Just what the doctor ordered

Our cute son-in-law, Kevin, sent me this story today: A husband and wife went in for marriage counseling.  When the counselor asked what the problem was, the wife launched into a heated tirade and listed every problem they'd ever had in their entire 20 years of  marriage. She whined on and on: he neglected her, they had no intimacy, the marriage was empty and lonely, she felt unloved, he was unlovable-he was a twit and she'd had it up to here. Finally, after he had allowed the tirade to go on for a sufficient length of time, the therapist got up, walked over to the wife and asked her to stand.  He took her into his arms and kissed her passionately, while her shocked husband looked on, eyes bulging. When the therapist released her, the woman sank to her seat, dazed but finally silent.  The therapist then turned to her husband and said, "This is what your wife needs at least three times a week. Can you agree to this?"  

The man shifted uneasily in his chair as he considered the therapist's suggestion. He nervously cleared his throat, "Well, I could drop her off here on Mondays and Wednesdays, but on Fridays, I fish."

Long Night With a Neighhhh-bor

I've got some kind of bug: achey joints, sick stomach, headache--there is a lot of woe is me going on over here.  Last  night I told Greg that just in case I died during the night, I wanted him to remember how much I loved him.  (I'm really not usually a drama queen, I just haven't felt this much like donkey poop in a very long time.)  So, with all my poor-baby woe and misery, I had a hard time getting comfortable and didn't fall asleep until around 1:00. Of course, Greg's snoring woke me at 2:42.  I have no room to complain here: I snore too. The kids tell me that's how they always knew when it was safe to sneak out at night--they'd simply listen for Mom to get her snore on. But Greg, right next to me, doesn't even hear it. He's the lucky one. Thieves could ransack the house, kidnap me and set fire to the bed for good measure, and Greg would blissfully snooze right through it all. I kid you not.  Well ok, maybe a little--but just about the fire part.

Our neighbors recently adopted a donkey.  As I understand the story, they're keeping him for another neighbor because their neighbors complained about his braying. Well, this morning, true to his reputation, Donkey got his pipes going at 4:59. I'm not complaining. Remember? I'd been up since 2:42; I was glad for some company. Here's the riff: He launches with a long, mournful, kind of lumber town lunch-whistle imitation, and then he completes the aria with some good ole, traditional hee-hawing. I honestly like him: His bray is certainly unique, maybe a little pitchie, dawg, but not annoying.   It's very country. Makes me feel rugged.  Yesterday afternoon, I asked my neighbor whether our boy's a mule or a donkey (yes, there is a difference) and she said all she knows is that he's a jackass.  Obviously, his old neighbors agree.  


Have you seen my dog? Win $25!

Once upon a time, Cesar Dog Food ran a clever ad where they posted pictures of the supposed winners of an "I Look Like My Dog" contest. Supposed? Was the contest even real? I'm sorry, I have no clue. But this contest is real! And, there's a $25 prize on the table. Want to give it a try?  Scroll through the pictures of these dogs and their humans, and see if you can match each dog with his or her human. I'll give you the easiest one: Human #1 belongs to Dog F.  See how easy that is? Once you've matched all six pairs, post your guesses under COMMENTS below, and on Friday, I'll post the answers--along with the names of our first round winners. Then, over the weekend, my puppies and I will randomly select a lucky Grand Prize winner from all the first round winning entries. Grand Prize: A $25 gift certificate to PetsMart! (Not a pet owner? If you're our winner, we'll come up with a $25 gift card that works for you. How about Barnes and Noble? Or just plain green dollars?  You tell me.) All you have to do is start matching.  Best of luck to all! 
All photos found online, without any sort of attribution.  I assume they belong to the CESAR Pet Food Company.  Click here: CESAR for link to special offers.


Something to consider before you head off to the mall

My precious friend Heather of The Coterie turned me on to this wonderful sweater from Gap. Ah, the buttons. And the whispered gathers under the yoke and how they're juxtaposed against those contrasting sporty lines. The casual, tiny roll at the hem. The Audrey Hepburn shawl collar. The pouch pockets. I want to kiss the person who designed this sweater. I don't even need to own it--merely looking is nirvana. 
Think how much money I just saved. $49.95, plus tax, to be exact.  

The you already knew this skinny: Having and happiness do not necessarily go hand in hand.  (Just a loving reminder from an old grammy.) Have a good weekend!


This one's for you, Tommy.

                                The Temptations, My Girl

While we could be celebrating the legendary Temptations right now, we've got more important things to do.  Today, I'm posting this video merely for its soundtrack.  Here are your instructions:  
  1. Press play. 
  2. Say hi to McCauley, and wait for the music to begin.
  3. Now, scroll down and read the post just below.  
Dear readers, today we're gonna celebrate Tommy's Girl,

Bridget Claire Steen . . .


Trailing clouds of glory

Look who just dropped in from Heaven.
Have you ever seen a more exquisite little girl? Just check out that perfect little cupid's bow mouth and her porcelain cream skin. At only 3 days old, this angel baby is already cover girl worthy. 
Bridget Claire, we are so happy to see your precious little face!  Its going to be such a joy to watch you grow!  We're ALL, already smitten.  

Bridget Claire Steen
April 20, 2008   11:07 p.m.
6 lbs 11 oz.   19 inches
Exhausted, Joyous Momma: Kelly Steen
Head-over-heels in love Daddy: Thomas Steen

Congratulations guys! Nice work!

Zoei Isabella Toh

I'm with you, Zoei . . . in Erf as it is in Heaven. Amen.


Yep, this is breakfast.  Add protein powder, apple and pomegranate juices, ice. Blend it.  Drink it.  You can unwrinkle your nose now - actually, its delicious. Tastes like a fruit smoothie. (I still haven't figured out why you can't taste the broccoli, spinach, tomatoes or carrots, but you can't.) I love my VitaMix!


A room with a view

A good, solid eclipse can be a consciousness altering event, and yes, even without any drugs. In fact, if I were Queen of the World, I would declare that every person ever born should be given the opportunity to experience one Total Lunar Eclipse at least once in his or her lifetime. 

I watched my first lunar eclipse on a warm June night on the shores of Lake Powell, in the apricot sandstone desert of southern Utah. (Man, I wish that place was still a secret.) Greg and I were snuggled up with the kids; Natalie was 15 and Gavin, 11. We'd just finished burning marsmallows for s'mores and had moved away from the circle of firelight and into the desert night to better see the show. We sat and laughed waiting for it to start. The moon hung silver and low in a pristine sky, and the earth gradually began to cast her silhouette across its face. As the shadow advanced, the moon slowly began to lose her usual flat, communion-disk face, and suddenly, in the slip of a moment, she transformed into a perfect, ripe, glowing orb.  My breath stopped.  I was, in that moment, split-infinitive fully-body HIT with the clear, raw awareness that I was sitting on A PLANET! and, I was watching that planet's shadow pass across another PLANET! and all of us - me, my husband, my kids, the sleeping bags, the left-over s'mores, the sand, campfire, lake, Earth, moon - were all sailing together through outer SPACE! For a moment I felt like I needed to HANG ON! Oh, my gosh, this was such a . . . uh . . . such a . . . I regained my composure, and pulled the kids close, ready to whisper, I don't know, something profound, when suddenly Natalie jumped up and stretched. "Well, that was pretty cool, but I have to pee." 
Here's the skinny: Welcome to planet Earth. Its a beautiful place. One night while you're here, be sure to step outside and enjoy the view. Like Natalie says, its pretty cool.
"Lunar Eclipse" Photographer: David Holland  As found on: Space.com  Shot with Vixen Refractor, Mount: Orlon Atlas, Camera: Fuji S2 Pro, Software: PhotoShop



Did you know that during any given sixty second period, there are more than one thousand thunderstorms wailing and raging across this pretty little planet? And together, these storms are causing SIX THOUSAND lightning strikes--again, thats per minute, folksOuch! Poor Mama Earth. Here's the skinny:  Give her a little extra love today, will you?
Photo: Google Images   Submitted by AstroSurf

Top ten reasons I love my brother

Bart and Natalie on her wedding day.
Photo: Altus Photo Design  
  1. He has always looked out for me.
  2. He gives world class hugs.
  3. He is the world's best uncle, bar none.
  4. He would have made the world's best dad.
  5. He never complains that he never got to be a dad.
  6. He loves my kids like they're his own.
  7. He's always been there for me-no matter what the event or problem.
  8. He can make me laugh 'till milk comes out my nose.
  9. He's one of very few humans on this planet who gets my strange humor.
  10. He finally quit sticking his wet finger in my ear.
I sure do love you!!!
-Your little Sis

Do YOU have a favorite brother or sister?  I'd love to hear about him or her!  Just click on comments below.


Freedom to see miracles

Meet Freedom and her BFF Jeff Guidry. Freedom, who by all accounts shouldn't be alive today, lives at the Sarvey Wildlife Center,  an extraordinary animal rescue sanctuary in Arlington, Washington, where she and Jeff have worked together for the last 10 years.  Their story is a sweet one. One that I'd even venture to call a miracle.

A miracle? I know, I know. As we watch the news, read the paper, or even listen to the catty gossip around the water cooler, it's pretty tough to believe in miracles in our day. In fact, it's very easy to believe instead, that the world is going to hell in a hand basket and we're all destined to be either crispy or drowned before next Wednesday, but here's the skinny: There are places like Sarvey Wildlife Center, people like Jeff, and miracles like Freedom all around us. There are miracles in our children's faces and voices.  There are miracles in the stories you'll hear if you'll only take a moment to really listen to your grandmother or your Uncle Phil. Miracles in your garden right now as spring begins to coax new life from the earth.  If we'll just turn off the news, put down the paper, stop listening to all the whining out there, and allow ourselves to develop eyes to see, we'll discover that we live in a world filled with miracles. All we have to do is slow down a bit, open our our eyes to see and our hearts to celebrate. Give it a shot; you're gonna start finding miracles at every turn.  Here's a good one to get you started.
From Jeff Guidry's story:
Freedom and I have been together 10 years this summer.  She's my baby. When she came in she couldn't stand; both wings were broken, she was emaciated and covered in lice.  We made the decision to give her a chance at life . . . From then on, I was always around her.  We had her in a huge [topless] dog carrier, loaded up with shredded newspaper for her to lay in.  I used to sit and talk to her, urging her to live, to fight, and she would lay there looking at me with those big brown eyes. We had to tube feed her for weeks.
[After 4-6 weeks] she still couldn't stand . . . [and] the decision was made to euthanize her if she couldn't stand within a week. You know you don't want to cross that line between torture and rehab, and it looked like death was winning.  She was going to be put down that Friday, and I was supposed to come in on Thursday afternoon.  I didn't want to go to the center that Thursday, because I couldn't bear the thought of her being euthanized. But I went anyway, and when I walked in everyone was grinning. . . I went immediately back to her dowl cage, and there she was, standing on her own, a big, beautiful eagle. She was ready to live . . . 

We knew she would never fly, so the director ask me to glove train her.  I got her used to the glove, then to the jesses, and we started doing education programs for schools in western Washington. We wound up in the newspapers, radio, and even some TV. 

[Then], in the spring of 2000, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.  I had stage 3, which is not good (one major organ, plus everywhere). I wound up doing 8 months of chemo. Lost the hair, the whole bit. I missed a lot of work. When I felt good enough, I would go to Sarvey and take Freedom out for walks. Freedom would also come to me in my dreams and help me fight the cancer. This happened time and time again.

Fast forward to November 2000, the day after Thanksgiving. I went in for my last checkup. [I'd been] told that if the cancer was not all gone after eight rounds of chemo, my last option was a stem-cell transplant.  They did the tests, and I [went back on] Monday for the results. . . . The cancer was gone! 

The first thing I did was get up to Sarvey and take the big girl out for a walk. It was misty and cold. I went to her flight and jessed her up, and we went out front to the top of the hill.  I hadn't said a word to Freedom, but somehow she knew. She looked at me and wrapped both her wings around me to where I could feel them pressing in on my back. I was engulfed in eagle wings. She touched my nose with her beak and stared into my eyes, and we just stood there like that for I don't know how long. . .

You can email Jeff: jeff@sarveywildlife.org  Sounds like Freedom doesn't need email. (Now there's an aphorism for you.)


The World is Too Much With Us

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. . . .  
                    -William Wordsworth

My beautiful friend, Mamie Webb, who died at the splendid age of 99, gifted me with the love of this poem (I'll give you Mamie soon, in another post-you'll love her!).  Try this trick: Chant Wordsworth's first two lines whenever you enter a mall. His wisdom will help you leave relatively unscathed, and thankfully burdened with no more than what you first intended to buy.  I credit my aversion to shopping to Wordsworth's pen, and my love of nature to Mamie.  Here's the Skinny: This weekend, instead of going to the mall, go for a walk outside.  The mountains, the beach, the park, your garden.  Shhh. Listen. They're calling to your hungry soul. 


Our Golden Boy

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower
But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Robert Frost, Nothing Gold Can Stay


See you soon!

        Hukilau Beach, La'ie Hawaii   May 14, 2007
I am so blessed to have the quiet assurance that there is life beyond this earthly existence.  I know that we will all meet again, and when we do, we'll marvel at how short our wait truly was.  I know Gavin lives on-that he's still learning, laughing, giving, loving and touching lives in that magical way that was his alone. Keep up the good work, Bud. We'll do our best here, too, and on that glistening day when we can hold each other again, we'll sit down together and talk story for a good long time.  I love you buddy.  See you soon!

Old La'ie Cemetery

We've often been asked why we chose to bury Gavin in Hawaii rather than here on the mainland.  Luckily, in the shattered days when you're required to make this kind of decision, logic has little sway.  My heart knew though, without question.  And now, in retrospect, I'm so glad that his body rests there in that warm island sand, in view of the ocean where he loved to swim, surf and kayak with his sea turtles and whales. The gentle trades bring quiet comfort; the mountains in the distance hold his footprints; Natalie, Richie and the boys visit and remember Unkie whenever they feel the need. 

The heart always makes the perfect choice.

Brave Heart

I love you, Natalie.  Your faith, your love, your courage and your laughter have carried us through these lonely months.  Gavin couldn't have asked for a better sister.  In life or in death.  And Dad and I couldn't have hoped for a better daughter.                     

Oh Joy!

This is my grandson, Cardon.  He's the kid who invents popular games like Lets Get a Bucket & Flood the ENTIRE House with Bathtub Water! and Lose the Diaper, Pop Out the Window Screen, Let's Pee on the Car! He's also the kid who, along with his wonderful mom, daily melts your m&n's with morsels like: Mommy, "Cardon, what are you doing?" Cardon, "I'm stretching my neck like a lama." Mommy, "Hmm. Cool."  Or my favorite, Mommy, "Cardon, you're so cute." Cardon, "(Sigh) Yeah (pause) I am."  Here's the Skinny: If you're feeling a little blue, go out and find yourself some Cardon. Or maybe just stretch your neck like a llama.  Mmmm . . . yeah, that works too.

I woke up to a gift.

As many of you know, I lost my beautiful 21-year-old son last June. So, some days are harder than others. But this morning, my wonderful sister-friend Shelly Norton sent me this treasure. And now today will be a better day. Here's the Skinny: This old world would be a much sweeter place if every person could have a Shelly in their life. Just for today, go out and be someone's Shelly.


Ok. I did promise. Here it is.

Oh, how this little tool is going to make you SA-mile.  It's called Jott  and here's the Skinny:  Jott takes your voice and converts it into emails, text messages, lists, appointments, reminders and get this: blog posts . . . and more.  Say you're driving down the 805 in heavy traffic and you remember that you forgot to tell your book club that you need to change tonight's club time from 7:00 to 8:00.  You simply use your hands-free cell phone to call Jott and with one easy little voice message, you send the entire club an email, or text message, or both!  Stay with me here, it gets better. See if this one rings a bell.  You just remembered that you want Young Son to add File Mom's Taxes to his chore list (hey, we can dream here). You call in a simple Jott to "Young Son's Chore List" and voila, when you get home, Young Son's updated list is waiting on your computer for you to print out and stick to the fridge.  I Jott myself reminders all the time, and Jott emails them right to me.  I Jott appointments from my cell directly onto my Google Calendar.  Just last week I was time-warped in Costco and Jott sent me a text reminder that the plumber was coming at 3:00 and I'd better get my little hiney home. (OK, it doesn't do the little hiney home part, and my hiney's not  actually little.) But wait!  There's more!  Jott is free.  FREE!   Think of the possibilities--To infinity and beyond!  Just click here and let the obsession begin.  You can thank me later.

Tulips are better than one.

Just a little teaser to hold you over 'til I get back from tiptoeing through the tulips.  (Thar's a blow a commin' and if I don't get outside now, it'll be too cold later.)  But if you'll just hold your horses for a bit, there's a treat in store . . . something fun, free, high tech and easy . . . that you'll want to tell all your friends about (oh, they'll think you're so smart!).  For now, go do that thing you've been procrastinating, you know, yes, that onethen check back with me when you're done and I'll have your reward waiting.  I'll race you.  Ready? On your mark, get set, GO!


World's youngest blogger/photographer?

Meet Raleigh Norton.  He is a whopping 4 1/2 years old, and as you can see in this beautiful piece, already shooting like a pro.  He has his own blog: Raleigh Norton Photography where he's posted one of his recent shoots.  The site isn't updated often enough for me--I love this man's work--but he does have a pretty heavy schedule, what with pre-school and naps and all.  Cruise on over and take a look.  Then someday you'll be able to say, "I knew him when . . ."  Oh, and if you're an aspiring photographer and looking to hone your skills, check out Raleigh's mom's site: Natalie Norton Photography.  Mom writes a weekly column for Digital Photography School and shoots some of the most beautiful portraiture and wedding work you'll see, no matter how long you live. Spend some time perusing her site. It'll be obvious where Raleigh got his talent.

Watch out for this Pigeon!

If you have a child in your life, or one hiding inside you somewhere, you deserve to meet Pigeon and his creator, Mo Willems.  Mo and his menagerie (Knuffle Bunny, Edwina, Elephant and Piggie) have won enough honors and awards (yes, Caldecotts) to collapse many mantels, and after just a little time with them, you'll understand why.  My present favorite is Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! in which Pigeon whines, cajoles, begs, canoodles, and screams like a three-year-old, trying to get the reader to let him drive the bus.  Your three to seven-year-olds will giggle themselves silly as they scream "Nooo!" to Pigeon's increasingly zany bargaining.  "I'll tell you what: I'll just steer," or "I never get to do anything," and even the old standby "No fair! I bet your mom would let me."  Ultimately, we all see ourselves in this crazy, conniving pigeon, and keep laughing ourselves all the way to wisdom.  Here's the Skinny:  It never hurts to start early in giving our kids fun ways to learn to just say "Nooooo!"  


The Look of Love

Like the new look?  Credit and thank yous go to Matt and Heather Mildenstein of The Coterie.  These two artistic powerhouses just happened to drop by tonight to say hello and before they left, I had this gorgeous, new, custom designed header, plus a headful of knowledge about how to work with this new blogging world I've taken on.  Matt and Heather are the kind of family you dream of having: generous, loving, talented, fun, easy-going, creative, genuine, hip, did I say uncommonly generous and loving?  Can't really say any of it enough.  I don't know what I did to deserve them in my world, but I do know one thing:  Oiee Vay! We should all be so blessed!  Thanks again Heat-dawg and Matt.  I love you.

Well, look what I found.

I'm building a new house in my mind and I think these trays are the perfect starting point. I love the colors and the way they feel like you inherited them from Great Aunt Claire. I can see the orange one with a pitcher of limeade and a small green vase of California poppies. A curious green hummingbird will slip by to envy the moment. Which reminds me: Next week, I want to plant penstemon over in the corner of the courtyard for him and his wife. They're building a nest up in the wisteria. (Have you ever seen how tiny hummingbird eggs are?!) If anyone's going to be out and about this week, keep your eye peeled for a unique bird bath, will you? Nothing too ornate.  You can find these great trays at Sundance Catalog.  When I get to be a better blogger, I'll tell you to just click on the pic.  For now, you'll have to go to SundanceCatalog.com.  Aw come on, just type it in; it'll be worth the extra work.  You can take a nap afterwords.