Breathing Long Distance

Breathing Long Distance

Here in the Southwest, spring is a breath. One you run to catch, only pushing it out too quickly in your efforts.

Back home, friends of mine treated sunburns on the same day they sent their children out the door in snow boots.

How do you catch up with days like this?

I took these photos as deep breath in. Wanting to catch it in a jar and bring it home. I knew on this night home, once again, would be far from the sea. I tried to squeeze greedy and peace in one box and expected them to behave.

WS Pine at Sunset

You can imagine the results.

I watched through the tiny square of a view finder the expanse of space that takes more than one eye squeezed shut to see.

I’m grateful for the images. Grateful for the knowing, remembering of feet on asphalt at the edge of green and sky and sea.

WS Grey Sunset

As the weekend hit like a March storm in Kansas, I searched these memories out. Stretched long into the breath that would pull in the shoreline. Tug hard and tuck in tight this story line that is mine. All of it. Kelly green and coral peach. Rain in the sunshine and creating while at rest.

Breathe in.

Old Chapstick and a New Job

Coffee. Pen. Ten minutes until go time. Add all of it up and it is unlikely to equal 3 pages.

I feel it. I feel the lack of pages. Like the words have rubbed the inside of my skull raw. This week there have been extra ones cramming in, sitting on each others’ laps unwelcomed. Some spill out like a child’s confession to grandma of what daddy told mommy last night.

My mind, and the play place at the fast food joint are in a race. Which one can tally up the most tantrums? Who will fill the seats fastest and have marker on the wall first?

a new place to step off an edge

a new place to step off an edge

New does this.

Promotions, with their step-up, elevated mentality are essentially another square one. Climbing the ladder has its own altitude sickness–the arrogance which comes from declaring their position in the past as now anecdotal, a trifle that someone surely misconstrued.

For others, maybe.

I see my 3rd grade picture as I walk into the new office. Not my first frozen posed school record. It is the one with my lips pouty from Jodi’s carmex; applied in a rush as we stood, single-file on the out-of-bounds line in the gym.

It is my first day, and I’m waiting for them to notice my lips swelling from the allergic reaction, a mistake with no blame. My eight-year-old self looks out of my thirty-something eyes and sees faces not looking for faults, or chapstick fiascoes. Because, honestly, chapstick doesn’t last 33 years no matter what the fine print on my ego says.


*Technically I should ask for forgiveness…I wrote this in my journal this morning, in something less than ten minutes..all but the last two sentences which didn’t fit on the page and just had to be coaxed out from a darkened corner to wrap it all up nice. I’m usually a rule player. Today I’m a rule breaker.

Because I like to do what Lisa Jo says:

Meet the #FMFParty Writers:

And did you know there’s a whole community of writers that connect online before the prompt goes live on Friday nights? They use the Twitter hashtag #FMFParty and are about the most encouraging group around.

Now, set your timer, clear your head, for five minutes of free writing without worrying about getting it right.

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

Poetry Fragment

April was National Poetry Month.

In another life, in another state, I did write poetry. In this iteration of days, I have left a blank post in my drafts folder for 3 weeks waiting for inspiration.

Inspiration or time, because there is work eo dig through. Not laundry work. The work of writing, herding words into the corrals of blue lines above and blue lines below, right beside the gate of one long red line.

Fragments assert themselves between coconut milk and mail letter to Grandma in the notebook that is for tasks and not phrases.

I held this space here, a holding pen before shipping a small family of words to the market of my front page.

Stuck my finger in the book to mark my place until the numb wears off in tingles and jars me into this square of the calendar which begins a new month.

I haven’t disappointed you with all of this waiting and squaring off of my virtual ranch. Only me, in my knowing, that once I sat and did not fish for or finish a snippet. I did not fashion it into a poem. Did not type it out under the photograph that I took–my first response, but only by seconds, as the stanza came into the world the fraternal twin of light kissing silver halides.

Here, at last, is the morsel that took longer to introduce than to conceive.

the sky by the sea

the sky by the sea

dusk smudged pines

feather themselves

straight into the

darkening skies

Lessons From the Pool

I’m humming it but I don’t want to write it.

The truth is, there is a lot that can happen, that needs to happen, between the edge of the pool and Dory’s mesmerizing ditty.

What I hear this morning above the swirl of lyrics is you can’t swim away, or walk away while still holding onto the railing.

I see the child in the pool screaming. Holding onto my neck, or the railing by the steps. Refusing to let go because he knows letting go means going under. Unknown. It requires effort opposite to all of the life he has known.

Before today, before a lesson in swimming or life, breathing wasn’t a thought. Now it is something to consider, to control. You don’t have to say to the child that inhaling under water causes death. He knows.


A Cry Stolen from the portfolio: Show You Yours

Now, on the edge of the pool, you have been asked to stop what you know keeps you alive. This is a lot to ask of a child, regardless of age.

I love being in the water.

I am not good at holding my breath. Which probably says a lot about me.

Holding your breath is one part control, one part letting go. It is knowing that you can’t live holding onto the railing. It is suspending one belief for a deeper knowing.

Today I want to find a way to be in the water. To believe that letting go of the railing will mean I get to do one of my favorite things–be held by strong arms that spin me around like a 4 year old princess.

Because you can’t laugh and feel fear at the same time.

Headed North

Headed North

I’m Bear Aware!

I was staying in Seattle and while I was there I planned my birthday trip. I spent time writing and said yes to several book reviews. I clicked yes and realized the disconnect of requesting a hard copy book be mailed to me when, at the time, I had no mailing address. I failed then to see the overlapping of stories.

The print copy made a rather circuitous route before resting on my bedside table. It did however arrive at the right time, as is the lesson on repeat for my life right now.

There was a journey over the jagged edge of loss. Despite the maps I had carefully marked and folded and stored in plastic cases, it was a trip into uncharted territory.

My need to know the answer, to get through something pushed me to read the book in 2 sittings. Grief does not find its end so quickly. Not for me. Not for Polson, as she relates in her memoir; North of Hope: A Daughter’s Arctic Journey. It could be said that I devoured the book, hoping to assimilate it in some cellular way which might bypass my mind.

North of Hope

I appreciated her transparent stutterings toward grasping the experience which is so intensely personal and absolutely universal at the same time. I read sentence after sentence that struggled to explain, and felt like I was watching a replay of an accident on the news. You can’t look away. They try to frame the incident differently. Get closer. Interview someone else. All framing the same moment, each a part and each a whole. The speech is not a mumbling, or even a stuttering but a fuller examination of critical aspects of her journey.

They were memories. They were casings. They were shrouds. They were straightjackets. They were vestments. They were relics. They were the certitude of each day of my life before June 25. They had housed expectations for my life. They were embraces.

My experiences read nothing like those of Polson’s. Good writing, honest storytelling transcends the details that we use to separate ourselves. North of Hope is a story, and a tool. It is a link in a chain to help others move past the details of their grief and into the process of grieving.

My advice. Read carefully and remember the choice Polson presents…

It occurred to me then that I had a choice about what I’d been given: to grit my teeth and try to muscle through, or to try to train my wounded spirit to the possibility of wonder.

**This was another review for the lovely folks at Zondervan and Handlebar Marketing. No deposits to a Swiss bank account happened here. No cash passed under the table in an Italian restaurant. Just me, and my unending opinions, and affiliate links.**

Move Over to Make Room

You know how it is. You have a plan. A list. The square on the calendar and it is full. There are scribbles on paper and buzzers on your phone.

You have things to do.

I have blog posts to edit, to hit publish.

Life doesn’t always agree. The kids get sick without warning, or request. Meetings get cancelled. Days get scrambled. (And sometimes our minds and our emotions too!)

Today was supposed to be about this lovely book:North of Hope: A Daughter’s Arctic Journey

Last night, the great and mighty interwebs did not agree with my agenda.

Then this comes in my email this morning.

The girlfriends are skooching over on the couch for you. There might still be a corner brownie too. Rearrange your next five minutes because it will be good.

You are welcome!

From Here to Here Again


It’s time again to play with my words.

Let’s review the rules:

Now, set your timer, clear your head, for five minutes of free writing without worrying about getting it right.

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

OK, are you ready? Please give us your best five minutes on:::


It’s here again. Friday. Time to sit and let the words come as they will–let them run like dogs in the dog park, thrilled to be off the leash.

I’m here. Here again. In a familiar place trying to learn what is new. At least learn what the old here has to teach me.

To pay attention to how here shapes me. Or why I long for over there.

Do I always long for any other there, no matter where I am?

And here, this moment, at the keyboard is the time when my fingers pause because my mind is sitting and staring at the yellow tree and the truth that here is where I have to turn.

A Bonsai Encounter

Bonsai, Seattle Washington

Bonsai, Seattle Washington

They are small trees. It is an art form. We find small adorable. Understandable. It gives us control.

I am an artist. I create. I often start with a seed–a piece of art, writing, a color made by someone else. Not unlike a bonsai artist. God made the tree and the artist makes it to their own by placing it in a pot and pruning it.

Facing those trees.

My mind flashed to the movie Flicka. I was the horse thrashing to get out of the trailer.

cage-like displays

cage-like displays

The first tree on display was, or rather has been a bonsai since 1970. Forty years as a piece of art.

The displays list 2 dates. The date of origin, then the date the tree became a bonsai. These trees, they lived and grew before being pruned or possessed.

Each of these unique creations had a version of an artist’s statement on a plaque below the tree.

The first one I noticed had been captive, had been a form of art for 43 years. Some had dates spanning more than a hundred years. One claimed to have an origin date in Japan before Europeans were said to have traveled to Seattle.

I see two sides. Creating is an expression of God in us. We were made with such desires to shape, to color, to leave a mark.

I also see bound feet, birds in cages and power struggles.

112 Sierra Juniper juniperus occidentalis

Known also as “Western Juniper”, this Sierra juniper was collected by the artist in 1975, about 40 miles south of Tahoe, California. It has been trained into a double trunk, informal upright style.

An important feature of the tree is the prominent area of dead wood at the front. In nature, this often appears as a result of sun scald or desiccation of the foliage on sunny winter days when the roots are frozen and cannot supply moisture. This dead wood gives the tree a very aged and natural appearance. Live tissue at the rear of the tree support the entire crown.

Usually what offends us is truth poking our sore spots. Being contained and pruned both stood up and said ouch during my outing at the Bonsai Gardens. The shock came from the timing.

Three years ago, I could have voiced the pain of containment. Being contained, trying to remain contained, was my life for better or worse.

Two years ago, pruning was my story.

215 Korean Hornbeam Carpinus turczaninovii

Korean hornbeam is native to both Korea and Japan; it is known as a “Korean hornbeam” because it has traditionally been a popular export tree for Korean commercial growers. It is a highly regarded bonsai subject because of its fine, dense branching, chalky white bark, and blazing orange autumn leaf color.

Imported to the United States in 1985, this tree was grown in the ground prior to pot cultivation to develop a strong base and thick trunk. A common technique for enlarging the base is to allow numerous “sucker” shoots to develop from near the soil line. The large scars that sometimes result when the shoots are removed add a sense of age and character to the trunk.

heart break in tree form

heart break in tree form

Not all healing comes with memory loss, or a once and for all.

***One month from today, Saturday May 11 is World Bonsai Day. Quoted (indented and italicized) text taken directly from displays at the Weyerhaeuser Bonsai Gardens.***

Bread and Wine, or Bread and Bread

Dates stuffed with herbed goat cheese and almonds.

Dates stuffed with herbed goat cheese and almonds.

Shauna says Mel is always early.

We know differently.

They can’t imagine life without a table between them after only 3 years.

We count starting at a decade mark and move forward. There is rarely an actual table between us. Kitchen islands, yes. Coffee tables, sure.

What matters is that one of the ways we grow up is by declaring what we love.

There was a table once. The final goodbye at a first home was spent around a table with pizza boxes piled in the middle. We sat, booster seats moved to the floor, in the middle of four cherished walls. I think I have one or two photos from that night. I can’t find them now in the disorganization of my digital life (which, as you may guess can be a clear reflection of my in real life life.) The images are silly little snapshots that could easily be deleted–bad lighting, someone with their mouth open, a kid photo bombing before anyone knew what photo bombing was and we knew it as a kid being a kid.


From years ago, an attempt at a group photo complete with kids.

It is appropriate that this book, Bread and Wine, arrived in the mailbox of a girlfriend before I made it into town. The stories about life around a table came when I was returning to live life in the place where I have practiced life around the table the most.

The table is where we return to stitch our hearts back together after the breaking.

The group has evolved from always brownies and episodes of Friends and ER to a tribe of littles and a schedule that has to be more flexible. As Bread and Wine recounts, whether there are tears or candles, life continues around the table.

These girls obliged me and my slight alterations of Shauna’s Dark Chocolate Salted Toffee, even on a night they usually devote to portion control and braving the bathroom scale. These images are my real life expression of the book Bread and Wine. I suggest you put your hands on a copy soon, but call the ones you love first and get a date on the calendar for a meal together because that will be your drive once you open the cover.


A little off center, like most of us. But as close as we are, we can hold each other up.

Learn, little by little, meal by meal, to feed yourself and the people you love, because food is one of the ways we love each other and the table is one of the most sacred places we gather.

**As always the photos and words are mine. Indented and italicized text are quotes from the book. The publisher sent me a book to read and this post is what happened. If, however, any of you want to claim some of the calories consumed on this night, email me and I’ll arrange to have some thigh dimples shipped to your door. Links to the book are affiliate links.**

Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes