Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pen to paper

Thursday, August 27, 2009


She sits beneath
what used to be her tree,
shadows looming high above her hair.

Amazed that she used to be so little,
she traces her initials
now overgrown with moss
and wonders at the need
for solitude,
for altitude,
for bliss.

If only she had known
she would never have been afraid of wings.

A special 55
I came out of retirement to post for you, G-Man,
and for another someone
as an angel who seems to have misplaced her wings.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Saturday in the cemetery with Ed & Bob

I have always had a fascination with cemeteries. There are so many stories here and I'm a storyteller, so I feel right at home. I often make up stories while I wander on the dry grass, on the lush lawns.

The old markers, covered in moss and lichen, are my favorite. I love the less tended spots. I don't, as people often ask, have the urge to clean them up. This is the way they are supposed to be.

Meet Phoebe Hall and Frances McDonald. Phoebe and Frances stand alone a little bit from the rest. Phoebe was older. I wonder why they are so close together and apart from the rest? Were they friends, siblings, something more? Why is Frances leaning so distinctly toward Phoebe? Is Frances a he or a she? I sense a love story with these two...

This was a most beautiful spot. But there was an odd sense of unease as I sat here. It occurred at three different points of the cemetery. Was I letting my mind play tricks on me, or do I sense, just like I do with living people, unhappiness and pain in a place like this?

I don't think this was the best photo I took, but there is something ethereal about this statue of Mary inside one of the crypts. The sun behind her, the reflection of the woods behind me, all add up to an interesting moment. You can almost see me in the shadows.

Ah, Father Sullivan. This, after all, is a Catholic cemetery. Many large and sometimes gaudy headstones show the final resting place of men of the cloth. The sisters got a very plain headstone with their nun name (is that what you call it?) on it. Not their birth name. I found that rather sad.

I couldn't help but wonder how many of the priests had trouble getting through those often mentioned gates to heaven, based on their behavior on earth. But Father Sullivan gave me a different vibe. It looks, at the base of his tombstone, like someone has paced, around and around and around. Like he is the guardian of the good souls, protecting them from whatever else gave me the unsettled feeling on more than one occasion.

The incense left with these flowers was still burning as I passed. It overpowered the smell of the flowers, but not completely. I felt peaceful and restful and calm.

This is the most beautiful cross I've ever seen. Obviously Gaelic, it has carvings of amazing creatures all over it. The bas and walls of this monument are covered with Celtic and Gaelic carvings and sayings. Many of Portland's famous Catholic families purchased stones to celebrate family. I loved it that it was in the middle of a cemetery but was celebrating the living and life.

This marker says, "Devoted mother and Queen of Everything." Her name, by the way, is Linda Love.

Every time I took a picture of this door, there was a sunspot in the upper right corner. Funny, the sun was behind me and there was nothing that could be reflected upon.

Everything in the cemetery is old, except for the cell and radio towers in the background. It makes for an odd combination of peace, solitude and a feeling of still being in the city.

I'll end with a collection of statues. I am drawn to these especially when they have not survived the weather or the hi jinx of people completely intact. Besides, I like wings.

By the way, Bob & Ed are a way of saying you have butterflies in your stomach, along with an elephant or two. Bob the Butterfly. Ed the Elephant. I haven't come up with a good name for the feeling you get when the hair on the back of your neck stands up and you feel goosebumps...yet.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Still breathing... really

There's no time for blogging. I'm too busy being harassed by the IT Monkeys I adore that I'm getting all the glory. Lunching on Chinese.

Life is good.


Friday, August 14, 2009

We need a break

I'm taking a cue from my friend Rich and skipping the blog for a couple weeks, maybe months, maybe forever. Call it exhaustion, too many irons in the fire or something more basic - feeling I can't write anything without having to explain myself. Maybe a blog is finite and mine has run its course.

Hmmm. Or maybe it's just time for Pheromone Girl, the girl in me, to take her leave and allow someone new and different to come along. My own personal metamorphosis.

Did you know Dragonflies spend most of their lives in the larva stage (up to three years, depending on the species)? The adult, winged stage only lasts a few weeks. So when you see a winged dragonfly, you know it's toward the end of its lifespan. Sad but true.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

And then...

...something you says helps someone else.

I'm humbled. If you haven't already checked out Violence Unsilenced, get thee over there. Because most of the people in the world are wonderful.

Salt dancing

I am so much prettier now than when I was in high school. Maybe that's why I didn't feel the need to go to my 20th reunion a couple years back. I'm self assured, relatively successful, have a house full of monkeys and a heart full of joy most days.


I know, I know. Shut up already! "She's one of THOSE people, always happy..." Well, sue me.

Why would I want to spend a momentous occasion - the reminder of 20 years removed from gym class, popularity contests that I never won and straight A's? - with a bunch of people who weren't very nice to me the first time around?

So I didn't go. But that doesn't mean that I don't celebrate things in my world. I'm not big on anniversaries and spend most of the hours of any given anniversary reminding myself how much I've grown. Go me.

Christmas is a cute holiday. I celebrated in church for many years and came to realize that even at church it was about presents. The church wanted presents in the form of big fat donations from all the extra sheep they drew in for the guilt factor (you have to go to church or you'll rot in hell - now get out your checkbook and we'll make it all better!!) Not that all churches are like that, just this particular church that shall remain nameless. LAME. Besides, EVERYONE gets to celebrate Christmas, everyone gets gifts, everyone is the center of attention.

BIRTHDAYS, however, are different. Birthdays are a really, really big deal. A birthday is a special day, just for you, where everything is about you. I spoil on birthdays. Birthdays are never forgotten. Birthdays are very, very special. I will make you dance in salt.

Back when I was a kid, in the 70s, we had some wonderful neighbors in our neighborhood. My parents were friends with everyone. The Rackanellis were a large, fabulous Italian family. The Brewers were rather odd but their kids still hung with my crew. The Teckenbergs got divorced and I used to babysit their kids - plus the oldest was my little brother's best friend and they caused lots of trouble together. The Williams, Lena and Art, were like grandparents to me. They yelled at me a lot the way good grandparents will do. "Get off our fence" or "don't you dare go stomping through my rose beds" and especially "give me back my boxer shorts!" They hung laundry out on a line to dry - they never had a dryer, and I was notorious for putting Art's brightly patterned boxer shorts on the bird house. Little minx that I was.

Anyway, my favorite neighborhood family didn't speak a word of English. I believe their name sounded something like Braunschwager. They were Russian Orthodox with the lace on their heads and everything. Their kids were amazingly well behaved - except when their parents were out of earshot and they would cuss in Russian and spit. I learned to spit very far the year they moved in.

My birthday is smack dab in the middle of winter. It's almost immediately after Christmas. Yes, I got combo Christmas and Birthday gifts. At the time, it was very upsetting. Now, I think my parents taught me a very good lesson about expectations. You see, the most meaningful gifts for me are the ones given from the heart. A note, a card, a box full of silly things that cost nothing and mean everything. A receipt saved from a special moment together and mailed to me weeks later. Dancing in salt.

Did you have to read that twice? You see, my birthday was often forgotten, usually celebrated with leftover cupcakes from some Christmas get together (which is probably why I dislike eating any dessert themed green).

But I digress.

The Russian Orthodox family had a strange but cool birthday tradition. At the appropriate moment (he exact time of birth), on the appropriate day, they would celebrate in a small way. The box of Mortons (or Leslie, since Art worked for Leslie salt forever and we all got boxes and boxes) would come out. A line would be drawn all the way across the room in thick salt. Not a space would be left - that would be bad luck. And the birthday boy or girl, man or woman would dance around the room to the clapping of the adults and step ceremoniously over the line of salt, officially becoming a year older. We'd all laugh and drink homemade lemonade. The salt would be spread from one end of the room to the other because everyone would join in the dance.

When I was 11, I celebrated with them and had my first salt dance. I also realized, accidentally, that the lemonade being enjoyed by the adults have Vodka in it and mine did not. Also that I didn't like Vodka much at all.

So for years, as a kid, I'd celebrate my friends birthdays by forcing them to cross a line drawn in salt. They all put up with my silliness because they knew they'd also get homemade cake. Made with Rum. Now rum cake was nothing like Vodka. Trust me on this one. You never wake up in the morning with a rum cake headache. The cake would be hand carved in the shape of something meaningful to the person. For Jodie, it was a fiddle, Jill got a piano keyboard, Todd the face of a character from a play (did I mention I hung out with the geeks?) Sean got a helmet with his favorite football team's logo and colors. I had a crush on Sean. I spent two weekends practicing the carving. He wasn't all that impressed and said crush went away quickly. Especially after he said "I'd have preferred a cake from Albertsons". Ouch.

Anyway, happy 39th to a most important person in my world. Where'd I put the salt...?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Brain worms R us

Hi! I'm about to plant one - are you ready?

This brain worm is especially for my friend Major Healy.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Can you carry those a little bit further?

After discovering a "chick flicks" section at the small coastal store, I had to share my favorite girly scene from a movie.

Stranger Than Fiction: Harold works as a tax collector, Ana as a baker. She is the light and fluffy and kind hearted soul to his linear and OCD, number crunching and rather cold personality. Earlier, she'd given him a cookie and he refused it because, as a tax collector, he's not allowed to receive gifts. He offends her by paying her for the cookie when she was just trying to be kind.

Harold Crick: [runs to Ana with a box of 10 paper bags in it] I'm glad I caught you. I wanted to give you these.
Ana Pascal: Wait, you can give presents, but not receive them? That sounds awfully inconsistent, Mr. Crick.
Harold: Yes, but...
Ana: Wait, I know, I'll purchase them! Yeah, I'll purchase them.
[reaches into her bag to grab her wallet]
Harold: No, no, no, no.
Ana: [with wallet in hand, stops to actually look at the box] What are they?
Harold: [quietly] Flours.
Ana: What?
Harold: I brought you flours.
Ana: Wait, you carried them all the way here?
Harold: Miss Pascal, I've been odd. I know I've been odd, and I know that there are many forces at work telling me to bring these down here to you, but I brought these for you because... I want you.
Ana: [a bit taken aback, and ready to be really offended] Excuse me?
Harold: I want you.
Ana: You want me?
Harold: In no uncertain terms.
Ana: [realizing that he's really not being a creep and just a guy who's not used to saying what he feels] But isn't there some... I don't know... rule about fraternization...
Harold: Auditor / Auditee protocols, yes, but I don't care.
Ana: Why not?
Harold: Because I want you.
Ana: [contemplates him for a second, and looks back at the box] Can you carry those a little bit further?
Harold: Okay.

Speaking of gifts, coolest gift ever. Flours. Now there's a guy who was paying attention...

Hi. I'm busy shaking sand from my shoes. Here are some fun photos of our trip while I figure out how to type on a keyboard again...

Happy Monday!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ain't no rest for the wicked....

It's been awfully quiet over here in PG land. We spent the weekend at the beach. Much fun was had by all - but one of the best parts was lunch on Saturday. We waited for a LONG time for our food. The kids are very patient. Really.

Just be glad I'm not telling you what Sara poked with a stick...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Today I celebrate Joy.

I saw the word 3 times on my way to work - once on a marquee, once on a bus bench, once on a car. Three of anything is good luck and means it's here to stay. Just ask my son who saw 3 El Caminos on his birthday.

I saw a girl laughing with her whole body - it made me giggle. Joy in it's purest form.

I felt it at work - for some wins, gaining some traction in a sticky situation (see - I'm learning the vernacular!) and for really, really liking my coworkers. And loving my boss and my bosses boss. Oh, and wearing killer black boots. That didn't hurt.

I heard from everyone important. I got to chat with a number of people (computer chat, not the in person kind) and feel like I stayed connected to the important people in my world.

The dog has a sliver in his foot, nothing more dramatic - or expensive. Whew. That makes me happy. Now, if he'd hold still long enough to let me remove it he could feel joyful and pain free.

A new friend that I think is very cool checked in a couple times. That brings me joy.

I left work, had a decent commute, talked to a best friend, came home to family happy to see me. And pork loin. A little extra tlc and a fabulous email. A friend thanked me for a kind deed - where no thanks was needed, my best friend and I were just sharing some of our good luck with another who isn't so lucky today. She'll be lucky tomorrow and pay it forward - with joy.

Life, my friends, is amazingly good. Can I share a little joy?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


What's your best gift ever? Someone asked me recently to share a best gift memory. It was difficult. I have many favorite and special things, some from a very long time ago. But there is one item that stands out above all others.

It was a note. It had 8 words on it. Eight very simple, elegant words that, in any other order or missing any of the combination, would not have meant nearly as much. But they were just what I needed to hear, just when I needed to hear it. And it meant everything. I wore that note card into soft, curled paper by reading it and rereading it. I fell asleep holding on when I was afraid and lonely. It gave me hope and reminded me to have faith in things that at times feel impossible. It embodied strength.

A close second would be a number of items made by my kids. My son made me a beautiful wooden box with a lid that swings open. It sits on my desk at work. My daughter has drawn me an amazing number of pictures, all of which I keep in a folder. I have pictures she drew when she was 2 - scribbles of yellow and purple and red. She called them by name. Whatever the names were, I would write on the back.

I have kept a large number of letters and post cards, too. Somehow, the things people said to me always meant more than the mere items that would be used up, put away and sooner or later forgotten. It's the words that matter. In someone's own handwriting, that I can touch. I am happiest holding the same piece of paper that someone else held, thought of me, touched with a pen, sealed and sent. Or handed off. Maybe left on a pillow. I can almost touch you when I touch a note you wrote.

I am a tactile person. Yes, an iPod Touch, a movie I love (Practical Magic, anyone?) or a box of funny post cards would be nice, appreciated and reciprocated. Jewelry never goes over poorly. An email is lovely. I appreciate a nice, catching-up-with-you phone call. But it's the things that are said, pen to paper, that mean something else - because I can relive it at any moment and remember what the note - and you - mean to me.

What was the best gift you ever received?


My son turned 15 yesterday. There was a 6am wake-up to open presents (totally not my idea, by the way) and he was thrilled with a couple new games for his XBox, a Fantasty Football roster (he kicks but at choosing winners) and a CD he's been searching for. But birthdays and Christmas have been pretty lean over the last couple years and I wanted to do something really special for my hard working kid.

His last gift to open did something that nothing has in years. He was blown away - so much so that he yelled "sweet!" and the dog had to come see what was going on.

You see, Sean got a new iPod. But not just any iPod, an iTouch. I probably should have used the money to bail out the postal service, but Sean is worth a little extra splash this year. Besides, new toy and a son that shares? I know there will be movies watched in a tent, music to share and a very happy guy to enjoy.

As I went back to bed, I thought about all the great things Sean does without being asked. He washes windows when the dog nose prints get so bad that you can't see out. He wakes his 16 year old sister (not an easy task, let me tell you) and makes sure the dog gets walked. He cooks meals and does dishes and feeds the pup, too. He is the go to guy for bug killing and drink pouring. He takes walks with me, buys me breakfast whenever I let him and hardly ever asks for anything for himself. He gives the best hugs when I'm down, too.

His choice of places for lunch was a nice restaurant in downtown Portland called SouthPark. He celebrated his 15th birthday not with a burger and fries (although he stole some of mine) but a farmers plate with prosciutto, smoked sausage, goat cheeses, fruit and crusty french bread. Oh, and Mango lemonade. The whole time we ate, we talked about wanting to eat more like this at home. We're going to look for a good Italian deli and make our own version of this wonderful kind of meal.

And a good birthday is a very good thing. Did I mention there were pirates at the black light mini golf?

Personally, the only pirate that would be interesting to me would be one that's just like Sean. Kind, thoughtful, funny, loyal and smart. He even let his mom win. On his birthday. What more can I say?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Wanted: A pirate. Swashbuckling, able to lift one tall girl off the floor...

I've been looking for a pirate Someone who looks really good in a black bandanna and a couple days growth of facial hair. Kisses me to take my breath away. Able to give me an off the floor hug. Oh, and makes my knees weak.

Pirates are an interesting bunch. They have a dark mystique, a "bad boy to end all bad boys" reputation. They say things like "As you wish" and "She took me rum!" and usually are trying to throw you over their shoulder and take you away to do unmentionable things to you. I swoon.

But I have found that - even with a much larger population of pirates in town than one would have thought (as you can tell by these snapshots), finding a true pirate - one with the soul of a thief, the mind of a smuggler and a heart of gold - has been difficult. But not impossible.

I believe I have found myself that pirate. I knew I was in trouble the day he donned a black bandanna and smiled into the camera. Ooh, to fall in love with a pirate. Now that's every girls dream.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Walking on the beach with my toes in the warm, soft sand, I feel comfortable and content with life for the first time in many, many months. Maybe years.

Maybe I learned something from my time on the island?

I have found it difficult to trust anyone. I have found it difficult to forgive myself. Those things have to be done to live a full and meaningful life. I want a life without self-imposed boundaries, without fear of loss. I want a life of joy and bliss and monkeys. (There, fireblossom, feel better?)

After all, we all are born and we all die. We just never know when it will be our time. If I live my life waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop, sooner or later it will. My children are a gift. I will work to feel that way every day, even when they annoy me and make me feel like a jerk. My life is a treasure and I need to remember that, amidst all the work and frustration.

As I wander along the edge of the water, with a bucket full of rose petals, it dawns on me that today is a new day. Just like tomorrow will be. And the day after that.

I have all these days to fill and I choose to fill them with hope and love and the occasional burst of raw emotion. When there are tears, I want them to be for new disappointment, not old wounds.

I hope this day finds you bliss. I have a bucket full of it and I'm happy to share.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm searching for a pirate...

Saturday, August 1, 2009


As she sleeps, she swears she can hear music. It's not like any music she has ever heard before, though. It draws her down winding pathways, long roads and through dark tunnels. She struggles to wake up from the odd dream and finds herself surrounded by an eerie, blue light. It's almost like a web.

Coiled among the webbing are the three lights. She realizes the lights are creating a sort of cocoon and it keeps her safe from the tiny sand crabs that can pinch, the ants, the spiders that live in the sand. She is also safe from the rain and the storm that rages outside - she can hardly hear it from within the walls of her safe place. She never, ever wants to leave - and thinking this makes her lights very, very happy. They dance with joy to know that she never wants to leave.

In the morning, when the sun is out and warming her skin, she wakes to see the remains of the storm - broken drift wood, flotsam and jetsam from ships that didn't survive the pounding waves. There is also something odd on the horizon. She raises slowly from the sand to look at what she can't possibly be seeing.

It is a ship with the most beautiful sails she has ever seen. They are green and glow in the sunlight like the wings of a dragonfly. Behind the giant ship is a smaller sail boat with sails deeply blue. She doesn't have any idea what to do. How will she gain their attention without a fire, without any way to signal them?

She reaches into her right pocket and takes out a coin, the last remaining item from her life before. If only she'd learned to swim, if only she had something to signal with... but nothing will come into her mind. Until she remembers her little life raft, the pallet she used to get her to shore, and the oar.

Swiftly, she gathers a few pieces of fruit from the gangly trees and drags the pallet to the ocean. The little lights are so excited at her sudden burst of energy that they dance around the sky and weave their way in and out of her long, brown hair. It tickles and she chastises them. Then, she pulls the raft out past the breakers and begins to paddle. The ship looks very, very far away and she can't even think about how long it will take her to reach it.

Hours pass and her sore arms turn to murderous, burning pain. She rations the fruit because it is her only source of liquids, as the water from the sea is salt and undrinkable. She had no way to carry fresh water from the one small spring on her island. After many hours of rowing, she is sunburned, overheated and beginning to hallucinate. She keeps thinking the lights are singing to her, encouraging her to continue on. She finally gives in to the temptation to rest - even though the giant sails seem no closer than when she started. She is too exhausted to continue and falls into a feverish sleep full of nightmarish sea creatures that chase her through the water.

The lights grow worried. They sense her light is dimming, that the exhaustion is more treacherous than she realizes. They wrap her in the web of safety but even they can feel her strength leaving her. There is nothing they can do without help.

One small light, the smallest of the three, decides it must take action. It uses all it's strength to lift the coin from her hand and to carry it over miles and miles of ocean. There is no way this little bit of energy should be able to do such a feat but it does not care - rescue is the girl's only hope. The light carries on for hours and hours, becoming exhausted itself. It barely makes it to the giant ship and drops the coin on the foot of a ship mate with a black bandanna. He is a pirate, but he is a good man, too.

The little light flutters closer to the ground and lands, barely glowing at all, on the ship mates palm. The man feels an amazing jolt of fear in that short instant. He leans down to pick up the coin and the fear grows stronger. He has no idea what the light might be but he knows the coin must have come from a human being - and that it must be close by and is likely in trouble. He immediately scans the horizon for a ship or wreckage of some kind. All he sees is a small pallet of wood and a pile of rags upon it.

He leaps to action, calling "man overboard" and gathers a group to row toward the wreckage. As they approach it, he realizes the little light has completely disappeared, all that is left is ash in his palm. He feels an immense sense of loss but sets that aside as he reaches for the pile of what looks to be rage.

He is horrified to realize it is a girl.

She is unable to be revived and they rush back to the ship to get her out of the heat.

It is hours before she wakes.

He paces back and forth outside her door, awaiting any news, wishing he knew why he felt so helpless, what caused a man accustomed to being alone to long to see her eyes open. He knows in his heart they are the color of the sea grass, green with flecks of gold and brown and grey. He neglects his work as the fleet prepares to cast anchor and sail on to it's next destination.

When she finally is able to talk to him, he enters her cabin with his head down out of courtesy. As he lifts his eyes, he sees a glow of light sneak into her pocket. He lunges across the room, grabs her arm and shakes her. "What trick do you play upon me? I caught one of these lights and it turned to ash. It led me to you. Explain!"

She can say nothing but starts to sob. The little light had caught the ship's attention and brought her rescue. But in doing so, the light had been too far away from her and could not survive. The tears fall down her face like diamonds and began to land on the blanket that covers her knees.

She begins the story - of a love that had turned sour, a rescue with parlay, the destruction of the ship and the loss of her shipmates. All the time alone, hoping for rescue. And finding the box with its inhabitants that kept her safe over the months when she shouldn't have survived. He watches her silently and absorbs the tale. He doesn't want to believe, and yet the moment when the little light went out, he knew this was something more than a firefly.

"I believe in you," he promises "Everything will be ok."

She keeps the two remaining lights with her, to this day. They have changed and become different, ceasing to be dependent on her and struggling to find their way in the world. She is charmed and amazed at their differences, how subtle and yet overwhelming their love for each other and for her. The third light stays in her heart, where she can share the rest of her world with its memory. It was here for a purpose, in its very brief time, and that purpose was fulfilled. Tenfold.

When she becomes sad and wishes for more time with the lost little light, she goes to the ocean, where a shipwreck sits in the sand, and she puts her toes in the water. She says hello to the vast ocean. She wades in as far as she dares. And she sails a small boat, full of pictures of brother and sister, family on shore, these people who love each other and have room in their hearts for more. She hopes that Neptune, in his infinite wisdom, will share the pictures with the soul that embodied the little light for the blink of an eye.

When she goes to the beach, she makes a wish and sends it out to sea. "Let him know," she whispers, "that there will always be room for him in my world."