kodiak august edition

Back from Kodiak.




And bears! Oh my!

I found another career idea for Dad: boat launch backer-upper. When you want to launch your boat but you need a big tractor to do it…

This octopus is named Gilbert.

These jellyfish are unnamed.

Until next year, Kodiak.


Don André especially loved working with couples, yes.

But also relished working with half a demolished couple, apparently. Loved working with couples and the individuals liberated thereof?

You could tell he loved his work, when you sat in the big blue EZ-boy recliner across from him. It’s easy to see couples counseling as a worthy, important profession, when you only picture couples entering therapy and then going on to become happier, stronger couples. But it is equally noble to efficiently perceive when an individual in a couple is having a hard time knowing her own worth because of long-term emotional abuse endured in a couple context (made difficult to perceive by the way people behave differently in a professional setting). It is noble to stand by her while she learns to perceive her worth, long enough for her to make the painful steps involved in extricating herself from a severe entanglement.

Don died on July 8th.

I knew that Don was dying. I learned that Don had died on July 15th, one week after his death, while I was in Kodiak, but waited until this information was shared publicly by his family before saying my own words about this staggering loss. His obituary appeared in Friday’s News Times. Rich couldn’t keep the tears out of his voice when he broke the news to me over the phone, which he learned from a long-time mutual friend. He knew this was a biggie for me.

Don wasn’t the kind of therapist who sat and said nothing while you poured out your guts. He got you pouring out the guts, but he also shared some of his guts. I think some of us require that dialogue to learn the skills we need. To get how it was for someone else helps us see how it is for ourselves, when we are too stuck inside ourselves sometimes to see it at first. He said enough for me to be able to picture the possibility of being with someone with whom I could be myself, with whom I could feel relaxed and free… I needed to know couples like Don and Jeannie had that, could sustain that, in order to believe it could exist for me, maybe, someday. (Spoiler alert: it does exist, today.)

My heart goes out to Jeannie.

As for me, what claim do I have to grieve this person? Like so many people here, I met Don as one-half of a broken couple. “The Perfect Storm,” he affectionately called us for the way we brought out the absolute worst in each other. “What I hear you saying is that it didn’t go that well,” he’d gently summarize, after whatever latest debacle I dragged in each week and poured through ugly tears. This understatement always made me laugh through the snot-filled Kleenex I clutched. I kept seeing Don professionally long after my ex quit seeing Don, and then years later, enough time having elapsed since our professional work, I sat with Don while he worked on articulating what it is he has learned in these long years of his life’s work. He had writing goals, I knew. During our sessions when I was his client, to which I faithfully brought a notebook and took copious notes, he had always joked that I would need to help him write his book one day.

I did just graduate an MFA in which I learned to write books, and I keep those notes, and those audio recordings of our “Donifesto” chats, in a safe place. It is hard to imagine writing Don’s book now that Don is gone, but then, it’s hard to imagine not sharing Don’s work with the world, too. I feel like I am sitting on a gold mine, one intended for the world to benefit from, not just me. Don had a grasp on the human condition, though he would never claim to have it figured out. He’s like Brené Brown but snarkier, with more tree/mushroom/compost metaphors, and a dude.

I never figured out why he would give such a gift to me. He always believed in me more than I believed in myself, as a way of showing me how to do it.

I mean, I don’t know what the protocol is for mourning your former-therapist-turned-friend-and-intellectual-buddy? He would laugh at this overthinking. Which makes me smile, though I’m really sad. I know I am among friends who are probably feeling this one hard, too.

There are few people in my life who have been more pivotal to my well-being. I will miss you, Don.


(belated reposting of a day late post…)

Get a spouse who is crazy, crazy about you, and supports all your crazy endeavors. Happy six years, Rich!

kodiak kaleidoscope

Kodiak July 2023. I got to see humpback whales right away, day one on the water. And also days two, four, six, and seven. Whale wealth!


Kodiak day two on the water brought even more whale wealth than day one. Humpbacks and killer whales. It was gratifying to hear “we’ve only ever seen them one other time in eighteen years of this survey.” I can’t take much credit but I did put in a special request.

Kodiak kaleidoscope:
Giant Pacific octopus
Rock greenling
Opalescent nudibranch
Sunflower sea star
Sea otter
Bald eagle
Tufted puffin
Not pictured but still helping fill my Kodiak wildlife bingo card: Dall’s porpoise, sea lion, harbor seal, and river otter, golden eagle. Not to mention all the rest of the fish, but we won’t say much about the fish, for they are data.
Did you know that one of the collective nouns for puffins is “an improbability of puffins?” I was delighted with not just pairs, but whole rafts, improbabilities, of puffins.
I’ll be back in August to what is quickly becoming another favorite place of mine on Earth.

ny textures

What I did on my summer vacation part one: June in Cortland New York.


Maybe it’s the sunbeams I stared into through my camera lens yesterday, as our band gathered into the staging area, or the pollen in the air, or maybe I have something in my eye. Pretty sure I’m allergic to backlit sun-drenched brass sections looking like angels are bending from the sky to kiss their foreheads.

I had the privilege of chaperoning the NHS marching band to the Starlight Parade in Portland yesterday. I love our band. I love watching them embody something Glennon Doyle says: “We belong to each other.” I love watching them lift their chin to let a friend reach in and close the clasp at their throat or adjust the chin strap on their shako (that’s what the hats are called). “I trust you,” they say, exposing their vulnerable soft parts. “I can be trusted,” they say, with their helpful hands.

I loved looking into the eyes of each student with a squirt bottle in my hand and saying silently, “Trust me.”

“I trust you,” they say silently. They open their mouth.

We used to call it “baby bird style” when Quinn was in second grade and we’d squirt water into the open mouths of the kids on field trips. I realize/remember when I watch another band mom, Carol, hydrating them, that our mouths open, too. It is so human, so motherly. Here comes the airplane. Ever since we started squirting things in their mouth as babes in arms, from breasts or bottles, spoons or fingers, we’ve opened our mouth when we want them to open theirs. We are mirrors.

Speaking of they/them. Happy Pride. I know one reason the band room is home to many kids is that they don’t exactly fit the regularly sanctioned acceptable categories of high school. The band room is home to the neurodivergent, the nonbinary, the nonconforming. Which is why I like taking them to Portland, where the 2023 Starlight parade Grand Marshal is Poison Waters, a drag performer and social activist. I like the exhibit behind us in the parade being TriMet, the bus I rode to work while I was pregnant with Quinn, with the slogan All Are Welcome. I like the Portland crowd with their rainbow light sabers and their heart-shaped glasses and their clowns on bicycles and their llamas on leashes and their boy children in tutus and their girl children in dinosaur crocs and all their children dancing and wielding guns that fire nothing but bubbles.

I like that their band teacher introduced so many of the end-of-year awards at their spring concert using they/their as he talked about each student, however they identified. I like that they can be boys tucking ponytails up into shakos with bobby pins and girls with pixie cuts or pigtails and nonbinary young people being whoever they want to be.

I like how kids from a rural coastal town go to a city fair. When told to be in groups of no fewer than three, their threes adhered to each other like Velcro and grew into fifteens, wandering under huge, gnarled city trees, venturing together into the dust-mote-filled sunbeams to hop on carnival rides, then congregating again under the boughs to loan each other cash for slushies and elephant ears. I like how they belong to each other.

They all have doubts and fears and preoccupations. I know I did as a teenager. I want to tell them… I still have so many doubts and fears and preoccupations, most recently upon my return to being a band mom who barely sees my son. The last Starlight parade we attended, I had a sixth grader who lived with me half time. Since then, a pandemic pulled us apart. We are coming back together. We are still here. We are not the same. But we still belong to each other. The band room is still home. I want to tell them to keep reaching for what they love, and especially for the people they love.

A beautiful mural featuring a blue bird up at the top of a tall building on SW 2nd and Salmon caught my eye, and I felt sure it had not been there four years ago on the parade route. Sure enough, this painting, called Inheritance, was created just last year. In it, an elder’s hands offer a bowl to a younger set of hands. The bowl brims with fir cones, trilliums, and butterflies.

I want to tell them: Look up, little birds. Do not let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t look up.

Also, there will be school bus fender benders, anxiety, garment bag chaos, missing shoes, forgotten backpacks, mood swings, vomit, blisters, dying phone batteries, and body odor.

There are enormous bands before us and behind us, with military-level discipline and polish and prestige, plumes spearing from their caps in waterfalls of sparkle and glitz. The band behind us filled at least four buses, maybe more. But I’ll take these kids, these coastal sardines packed into one bus, the ones who worked for their uniforms (the sophomores through graduating seniors remember the many nights they haunted the haunted house in 2019), with their proud plumes of blue feathers. I’ll take them and I’ll tell them silently with my eyes: Soar.

sixteen ~ oxygen

It’s time for the traditional Quinn’s birthday post. First of all, sixteen is a very satisfying number for making a grid of birthdays:

12 months 8 sock monkey bdaysealion Photo2196 Photo1104

Photo505 0225131805 Picturez 006 happy 7 orange IMG_6629


Some facts about sixteen… that’s XVI for you Roman numeral fans.



One of my favorite photos of Quinn this year, embodying his drum sticks with the football team in the background.

Sixteen is the fourth power of two (which makes me think of the Indigo Girls… “I’m stronger than the monsters beneath your bed, smarter than the tricks played on your heart….”)


Quinn says 16 is the basis of hexadecimal, whatever that is, but that he hasn’t learned hexadecimal quite yet. Apparently it is a goal.

It’s the atomic number of sulfur, the element of “brimstone,” but it’s also the molecular weight of oxygen, making up 21% of the atmosphere, literally the air I breathe, and 86% of the weight of the ocean, a big reason I breathe it.


Timpani are quull!

There are sixteen pawns in a chess set, and each player has sixteen pieces to start a chess game. Quinn is as insatiable with games as he always has been, at least last I checked, which was when he was 15 years and 361 days old, roughly 15.99, over this past weekend when we played several rounds of Tiny Epic Dinosaurs.



A sixteenth note is also called a semiquaver. I think it will be fun to discuss hemidemisemiquavers with him at some point. A true highlight of life right now is watching Quinn emerge on the stage of high school life through his involvement in concert band, pep band, and now jazz band.


Rich’s awesome birthday present find, a “Dungies and Dragons” shirt.


He’ll be marching in the spring and jamming in his bedroom with new cymbals added to his drum set.


There will also be more cowbell.

But don’t expect him to be able to blow out sixteen candles in one go. He’s a percussionist, not a wind player.


I see two things: my brother Brendan’s laugh, and some light-trick butterfly-hearts fluttering.

Traditionally, I look for astronomical associations with Quinn’s age, and 16 did not disappoint. My favorite find was a huge asteroid called 16-Psyche named for a Greek goddess associated with the human soul. NASA plans to launch a mission to visit it this very year of 2023. Some planets and space objects are given iconic symbols, and the symbol given to 16-Psyche is  a butterfly wing topped by a star.

Quinn is the lucky recipient of a snow day from school for his birthday (and his mama was the lucky recipient of a snow day from work, hence she had time to write this post!). Happy sixteenth birthday Quinn!

with a voice as big as the sea

This year’s song lyric that has been rolling around my December brain is “with a voice as big as the sea.” Maybe not such a surprise that I choose the oceanic line, but I think it’s in keeping with the theme from November of celebrating bigger. I’m celebrating having Quinn home for a full week for the first time since March 2020. I guess you could say I identify with any Mary who bears a precious son, has to live without him, but knows in her heart she will be reunited with him one day. I’m also celebrating eleven years of loving Rich. I took my camera to document the rose-gold ocean sunset on the shortest day, because I’m also celebrating the return of the light. Amazing how the change can be so incremental – just three seconds more light the next day – but somehow light accumulates and there will be summer once again, with a little patience. Happy holidays to all our loved ones.

~thankful thursday~ peanut butter

~30 days of gratitude~ day 25


Grateful. It’s been too many pandemic holidays without him. So grateful to fill him up with food and love.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 26


Today I am grateful for my brothers, one of whom has a birthday today. I have said this before, because it’s year six of this gratitude project and every November 26th I’m going to think about them. And always I’ll feel grateful for the humans they are, their presence in this world, the slices of bread to sandwich me, which I guess makes me the peanut butter. I am grateful to have unearthed this photo of them, uninhibited, nontoxic to the core.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 27


I’m grateful for: listening to Rich offer to teach Quinn to drive; and an all-day game of Cat-opoly with the two of them.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 28


I am almost out of days of gratitude and books have not yet had their day. Tonight, while Rich took in a Steelers game and popped us some popcorn in Bob’s honor, I listened to the exquisite audio of this book that I have on my library app even though I bought the actual book and have it in my lap. And as soon as I get done listening and my library hold ends I will open this up and start again at the beginning and underline all the things that made me speak aloud while I listened. There are some books that dunk you right away and sweep you along in a current and you just hold on for the ride. Lidia Yuknavitch is one of those authors. I’m such a fan, and also, I get to sell heirloom tomatoes to her family at the farmer’s market once in a while, so that’s also fun.

And while I’m feeling thankful for books, my gratitude for librarians continues to be ardent, as I’ve leaned heavily on the interlibrary loan privileges that come with my student status at SNHU. The benevolent book fairies have been busy whizzing articles at me across cyberspace whenever I hop down another research rabbit hole.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 29


Holy cow, it’s penultimate gratitude day. I scanned back through the month to review:

We made it through another winter, we will make it through this one. Get us some therapy if we need to.

Sunshine, nachos, a pallet pirate ship full of feral kittens.

Job, house, MFA.

Cows who have names, four gallons of honey.

Cloud whales, crock pot.

Husband hugs.

Sunrise, sunset.

Men’s gummi vitamins.

Ma and Pa.

Soft walls, warm fires.

Peanut butter.

I am grateful for the way these gratitudes, post-it-note and placard-sized, and every size in between, collect into a quirky little bundle each year and make a kind of sense together, put off a sort of warmth, a little light, they almost hum. It’s a nice way to stand on the threshold of December, with this little bundle in my pocket.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 30


For the first twenty-nine gratitudes this year, I was thinking this was year six. Then I looked back at the previous years to remind myself what they were all about, and it turns out, this year of gratitude posts is year seven. How powerfully magical.

I think you know what we ate for dinner tonight, official meal of the gratitude challenge. And to kick off December, we decided to put up our tree, and I am excited for morning writing time with not only my sun lamp but also twinkle rainbow lights. I am grateful for each and every small light this time of year. The sunset that sometimes coincides with the end of my work day, the weekend sun glancing off kitten fur. And the metaphorical kind, blinking like fireflies from all you lovely light bringing friends. Two hundred and ten gratitude posts later, I remain ever grateful for you all coming along for the ride.

~thankful thursday~ feathered and furry friends


~30 days of gratitude~ day 18


I am grateful for a moment with the ocean at sunset and the trust of a tall, lanky friend to watch it with.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 19


I am grateful for a winter squash kind of day.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 20


I am grateful for unexpectedly calm seas, spontaneous dates, and laughter.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 21


Grateful again, for all the same things. But repetition isn’t so bad.




~30 days of gratitude~ day 22


Grateful for ten years and eleven months of loving Rich. I’m grateful he is and has always been the kind of man who, when he sees a feral kitten, does not see a throwaway, but a treasured furball; who, when he received not just me but all my baggage, did not return me to the pound, but embraced me and blended me into his loving family. It’s never going to stop being surprising, and I’m always going to be grateful for his love.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 23


Today I am grateful for Lemony Snicket-inspired emails from my son that made me laugh. And Lisa kitty in the ham box. And nachos.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 24


I am grateful that a small panther named Lookout was available to demonstrate another thing I was grateful to spend most of my day doing: lounging in the sun. I procrastinated my pie-baking and spent the middle of my first day of vacation writing outside, my favorite. Grateful for the sunshine time and as always, Grandma’s never-fail pie crust. And kittens.