that one dollar cup of coffee. I hear it is a treat.

And so we did. The photo ops weren't quite so lovely, since a portable shelter had been erected around that darling blue door in anticipation of winter winds. On the other hand, the cooler temps kept away the crowds that often wind round the block and buy out the days's supply of doughnuts before everyone gets a turn. 

Cute blue mini window? Check.
Hand-lettered menu? Also check.
Adorable blue double door with the transom lettered "Enter" in gold? 
Hiding behind a tarp. Sigh. 

But we were happy to have made the trek, and to munch our sweet treats on the sidewalk as the buildings soared overhead and imagine what other little surprises we might find in our next adventure around town.

My mirror shot captures the whole of the vault; I'm at the coffee and water stand; at the far end 
of the shop is the doughnut counter; on the left, the blue doors mark the half way point of the shop. 
It's cozy and cute beyond words. 

* * * * *

For a real treat, check out these collections of Doughnut Vault pics, much better than mine:

1 | 2 | 3

* * * * *

Read more stories about my long overdue reunion with the city with big shoulders:

Chicago: The Gorilla And The Flamingo

somehow turned into a road trip to Chicago. 

Not only did we squeeze an amazing amount of sightseeing into forty-eight hours, 
but we stayed a mere block away from my former office and retraced 
the streets and sights of my life in Chicago 
all those many years ago. 

The Gorilla doubles as a jungle gym and kids are often found climbing up and sliding down the statue's... arms? legs? Whatever they might be. 

^ I've gone on record saying that if I had only one hour to spend in Chicago, I would spend it at the Bean

But if I had only five minutes, I would go see the Gorilla.

Now let me set the record straight. This amazing steel sculpture is fifty feet tall and a gift from the genius Pablo Picasso himself, but it is officially untitled. 

Many people refer to it as "the Picasso", but to me, it's always the Gorilla. 

^ As a senior in college, I interviewed across the street from the gorilla in this building on the left, known as 69 West Washington and home of my future employer, Arthur Andersen & Co. I was sold on that job before I even flew into town, but during my interview, as I looked out the windows facing Daley Plaza and met eyes with the Cubist creature that seemed all but alive, I knew this was exactly where I was meant to be. 

* * * * *

Between me and my daughter, we took several billion shots of the pretty bird. 

^ Just a few blocks south on Dearborn stands Alexander Calder's Flamingo, and this is where I would spend my second five minutes. 

Another steel beast by another breath-takingly influential artist, this elegant bird comes in just a few feet taller than my gorilla. Her name is official and she is the big sister to another Calder closer to my  current home, and near and dear to my heart

That signature Calder red is what sets this scene on fire for me and I can't get enough of the fluid, flamboyant shape of Flamingo framed by the rigid black steel lines of the buildings around her. 

^Oftentimes as I was walking between my office and a client's location, I would plot my route so I could walk past Flamingo. Even on the coldest winter days, a peek at this beauty would warm me up. And sometimes I would stop here at this modestly, strikingly elegant low-rise building which is none other than a post office. 

* * * * *

Now maybe my obsession with these two creatures can be written off as nostalgia or warped memories from the eighties. I wouldn't necessarily argue that. But my daughter quickly fell in love with them too, and we visited them both several times during our short stay in Chicago. 

The Gorilla and the Flamingo. They are worth my first five minutes and so much more. 

* * * * *

Read more stories about my long overdue reunion with the city with big shoulders:

Chicago: The Bean

somehow turned into a road trip to Chicago. 

Not only did we squeeze an amazing amount of sightseeing into forty-eight hours, 
but we stayed a mere block away from my former office and retraced 
the streets and sights of my life in Chicago 
all those many years ago. 

Oh, if I had just one hour to spend in Chicago, I would spend it at the Bean.

I love the Bean.

Funny, this large shiny object also known as Cloud Gate was not even a twinkle in a landscape architect's eye back when I lived in Chicago. But my loyalties to this newcomer are strong.

For one thing, I love the way it stands between nature and the city; a fulcrum, a pivot point between the two essential components of a healthy urban environment.

I love the big shoulders of the skyscrapers along Michigan Avenue that stand guard over the Bean.

I love the way this balance of trees and buildings ebbs and flows as I walk around the Bean


as leaves and concrete dance together. 

At the same time, I love to watch the reflection of the scenery glide by on the silvery surface of the Bean. 

My mind's eye shifts back and forth between the actual city and the reflected city, and I lose track of which is more real. 

And I love the crazy confusion. 

I love to watch people play at the Bean.

Everyone, everyone is obsessed with taking photos of themselves. But the real fun begins once they put their cameras down and look up. 

Because seeing yourself 


by the metallic magic of the Bean is more fun than I can possibly describe. 

Chicago is a city bursting with beautiful, unique, must-see spots. 

But if I could only choose one, I would choose the Bean. 

* * * * *

I've been to the Bean once before. Go here to see more about my first visit. 

* * * * *

Read more stories about my long overdue reunion with the city with big shoulders:

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Picking Pumpkins

^ Nobody puts baby in a corner pumpkins.

^ Seattlites in winter pumpkins.

^ County fair prize-winning pumpkins.

^ Captain Hook and his mateys pumpkins

^ Sunshine and shadow pumpkins.

Here in Columbus, I'm visiting my daughter who wanted some pumpkins so off we went to scout out the neighborhood grocery stores and see what we could find.

Only a few years ago, this task was infinitely more simple.   A pumpkin picker’s choice was limited to the classic orange pumpkins. Some were a bit bigger than others; some more perfectly round than their oblong friends. That was about as complicated as it got.

But in today’s pumpkin marketplace, we find endless variety.

Pure whites.
Tiger stripes.
Lumps and bumps of all sorts.
Mini pumpkins.
Great pumpkins.
And on and on it goes.

It took us a fair amount of searching but eventually we found exactly what she wanted. And so another mother-daughter outing ended with some perfectly picked pumpkins.

* * * * *

An eventful week in Columbus - here are all the details:

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Fox In The Snow

So last night I caught a red eye flight to Columbus, Ohio, to visit my second-born daughter. And as soon as I hit the ground, our first plan of attack was to go out for coffee.

Well. That isn’t entirely true.

The very first thing we did, once my daughter unbolted the door and let me in to her apartment, was to crawl into bed and catch a few hours of sleep.

So technically, it was the second event of my visit that we went to coffee at Fox In The Snow.

Fox In The Snow is a lovely name for a lovely shop, but after a good look around, I submit that it is all wrong. Hear me out.

^ First, up, the menu did not disappoint. I don’t drink coffee. But after a good long look at the mandatory chalkboard, I discovered that they serve chai tea. And every now and then, I do love me a foamy cup of chai. So bring on the oversized hipster coffee cups and let’s order some food.

^ Though there were loads of gorgeous pastries and rustic breakfast rolls to choose from, I was craving protein. The egg sandwich delivered exactly what I needed - two eggs with a couple hearty slices of bacon, a slice of white cheese and the perfect touch of spicy and lightly sauteed arugula. At first sight, I feared the bread would be dense and chewy. But it gave way beneath my teeth with a satisfying crunch and melted in my mouth.


Extra points for serving my sandwich on a chunky bread board.

^ Once I ate up every crumb of my delicious breakfast, I took a good look around. interior is a post-industrial dream. Huge windows with black trim. Exposed duct work and functional garage doors. Oh, and pretty potted plants in a row of matching white pots. Yes.

^ But. As adorable as the interiors may be, it’s the outside of the coffee shop that really shines. That’s the actual Fox of the Fox In The Snow. But look. He is clearly jumping through a big patch of green ivy. You have to work awful hard to imagine the snow.

^ Back up a few steps and the problem only gets worse.

Ivy as far as the eye can see.

And a cute front door and another gorgeous black-trimmed window. But no snow anywhere in sight.

^ Side view of the front door. That gorgeous light fixture is distracting me. Oh right, back to the ivy.

^ Go round to the left of the front door and check out the side of the building.

Ivy for dayzzz.
No snow.

^ And if the overall impact of the glossy green ivy alone isn’t gorgeous enough, how about these autumn-tinged babies?

^ So  despite the poetic imagery of the original title, I submit that a much more appropriate name for this amazing coffee shop would be Fox In The Ivy.

And I do believe that Mr. Fox agrees.

* * * * *

I spent an eventful week in Columbus with my second-born - here are all the details:

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Suitcase Signals

“Gracie, come here. Jump up in the bed and watch me.”

Hops in bed with boundless enthusiasm. 

“Gracie, see what I’m doing? I’m packing up my suitcase. Do you know what that means?”

Tips head curiously but has no idea. 

“I’m going on a trip, girl. Without you.”


“Don’t worry, I’ll be back. And the others will be here to take care of you. You’ll be fine.”

Ears droop. Shoulders slump. Eyes beg me to stay. 

* * * * *

I’m hoping that Gracie will soon learn that my suitcase means a temporary separation. I want her to understand what is happening when I need to leave her for a while.

And while the sight of my suitcase may send her sad signals, I also know that my faithful dog is learning to trust that I will always, always come back.

* * * * *

I spent an eventful week in Columbus with my second-born - here are all the details:

Monday, October 22, 2018

Fighting Back

My mom spent countless hours playing cards with with my girls as they were growing up. 
She and my second-born (whose face is hidden behind the tree) particularly loved Five Crowns, 
and even though my mom groaned when my daughters won, I know she was secretly proud of her sharp-witted grandkids. 

My mom always had a sharp mind. 

She was quick.
She was clever.
She was usually one step ahead of everyone else. 

And even though Lewy Body Dementia eventually took much of her brain and eventually her life, she fought back long and well. 

* * * * *

Last night I stumbled across an article about how to get your loved one with dementia to go to a doctor's appointment. Oh yes, that was always a tricky maneuver with my mom. The article laid out a lot of good suggestions, ones that worked for my mom and me:

  • Do not announce the appointment ahead of time. On the morning of the appointment, simply slip it into the conversation that you'll be going out together. My mom didn't necessarily mind seeing doctors, but the anticipation totally stressed her out. I came to see that my secrecy was a gift to my mom's peace of mind, and I stopped feeling guilty about my manipulation. 
  • Make sure to schedule the appointment midday so there's lots of time to get ready. My mom did not like to accept help in her dressing routine, and it took a lot of patience to let her do things herself. I would sit on the couch and breathe deep. 
  • Write down your biggest concerns and privately hand them to the doctor's staff before going in to the exam. Sly as I tried to be, my mom usually noticed and asked me what I had given them. "Paperwork," I would vaguely reply. And that seemed to work. 
  • If the doctor or staff direct their attention only to you, redirect them to your loved one. When doctors talked exclusively to me - and I was shocked at how often they would - I would simply not reply, look at my mom, and let her answer. 
  • After the appointment, if your loved one is mad, commiserate with them about that "awful" doctor. But stop short of undermining the doctor's instructions. I have so many memories of listening to my mom rant after doctor's appointments. All my years of mothering teenage daughters came into play as I remembered to acknowledge her feelings without getting too involved in the content of the conversation. These were helpful, healthy moments in our relationship and though I didn't always enjoy them as they were happening, I am grateful for them now. 
  • Plan to do something super fun after the appointment, so your loved one's outing will end on a high note. My mom was all about that Olive Garden soup and salad combo, and a few warm bread sticks always, always cheered her up.

The full article here has many more nifty ideas. 

* * * * *

These tips brought back a lot of sweet memories of the times I had to maneuver my sick but still extremely clever mother into a doctor’s office. They really do work. 

And my mom developed her own tricks too. During one visit, as we sat in the waiting room, I noticed that she was repeatedly checking and rechecking the lock screen on her iPhone, so I asked her what she was doing. “Oh, this fool doctor never knows what day it is so he’s always asking me for the date. I memorize it before I go in.”

* * * * *

My mother has been gone two years now. My feelings about her passing are still mostly unprocessed; I'm still outraged at how she suffered, and I'm so strangely relieved that her battle is over.

But then I remember how her indelibly sharp mind fought back against that terrible disease, and I can't help but smile.

Sunday Morning Munchies

This week's fare was a mini omelet with chicken sausage, 
Monterrey jack cheese, onion and some salsa on the side. 

On Sunday mornings, long before my body clock is ready, I wake up and haul myself off to church. I go because I want to go, but by the time worship is over, all I want to do is crawl back into bed for a nap. 

And eat. First I want to eat.

A quick scramble of eggs with some interesting tidbits - whatever is hiding in the back of the fridge. Or sausage on toast. Maybe a toasted bagel and a little cream cheese Doesn't have to be fancy; just warm and hearty enough to help me drift off to sleep.

For the past few months, my husband has been cooking me a post-church pre-nap meal. This is usually the one and only meal, all week long, that someone else prepares for me, and it is quite a treat to be served this way.

Sunday mornings have never tasted better. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Anemone Hupehensis

True fact: I am a wildly enthusiastic gardener. Each spring, as soon as the longstanding puddles of winter rain show the first signs of fading away, I'm toeing up to the start line with my tools in hand, itching to get to work.

The passion fuels me all summer long. My family can attest to the many evenings when they have to come outside and all but drag me out of the garden and into the house for dinner. 

I truly and genuinely love digging around in my garden.

Until autumn rolls around.

It's the weirdest thing. Sometime around mid-September, I've had enough gardening for the year. 

Of course, I still want my gardens on point. I could fuss around with dahlias or chrysanthemums or pots of ornamental cabbage and flowering kale, but honestly, I just cant get excited about any autumn flowers that need my help. I'm all about a fall-blooming plant that will do the heavy lifting for me. 

And that is why I love anemones.

You are looking at a path through my garden that has been overrun by sweet pink blossoms on delicate yet surprisingly sturdy stems. I will enjoy them until they are done blooming, and then I will yank out each plant in a single, satisfying tug and heave them into the compost, and my path will be a good as new. 

Known as Japanese anemones or windflowers, they wait patiently all summer, lush dark green leaves filling in forgotten corners in my beds and borders. And then just as I am running out of enthusiasm, these pink darlings burst into bloom. 

And here's the best thing of all - anemones are ridiculously easy to grow. They spread through underground tubers and honestly, if left unchecked, they can become a bit invasive. 

But here's the great thing about them: if I don't like where they are growing, I just reach down through their leaves, grab them down at the base of their stems, and yank them out.

You heard me. Yank. 

One smooth, even tug and the whole plant comes out clean as a whistle. This is a species that is a strong self-starter but also takes direction like a champ.

So if your fall garden could use an effortless pick-me-up, trust me. The anemone hupehensis is my friend and yours. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Golf Course-Turned-Park

Among a number of far-fetched fantasies that my fourth-born daughter and I like to discuss is this: what if we bought up all the golf courses in the world and reverted them back to their natural condition?

Obviously, we are not golfers. Seems such a pity to us that large swaths of land are subjected to tedious shaping, sculpting, and surfacing that destroy their natural beauty as much as any strip mall or housing development. And then only a tiny elite of paying customers are allowed to enjoy them. 

But if these spaces were parks? The terrain could revert back to its natural state, trees and shrubs would sprout up as nature allows, and all humans would be welcome in these natural settings.

The more we talked about this idea, the more we liked it.

And the more we realized how unlikely it was that our dream would ever come true. 

But we were delightfully and decidedly wrong. 

And today, my daughter and I - along with Gracie, of course - popped over to see exactly how our dream came true.

^ We parked at the old clubhouse and headed down the gravel path to the first of two footbridges that lead up and over the Sammamish River. This is a protected watershed for salmon so no swimming is allowed for dogs or humans. But we were happy to stay dry and continue on with our adventure. 

^  We explored first along the more rugged terrain on the south side of the river. Though most visitors stuck to the paths, we chose to ramble out and across the old fairways with deep, shaggy grass. The bones of the old golf course - the tee areas, the broad fairways and the manicured greens are slowly fading away. 

^ The gravel path gradually twists and turns up a series of hills but following Gracie's example, we just plowed straight up. Though it was mid-afternoon, dew still lay heavy on the long grasses and our shoes  - as well as Gracie's coat - were soaked in minutes. 

^ Simple stone benches sit here and there and we found one up near the top of our climb. 

^ Gracie lay in the shadow of the bench and recharged her batteries. 

^ Back over the second footbridge to the north side of the park. 

^ Here the land was level and even, the grasses soft and green. We sat down just beyond the shade of this tree, and daydreamed about what a perfect place this is for kids to play. Gracie dozed in the shade as we talked, and we all agreed that this golf course-turned-park is indeed a dream come true. 

First Impressions

"Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent."
– Dalai Lama

If you walk into my house, shut the door behind you, and look at your immediate surroundings, this is what you will see. This space tells you a lot about me; it's almost as if you could look inside my brain. Each facet of the room reveals something that I want you to know. 

But rather than explain, describe or narrate the scene, I will simply let you look around and make your own first impressions. 

And if you haven't been to my house in person, I hope you will come someday soon. Because then you can meet me in real life and form some face-to-face first impressions too.

A firm, hearty handshake gives a good first impression, 
and you’ll never be forgiven if you don’t live up to it.
– P. J. O’Rourke