Cookie Monsters

20140117_091436Having a pet can bring so much to our lives for all the reasons you may have already ticked off in your mind-unconditional love, companionship, affection, joy. Oh… and they never get mad at you. NEVER. On the other hand, they can be as stubborn as the most stubborn mule. Or as sneaky as the sneakiest preschooler. Which in turn can make you rather frustrated with them. Take for example today-

I had to drive into the big city (remember my big city is 20,000). It takes me thirty minutes or so to get there (see my post “Small Town” if you’re curious about this).
And, as is my habit, I took Sunni (my dog) with me; not just because I was going to be gone longer than four hours but because I know she really loves the car ride. I mean-the entire 20 mile drive along highway 101 this morning, she was hanging over the back seat of my SUV.  Her back legs were standing tall, front paws stretched over and hugging the top of the seat in between the headrests. Her head was bent as far forward as possible and hunched to avoid hitting the headliner as her eyes darted left and right out every window, looking for clues. Clues would be any solid green patches along the way. Clues that tell her – I’m going to play! When spotted, she pants heavily with drool thicker than honey only not as tasty.

I’m quick to notice and egg her on as I try to get her attention by looking in the rear view mirror, “How ya’ doin’ babe?” Her tail is sweeping faster than my windshield wipers in a downpour and I know she is thinking that any moment we will be turning in front of the dog park entrance and she will be in smell heaven.

Instead, I have to go from errand to errand with a couple of appointments in between. That translates to disappointment with a big D. Have you ever seen that look in your dogs eyes? It’s as real as the word-‘hangdog.’ Do they do that on purpose? Do you think dogs scheme? Before today…I really imagined Sunni was perfect. That’s my idealistic thinking again. Whatever…

Every single time I come back to the car my brain is telling me that she is disappointed… again. So, every single time I come back to the car, I give her a cookie or cracker…or whatever I’ve got that will tide her over until I can get her to the park. Honestly, sometimes I’ve forgotten to put treats in the car and out of desperation I drove through the gas station for a gallon of gas just so my dog could get a dog biscuit. Yup…Most all of the gas stations keep a ready supply of dog biscuits on hand here in rural Oregon. A cynic would say they do it for the business but honestly-up here it’s dog country. Nine out of ten vehicles have tongue-waggers riding around in them. So, besides filling your tank with gas and washing your windshield, your gas station attendants job is to spoil your dog. (It’s really a very nice gesture -isn’t it?)

So, I’ve been in this habit for a year or more now…because that’s how long I’ve been here. And, I’m usually loaded with treats. They’re hidden in my pockets-in the glove compartment-in a bag from the store-IN MY PURSE!  

Soon after the first appointment this morning, I dutifully let Sunni out to go potty and to her dismay, I immediately make her get back in the car so that I am not late to the next stop. GUILT TRIP!  I immediately reach into my bag and give her a cookie. Next errand. It’s a quick stop but I give her a cookie anyway (well…part of one), and it’s on to the second appointment. This time I grabbed my wallet and phone and left my bag. I was sure to hide it under my coat thinking it was safe. Do I really have to write the next sentence? Oh, I know…. It’s all my fault.

There she was-caught in the act! She had jumped into the driver’s seat, scrounged through my coat, my bag, her baggie (which I so uncleverly hid under the driver’s seat.  Oh, if I could only blame her! Or the gas station attendants. I may accept responsibility for this rebellious, sneaky child-But as of now…I’m changing her name to Miss Piggy. Or I should call her the…Cookie Monster. She’s a little of both.



Age is Just a Number?


I don’t hate getting old. After all, wisdom usually comes with age (usually). Being old isn’t the problem. The problem are the things that interfere with growing old.  And for those who like to say age is a state of mind-I don’t mean to disagree with them, but tell that to someone who lives with chronic pain daily.

That’s why I say, age isn’t the problem. I know men and women who, into their 80’s are running half- marathons, working out in the gym and accomplishing many other things that require physical and mental endurance.

On the other hand, have you known younger individuals who are struck with such terrible diseases that they are forced to give up their jobs? Their treasured activities? Even their quality of life is compromised.

Arthritis is one of those diseases. Recently I read an article about a little girl who was struck with juvenile polyarthritis when she was 6 years old. This condition is an immune disorder. As with most immune disorders, the body’s own immune system attacks and destroys healthy tissues, causing pain and swelling in the joints until they are deformed. It is increasingly more painful as a young body grows.

This little girl grew up and at 22, had to face life in a wheelchair. Now in her 60’s, she is only 65 -pounds. But mentally, she is a heavyweight. She imagines herself healthy, doing things that she cannot do. And she trusts in her God who has helped her to find strength in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9 &10). But, her outlook is an example to me and many others.

I”m not in a wheelchair. I don’t have an immune disorder. But I have lived with chronic pain from accidents I have been in, throughout my life. Arthritis is rampant throughout my body – and nerve pain is part of it. So I have it easier than most.

Disease make even the very smallest chore exhausting and painful. And the strongest man or woman can be reduce to a crumbling lump under the covers on the worst of days. They may wake up in pain and go to bed in pain. Even household activities once attacked with enthusiasm and vigor when you were well, are activities you may have to hire to get done or not get done at all when you are ill.

As for myself, I love to garden. My neighbors are getting their soil ready and the garden centers are crowded with vegetable plants and fruit trees and people! I have spent years digging out plots of various sizes for my vegetable garden, in every home I’ve ever lived. I love watching the first seedlings sprout in February and March. Gardening is in my heart and soul. But I will not be readying a plot this year. I may be putting a few plants in some pots.

Limitations. The doctors all say to respect them. It’s hard. We all over do it. Anything worth doing is worth doing right.-right? I don’t remember who said that but my motto now is: “Anything worth doing is worth doing for 15 minutes.” 

If I were to wake up even a few days a week feeling at least minimal pain, life would be full of opportunity- because I have the curiosity of 10 kids and my sense of adventure would take me all over the world and into as many gardens as possible.

If you’re a healthy 80 years young…yes, you might feel like age is only a number. I can only imagine how life could be without chronic pain. But I know one thing for sure-I will make the best of what life has to offer me now. I have the ability to choose to live happily or unhappily, young or old. And while I cannot run a marathon, or even begin to train for one; I can write-take photos- and enjoy music. I can love my family and be kind to others. And I can look to those who have been struck with something far more difficult to cope with and gain inspiration from them.

Age is just a number? You decide.


That Wasn’t Me

These past few weeks have been so challenging to me physically, mentally and emotionally that I have been unable to get a post of any significance out. I have written every single day but dumped every single day. A few words made it out and so did my disappointment. Today I decided it didn’t matter. Whatever I feel I am going to write and I am not going to dump. But whatever was going on – is going on…I think this morning was an indication of why I didn’t feel I could write. 

It was early this morning as I went back to bed. Knowing I would not be able to go back to sleep (because I rarely can), I grabbed my phone. I’ll just ease myself awake. I needed to hear some of my favorite songs-something to awaken gently that aching body after a broken night’s sleep. I knew I had previously downloaded an artist who’s voice had won me over some time ago. Too early for my glasses, I squinted as usual with just the right tension to pick out the gold and black earphone app and selected Brandi Carlile.  There’s is something about her voice for me, that gently rocks me. I can’t say what it is. I want to compare her to Ronstadt, but there is no comparison. I think of the clear, bell-like sound of Sarah McLachlan, and I realize Carlile’s voice is something in between. It has a purity, yet it’s got the pleading voice of a child. It sometimes sounds like a haunting voice. Whatever it is-It takes me to another space. I am at once elevated spiritually and broken all at the same time.  And with each note this morning, I felt myself resisting the minor chords-I didn’t want to go there. But I did. Maybe I needed to go there. And even though it turned into a mess before my day even began, I was hooked and willing to listen to more. To me, Carlile is the therapist-the sister who gives me the time of day and she is telling me: “Hang on just hang on for a minute-I’ve got something to say...” with that first cut. When, “That Wasn’t Me” plays, my reflections and pain are wrapped up thinking about the metamorphousis of my son, his transformation from addiction-jail-unemployment and finally prison.
This is a big story waiting to get out on paper or computer.

“What Did I Ever Come Here For,” Carlile’s second on my playlist, begins again with a piano introduction and then…”I’d been gone for so long- and how I missed you-oo- my heart was aching for home…” My eyes began to flood. I am aching for home. I’m aching for those who made up home at one time. Is home a place? A person? Or both?

With each phrase that echoed from my tiny speaker phone, my heart pained me. And while I admit trying to sing in that pitiful state I didn’t care because no one was around to hear me but Sunni.
 “…i dreamt that i heard you call my name- but my mind was playing games…i knew right then that i returned – to where i was before and I was so tired of being away that I just couldn’t stay anymore. What did I ever come here for.”

What did I ever come here for?

I was mourning a place. Still feeling out of my element here. It’s been a year and last month was the anniversary of my move to Oregon as well as the anniversary of a marriage gone wrong. FEBRUARY. The month I moved from California-the month I married-the month my divorce was final. The all collided in February. Perhaps that’s why I could’t write. I didn’t understand what I was stuffing. Now I do. It doesn’t mean I understand how to fix it because some things can never be fixed-just hurdled. I am jumping hurdles. And for now if I stop in front of one, go back and start again, mistakes and all- well I guess that’s part of the growth I still need to do. I’m glad for it-in a way. Not for the grief…but for the challenge. I didn’t really get it this morning while I was wallowing in my pain. I’m not understanding all of it now. I’m just trying to be honest with myself and OFF THE CUFF.



Warm Thoughts

Warm Thoughts

Inspiration…this is what I want today. Inspired to create to plant-cultivate-paint
Whether we plant thoughts
Cultivate intentions
Paint our ideas
Fulfillment lies in these things but
Not these alone
For if we accomplished only to serve ourselves
It would be useless
Isn’t this the purpose of living-
Sharing, giving?

Acts 20:35

Dreaming Again





In a hot Greek hotel he sat

Watching the sun situate itself upon the crowd

gathering as the noon day whistle blew

He thought…

He knew the old fisherman standing near his boat

hat worn with time tilted over a forehead darkened by the noonday sun

his nets dragging like his bones…

He watched…

while the young men called out each to the other 

sorting their days catch

laughing their brash laugh

gawking at the women whose breasts glowed with the sea

He lusted…

It was their youth he wanted

all the while despising his decoration of the sun and the worship he once gave it

He called…

and the sea and the waiter mockingly filled his vitriolic requests

as he dreamed on







excerpted from Poetry & Postscripts by Barbara Tangen-Ballantine 

Twenty-Four Little Hours

I don’t remember a birthday at twelve. I don’t know why. But what I do remember-vividly-was this song, “What a Difference a Day Makes” playing to my brushstroke as I worked on a paint-by-number at the kitchen table, waiting for someone to come home from work and end the isolation.

Dinah Washington’s voice had a profound affect on me that day. It was more her vocals than the lyric that grabbed my little Beatle’s heart because it was like syrup! Like pure maple syrup on pancakes rippling around the phrasing.  I didn’t feel as alone. She wasn’t singing to anyone but me and it made me happy. I would not learn until I was grown that she had won a Grammy Award in 1959 for her live performance. I’ll try to link up to this version but I am so new to WordPress that I don’t know if it will work.

So, today as I walked out the door and languished in the warmth of the sun, I took a deep breath of nearly spring air and listened to the blossoms breaking forth about as loud as I’d ever heard them and I thought of the contrast; the sheer difference between night and day as I came away from yesterdays post. The fine wine of Dinah Washington’s Blues as compared to Green Day’s punk sound. I felt grateful to be. And thirsty for more.

Post Superbowl Commentary

Our family never hailed from Denver or Colorado but we might as well have, for we were all the biggest fans starting with John Elway as QB. This year only two of us were able to be in the same room together but we were all watching -confident of the outcome. But as we headed toward the end of the 2nd quarter with nothing on our scoreboard and double digits on Seahawks, that moment became surreal for us. There is more than one answer. Something died and it felt like it was their spirit. Something took their focus for them to play as they did. For it seemed as though they gave up. Yet, how could that be? This team is built for giving up. This team was affected by something and we may never know what that something was.

However, we pick ourselves up on the fact that Seattle took nothing away from The Bronco’s for the hard training and fair playing they turned in to make them Champions. Same goes for Peyton Manning. For what this man did on a personal level to keep his integrity, his courage and overcome the pain and suffering of all the neck surgeries, the other challenges mentally from being let go of by the Colts…to then earn MVP well, I think if we all take a deep breath and realize it’s the quality of the year and not the quantity of the moment-we can look forward to next years Superbowl.


Just Me and My Kayak

Just Me and My Kayak

Ahhh! Sausalito Harbor. How I miss the San Francisco Bay. Sausalito is just one reason. This photo I shot during the annual Art festival held in Marinship Park on Labor Day.
This is a huge art festival with a music venue not to be missed. While I am an art lover and I cannot imagine a day without music, this particular day I cut the festival short and then spent the rest of the day absorbing the sounds and sights of the bay itself. The seabirds with their constant squawking overhead-the water lapping up against the boats at the dock, the red kayak gliding in solitude over those blue-green waters.
Pictures. They are more important to me now than ever. And this one, when I look at it long enough, I realize I am the Kayaker at one with the sea.

Weather Wimp

As a recent transplant from California (where, by the way, I was spoiled with the weather) I have prepared myself for the normal cold weather temps I knew I’d face here in southcoast Oregon. Double lined quilted coat, Uggs for my feet, fleece lined gloves and a wool hat and scarf have been at the ready. Checking the weather forecast, snow was expected yesterday and today. Now, I live twenty miles from the coast. According to the locals, snow is highly unusual at the seashore. So I felt pretty confident that I could get my walk in without dealing with slippery stuff. Besides, weather forecasters are usually wrong. Not this time. I headed out the door for my walk, which quickly turned into a run and back in the house I went.

I used Plan B. That was to drive cozy and warm toward the city. The mall is warm, so is the bookstore, I could get some shopping done. Not more than 10 minutes into my drive it began to sleet heavily. The windshield wipers nearly flew off while I watched the road turn white with snow. Now I realize this may sound silly to those in a winter wonderland who’ve lived there all their lives. But for me…well, let me just say the hail turned so fierce I could barely see.

I’m still a Californian-my driver’s license tells me so and my bones scream even louder that I need to go back. With a temperature of 15 degrees forecast for the coast tonight, I can only hope that the weather people are wrong by a longshot and I’m going to get myself some long johns and wool socks. As for driving in this stuff…….I’ll be staying out of the driver’s seat until the temp rises above 32.