Odd little word, “spry”, and I don’t care for it. I know it is supposed to be a good thing, but it sounds so…I don’t know….patronizing.

1. (esp. of an old person) active; lively.

It was also the brand name of a Crisco-like product my Grandma used; would it make one’s baked goods remain spunky and delicious even when they got old? Makes you wonder about marketing think tanks, doesn’t it?

Snowdog!First night snuggles

I bring this up because Gandalf has just turned ten, which we all know is seventy in human years. He bounds through the snow and anticipates every outing with the same good nature and energy he had when he was much younger. In actuality, I think he is in better shape than he was a few years back; we don’t go for walks; we do dog-trots with pauses for him to sniff and investigate and do dog things….I know I am getting a work out.


When I first moved out and Gandalf was my only companion it dawned on me that I didn’t know how long Norwegian Elkhounds lived and I googled frantically; surely I couldn’t lose him now, too?!


Whew…..average lifespan ten to twelve years; we were golden.


Happy Birthday to the Best Dog Ever!

Time has flown and here we are; everything else is icing on the birthday cake……perhaps the main ingredient is spry.

Cabin Fever

Pippin’s cabin fever is conspicuous of late.  More wild-eyed thunderpaws from room to room, more spectacular leaps onto his cat tree, more bouncing into Gandalf. His miaows have become plaintive and he braids a path around my feet as I walk about the house; he is my make-up assistant in the morning and computer helper at night. Clearly, he has about had it with being house-bound this winter.

We are an eccentric little group and the scene that greeted me one evening after my shower was interesting but not out of the realm of what passes for normal in our house.

InnocenceTraditionally, this is how Pippin has notified me that the water dish is empty but I rarely let that happen any more and yes….that is water all over the floor; this was not a Momcat fail.

I watched him for several minutes; he was focused on the dish and had it levitated off the tile I would not have been surprised; he was that intense. But the dish didn’t move and I had a mess to clean up so I broke the spell to put things back in order. With a resolution to make sure the dish was never less than half empty (half full? I am an optimist by nature) we turned in for the night.

My confidence in Plan A (keeping it full) was rewarded for several days; apparently Pippin was just being picky. We had a spell of calm weather and he resumed his walks with Gandalf and me. Problem solved.


Really, Pippin? You're kidding!Assuming an air of incredulity (how could this possibly have happened?) he wove miaowing around my feet to tell me he was just as astonished as I was. The water dish must be haunted….yes…..that was it; he had kept it from running amok and had averted a soggy catastrophe; I should be proud of him. He continued his tale as I mopped up, embroidering the story until I dubbed him Sir Pippin The Brave. He seemed pleased with that and wandered off to bed.

When I was working in the emergency department I frequently took care of women with abdominal pain and one of the triage questions for them was “Are you pregnant?”. More often than I would have liked the reply was “I hope not.” Hope is notoriously lousy birth control and this leads to Life lesson #2: “Hope is not a method”.

While I “hoped” Pippin wouldn’t tip the dish over again, the realist in me knew I had to do something; optimism is actually realism with a smile.

Therefore it was with renewed determination and pink duct tape I moved to Plan B.

Plan BThis was a few weeks ago and again I thought the problem had been solved. Did you catch the past tense there?

I think Pippin uses the time I am in the shower to get into noisy mischief; the other night I walked into the living room to the sound of scraping coming from the kitchen. Gandalf looked at me; “Mom….he’s doing it again.” I peeked around the doorway so see Pippin with his paw in the dish reservoir, carefully backing up while maneuvering the entire system out into the middle of the floor. He looked up, miaowed as if to say “My work here is done”, and strolled away to settle on the footstool.

I have no words for this. No water on the floor and he gets to do……this; I count it as successful interspecies negotiation.

I love that cat.

Mermaid Hair

I am partially to blame for this.

Rebecca wanted to color her hair so we were looking at ideas and wandered onto a website that featured not-your-usual-hair-colors, i.e; pink, green, blue, purple. Some of the dye jobs were not so great, some were quite outlandish, all were colorful and a surprising number were subtle enough that the wearers appeared to be actual wage-earners in the community; Halloween hair had crept into mainstream.

All my kids have gorgeous hair and Rebecca has had the most surprising ideas about hers. Several years ago I was at a conference and got this message from William: “Rebecca cut her hair off”. Ummm…..OK….I am a thousand miles away…..and working in oncology has made me not panic about hair issues. Apparently she had stayed up late watching “GI Jane” and when the movie ended about 0100, cutting her hair a la Demi Moore seemed like a good idea. Life’s lessons #1: “Fatigue clouds judgement”. The next day she took herself over to her friends at The Beauty Zone and they trimmed up what they could.

It was an interesting look best described as: “Edward Scissorhands: The early years” and I was secretly relieved when she shaved it all off and rocked the Sinead O’Connor look the rest of the summer. I swear, sometimes she is fearless; but mercifully has since left the hair-styling to the professionals and her hair has now grown out to about shoulder-length.

“Your hair, only better” is what we decided on and apparently that meant something different to each of us, as I discovered a few days later via text messaging:

R: I am getting my hair colored at The Beauty Zone today.

C: OK. Do something like we talked about.

Several hours later….

R: Do you like this? (Followed by a pic of multicolored tresses)

It was rather fetching and even though it wasn’t what we had (I thought) agreed upon I figured it would do, so I tried to call her and tell her that. No answer, but another text arrived:

R: Tell me if you like it first.

C: Yes, I like it. Pick up the phone.

Flashback to when the kids were in their late teens; opting for forgiveness rather than permission; stretching their wings; making decisions the results of which they would perhaps have to live with the rest of their lives. In truth, Rebecca seemed to have made some progress; she had been plateaued in early teens for a number of years; now I knew where things stood. This was doable.

Maika, her hairdresser, told me Rebecca had wanted her entire head blue and purple; she has our backs and talked her out of that and into something more suitable: Mermaid Hair. It really does take a village and there is a special place in heaven for the folks at The Beauty Zone.

Sarah and William were a bit shocked at Rebecca’s behavior but when I explained my theory of her current developmental level and that at that stage they had all done things of which I had not necessarily approved and the world had not ended, Sarah summed it up nicely: “Yeah…..some of us got tattoos and a cousin got pregnant so this is no big deal.”


And one day if I am bold enough, I might try Mermaid Hair, too.

Mermaid Hair

Winter Solstice 2013


“Well. Here we are!”

This has become my traditional toast and since Gandalf and Pippin can’t hold a wine glass I hear an imaginary *clink* as we salute this night. Christmas lights are bright, my fireplace is toasty and this year Loreena McKennitt has joined my Winter Solstice music companions Jennifer Cutting and the Windham Hill Artists. The critters have dozed off next to me and life is good.

Solstice music

Solstice music

This morning Rebecca and I went to the city and ran a 5K in the falling snow with other batty people. It was a fundraiser so it was good for our hearts on many levels!



Yes, those are fishnet stockings

The costumes made us laugh and my favorite was The Lamp from “A Christmas Story”. This was Rebecca’s first run since tweaking her knee at karate a few weeks ago and then re-injuring it when she had a seizure. All is well; meds are adjusted, physical therapy attended and as we trucked along she kept saying “It feels SO good to run again!”. We are often the caboose; it’s a tough job but somebody has to do it. Upright and moving is what counts!

We delivered presents to Sarah, Jared and Michael and made it back before the roads iced up. I got Rebecca snuggled into her apartment and I arrived home tired and happy; a romp in the snow with Gandalf and then I was in for the night.

And what has become of the intentions set last Solstice?

I intend to publish my book this year. I would love to say that it is available on Amazon but, alas, this is not so; the sails have been adjusted more times than I care to remember and what has floated in on the tides of life is that I will write it differently. The exercise of writing this blog (and reading others’) has made me realize time and marination are still essential and even though I have come to this later in my life the process can’t be hurried.

2014: I intend to get this new book version down on paper. 

I intend to continue doing anonymous good turns; “pay it forward”. This is easy and fun. Part of me still thinks I am/need to be invisible. That is a long story not worth going into here, and anonymity suits me.

2014: Keep it up. 

I intend to practice my music at least 3 days a week. This has refashioned itself the most of the three intentions; I am a percussionist but I think I might have a melody instrument in me somewhere. Mountain dulcimer? Violin? Work and life being what they are, some days I only have ten minutes to spend practicing; how was it that when I was a kid thirty minutes at the piano was so bloody never-ending? Oh, wait….it was because I had no talent for it and I would gladly have gnawed my fingers off if it would have gotten me out of lessons.

But music practice on my own terms is….exquisite! 

2014: Play music as often and long as possible.

If I did nothing more than attempt to fulfill these intentions I would be completely occupied. Weaving them into the everyday is part of the challenge and if I just had a Carson and a Mrs. Patmore I am reasonably sure I could take the world by storm!

The night has worn on and tomorrow is Fourth Advent; soon it will be Christmas. To my family, friends and followers I raise a glass of the finest red I could find on sale.

Well. Here we are!



Time travel is easy

Early morning walks were an onerous task this past month; I wanted to stay snuggled in my warm little house and not go out into the pre-dawn blackness. What was up with that? The earth tilts away from the sun like this every year so what was the snag this time around?

When I was a kid we lived close to the arctic circle and experienced the extremes of dark winter days and bright summer nights. We thought it was great but I remember hearing about adults who didn’t like the underlit winters….was I becoming one of them? No…this seemed to be altogether different; an unnatural murkiness, a disruption in the force, night lingering in my mornings and causing wardrobe malfunctions. I couldn’t…put…my….finger on….it; then…..we went off daylight savings time.


It was dark being where dark shouldn’t be that was throwing me off-kilter. I don’t mind some daylight savings time but now that over half the year is on DST it seems a bit over the top.

You have heard of “Intaxication”, right? It is defined as “the euphoria you feel when you get an income tax return…..and then you realize it was your money in the first place.” The night we turn the clocks back and the hour the government sucked away the previous spring is returned falls into the same category. What would this be called? The Count Rugen syndrome?

Now that I no longer work graveyard shift, the night we “fall back” is one of my two favorite nights of the year. The other is Christmas Eve; both call for the suspension of belief and the acceptance of time travel. Santa traversing the world in one night and me turning back the hands of time are similarly magical; they are delightful and once a year I revel in my “found” hour.

And I enjoy getting an income tax return, too.

 Cat and Venus





Night Eyes….I don’t have them.

Autumn equinox has passed and the night lingers in my mornings. I am loath to disrupt the coziness of my little hobbit-house with bright electric lights; even PippinTook stays out of the  blinds as our day begins. Orion has returned to usher us on our morning walks and this week I can barely see Pippin so that would mean it is Very Dark.

Pippin used to be an intermittent walking companion but since Tigger Linus moved to the city he has been glued to Gandalf and me and we all trundle out into the inky dawn. Gandalf now wears a dangly collar light; I was going to get plain white but multi-colored was on sale so we went big; the result is a kind of breakdancing disco firefly at the end of the leash. I would love to get a light for Pippin, too, but I am pretty sure he would not appreciate the visual and there would be bloodshed trying to get it onto him so he gets to go commando.

One morning last week I reluctantly emerged from my softly lit lodging for the walk before work and by the time we returned I noticed my gait was off. Having lived for years in worst-case-scenario I was pretty sure I was having a stroke and would be found in the street when it finally became light enough to see….nah…..it was just that my shoes were wearing out weirdly. I got the boys settled for the day, jumped in the car and drove to work. It wasn’t until I noticed the same odd step on my way in from the parking lot that I looked down:



IMG_0187 *sigh*

Maybe I am the one who needs the dangly light!


Star Wars in my back yard

With a trill and a blur he was behind me before I could look up from my coffee. Gandalf, Pippin and I were basking in the morning sun on the patio; the boys were having their first nap of the day and didn’t even twitch a whisker as our visitor whipped by. I turned and there he was, a male Broad-tailed hummingbird having a heyday in the hollyhocks. He visited most of my flowers, flew up to sit on a tree branch and glared at me, deploring the lack of a feeder in my yard. He sat patiently (as much as that word can be applied when speaking of hummers) in the tree until I put down my coffee and went off to dig the feeder out of the garage, then he sped off with a satisfied whir.

Within minutes of hanging it he was back and a few hours later there were three hummers zipping around like little TIE fighters from Star Wars. I never get tired of watching them and since my yard is small, I have a front row seat at this air show. Warp speed is the rule of the day and the “hover” is often accompanied by an energetic chippy chatter.100_1150






I used the zoom on my camera to get this shot (along with a bazillion others). Several years ago however, I had a few hours to spend and used that time to become part of a post next to a hummingbird feeder. Within thirty minutes of standing very still the hummers decided I was no threat and returned. The aerial acrobatics and dogfights resumed with vigor, making up for lost time. Holy cats, they were fast! They flew perilously close to my head; I thought I was going to lose an eye more than once and had to lean my head on the post to keep from reflexively dodging. I don’t know if they ever crash and burn but the next time I do this I might wear safety glasses. Really.

Hummer portrait from that day and yes, I was that close. Look at those tiny little toes!Hummers 007

Fast forward to this morning; it has been weeks since I started this post. The summer has been the best in years and I have spent every minute possible outside reveling in the peace and deliciousness of it all. We have now had our first frost, the days have gotten shorter and the TIE fighters have sped off to warmer galaxies.

Gandalf is waiting patiently for me to go outside; Pippin less so (he has been in the blinds once already). My boys remind me that remembering summer is nice but today is the only day we have so hit the *publish* button already and let’s go for a walk!


Little Cat Feet

Gandalf and I stepped out into the deep grey mist; he blended in beautifully and while the fog wasn’t so dense he disappeared at the end of his leash, his edges did blur a bit. This is the least-foggy place I have lived but my Pavlovian response to seeing it remains intact; without fail, the phrase “the fog comes on little cat feet” pops into my brain. And then I think of third grade and Mrs. Hembree and choral readings and how we presented that poem. She had us say “little cat feet” in high squeaky voices and when I am old and demented that is probably what I will mumble over and over, so kids, don’t be worried.

I was fortunate to attend elementary school in southern California when education was cutting edge and for almost three years Mrs. Harriette Hembree was chief goddess in my life. Lest you think I had to repeat a year twice, she moved up each grade with her students and third, fourth and fifth years (until we moved) were splendiferous. She woke up my brain and my mind and became the yardstick by which I measured other teachers, both my own and my kids‘.IMG_0323

When we moved far away (both geographically and through a time warp) the remainder of fifth grade was spent in a quonset hut where we shared our space with the sixth graders. The teaching was not memorable; punishment for dinking off in class was to be made to copy a page out of the dictionary (I think Russell D. had his own edition of Webster’s by the end of the year) but everything else was; we were loaded into the “cattle car” to be taken to the mess hall for lunch (while singing Love Potion Number 9 at the top of our lungs) and our playground was a field of boulders, some as big as VW bugs. We made forts and running paths through and over them and completed (most of the time) magnificent leaps from rock to rock. Later that year we moved to the new school with a cafeteria and conventional playground; I always missed the rocks.

But I digress.

By the time Gandalf and I circled back home the mountains were still socked in but if you look at the top of the photo below you can see just the barest hint of blue sky; the fog layer was moving on. Carl Sandberg pegged it.


The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on. 



Rescue Me!

He was found in a barn; no mom, no litter mates, just a persistently cheerful ball of fur. The people at the barn didn’t know where he came from, either, and when he was still there the third time she arrived to ride the deal was sealed; she was taking him home.

He was a pot-bellied, tabby-ish, white-socked little guy and the first stop was at the vet. Aside from probably having worms and surviving on a minimal diet, he was healthy. With the vet’s stamp of approval, he arrived at his new home, good-natured but a little shaken after shots, lab work and worming medicine. In spite of being raised in a barn he had impeccable litter box habits and was a smart, jolly little bugger. Kitten cuteness aside, he had an exceptional personality, a living lesson in resiliency and enjoying every moment. It was going swimmingly until he met Inside Cat.

Inside Cat was well-loved in spite of having such subtle personality traits it seemed he had none at all and the appearance of the kitten produced a reaction the depth of which had never before been witnessed by his humans. The kitten (now named Gobbi) was not going to be able to be an inside kitty at her house. OK….how about being a barn-only kitty? No, he had just been rescued from full-time barn living. Several days went by and Inside Cat did not return to his usual state of ennui; Gobbi must find another home.IMG_0309_2

He was on the verge of going to the no-kill shelter when I ran into one of his humans in the grocery store, heard the tale and saw the photos. I have thought for the last two years that Pippin (the sweetest, most social cat in the world) would require other animal companionship once Gandalf passed from this realm and when the time came I would get another cat. Gandalf was still hale and hearty and I only went to the store for eggs but it seemed I would come home with a kitten. Ummm…..well……OK. It felt right and I resolved to let it marinate for a day or two before making the final decision.

I awoke the next morning knowing that this kitten was too remarkable to be put into the New family photoadoption pool; he would come to my house. I wasn’t sure he was really meant to be mine but I hoped so; it had been a long time since kitten antics graced my home. Phone calls were placed and Gobbi (now named Merlin because he *magically* appeared) arrived. Rebecca was ecstatic and I was tickled. Gandalf The Ever Patient let Merlin bounce around him. Pippin was disinterested; this was getting off to a good start! It seemed that enlarging my family by one small life was in the cards.

We spent the next day enjoying the show; bounce, skitter, somersault, race across the floor and skid to a stop. Stalk and kill all the fluffy balls. Again. Careen around corners and slide into Gandalf, leap tall footstools in a single bound. Well, maybe two single bounds. Snack, drink, litter box, repeat. Catnap and sideways kitten hop; it was a day filled with laughter and not getting much of anything else done. That night he slept with Rebecca and she reported that he hunted bedmice in the wee hours. She changed his name to Tigger because he was so bouncy and he reminded me of Linus from “Peanuts” so at last he had a formal name: Tigger Linus Wholam, also known as ‘TL’.

With the bestowing of The Name came the ghost of a sensation I thought no longer existed. I have spent the last several years trying to put my life back together and welcoming Tigger Linus felt….new. Forward-looking, not just picking up debris. Participating in something starting from now. New legs. Air in my tires. Wind in my hair and bugs in my teeth. Hope. And I was able to feel it because I opened my life to a kitten.Wore himself right out!But I digress.

The next day began much as the previous day had ended; rowdy. Tigger Linus sidled over to the cardboard scratcher and went to town on it. Cardboard flakes flew and the noise woke Pippin from his first nap of the day. He instantly morphed from this:into this:

Lordamighty, Pippin! Did you not notice him until now?

I scooped TL up and Pippin stormed outside to sulk. This pattern would be repeated several times over the next few days and doubt about what I had thought was the right thing to do started seeping in around the edges.

A week elapsed and Pippin actually stepped up his anti-TL campaign. Gandalf stopped eating; he is a sensitive soul and whenever there was hissing and surliness he averted his eyes, pained at the display. TL made the best of the situation and remained good-humored and cuddly, counting on me for the right choice about his future. Since I had no clue as to what that was, I asked the Universe and a few days later it came to me.

I have a friend at work who, in the last couple of years has lost her old cat, her old dog and her not-so-old husband. Squince, her remaining dog (and one of the most extraordinary beings I have ever met) was now her only housemate. We had often talked about our animal families and life’s vagaries and there it was: TL belonged to her; he just had to come through me to get there. I sent texts and photos and by the end of the day it was arranged; Rebecca and I would deliver TL to his forever home.

New family portrait

Time flies when you’re having fun and here we are, two weeks later. Pippin is Gandalf’s and my best friend again. TL has yet another name….DoeDoe…..after his soft brown eyes. He and Squince play and nap together and one day his Momma tried to describe to me this unfamiliar sense of optimism that had come to her life along with the kitten. Yes, I understood this completely…..finally, after a long dry spell, some rain in the desert.

Who rescued whom?

Who rescued whom?


The day begins

I don’t even know how to start this post…I am just so happy I could spit. I do feel bad about killing the ants, though. I was down for peaceful co-existence but they were all about world domination and it just wasn’t going to work. It was them or me.


Anyway, two summers ago I was looking for a place to live, last summer I was trying to sell my old house and pay the bills and this year……I am awash with gratitude to have been given what I need.

I feel like I should sacrifice a virgin or something and of course I won’t but the indebtedness feels that big; beyond words. But not beyond pictures…. so here is my offering; snippets of my days just for you because “To have joy one must share it, happiness was born a twin“.

My friend and I went for a hike, got rained on, had a splendid time. While I have lived here for years, she is a recent arrival and asked, “Do you ever get used to these views?”

Nope, never get tired of them.


Rebecca and I went to the zoo one day and yes, it really was this hot.



The bok choy bolted but the flowers are cute little yellow guys so I am enjoying them for a while. I think it was too hot when they were coming up; I will plant some more now that it is a little cooler. I love my garden experiment and am thankful I do not have to survive off what I grow this year!



Fortunately, the professionals have growing fruits and veggies down to a science and my CSA boxes are like Christmas every week.   

Gandalf dozing on the grass










Pippin snoozing in “his” chair



Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find the Norwegian Elkhound.




Last Sunday I rode my bike to church then afterward kept going up the valley. Storms built and dissipated and I picked a few clouds to watch; I used to do this during the long days on the tractor at the ranch.

Look up! If your nose is always to the grindstone you will miss the story in the sky.

More gifts: friends, free concerts and a Great Blue Heron flew over Gandalf and me at dawn yesterday morning. Being able to go to work. Being able to punch out and come home. Knowing that even the tough days have goodness and mercy in there somewhere. What I learned in Al-Anon: One day at a time. It’s really all we’ve got and if someone tells you different, they are selling something. (Thank you, Princess Bride).

 And the most serendipitous finding in ages was provided by one of my favorite blogs, “Hooker’s Horde” hookershorde.wordpress.com

I discovered that Gandalf’s paws smell like popcorn!