Category Archives: Me

Palawan! (In which she reminds herself to maintain perspective)

This week I am trying frantically to finish preparations for the first big business meeting of the year and my first international trip of the year.  This evening I was griping to the kids about the insane pace right now and the loss of even a day off for the next two weeks – not even a day to slow down and pack!  Argh.

And then I paused for a moment, randomly clicking around the interwebs because I had reached that point where the words and the graphs on the PowerPoint slides no longer made sense to me and remembered.  After the big, stress-filled business meeting I am going to Palawan!  Immediately after my business review is complete I am climbing aboard a Philippine Air flight to Puerto Princesa with my colleagues and coworkers to attend our annual strategic, team building and development meeting.  On Palawan!!o-PALAWAN-PHILLIPPINES-900

I really lost perspective.  Palawan is the largest of the 81 provinces in the Philippines.  In ancient times Chinese traders traversed land bridges from Borneo to Palawan.  They were followed by many, many migrants to the Philippine Islands.  The caves of Palawan have revealed china, pottery and other artifacts from those first visitors.

Palawan was also the first area within the Philippines colonized by Spain in 1622.  Centuries later the Japanese invaded the province on May 18, 1942.

What excites me, though is that Palawan is considered the last ecological frontier in the Philippines.  Its 1700 islands are covered with tropical rain forests and vast areas of marine wilderness.  One of those unique treasures is the underground river in the Puerto Princesa National Park.   Check out the Wikipedia info on the park and the river, but also check back here in a few weeks and I will post my own pictures and impressions.


The first day of our Leadership Meetings includes an excursion down the subterranean river.  After that we get to listen to some speakers from Frost and Sullivan and Forrester, play some team building games and flesh out our 2015 strategy. And I almost opted out.  I almost chose to just fly home to have a weekend.  Forfeit my voice in the strategy sessions.   Watch the snow melt in my yard rather than paddle down an underground river.  I was ready to burrow back into my winter hibernation cave rather than explore a Unesco World Heritage site, one of the New Seven Natural Wonders  – paid for – in full – by my employer.

It is so easy to lose site of the bigger picture when we are caught up in the urgency of the now.  It is important that I am well prepared for the upcoming meeting.  It’s important to my career that I present well and dynamically, that I engage my audience and that my presentation is relevant and vital.

It’s not necessary, however, to lose site of the rest of my life.  I am still lucky enough to have two of my adult children who choose to live with me (and yeah, I know, rent is cheap with me, but I don’t care!) and the one who doesn’t live with me, who lives thousands of miles away in New Hampshire, works for the same company I work for.  We are connected.  So, so connected.

I just had to report all of my vacation days for 2014 (apparently there was a glitch in the tracking software and although the hours were deducted from my accrual, the actual dates were lost – try recreating every day you took off for the last year, not easy!) and I took a lot of time off in 2014.  I was lax about taking time out for the first few years working for my company so I had a lot of days accrued.  And I took 29 days off in 2014.   That’s a month and a half of paid time off last year.

Some of that time was to be a barely-needed care giver when my mother had surgery  (a post will follow some day about my appalling lack of ability to handle a real crisis during that time, but I am still processing it and can’t get it written yet).  However, even more was time off during the Holidays and a leisurely trip to North Carolina to wonder at my sister’s brilliance and revel in my parent’s garden.  Another week was to ride the train from Colorado to California and play with food and photographs and paper with my sister.  I had a month off to just be me in 2014.  That’s a luxury many don’t share.

And now I have the all-expenses-paid opportunity to experience warmth in winter and wonder in our world.  And I nearly lost sight of what was being offered to me, and I completely lost perspective.underground palawan Palawan-1 puerto_princesa_underground_river_04 palawan

Lucky for me I still have time to reaffirm my willingness and even my strong desire to participate in creating strategy, building teams and being a part of this oh so wonderful world – and a chance to paddle down an underground river in just a little over a week.  I need to go pack!

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver

Bella Grace

Bella Grace Collage 1-28-2015 12-52-45 PM 960x540I can remember Sunday mornings as a teen sitting in the cool, darkly paneled sanctuary of All Saints-by-the-Sea listening to Father Woodward deliver a homily that felt uncomfortably aimed at me. Sometimes it felt as though someone had been reading my journal, the message was so pointed and so exactly what I needed to hear, whether I wanted to or not. That connection with my core, with who I was and am in my most quiet and private places is what anchored me in my faith life.

I have a similar, although less holy, core connBella Grace Collage 1-26-2015 7-47-48 AM 4608x3456ection with Bella Grace, the newest offering from Stampington & Company. The editors say “Bella Grace is a special publication devoted to discovering magic in the ordinary” and I have to agree. The aesthetic is one of muted colors, evocative images and rich matte paper, all elements I am drawn to.

On page 8 of the recent issue (Volume 1, Issue 2) D. Smith Kaich Jones speaks of silence and says “I even like my colors quiet.”  Yes! I have often struggled to explain why I am drawn to the muted, the dusty, the … quiet… colors. My beautiful sister surrounds herself in luscious jewel tones and I understand why. But I like my colors quiet.

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As an inveterate form filler-out-er and workbook lover the writing prompts with space to contribute right there, on the lovely page has me reaching for my pen again and again.

Bella Grace Collage 1-26-2015 7-48-11 AM 4608x3456 Bella Grace Collage 1-26-2015 7-48-35 AM 4608x3456 Bella Grace Collage 1-26-2015 7-49-34 AM 4608x3456 Bella Grace Collage 1-26-2015 7-50-01 AM 4608x3456

Without skimping on the imagery more attention is paid to the words in Bella Grace than in some other Stampington publications which focus on the images and the how-tos. As a word person that’s important to me.

This is a magazine that has stories on Silence, Wind, Water, Photography, Writing, Polishing the Silver Before Vacation, Musings on Grass and Savoring Chocolate all in one lovely package that fits in my work bag, lives on my nightstand and is becoming lovingly well thumbed.

Bella Grace Collage 1-26-2015 7-48-02 AM 4608x3456 Someone, somewhere has been reading my journal. How else can a magazine so perfectly curated for my tastes be explained?

For the record, I am in no way affiliated with Bella Grace or Stampington & Company.  This isn’t a review, it’s an exploration, a thinking-through, maybe an homage.  I have not been paid in any way for this post.

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I find solace and
Infinite quiet joy
In the liturgy
Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
The ancient words,
The rhythm
As much my worship
As the words
The ritual
Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hid
I fall to my knees
Bow my head
Talk to The One I believe
With all my being
Created this earth
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
The Lord, the giver of life
In the morning
With lessons and prayers
For unto thee will I pray
My voice shalt thou hear in the morning
Oh Lord in the morning will I address my prayers
Unto thee and look up!
And in the evening
With hymns
I love you Lord
And I lift my voice
To worship you
O my soul, rejoice!
I find my way

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

The Flavor of Childhood Summers

For me scenttuna chowder can evoke a memory better than any other sense. A bit of salt and sea in the air and I am transported to my childhood home. A certain mixture of lemon Pledge, Downy and warmth brings my mother’s face instantly to mind. Jessica McClintock perfume does both – it brings both the beach and my mother to me.

But there’s a reason why we talk about “comfort food” not “comfort smells”. With food we get both scent and sustenance. When we eat our special foods we can relive the warm feelings of the experiences that made a certain dish comfort food for us.

Summertime, and the living is easy….
I spent most of my summers with my paternal grandparents in the Bay Area. Like many kids of my generation I had two parents with vital careers which made staying home for summer vacation complicated. My grandmother cared for me and my cousins during the long, hot California summer through the seventies and into the eighties. The flavor of summer when I was young was frozen grape juice-bars, home-made lemon yogurt, poached-eggs-on-toast-with-cheese, and tater-tot casserole. I celebrated a lot of birthdays with my grandparents being an August baby.

When I got a little older and my sister and I could stay home for the summer the flavors were of pancakes with Karo syrup (shudder!), Kraft macaroni and cheese and McDonald’s chicken McNuggets. But in those teen-aged summers I was also home for my birthday.

The birthday dinner I asked for year after year was my maternal Grandmother’s Tuna Chowder. A hearty soup, but a relatively light dinner in the hottest month of the year. It’s a wonderfully easy and quick recipe and served with a green salad and some home-made bread (or my mom’s green onion and jack cheese biscuits) it tastes just like summer to me.

Grandma Hazel’s Tuna Chowdertuna chowder
2 Tbs butter
¼ C chopped celery
1 C chopped onions
1 C diced potato
8 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 ¼ tsp coarse salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1/3 tsp thyme
¼ tsp dill
2Tbsp flour
3 C milk
1 large flat can tuna in water, drained
2 Tbsp parsley
1 C grated Monterrey Jack cheese

Combine the butter, celery, onion and potato in a large, heavy stock pan or Dutch oven. Cook over medium heat about 15 minutes, until potato is softening. Stir in salt, pepper, thyme, dill and flour. Cook, stirring constantly about 5 minutes until the flour is slightly browned. Add tomatoes, milk, tuna and parsley. Heat, stirring, until soup is thickened and boils. Stir in cheese and serve.

Be careful after adding the thickening as it can scorch.

Enjoy! (and share your summer favorites!)

Where I am from

Last Fall I attended Patti Digh’s summer camp for adults.  One of the bonus sessions was a writing class facilitated by Patti Digh, Susan Piver and Jennifer Louden.  All three of these women have been part of my virtual world for a long time.  In fact I picked up Jennifer Louden’s “Woman’s Comfort Book” over twenty years ago when I was a young mother.

One of the assignments in that class was a “Where I am From” essay or poem.  I wrote my first “where I am from” in high school and really wish I still had a copy of that first version.

Here is where I am from… today.Santa Barbara Mission

Where I am From
I am from a small city in a big state.
I’m from beaches and rose gardens and hardwood floors.
From bougainvillea and La Tolteca.
I’m from story tellers and listeners, from writers and thinkers and hard workers.
I’m from peasant stock and from scholar farmers.
I am from white stucco walls and red tiled roofs.
From unlocked front doors and secrets in families.
I’m from muesli and chocolate croissants for breakfast and creamed tuna with egg on toast for dinner.
I’m from multi-family gatherings and symphonies, from high school plays and ten performances of the Nutcracker in the week before Christmas.
I am from concerts at the County Bowl.
I’m from “the smart people” and from insecurity.
From creativity, from painting and writing and gardening.
I’m from intellectuals with libraries and lectures and museum memberships.
I’m from high expectations and higher fear of failure.
I’m from many generations at every Christmas and starting our families young.
I’m from home-made school clothes and from vacations in Europe.
I am from attending seminary, from church every Sunday, from choir practice and high liturgy.
I am from agnostics and atheists.
I am from real people, trying to be the best we can be.





















I recently spent a wonderful week with my parents. We are at a point in our lives where things are changing. My mother is getting frail and they talk about slowing down, making the garden a bit smaller, traveling less, and taking less on.

As usually happens lots of stories were told. Old, well-worn stories that just about anyone in the family could tell with the same word choice and inflection, but also new stories. We realized that some of the stories were close to getting lost as memories age and details become fuzzy so we have been working on a family history project. I began to dabble in genealogy last year (my father is an expert) and I started to archive family photos and documents for future generations.

I find that my perspective is changing. People I have known and loved my whole life have entire lives that I have never heard or seen. How our family became what and where we are is a little different than I may have understood as a child. Talk is of caring for parents, not being cared for by them. It is fascinating how the same stories, the same lives and people can be seen so very differently as we age and perspectives change.