Friday, September 30, 2011


I'm off to Ashland tomorrow for a week with Faith and her dear dog, Gracie. Seeing Faith on her home turf is a unique treat, especially when it involves time spent with her dear friends and her daughter, Viyda. If I'm lucky, I'll get to experience both on this visit.

Best known as home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland is also a thriving hub for alternative medicine, sensible footwear, and buff women. Autumn, Faith and the scenic Willamette Valley paired with a local wine and some organic dark Dagoba chocolate: I'm there!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

May I suggest ...

With all due respect, education reform begins with better treatment of teachers and encouragement to tend to self care. As a starting point, may I suggest a single fresh flower and a hand-written note from a student each day, professing their unflagging support and reverence for the hard work carried out by their dedicated teacher? It could read something like this dilly, received today:

"Deer Misuss Cinnamon, You are my frien. Fhank you four helping me lern to rede and I luv you. and I lik your smile!"

I'm just suggesting ...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A time to reflect

For years, every morning, I drank
from Blackwater Pond.
It was flavored with oak leaves and also, no doubt,
the feet of ducks.

And always it assuaged me
from the dry bowl of the very far past.

What I want to say is
that the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what that will be,
darling citizen.

So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,

and put your lips to the world.
And live
your life.

~ Mornings at Blackwater, by Mary Oliver

Monday, September 26, 2011

Who let the girls out?

Lest you think we were stuck in the food service line for three days, think again.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Of praise and thanksgiving

"For the wonder of each hour,
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale and tree and flow'r,
sun and moon and stars of light.
For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild."

~ Folliott S. Pierpoint

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A fine young man

Reilly is a few weeks into his course work at Cornish College of the Arts, and though he's busy and spread a tad thin, all signs point toward an excellent fit. Last night I attended Word of Mouth: The Cornish Story Slam, a spoken word performance, where students are free to tell a story on a small stage. It's simple: write your name on a piece of paper with a story title, and when your name is drawn, come up and share your tale in a timed format.

Reilly was called up early in the evening; his was the second story out of ten. It was a serious story and it commanded silence. I marveled at his boldness and courage and I sensed others did as well.

There is so much about this young man to admire, most notably his open heart.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The wild call of water

Like most children of my generation, I learned to swim with confidence well before my teen years. It was the best gift my parents ever gave me. My love affair with cold-water swimming, a personal favorite, began at Raymond B Winter Sate Park. My family called it Half Way Dam and let me tell you, it was a child's paradise: cold, scary changing rooms with pit toilets; a well-stocked canteen with killer fries and a gang-busters candy selection; soft-as-silk sand, perfect for digging and building with, and a cold, spring-fed lake, fragrant with minerals from the depths of the earth.

My older sister and I spent much of our time there underwater, hands firmly planted in the loamy bottom, legs flailing, feet reaching above the surface in a never-ending quest to achieve the perfect hand-stand. For me, it was the beginning of a long courtship with cold-water swimming, a treat I relish to this day. From summer swimming lessons at Lithia Springs near the sprawling Susquehanna, to deep quarries with thrilling cliffs; from the snow-banked shallows of a Minnesota river to the frigid waters of Howe and Puget Sound, I've savored it all.

Swimming laps yesterday, my breath in rhythmic synchronicity with limbs in perpetual motion, all was silent, save for the soothing sound of stroking bodies gliding through the water. Beautiful, beautiful water.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Squirrel season!

Effective immediately, homeowners in our 'hood should be prepared for the influx of stressed out squirrels zipping through their yards, seeking sanctuary from our canine sentries. Lest you think I'm joshing, this is serious stuff, folks. Eli and Maudie have plenty of time on their paws and can hold a posture of readiness the duration of a full-length feature film. A split-second of risk-taking behavior on the part of the squirrel often proves to be a suicide mission. It ain't pretty, but this isn't Kansas.

Fall is here!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A mother's love

I've long felt my mother's steady support and deep pride even as a young girl, though there were times when I felt it was unwarranted. Like when I got caught shoplifting as a risk-taking teen, and my mother was called to retrieve me from a dark department-store office. How she look into my eyes and conveyed without words that she was disappointed in my choices, but loved me none-the-less.

Across the miles that separate us, we've shared decades of correspondence by mail, accumulating stacks of cards and letters filled with details of our respective lives. Though she is now less able to access verbal language due to Alzheimer's, her love, gratitude and devotion to us remains, conveyed through easy eye contact, gentle touch, and hugs so thoroughly satisfying I feel fed in my very soul.

Here's a keepsake I'll long cherish, penned in March 2007, and sent with a check in support of my involvement in the Breast Cancer 3-Day:

Hoping here you have good shoes for this walk. You will have sore feet and a strained body but--what so! Joining this group of people will be stimulating for you, you'll meet new friends and followers. You are an extraordinary person, Jen-grasping this idea, preparing for it, doing it. I congratulate you! I'd like to know which three days in September so I can route you home safely.

Again, I love you beyond measure,

Monday, September 19, 2011

Finding joy through service

What a weekend! The 2011 Seattle Susan G Komen 3-Day for the Cure, always a colorful, inspirational celebration, was a resounding success on all counts. Under a moody sky with an ever-changing palette, 2000 walkers, 375 crew, hundreds of volunteers, and countless community supporters rallied for the cause, raising over 5.3 million dollars.

Though our numbers overall were lower this year, the energy and enthusiasm was no less palpable. Joy, perseverance and service reigned supreme, despite the intermittent rain. From enthusiastic bicycle-riding police officers in pink, both on and off-duty, to families with young children in tow, this 3-Day touched me profoundly. People supporting one another, motivated by a wide array of reasons, reaching well-beyond their personal comfort levels, united for a common cause; that is the life-blood of the 3-Day.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The steady comfort of poetry

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches ---
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead ---
if it's all you can do
to keep on trudging ---

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted ---

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray. ~ Morning Poem, by Mary Oliver

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In honor of Faith

The long road of treatment began in the spring of 2004, mere weeks after she found a lump in her breast while vacationing in Florida. Biopsy, MRI, port placement, chemo, surgery, radiation, more surgery, more chemo, then a long beautiful strand of months into years of cancer-free living. New joys, new endeavors and, for a time, new love.

In the later summer of 2009, climbing cancer markers resulted in further evaluation at Faith's request, despite her doctor's admonition that all was probably fine. A PET scan and MRI revealed a liver lesion and some questionable spots near her ribs. Early fall brought the news that her breast cancer had metastasized to her brain. A consultation with Dr Rockhill at Harborview's Gamma Knife Center, a brain MRI, lab work, lumbar punctures, then the first of 3 Gamma Knife Surgeries that spanned from November 2009 to February 2011. New port placement, more chemo, and a brain bleed in early March of this year, following her 3rd and final GKS.

And the travels, oh, the travels! Maui twice, Thailand, Kauai, London, Ireland, Denmark, BC, and several camping trips in the beautiful state of Oregon, Faith's home.

And now, daily whole brain radiation for three weeks. Family time, resting time, time with precious friends and her beloved pets, Bindi and Gracie. Time.

And the seasons turn.

I love you, Faith.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


What's in a greeting? Hello can fall from our lips and upon our ears with a wide range of intentions and results. For the past few years, I've been experimenting with smiling as a wordless greeting and am often delighted in the result it produces. I especially enjoy lingering a bit longer than is customary and noting how long it takes for the recipient to receive it, if, in fact, they choose to.

Here, at Ailanga Lutheran Junior Seminary in rural Tanzania, James is greeting Prayness with a turn of the head and a soft hello. She's approached cautiously, but received his greeting sufficiently to rest her arms on the desktop near his hand. The downward tilt of her head suggests a degree of shyness, while her gaze falls near the photographer. Her body language, which has not been lost on James, speaks of a willingness to continue the interaction.

Now that's a mighty fine jambo!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Embracing what drives us

What a weekend it was as I savored family time with my beloved nieces, Isabel and Nadya, as they cheered on their bold parents and a field of 7000 die-hard cyclists in the Sea to Sky GranFondo. There is nothing more inspiring than witnessing the energy and perseverance of a group of people with a common mission, pushing through personal walls and pre-conceived, self-imposed limitations. And to experience the event with these bright, engaging, curious, and compassionate children who worship their parents-- it was a gift delivered straight to my heart.

Thank you Sarah and Mike, for inviting me to be part of this life-changing event. Your victories are mine!

Friday, September 9, 2011


We're one short week away from Day 1 of the 2011 Seattle 3-Day! Something tells me this one is going to be the most fun ever!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Therapeutic touch, and then some

My left foot has a storied history of kicking. Perhaps first utilized in those elusive months in utero, this dear appendage kicked its way through an active childhood of kickball and swimming lessons before moving on to higher targets. After 15 years of steady work in the kicking art of Taekwondo, this much revered body part has spoken: "Support me and I shall continue to serve. If you neglect to do so, an all-points bulletin will be sounded."

My foot guys are working on finding the best type of foot support for my joy-of-walking lifestyle, and giving me a variety of exercises to strengthen and develop the muscles that support that passion. I've got latex bands in green, tan, and grey, and the muscle memory of my precious niece, Cate, touching my feet with the tenderest of care. Let the healing begin!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

GranFondo. Adrenaline on wheels; lots of wheels, actually, close together, going the distance. Vancouver to Whistler. Yow! Sister-in-law, Sarah, and her buff husband, Mike, are riding in this mass cycling event this weekend. My job? To keep a close eye on their dear daughters, Isabel and Nadya, as we cheer them on and stay out of the fray. Go Sarah! Go Mike! Be safe and ride like the wind!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Back to school!

It's hard to believe that we celebrated Reilly's graduation from high school 4 years ago! Since then, he's completed a year-long leadership internship at Gateway Centre Church, spent a year at the Art Institute of Seattle studying digital film-making and video production, earned an Associates of Arts in Biblical Studies from Logos Bible College, traveled to Mexico (twice), Israel, Hawaii, CA, DC, MD, VA, FL, and Baton Rouge, moved in to his own apartment, volunteered steadfastly in several capacities at his church, and worked at a local restaurant for 2 1/2 years. Inspired, engaged (not the marital kind!), ignited.

Today was his first day of classes at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, where he enters as a second-year BFA student majoring in sculpture and print-making. Later this week, he opens his first solo exhibit at an arts collective on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Opening night is Thursday and it's part of the Capitol Hill Blitz Artswalk. Mika, Josh and I plan to attend and are thrilled to see Reilly's film-works installation.

Hats off to you, Reilly. We love you, son!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Caress and release

How does one decide what to keep? What is the difference between holding on and coveting? What does it mean if something is mine? If I've cherished it and relinquished it, does that have any bearing on its intrinsic value?

Over the years, I've adopted a practice of observing, touching, and sometimes holding onto things, mostly natural objects, then re-purposing them. Sometimes the items are returned to the earth in a new place or used to create a piece of art. Sometimes they are given to others as a token of my love.

My new practice is simpler; caress and release. Easy as pie? We shall see about that.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Post-exercise repose

Dog days- a period marked by stagnation, inactivity, or indolence.

Summer has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest and some of us are prioritizing the rest phase. A good book, a cold beverage, a loyal dog, and a flash nap: my kind of day!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Variations on play

Do you ever ponder your own wavering readiness to try new things? Do you marvel at what some folks will do do in the name of fun?

During my swim today, I talked with a gentleman from Port Moody, BC, who dropped in to the newly remodeled Lynnwood Rec. Center for a mile-long swim after a day of sea-kayaking in Poulsbo. He delighted in recreating the scene for me, his boat gliding through the pristine waters under sunny skies with Brahms piped into his ears. Retired, joyful, grateful, unhurried.

My friend Kris, pictured here, prefers bolder acts in the territory around her home in Cape Town. Nowhere near retirement, this movie-industry costume designer threw herself off the highest commercial bungee jumping spot in the world. Now that's some bold s@%*!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Odiferous, cool, and oh so soothing

This, my friends, is Maudie's favorite off-leash spot on earth: a boggy swamp in the woods just off the Killarney Lake trail. Regrettably, I don't have photographic evidence for your viewing pleasure, but take my word; the girl dog who emerges from said swamp looks nothing like the one who entered, save for the white teeth of her ecstatic smile.