Pre-Easter Pastels

Today I am posting some of my mother’s pastel portraits.

This was the non-winning portrait of the Jane Pauley Christmas Card, Sally’s favorite of the entries.  This portrait now sits in my parents’ garage – it was one of my Sally Sightings, found during a tornado watch shortly after her death.



Here is the Blue Ribbon winner, a portrait of a niece.  Technically, the judges were correct but as I like the subject matter above, it is also my winner.




This is a portrait of my maternal grandmother, Susie, which Sally painted from a photograph.


Likewise, the Self-Portrait with Spouse.






Filed under Family, Life

Champagne Soul


I started paying sufficient attention to the 5th Commandment sometime around Christmas, 2015.  Singing Joy to the World with my family, sandwiched between my parents in church, I thought to myself, “Absorb this moment.  It might not ever happen again.”  Indeed, it did not.  But I still have that moment, locked in my heart to TREASURE forever.  Was there a subconscious inkling?

I have pondered the notion of subconscious inklings for awhile now.  Like the fifth dimension, the purported “spacetime fabric” of physics, there is only indirect evidence of their existence but enough for me to believe.

The Fifth Commandment and a subconscious inkling perhaps led me to do a lot of things to which seemed preposterous at the time.   Like going on a fishing trip in Oregon with my parents last summer, another moment I treasure.    It was rather nuts to be squishing that trip in to all the other activity, but I persisted; I was on a mission.  My parents and I were able to walk down Memory Lane to the same sacred space we camped in 1972.

Likewise, Thing 3′s high school graduation party .  I know my mother thought I was out of my everliving mind to be having a party, especially on graduation day.  I can only say that some internal force insisted I give this party.  The party was, technically, somewhat of a disaster but we had a fabulous time nonetheless.  There was a reason for the absurdity, the thunderstorm, and the overturned taco truck – had I not had that party, my dear friends in the Buckeye state would not have met my mother Sally.  And then there was the New Year’s Eve party, which my mother joyfully attended, even though she thought I was bonkers.

In the Old Testament, we are commanded to honor our parents.  It does not command us to love them.  This comes from Jesus and the New Testament:  loving your God with all your soul, might and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself.   Only the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can make you love anyone.  I am grateful I could do both, even if it took me my whole life.


The 5th Dimension provided the soundtrack for my early childhood and this blog post.  Let the Sunshine in.  It might be the Age of Aquarius.





























Filed under Family, Life, Religion, Star Gazing, Travel

Red Beard




I distinctly remember my parents coming home from their Hawaiian adventure.  I was in the swimming pool at the country club.  My parents rounded the corner of the club by the golf pro shop.  I literally could not believe my eyes.  My mother was 20 shades darker and my dad had a full beard, most of which was red.  They were my parents but they were fundamentally altered.  I was OVERJOYED.

When I had a red headed baby I recalled my father’s red beard.

For Christmas, I gave my mother an DNA test.  Mr. Understanding gave me one too.  I set up my mother’s account but she did not get around to spitting into the tube. This I regret, not making sure she did the test.  I’d already given my father one (file under: What to Get A Man for a Gift).

When comparing my DNA to my father’s (yes, he is mine!)  it turns out that, genetically,  4% of my DNA comes from the Iberian Peninsula.  This I did not get from Big Mike.  From the map, it appears that I am Basque-ish on my mother’s side.  Celtic invaders from long ago???  This might explain my affinity for Galicia,  pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela, and love of the Portuguese and Spanish languages.  It does not explain my distaste for fish – it must be a mutant gene.   All of my DNA comes from seafaring countries.  It also explains my mother’s dark dark dark skin due to prolonged UVA exposure.  I am anxious for my sisters to do the test – maybe MoodRingMomma is even more Iberian than I?

And to think that Spain was the country I liked living in the least …







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Filed under Family, Life, Reading, Religion, Spanish vocabulary, Travel

The Canvas Can Do Miracles


When my mother Sally was in the ICU after her heart surgery in December, 2016, she was assigned to  Night Nurse Joey.  Joey, although American, was born in the Philippines.  This was enough for Sally, in her somewhat confused state,  to speak to Joey of her father’s stint in World War Two in the Merchant Marine.

“Although the Merchant Marine suffered a per capita casualty rate greater than those of the US Armed Forces, merchant mariners who served in World War II were denied such veterans recognition until 1988 when a federal court ordered it. The Court held that “the Secretary of the Air Force abused its discretion in denying active military service recognition to American merchant seamen who participated in World War II.”[16]”   

This according to Wikipedia.  Take it with a grain of salt.  Since I am not a professional blogger, you will have to deal with the quick and dirty “facts”.  I don’t have time to investigate but the Wiki accounting corresponds to what I have been told.

In any event,  Sally went ON AND ON  about her father, Lowell, and his role in World War Two.  ON AND ON.  Joey took it like a champ.  This was not his first Cardiac ICU rodeo.

I kept silent in the chair beside Sally’s bed.  It was probably around midnight.  In her state of mind, Sally mistook Joey for being of Japanese descent.  No matter.  She told him the story of the battle of Okinawa – how the ships on either side of my grandfather’s had sunk under fire while his remained upright in the water.

Joey, for his part, told her how his grandfather had been the Surgeon to the King of the Philippines (?)  and had personally waded out to meet General MacArthur, ferrying the injured from the battle to the operating theatres.

The entire time Sally was talking on and on, I kept thinking, “Ach, Joey has to move on, has to see other patients.”  Internally, I was a little impatient.  But it was if Joey and my mother were in some weird cosmic locking of horns, egging each other on.  I wanted to silence my mother but could not – on some level I was PAYING SUFFICIENT ATTENTION.  I was in a different theater – the theater of What the Heck Is Going On?  Perhaps my mother was conjuring her own father?   

And then Joey told us of his wife, Irma, aged 42, who was suffering from an aggressive form of cancer.  The cost of the experimental treatment was $7,000 a month, for which his family signed up.  Life expectancy for Irma was a year at best.  He did, however, get a discount since he worked at the hospital.

Joey and Irma have four children. Irma has great faith.  Joey told me, “We’ve already cried all the tears we can cry. Now we just move on.”

I ask you:  Is this possible?

Answer:  Maybe.  I would not have thought this two months ago.

But I do think the body accommodates this level of stress somehow.  I personally burned worry out of my body  after The Year of the Migraine.  The body can only absorb so much before it shuts down a part of itself.  This is the place – OVERWHELMED – where fear lets go.  This could explain why I was not in the least concerned about my mother’s surgery.  She would overcome, plain and simple.  Worry was not part of the program.

Which does not explain how and why my grandfather ever stepped foot on a boat again.  In fact, he was obsessed with sailing.  Why???  How does Irma let go of her children and let the canvas unfurl, ripple out and flap in the wind, without her???

Did I mention that my parents sailed to Hawaii on a 42 foot yacht from San Francisco with my grandparents and two of my uncles, leaving behind three children under the age of ten?  If am not mistaken, they set sail on my grandmother’s 60th (!)  birthday in 1973.  If you think about it for even half a minute, it will suck the wind out of your own sails.

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, my mother wondered what the hell she had done.  Leaving three children behind, with only the mothers of other potential orphans to care for them.

And this, I believe, is the genesis of faith.  Out in the middle of the ocean, no land in sight, wondering how  one got to this place,  hoping and trusting all will be well.  It matters not if one put oneself in the position or if fate did.  It is a long way to shore, for believers and unbelievers alike.  Yet one prevails.

To unwind the clock, Baby Boomers, click here for Chris Cross’ Sailing.   Then dogpaddle to shore.






Filed under Family, Life, Religion, Spanish vocabulary, Travel

Sunday Driving on a Thursday


Today’s post of the Skagit Valley is brought to you by the blogger WanderlustPics.  Sign yourself up today for a daily dose of travel in your virtual mailbox.

My parents lived near the Skagit Valley for over a decade. They grew up in an era of “Sunday Drives”.  As children, Mike and Sally used to trundle us girls out to the car and take us on  aimless country drives (we were not much of hikers).  I did not particularly appreciate staring out the window at cows and the occasional lamb.  As an adult, I know better.  Traveling by car, one connects with the landscape in a more intimate way than by air.

The drive from Camano Island to Laconner is one of the most beautiful Sunday Drives one can ever take.  If you go in the summer, make sure to stop by the Snow Goose Produce for a ginormous ice cream cone, fresh vegetables, and zinnias.  Now the fields are full of tulips.

Mr. Understanding and I recently enjoyed watching the Netflix series Versailles.  On her death bed Princess Henriette, Louis the 14th’s sister in law, proclaims, “The flowers are singing”.   If that is not an entree to Heaven, I do  not know what is.  If you were a flower, wouldn’t you want to lift your face to the Son and sing?  To feed butterflies?  To REJOICE?

Here is one of my favorite Sally  Skagit Barn photos:





Filed under Family, Life, Religion

Amazing Grace



Photo credit:  The Expat Princess, University of Florida Natural History Museum, Butterfly Rainforest


Fifteen years ago today I broke my ankle in several parts in my living room in Brazil.  We had moved there two months earlier.  My household possessions had still not arrived.

It took my mother two weeks to get to Brazil  (she needed to get a visa) but then she stayed for ten weeks to take care of me and my family.  Can you imagine giving up ten weeks of your life to nurse a bedridden, super cranky daughter?   In a foreign country?  She left Big Mike alone to fend for himself for 7 weeks.  He was gracious about lending her to us.

Sally did have a driver, housekeeper,  and a personal trainer so she was not feeling too sorry for herself.   She cooked, picked up the three year old from nursery school, supervised homework, and  brought me diet chocolate and two whiskeys every evening, one at 6 p.m. and one at 7.  (I was not given any pain killers when I left the hospital).  She and Mr. Understanding wrangled me into the shower every couple of days, a garbage bag up to my hip.  When I bathed my mother after her surgery, my thoughts returned to this most hideous period of my life and how generous she was with me.

And this I would say is the joy that cometh after a dark period.  One is never the same.  Being still and knowing Who Is In Charge fundamentally changes one in ways indefinable – until the next period of darkness. It creates patience.  Endurance.  Empathy and sympathy.  The kindness of virtual strangers and love of family members does carry one through.  I am a better person because of a broken ankle.  I will be a better wife, mother, and daughter because of this broken heart.   We learn by doing.

I did not cry this morning in yoga when Amazing Grace came on over the speakers.



Filed under Family, Friends, Life, Religion, Travel

Angel Island


In 1971 – 72,  Mike and Sally attended Lamaze classes at Humboldt State University.  There they met another couple who introduced them to recorder music.  My parents played fancy wooden ones, not the plastic ones we all played in 5th grade.  After class, they headed to the Arcata Plaza and had martinis at the smokey bar Toby and Jack’s.  Hee hee hoo hoo.

My youngest sister, MCV, was born in April of 1972.

A few months later she was baptised by a Presbyterian minister on a sailboat.  This happened after the regular service up on the Sausalito hill.  After church, we trooped down the wooden stairs to the harbor, stopping by the deli to pick up mini ham and cheese sandwiches, and proceeded to my grandparents’ boat slip.

Anchored off Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay, my parents played a tune on their recorders – hoo hoo hee hee – and wore berets crocheted by my mother as the minister poured water over the baby’s head.

This is as close as my parents got to being hippies.


Filed under Family, Life, Religion