Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Blooming True

"When it is dark enough, you can see the stars." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I awoke early this morning, while it was still dark, to see a star so bright that I wondered if it was an airplane approaching. Observing it for a few moments, I saw that it wasn't moving toward the airport - it appeared to stationary, twinkling and shining right at me. I thought: Katie.

As I watched it shine, other stars appeared nearby - bright, but not as large and brilliant as the first. They brought to mind our beloved friend Diane, who passed away ten years ago this month. For many days after her passing, I noted a similar star in the Eastern sky, which reminded me of her beautiful soul.

"Catastrophe is the essence of the spiritual path, a series of breakdowns allowing us to discover the threads that weave all of life into a whole cloth." - Roshi Joan Halifax

This has been a difficult summer. We have had glorious, sunny weather as well as joys and blessings in the mix, but it has been very, very hard at the same time. I'm thankful that things are beginning to lighten and improve; it has been dark, things have broken down, but I am beginning to see the stars and the threads mentioned in the two quotes above.

"What we need to learn comes when we need it, no matter how old or young, no matter how many times we have to start over...We fall down as many times as we need to, to learn how to fall and get up...No one really likes this, of course, but we deal with our dislike in the same way, again and again, until we learn what we need to know about the humility of acceptance." - Mark Nepo

I'm about to embark on a great adventure. It's one I have dreamed about for several years, awaiting the right time. Because of this courageous, talented and adventurous heart, a blogger who wrote about taking a life-changing course, a dream was sparked in me. Today, I am going on a journey to take a four-day course in painting called "Bloom True" with Flora Bowley.

I majored in Fine Art (with an emphasis upon watercolor painting). I had the privilege of traveling to England to study, and took courses at colleges in the U.S. designed to refine my skills. I love all things creative, artistic and crafty, but I have been "blocked" as a painter for over 30 years. 

I do not paint. I stand before a canvas, and my hands are "mute."

The critique process during my years of college could be called "interesting" and "educational," but for me, it was a savage experience of public humiliation, and it shattered my confidence, as well as any desire to try again. There was some praise thrown in, but I only heard - and took in - the criticism.*

We were taught a structured approach, but I could never seem to rein in my passion while I painted. I always tended to overdo something, and couldn't master the controlled, cerebral way that painting was taught in that school. The urge to let go, and let it all out on the heavy-duty watercolor paper was powerful - I was 20 years old, and overflowing with emotions - but this didn't fit the mold, or the medium. The result was weekly, public criticism for the way I expressed myself artistically. I believe this is a very unwise way to treat artists (and so does Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way), but that was the process of teaching where I studied. 
Photo credit: Anya Hankin, Bloom True
Tomorrow, I will stand before a blank canvas and begin again, in an environment of support and kindness. I will learn to trust my artistic intuition in a new way, and I am profoundly grateful to my family for supporting me on this journey. 

*I'm deeply thankful for my liberal arts education as a whole, and do not consider it wasted in any way. Perhaps I would have been happier in interior or graphic design, but these were not offered where I studied, and they were considered lesser art forms (art for commerce), so (being a young and impressionable) I didn't pursue them.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Book Reviews

I may be the last person to have discovered, but discover it I did this summer, thanks to Maribeth, who gave me a copy of Glennon Doyle Melton's book, Carry On, Warrior as a birthday gift. I read it over the summer, rapidly, because I could hardly put it down.
If you haven't read it, I suggest you run down to your local library and check out a copy, borrow from a friend, or - if the budget allows - treat yourself to your own. I am grateful to have a copy, because I dog-eared so many pages that I would have been in trouble with the library had I borrowed their book!

One of my favorite things about this group of essays is its reality. Ms. Melton (ok, Glennon!) is a "truth-teller." I love that quality in a person, and especially love it in a writer. Glennon tells her own truth, and she accepts the consequences of airing it publicly, which are not always pretty in this age of lesser-restraint.

Truth-telling is a hard balance, in blogging and in memoir writing. I have faced it numerous times here, and most of the time, have shied away from sharing details of personal difficulties. That's part of the reason there are long silences here. It's not because I want readers to think I am perfect, or have a perfect life; it's because I want this blog to uplift and strengthen others. If my struggles do that, then they are worth sharing. I believe that my struggles through grief did that. But the other struggles, through parenting, marriage, anxiety, work issues, friendships, those strengthen and uplift others? I am not so sure. Glennon's writing did that for me.

What do you think?

Another book which has been a blessing this summer is "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. Perhaps the title doesn't sound interesting, but the book is, indeed, changing my life, through my perception of things. A former storage expert, Marie Kondo learned (from years of professional practice) that her clients' problems were not due to a lack of storage; they were due to an excess of possessions. As I prepare to put her ideas into practice, I am looking at the objects in our home in quite a different light.

I've held onto many things since Katie passed away, and David left home. Many of these items no longer serve us: toys, paperwork, clothing, gifts."Does it spark joy?" Ms. Kondo says that this is the key question to ask oneself about each item. As a result, I receive insight into feelings about the object, its origin, gifts in general, what I "need," and whether to keep, or let go.

A humorous aside: I intended to check this book out of the library, in order to reduce expense and avoid adding to clutter, but ironically, I found that this volume is best purchased rather than borrowed, because it is a working aid and worth revisiting!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Ugly, Wonderful Feet

We've just returned from a few days away. As you may know, this is a hard time of year for me. Eight years ago, we sat with Katie as she traveled from this life into the next, right in the room above where I sit typing this now. I find that it's best for me to be out of the house on the anniversary of that day.

This year was one of the hardest, for a variety of reasons (which I'm not going to detail just now). Suffice it to say that I am grateful that August 16th has passed; grateful that we were able to go to a place where my heart knows it is safe, where body, mind and spirit can rest.
The wild west coast of Vancouver Island sings to my soul. My soul knows its song, as if I was born there, or arose from some of the same atoms of creation. It feels like home.
 David flew in to be with us. It was lovely to share a few days off with him.
We walked and walked the shores of the island. Most days, we walked more than eight miles, and one day, more than nine; nine miles of walking barefoot in the sand, in the salty air and sunshine, with a light breeze caressing me. Nothing separated me from the heartbeat of the earth. It was good therapy.
When we returned from that 9-mile walk, I saw that the bottoms of my feet were indigo. A deep, dark blue stained them, yet there had been no trace of blue in the sand. Last year, we saw a huge number of indigo-colored sea creatures which had blown onto the shore, and I wondered if this stain on my feet was a residue of their appearance. No answer to that; just blue feet for about 24 hours. After several washings, the blue disappeared.
My feet have never been beautiful; I have funny-looking, tiny pinky toes and odd, clumsily-shaped large ones. The nails must be painted or you'd never know they were "girls' feet." I have had mixed feelings about them for years, thinking that they are "ugly."
Today, though, I know that they are beautiful; they can carry me nine-plus miles, bare, feeling the sand underneath, the salt, the stones and shells and all that makes up the surface of Mother Earth. Thank you, "ugly," wonderful feet, for solidly supporting me through this life. May you be blessed and healthy, able to carry me through the rest of my days.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Hokusai Says

Hokusai Says by Roger Keyes

Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing

He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat
yourself as long as it is interesting.

He says keep doing what you love.

He says keep praying.

He says every one of us is a child,
every one of us is ancient
every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find
a way to live with fear.

He says everything is alive --
shells, buildings, people, fish,
mountains, trees, wood is alive.
Water is alive.

Everything has its own life.

Everything lives inside us.

He says live with the world inside you.

He says it doesn't matter if you draw,
or write books. It doesn't matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn't matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your veranda
or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.

It matters that you feel.

It matters that you notice.

It matters that life lives through you.

Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
is life living through you.

He says don't be afraid.
Don't be afraid.

Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.

Let life live through you.
{Katsushika Hokusai was a Japanese artist who lived and worked during the 19th century; thanks to my brother for sharing this poem.}

Friday, June 19, 2015

Stroll for Well-Being Featured in

The Bloedel Reserve's Stroll for Well-Being program is featured in the current issue of nextavenue, an online magazine, described as
"public media’s first and only national service for America’s booming 50+ population. Our mission is to meet the needs and unleash the potential of older Americans through the power of media. We do this by providing news, information and advice to help our audience navigate their lives and inviting them to join in an ongoing conversation about the issues and transitions we all face.
"Twin Cities Public Television (tpt) in St. Paul, Minn. produces Next Avenue for the PBS system and 84 PBS stations are local affiliate partners. Our content extends far beyond our website, through our national network of media partners and government and nonprofit allies."
I was interviewed for the article; you can read it here.
The spring season of the Stroll for Well-Being will wrap up on Monday, and the summer session begins on Tuesday. I'm very excited to help facilitate the meetings, to hear what participants have to say after 12 weeks of strolling the gorgeous grounds of the Reserve (during an unusually sunny spring for Western Washington), to meet the new groups and assist with their orientation.
If you are interested in joining the program, go to You'll be glad you did!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Lovely Month of May

I am finally going through photos from May, and taking time to catch my breath in writing. This month has been so full of good activity that I haven't been able to stop to write about it here. Daily reflection: yes; blogging: not so much.

Awaking early today, the quiet beckons me to sit and write.

Photo credit: Rebecca L./Field's End
Four weeks of Word Soup have been completed. What a wonderful group of talented, open-hearted writers! Each one was receptive to varied writing prompts, and engaged in sharing and commenting supportively on others' work. We were impressed, entertained, intrigued and stimulated by their contributions. I am now in the process of gathering insights from participants. It is a pleasure to lead this workshop, and I am thankful to Kitsap Regional Library's Poulsbo Branch for hosting it.

We had a beautiful Mother's Day. My family gathered to celebrate our mom with brunch in one of our favorite places on Lake Washington.
David was at work, so he joined us later for dinner. This was his generous gift to me (along with a card, which I treasure):
He has been working at his aunt and uncle's business, Savage Plants & Landscape. Isn't that vase fantastic?

We had the pleasure of a long-awaited visit from treasured, far-away, on-line friends in May.
I met Karen through her blog, "From Paradise to Plan B." She and her husband, Joe, had dinner with us on a layover between flights many months ago, but this time, they came to our home for brunch, a beach walk and blessed hours of conversation.
"Love is everything. Everything else is just everything else" - a gift from Karen & Joe
After these two visits, Karen and Joe feel like true friends of many years' standing, though we have mainly known one another from a great distance, and through writing. This is one of the many gifts of blogging: meaningful connections with people you would never know otherwise. We look forward to seeing them again!

The Bainbridge Public Library's new board members took a tour of other Kitsap Regional Libraries (of which BPL is a member). This was an educational and fruitful day; I learned a great deal about the services and contributions to our community which each branch makes, and how things work at the central "hub" of the system. Public libraries are truly democratic institutions. We serve all of the public, from children to senior citizens, from early reading programs to help with job searches and income tax preparation. Students find a safe, quiet place to study, read, access media and take online exams; researchers have access to expert help and free resources; genealogists have a resource room dedicated to their own pursuits; meeting space is available to all; a bookmobile travels to serve those who cannot travel to their local branch. The library is an astonishingly diverse gift for everyone, and it is a privilege to serve as a member of its board.

And then there was the anniversary weekend. Gregg and I have been married for 24 years, and we made the trip to Victoria, B.C. to mark the occasion. As usual, it was blissful. How do I love Vancouver Island? Let me count the ways...

On this annual trip, we have highlights which are favorites, and lots of time to improvise in between. Some of the highlights:
Water views, everywhere
Anniversary dinner at Cafe Brio
Oohhhhh: Sticky Date Toffee Pudding and Venturi-Schulze Brandenburg #3
Live music after dinner
Swiftsure sailboats on the way out of the harbour to start the race
Flowers in town
We walked 8-10 miles each day, window-shopped, explored, visited two farmer's markets, ate and drank and slept well.
A happy husband
I am grateful to this man for his faithful friendship and love over the past 24 years, "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer." We have experienced all of those things together. Looking forward to the next 24 years, God willing!

David is packing for his move to Montana (he leaves today), so we took him out for dinner last night at his favorite local pub.
We have so enjoyed having him with us, but are thrilled for him to embark upon his new adventure. Bon voyage, David!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

"Where I'm From..." by George Ella Lyon

I designed WORD SOUP for groups of about 12 people; the first time I presented it for Field's End, we had six or seven participants. This year, we had 18 people at our first session - the beautiful West Reading Room at the Poulsbo library was filled with writers!

The energy around the table was positive and friendly; participants were ready to get right to work (which is really play). It is a joy to see people writing freely, and to have so many of them willing to share what they had written, reading it aloud to the group. We write to prompts, so we are sharing our first-draft work. It takes courage to share your work in a new group, especially writing which you haven't had time to polish, and I see plenty of courage - and talent - in this group.

What makes WORD SOUP especially fun is the fact that I do not allow ANY criticism of this first-draft work; we share only what we remember about the writing which has been read aloud, and what we enjoyed in it. These practices make for a safe, encouraging environment, which allows imagination to flow freely.

Last evening,  I read aloud a poem which was given to me by the out-going leader of Field's End, Barbara Clarke (author of "Getting to Home"). Here it is:

"Where I’m From…" by George Ella Lyon
I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,
From Imogene and Alafair.
I’m from the know-it-alls
And the pass-it-ons,
From Perk up! and Pipe down!
I’m from He restoreth my soul
with a cottonball lamb
and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee,
from the finger my grandfather lost
to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments—
snapped before I budded—
leaf-fall from the family tree.

Isn't that a beautiful way to express one's roots?

I offered the poem as a writing prompt for the group. Since I write to the same prompts while the students write, below is my own rough version of "Where I'm From..." I've been tinkering with it, because I am not accustomed to writing poetry; it would be a good idea to consult my poet friends to hear their thoughts.
Where I'm From... by Karen Boren Gerstenberger
I'm from saltwater and sand
Barnacles and Indian beads
I'm from starry nights and wave-song
Salty air and sea-breeze,
Bonfires and make-believe.

I'm from grass stains and cedar cones
Pine pitch and blackberries
Old Man Ghost and Sardines
Beach seines and rope swings.

I'm from the Gold Rush and Great Depression,
Pioneer Square and Capital Hill,
Enatai and Medina,
California and Washington
Kent Valley farm and Olympic Hotel.

I'm from Bavaria and Alsace-Lorraine,
Bronze plaques and fortunes scattered,
Ivy League and West Coast 
Ancient faith and new covenant.

But really, I'm from
Saltwater, lapping the shores of sacred Indian ground.
I'm grateful to my colleagues at Field's End, the program staff at Kitsap Regional Library, WORD SOUP groups, and my family for making this work possible. It is a joy!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

WORD SOUP, Strolls, the SFDWG, and BIG News

I have so much to tell you that I awoke early this morning, excited to write about it.

I took a weekend trip to Victoria, B.C. with my beloved "Sh*tty First Draft Writing Group." We had a blast, staying in a Victorian duplex belonging to a friend of Reba's. We talked and listened, laughed and cried, ate, drank, enjoyed live music and walked for many miles. We didn't do as much writing as I had anticipated, but what we did was perfect. It is therapeutic to go away with friends and just BE.
Robin and Reba at the Blue Fox Cafe
Teri, Reba and Stefanie at the Irish Times Pub
Robin and me at the Irish Times
Dessert at The Snug, the pub at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel
The five of us at the Snug
I'm leading my WORD SOUP workshop this month for Field's End, every Tuesday night at the Kitsap Regional Library branch in Poulsbo. We have had two sessions, so we are at the halfway point, and it is magical to see the talent, generosity and enthusiasm of the participants. We are nearly bursting at the seams, and it is gratifying to see so many people excited about the craft of writing, all ages encouraging each other and surprising themselves in what they produce. I enjoy leading the group, and writing with them. More about that later...

The spring Stroll for Well-Being at the Bloedel Reserve is also at the halfway mark. On Monday, I facilitated two sessions (morning and afternoon), and was blessed by the group members' sharing of what the strolls have given them. Their experiences certainly prove that the program increases one's well-being.

I love the Reserve, the house and the program so much that at times, it is a little bit difficult to believe that I get to work in such a beautiful environment, and am paid to do it.

The summer session of the Strolls will begin on June 23rd, with the creator and founder of the program, Ruth McCaffrey, here from Florida to kick it off (and me as her co-facilitator). There is still space available in the summer session, and it's free! You'll receive a beautiful journal containing all of the information you need so that you may enjoy the beneficial effects of this program. It is comprised of 12 themed strolls, taken at your own pace, on your own time, during 12 weeks of summer. Contact to reserve your place!

The BIG news here is that David is about to begin a new job! He will be moving to Montana (one of his dreams) to work at the Yellowstone Club. Though we love having him with us, we are thrilled for this next phase of his life's adventure, and can hardly wait to visit, once he is settled.

For these gifts (and so much more), I give thanks to God!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"Hannah's Hopeful Hearts" Photo Album

In case you weren't able to join us at Hannah's Hopeful Hearts 2015, here are some photos by Ronda Broatch, shared by Reba Ferguson on Facebook.
Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Katie and Hannah's photos with glassybabies. Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
 Butterflies: the symbol of resurrection. Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
The food & flowers were simply outstanding. Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Dr. Jim Olson. Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Introducing Dr. Mike Jensen. Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Dr. Jensen. Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Dr. Olson and Dr. Jensen discussing their work, moderated by Fred. Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Hannah's Hopeful Hearts. Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Fred facilitating the paddle raise. Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
There is still time to give, and you can  ask your employer to match your gift (Boeing did this for us, and doubled our impact)! Thanks, Boeing!
All you need to do is direct your gift to:
Megen Strand
Crush Kids’ Cancer Guild 
Tax ID# 27319304 Seattle Children's Hospital Guild Association
M/S S-200, PO Box 5371, Seattle, WA 98145
Crush Kids’ Cancer Guild 
Tax ID# 273193047
 If you have any questions, please call Megen at 206-987-4823.

And here is the Hunt-Ferguson family who made it all possible, especially the valiant-hearted, light-bringing woman in the center, Reba - mother of Hannah, who inspired all of this!
I love you, Reba!