Thursday, November 8, 2018

first frost

waking up to our first frost today, i notice it is later than usual.  but the leaves are falling from the vineyards, so i'm especially grateful that i captured these photos when i did... 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

instant family

having a lot of friends in the child welfare & foster care world, i was invited to a free sneak preview of the film "instant family" (released in theaters 11/16).

oh my goodness, while the foster system is not a hilarious subject in and of itself, the movie kept all of us laughing out loud!  (in order to work in or enter this realm, it's healthy if not essential, to keep a keen sense of humor.)

and we found it realistic, give or take a couple of scene portions.  i'm curious as to viewer response and how, if measurable, it impacts children in care.

Monday, November 5, 2018


i am so very proud of my smart friend and her book!  looking forward to being part of her release parties and sharing this with our communities.  she avoids extremes in her book, neither shying away from technology nor letting it run her life; rather, as a professional psychologist, she examines the impact of modern tools on us physiologically and emotionally as well as socially; how being connected has shaped our relationship with ourselves and others. i find her approach refreshing, thoughtful, and integrated. 

this is my friend

this is her book


my sweet 76-year old friend and i have a great thing going on.  i drive to events after dark and she springs for shepherd's pie at the irish pub.

yesterday we attended brahms' english requiem downtown.  sun streaming in through stained glass windows while the baritone memorializes ageless melodies, timed to honor the feast of all saints in the church calendar year.

we are also planning to attend vespers the same evening at the local cathedral.  what we don't know is that it is also a requiem, this one by the composer faure.  parishoners place photos of deceased loved ones on the platform steps in front of the orchestra as the musicians tune.  we pause to light candles in honor of friends and relatives gone on before us.

i am so touched by the intentionality of the service and by the rich environment of icons, latin, incense, and wine that i suddenly realize quiet tears are rolling down my cheeks.  there is no other way but stereotypically to describe the four young ladies singing "pie jesu" except "angelic."  walking back to my pew i survey all of the different sizes, textures, and styles of people represented:  dredlocks, downs syndrome, chemo-scarved, business-professional; a small girl with brown curly hair and doe-like brown eyes looks straight into mine as i take my seat.

i am not even a member of this congregation and yet i feel so warm, so welcome.  and i have never been to such back-to-back richness as in these events.  my heart is more than full:  a small taste of heaven on earth.

small worlds, binocs, and upcycled fish

i love my life.  you never know who you are going to meet or what could come of even just one open-ended question.  such as this weekend, one thing leading to another, i find myself on a bird walk with people i had not even known just 24 hours before.

turns out they are staying at my neighbor's bed & breakfast and J works for the oregon department of fish & wildlife.  as an audobon leader, he knows his birds.  letting me use his $3,000 high-definition binoculars, he quizzes me on the difference between a red-tailed hawk and a sharp-shinned hawk.  "wait, shh...did you hear that?  nuthatch.  ruby-throated you know your red-winged blackbird from this one...ah, darn, i'm so finch-challenged..."

the morning could not be more perfect and, while he teaches me advanced birding skills ("pileated woodpecker ahead, two-o'clock!") i ask E about her artwork and she shows me pictures from her camera and social media site.  it is tagged "make art not trash" and she gets to travel the world (most recently norway) creating marine sculptures out of found garbage.  some of her pieces are traveling the world as well, raising awareness for conservation.

together they are a powerful force for ecology and i realize i can learn a lot from both of them.  and all of this because they were actually late to an event.

i return the binoculars and thank them for everything, "i'm so glad you were late to the event," i say, "so that we could meet".  and with exchanges of information and a desire to keep in touch, we go our separate ways, but all better for taking the risk of connection.

being canadian

seeing as i was born in quesnel, british columbia canada, i rented the dvd "being canadian" to see what documentarian and fellow canuk robert cohen had to say about our country.

and it's a pretty funny film, eh?  starting on the far east of the country, he drives across all the provinces in quest of answering, "what does it mean to be canadian?" hoping to arrive in bc by canada day july 1st.

what he discovers rings true with my own experience:

1) canadians are really, really nice.  like, almost too nice.  (my grandfather's broken hip happened while clearing the sidewalks for his "elderly" neighbors when he was in his 90's, for example.  very nice.)

2) we apologize for everying.  "soo-rry...oh, i'm soo-rry, eh.  soo-rry 'bout that." contrary to a canadian's sense of self, we DO have a right to exist.

3) we are funny.  an extremely high and notable list of famous comedians are, in fact, canadian.  michael j. fox and mike meyers just to name a couple.  which is likely because we are forced to entertain ourselves for months at a time each winter.

4)  we are known to drink maple syrup.  straight from the bottle.  for breakfast.

5) don't interrupt our hockey game.  whether or not this is a passive-aggressive form of balancing our tendency to be too nice, we love hockey.  even hockey players will politely ask to remove their helmet first before letting their opponent punch them mercilessly in the face. ("soo-rry 'bout that.")

6)  curling is real.  no, we are not all eskimos and yes, there are a million things to do with ice.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

being bob

this year for halloween, i dressed up as bob ross!  while he has become somewhat of a vintage sensation, i still had to explain to some of my younger students who he was.  my middle schoolers already know, as they beg regularly to watch his painting show reruns on youtube during class.

the best part about being bob?  getting ready!  i had a friend who gave me a "happy little mints" tin, others who pointed out awesome tree pins in botiques with an enthusiastic "you NEED these" and the sheer looks of people when i walked into school.  they really didn't know who i was.

"oh my gosh, it's you (stunned silence) for a minute there i thought we had a substitute!"
"who is the man who just walked into the office?  excuse me, you need to register as a guest visitor."
and "nice fro.  did you stick your finger in a light socket or something?!" (no, but i did wonder if my hair would fit in my car when i sat down to drive--just barely).

it was the best.  sincerely, i credit bob's show back in the 80's with helping me fall in love with color (even though i watched it on a black and white tv and had to ask my mom what "prussian blue" and "alizarin crimson" were).

i chose the shirt that reads, "ever make mistakes in life?  let's make them birds.  yeah, they're birds now."

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Sunday, October 28, 2018

life well-lived

i read such a beautiful book last week, "confessions of a funeral director:  how the business of death saved my life" by caleb wilde. 

it may sound morbid at first, i know, but far from it...the book is all about living.  it's funny and insightful, confirming my thoughts as to how much more comfortable other cultures around the world seem to be with loss.  i also learned how i might press in to be more present with people in my culture; less afraid of our own mortality. 

his writing even impressed on me to want to talk more about people that we've shared time on the planet with who have gone on before us.  and of all the trillions + possibilities of connections in history, we get to be alive with the people we know right now,  i find this a phenomenal gift.

taking notes on his chapters, here are ten key points i'd like to absorb into my life (we can also include sickness/loss in place of or in addition to 'death'):

1) enlarge your narrative of death to allow it to show you goodness, a story where beauty is found

2) let death break you open (instead of apart)

3) allow it to help you pause, reflect, meditate and take inventory of your own life

4) instead of focusing solely on the afterlife as you understand it, allow death to show you what is good about your life in the here and now and appreciate it more deeply in tandem with heavenly thoughts without using them as an escape hatch

5) the voice of death is silence; embrace silence instead of needlessly filling it

6) we are inherently mortal; let death invite you to be more patient with others and yourself as we all learn, grow, and overcome

7)  lean into the community that can create heaven on earth in times of shared loss and appreciate these relationships

8) let death teach you to love those you may dislike

9)  let loss lead you to active remembering and keeping people that you loved in your life and memory, tell stories about them and emulate what you most admired and respected about them

10)  embracing death is a key ingredient to embracing a life well-lived

finally, caleb wrote about the jewish phrase, tikkun olam, "the healing of the world".  it is a collective task involving everyone who ever has, is, or will be alive.  it focuses on being here now and says, "i'm here with you and i love you." 

if there is one thing he has learned in his years as a third generation funeral director, it is "presence and proximity before performance."  you don't have to do huge things to change the world.  how well we listen, comfort, and invest right now with the people we've been given is how the world is healed, one person at a time.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Thursday, October 11, 2018

fall book pile

time to cozy up with a pile of new books!

in my stack right now:  "a hero's guide to saving your kingdom" by christopher healy (young adult fiction, recommended to me by awesome 5th graders--this book is hilarious!)

"the magnolia story" by chip & joanna gaines (i love this magazine of theirs and also their shared hardy elegance and the way they serve others--truly beautiful and sustainable.  they are funny, too!)

two books of poetry, one by nancy thomas "close to the ground" and "harvesting fog" by luci shaw

"swim:  why we love the water" by lynn sher (which has inspired me to begin lap swimming again)

i also have french cook books by richard olney on hold.  stay tuned for simple culinary goodness...

Monday, October 8, 2018

lemon love

last week a friend asked if i would like a plant?  being a gardener, of course i said yes.  i knew it was a meyer lemon tree, how hard could it be?

let's just say that on a scale of 1-10 (one being ignore it and ten alot of attention) lemon trees indoors for oregon winters are a 20+.  the all reigning high maintenance princess of citrus horticulture.

lulu (what my friend named her) now resides in my room at school.  lots of kids have class pets and i decided that it would be much more fun for my mindlab problem-solving class to help me care for the tree and learn together along the way. so now we have a class plant.

more than an hour and seventy dollars at the garden center later, lulu has everything she needs and more:  special 2-1-1 organic fertilizer, NEEM leaf spray, porous well-draining soil of slightly acidic cactus/succulent blend & peat moss, a 9-gallon pot with drainage holes, a tray filled with rocks and a spray bottle for extra humidity, a sunny spot by a window, a special blue-light plant bulb, bottled water, a fan by the open window for circulating air, and a happy temperature range of 55-70.

"can i have the first lemon?!" is a popular question, to which i answer, "let's help her flourish first and then we can make lemonade for everyone to share."  a student pipes up and says, "it's liking having a baby or something!" to which another responds wittily, "yeah, except raising kids is easier!"

we have a good laugh and talk to lulu, sometimes playing classical music for the three lemons she already has, awaiting the day we must self-pollinate her with a fine-hair paintbrush (really, we don't have anything else to do!?) and wait.

when life hands you a lemon tree, enroll in a master gardening class. or, just wing it with the kids and me.  we'll keep you posted!

artful feasting

it's harvest time and that means feasting!  there is nothing like a paella party for all the senses to welcome in the autumn weather.  this had the most amazing saffron flavor and was perfect for soaking up with bread.  plus, the presentation was gorgeous, an art in and of itself.  more, please.

Friday, October 5, 2018

love of words

"i fell in love with the sound of an early typewriter and i have been stuck with it ever since." -- e.b. white

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

all the diamonds (beautiful poem-song!)

all the diamonds, circa 1974

all the diamonds in this world
that mean anything to me
are conjured up by wind and sunlight
sparkling on the sea

i ran aground in a harbour town
lost the taste for being free
thank God he sent some gull-chased ship
to carry me to sea

two-thousand years and half a world away
dying trees still grow greener when you pray

silver scales flash bright and fade
in reeds along the shore
like a pearl in a sea of liquid jade
His ship comes shining

like a crystal swan in a sky of suns
His ship comes shining

--bruce cockburn

Sunday, September 23, 2018

into great silence

this is, for the genre, one of the most truly thoughtful and soul-stunning films i've taken time with.

as an inner monastic who is active in her community, a both-and i feel called to, it reminded me that even in the most chaotic of environments, i can remain centered, peaceful, and purposeful; with practice.

silence is more and more welcome to me, as a necessary part that gives sound meaning; like the rests in jazz music that make notes come most alive.

welcome, autumn

i've had my annual pumpkin spice latte, harvested potatoes, picked apples, and made applesauce!

here are some lovely images from my morning walk to welcome in this stunning and cozy season...

Friday, September 14, 2018


there are three quotes i'm mulling over these days.

the first is from my friend shannon who said, "tread lightly on this earth" and all that means of grace i have yet to discover, but found it incredibly refreshing.

the second is "some people reflect the image of God better than others".  this came from my cousin tracy over pub-fare while discussing both monastic and military life.

and the third i saw on a card in the store, "things come to you when you have the capacity to receive them." 

what's a quote you are drawn to lately?


this great word, i came across in a magazine.  guelaguetza in oaxacan means to both give and receive.  it means a lot to the people to share, not expecting anything immediately in return.

for example, if a friend of yours provides drinks for your daughter's wedding reception, at some point--even years in the future--when someone else in the community needs something from you, it's time to pay it forward. 

this system of mutual cooperation, sustained over years or even a lifetime, in a culture that prizes connection over profit nurtures both trust and social unity. 

what is refreshing to me about the concept is there is time to relax and receive.  instead of a vague form of score keeping where people feel guilty if they aren't able to respond in kind right away, it is a time-honored rhythm like breathing in and breathing out.  everyone's giving of themselves, knowing what it is to receive.


Saturday, September 8, 2018


it's happening! my co-host and i are preparing for an art day retreat in wine country...

...registrations have poured in, so we are not able to further advertise as we are already at capacity. and the other good news is we may host one again!

i especially love all of the organic connections that began and brought this all together, including the catered lunch with proceeds going to help others.

gather. nourish. make!

what autumn is all about

Thursday, September 6, 2018

wine country sketch

this was a fun sketch to do!  i will put it under the art section of my blog here, thing i would love to do is custom sketches for people of favorite places they've traveled; whimsical, memorable maps they can frame!

Monday, September 3, 2018

consider the tournesol

this is me, considering the tournesols, or sunflowers. in preference to their French name giving them their "turn to the sun" nature, a friend and i stopped by the field.

we waded in and took pictures, for no other reason than that the flowers made us happy.

several things are to be enjoyed about this time of year, a turning to a new season.

the city mouse in me loves a day like yesterday: brunch at my favorite portland diner, browsing fashion & home decor, people-watching over quality espresso, and stocking my desk and art space with fine papers for letter-writing and new art supplies for rainy days.

my inner country mouse revels in today: fresh hay for the hens' nests, picking apples for the first pies, harvesting potatoes (the vintage bathtub container garden worked!) trips to Wilco garden & feed, and filling the pantry for shared fall feasting.

what do you especially enjoy about the turning from summer to autumn?

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

won't you be my neighbor?

what a fantastic film!

growing up watching the tv show, this is a delightful trip down memory lane honoring a man who had integrity, faith, and joy.

glad he's back, this time in movie form...

being a class act

i can't take credit for the following list (the author's name escapes me at the moment--to him all credit is due) but i have been given a lot of opportunities to practice that i can speak to! 

introducing these to my students this week to create a culture that rises above the norm/expected in good and refreshing ways:

1)  live according to your own high standards

2)  be calm and graceful under pressure

3)  model the type of behavior you want to see

4)  let your humanity lead you toward greater compassion; be courteous in conflict

5)  transform ordinary moments into something meaningful and memorable

6)  express beauty, truth, and goodness

7)  tell the truth and turn defeats into progress

8)  raise the integrity of all situations

9)  foster and encourage the unique differences in others

10) increase the confidence and capabilities of those around you

Monday, August 27, 2018

yes, please

i met the most fascinating couple the other day...vibrant, alive, truly interested (which made them interesting), learners, active, funny...and in their 80's!  in fact, the gentleman was 89 and they had only been married (to each other after each of their spouses passed away) for 8 years.  that means he got married again at age 81!

what struck me most was how much more energy i had after our interaction than before.  nothing about them was draining.  and they were both whole people who brought a complete self to the relationship.  they didn't need to say this, i just sensed it.

not only that, but they didn't take themselves too seriously.  and they were kind.  one of the reasons i met them in the first place was because they were in our neck of the woods because of kindness:  they had let another couple go ahead of them in a line who ended up winning a great prize.  not only did they not complain ("that should have been ours!") but were pleasantly surprised when the couple in front of them turned around, thanked them for their kindness, and invited them along to share in the prize!

we talked for quite a while and not once did they bemoan a single thing.  in fact, i've known folks 20 years younger than them who act 20 years older.  this is not to say that i'm sure they don't feel the gravity and effects of aging, but they were so positive, so very absolutely alive that you wouldn't have known their age if they hadn't told me.  yes, please.  this is who i want to be.

a friend of mine wrote me recently that a rich life is made up of the following:  giving & receiving, learning & teaching, rest & action, change & stability and that we will go in and out of all of the quadrants in each season.

what about your life do you hope to model to others, leaving them more energized than when you met?

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

rethinking showers

not to worry, i'm not talking about rethinking personal hygeine, i'm thinking about the bridal and baby kind.  for example, there are showers for those welcoming a spouse or a child into their lives...why not throw someone a shower for entering a new phase of life?  thinking about those who are retiring, adopting, moving, overcoming an illness, starting a new job...and all that goes with those transitions.

it could be quite fun for them to set up a registry and have a party, just because.  it can normalize the stages of life that we all go through at our own time and in different ways.  even if the person doesn't need a lot in terms of material goods, a registry for donating to their favorite charity, or giftcards for businesses that support their particular causes or lifestyle needs could be very enjoyable for all involved; a win-win.

or, a shower could be for no reason at all, other than wanting to celebrate someone's life.  it's got me thinking about showers in a whole new way.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

loving vincent

this film took six years to create, the result of a collaboration of over one hundred different artists handpainting the scenes, which i find remarkable!

it explores some possibilities surrounding the end of van gogh's life that, while hard to pinpoint in reality, are interesting to mull over in terms of an historic perspective.

the genre, however, is mesmerizing; both in keeping with the artist's style but also modernized, using live actors and actresses in tandem with the still life works. 

i highly recommend it!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

lavender time

the lavender planted by my neighbors last year was ready to harvest a couple of weeks ago! we gathered it in, friends and family, followed by learning to make lavender wreaths.

always generous hosts, this was followed by a field dinner and fresh blackberry cobbler.

i can't sum it up any better than the youngest one among us who said, juice and ice cream on her lips, "every day is a perfect day".

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

act 1, scene 3

i have a friend who works at the market i frequent and we've developed the art of encouragement while she's stocking shelves, a sort of "daily affirmation in the frozen foods section" if you will.

this week when it was my turn, being hungry and tired, all i could come up with was borrowed words, so i said, "to thine own self be true."

when i arrived home less than an hour later, there was a package waiting for me, out from which tumbled a magnet bearing the same words, "to thine own self be true"!?

shakespeare, in hamlet, has polonius speak this line. the second part, however, is just as key and that is, "... and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man."

sounds suspiciously like "love thy neighbor as yourself" to me. and i am left pondering this interaction and mystery: in what ways do being true to ourselves better, and more authentically, serve others?

(not to worry, mom, this isn't a picture of my arm)