July 17, 2009

Happy Birthday!

If you know me well and spend any amount of time with me May-July, you know that yesterday was my birthday. You will know this tidbit because I will begin talking about my birthday two months before it actually arrives. I love my birthday.

It isn’t that anything absolutely spectacular happens on my birthday, in fact, most birthdays are quite normal. Nor do I expect cards, gifts and flowers from everyone (although those are nice perks). So most people wonder, why would someone my age be so happy about turning over another year? Shouldn’t I have grown out of this by now? Why would I look forward to moving from one age bracket on forms to another that puts me firmly in middle age territory? Why would I want to admit that time is passing, whether I like it or not?

Usually people tell me their birthday is just another day or they dread the day because it just makes them feel older. My question to all you birthday haters and to everyone who chooses to simply ignore the day is this, why wouldn’t you love your birthday? It’s the day you entered the world and officially began your journey. It’s the day God specifically chose for you to begin transforming the world around you, merely with your presence. Isn’t that a good reason to celebrate the day?

As I’ve aged and life has thrown some fairly tough things at me, I’ve found that I’ve become more cynical and don’t trust as easily or quickly as I used to. I’ve lost my positive, “dive in without looking because it’s all going to work out” attitude and I’m often accused of being overly cautious. But one thing that hasn’t changed is that I know the day I was born is special. I know the day you were born is special. I know if you or I weren’t here, the world would be a much different place and we have no idea how far reaching the changes would be.

So the fact that I was born several years ago yesterday is a big deal. It’s worthy of taking the day off from work and giving myself the gift of time. It’s worthy of spending it with family and friends. It’s my day. Good or bad, God chose that day to bring me here to change things, even in small ways. I definitely think that’s reason to be happy, enjoy it and celebrate.

July 15, 2009

Dillon, Montana

Last month I traveled to Blackfoot, Idaho to meet my week old niece. She was, of course, beautiful and perfect. The trip from Spokane to Blackfoot takes a little over nine hours, unless you happen to stop in Dillon, Montana for ice cream and realize you have a nail in your tire; then it takes about ten hours.

There is no doubt we were being watched over that day, because had we gone on without knowing about the nail, we likely would have had a flat tire in the middle of nowhere Montana. The side trip for ice cream was a sudden decision and it was a miracle we saw the nail before getting back in the car to travel on. As it was, we were able to find a local Les Schwab and relaxed while the nail was removed and the tire was fixed.

Prior to this unexpected stop, my experience with Montana had been limited to traveling through the state at record speeds. I was at the end of a long journey from Texas with a confused cat in the back seat of my truck and the bed of my truck loaded with all my worldly possessions. All I wanted was to reach my destination of Spokane, Washington that day, and I thought Montana seemed endless. I wasn’t a big fan of the state.

But my impressions of Montana all those years ago were wrong. It’s a beautiful state, and although it does take quite a while to drive through, you really can’t beat the mountains, trees, rivers and more. However, what I liked most were the people. As we hung out at the tire shop, I watched locals deal with their own tire issues. I felt like I had arrived home. Cowboy boots, blue jeans, cowboy hats, and even some actual accents with a hint of a drawl. I had found my people! They were nice, friendly and for a brief moment, I felt as if I was home. Sadly, I this is the only picture I took in Dillon. Trust me; it looks much better than this.

I’m not ready to move to Montana, but I now know it’s a wonderful state to drive through and an even better place to stop and rest during a long trip. I should have known Montana would be high on the Texas cool meter; some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know in the northwest are from Montana.

April 4, 2009

Where is Spring?

I drove around Spokane today, looking for spring but found no evidence of it other than a little sunshine. While that is progress and a big improvement over the snow we had earlier in the week, I'm ready to see some color. Below are two photos I took in my office. Hopefully soon I'll be taking photos like this outside.

March 22, 2009

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

Lately I’ve become interested in signs; no, not the kind of signs that involve famine, pestilence, earthquakes, etc. I’m talking about road signs. I recently took a day trip to a small town in Washington and was greeted by the following sign as we entered.

Really? When did we give up on trying to stop people from drinking and driving? Now we just warn everyone to watch out for the drunk drivers like we warn them about ice on the road? This seems so wrong. I was even more worried when I got further into town and saw a building that proclaimed it was the Town Hall Pub. Aha! No wonder they have a sign warning visitors about drunk drivers on the road.

But that wasn’t the only interesting sign I came across. I was intrigued by the ones that advised people they had to wear their seat belts both day and night. Sorry I don’t have a picture, but if you’re in Washington, just take a look at the signs on the highway. I guess I just assumed the law covered both day and night. I wonder how many people went to court arguing that it wasn’t specific enough? And did people assume the law didn’t apply to daytime or to evenings? There must have been quite a few for them to go along the highway adding this to every seat belt sign (yes, it’s tacked on under the original portion of the sign).

But this is the Washington state sign that really had me pondering the consequences.

Oh my! And they said Texas’ litter signs sounded too tough (Don’t mess with Texas). At least we weren’t overtly threatening violence and pain. Do they break one finger for your first offense, two for your second and so on? Maybe they just give you a good swift kick in the pants. Whatever the punishment, it was enough to make me hold onto my trash until I was home and could dispose of it without retribution.

I’m going to keep my eyes open for other intriguing signs. If you see a good one, let me know or send me a picture.

March 18, 2009

Kissing Frogs

A couple of people have complained that I'm not updating my blog often enough. Yippee! People are reading and they care. I'll admit, I have been a slacker lately and I promise to post regularly from this point forward. I also promise that not all future posts will be about house browsing. Once spring arrives and I find things that catch my attention, you will see more photos taken by me as well. Now, with all that said, let's move on to what is on my mind today.

Of course it has to do with house browsing because that has been the focus of my attention this week. I've realized there is so much to pay attention to when looking at houses, not just with the house itself, but also the surrounding area. Does it have bus stop in front of it? Is it on a high traffic street? Is there an apartment building next door? Is the neighbor's yard filled with cars or is their yard well maintained? Is it across the street from a high school? Is it on a corner lot? Are there extremely large trees in jeopardy of falling on the house? Is it directly behind a liquor store (yes, I did drive by one that was - note the words drive by, not stopped by)? The number of things to consider is dizzying. Yes, I'm fully aware that I fret too much and some things can be overlooked if it's the right house.

I've also realized that as a single income person (not a large single income), I can only afford homes within a certain price range. Further, it seems that all the houses within my price range are "special" in some way. I expect some uniqueness and I expect to have a few items I'll have to repair or pretty up, but the degree of specialness I've seen lately is causing me to doubt my search for my future dwelling place. You know you're in trouble when the real estate agent gets to the house first and greets you at the door by saying, "Let's go see the next house." My mom is still wondering just how bad that one was; I've moved on.

Searching for the right house is much like searching for Mr. Right. As we all know, you sometimes have to kiss a lot of frogs first. Apparently I'm deep into the frog kissing stage of this house thing. For those who may want to chastise me and tell me that no man and no house are perfect, I realize that. I'm not looking for the perfect house (or the perfect man), but I am looking for the one that is perfect for me. You may say they are one and the same, I say that's not true. When I say I'm looking for the one that is perfect for me, I'm saying I know there will be flaws and there will goofy things that others will find annoying, but for me and my personality, it will suit me and be endearing and achieve near perfection in my eyes.

So the browsing continues. I know I'm probably driving my mom, step dad, and real estate agent crazy but I really can't help it. The right frog that will turn into an enchanted cottage hasn't come along yet. When it does, I will know it, and I will see beyond the warts and rough exterior to the beautiful life I will build inside its walls.

March 3, 2009


We’re all a little quirky, and some would say I’m the queen of quirk, but I’ve discovered there are people out there who might be quirkier than I. For instance, during my recent house browsing, I've been amazed at what people have chosen to do with their homes. Odd things such as adding on a very narrow enclosed space that runs the width of the back of a house, covering up several large windows and adding only one tiny window and a door. Now the large windows look into a narrow, dark room with a concrete floor. What is the purpose of this area? I have no idea.

And then there is the house that has a huge backyard with plenty of room for enlarging the square footage of the house, but the owners chose instead to increase their bedroom size in their driveway. Yes, they blocked their only access to parking their car in the garage in favor of a larger bedroom and closet. So now they have a driveway that goes through their bedroom. Really. It disappears under the house and reemerges on the other side.

One of my personal favorites is the very small house (750 sq. ft.) with three dining rooms. OK. Maybe not all three areas are actually dining rooms, but they've placed dining room type lighting fixtures in the rooms and they hang awfully low. You enter the house through the front door and are in the living room. Turn to your right and there's the first dining room area. Walk to this area and look to your left, there is another dining room area. Beyond that is the kitchen which has a bar that looks out onto, yes, another dining room area. What amused me most was the marketing verbiage. "Plenty of dining space for cozy family dinners!" You've got that right.

But the grand daddy of all quirkiness has to be the house I visited on Sunday. This was truly an OMG! moment. This house is just down the street from my mom's and I've often wondered what it looked like inside. You see, from the outside it had, since I've lived in Spokane, looked like a homemade fortress patched together with corrugated metal, plywood, and chicken wire; quite a thing to behold, I assure you, especially inside city limits. But last year, something happened to the residents. An estate sale was held (I wasn't brave enough to go) and someone attempted to clean up the yard and put new siding on the front portion of the house (just the front and part of two sides). They also replaced the front door so I assumed that they had worked on the inside to prep it for sale. When I saw that they were holding an open house, I raced to my mom and talked her into walking up the street to have a look. The pictures I've included do not do it justice (see below).

The owners were apparently fond of electric blue and painted all of the inside this eye popping color in various shades (floor to ceiling blue, cabinets blue, carpet blue, everything blue). On the living room wall is a very large mural of an ocean scene and they attached an equally large wooden boat structure to it. The lucky new owner gets to keep it for free. The bedrooms and bathroom were old, electric blue and quirky but nothing compared to the "bonus" room the owners had added on without bothering with the legalities of permits, inspections, and what not.

So you walk into the house and you're in the living room facing a bank of windows (which you see once you stop looking at the large mural and boat). If you go further into the room, you'll see the electric blue kitchen to your left with its own bank of windows. Both sets of large windows look directly into the "bonus" room which is two stories tall. Talk about vaulted ceilings! There is no backyard to be seen from this view, only blue carpet, plywood walls, odd wooden pilings, and two strange concrete squares. It’s about the size of a basketball court. I felt sorry for the poor real estate salesman. He really was giving it his best shot and offered that this might make a good day care. Um, yeah. I don't think so. But points for creativity.

The owners had apparently built the room as a place for their grandchildren to play. In one of the odd square concrete areas, they had once had a tall tank with a wooden structure the kids could climb onto so they could dive into the tank. No safety issues there. The other concrete square used to hold a hot tub. There were two or three sets of handmade wooden ladders that led to platforms high above the vivid blue carpet and concrete squares. A basketball hoop adorned one wall, although I don't know how they kept from knocking the plywood walls down when making shots. Maybe they were just very good.

It was shocking. There was a finished basement, but Mom and I were so entranced by the "bonus" room that we never made it to the basement. OK, maybe there was a bit of fear involved too. This was the ultimate in quirkiness. I have to really wonder what people are thinking sometimes, but then I look at my own life and I see things that, if I were to disappear suddenly today, would make people wonder.

We’re all a little quirky, and most of the time I think that’s a good thing; however, when you’re trying to sell your house, you probably don’t want your quirkiness to come through. But then again, they say there is something for everyone out there. Perhaps there is someone who is looking for an odd narrow room, a garage with no driveway, three dining rooms in a small house, or a plywood bonus room with retro blue carpet. I’m sure the place I ultimately end up living in will have a bit of quirk as well. The difference will be that I will think it’s charming simply because it's mine. That's the nice thing about being quirky, there's always someone who thinks it's loveable.

If you have a quirky feature you’ve added to your house and you’re willing to admit it, I’d love to hear about it. E-mail me or comment below.

February 14, 2009

House Browsing

Some of you know I've been house browsing lately, trying to make up my mind about whether or not I can afford a house and whether or not it's the right time to buy. For the past month there have been three contenders (for what I can afford), but I noticed tonight that one has been taken off the listings. I knew this house would be removed soon because the owner indicated he would rent it if no one showed an interest in buying it, but still I was surprised and it made me a little sad. What if one of these houses is the best I can do? And if it is, I'm sad because the happiest house of the three is now out of contention.

What do I mean by happiest house? As I've walked through houses I've noticed they each have a feeling about them. The happy house felt loved. It felt as if it had protected and provided warmth to people who cared about each other and about the house. It's hard to explain and maybe it sounds a little kooky, but places do have vibes. For instance, the house next door to me is up for sale so I had a Realtor walk me through. Ugh. By the time I was done I wanted to cry. The feeling was heavy, dark and full of despair. It wouldn't matter how much they came down in price, I would never buy the place. One of my contenders, the biggest and the one with the most to offer, felt sad. My mom went to see it with me and she described it as heartbroken; very appropriate. It's a perfectly good house, but it feels as if there was an extended period of sadness inside and as if the house itself hasn't been truly loved for a very long time. My third contender is a tiny house that feels a little unsure. It's been redone very nicely inside, so maybe it just hasn't gotten used to its new look.

I know some of you may think I'm a little crazy to say that an empty house has an atmosphere left over from its previous life, but I know I'm right. There is a feeling that lingers in the air. Years ago I was searching for an apartment. I took an afternoon off work on a whim and visited three complexes. The first two were huge disappointments (one was run down, the other was too small, both felt dismal), but the third was pure perfection. I walked in the door and knew I had found my new home. It embraced me with comfort and felt secure. The deal was sealed when I opened the blinds in the dining room and saw two doves in a tree next to the window. It was the perfect place for me at the time. I'm looking for that feeling again. I'm probably hesitating with these houses because they haven't felt like home. The house I buy doesn't have to be perfect, but it does have to be perfect for me. It needs to feel happy, secure, and loved. So the house browsing will continue. I just have to have faith that the right place is out there.

February 2, 2009

I'm Overruling Phil

It's Ground Hog Day and good old Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, signaling six more weeks of winter. Nooooo! Say it isn't so! Please make the snow that fell in December and January go away. It's still piled high in my yard and along the side of the road.

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for spring so I'm overruling Phil's decision. I'm going to counter him with photos I've taken of spring flowers from days gone by. Maybe this will ward off more snow, ice, and cold. Maybe it will help usher in warmth, sunshine, and color. There's always hope. Even if the photos don't bring spring to us more quickly, at least they will remind us that it will eventually get here, even if it does take six more weeks.

January 16, 2009

A Lesson in Creative Slanket Misuse

What do you buy someone who appears to have everything they need and want (within your price range), is always cold (whether winter or summer), and has a tendency to wear coats in the house (even though the ambient temperature is 70)? A Slanket®, of course! Or at least that's what I bought my step-dad for Christmas this year.

And exactly what is a Slanket? Not to be confused with the Snuggie® knock-off, it's basically a fleece blanket with sleeves. The idea is that you can cover up with it and still have your arms free for reading, changing the channel on your television, talking on the phone and more. Sort of a backwards robe without a tie. Here's a picture of my step-dad, Albert, and his Slanket as it's supposed to be used.

But in the right creative hands, the Slanket has another use too. If you can convince someone you know or someone you would like to know to play along, you can have a Slanket for two by simply putting your heads through the sleeves. Now I'm sure the Slanket people never intended for it to be used this way, but when you look at the picture and really think about it, it's a great idea. They could go to a game, slip the Slanket sleeves over their heads, snuggle up together and stay toasty warm from neck to toe. Brilliant! Kudos to Albert! Here he is with my mom.

It's a simple lesson in creativity; take something and put your own twist on it. Just about everyone has done it at one time or another. My mom does it all the time when cooking. A friend does it with songs when singing. Another does it when she decorates her house with flea market treasures. Is there something in your life that you misuse for the good?

Perhaps sadly for me, I've always tended to be a rule follower. If the instructions tell me to use something one way, I am very likely going to use it that one way. If the recipe calls for exactly 1 tsp of something, you can bet solid money that I'm going to put exactly 1 tsp in, no more and no less. I wish I was more of a rule breaker, a rebel with my head in a sleeve, but I'm not. That doesn't mean I'm not creative, or at least I hope it doesn't. It does mean that I probably need to lighten up just a little. I think my goal for the coming week will be to find a creative use for at least one thing in my life. If I can come up with something really good, I'll post it.

January 11, 2009

The Real Us in Photos

The piles and piles of snow we’ve had in Spokane since December 17 prevented us from celebrating Christmas with my 91 year old grandma on December 25. Not only was it very difficult to get to the home where she lives, but even if we had, there was no way she could have walked on the snowy, icy walkways. So we waited until this past Saturday and decided to have “Second Christmas.”

Her gifts were wrapped and waiting. Mine to her was a memory book I created online, filled with recently taken family photos. I was careful to put names beneath the pictures in large type I knew she could read; however, this didn’t stop her from getting some of the names of the people in the photos wrong.

Mom and I have noticed that even though she sees herself in mirrors, because of her dementia, she often forgets that she’s aged. So when she flipped through the photo book, she repeatedly thought pictures of my mom were her (even though my mom looks nothing like my grandma did when she was 62). In my grandma’s mind, she’s still a spry young thing. There have been many times she’s caught a glimpse of herself in a mirror and has been shocked she no longer has red hair (from what I understand, she hasn’t had red hair since she was a girl).

I think we all have a distorted view of ourselves in some way. I have a hard time seeing my true weight in the mirror and I’m often shocked when I see photos. A friend forgets she’s in her 50’s and is surprised to see subtle little wrinkles in photographs. Another always thinks she’s taller than photos reveal her to be. And a male friend is convinced something is wrong with all cameras in the world because he couldn’t possibly have the bald spot that shows up in his photos.

I often wonder what makes us have these distorted views of ourselves and why photographs seem to reveal the truth. We all look at ourselves in mirrors every day, yet many of us are shocked when we see photographs. How did we all get magical mirrors that conceal the flaws we fear the most? Why don’t we see who we really are, not who we would like to be?

Ultimately, my grandma is one of the happiest people I know. In her mind she’s still very youthful and still has that red hair. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

January 8, 2009

Here Comes the Sun

I saw the sun today. It was 4:10pm and I had just started my car to head home. To my right, the trees across the street were highlighted in vibrant shades of gold and red as if they were on fire. I tried to get some pictures, but because my office is on a busy street and the sun was fading fast, this was the best I could do between cars driving past.

We’re slowly thawing out and the claustrophobia I was feeling because of all the snow is starting to ease. I no longer feel trapped by something far beyond my control. At work, the roof may be leaking, we may have cracks in the walls, and the snow piles may still be just over 7 feet tall in front of our windows, but the sun came out in all its wonderful glory and that made it feel as if everything is going to be OK after all. Of course it is. Life goes on and the sun always comes out eventually.

January 5, 2009


I recently watched a news program that proclaimed people are growing more nostalgic and seeking out things from their past and beyond. Dance halls are filling with young and old doing the west coast swing, lindy hop, and waltz. People are frequenting stores that specialize in soft drinks and candy from days gone by. Sales for traditional board games are up as much as 26%. I believe it. When times get tough, I long for something familiar and comforting.

Several people on the program were asked what one thing they would like to see return from the past. The longed for included cozy bookstores, handwritten letters, and old television shows such as The Dick Van Dyke Show and Gilligan’s Island. All of these are slower, quieter, a little more relaxing than the glaring, blaring, in your face things of today. A big box bookstore just isn’t the same as one that is locally owned, where hidden treasures await you and the owner knows your name. Can you really compare a handwritten note or card to a text message that that includes the line “btw, where r u?” And although there are some funny modern sitcoms out there, I’d pick Rob and Laura from The Dick Van Dyke Show over any present day sitcom couple.

After much consideration, I decided on the thing I would bring back and make popular again if I could; music from the 60’s and 70’s. I think some of the best music in modern history was written and performed during this time, and they are the songs that make up the soundtrack for my childhood. I was fortunate enough to have grown up surrounded by a good variety of music, so it wasn’t just rock but country and other types as well. I think it shaped my appreciation for all types of music today. Through good times and bad, the music from this era defined moments in my life, told stories I could only imagine, broadened my thoughts, and helped make me who I am today. There are some songs from this era that I could do with never hearing again, but there are so many more that are classics worthy of being brought back. Some of my favorites, even today, bring a feeling of comfort and calm to me.

So that’s what I would bring back if I could. What would you bring back? What from your past gives you a sense that all is right with the world? What is the one thing that makes you feel like you just snuggled under your favorite blanket with a warm cup of hot chocolate? I’d really love to know. Post a comment or send me an e-mail.

This is What Happens

What happens when I get bored shoveling snow, looking at snow, thinking about snow, worrying about snow? I start trying to take pictures of objects inside my house. Below are a few I took today. I usually stick to objects outside, so these are a departure for me.

January 4, 2009

Shut Down

I had such high hopes for January 5. It was going to be the day I finally got to go back to work; the first time in three weeks I actually worked five days in a row. But as the famous line from the poem goes, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Work has been canceled again due to snow. Ugh.

But this is my year to be positive, so here’s my spin.

Operations have been suspended because the sheriff closed all the schools and colleges, not because our building is unsafe. I’ve been told that the roof of our building was cleared on Friday and the building is safe for us to return to… someday. Tomorrow I will be outside in the crisp, fresh air getting more much needed exercise. I will also have time to work on a few things at home that need to be done.

We’ll see what Tuesday brings. Until then, I’ll just keep shoveling, writing, and taking pictures. Here's another I took in my front yard.

January 2, 2009

A Sunny Winter Day

After watching the noon news and seeing that more business roofs had collapsed, I looked out the window and saw blue sky and sunshine. It was a wonderful reminder that all is not bad. There is beauty in the midst of disaster. So I took my new camera out for a few pictures around the house.

Blue sky! Woohoo!

This little guy was very busy putting holes in my telephone pole. Probably not a good thing, but he sure was cute. Can you see him in all the brown on the pole?

Practicing close shots with the new camera.

This was taken from the end of my driveway facing up the hill.

And this was facing down the hill. As much as I hate shoveling the snow after the plows go by, I'm really grateful they have been plowing our hill regularly.

More blue sky; a very welcome sight.

Berries (life) in the snow.

Sunshine through the trees. Yahoo!

January 1, 2009

Black Eyed Peas and Good Luck

In Texas we have a tradition of eating plenty of black eyed peas on January 1 in order to have good fortune the rest of the year. I’ve done this most of my life. There were a couple of years when I was convinced that eating the peas actually brought me a bit of bad luck and I stopped, but we all know that’s just silly. Right? The peas can't bring luck, good or bad, can they? Why take the chance? Whether they do or don’t, I ate the peas today and enjoyed them. I love family traditions.

I hope everyone was able to indulge in their own family traditions today and hope 2009 brings all of you good fortune, whether you eat the peas or not.