Sunday, March 28, 2021

Dear Miss Russell

I suppose it's not particularly surprising for me to reveal that when I was a little girl, I loved school. I adored all the activities and lessons and lovely blank workbook pages to be filled in. I loved the art projects, music classes, and square-dancing sessions, not to mention:

 the giant wall of windows in each classroom that filled the space with light reflected off the  blanket of Michigan snow,

 the delicious challenge of keeping my desk in order, 

even the tedious task of lining up by the door (and always pulling up my knee socks) whenever our schedule called us out of the room. 

During my earliest years, one teacher has always stood out in my mind as special. Miss Russell. She taught at our school just one year - I believe it was her first year out of college. After Christmas vacation, she came back with a diamond ring on her finger, told us excitedly that after her fiance graduated from law school in June, they would be married, and then after the school year ended, she disappeared. I always supposed he whisked her off to a location more exotic that our small town, but I never had any idea what happened. 

Until last November, that is, when I mounted a thorough stalking campaign and pinpointed my former teacher's current location. Apparently, she'd moved to a New York City suburb, raised two children - a boy and a girl - who were now in their forties, and after a long teaching career, was happily retired with her husband. Thankfully, her daughter works in a social media-driven industry, so I quickly tracked her down on Facebook to introduce myself and hopefully get contact information for her mom.

My beloved teacher.


I heard nothing back. 

Alas. I supposed my message drifted off into a hidden inbox, where it would collect dust for years to come. Certainly, I was disappointed but at peace. I'd done everything possible to find my teacher, and if her daughter didn't reply to my message, there was nothing I could do.

So imagine my surprise last week when pop! into my phone came a happy response and an email for my teacher. 

Now I was thrilled, but suddenly found myself overwhelmed by the idea of composing a message to her. How can I possibly untangle the decades of sentimental recollections and explain just what this person meant to tiny little me?

I was tempted to give up. But whenever I entertained that thought, I remembered the absolutely lovely message we got from one of my mom's former students - and honestly, probably her all-time favorite - after she had passed away. As much as I appreciated his email, I also felt sad that my mom never got the opportunity to hear those affirming words herself. I wish Chip had written to my mom before she died, and I was not going to deny my sweet teacher a similar experience. 

So I wrote to her tonight. I felt strangely nervous, stumbling around to find words even close to the feelings I wanted to express, writing and deleting and re-writing over and over which is usually not my style. It occurred to me that I wanted my message to be perfect, and of course, there is no such thing as perfect. I finished it quickly and hit "Send" before I could second guess myself any further.

And this is what I sent. I sure hope she likes it. 

* * * * *

I also sent my teacher this picture of me in third grade; I don't have a copy of second-grade me but I think I looked more or less the same. 

Dear Miss Russell, 

I suppose it's been a long time since you've been addressed in this way, but for the past fifty-five years, that is exactly how I've thought of you, ever since I was in your second grade class. The school year was 1965-66, the location was West Elementary in Brighton, Michigan, and the memories of that year in particular are precious to me.

I fondly remember your classroom as a gentle place of order and calm, often punctuated with clever and interesting ideas. I remember that you frequently had us rearrange our desks in creative ways, which always struck me as great fun, and I recall that for a few weeks, you had us tape a small piece of paper to our desktops, and record a tally of every single time we ever said "ain't" or "um" which, after all, are not proper words. Even though I saw you as an authoritative full-grown adult, I understood that you were quite young, as teachers go, and particularly beautiful. I remember when you told us that your full name was Mary Love Russell and I thought that was pure magic.I adored the quiet poetry that I always felt in your presence. 

Looking back on these sweet memories from the perspective of my adulthood, I understand very well why I felt such a special comfort in your classroom. During that year in particular, my parents were going through a very troubled time in their marriage, and I carried a terrible burden of stress and tension. So it was a special gift for me to be able to let go of those worries and rest in the orderly comfort and solace of your classroom. To this day, I'm very grateful to you for making that peaceful space for me. 

Plus, at the end of the first marking period, you wrote in the comment section of my report card, "A joy in the classroom." Those words made my mother unspeakably proud; and I've always been thankful that during that difficult time of her life, you gave her such a precious gift. Thank you for that. 

Thank you, in fact, for everything. You were a wonderful teacher, a patient and enduringly positive influence in my life, and a lovely example of the kind of person I hoped to grow up to be. 


Diane Whybra Streicher

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Heidi Strikes Again!

Well, she's at it again. 

In our decade-long creative back-and-forth, my friend Heidi and I have been serving up to each other altered versions of our shared art, and today in the mail, I received her latest.

Okay, here's how this game is played. Without a plan or any rules or even a single spoken word, Heidi and I started with a simple photo of a table set for two, and began riffing off that, each of us tweaking the photo in one way before firing it back to the other, who tweaked the new photo again but this time in a different way, and then sent it back.

For Heidi's recent birthday, I'd made her a banner using that original image, seventeen changes later, and before I sent it off to her, I modeled it on my dining room wall and took this photo.

A close inspection of the banner reveals something of the layers of images we've piled one on top of the other to get this far. 

And if you're curious enough to want to see the full play-by-play of each step along the way, read this.

In this latest round, Heidi took my photo of the banner hanging in my dining room, edited it with a negative image filter, and built it into a thank-you card.

Voila! Another masterpiece, and now, once again, it's my turn to adapt this latest creation into something new. 

I accept your challenge, my friend. My brain is already swirling with ideas and I can't wait to see what happens next!

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

One Year In
Covid has brought out a spiritual dimension in my creative side. This painting came to me in a dream, and represents the lifetime journey of my soul. Weird, right? I'll explain more later. 

One year that actually possible?

Covid has been with us now for a full trip around the sun, and I'm hearing many people reflect on how it feels to be at the one-year mark.

Google it. You'll see what I mean. 

I suppose most of us have mixed feelings. On one hand, there's that postmodern Rip Van Winkle reaction that we've just opened our eyes after what felt like a short nap in the days of Normal, and awakened to find ourselves a year deep into biological Armageddon. It's still hard to fathom that the world is truly in the grips of a science fiction-level pandemic, and I have my fair share of is-Covid-a-real-thing-or-am-I-having-a-really-weird-nightmare moments. 

But most of the time, I'm aware of the way the world has turned. Though I'm confident that our scientific and medical whiz kids are well on the way to getting this virus under control, and the world will eventually open up again, I firmly doubt that we will ever live as we did pre-Covid. I can't say what we'll give up, or how post-Covid life will look, but I do believe we have stepped over a threshold of history, and while our civilization will surely carry on, we will never go back.
The past year has reminded me, over and over again, that 
God is Number One in my life, so that makes me...

One year I the same? 

Perhaps that is the more interesting question. Covid has definitely touched every human life on this planet, though for some it has been a gentle brush of the fingertips and others a prolonged and punishing choke hold. Here, for better or worse, are the ways that one year of living with Covid has affected me.

My reservoirs of compassion and gratitude overflow.
Like so many other people, I ache from pain and agony that Covid has caused. 

Yes, I mean the emotional toll it has taken on 

those who have suffered, 
those who have died, 
those who have stood by helplessly on the other side of a pane of glass as their loved ones have suffered and died alone, 

I also mean the physically painful symptoms that so many Covid sufferers endure, the ghastly torment that death by Covid wreaks upon the body, and the miserable long-term damage that often bedevils those who survive. 

And yeah, I definitely include the mental and emotional distress caused by the Covid conspiracy folks who have denied the victims' reality, and pushed back against every fact the experts were trying to impart to help control the disease. 

But it's a beautiful fact of life that agony often opens the door to thankfulness, and I've felt an overwhelming rush of gratitude for all the people who have risen up to help. 

Medical front-liners, 
scientific researchers, 
teachers who found a way to make learning work,

the list of workers who have stepped into this crisis, innovating and adapting as they go, often putting their own safety or well-being at risk, just blows me away. I'm so grateful to the helpers. 

I love how others are learning to love the stay-at-home life. 
Now don't get me wrong - I've never been a freakish recluse or an antisocial stick-in-the-mud, but I have always loved the homebody lifestyle: 

living each day according to an established rhythm, 
keeping order and beauty alive in my spaces, 
taking the time to make what I need in an authentic and homegrown way. 

Granted, I've been very fortunate to share my home with my husband, two of my four daughters, and a handful of pets - I'm lucky not to be lonely. But I hear over and over again how many people are just now, because of Covid, discovering the advantages of a stay-at-home lifestyle, and plan to never return to the full-on crazy of go-go pre-Covid living. 

I love that folks are embracing the gentle art of home life, and I feel more known and better understood for my own cottagecore tendencies. 

I trust God.
Look, call it what you will.

the Universe, 
an unknowable Life Force, 
the Source, 
or whatever works for you,  

a great majority of humans believe that there is someone or something responsible for this crazy mess we call life, and that, believe it or not, there is order to the chaos; He/She/It has it all under control. 

I believe that. And I call that power God. 

For sure, I trusted God before Covid. But Covid has upped the crazy so hard, has rained down so much pain and confusion on our world, has challenged us to rethink every single thing we ever believed back in those old days of yore. 

But during this past year, I have seen over and over and over again evidence that some incredible source of love has been re-ignited in this Covid world.

These are just a handful of the humanitarian movements and trends that have gathered steam lately, and while I see human compassion as the driving force behind them, I believe that these rays of shining positivity ultimately come from God. 

Love is God. God is love. And if God can figure out a way use a deadly worldwide pandemic to bring more love and compassion into the world, then I'm all in.

I trust my Supreme Being more than ever before.

* * * * *

Without a doubt, I hate Covid-19 for the immeasurable pain and suffering it has caused, but still, I'm grateful for all the ways I have grown, one year in. 

Monday, March 22, 2021


"If baking is any labor at all, it's a labor of love." -Regina Brett
Friday night, while you were fast asleep, I made these peanut butter cookies from Half-Baked Harvest. I highly enjoyed making them, and my family is more than happy to eat them.

I've always loved to cook, but I don't always love to bake.

They're quite different for me.

Cooking is necessity. Soups and stews, casseroles and roasts. It's the daily routine of pulling out of my hat every single evening a meal that is: 

flavorful and interesting, 
passably nutritious, 
financially sustainable, 
and likely to pass muster with the diners whom I serve.

Baking is for fun. Pies and cookies, cakes and puddings. It is the cherry on the top of the family meal cake:

special and satisfying, 
sugary sweet,
a festive indulgence,
and likely to bring a smile to anyone who takes a bite.. 

Logic might dictate that my preferences should be reversed. Cooking daily meals can be an awful grind, whereas baking brings joy and indulgence and a lovely bit of sweetness into our ordinary lives. 

But I love the rough and tumble of cooking, the constant challenge to turn the same handful of ingredients into something that feels fresh and new, the give-and-take of cooking methods that allow me to substitute this ingredient, leave out that one, and change the traditional order of the steps whensover I may please. While skill and experience are definitely part of the process, cooking allows me to experiment and improvise, and I love that flexibility.

Baking requires much more precision. The chemistry required to make a cake rise or a pudding thicken is  not to be tampered with, and then there's the delicate temperament of hand-rolled pie dough. While I'm comfortable whipping up most confections, and have logged long hours with rolling pins and parchment paper, baking requires patience, dexterity, and a fine attention to detail that sometimes wears me out.

Lately, though, I've surprised myself by rediscovering the fun of baking.

Oh, I still love cooking, and continue to try new recipes and whip up family classics on the regular. My passion for an interesting evening meal rages on.

But I'm enjoying my reborn sweet spot for baking. It is, in simplest terms, an unnecessary labor of love, and perhaps that reason alone that explains why baking is pure magic. 

Friday, March 19, 2021

Dear Asian American Friends

Dear Asian-American friends,

Hi. I care about you. In light of the recent events of terror leveled at Asians in America, I'm worried about you. And I want to make sure you know exactly how I feel.

I am also very fond of Asians who live in Asia. 

Let me be clear. I see you.

And I need to apologize if you have ever felt unseen by me.

Because the truth is that when I look at you, I don't always see you as Asian.

You might carry Asian bloodlines. You might have been born in Asia, or even lived there for a time.

But that's not what I see first. 

What I see is 

a friend, 

a sister or brother, 

a fellow traveler on Spaceship Earth, 

a companion on this journey called life. 

I rarely think of you as Korean or Vietnamese or Thai or Indian or Filipino or Chinese or Malaysian or Japanese. Just as I hope you never think of me as German or Irish or French Canadian or English.

(Spoilers: I am all of the above.)

When I am with my Asian friends, I swim in my clothes and put bunny ears on grown men. 

In my eyes, you are you, a fascinating human, and I am me. And while our ancestries add interesting dimensions to our friendship, they don't define us. Our diversity just adds to the love. 

* * * * *

But what the last year - and especially this past week - has taught me is that there are some people in this world - in our country - who do not share that love.

There are hateful people who have teased and targeted and terrorized and murdered people like you for simply being who you are. 

I am particularly fond of little Asian girls with shining black hair. They make me smile. 

And as a white person against whom the haters have not yet turned, I realize my privilege. And I"m sick about it. 

I am angry and ashamed and frustrated and sick.

Eating with Asians, I have learned, is serious business and I do my best to live up to the challenge. 

So while I may not always see you as Asian, I am seeing you that way today. 

I'm seeing you as part of a group of people who are under attack. 

I'm speaking out against that evil.

Asian sunshine.

And I'm reaching out to you, one at a time, to tell you how much I care about you

As a friend,

As an American Asian,

And as the lovely human being that you are. 

XO Diane

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Erin Go Bragh

Go ahead, 

gulp your green Guinness, 
sport those shamrock deely boppers, 
plant an Irish kiss on every bonnie lass you may see.

All suitable ways to celebrate Saint Paddy's Day.

But for me, the most delightful way to enjoy the wearin' o' the green is by spending the day with my dog.
Hello, I am Irish. Love me forever. 

My lovely Irish dog, Grace.

She is 

a regal queen of the Emerald Isle, 
a lass sweet as sunshine on a Midland meadow, 
and full - right up to her fluffy red ears - with the gift of blarney. 

Like my Irish Setters before her - Kelly, Casey, and Ranger - she embodies all that's good about Ireland, and sharing my life with her is like celebrating Saint Patrick's Day every single day. While I am quick to agree that there are many different kinds of wonderful dogs for other people to love, the Irish Setter will always be my favorite.

Erin Go Bragh, my sweet pups. 

Ireland Forever.

* * * * *

For a recap on my lifetime of loving the Irish, read these stories:

Sitting In The Sun
She may look comfortable but she is literally lying on top of a bush. 

First, she stood on the patio, next to my chair, and allowed me to pet her as she contemplated her options. 

Lying on the bare stone at my feet? Clearly unacceptable. Too hard.

Going back inside to resume her cushy and most likely still warm spot on the couch? Tempting, but a bit too far away from the action aka me.

How about curling up in that warm and soft soil in one of the planting beds? Surely this was Plan A, but thwarted by a stern, Gracie, no! she promptly backed away from that option. 

And so it was that on this fine March afternoon, still brisk but infused with the profound optimism of Pacific Northwest sunshine, that my dog stepped into the garden, turned around three times, and laid down on top of a small blueberry bush to take her afternoon nap. 

* * * * *

For the past few years, at the beginning of the summer season, I've been getting some wicked rashes on my skin. The first of these unhappy incidents happened in Mexico, so I wrote the drama off to that intense tropical heat. 

But the rashes raged on at home, so next I played the age card on myself - your skin must be changing, and it can't handle sun the way it used to. Cautiously, I doused myself in sunscreen with an SPF almost as high as my age, and hoped for the best. But alas, the angry red blotches continued. 

Over the years, try as I might, I couldn't develop a workable hypothesis as to why, at the beginning of every summer, I kept getting these painful and powerfully itchy rashes. So last July, I mentioned the problem to my doctor, and he quickly conferred a diagnosis.

This is a classic case of what's commonly known as sun allergy, but it's not an allergy at all. Your skin has developed a sensitivity to sunshine, which is why you get outbreaks at the beginning of summer when your skin is not yet used to sunlight. As the summer goes on, your skin adapts and the rashes disappear, but each spring you'll probably need to slowly re-acclimate your skin to the sun. 

Which explains why I was sitting outside on this brisk afternoon, pale arms exposed to the weak March sunshine, every inch of the rest of me wrapped up in a blanket against the cool air.

As I watched my dog sleep on top of the blueberry bush, I remembered asking my doctor one last question: "But why?"

Usually an autoimmune disorder. Aren’t autoimmune disorders one of the risk factors of sleep deprivation caused by your Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome?

Yes, doctor, that’s exactly right. 

I closed my eyes and leaned back in my chair, enjoying the hint of warmth sitting softly on my fragile skin, and I thought for the hundredth time how complicated life can be for those of us who live with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. 

* * * * *

Read more about my life with Delayed Sleep Phase:

Monday, March 15, 2021

Thanks For The Pi

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, 
you must first invent the universe." -Carl Sagan

Look! There's a pie on my kitchen shelf.

The circumference of this pie - the distance around the outer edge - is 34.5575 inches, rounded to the nearest ten-thousandth.

And the area of the top of the crust is about 95.0332 inches square.

Or, should I say, was. 

Approximately half of it has already disappeared.

This, my friends, is the gift of pi.

Pi is a fantastically useful mathematical constant that relates the radius of any circle to its circumference and its area. 

It comes in handy in other, more advanced uses too, across the spectrum of the maths and the sciences, but this is circle business is pi's stock and trade. 

Commonly rounded to 3.14, pi is actually an endlessly non-repeating decimal number. Irrational, as we say in the trade. Current mathematicians have locked down over 31 trillion digits in that infinite sequence. 

No, you are not required to memorize them. But many have, often up to 70,000 digits. 

Pi was first explored in ancient Egypt and Babylonia; like many other mathematically-minded civilizations who followed, they grasped the concept of pi and came up with fairly accurate approximations of its value. With the invention of calculus and the computer, modern-day math professionals have exploded the number of known digits, and with those newsworthy developments, pi's fame and fortune has flourished. 

For twenty-one delicious years now, I've been introducing novice mathematicians - also known as seventh-graders - to the magic of pi, coaxing them to memorize key formulas, and convincing them that multiplying by 3.14 is not all that bad. Though their mission is not to innovate new uses for pi but to simply replicate our forefathers' calculations, my students always impress me with their willingness to roll up their sleeves and tackle the study of this peculiar little number,

So on March 14, as I bake a pie to share with my family in our annual observance of Pi Day, I am thankful for all the clever minds and curious souls throughout the history of mathematics, laboring over their papers or their computer programs - or even their endless heaps of homework - who make this day something to celebrate. . 

Thanks for the pi!

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Adventures Continue

"Just listening and going back and forth and exchanging ideas with people. 
It's a beautiful thing." -Lakeith Stanfield

Ten years ago, almost to the very day, my friend Heidi and I began a game of creative tennis, and our rally continues to this day. Back and forth we have served a series of artistic renderings, each one based on the one that came before, in a mutually satisfying sense of one-upmanship that reveals exactly what makes our friendship tick.

Most of these exchanges happened back on that fateful evening in 2011, but just last month, Heidi resurrected the game with a playful Valentine, and I returned her volley yesterday, which just happened to be her birthday.

In a nutshell, we started with a photo of a table set for Heidi's birthday lunch, and manipulated it over and over again, creating a series of images that fit back into each other like a set of Russian nesting dolls. 

See all the stages and read more about how the project unfolded here.

So I took the most recent evolution - Heidi's Valentine hearts that were based on earlier versions of the images we created...

...and overlaid it with another, even earlier version of our series of photos...

...creating this, a new iteration of our collaboration.
From there, my project fell quickly into place. I printed thirteen copies of the new image on cardstock, strung them up on some black ribbon, and wrote out the simple yet singular message:

H A P P Y   B I R T H D A Y

Once the mystery package was delivered to Heidi's doorstep bright and early on the morning of her big day, I breathed a sigh, partly of relief but mostly of immense satisfaction, knowing that I'd done my part to keep the rhythm of our game alive.

And now, the ball is in Heidi's court. Can't wait to see her next move. 

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Winter Garden
My fragrant winter crop.

My time has finally come!" October-me rejoiced.

After years - nay, decades - of coveting the idea of becoming a winter gardener but hating to muck about in the soil during the rainy season, I came up with a fabulous alternative plan.

With my new planting boxes, cool weather crops could easily thrive in my back yard while I need never stoop over them with a shovel or a hoe, not even while planting them. Now, I fantasized, I would grow fresh produce year round, and I imagined myself calming stepping outside into the misty grandeur of Pacific Northwest rain (or the "marine layer," as we so stoically euphemize) to harvest romantically fragrant bouquets of fresh spinach and lettuce greens, armloads of earthy brussels sprouts and turnips. 

I had great dreams.

And I followed through. I cleaned out the refuse left behind from the summer tenants, freshened up the soil with a nice batch of compost, and headed off to my favorite nursery to stroll thoughtfully among the offerings of  winter vegetable starts, poetically putting into motion my elegant plan.

As it turned out, a sale on summer perennials distracted a good portion of my attention that day, but I did pick up a handful of green onions. 

Excitedly, because I've never grown green onions before, I raced home and got them directly settled into their new planting box home. I remember a cool drizzle falling as I finished up my task, and that seemed a propitious omen. Filled with the bubbling optimism that gardening always stirs up in me, I took one last look of sweet satisfaction at my new babies as I walked back into the house.

And then completely and utterly forgot that they existed.
When I invited Gracie to pose for this photo, she misunderstood my intentions and obediently leaped up into the freshly planted boxes on the left. The tiny strawberries in front and the asparagus crowns in the back have forgiven her for her misplaced enthusiasm, and I do too. 

Last weekend, during a break in the rain, I stuck my head out the back door for the first time in months. Surveying the winter wreckage and estimating how many dozens of hours it will take me to set things to rights again, I swiveled my head to the right and noticed my planting boxes in significant upheaval.

Suddenly I remembered my winter garden, and with considerable remorse, walked over to see what had become of my poor neglected green onions. 

My hopes were not high.

Imagine my surprise and delight when one mighty heave on the tops of some tumbled down but entirely fresh and green onions yielded a handful of picture perfect green onions.

Yes, I'll admit that they might have become a bit overgrown and jumbly, resulting in some amateurish floppiness, but once I trimmed them up, my green onions look entirely legit.

When I'd finished this job, I wrapped thie green onions in a clean dish towel and stowed them in the fridge until dinner time. A few minutes later, as I was wiping down the counter, one of my daughters walked into the kitchen, then stopped dead in her tracks.

"Oh my gosh, I smell green onions. And like the best green onions in the world. They smell strong, in a good way, and so fresh!"

I smiled as I told her my story.

While my fantastical visions about a bountiful winter garden did not exactly play out as I'd hoped, my dream of fragrant cool weather crops came delightfully, unexpectedly true.. 

And come next October, when it's time to plant a new winter garden, I will definitely try again. 

On Her Best Behavior
Look, leash!

Gracie's off-leash deportment is coming along so well that on the past few dark and rainy walks we've taken, with my neighbors tucked warm and dry into their homes leaving the sidewalks and pathways empty for just me and my dog, I've let her go off leash for most of our journey.

I know. It's a miracle. 

So in many ways, granting Gracie this freedom to walk on her own recognizance is as much for my good as it is for hers. She already knows how to behave. I'm still learning to trust her

But behave she does. Gracie readily remembers to "wait" (stop in her tracks and stay put till I catch up) or to "come" (run breathlessly to me as if we've been separated for days) whenever I issue such commands. As we're walking along sans leash, I test her often and she's performed perfectly.

But the best discovery of all is that Gracie does not really need me to tell her what to do. She's apparently figured out what's expected of her on our outings, and even when she meets an unexpected situation, her instincts are spot on. 

Case in point: Yesterday, we had just zipped around the back corner of the high school, and came upon the first set of side doors of the main gym. My happy dog was just a few steps ahead of me, and she discovered a novel and interesting scenario much faster than I did.

The double doors had been propped open to let in the cool air, and in a blink, Gracie cruised right up to the open doorway and stood on the threshold, mesmerized. A volleyball game was in progress, complete with a substantial crowd in the bleachers, and the back court players were not ten feet away from where my soaking wet, energetic, and entirely unleashed dog stood, riveted with enthusiasm and poised for action.

It probably happened in a microsecond, but in my mind's eye, I imagined in great detail the slow-motion Shanghai super-speed train wreck that would ensue if my dog chose to crash this party.

The spray of water launching off her fur as she splashed across the wood floor and raced up to the girls.
The expressions of shock and surprise, and yes, delight, on their faces as they turned to see the invader.
The murmurs and gasps coming from the unsuspecting and horrified spectators.
The shrill blast from the official's whistle and the stern look in her eye (I imagined my high school gym teacher here and believe me, that's one stern look) as she commanded me to get my beast under control.

For a split second, I stood in frozen terror, eyes riveted on my dog, adrenaline coursing through my body like a Formula One car flashing through the streets of Montreal.

And then, before I could breathe, Gracie calmly turned away from the door, tail wagging, and joyously continued along our route.
Of course, she got her choice of throw pillows for her evening nap too, 
but that's just another day in the life of Grace.

And that night, my good girl Gracie got extra treats after dinner as a special reward for being on her very best behavior. 

Friday, March 5, 2021

Biding My Time

Yesterday, I was in a mood to clean, so I headed out to the garage and cleaned the nook around my husband's work bench. Which meant that I:

took everything off the table, the pegboard organizer, and the two shelves above,
pulled the massive beast out from the wall so I could clamber in, around, and above, 
vacuumed every inch,
scrubbed it all down with a bucket of warm water and Simple Green.
I also pulled half a dozen stray nails out of the walls, dusted the top of the shop light, and made a note to self to repaint the walls this summer. 

As I wrapped up my tasks for the day, I was feeling pretty darn good.

Until I remembered that I still had a wee bit more work ahead of me.


Here are the contents of the two shelves and the top of the bench.

My husband's lifetime collection of pretty much every construction- or DIY-related object he's ever  purchased, as well as every old, worn-out thing he has replaced. 

He's a bit of a squirrel, this one, always tucking things away for safe-keeping because you never know when it might come in handy. 

As you may have guessed, he and I do not share the same idea of what an orderly space should look like. 

And while it's tempting for me to roar through this mess like Hurricane Marie Kondo, tossing 99 items out of one hundred into the trash and beautifully arranging the remainder into a temple of practicality and accessibility, I wouldn't dare.

Because I promise you my husband knows the exact status and location of every bent nail, partly used light bulb, and cast-off piece of trim. And if I mess with his stuff, I would likely suffer the same fate as Marie Antoinette. 

So I have mustered up all my forces of patience and self-control, and left this giant heap of flotsam and jetsam strewn across half of my otherwise-pristine garage, until this weekend, when my husband can properly sort through it himself. 

Of course, I shall be at the ready as his humble assistant, work gloves on, donation box handy, and ready to whisk anything off to the depths of the trash as soon as he gives the word. I'll also style the heck out of whatever he decides to keep, because a decluttered and well-organized work bench can be also be cute..

I shall be the Marie Curie to his Pierre, and together, we will win the Nobel Prize for Clean Garages.

And until that glorious day, I shall bide my time. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

The Creative Adventures Of Heidi And Diane

A few weeks ago, I opened my mailbox to find a lovely surprise inside.

That's a complete lie. I haven't opened my mailbox in years, if not decades. Fetching the mail is my husband's job and he takes it very seriously. I mean, I could probably make a mailbox run if I really needed to - I know where he keeps the key - but I have no idea which box is ours. I guess I'd just keep trying the key in different boxes until I found one that opened. Or until I was arrested for attempting to break into my neighbors' mailboxes. 

So to be completely factual, I should say that I found an envelope on my kitchen counter addressed to me in a familiar and friendly looping cursive, and opened it with a smile on my face.

A Valentine from my dear friend, Heidi.

When I got my first peek at the front of the homemade card inside, my smile erupted into a big ol' grin and I daresay I laughed out loud. 

Heidi was at it again. 

* * * * *

You see, the cute little hearts arranged in a pleasing grid on the face of her card are familiar friends. Exactly ten years ago, she and I went on a wildly inventive whirlwind that was one of the most spontaneously creative adventures of my life. 

Here, let me walk you through exactly what happened:

{All of these photos have been living in a Facebook album for the past ten years, along with the captions I wrote as I posted them back in the day. For better or for worse, I'm sharing everything here exactly as originally posted}

I took Heidi out to lunch on her birthday.
First, I took a pic of the table before she arrived and texted it to her.

Next, she used the pic for a card and wrote a thank you note to me. 
I took a pic of the card and texted her that too.

Step Three...Heidi took a screen shot of my pic of the card and posted that on Facebook. 

Four: I printed out a hard copy of the screen shot, and then took a pic of it and posted it.

5. Heidi printed a hard copy of my pic of the hard copy of the screen shot, and framed it. 
Woah. Blew my mind.

Step 6: I printed four hard copies of her framed pic and then put them together in a big frame, 
and took a pic of THAT.

Ok seven...she cropped my pic down to just the images, and then repeated it 16 times, a la Andy Warhol.

Eight. I colorized it. Tessa gets credit for the technical work. She's a genius.

9. Heidi cut up a hard copy along diagonal lines and reconstructed the square.

Step 10. I printed a copy of Heidi's latest, cut along her diagonals and then cut each piece in half again, and arranged in a pinwheel.

XI. Heidi printed a hard copy, with a very nice white margin, and used her bathroom mirrors to get an awesome reflection. Sigh. I love this.

12. I cropped down the image and added a quote. About reflections. 

Just when you thought it was over!!!

13-A I got a box in the mail from Heidi today. I had no idea what was in it, but when I saw the little card, my mind began to race.

13-B Can you believe it??!!! A framed copy of our final product. Well played, my friend...very well played indeed. 

* * * * *

That was the end of our exchange...for a while. Then, in 2018, this happened:

14. My valentine from Heidi. ❤️

After almost seven years, she has resurrected our collaborative game of creative tag and I wonder if I dare to fire back!

* * * * *

Well, apparently I lost that dare because I never responded. 

But this year, exactly ten years after our original spree, Heidi has resurrected our collaborative creation once again, and I could not be more delighted.
Number 15.

Hmm. I don't want to spoil any surprises. 

But Heidi's birthday is coming up next week, and this time, I will not drop the ball.

* * * * *

Wanna see what happened next? Read this: