Stormy Weather

Last night we had a pretty severe spring thunderstorm.  I do not recall having all these virulent types of storms when I was a kid.  Personally I blame man-made climate change.  Anyhow, we are blessed to live in a verdant, established area of town not rich enough for all the fields to be destroyed and also blessedly on a flood plain.  Therefore we have some stunning centuries-old trees.  I snapped this picture with a heavy heart as I was on my way home.  In the summer the cottonwood trees blow so strongly it looks like snow.  Like mighty giants, they lay felled across the ground, at least a dozen in number.  My little one has remarked upon how sad she finds the sight.  I cannot understand those who want trees buzzed down to get a better view of the lake or think a wild field should look “more manicured” as they mercilessly kill the wildflowers each season.  The American politician Jay Inslee said:

“What is a fish without a river?  What is a bird without a tree to nest in?  What is an Endangered Species Act without any enforcement mechanism to ensure their habitat is protected?  It is nothing.”

We are not listening to Mother Earth, but she is sending messages in warning.  I pray daily for the well-being of our environment, and I also pray for less stormy weather.



Today is a very hard day for me.  It is my mother’s birthday.  Her death is still new enough to me that I still struggle at times to accept it.  I also struggle against envying others having their mother when I do not have mine, which I know is not right.  I realize some people never get to know their own mother.  I try to remember all the time I was blessed to have with her and not lament the time my daughter will never have.  There is a constant underlying struggle against pain and sadness, and this is one of the days it hits me particularly hard.  I got to thinking about yesterday and power.  I know my mother would not want me to be sad; that it would hurt her terribly.  And so I am striving to use my newfound power today.  I cannot control that she is no longer physically with me, but I can control what I dwell upon.  So instead of crying over my loss, I am choosing today to celebrate her.  My mother was a firecracker; a true redhead who would let you know it if you’d crossed a line with her.  She truly had no tolerance for fools.  She was also quiet, gentle, and sweet.  She had the most radiant, kindest smile I have ever had the pleasure of receiving.  And I was lucky enough to have received it often during my life with her.  She loved me fiercely; just as I loved her.  We were best friends yet I respected and cherished her as my mother.  I still think I can call her sometimes and I feel lonelier than ever when I realize I cannot.  She may have been generally soft spoken, but she had a great since of humor and instilled in me a love of music — from Julio Iglesias to Willy Nelson to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” his Piano Sonata Number 14, which she played effortlessly on our baby grand almost daily.  I lifted great vernacular from her like “a hair” for a little bit, “the air” for air-conditioning, “fire” for heat, and many others.  Her favorite color was yellow, and one of her favorite flowers remained the daffodil.  I did not learn until her death it is a flower that actually turns toward the sun.  That is what my mother was, a beautiful ray of sunlight that beamed upon you with all the warmth of the sun.  When she went into assisted living, her caregiver immediately named her Sunshine and refused to call her anything else.  I thought it was so very fitting.  She also instilled in me a great love of the literary classics with regard to poetry.  I cannot even see to type through my tears.  I am going to quote the poem I read over and over at her bedside as she lay dying.  I read it so often I have it memorized still.  It is from the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth entitled, “The Daffodils:”

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”

Mama I am trying so hard.  I am trying to smile and be gentle like you.  I am trying not to think about being an orphan or how incredibly lonely I am.  God graced me with your namesake, and I will rejoice in that every day, but especially today.



Well our electricity went out.  It happened in the middle of the night and I woke up to the sight you see pictured before you.  (This was in our family room and those are battery operated candles.)  Fortunately it was neither freezing nor blazing hot; we have experienced power outages during both of those harsh conditions.  I worried first about our indoor fish and outdoor fish (which require motors to oxygenate the water.)  Of course the hubs FREAKED over the state of our fridge — which I bodily refused to let him open.  “WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?!” my husband hollered as my little one said she was afraid of the dark.  We now had a family state of emergency and it was my job to keep everyone from wigging out.  “It’s all going to be OK,” I said, trying to mitigate the fallout.  The American prosperity gospel televangelist Joel Osteen said:

“Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended.  But what you’re doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness.  You can choose to not let little things upset you.”

And so I tried to distract them both.  It turns out we had about a ten hour wait; it could have been so much worse.  The food was saved because the refrigerator stayed closed (miraculously.)  As the sun rose my little one’s fear of the dark, quiet house dissipated into the light.  Having no power gave me time to reflect on how helpless one can become in the blink of an eye.  Secretly dying for coffee, I realized with no small amount of shame there are those all over the world who must live without power daily.  I discovered the real power was within myself — in how I chose to handle the situation versus letting the situation handle me.  From now on I resolve to use more of my own power.


The Case Of The Mysterious Rose Petals

It has been noted several times here that I am a hopeless romantic.  I love it all:  candlelight, soft music, dancing, the sound of rain, the sweet scent of flowers, love letters, etc.  *SIGH*  I married the most handsome man I have ever met who is sincere but not what I would call a romantic.  So imagine my surprise when I found a perfect trail of rose petals going up our steps when I came home.  The “new age” music was playing on the TV, the lights were low, and the house smelled like gardenia.  I made my way up the steps and followed the fresh rose petals all the way into our bedroom where I found they were strewn perfectly across our bed.  A handsome guy greeted me there only he had bright blue eyes and not the deep dark brown my husband has.  If you look closer at the picture you will discover who my mystery man was.  It was Blue, our Siamese cat.  The little devil ruined all my flowers and pulled them one by one out of the vase.  Then, after deflowering them like some kind of a wild animal cleaning a carcass, he deposited all the stems in a corner of our formal dining room.  Upon closer inspection I noted he proceeded to hunker over them as he picked them up with his little teeth and then ferociously “killed” them over and over one by one.  I had left the TV on so the animals wouldn’t be lonely all day which explained the music and the gardenia scent was because I had changed all the wax in my candle warmers the night before.  The American writer and academic at Columbia University, Carolyn Gold Heilbrun, once said, “Romance is the glamour which turns the dust of everyday life into a golden haze.”  Ironically she wrote mystery novels under the pen name Amanda Cross.  For several fleeting moments, the dust of my everyday life had taken on a golden haze.  But I still basked in its warm glow before solving the case of the mysterious rose petals.


On The Board!

When I was little I never could figure out why my folks were so proud to see my work up on the board at school.  And then I saw this:  front and center was my little one’s spelling and handwriting work that had been thumbtacked up just outside of her classroom on the display board.  I was coming to get her and when she came out I shrieked, “YOUR WORK!” and pointed to it with wide eyes.  She furrowed her little brow and said, “Yeah” nonchalantly before turning to get her things from her cubby.  Still staring up at it by the time she came back, I said, “It’s on the board!” to which she replied “yes” as if I was not in my right mind.  “I’m so proud of you kiddo!”  “Thanks” she said as led us toward the doors.  “When did you do that?” I asked, trailing behind her.  “Today” she said over her shoulder.  “Well that’s great!” I said while I opened the car door for her.  “Thank you” she said again in that careful voice that indicated she thought I might be nuts.  “Do we have any snacks?” she asked as I buckled her in.  I know she has been proud of her work before because she has shown it to me.  The little thing is so darn tight-lipped sometimes it is absolutely maddening.  Maybe it’s that she was uncomfortable with her work being displayed.  Maybe it’s that she didn’t think it was a big deal.  Maybe she thought I was wacko for being so thrilled about it.  The 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, said, “Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.”  I finally decided that, whatever her thoughts, at least she was on the board!


Mothering Sunday

There were a precious few years when I was both able to have my mother still living and also be a mother myself.  Such a scant space of time, but what an incredible joy.  On the fourth Sunday in Lent, Anglican, Episcopal, Catholic, and some Protestant churches in Europe celebrate this as the special day designated to honor mothers.  Originally it was once observed as a day on which people returned to visit their “mother” church.  During the 16th century people went to the church where they were baptized or to the nearest cathedral for the service held on Laetare Sunday.  It is the one break and day of celebration during the sobering time of Lent.  Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given the day off to visit their mother church and often their mothers as well.  It was often the only time that whole families could get together, as servants were not given free days on other occasions.  Children who were “in service” as household servants would pick wildflowers along the way to give to their mothers.  Eventually, this practice made its way into the church.  So in our church on this day if you have a mother they ask that you come to the front and choose a colored nosegay to present to her and pin on her clothing.  Today my little one went down and chose this one for me.  I nearly cried, as yellow was my mother’s favorite color, and my little one ALWAYS chooses pink.  It was such a special way of remembering my own mother, given to me by my precious daughter.  I knew it would wilt so I wanted to take a picture while it was still fresh.  For those who may never have known their mother I love that the clergy always says to please come take one to honor your mother or to honor someone who is like a mother to you.  The American author of “The Language of Flowers,” Vanessa Diffenbaugh, said:

“There’s still something so pure and heartfelt and emotional and genuine about a bouquet of flowers that, even with all the advances of technology and the millions of ways we have to communicate with each other, flowers are still relevant in my opinion.”

I agree; nothing can replace the silky touch, heady scent, and rich color of real flowers, particularly when given on Mothering Sunday.




I do not like the stereotypical image of the woman who LIVES for shoes and handbags.  Having said that, I must confess I do have two nice bags — one for “every day” and one more for evening.  The only shoes I like are sandals because, in part, I have wide feet.  I have also reached the stage in my life where I absolutely refuse to keep any part of my body cooped up unless it is for something truly exceptional.  Texas is getting to be like Arizona or Florida in that it is simply too hot to wear jeans most of the time and sandals are acceptable in the evenings.  I have about half a dozen good shoes and I do enjoy the feeling of wearing ones that are not so shot they flatten your feet.  So, I went with my little one and introduced her to the shoe section at Nordstrom’s.  Naturally more girly than I, and not having grown up the way I did with no money to really buy shoes, my little one squealed with delight.  “Oh Mommy LOOK at these sparkly ones!  They look like the have diamonds on them!” she exclaimed.  Realizing for the first time I had a little partner in crime, I started asking her what else she liked.  I went in looking for a good pair of walking sandals for summer that would hold up and looked nice.  I was in luck because right now my favorite color blue is in season.  “You should definitely get those Mama” she said, sounding more like fifteen than five.  And then the unthinkable happened.  My husband decided to show up at the mall.  Looking at him as if he were some type of unicorn, my little one and I were thrilled to see him.  He said he just wanted to tell us goodbye before he went to work.  We hugged and kissed him and our little one said “Don’t go Daddy!” as she attached herself to him like a barnacle.  I snapped this picture with her literally clamped around him while he attempted to drag himself out of the shoe department.  The Japanese poet Ryunosuke Satoro said, “Let your dreams outgrow the shoes of your expectations.”  That is something I wish for myself, my precious little one, and for my husband.  I hope everyone, no matter what their age, will aspire to outgrow their shoes.


The Last Falafel

I am a terrible creature of habit.  In the spirit of trying to branch out, I decided to try a new restaurant.  I do not have time to cook every night but I at least try to get good food for our family to eat.  This is not always an easy feat, whether I’m cooking or not.  My husband is a huge carnivore, I’m almost vegan, and our little one is gluten intolerant.  Words cannot adequately describe my surprise and delight upon discovering this restaurant.  I believe they call it “Mediterranean” because unfortunately “Halal cuisine” I fear would not go over very well; to me Mediterranean is Greek.  The place turned out to have a huge buffet and, to my complete shock, apparently Halal food does not use gluten, or wheat as we know it in the states.  So EVERYTHING is gluten free!  My little one could eat ANYTHING there and they even had two different kinds of rice, something she normally cannot eat.  For my husband they had red meat, chicken, and fish.  And pour moi they had the best hummus I have EVER had (like savory silk,) and *drumroll please* the BEST FALAFELS EVER!!!  This picture just does not do them justice.  The only thing that has ever come close were the ones I had on Bowling Green in New York.  I didn’t even know the white sauce was tahini back then; I just knew it was great with the hot sauce.  My husband and little one eat them plain they’re so good.  They also have wonderful flat bread my little one calls pizza.  It’s excellent dipped in the hummus.  Plus they have green beans and onions in tomato sauce, a yellow lentil soup, okra and tomatoes, and other hot vegetable dishes.  I’m telling you the place is incredible.  As a person who cares deeply about animals, I feel better knowing my family is eating halal or kosher, since both Muslims and Jews observe strict laws about the swift slaughter of animals; unlike the unthinkable duress they are put through here in American factory farms.  This restaurant is an oasis for our little family.  The men could not be nicer and one of them even has a black belt in taekwando!  They are all recent immigrants and I cannot help but recognize they have made our lives richer.  I taught my little one to say “thank you” in Arabic and they clearly see the cross I always wear around my neck.  No one is trying to convert the other; we all are just trying to live good lives with our families.  The 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt said:

“We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.”

I for one look to that horizon with hope.  We enjoy visiting with our new friends from Syria and Jordan.  Unfortunately, I know there will be fighting … over who gets the last falafel.


Food For The Soul

I am in and out of many houses with my job.  Sometimes people will say their house is a mess and to please excuse it.  I always reply I’m there to see their critters and not their house.  Being in someone else’s home is an intimate thing.  It’s not about the biggest house with the most expensive objects; it’s about the character of where they live which I find interesting.  You can tell a lot about someone by their home.  I took this picture at a client’s house who happens to have a lot of land and a beautiful home.  When I asked about this old statue (who is supposed to be St. Francis) the lady whom I work for said when they were buying the house the owner requested that the statue remain, so she has honored that.  There is something about him that I love.  He is venerable and presides with a quiet dignity over the yard as birds chirp and flutter by.  The American naturalist John Muir said:

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

I find the most beauty in nature; perhaps that is why I love this picture so.  The best part is that it is accessible to everyone.  We can all take a walk, go to the park, or find a preserve to visit.  The peace and joy is not only free; its nourishment is priceless and food for the soul.


Wolf Eyes

I was in the kitchen and I glanced over to see this threesome sprawled out on the floor.  The wolfies love to watch our little one and listen to her; they especially love it when she incorporates their names into one of her stories.  After awhile she got tired and decided to lay on Dakota, joining them in their rest.  She is starting to understand how special wolves are, and that they are NOT dogs.  She has inherited a gentleness and a way about her that will allow her to be comfortable and confident around animals all of her life.  Cheyenne and Dakota are her siblings, and I still think back to the baby bib I had made for her that reads, “Raised by wolves.”  That is not a bad thing.  Research has shown over and over that wolves are social and make strong emotional attachments.  Contrary to (sadly still popular) belief, wolves have an inherent aversion to fighting and will do much to avoid any aggressive encounters.  They are extremely intelligent, sensitive, affectionate, fearless, loving, and loyal.  People who have enjoyed the company of wolves have described them to be confident, tolerant, generous natural leaders, wild and playful, supportive, strong, kind, patient and dignified.  These are many of the traits I believe I have, which is why I have been drawn to wolves most of my life.  My little one already naturally displays some of these and it is my hope she will acquire more from them as she grows.  The American Newbery Medal-winning Jean Craighead George once wrote:

“Oh, those golden-yellow eyes of the wolf!  You can feel yourself being pulled in.  I knew I had been accepted – and that I had spoken to another species.”

That is how I felt the first time I looked into the eyes of my first mixed wolf cub, Nashoba.  My little one is fortunate to wake up every day and be able to look into not one, but two loving sets of wolf eyes.