Life as a Jenga Tower

Carefully the foundation was laid,
Criss-crossing planks reaching toward a sky
That tantalized with low-strung clouds of hope
And a vast expanse of possibility.

Life took a plank here and there,
That’s how the game is played,
Opening holes into the recesses of mind and heart,
But a Jenga tower is not easily toppled.

Illness came like the petulant child and
Swiped at the blocks, scattering a few to far reaches,
Never to be seen again,
Knocking the tower a little off kilter.
But the tower remained standing,
Shored up by many hands.

Blocks were extracted as
Building materials for towers which were
Themselves under construction
In a reach for that wide expanse of sky
In a never-ending shuffle of finite resources.
Still, the tower held firm.

Then a block was drawn from the bottom,
And the tower groaned.

Then another.

And another.

Players played on,
Wondering why the tower swayed.
Unaware of the laws of physics,
Of gravity
And of equal and opposite reactions,
They poked and prodded at the structural integrity
Of the Jenga tower.

The game is still in progress,
Though the base has become riddled with openings
Where the winds of disillusionment and melancholy
Eddy and swirl.

Photo credit: Nicola since 1972 via / CC BY

All Good Things Have An End

My dog is dying.

As I sat outside with my furry friend last night, grateful for the unseasonably warm weather, I reflected on our life together. This pup stole my heart. He drew me from my car in the Wal-Mart parking lot, implored me to cuddle his little furball body, and begged me to take him home. We already have a dog, I said weakly. We will be great friends, he seemed to answer through his puppy dog eyes.

As these things can’t be decided alone, I waited for my husband outside the store. Please, I said. He can be my Christmas present, I said. I tried the pup’s tactic of pleading eyes. My husband was powerless, and we were the proud new owners of a mottled ball of fur.

True to his promise, the pup and our existing dog, Paintbrush, became the best of friends, and under the caring hands of our kid-riddled family, he soon grew into a beautiful, 60 lb gentle guard dog. We named him Ranger, a good name, but fortunately not a fitting name, as he liked to stay close to home.

One day, Paintbrush, an escape artist who we would lock into the large kennel only to later find on the doorstep, tried to show him her technique for getting out of that kennel. We watched from behind the garage as she coaxed him from the top of the kennel down to a  hole in the field fencing. She looked at him as if to say, Here it is. Follow me. Then she climbed up and slid through. He just looked at her, then sauntered back to his cozy dog house. Ranger was a homebody.

He loved being at home, surrounded by the noise and activity of our young children. When we would spread a blanket under the maple tree to read, Ranger would find his spot and cuddle up next to the kids. He wasn’t the playful type. He wouldn’t chase anything. We can’t say the same for any other dog who has entered and exited our lives. We’ve had cat chasers and chicken chasers. The fun ones are the ball and frisbee chasers. Ranger was happy just to be. He was the Ferdinand of the dog world, content to sit under the shade of the maple tree.

Dogs came and tragically left our family, yet Ranger remained. Over the years he started wobbling as he walked. He fell behind on walks through the field. He looked up at us as if he didn’t understand what was happening. We would call for someone to bring the pick-up to the back of the field, but when they got there, Ranger would find the spark within and begin loping toward home in an arthritic, stubborn old-man way. A couple of years ago, I thought we were going to lose him. The dogs were being rambunctious, knocking him down over and over again, so I opened the gate and brought him to the front yard for relief. As soon as we were on the other side of the fence, he perked up, hopped arthritically, and headed toward the road. In his mind we were going on a walk. What else could I do? If it killed him, at least he’d die happy.

He didn’t die. He’s plugged away for another two years. Like any old creature, he has thought he could do things he can no longer do. It was a sad day when we went for a walk in the field only to have him stop twenty feet from the gate and look around. He couldn’t go any further. He was done. His poor hips had become too stiff and uncooperative, but his heart so wanted to go.

Little by little, Ranger’s world changed. One by one, his kids left or opted for a screen over a smiling dog face. He would lay by the back door waiting for them to come out. Sometimes Goose would walk away from the computer and head outside with his old friend. Through the years he would tell me that we should clone Ranger. I told him I liked that idea; if only it weren’t so expensive. We wondered if a cloned Ranger would result in the same dog. Smartypants and Sunshine would come home for a visit, and Ranger would show signs of his old self. His ears would perk up and he would grin his doggy grin and nuzzle under their willing hands until they went away and left him alone again.

This time it’s real.

Last night I covered my old friend in a blanket. I propped his head on my leg and spent hours petting him and talking to him. I thought about the time gone by and how much both of our lives had changed. I thought of how fleeting love is, of how we take for granted that the good things we hold dear will always exist for us. As he relaxed into my leg, I willed him to let go, but his heart is too tightly bound us.

This weekend we will have to make the hard decision to put him down. I will miss my canine friend, this furry little sidekick to what’s been an amazing part of my life. It’s time to say good-bye, to hug his frail, furry body one last time, to pet that mottled snout and give him that scratch behind the ears he’s always longing for. I will miss this dog, as I miss this part of life, yet in the unfairness of life, clinging tightly to something you love doesn’t prevent it sifting though your fingers.

I hope there’s a dog heaven. If any dog deserves to go, Ranger does. I picture Paintbrush eagerly waiting for him. She must have some really great things to show him by now.

Cee’s Share Your World – 2/13/17

Here are my answers to Cee’s Share Your World:

Do you sleep with your sheets tucked in or out?

The bottom of the sheet needs to be tucked in or it makes me crazy.

Have you stolen a street sign before?

Never. I remember kids doing that when I was young. They would hang them on their walls. My own street name is the same as that of my newlywed niece. She and her husband have talked about stealing one of them, though they would never do it.

Do you cut out coupons but then never use them?

I’ve given up on paper coupons. I used to seek them out and carry them with me when I was newly married with young kids. Our budget was tight back then, and the coupons did help a lot. Thankfully, the economy has released it’s stranglehold on us and we have a little more breathing room. Now it’s not worth the added clutter. I still buy almost everything on sale (which I consider the real price), and I will look  up a coupon on my phone if I’m at a store like Michael’s.

Do you have freckles?

I have a few light freckles. I have larger “wisdom spots,” as my dermatologist called them.

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I am grateful for my furbaby. Such unconditional love! If only humans could be more like dogs.

I look forward to surprising my mom with a visit on her birthday. Shhhh! Don’t tell. 😉

Thanks to Cee for this great challenge!



There’s a whisper growing louder
(Have you heard?) –
Voices lost now being found
Sweeping up the scattered words,

Whipped by robust winds –
They are landing in the streets.
Upon people of all walks of life
They’ve found a pulsing beat

The heartbeat of America
A promise to deliver
As immigrants and native souls
Create a human river.

Words splatter over painted signs,
And rise from voices strong
Of dedicated people
Who sing their country’s song –

They sing of lofty principles
Inscribed on fragile paper,
By men of foresight long ago
Lest they dissipate like vapor.

These words are seared upon the hearts
Of freedom loving folk,
We are all created equal
And won’t accept the yoke

Of stubborn inequality,
Of silencing our voices.
Remember soon the season comes
When we renew our choices.

Until then we claim these words,
We use them as our tools,
Of building our foundation
That precludes your silly rules.

We stand together strong and proud
And raise collective fists
Declaring our autonomy
And pledging to resist.

Join us.

Share Your World – 2/6/2017

Here are my latest answers to Cee’s Share Your World:

Regarding your fridge, is it organized or a mess inside?

Funny you should ask…

After retrieving something for breakfast (and having to rearrange the piles to get to it), I made a mental note to clean the fridge today. It’s never organized, per se. Things get shoved in there wherever they fit, and not just by me. I’m beginning to think refrigerators should be shallow. As it is, the boys in this house can’t find anything that’s not right in front of their faces. Move the milk, guys! Check behind things!

Do you prefer your food separated or mixed together?

It depends on the food. I’m not picky about my foods mixing. Some things taste better mixed together, such as rice and beans or fish and salad. You can discover some amazing things by mixing your food. Once I tried a piece of candied ginger with a swig of some cold coffee. I thought it would taste nasty, but it was really, really good! It turns out this is a thing!

Moroccan coffee from Ovation Coffee, The Pearl, Portland, OR

Do you prefer reading coffee table books (picture), biographies, fiction, non-fiction, educational?

I prefer literary fiction, though I do like well-written non-fiction. Coffee table books can be great eye candy. Alas, I don’t have any. If I did, it would be a photo collection by Ansel Adams or Ray Atkeson.

Close your eyes. Listen to your body. What part of your body is seeking attention? What is it telling you? 

My body is telling me that it is becoming one with the couch. I think somewhere deep within the message is that I should get up, get showered, and get on with my day. 😉

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I am grateful for my #3 child who celebrated 20 years on this planet this last week.

This week I look forward to seeing David Sedaris speak.

As always, thank you Cee for this wonderful excuse to write something!



Photo credit: marcn via / CC BY

When confronted with the Holocaust, one question many of us have is why didn’t the German people see this coming and stop it? Sane people recognize that Hitler was a madman. He somehow managed to pull people into his cause, to harness the energy of darkness and squelch the light. He was given license to commit atrocities against millions of people in a dark cloud of torture and killing that hangs over humanity to this day. So why didn’t the German people stop it?

Maybe they didn’t see it coming.

I remember as a child playing outside all afternoon. The sun would be going down and twilight descending over the land, but we could still see, so we remained outside. Only after coming into the light and looking out did we realize how dark it had actually become. This is what is happening to my America right now. Twilight is descending in the form of bans and firing of the acting A.G. It is enveloping us with the inclusion of an avowed white nationalist as a major player on the security council. Darkness is encroaching with attacks on our free press. For the moment, we can still see, but for how much longer.

Someone recently told me she couldn’t understand why people are protesting. She made a comment that good people had jobs and couldn’t be leaving their jobs to spend their lives protesting, insinuating that protesters are not working people. I pointed out that when a cause is sufficiently important, even working people make the time to protest. I live too far away from a major airport, or I would contribute one of my days off to joining in to protest the Muslim ban (or travel ban, or whatever alternative reality label you want to slap on it). I recognize the injustice of the EO, and I will add it to my ever-growing list of things to stand up against, policies that are not reflective of our American identity of leadership in the world and inclusion (ultimately) of our immigrants.

May we learn from Hilter’s Germany. Resistance begins with us.

As I finished typing this I got a notification that the senate had approved Mnuchin and Price without Democrats present by suspending the rules. Welcome to your new America. I encourage you to support your free press. Subscribe to a newspaper. Support the ACLU. Above all, resist.

Share Your World – 1/30/17

It’s time for another installment of Cee’s Share Your World. If you would like to play along, click here. Here are my answers to this week’s questions:

What is the most incredible natural venue that you’ve ever seen in person?

The Grand Canyon. Walking up to the edge is a surreal experience. The vista goes on forever, and it feels a bit like you’ve walked up to a backdrop.

Grand Canyon0210

How many siblings do you have? What’s your birth order? 

I am one of 9. My parents started down the adoption road when I was a senior in high school. I am 52 and my youngest sister is 28.

If you were a shoe, what kind would you be and why?

I would be a sherpa-lined slipper because I’m all about comfort. 🙂

What is the strangest/weirdest thing you have ever eaten?

Either tripe (yuck) or raw fish. The tripe was part of a Mexican dish called menudo. Not my favorite. The raw fish was at a sushi restaurant. It took me a long time to jump on that bandwagon (and I have one foot dragging off still). My husband likes to offer me tidbits from his sashimi plates.

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I am grateful that I had a chance to meet up with an old college roommate. I look forward to actually working this week.

Thanks again to Cee for a chance to share!


Share Your World -1/23/17

It’s time for another installment of Cee’s Share Your World. If you’d like to play along, click here. Here are my answers to this week’s questions:

Do you prefer juice or fruit?

While I do love fruit, I prefer juice. The question made me think of my favorite – Dole orange/peach/mango. (And now I want some.) I also became a huge fan of passionfruit smoothies when we went to Costa Rica. I don’t like plugging the calories into my food log, however. Like they tell you, a piece of fruit is much more filling and less calorie dense.

Did you grow up in a small or big town? Did you like it?

I grew up in the suburbs. I liked it until I reached high school, at which point I found school to be very cliquish and had a hard time finding my niche. (And not for lack of trying!) We moved to a smaller town my senior year. After an awkward month or two, I found friends and really enjoyed the smaller town atmosphere. It was my best year of high school.

If you were to paint a picture of your childhood, what colors would you use?

Green and blue. I was often outside and near water whenever possible. Maybe a little red to represent skinned knees and elbows. 😉

Ways to Relax List: Make a list of what relaxes you and helps you feel calm.

  • reading a book (if it’s quiet)
  • listening to instrumental music
  • playing the piano or guitar
  • drawing
  • walking (I’d love to say walking the dogs, but they are not very well behaved.)
  • running
  • drinking coffee
  • writing
  • talking to friends

As always, thanks to Cee for the chance to share our worlds.


Marching Forward

What a year! What an election! My recent posts make no secret of where I stand on Donald Trump’s presidency. If you voted for him, I hope you can reconcile the damage he is going to do to this country. If you voted for him and have buyer’s remorse, join us. It’s not too late. (Hey, it happens. My vote for GWB was followed by immediate regret.) If you didn’t vote for anyone, shame on you. If you voted for Hillary… or Gary…or even Jill, we have a lot of work ahead of us. Our marching orders have arrived, and they are pink.

I’m sad to say, I didn’t get a hat. I know I can still knit one. It may come in handy in the future. I’m relatively sure there wasn’t a run on pink yarn in my conservative town. Fortunately the color of my rain jacket happens to be the color of the resistance.

My original plan was to march in Portland with a friend, but her plans changed. Her husband would be joining her, and they were making a weekend of it. Figuring out the logistics of parking and meet-ups was too daunting. Then the Portland inauguration day protests took a violent turn (damn anarchists), which made me reluctant to head into the masses solo. I would go to Eugene instead.

After spending all of Friday cooped up and feeling powerless, binging on chocolate and watching news shows, I woke up Saturday refreshed and with a clear focus. I turned on a live stream of the DC march and was immediately infused with hope. I made one last plea for companions to join me and got no takers. My male support system doesn’t do pink. (I’m still working on that.) No biggie. I might go alone, but I sure wouldn’t be alone.

I was early and went directly to the parking garage suggested on the Facebook page. I found myself in a line of cars circling in vain up and around the structure. I finally found a parking spot blocks away from downtown, pitying the people who arrived later.

The meet-up area in front of the courthouse was packed. The crowd had overflowed into the still-active road by the time I got there. People of all ages, ethnicities, and genders were packed like sardines. I normally avoid crowds at all costs, but sometimes you have to make a sacrifice for the cause. I couldn’t hear any speakers, so at that point it was a matter of waiting, of lending my presence to a movement, of giving substance to my voice.

Marching orders were slow in coming. People around me were getting impatient. We didn’t know if it was a lack of organization/communication or if there were that many people who had filled in behind us. A drone hovered overhead and all eyes looked up and pointed signs. Finally a group to the side of me decided to peel away and walk down the next street, and slowly but surely, we began to move, a long, slow parade of people with hand-made signs touting different agendas who all came together as a statement that differing ideas were okay, but dividing us was not.

There were chants of not my president. I couldn’t lend my voice to that one. For better or worse, he is my president, but that doesn’t give him license to do whatever he wants. As America Fererra said, the president isn’t America; we are America. Lest anyone forget that, there were chants of this is what democracy looks like. That one I can get behind, and that one I will defend with everything at my disposal.

And so I marched. I marched with young and old. I marched with gay people and straight. I marched with mothers and children, fathers and sons. I marched for the future, for inclusion, for justice. I marched for the world I want my children to live in.

There is strength in numbers. We’ve shown we are strong. We must resist. Failure is not an option.

Did I mention I don’t do crowds?


A New Day

It’s a new day, America.

I watched our new president’s inauguration speech this morning on YouTube/PBS. Being the stubborn person I am, I refused to watch it live and increase any potential ratings. As I watched, and you must watch to get the full effect, I started hearing ominous background music in my head, the kind that comes at the start of The Hunger Games or any other movie where you know the politician in charge is up to no good and you’re all going to be screwed.

The gist? We’re going to make America great again, damn it. How are we going to do it? Well, with police and military, protectionism and patriotism (read nationalism). In this speech we found out that the blood of all patriots is the same color regardless of the color of their skin. (Do I need to add that the blood of everyone else in the world is also the same color? Such rhetoric.) We’re going to end the “carnage” of inner city drugs and gangs and make sure Americans are first.

I don’t know about you, but I found the use blood and carnage in an inauguration speech horrifying, especially given the tone. This is not your Obama hope and inclusion speech.

America, I fear there are dark days ahead. Women will march tomorrow in solidarity, sending a message that our voices count to a man who claims to be for us, the people, but has a penchant for sexual assault and misogyny. And it won’t just be women marching, but the men in our lives who support us. We won’t be silenced.

But I imagine they will try.

One part of the president’s speech rankled me.

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.

I consider myself a patriotic person. I am not a flag-waver, singing “Proud to be and American” at the top of my lungs. I’m a quiet patriot. If you come after my country, I will be there to defend it through words or whatever implement I have on hand. But I understand that in our country, there is room for dissenting views. That’s the essence of the First Amendment. What will constitute a “total allegiance” to the USA, and who will decide what loyalty to our country means? For example, to me, loyalty to our country means honoring the free press and the constitutional amendments. It also means working with the system and not refusing to even hear a supreme court nomination. It means listening to our intelligence community and giving credence to the work they risk their lives to provide. I imagine under the Trump administration, “total allegiance” will take on a more sinister tone of agreement with the powers that be. I hope I’m wrong.

Our allegiance is to the United States of America, to its institutions and its Constitution, an ideal put to paper that we must defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Yet we must be very clear about what that threat is. Burning a flag is deplorable, but not a threat to the greatness of the United States. Clamping down free speech is.

It’s a new day, America, a day to ask yourself if you are willing to risk exposure and speak up against any and all attempts to destroy our freedoms? Stand up. Speak up. Don’t risk losing those rights.