Friday, January 24, 2020

Reading Mysteries

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

An ex-cop buys the toddler she never had from an abusive drug addicted mom at the mall. A New Zealander searches for the truth about her birth family in Britain. And a private detective is saved from death in a trash dumpster by a sassy little dog he recently adopted named The Ambassador. 

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson

A sweet teenage boy works as a ticket taker in a horror arcade . Four men who are childhood friends may or may not be associated with a sex trafficking ring. And a private detective helps a young bride elope. 

When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson 

A mother and three children are attacked by a man with a knife; only one survives. A teenage girl is schooled in classic literature by an ancient woman dying of cancer. And a private detective briefly dies hmafter finding himself in a horrific train crash. 

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson (not pictured)

A man driving in Edinborough brakes hard to avoid a pedestrian and causes an accident. The man driving behind him emerges from his crumpled  car with a baseball bat and a bad temper. And our erstwhile private detective argues with his beautiful but bad tempered actress girlfriend. 

Though they are filled with an eccentric lot of seemingly unrelated  characters and unimaginable plot twists, Atkinson masterfully brings all of her disparate story lines together and by the end of the story, ties them up in a neat and immensely satisfying bow. Our private detective hero, Jackson Brodie, stumbles his way through his personal life as well as his work, and often ends up solving mysteries in spite of himself. 

I’m not generally a crime thriller kind of lady, but I find Atkinson’s Brodie collection to be smart, surprising, and always, always, well worth the read.

* * * * *

Read more about what I've been reading:

Thursday, January 23, 2020

A Winter Adventure Begins

Crispy chips. 
Creamy queso. 
Tangy sweet margarita. 

This is the start of my dinner at Condado in Columbus, Ohio., barely an hour after my plane touched the ground. 

Things happen quickly in these parts. I wonder what tomorrow will hold. 

* * * * *

Who on earth would choose to go to the icy Midwest during the darkest days of winter? 
I do, and I invite you to read all about it. 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Enjoying The Holiday

Civil rights leader Andrew Young (L) and others on balcony of Lorraine motel pointing in direction of assailant after assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who is lying mortally wounded at their feet. Joseph Louw—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

"Hi ma'am. Are you enjoying your holiday?"

I stared at the Target check stand lady and my brain slowly sputtered into action.

Holiday? What is she talking about? Christmas is definitely over and Valentine's Day is a ways off.
Ohhhh. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Of course. 

My mouth stumbled into gear.

"Oh right! It is a holiday today. That explains why the store is so crazy crowded."

Our conversation veered into an analysis of today's traffic versus the usual Monday Target metrics and we never did get back to the subject of the actual holiday. But as I was pushing my cart full of groceries and household supplies through the parking lot, I revisited the topic.

And I wondered to myself what it might mean to enjoy this day. 

To consider the life of a good man, 

a man of peace
a man of justice
a man of courage and calm 
a man who had seen the promised land and told us that we would see it too.

A man who was shot down in cold blood on a balcony in Memphis, Tennessee, apparently because his passion for civil rights was too much for some people to handle.

Fifty-some-odd years later, we are still working on living into Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy. 

We are still waiting for that promised land that Martin told us we would one day see.

We still have a long way to go.

And until we do, Target check stand lady, I don't think I can actually enjoy this holiday. But I am still dreaming of the day when I can.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Dog Dreams Coming True

Do you believe that dreams can come true?

I do.

I've had some jim-dandy dreams come shockingly, unexpectedly, and perfectly true. 

And this past Saturday, I added a new one to the list. 

After sharing my childhood with an Irish Setter named Kelly who lived the blissful life of a country dog who ran free as the wind, the other dogs in my life have been forced to live within a network of leashes, ropes, and backyard fences. 

This is simply what suburban dogs must do. I know it's for their own good.

But I wish, have always wished, that my red-headed sprinters could truly run free.

Especially this has been true of Gracie, who lived the first fifteen months of her life on a horse farm. Oh, I've seen the pictures. She ran wild across acres and acres of pasture land, with her Irish sister, Lily, and a handful of other dogs who all shared Gracie's passion for extreme romping. 

And for the two and a half years that I've shared life with Grace, I've felt sad that I can't offer her the same freedom. I've dreamed of finding a way to let her run to her heart's exuberant content. 

Then came Saturday. 

Well. Actually, first came Friday. That's the day my friend, Jackie, sent me pics of her little terrier, Sweeney, running footloose and fancy free in a beautiful Pacific Northwest snow field.  Turns out Jackie used an app called Sniffspot to locate a horse farm in the area that, for a small fee, would gladly host humans and their dogs for a romp session. Twenty acres of fenced-in freedom, all for my dog to enjoy. 

I signed Gracie up for the very next day. 

I don't know who had more fun, Gracie or me. Or my fourth-born, who joined us. 

Probably it was a three-way tie. See for yourself.

^ To see my dog this far apart from her humans brings joy to my heart. Every now and then, even a dog needs some space.

^ And since our human pockets were stuffed with treats, Gracie was happy to come whenever she was called.

^ Towards the end of the hour, my girl was pretty well played out.

^ But that was only after endless hijinks...

^ and a few cool-down sessions in the slushy wet snow.

^ We all had a lot of fun playing hide-and-seek among the trees. Guess who did most of the seeking.

^ We really put some miles on our girl's odometer by standing at opposite ends of the arena, and calling her back and forth. Again, treats in pockets peg Gracie's obedience monitor.

^ At the end of our time at Dayspring Farms, I had one tired and wet dog who was only too happy to hop up into the car and curl up on some dry towels. She slept almost all the way home. 

And I sat up front behind the wheel, filled with joy from my head to my toes, and wondering what I might dream about next. 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Seattle Hat Trick

Seattle is a city chock full of interesting things to see and do. And eat.

There are endless ways to entertain oneself on a day around town.

But there are none finer than the ways we chose to give our Vietnamese Christmas guest a little taste of Seattle on a December afternoon:

First stop: Thai Tom's in the U District

My love for this hole-in-the-wall purveyor of authentic southeast Asian food is well documented. The owners recently invested in a new set of dinnerware but otherwise, their reputation for outrageously delicious food rages on. Pictured here: my #15, Swimming Rama in tofu, with two plates of chicken Pad Thai behind.

Second stop: Starbucks Roastery on Capital Hill

I don't drink coffee. Even so, I recognize this spot as the mecca for all things coffee: beans are toasted, drinks are poured, pastries are provided, and endless bits and bobs of brewing gear are thoughtfully provided for sale. On the Saturday morning between Christmas and New Year's, the joint was absolutely jumping and amidst the mayhem, I was required to use my finely honed squatting skills to score us a table for five. Pictured here is my third-born's iced vanilla latte in my second born's hand.

Second and a half stop: Glasswing Greenhouse on Capital Hill

Walking back to our car from the Roastery, we spied a spiffy little plant store and decided to pop in. Within thirty seconds, we were charmed. Within sixty seconds, I was sent back to the car to wait while my daughters and house guest did a bit of birthday shopping in my honor. I was perfectly happy to obey. Pictured here is a still life I saw on the wall in front of my car: determined blades pushing up in the shallow layer of soil collected on a tiny ridge of concrete.

Third stop: Kerry Park on Queen Anne

Our original plan called for a visit to Seattle Center, where our guest could experience the thrill of standing at the foot of the Space Needle and gazing up at that iconic figure, undoubtedly with camera in hand. But the intermittent rain and brisk winds - not to mention our colds - made us rethink that decision, and instead we headed uphill to capture another iconic view of the Needle. Pictured here is that shot, in the lengthening gloom of a Seattle afternoon in winter; what is not pictured is our hair swirling around our heads in the temperamental breezes, and our red noses as we jumped back into the car, exhilarated and happy and full of Seattle, ready to head for home. 

Friday, January 17, 2020


Sometimes, on these dank,dark, and disagreeable Pacific Northwest winter afternoons, when my dog appears at my side to eagerly announce that walk time is nigh, I don't want to go outside.

That's the honest truth.

Because I adore my dog and would never deny her the daily adventure that is so good for her soul, I suck it up. I brace myself for the inevitable dour, overcast skies and inevitable drip-drops of rain, clip the dog to one end of a fifty-foot lead and attach myself to the other end, and head out into the misty grey.

Usually, we get wet and soggy and chilled to the bone. That's just the way it is.

But every once in just a little while, something different happens. 

Something entirely magical.

While we are walking, the clouds mysteriously shift.

The heavens part.

Blue sky breaks through.

And the raindrops that had just a moment ago been falling through the overcast sky now sit upon the branches of giant green fir trees and sparkle in the sudden sunshine.
You can't see the raindrops sparkling on the trees in these photos, but trust me, they are there. 

The world is transformed. 

And so am I. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Through The Wardrobe

Like little Lucy Pevensie who stumbles through a wardrobe full of fur coats and into a magical land of drifting snow, so do I find myself inquisitive and excited whenever snowflakes begin to fall. As they cover my familiar yard and neighborhood with an unexpected blanket of pristine white, I too am swept away.

Come with me through the wardrobe and see the magic for yourself.
^ The view from my bedroom window across my back yard and down the hill toward the sound. I love the little snow-topped brick chimneys that step off into the distance, and the layers of fir trees that grow beyond and beyond.

^ The backyard from my back door. I love how the snow over the stepping stones melts away, leaving little resting places for my kitty cats when they boldly venture out in the white stuff.

^ In just a few months, my front yard flower garden wild be a wild mass of roses, peonies, lavender, and rhododendron. But today, it is blooming in icy petals of white, and that is lovely too.

^ When I was a little girl growing up in Michigan, I longed for snow that would extravagantly cling to trees and shrubs but our dry, windswept snow only drifted into powdery heaps along the ground. This damp and heavy Pacific Northwest snow that falls on me now fulfills all my childhood branch-decorating dreams.

^ On our walk, every tree we pass is loaded down with snow, each in its own particular way. All the branches droop closer to the ground, loaded down as they are with their heavy loads, and along the sidewalk, I stoop and sidestep my way between the sagging branches that are usually high overhead.

^ Gracie absolutely loves the snow. She seems to relish the refreshing frostiness of our outings, and as a highly visual hunter, she benefits of the contrast that snow provides between light and dark. Here, she carefully checks each and every rabbit hole, just in case any furry friend is making an appearance in the snow and up for a good chase.

^ Approaching another favorite hunting ground, she stops and stares, watching every quivering branch or trembling leaf, just in case it's an actual bunny. She is ever hopeful.

"I know you're in there, little rabbit. Come on out and let me chase you."

^ No rabbits are making any appearances on this snowy day, but Gracie is undeterred. Maybe, just maybe, there will be squirrels at the dumpster. A girl can dream.

^ And as we wind our way home, I look up to see more storm clouds gathering to the west, promising to unleash another flurry of snow upon us. Tomorrow, Gracie and I will step through the wardrobe once again and out into the snows of our very own Narnia. I wonder what adventures await us when we do. 

* * * * *

I have shared many, many stories about my adventures in the snow, but this one, written exactly eight years ago today, just might be my favorite. 

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Smile Mode
On my way home from the store, I sat behind this truck at a light. Marshawn again. Beast Mode Fever has taken over the city. Goodness, it's so fun to be a 12.

I was picking out apples when I saw her. 

She was shuffling around the produce department, clinging to her shopping cart for deal life. Probably in her eighties, though she didn't look elderly so much as greyed out, dried up, and wrung out. She looked tired, this woman, worn from life and stripped of joy. 

The eternally friendly produce worker saw her and gave her a grand welcome. Clearly they had a history of chit chat, these two. and though he gave her a cheerful hello and howdy do, she merely grunted an unintelligible reply and slowly stumbled on.

Ever one to rise to a challenge, produce man earnestly doubled down. "Hey, did you see that Seahawks game last weekend?"


The tired old woman stopped in her tracks. "Marshawn Lynch is back." Her voice came alive, firm and clear, full of interest.

In the off chance that you haven't heard, let me explain that Marshawn aka Beast Mode, a legendary and delightfully colorful running back for the Seahawks during most of the past decade, has picked up a one-year contract to help the injury-beleaguered team through the rest of the 2019 season and post-season  The team's fans, known as the 12s, have gone berserk.

"Yeah, yeah, Beast Mode!" produce man encouraged her. "He played great, didn't he?!"

She beamed with delight, her previously tremulous voice now rang clear. "Yes. He scored a touchdown. And everyone threw Skittles on the field."

As I twisted shut my bag full of apples, tucked them into my cart, and moved on the next aisle, I listened to them talking and laughing together about their football team. And I thought to myself, I wonder if the Seahawks have any idea how much joy they bring to the people they know as the 12s.

Monday, January 6, 2020

910 Days

For the first 910 days of my dog's life, she lived with other people.

Her breeder and her doggy family in Florida.
Her first owner on a horse farm in Oregon.
Her second owner delivering mail in nearby suburban Seattle.

Then Gracie came to me.

And now, she has lived with us for a second 910 days.

So. As of today she has spent exactly half of her life with me.

And starting tomorrow, she will have spent more than half with me.

Now I have no idea what Gracie might remember from her former lives. I've seen some cute video of her tussling around with her itty bitty littler mates, and some footage of Gracie and her sister romping around in a horses' watering trough that looks purely magical. I hope that somewhere in the depths of her sweet doggy mind, she remembers those lovely moments

But to be honest and utterly selfish, I hope most of the old memories have faded, and all she knows now is 910 days of sharing life with me. 

Friday, January 3, 2020

Winds Of Change

The calendar year is a social construct developed by humans to mark time. Therefore, a new year poses no real cause for change but simply marks time in our linear journey of days. Who we are and what we make of our lives is determined not by any new year’s reflection but by the decisions we make on every single ordinary day of the year. 

The year represents another journey around the sun, an ebb and flow of seasons that measure our lives with richness and natural changes. Set against the brink of winter, the new year offers a time for quiet waiting as the cycle of seasons begin anew. We rest and reflect, just as the earth lies fallow, and then we move into the cycle with renewed intentions. 

Maybe both those things are true. 
Maybe neither is true. 

I don’t really know. 

All I know for sure is that as I nurse myself through the end of a cold and into the first days of 2020, I am keeping the windows open and inviting the cool, refreshing winds of change to wash over me and take me where they want me to go. 

I’m game for just about anything, 2020.