Saturday, July 31, 2010

From Wilderness to the Big City

My upcoming week is all about contrasts of locale and intention. From feet soaking in the icy cold Nooksack River to feet pounding the pavement of the Big Apple, I'll take it all in and focus on the present moment. Hopefully.

It's Saturday and I'm preparing for a two day tent camping trip into the North Cascades with Denny. One of  our most favorite places in Washington is a campground near Mt. Baker, 40 miles east of Bellingham. When the kids were young we camped in this glorious locale annually, for several years in tents and in later years hauling our sturdy Coleman "pop-up" trailer which offered more amenities like a kitchen, toilet, and shower. As the kids grew older, they (and we to some degree) lost interest in hiking and camping so we let many years pass taking other types of vacations (like cruises across the ocean blue). Now that our children are grown, it'll be just D and me on this camping trip. We're planning a hike, one of the hikes we attempted but never finished back in the day because someone in our foursome (who will remain nameless) wore flip flops instead of tennis shoes and we didn't realize until we exited the car at the trail head some15 miles from the main road. Sigh.We always vowed we'd come back to take that hike "someday". 

My favorites when camping?  Drinking wine with my feet in the rushing river. Sleeping in the tent with the only sound the river water flowing over stones and boulders twenty yards away. Drinking my morning coffee to the smell of wood smoke and the sound of a crackling fire. Glorious.

We'll just arrive home from the "wilderness" and I'll shift gears to begin packing my bag for New York City and the BlogHer Conference. I'll be bringing comfortable but stylish clothing,  some uber cute shoes, make-up bag, and laptop; ready to take in all the conference offers as well as the sights and sounds of the Big City.

I understand there's a bed bug infestation in NYC. Guess that will be my connection back to wilderness and nature. 

Quite a contrast.

Loving it.

Friday, July 30, 2010

"For Many are Called but Few are Chosen"

" For many are called, but few are chosen."
              Matthew 22: 14 (King James Bible)

Why am I thinking of this passage from the Bible? For one thing, I've heard my mother quote this passage  many, many times as a young girl growing up.  Trouble is, I can't remember the context. I might take a risk and ask her now. Her mind for topics unrelated to the present moment can be spot on; she might be able to enlighten me.

This biblical quote comes to mind every time I stop to inspect our night blooming cereus plant. Each summer we can expect to witness the magnificence of at least two blooms from this scraggly mess of a plant that sits in our bedroom near the south facing glass doors to the deck. This summer I've watched as several small buds have appeared; the promise of a blooming flower weeks away. And then, mysteriously, the young buds dry up and fall off the plant. Of all that attempted the journey to maturity, only one has held the course. Tonight may be the night she blooms. I see the telltale puffiness of the still tightly enfolded bud, the sign of readiness for the one night of glory. Night blooming cereus flowers bloom in the fading light of dusk and last but for six to eight hours before they die, limp and dangling on the stalk that once supported their growth to magnificence.

This photo from two weeks ago shows the maturing flower bud growing off the side of the green leaf.

Earlier this week, it was clear this bloom would achieve its moment of majesty.

The bulging, nascent white of the petals say that tonight may be "the night".

These dessicated baby buds never made it. There were likely many others that I didn't find, involuted and returned to the earth before their moment in the moonlight. 
Indeed. "For many are called, but few are chosen."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Nail Salon

Whenever Laura and I spend time together we gravitate to a Nail Salon whether it be in Austin over her Spring Break, in Spokane in late May, or yesterday in Seattle while she was home. This is an outing we enjoy  together although what we do there is vastly different. I indulge in a pedicure; she has her nails (taken off and replaced) done.

I typically pay little attention to what's happening over at the manicure table choosing to concentrate on the latest (often raunchy) celebrity news in People Magazine or Us. I love dipping into this stuff when I'm pampering myself; adds to the feeling of escape and somehow the two go together nicely. Yesterday I  finished up 30 minutes before she was done and instead of burying my head in another Hollywood story, I took a look at what was going on at the manicure table.
These lovelies (yikes!) had to be dug off and the nails prepped for the new, more conservative look. Laura had to admit that these blue tips in half moon style were a bit of a reach. She probably tired of them within a week but they last much longer and are expensive to boot so she stuck with them. This is quite a process; taking off the old, prepping for the new, trimming down the inch and half fake nails to the desired length, buffing and polishing. Now she's back to the traditional look  pictured below. I didn't manage a photo of her specific results but wish I had because she had a tiny, delicate flower painted on her ring fingernails. Does that negate the conservative look I had to wonder?
One of these days I'll give these French tips a whirl. Right now the dress code at work forbids artificial nails. Apparently they've been shown to transmit infection and in the health care world, persons in direct contact with patients probably shouldn't indulge in this nice clean look.

For now, I'll stick to pedicures. Although I was sorely tempted to pick the Shrek inspired yellow-green for my own version of wild and "out there", I picked a summer inspired pinkish orange. Ramp up the wild, Kate. time. I promise.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Empty Nest

This dreamy space under the apple tree in our backyard is a blessing on warm and sunny summer afternoons. Hidden away by partial or complete shade and usually touched by gentle breezes, this green retreat makes me smile, even if I don't have time to sit there and sip on a glass of wine. Just the visual of the space and a deep breath will take me to a better place. The tree house and swing set that lived in this space for twenty odd years was dismantled, making way  for a more peaceful and mature spot for the two that now live in this so-called empty nest of ours

She's Home for the Weekend

She's home from Spokane for the weekend. Here's the evidence. My, but it's wonderful to have someone else wandering around in this big, empty house besides D and me.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Little Butter Pot

Ok, to admit that Denny's judgment was right on about this impulse purchase a few weeks back when we walked the streets of the touristy waterfront town of LaConner, Washington. Lured into a kitchen shop we browsed through the gadgets and specialty olive oils complete with tasting bar. Nice. Nice.

Then we saw this and he (way, way more than me) was intrigued. "We need one of these.", he advised to a less than enthusiastic me.

This little treasure is all that and more. I admit it, my dear (by the way, he specifically requested that I admit to great skepticism with regard to this purchase), this little crock of a butter pot is the bomb.

I had no idea that for decades I've been eating less than optimal tasting butter. Don't groan but I've been keeping a stick of butter outside of the refrigerator in a silver plated covered butter dish (a wedding gift from waaaay back) and using the butter on everything from corn on the cob to my morning toast. Perfect spreadable temperature. Little did I know but it's been grossing the man out from the beginning of time. If he complained, his words never registered. I have noticed however, that he never uses said slimy butter in the the silver butter dish. Hmmmmm.

Did I know that butter left out oxidizes and turns a different color? No, hadn't noticed. Did I know that butter left out starts tasting different (and according to my husband, rather gross). No, I hadn't noticed. What I did know was that restaurant butter always tastes wonderful. I just figured that my brand at home was inferior grade because it never tasted as bomb.

I've now received an education in what happens to butter "left out", something most people likely have known forever. But with this little pot that holds a stick of softened butter perfectly, restaurant quality butter at room temperature at home is now mine to enjoy. "O frabjous day, Callooh, Callay!"

This century's old technique of keeping butter fresh is quite simple; an airtight seal based on water in the bottom of the crock with the butter placed in place upside down. Say what?  Take note....

Here's a look at the inside of the butter pot. Yum. Spreadable, delicious (and cholesterol laden) butter. I admire those of you who can do without or use a substitute. I go for the real thing.

Where can you get these little butter crocks?  Probably any kitchen store (like we did) but the greatest selection of styles can be found at the original and official Butter Bell Crock site. Want one Ms. Laura?

Anyone want my silver plated covered butter dish which by now qualifies as "near antique"? 

What do you spread on your bread?  Real butter, margarine, alternative butter-like spreads, or nothing?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Every Friday Evening.....

It's early Friday evening right around 7 PM, a time I've come to dread. Why? Because most Fridays around this time I receive a frantic phone call from either my Mom or Dad about the dreaded BATH. Oh my.

Used to be my Mom loved her daily shower and even when she moved into assisted living and then an adult family home, a frequent shower was a great gift. Not so anymore.  She's terrified of the entire prospect and although she doesn't obsess about the upcoming event (she can't remember that it's bath day), after she's finished and dressed for bed, I always hear from her and we go over the same misery each week.

The bath scares her I guess. She may feel vulnerable. She may feel like she'll fall or hurt herself. Who knows for sure?

Dad was the one who called me at straight up 7 PM tonight saying, "Your Mom is getting a bath right now. She's pretty upset. I hear her calling for me at the top of her voice. I can't do much to help her. Would you call her when she's done?"

"Sure Dad", I said. "I'll give her a call in a bit."

I don't look forward to this phone call. She'll likely be sobbing into the phone and all I can do is listen. There is nothing I can say to ease her terror.

Tomorrow she'll never even mention her experience with the bath, the nightmare buried somewhere in her subconscious.  I had to remind Dad of that tonight. "Dad, by tomorrow it'll be distant memory."

"You're right.", he replied.

But he and I continue our pattern of concern, getting upset about what happens with great predictability every single Friday evening. When the summer sky is brilliant blue and the weather beckons me outside, I'm overcome with sadness when I ought to choose something else, anything else. But I can't and I don't. Not now.

Guess, I'll end this dismal post and pick up the phone. To listen. To assuage. To comfort. Even when all will be forgotten until the next Friday evening rolls around and we go over it all again.

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
The last line of The Great Gatsby somehow seems right just about now.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Compartmentalize: verb
    to separate into distinct parts, categories, or compartments (per The Free

Denny has advised me for years to do more of this (compartmentalize) but I believe it's far easier for men than  for women. Instead of life fitting easily into a variety of boxes with subject labels, life for me is more of a blurred boundary, one space leaking into the next and into the next and omnipresent, just below the surface of my "now". Nonetheless, I think he's right particularly when it comes to the emotional burden of elderly, frail, and mentally impaired parents who could break my heart in pieces daily if I allowed the pain to percolate through my every moment.

I'm starting to compartmentalize in my personal life. In my professional life compartmentalizing is crucial so the skills exist.

With my parents, I remind myself  that they live in a safe place and their physical needs are met. Although they (seem to) rely on the local daughter to supply much of their emotional needs, when I get in my car and drive off after a visit, I'm learning to let-it-go. I used to cry on the way home or conversely fret and stew but lately, I just drive and keep on with my day. When I'm at work, I rarely think about them (substitute the word worry and it says the same). When I'm at play, I rarely think about them. When I awaken in the night, I rarely think of them. When time passes the tug of their needs returns to my consciousness, whispering louder and louder that I MUST GO FOR THE NEXT VISIT. And I do. And then I leave and try to put the experience back in a box at the back of my brain.


I'm certain they would understand if they were of a mind to know how the last four years has affected all of us who love them and who witness what the steadily marching wave of aging does to the vibrant people they once were.

Compartmentalize. To do so takes skill without succumbing to numbness.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hot Fudge Sundae Gives Me Courage

I'm finding it increasingly difficult to visit my parents. I try to drop by at their adult family home at least three times a week but I rarely stay longer than an hour. There's so little to say after the usual pleasantries. We end up sitting there, staring at each other with me racking my brain for topics of conversation.  Dad's hearing without functional hearing aids is terrible and Mom is off in her own world most of the time, struggling to get the words out. When my siblings visit from out-of-town, they stay for hours; I don't know how they can, but they do. I guess their time is a sprint and mine a marathon, or some such.

I've often heard my sister say she treats herself to something special after she's spent a chunk of time with Mom and Dad; a trip to the the yarn store or a slow browse through a bookstore. I get that. Today, I indulged in a treat before my arrival. The endorphins brought a sense of calm to my mind and the price couldn't be beat. McDonald's dollar menu rocks.

Mom was asleep when I arrived so Dad and I had a chance to talk (well, I was yelling and he was talking since his hearing aids are on the fritz) in the back room. When Mom woke up, the caregiver escorted her back to the sitting room where Dad and I were hanging out. The conversation changed to her worries and concerns. Whereas the dreamy musings tend to fizzle out quickly, this particular fantasy was pernicious and anxiety provoking for her.

"Jimmy Hodnett is here and I've got to go out to the kitchen to talk with him."

"He's not here, Mom. Who is he anyway?"

"He's my husband and he's picking me up."

"No Mom, Dad here is your husband; you've been married 69 years. Look at him sitting in the chair next to you."

A quizzical look crossed her face and then her eyes returned to their prior slightly agitated, expectant state.

"Don't talk to loud. He'll hear you. Let's get up and go meet him in the living room."

At that point I suggested to my Dad that he might want to take a nap and I'd keep Mom company out in the  living room. Fortunately, he hadn't heard a word of what Mom had said (glad the hearing aids were dead) and agreed to stretch out on his bed for a bit.

Mom and I shuffled into the living room, sat down at the round table and had a cup of tea. She forgot all about Jimmy Hodnett and lost herself  in talking to "Willow" the dog, a frequent visitor to the house.

As for me, the beneficial effects of the hot fudge sundae were wearing thin by then so I said my goodbyes and headed home.  I'll have think up another treat for tomorrow's visit.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Preparing for BlogHer

This year the BlogHer Conference takes place in New York City. Yeah! I've my plane tickets, hotel reservations, and the conference registration in hand. I'll be joined by my sister and fellow blogger and we've planned our trip to include a few extra days in the big city on either end of the conference. The Hilton looks like a great spot; close to the Museum of Modern Art, Central Park, 5th Avenue shopping and subways (love them). Oh, and the conference agenda looks good too.

I ordered my new 'blogger cards' for Ahead of the Wave from Moo USA. The cards are smaller than a business card and oh so cool. A box of 100 featuring photographs of my choice on one side of the card and the web address on the backside, these cards get handed out to fellow bloggers at the conference. In return, I receive cards from bloggers I've not yet discovered. Great fun to go through the stack of new cards at the end of the day and check out what may become a favorite new blog.

No big surprise; I picked the wave motif for my cards this year. All the scenes are near and dear to my heart; from Aruba. Here are a few of my favorites.

Young Green

A magnificent pine stands tall and proud at the top of our front steps. Planted as a replacement for a decades old evergreen that our neighbor to the south felt needed to go because the "dirty tree" shed too many needles on her driveway, the younger beauty consistently brings me joy.  I grieved over the loss of the mature evergreen from the moment our neighbor gave us the bad news that the tree was literally on the chopping block and mourned over the barren ground laid to waste after the tree cutters finished their work on that chilly November day. 

That was 10 years ago. Several weeks after the tree was felled and carted off, my parents gifted us with a new pine tree, small, sturdy and growing in a 12 inch diameter plastic pot.  We were hopeful that this baby pine would one day tower over us and recreate the wall of green between the two properties. We weren't disappointed. This tree stands at least 15 feet and grows taller and and wider with each passing growing season.

Each June, I marvel over the signs of new growth that burst forth faithfully, year after year. The light green needles "budding out" from the darker interior branches remind me that healing comes with the passage of time. My heart no longer aches for that lost tree when I witness what springs eternal from the earth below.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer Arrives on July 7

SunnyToday    Sunny 
Jul 7  

News Flash: Summer has (finally) arrived in Seattle. (we hope). Trouble is, too many days in a row like this and locals get restless as homes heat up and the basement is the only place to go for relief. Very few homes have A/C in these parts. It's a dance with the weather....we want summer but just the right amount.

Monday, July 5, 2010

What He Eats and What I Eat

Atkin's size big ass steak.....


Regular steak, stuffed baked potato and fresh corn on the cob.  Ahhhhh.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Feeling Oh so Introspective today....

"I grow old, I grow old....I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled."
from the Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot

even more...the finish to this 1915 poem...

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

July 1st and Brrrrr It's Cold

Seattle Metropolitan Area
Weather to Expect:
A cool and wet start to July with temperatures struggling to reach 60 degrees in Seattle today. Showers continue through tonight and will be sticking around tomorrow. Overnight lows are running in the upper 40s and low 50s.

Hey!  This is July 1st and the house is downright cold. I'm tempted to turn the heat on again (after deciding 2 weeks ago to turn it off for the summer) but I won't. Guess I'll bundle up, get in bed with a heating pad and read. What's going on with our summer?