Two Ordinary Days that Became Extraordinary



I wrote this piece for The News Tribune weeks before the latest shooting in Oregon at a community college like the one where I work. That horrific tragedy happened in a class like many I have taught. I am not at all sure how to process this most recent ‘extraordinary day,’ and am still working on it.
I might never figure it out but find that I can’t stop trying.
In any case, here are the words I have to offer about my own experiences this summer in Puyallup.

We drove home one day in the high heat of August, thinking it was a day like any other.

My teenager had the wheel while my preschooler sat in the back. As soon as we looked down the half-mile long road with a pasture on one side and gravel pit on the other, we knew something was up. Cars sat still in the lanes with their doors left open, and people stood hugging one another.

My son slowed, and we pulled up to see a tree lying broken across the pavement. I got out and at first didn’t understand what had happened to the woman driving a block from my home.

A rotting snag had stood in its ugly glory for years by the side of the road. I noticed it often when I took my walks and drove my commutes. It collapsed that afternoon and fell on the car a young woman was driving, perhaps because the weather stayed dry for so long. The wood shattered the windshield and a branch drove itself through the car’s dashboard.

Moments later the fire department got there, and we all stood with our mouths open, marveling at the twist of fate and timing that left the car in ruins but the young woman and her passenger unhurt.

The next day I left work, thinking again that it was a day like any other. I glanced down at my phone to see a message from my son’s daycare. There had been a shooting, it said. Puyallup Playcare was on lockdown and someone had come in to say a teacher’s husband had been killed.

After calling ahead, I drove to the preschool with my heart so high in my throat it was difficult to breathe. I found teachers and staff clearly shaken, still trying to grasp the events. The gunshots happened only blocks away. I later learned police officers courageously stopped the shooter without killing him before he could injure anyone else. One of the officers involved is a family friend.

I saw other astounding things over those two days. I saw my neighbors come out to help the young woman and stand with her until she could get her car sorted. I saw the teachers and staff at Puyallup Playcare hold it together and keep the children calm. I saw communities gather to help each other heal and local churches like my own offer services to those affected.

Through it all I saw people hugging one another much like those standing on the road near my home.

The day the tree smashed a car, I drove around the scene and walked into my 80-degree home without air conditioning. I stood in my kitchen thinking of that driver and what to do for her. Remembering my salted dark chocolate bar, I plucked it out of my cupboard and walked the block to the scene where the young woman still waited with my neighbors through the clean up.

Even as I gave it to her, I knew it was a small thing, but a candy bar seemed the best I could do. Life is fragile, and I learned once more that a day like any other might not be. I am grateful we have each other and a bit of chocolate while it lasts.

Read more here:

On Choosing the Best by Letting Go of Some Good


Tomorrow is my first day back to teaching after my late summer/fall break.

I’m nervous.

After thinking about juggling teaching, writing, family, and critters, I’ve decided to cut back on blogging for a stretch.

I have the usual reasons which you might have, too, when too many things call out to you to be done:

I want to have enough left of me for the best stuff so I’m scaling back on some of the great good stuff like blogging, getting creative with cooking dinners, and maybe even the joy of having folded laundry.

For the next few months, I’ll be posting only my words as a reader columnist for The News Tribune every six weeks unless time and space otherwise allows.

In the meantime, here are a few gratuitous kitten photos I hope will bring you a smile.

My ‘cat lady starter kit’ (so named by my most excellent sister-in-law) is definitely something ‘best.’

May you find the courage to let go of some good to have time for what’s best. 

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A Story Comes to My Kitchen


Water and Oars

Last spring, I read The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown for Pierce County Reads. The story wrapped me up, and I couldn’t help but tell my hubby.

I told Phil of the rowers from the University of Washington. I told him about the rower Joe Rantz and the odds he beat after taking care of himself from the age of 15 in rural Sequim, Washington — a place where I once lived.

I told him, also, of the amazing craftsman named George Yeoman Pocock who constructed the shell the team used to win the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Pocock used huge cedar planks to create boats that commanded high prices across the country for the sport that was so popular at that time. 

One day, my husband came home to tell me of what happened to the wood Pocock had but did not use for the shells. His family, apparently, sold it to a carver in B.C.

More recently, one of the Phil’s woodworking customers had bought the cedar from the carver.

“Oh! Do you think I could get a few scraps?” I asked. He often brings me small treats from his customers. A couple in Elma even sent me blueberries from their garden this summer.

My husband told me I must be kidding. With the popularity of Brown’s book, the wood is worth hundreds of dollars per board foot.

Listening to his good sense, I let that little idea die and moved on, tucking that rowing story into the back of my mind. I satisfied myself with my new The Boys in the Boat library card.


Two things every writer needs: a pen and a gorgeous library card.

Then my birthday happened this last week.

Phil pulled out two bookends and told me his customers had made them for me out of Pocock’s cedar stash.

My husband rocks.

And stories live. One is sitting on my kitchen table now, in fact.

May you find your own stories coming to life.

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Foster Kitty Adventures: One End and Three Beginnings


Yes, I said three beginnings.

The Glitter who first stole my heart refused to love our dog or even to acknowledge his right to coexist in our home. She hissed, spit and charged at him even when he was cowering three floors away from her kittens and quaking in his doggie boots.

Yesterday, I scrunched down to pet her goodbye in her cage at the shelter. She purred and pushed her face into my hand while my eyes hurt from holding in tears. She seemed to enjoy the moment of peace away from her rowdy babies.

It may take a few weeks to get her a home, the staff told me, but they are confident she will find a place to finally call her own.

We had originally thought to keep Ash and Sissy and let Jack get adopted by another family along with (or separate from) his mom. It was agonizing to choose, but Jack had never seemed much attached to us so I hoped it would be easiest to let him find new people.



Then the shelter lady said a snide ‘of course’ when I told her that we would bring back the black cat.

I knew black cats lingered in shelters, and her words sat with me until I had to call her back to ask for more information.

She said they have over ten black kittens. People too often adopt those little ones last and our Jack might sit at the shelter for two months before getting a home.

His slight grey highlights really come out here.

Jack’s slight grey highlights really come out here.

None of the humans in our house could handle that.

This is the color he normally looks.

This is the color our black cat normally looks.

This is how I came to have three kittens racing at my feet when I originally intended to keep the mama cat and Ash.

As soon as we got home, Jack snuggled into my lap for the first time and purred the best purr I’ve heard in a good long while.


I knitted the fuzzy blanket years ago for our last cat. She says it still works.

I knitted the fuzzy blanket years ago for our last cat. Sissy says it still works.

Life is indeed what happens to me when I am making other plans. 

May you have the courage to face your own life as it comes at you-

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Note: This officially ends the foster series since we’ve adopted the three amigos. You may, however, still see cat tales here now and again. They are still running around my writing office every morning.

My Water Birthday: Overflowing with Our Abundance


(A short break from the Kitty Channel)


I listen to the Rob Cast every week without fail and this past week gave me some way to pay back the deep joy I’ve gotten from his words.

In his podcasts, Rob speaks of how to move from a false shallow happy light, to a place of crushing darkness, and then back out the other side to a deep soul shining light.

He speaks of the spirit that is here all around us in magic and miracles in every precious moment.

He speaks Truth to me.


Recently, Rob interviewed Scott Harrison, the founder of Charity Water, an organization with a mission to get water to the people in the world who so desperately need it.

In the interview, Harrison spoke of women and girls who walked for miles to get the life giving liquid for their families. One girl committed suicide because she accidentally spilled her supply on the trip back after walking all day. The shame of facing her thirsty family without water was too much.


When the communities that Charity Water helps get a well, they flourish. Many of the problems with disease, lack of opportunity and employment dissolve. Women and girls in particular prosper when they can do more than trudge from their homes to a water source and back again all day every day.

In the end of the interview, Harrison describes a woman who feels beautiful for the first time because she has enough water to wash her face.


Here’s more on the Charity Water project if you like photos and audio by Rob to go with your stories.

One hundred percent of any money we give to Charity Water goes directly to digging a well because they have separate funding source for their overhead. (Rob Bell and his wife Kristin and several other well-known people give to keep the lights on. )

Plus, we get to see the well our money helps to dig with GPS. How cool is that?

Rob Bell has started a water campaign for his 45th birthday on August 23rd. The idea is to ask for donations instead of birthday gifts.


I gave money to dig a well for women who can’t turn on a faucet and are now carrying water on their heads. It’s the best way I know to pay Rob back for what he’s given me this year.

I considered starting my own campaign since I am so close in age to Rob and our birthdays are nearby. (This sometimes makes me feel inadequate. I mean, sheesh, look what he’s done with his one big life. I need to up my game here.)

But I think I’ll keep my numbers quieter in the Internet space and ask you to give to Rob’s campaign for my coming up birthday. 

To give to Rob’s campaign please click hereIf you have ever enjoyed what I’ve written, I’d love for you to give.

He’s asking for 45 dollars or whatever you can manage because he’ll be 45. I’ll soon be 44 so you save a dollar if you give my birthday number. (I couldn’t swing that much myself, so I understand if you need to give less). 

Heck, you could even start your own water campaign for your birthday or some other holiday.

The people who desperately need water win and, I believe, so do we when we give.

I wish you the water that comes from wells and that other kind, too – the kind that quenches that thirst you have to love and be loved.

May you always have enough to drink-

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P.S. Please tell me if you decide to give. It would mean much to me.

Foster Kitty Adventures: Driving Me Around the Yowling Bend


Caution: This story involves poop. I have found that poop is always involved when working with little people and animals, so maybe you won’t be surprised. But I thought I should warn you.

My friend LeAnna, a horse lady from way back, said: “Fostering kittens is like having a tiny herd of horses in your house that also climb your curtains.”

She is so right, and I’m so glad the critters are healthy enough to wreak havoc again.


Glitter uses the bird perch to escape her babies now and then. We haven’t told the bird.

Glitter’s stomach has been bothering her. Last Saturday night it was bothering her so much that her poop looked like a cow patty and smelled like something that could be a biological weapon.Then the black kitten started to have diarrhea.


The best picture of the black cat yet. Can you see the eyes in the bookshelf cubby? (Photo credit goes to Kieran.)

I did the usual foster cat mom thing. I freaked and tried to pretend that I was not imagining all sorts of deadly diseases I once saw in kennels full of cats.

I ended up going the the Blue Pearl Veterinary Clinic in Tacoma (If you ever need a place to go late at night when your own animal is scaring the sleep out of you, this is the one. It’s clean, open 24 hours a day, has friendly staff, and the prices were not in the slightest bit ridiculous.)

We have them sorted now and the poop situation is back to normal. No horrible nightmare viruses wiped out the whole family.


Mom and her mini-me again. Kieran is calling her Bacon. I’m not sure about naming pets after food.

Two weeks ago, the mom gave me heart failure when she moved a baby without asking for a permit. Here’s what I wrote on Facebook about that adventure:

Mama cat has been agitated and bawling at us for the last day or so. I kept thinking she wanted out of the kitten room to stretch so I let her roam and put the dog outside.
Then Kieran says: “Uh, Mom. There are only two kittens in the basket now.”
Ack! We could not find her or the kitten for a few VERY long minutes. (You probably know how this ends and I guessed at the time but was still quasi panicked.)
Finally, she reappeared and lead us to where she had hid the baby deep under the couch. Kieran had to use a flashlight to find and retrieve him.
I thought I might croak. 
And I took the hint. We consulted with shelter experts and got a kennel I covered with a blanket and moved up into my office to make her feel more secure.
Now they are quiet and she is resting sprawled out on my office floor. Not bawling or pacing. Totally content.
My keyboard may now have a cat fur lining.


Lap is not big enough for the three any longer.

From all this I learned (for the millionth trillionth time) that loving comes with such a high worry price tag. The zen masters would tell me to use it as a practice in letting go and for the most part I do. My skill falls a bit short late at night when the vet says words like cat forms of parvo and distemper. Then I get to dig a little deeper and practice with a fierce intensity through a sleepless night.

I am sleeping once more and they are really beginning to gallop around.

May you know great love and find the strength to live through it at the same time. 

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P.S. Here is a video of a cat raising ducklings I saw a while back. It struck me more today after watching the herd that has taken over my office. As an added bonus, the farmers have an Irish accent they use to describe the fostering mama cat. Life can be full of surprising goodness.

Foster Kitty Adventures: Patience Lessons from the Animal House


The first time Glitter saw our yellow lab she hissed and charged, thowing all of her 6 pounds (mostly fur) at his quivering 90 pound dog body.

My dog is not thrilled about the newcomers and I can’t say I blame him. The two of them are now beginning to tolerate each other but we like to play it safe and keep them apart.


The first time Glitter walked into the room where Ella the cockatoo stays, the bird hollered like: “What is that!?! Oh. My. Bird in Heaven!!! What is THAT!!!”

She can be very loud. Sometimes I think firecrackers have nothing on her volume.

The cat flattened herself like a sniper and slunk as quickly away as she possibly could, thinking: “What was THAT!?! What kind of place is this!?!” If she could have covered her ears, she would have.

Now Ella does not holler at Glitter. She just gives her the one-eyed beady stare down and the feline never stays long in The Room of Doom from Above.


This beady-eyed stare is for the scary camera phone.

Transitions are tough whether you are the one moving in or the one trying to adjust to others in your space.

I understand their troubles. Lately, I’ve noticed that transitions make up the hardest part of my own days. Something about moving from the house to the car and then from the car back into my house pushes every cranky button I have, especially if I have to inspire someone else to move along with me.

Changing from writing mode, to get ready for work mode, to drop the kid off mode to start work mode often feels like I need to race to get it all done or Something Terrible will happen. And that is at the front end of my day. More transitions happen until the moment I fall into sleep for the night.

It helps when I stop in my anxious rush to remember that the moment I am in is a transition, not a race. Living in the moment can mean breathing through moving from one space to another.

I am a much better writer, mom, wife, teacher, and human when I   am not hissing or hollering like my cat and bird.

I know the critters need time to adjust to each other in changes they never asked for, and I’m starting to give myself the gift of that time between, too.

May you know calm in your own moments between different worlds and with new people and animals who come your way.

May you, in the best possible transitions, feel like a kid in the sprinkler, drinking in the joy of now.

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