weekly photo challenge: summer

Here in the Pacific Northwest summer is but a fleeting moment in an otherwise gray, soggy landscape. So we don’t really discuss the weather except when the sun shines brightly and the warm air settles upon us like a lightweight blanket, comforting but not suffocating.

For us, spring signals that summer cannot be far behind…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

…happy spring…and very, very soon…happy summer

………hugmamma.¬† ūüôā

people make the place, issaquah’s gilman village

A recent visit to Issaquah‘s Gilman Village reminded me why it’s a special place to spend a few hours.¬†It’s always great to see my hair stylist, Zorianna. She gives me a¬†chic cut that resembles¬†a “Brazilian Blowout.”¬†And I don’t pay¬†the huge bucks larger salons charge.¬†A mom like me, we commiserate¬†on women’s issues, parenting, the state of the economy, the dreary weather. Zorianna’s manner is easy, befitting the quiet ambiance of her surroundings.¬†Occupying space within the Pelage Spa, the salon sits off to one side.¬†

I can’t say enough nice things about someone who¬†helps me look my very best, with the added bonus that I feel¬†like I’m sitting¬†comfortably in¬†my own home the entire time.

Thanks, Zorianna………………..¬†for being my newest BFF………………………………………………………

A¬†newcomer to Gilman Village is a haven for writers, wannabees like yours truly and professionals like Pam Binder, President of Pacific Northwest¬†Writer’s Association. After leaving Zorianna’s¬†salon, I walked past PNWA’s¬†storefront, slowing down to peer in the windows. A membership drive was underway. Joining meant “what?,” I thought to myself. Just as I’d done once before, I almost continued on my way. But¬†the remnants of¬†my New York¬†“chutzpah”¬†pushed me through the front door. As I’ve¬†said to¬†my daughter time and again, “All you can do is¬†ask; all they can do is say ‘no.’ ”¬†

Armed with the knowledge that I could turn on my heel if I met with elitist resistance to my inquiries, I confidently greeted Pam. She rose from where she was seated behind her desk, walking forward, hand extended welcoming me, a warm smile brightening her face.¬†I felt like Renee Zellweger‘s character in the film, “Jerry Maguire,” when¬†she¬†told him (Tom Cruise)¬†“You had me at hello.”

Pam didn’t ask me to join PNWA; I¬†told her I’d join.¬†Probably surprised that she didn’t¬†have to hit me with a hard sales pitch, she fumbled for a membership form. Throughout our conversation, we laughed easily,¬†and spoke like old friends. I mentioned¬†that she reminded me of¬†Kristina, my exercise instructor and¬†good friend. The likeness in general appearance and mannerisms, sold me on putting some roots down with other writers. It also helped that Pam assured me I was a writer because I wrote. She didn’t turn up her nose when I confessed that I blogged. I even went so far as to offer to volunteer for future events.

So if I do write a book, it will be owing in part to¬†Pam Binder’s graciously making me feel that becoming an author is¬†not so far-fetched. Her credentials only enhance my belief in the possibility. Pam is a board member for the Writer’s Program at the University of Washington, and an instructor in the university’s Popular Fiction extension program.

Thanks, Pam……………….¬†for making me feel so welcome………………………………………………………

One of my favorite eateries in Gilman Village has always been The Boarding House Restaurant.¬†Another cafe that served as a popular dining destination was Sweet Addition. It’s no longer in business, but was the talk of the town for a number of years. I worked there as a server when my daughter was still¬†in middle school.¬†That¬†was¬†close to¬†12 years ago. God, I feel old.

The Boarding House Restaurant never dwindled in its popularity, despite¬†competition that came and went, some “stiff” like Sweet Addition.¬†Offering a home style menu of soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts, The Boarding House Restaurant¬†is consistent in serving up¬†great food, warmly reminiscent of mom’s home cooking. Walking through the beautiful, stained-glass, front door is like stepping back in time. Cozily furnished¬†with dark-wood dining tables and chairs, a couple of vintage church pews, and a large fireplace for ambiance, I feel as though¬†I’ve been invited to¬†share¬†a family meal with friends.¬†Lunching alone on the combination¬†Boarding House salad and soup du jour, voices of others dining nearby, I settle in comfortably, enjoying my solitude, a good book¬†my¬†only companion.

Made-from-scratch¬†desserts are¬†what I’d expect at the conclusion of¬†a¬†home-cooked meal. The Boarding House Restaurant doesn’t disappoint. Homemade whipped cream heaped high atop a generous serving of apple crisp¬†on a chilly, winter day, and strawberry shortcake that crumbles in my mouth as a summer breeze cools my cheek, is like heaven on earth for one who savors food as I do.

And the metaphorical icing on the cake, or the cherry¬†on top a hot fudge¬†sundae? Jene, the charming cashier and part-owner¬†who takes my order, flashing a beautiful smile that¬†warms my spirit, making me feel like I’ve come home.

Thanks, Jene……………….¬†¬†for feeding my soul, as well as my tummy…………………………………

Dwellings are enhanced by those who occupy their spaces. Gilman Village is very fortunate to have some real gems among its offerings. And its patrons are indeed lucky to partake of them.

for zorianna, pam and jene…huge, heart-healthy hugs…hugmamma.

autumn, on the east coast

I’m back visiting with my daughter in the east where Fall is happening, if¬†only somewhat.¬†Walking around the surrounding neighborhoods and nearby park,¬†it felt like summer¬†had made¬†a comeback. I wished I’d thought to pull a baseball cap down over my brow, for the sun¬†was beating down relentlessly. Whenever ¬†possible I’d¬†wander down¬†tree-lined streets,¬†reveling in the overhead shade. ¬†Every now and then,¬†a passing breeze cooled my cheeks. Only then could I gaze about,¬†observing the stately homes¬†that sat in the midst of lush, green lawns, as though they were holding court.

Here and there,¬†chrysanthemum filled¬†planters ¬†emblazoned front stoops with¬†autumn hues of reds, golds, oranges. Flower beds were weeded, some sporting dried hay, ready for winter.¬†I felt a momentary sense of¬†dread, as I thought of¬†the overgrown garden awaiting¬†me at home. It’s been in need of some serious TLC for several months.

Right or wrong,¬†I’ve always favored a garden where¬†plants grow in close proximity, like¬†good friends and neighbors.¬†Eventually, weeding¬†is down to a minimum, a great benefit.¬†Bending over to pull bits of unwanted green from the soil is back-breaking work. Regardless of the gizmos and gadgets I’ve invested¬†in through the years, weeding is still a pain, worsening¬†as I’ve aged.¬†Heavy weeding in early spring,¬†means¬†regular visits to¬†my chiropractor for¬†adjustments.¬† I’ve finally heeded her advice to take periodic breaks while working in the garden. No more all day benders.

The disadvantage of growing plants too closely is that my garden eventually resembles a mini jungle. Making my way down the¬†pebbled¬†path that winds its way¬†through the midst of the garden, I often¬†think I should carry a machete to lop¬†off overhanging branches from the Buddleia¬†(butterfly) bush and the pink flowering dogwood tree, and cut back tall stalks of Rudbeckia¬†daisies and overgrown Sedum. But¬†pruning¬†2 or 3 times¬†during the growing season, more than compensates for weed control throughout. So I’ll gladly keep my mini jungle.

I¬†often think my daughter has the best of both worlds. She lives in an apartment complex with lovely landscaping, cared for by a team of maintenance men. I’d love to supervise¬†my own caretakers. But I’m biding my time,¬†for¬†when my husband retires he¬†promises to tend the garden, leaving me to manage the house.¬†Great! No more weeding. And no more worrying¬†that I’ll¬†come face to face with a bear, as I round the corner of my garage. Until then, I’m still weeding, pruning¬†AND worrying.

autumn, hugs for…hugmamma.

my minutiae, an update

As in the past, here’s another post to update some of the minute details that make my life, mine. We all have them, some are commonplace, some are unique. If you’re ever inclined, feel free to share some of yours.

  • While I was visiting my daughter, a huge tree fell in our back yard, landing precariously close to our house, perhaps 20 feet away. The top branches lay across the arbor that¬†serves as an overhead roof to the back deck. A “chunk of change” later, a local tree service¬†removed¬†the precariously perched tree right down to its trunk, leaving our house¬†intact. An act of Mother Nature, from which we were spared catastrophic damage by the hand of God. Thank goodness I wasn’t on hand to witness the event. Might have been too much for my heart. Something to ponder.
  • Yesterday was the first day of Fall. The season usually portends of rain, chilly weather, gray skies. So I guess those of us in the Pacific Northwest had exactly one month of summer, August.¬†Retiring to¬†Hawaii or Florida sounds really enticing. Also something to ponder.
  • On the local news yesterday they reported that¬†a man returning home from¬†walking his 2¬†dogs, was attacked by a black bear at the foot of his driveway.¬†His wife could be heard¬†on a 911 call, pleading for help. Because black bears have been sighted in our neighborhood, I’m¬†very fearful of encountering one. In addition to the one bear bell attached to my dog’s leash, I may have to sew¬†a whole bunch to my jacket. Who cares if I sound like the “Good Humor” man selling ice cream from a truck. I may look like “princess pupule” (Hawaiian for “crazy princess), but¬†I’m sure the bears will¬†avoid me,¬†but so might the neighbors. Hmmm, something else to ponder.
  • The other night my husband announced that we’d been invited to his boss’s home to dine, one of the other guests being the new bishop of our diocese. It always surprises me when we’re asked to socialize with the CEO/President and his wife, because they “run” in such different circles from us. I love them dearly, having told them once that¬†they bring out my maternal instincts.¬†A decade younger,¬†I look upon them like my other children. I’ve met both their parents, whom I also find enchanting. What surprises me is that my candidness seems to endear me to them. I do tread carefully, however, because my husband hovers nearby making sure I don’t say something too¬†outrageous. But what do I chat about with a Catholic bishop? Hmmm…even more to ponder. One thing’s for sure, I’d better not have a lemon-drop martini.¬†You know what they say, “Loose lips sinks ships.” And if¬†I get too loose, oh my goodness…
  • A dance career¬†can be an obstacle course¬†because of¬†the¬†“detours” that unexpectedly present themselves. The last week I was with my daughter, she was unable to dance. Towards the end of the previous week,¬†her male partner had brought her down from an overhead lift too quickly.¬†Caught off guard, my daughter’s¬†pointe shoe hit¬†the ground hard, probably exacerbating an already tentative ankle. As a preventive measure from further injury,¬†her foot is in an orthopedic boot, awaiting a doctor’s diagnosis. She’s hoping it’s not serious enough to sideline her from performing in Swan Lake. As a professional she knows such mishaps are part of the job. All she can do is seek resolution so that she can move forward. We can all learn something from these young folk, I know I can, and am.
  • Dr. Oz’ show shared some good information today. It included a discussion of “obesogens.” From what I gathered, since I tuned in¬†late, environmental factors may contribute to our obesity, from plastics and canned foods that leach chemicals into our food, to farmed-fish, like salmon, whose pesticides and coloring agent¬†also promote obesity. One tip, among several suggested, is not to microwave foods in plastic containers because of the leaching effect. Better to cook or reheat in glass containers. Another topic was dehydration, which many of us fail to recognize until we head to the emergency room for resuscitation. Drinking plenty of water to maintain¬†our body’s 60% composition, is essential to keeping our cells,¬†and the¬†surrounding areas, hydrated. One tip was specifically helpful since I consume a lot of green tea daily.¬†Coffee and tea are diuretics which¬†cause us to¬†lose water.¬†Because of this,¬†we need to replenish the loss by drinking 8 ozs. of water for each cup of caffeinated beverage we consume. Years ago when I¬†followed the Weight Watcher’s Diet, I understood¬†that coffee and tea¬†would count towards¬†the¬†required amount of water consumption. Perhaps their information has been adjusted to reflect more current¬†data.
  • My husband and I are starting our Fall weather regime this evening, going to our community center to walk the track and use the¬†fitness equipment. Wish us luck, for the long haul.

small stuff, that’s life…hugmamma.

“freddie the leaf, the fall of”

The only author I¬†can wholeheartedly call my¬†favorite is Leo Buscaglia. Otherwise, I select books according to¬†their subject matter. But I’ve enjoyed reading every one of¬† Buscaglia’s books. A postscript to one of my favorites, reads:

“Leo Buscaglia approached life with joy and enthusiasm. He pursued a path of perpetual learning that took him to places of wonder, excitement, and enlightenment. His sense of urgency to live life now and explore all that is possible was contagious to all who knew him. His life was dedicated to the single concept of ‘Love’ and all the beautiful and positive elements that it encompasses. …He died of heart failure on June 29th, 1998, at his home in Lake Tahoe, Nevada at the age of 74. A note was found on his typewriter the next day. It read, ‘Every moment spent in unhappiness is a moment of happiness lost.’

In 2004 I was in Chautauqua, New York, visiting my daughter while she danced in a summer program. Browsing through the bookstore housed in a charming building, I happened upon “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf”¬†by Leo Buscaglia.¬†Tucking myself away in a corner, I read it. A lump formed in my throat for¬†the story¬†was written to assuage¬†a child’s loss of someone special, to death. The book, in its 20th edition, is a “beloved classic that has helped thousands of people come to grips with life and death.” I’d like to share it with you now,¬†in the hopes that it might someday do the same for you.

Spring had passed. So had summer. Freddie, the leaf, had grown large. His mid-section was wide and strong, and his five extensions were firm and pointed. He had first appeared in Spring as a small sprout on a rather large branch near the top of a tall tree.

Freddie was surrounded by hundreds of other leaves just like himself, or so it seemed. Soon he discovered that no two leaves were alike, even though they were on the same tree. Alfred was the leaf next to him. Ben was the leaf on his right side, and Clare was the lovely leaf overhead. They had all grown up together. They had learned to dance in the Spring breezes, bask lazily in the Summer sun and wash off in the cooling rains.

But it was Daniel who was Freddie’s best friend. He was the largest leaf on the limb and seemed to have been there before anyone else. It appeared to Freddie that Daniel was also the wisest among them. It was Daniel who told them that they were part of a tree. It was Daniel who explained that they were growing in a public park. It was Daniel who told them that the tree had strong roots which were hidden in the ground below. He explained about the birds who came to sit on their branch and sing morning songs. He explained about the sun, the moon, the stars and the seasons.

Freddie loved being a leaf. He loved his branch, his light leafy friends, his place high in the sky, the wind that jostled him about, the sun rays that warmed him, the moon that covered him with soft, white shadows.

Summer had been especially nice. The long hot days felt good and the warm nights were peaceful and dreamy. There were many people in the park that Summer. They often came and sat under Freddie’s tree. Daniel told him that giving shade was part of his purpose.

“What’s a purpose?” Freddie had asked. “A reason¬†for being,” Daniel had answered. “To make things more pleasant for others is a reason for being. To make shade for old people who come to escape the heat of their homes is a reason for being. To provide a cool place for children to come and play. To fan with our leaves the picnickers who come to eat on checkered tablecloths. These are all reasons for being.”

Freddie especially liked the old people. They sat so quietly on the cool grass and hardly ever moved. They talked in whispers of times past. The children were fun, too, even though they sometimes tore holes in the bark of the tree or carved their names into it. Still, it was fun to watch them move so fast and to laugh so much.

But Freddie’s Summer soon passed. It vanished on an October night. He had never felt it so cold. All the leaves shivered with the cold. They were coated with a thin layer of white which quickly melted and left them dew drenched and sparkling in the morning sun. Again, it was Daniel who explained that they had experienced their first frost, the sign that it was Fall and that Winter would come soon.

Almost at once, the whole tree, in fact, the whole park was transformed into a blaze of color. There was hardly a green leaf left. Alfred had turned a deep yellow. Ben had become a blazing red, Daniel a deep purple and Freddie was red and gold and blue. How beautiful they all looked. Freddie and his friends had made their tree a rainbow.

“Why did we turn different colors,” Freddie asked, “when we are on the same tree?” “Each of us is different. We have had different experiences. We have¬†faced the sun differently. We have cast shade differently. Why should we not have different colors?” Daniel said matter-of-factly. Daniel told Freddie that this wonderful season was called Fall.

One day a very strange thing happened. The same breezes that, in the past, had made them dance began to push and pull at their stems, almost as if they were angry. This caused some of the leaves to be torn from their branches and swept up in the wind, tossed about and dropped softly to the ground. All the leaves became frightened. “What’s happening?” they asked each other in whispers. “It’s what happens in Fall,” Daniel told them. “It’s the time for leaves to change their home. Some people call it to die.”¬†

“Will we all die?” Freddie asked. “Yes,” Daniel answered. “Everything dies. No matter how big or small, how weak or strong. We first do our job. We experience the sun and the moon, the wind and the rain. We learn to dance and to laugh. Then we die.” “I won’t die!” said Freddie with determination. “Will you, Daniel?” “Yes,” answered Daniel, “when it’s my time.” “When is that?” asked Freddie. “No one knows for sure,” Daniel responded.

Freddie noticed that the other leaves continued to fall. He thought, “It must be their time.” He saw that some of the leaves lashed back at the wind before they fell, others simply let go and dropped quietly. Soon the tree was almost bare. “I’m afraid to die,” Freddie told Daniel. “I don’t know what’s down there.” “We all fear what we don’t know, Freddie. It’s natural,” Daniel reassured him. “Yet, you were not afraid when Spring became Summer. You were not afraid when Summer became Fall. They were natural changes. Why should you be afraid of the season of death?”

“Does the tree die, too?” Freddie asked. “Someday. But there is something stronger than the tree. It is Life. That lasts forever and we are all a part of Life.” “Where will we go when we die?” “No one knows for sure. That’s the great mystery!” “Will we return in the Spring?” “We may not, but Life will.” “Then what has been the reason for all of this?” Freddie continued to question. “Why were we here at all if we only have to fall and die?”

Daniel answered in his matter-of-fact way, “It’s been about the sun and the moon. It’s been about happy times together. It’s been about the shade and the old people and the children. It’s been about colors in Fall. It’s been about seasons. Isn’t that enough?” That afternoon, in the golden light of dusk, Daniel let go. He fell effortlessly. He seemed to smile peacefully as he fell. “Goodbye for now, Freddie,” he said. Then, Freddie was alone, the only leaf left on his branch.

The first snow fell the following morning. It was soft, white, and gentle; but it was bitter cold. There was hardly any sun that day, and the day was very short. Freddie found himself losing his color, becoming brittle. It was constantly cold and the snow weighed heavily upon him. At dawn the wind came that took Freddie from his branch. It didn’t hurt at all. He felt himself float quietly, gently and softly downward. As he fell, he saw the whole tree for the first time. How strong and firm it was! He was sure that it would live for a long time and he knew¬†that he had been a part of its life and it made him proud.

Freddie landed on a clump of snow. It somehow felt soft and even warm. In this new position he was more comfortable than he had ever been. He closed his eyes and fell asleep. He did not know that Spring would follow Winter and that the snow would melt into water. He did not know that what appeared to be his useless dried self would join with the water and serve to make the tree stronger. Most of all, he did not know that there, asleep in the tree and the ground, were already plans for new leaves in the Spring.

The Beginning.

Having purchased the book as a keepsake for my daughter, I turned to the first blank page and penned the following inscription.

Summer 2004

Dearest daughter,

I discovered Leo Buscaglia in Chautauqua this summer. Reading his¬†¬†words was like looking at my soul through a mirror. He wrote, and lectured about, and lived a life of love, always having a positive attitude. “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf ” continues Buscaglia’s outlook thru to the final stage in life.¬†

¬†Live each day to the fullest, love hugely and passionately, strive always to have a positive attitude toward yourself, others and life. These are what I leave to you, when I fall from the “Tree of Life.” And I know you will do the same for your children, when your turn comes.

I will always be with you in spirit until we are together again, where all leaves spend eternal springtime together. Think of me as your “Daniel.”

All my love, forever…Mom

my sentiments for you, as well…hugmamma.