Blog Details and Harborview Reminds me of a Heroine


I’m a bit behind in publishing (republishing) my latest column for The News Tribune. Earlier, I wrote of Carol Decker on this blog in the Triple Amputation School of Beauty. This latest version is my favorite, maybe because it’s more polished or perhaps because it’s most recent.

I have one essay left for The Tribune and am closing in on revisions to my manuscript draft. I’m also feeling more at ease with my day job’s schedule.

All of this is to say I’ll be reworking my blog over the Christmas holidays and looking to publish in January more often than I have lately.


Harborview Reminds me of a Heroine

In October, I made a trip to Harborview Medical Center. It wasn’t an emergency. The pain of my embarrassing bunion is just getting bad enough that I have been considering surgery, and the Seattle surgeons came highly recommended.

I could feel sorry for myself, but whenever I start down that road, I remember Carol Decker and stop myself in the middle of my whine.

Not too long ago, I listened with medical program students as the mother from Enumclaw, WA spoke for over an hour. In spite of what studies say about our attention deficits, I never saw a person check her phone.

Decker first drew us in with her story of how she went from having a baby in 2007, to losing her eyesight, her leg, one arm and the ring finger on her remaining right hand. While pregnant she had begun running a fever from strep pneumonia, an infection that led to the amputations and other complications. Although her daughter Sofia was born healthy, Decker had life-threatening medical challenges.

After describing the brutal process of moving from the hospital back home and excruciating medical treatments that included harvesting skin from her back to repair other areas of her body, Decker began to tell us of her triumphs.

Using her aching desire to mother her two young daughters, she pushed herself forward from one goal to the next. She’s quick to point out that she did not do this alone. She had medical professionals and devoted family helping her achieve goals like cooking with her children and going out to dinner in heels.

As a rule, she accepts assistance whenever she needs it. During her talk, she asked twice for help with adaptive technology and her water bottle. Decker didn’t hesitate to ask, and the students leapt up to give her a hand. She said we all need to give and receive help in order to become our best selves.

Forgiving and letting go of the past has opened her up to the infinite possibilities of today. She had dark times when she begged her husband to put her in a nursing home, but gradually let go of what she no longer had. She then moved forward into a new ‘cheetah’ prosthetic leg and a year ago reached her goal of snowboarding.

In the moment when she fell into the snow beside her children and husband, Decker told us she could have easily died a happy woman. Those experiences, she said, are available to us all at any time if we fully live in the moment, an ancient wisdom I felt her bring to life in front of me.

More than anything when I listened to Decker, I experienced joy. She made jokes about her blindness, saying since she can see only occasional flashes of red, white or blue, she’s a ‘patriotic girl.’ It was hard not to join in her laughter even though our tears stung when she said her one lasting regret is not ever seeing her youngest daughter’s face. Aside from that moment, her smile lit up the room in a way that warmed me inside long after she finished speaking.

At the end of the presentation, a student turned to me and said, “My life is changed forever.”

Mine, too.

As I lose my own abilities, I will remember Decker as a model of how to experience life. If I get to live long enough, my own eyesight will give out. My body will fail me, and I’ve already got that bunion. But, because of Decker’s triumphant spirit, I know I can still have a beautiful life filled with great courage, the loving help of others, and, best of all, joy.



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.