If You Don’t Have One, Be One

We have a pretty tight neighborhood. A lot of things have gone into that sweet mixture. None of us are exactly alike, but yet there is the common grounds that matters the most. I’d say some of it comes from community that just plain values the personhood of everyone on the hill. Well that, and we do love a hearty Fourth of July celebration, tracking the latest coyote prowlings, duck crossings or Bald eagles nesting- we love the network of neighbors who offer their latest cooking nummy, or watch our house when we’re gone… or our kids, or our seniors…. or share the latest home brew. We’ll link arms in a heartbeat when something threatens that.

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Maybe one of the more significant strong threads that holds us together,  is a Harvey.

Harvey has lived here longer than a lot of us, and most of us have been here for a while (who wants to leave  this neighborhood?).

If you bump into Harvey, he always has an observation about something. Something you didn’t know about your hill before. The kind of thing that after you say good-bye and head off back to home, you realize you’re just a little more connected to the things that matter for your hill. And I don’t mean gossip.

He’ll let you know the reason why if there’s a neighbor who’s been quiet for a while. Like cancer. Or have you stop to appreciate an exceptional tree in someone’s yard- then point out where there are others. Or, in my case- and how I appreciated him during those years- the stink eye when one of my lead-footed sons didn’t think he was roaring down the street around the corner “that fast.”

Harvey loves a lot of things- his family, salmon fishing, a freshly mown lawn, a pile of firewood for the winter and his dog. Dogs, “they’re just good friends.” Lily is a no-nonsense girl. Friendly and smart- which means her job is to walk the good walk. And bark, but only on occasion.

facebook_1467917630801Neighbors scramble to join them on some of the daily walkabouts. I love a coffee house and good friends, but this trumps that. Our neighbors aren’t an “out of sight out of mind” (thanks Faye for this shot!). Community is our extended family. How sad it is when people don’t make that effort to invest in that connection.


So if you don’t have a Harvey, be one.                                                                                                                                                                             _DSC3200 WEB

One that’s not compromising but not looking for a fight.

One that just knows the things that makes us stronger.

The one who is trustworthy and will look you in the eye over the things that matter.

Be one.






It Changes You

Over ten years ago our community was hit so hard that we still remember. A drunk driver instantly took the lives of two childhood friends. They were children on their way into their young adult years with high school behind them and their life time of adventures ahead of them. They were the children of friends. They were friends of our children. They were the heartbeats of life around them. And then they were gone. Life was changed. This is one of the surviving families. Mom just recently posted this after going thru a box filled with memories of her Jason and finding  “pictures of a smiling woman that I know is me…or was me…and I’m aware that I am no longer that person in those pictures.”

Everyone hit with death, with loss, knows you that are changed. You have to be. You look back in ways and perspective that wouldn’t happen otherwise. And you learn a whole lot. You learn the stuff you are made of. You learn what other people are made of. And if you are someone like Becky with a deep faith going deeper, you learn a grace that reflects what is on the other side of heaven. There aren’t words for it. But you see it. You see it in conversation, in silence, in just being. It takes beauty beyond a passing glance.


So going into this recent shoot, we were aware of Jason’s absence. But also sensing the sweetness that filled the air we were breathing, was the awareness of just being. Being family. Being free to whatever the moment asked.  And if silly was in the air, doggone-it, it happened.


So Becky, you may not be that same woman. Though I think in many ways you are- now you have wings. Oh sure your feet are on the ground, but you’ve been up above the fray to see and embrace a bigger picture. A picture that doesn’t have room for meaningless worries. You live generously. It’s in the tone of your voice, it’s in the soft thoughtful words, it’s in your eyes.

Life is putting one foot in front of the other, with the best people by your side and you by theirs. With room for a light but not frivolous heart.

Becky shared this site a while back and it’s good enough that everyone needs to read it- it’s a quick read, with salient things to chew on.  http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-17928/what-i-wish-more-people-understood-about-losing-a-child.html

If you want to add your own insights they are welcomed below….



The Flying Wounded

We all know, and ought to be thoughtful of the walking wounded. The people who have been kicked in the chops by life. We may have been one ourselves, or still are. Life is just plain bumpy. Sometimes we recover; other times we find a new normal; but what a pity it is when we get stuck.

Nature is one of those God-givens that helps you find a different approach to thinking about life.  A couple of summers ago, it looked like a life would be claimed by adversity. It seems like no matter your size there is always something that could eat you alive.

You may understand the love of wild birds and finding ways to help them thrive. We had one of our birds show up at the feeder badly damaged. The Spotted Towhee was dragging his right foot- with it stretched out far behind him. He could barely balance. He’d find a way to lean up against the edge of the feeder and make a tripod with his tail and one remaining unsteady standing leg. The feathers on his wings were pointed all directions and flight was quite labored.

Over the summer his standing leg got stronger with his tail getting stubbier and scrubbier as he used it to prop himself up. New feathers came in before fall hit, though his foot still dragged uselessly behind him- like he was doing a poorly executed arabesque- he was stronger.

We worried about him last winter. Whatever tried to chew him up that summer left him quite damaged to make it through the winter. But you know, as cold wet winter pressed on, the little feathered trooper hung in there. He learned to pull his foot under himself. And though his foot rarely ever took a normal bird foot posture, it did act like a stump with his toes pointed back.


He made it through last winter, and the seasons that followed.


He went from waiting until the feeder was clear to eat and taking off when new parents brought their fledglings in, to being more bold and brave. He and the other birds have come to an understanding and now they allow him to finish eating. We are in his second winter here; he’s alive, confident and holding his own! He’s got a new normal but he’s still a bird who can take wing._DSC8480

And as a parent, when it’s you? You put on your game face for your kids so they don’t bear much worry as you make sense of those bumps. When it’s your kid getting bounced around? It’s much harder.  Life can get mean, and when you’re wounded, it’s a given that a few more hardships will be piled on just to ramp up the strugglings. No one wants that for their beloveds.

I watched my daughter recover from a surgery this summer. It was a hard surgery, hard recovery and a game changer.  Summer days shouldn’t be dark days, but it was a very dark summer for her. She’d tell you it was just her and God. I didn’t have a bandage for this hurt. You want your children to grow up and be adults who can thrive in a dog-eat-dog world- thrive in a way that they are still people with integrity, heart and perseverance…. So sometimes we’re not walking wounded- we have learned to fly instead….wounded. Yet, we fly.




Fly Like the Wind

So here we are. A die hard German Shepherd family. And we have a goofy-looking mixed low rider. I don’t want to offend everyone by saying that those bumper stickers about “who rescued whom” bumper stickers are ridiculously silly, but they are. Loving working breeds as we do, dogs are not about rescue, unless you’re in the woods lost- dogs are about the companionship that is deeply felt between man and poochie.

Dad called GSD’s “Germanshedders” and it’s really the only flaw I can find 20151109-_DSC6697in the breed. So while we still grieve our Sojourner, I still needed a walking buddy, that maybe didn’t shed as much… And as a dear friend has pointed out, had smaller poopies. She was found in Texas as a hurricane survivor. There is a wonderful organization there called God’s Dogs (http://www.godsdogsrescue.org/) which saves promising adoptable dogs on death row and then coordinates with shelters to give them a second chance. This little darling got hauled all the way up to Washington State and found her way to Wenatchee Humane Society (http://www.wenatcheehumane.org/).


They identified her as part corgi and part basset. Corgi had our attention because we have found that GSD people like the smarts of corgi. Less shedding…. smart, smaller doo-doo. Could be a good fit. We met, she liked chasing balls. Sold! A companion to making it unfriendly for those loathsome bird seed stealing, native squirrel tormenting, northern grey squirrels- this could be great.


But look at those legs, and bosom… we’re thinking, dooggoneit, terrier. Someone snuck terrier in. She does not have a lovely trot like a German Shepherd- she bounds like something crazy out of Looney Tunes. And she does it fast. And she loves it. And tries to convince  us it’s a game we’d love.

She’s as smart as she is sassy. She’s picked up very fast on the German commands. It’s what her big brother GSD knows, and what our next black and red GSD will know. Her impish side is good at smelling an opportunity to escape and run. Because it’s less frequent we think she’s learning that we don’t play that.




We’ve had a couple of early winter storms and she’s invigorated by the strong winds. That part of the hurricane must not have been as traumatic. She seems okay with PNW flora- blackberries don’t trouble her princess toes now. It’s only been a couple of months that she’s had this PNW rain, so she’s still tolerating that.

Tulla (too-lah) is at home. We see a settled attitude in her now. This dog hugs. Who knew dogs hugged? You’re sitting at the computer and she’ll wrap her head, front paw around your foot and hug- just leans right in for a long hug. She’s eager to know what her family is doing. Evidently she needed to understand what the Christmas tree angel was for.20151212-_DSC6803

Well, it’s time for that walk, and it will be sans the “offense” of Christmas ruffles. My son won’t let her out the door with it. It’s good for a dog to have someone who has their back, even when it’s a long well traveled one.20151212-_DSC6785


This Means Family….

Ohmygoodness, doesn’t it seem like every word in the dictionary is open to morphing definitions at a neck breaking speed? But as I tuck in some of my favorite people into these conversations, I can’t help but mention things from them that also impact me.

So for this one, I want to showcase Tami and JR’s family. You know what comes in their definition of “family”? Compass. They have a compass. They draw on their faith, their easy going laughter and their love for each other.


They are creative. Creative in ways that aren’t cookie cutters of each other, but compliment each other. They see an opportunity and go gently into it… or with gusto.


Work, volunteering, kids away at college, busy at home with younger kid stuff and yet I was impressed at how good they all are at listening to each other, even when life is silly. So we had to do this._DSC7960

December is a horrible time for available light and yet they bring sunshine on our cloudy days. They have that compass. They know what their true north is, and it means doing what needs to be done to help each other thrive.


And they care- Mom and Dad live it, the children are learning and launching out into life with it in their studies. So as serious as life is, this is what Mom said when I asked about any objections with putting the spotlight on them now…. and this is a direct quote…. “Not at all — well unless it’s a blog about moms who drink too much wine and dads who smoke too many cigars who raise adorable but naughty kids!!!”

So much to love about them and the compass in their hearts.

Take The Road Less Traveled….

Because, sometimes the road highly trafficked will get mud on it. Lots of mud on it. On our recent road trip to Southern California, had we tarried, this freeway would have led us thru a huge flooding of mud. Roads are, for the most part, fixed things. We go where they take us.


Mostly they just keep us on our daily missions. Sometimes they show us wonderful things. Sometimes, they just show us people under pressure, compressed, hurriedly getting no where.


Now for folks on the road with the forceful frightening water and mud; sharing the road with others was, for the most part, probably a good thing. There had to have been the helplessness of being jostled about with others- no way to maneuver around each other- no way to escape, but for the help of others. What a strange shift of perspective. One moment jockeying for the fastest lane, the next needing each other for survival, for encouragement, for singleness of mission.

The less traveled road is journeying it your way governed by different rules of the road. Steep edges with no shoulders, ruts… no gas stations…. or water. But it’s still a road. It would be prudent for it not to be solitary. You never know when the rain that never falls, falls enthusiastically- when the flooding flashes- when the car fails. We need each other. Choose your company well for this journey. Choose your roads well.



Who Loves Fall?

Not me. The days are getting so short. Reality of routine is staring me in the eyes. And here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s going to continue for the next 7 or 8 months until the warmer longer days persevere and summer returns. The plus side to this is that when there is a window in the weather to scurry outside to walk the poochie, sit at the beach with a latte, …or sweep the the freshly littered with needles and leaves walk- we do!


I like to think of myself as an optimist, but you folks who love fall? You’re really the optimists. You see the hot cup of cocoa that comforts the soul stuck inside. You see the opportunity when it isn’t  always obvious. You’re the one who stops and sees the colours.


You are probably good at seeing outside the box… Or just know when to take advantage of what’s in the box. It’s a good challenge. Use the shelter of the box when it’s needed, but don’t allow what’s outside to rain on your parade. Get out and seize the day.


So there’s less sun in the sky, and we need to bundle up, but that’s extra padding from the camera strap… and a chance for the lens to look at things in a different light. You folks who love fall? I’m glad you’re around! The camera will head outside, after the rain takes a breather… and I finish my hot cuppa joe…. just need to reign in the carb craving and urge to hibernate.

The Eyes… They Do Have It

There is nothing pithy or profound to say about eyes that has not been said many times over- but aren’t they wonderful? They run second only to hearing in importance for us bi-peds. Eyes plead, they speak anticipation or weariness… (I’ve always thought that the reason God didn’t ever give me a brown-eyed baby is that I would be totally at their mercy.) The level of trust from one of these wee ones is like none other. It’s the reason that I hold to the principle of don’t tell children too much, too early. Don’t betray a child. Don’t abuse the trust of a child. Let them be a child. Let them filter and understand this big old world with all the gentle honesty and protection you can muster.


When this jagged planet starts to jade the filters they see the world with, a child never again hold your gaze with that same intensity of trust. It’s more measured- It’s wanting safe refuge, so make sure it is real for them. There is plenty in this old world to sober ’em up, so guard what their eyes see and what their ears hear.

I once heard a wise man say, a child will believe more of what you say about them than what you say to them. So tell them you love them to the moon. and let them hear you tell others that they are worth going to the moon for. And for pities sake let them be a little silly as they connect the goofy dots that the world throws at them. Because, sometimes when they can’t find the words their eyes will tell you what your heart needs to stop and listen to.



Roadtripping- the camera goes with, and as everyone knows, grab the touristy shots, but put your people in most of them- it’s way more interesting. Lesson learned when you look back and see a whole lot of “postcard” shots that all start to look the same, right?


And here’s a hint for free: shoot into the light- make sure your exposure on your subject is good, but for those of us over 30 we’ll appreciate the effect a whole lot more. Use your pop up flash in a pinch to fill in if you absolutely must, just tone it down if you can. And if you really want to score points with ladies over 35, have the camera just a little higher than their eye level. Trust me on this one, you will score some serious brownie points.


We’ll see you when the car turns back around and returns to reality

You, uhmmm, Have Something On Your Face

Morning faces. Aren’t they great? On a sleepy child, they are so endearing. But on a sleep deprived mom? Well, they can be a just little frightening.

Now sometimes we may have that face coming to us. Anyone ever had the experience of coming home from a date late only to be staring down the barrel of a ticked off, slept-in face of your mother, who has coffee breath layered on to morning breath powered by a lecture of consequences that will have you re-thinking breaking curfew for the rest of your days? But I rabbit trail…. your face…

You know that a good friend will always tell you if you have something on your face, or on your teeth, or the seat of your pants. Changing the things that need it, and can be- those are usually helpful. Not having your contacts in and telling your daughter she has something her nose … which turns out to be a pimple? Really not helpful.

And then there are the more stubborn, but not permanent things, “on our face”.


What about the things on our face that come from within…. do we wear our worries? our joys? our bitterness? Plastic and botox tries to erase the faces we earn. Our words and actions will reveal if what is on our face is real.

A real face- one that’s genuine but not cruel.  Put that one on.

A face that welcomes surprises and the unexpected. There’s a place for that- like letting friends show you their love, instead of insisting it follow a script. Even on your birthday. Put that one on.


You were beautiful the day you were born. You just were. Your sweet face welcomed connection without even asking for it. You too, now show love with faces that that are dear to you. You offer that touch, a hankie, a mirror.

Kindness that understands, put that face on.


Bravery with a little grit not grudge- put that one on.

Availability regardless of a little inconvenience, without enabling- put it on.

Calm, patience, undivided attention, resoluteness, confidence not bravado- all sweet things to go on a face. Those are the things that make the memory in the heart, or the picture canvas hanging on the wall, really really sweet.

Some call it bed-side manner, or customer service, or public service ….. or legacy. So when it’s a friend and you are concerned about what is “on their face”, go get coffee, bring a hankie…. but first, don’t forget to look in the mirror yourself.

Keep it real, your face knows and tells it all.