Sisters Weekend. Not Pictured: Sisters.

You would think my two sisters and I don’t get along. Not only do we live in three of our continent’s four edges–Michigan, Washington and Texas (also equally distant from our parents in North Carolina, whom we also like a good deal, by the way)–we stay in touch only fitfully, rarely calling or emailing or, now, texting. 

Can I just say we’re not a very touchy-feely family?

But we DO get along. We like and admire and enjoy each other. And, as the youngest sister and the designated Sentimental One, I borrowed the idea from a friend of mine of the Sisters Getaway, to honor the occasion of our 60th birthdays, one at a time.

Our agreements: the getaway did not have to be on the actual birthday. Convenience was paramount. So was sun (especially for my winter-stricken Michigan sister). And we would gather in a place none of us knew well, so that no one had to play host.

Two years ago, we spent three days together in San Diego. This year, our middle sister picked Denver. Denver in May–hurray! Bring on that Rocky Mountain sunshine!


Oh, silly girls. Denver in May does what it likes.* Luckily for us, we had decided in advance that we wouldn’t be doing any serious hiking, since one of us is in the process of setting a date for hip replacement surgery. (Did I mention we are all getting older? Funny about that.)

*I did, however, prevail on my sisters to swing by the local REI so I could plunder their sales rack for a warm extra layer–having seriously under-packed.

So what should proceed now is a montage of of us out enjoying the sights of Denver, right? Group selfies, snapshots of delicious food and drinks. Glorious, happy vacation pics.

But my sisters are more private than I am, and that is only one of the things I love about them. So I won’t be sharing any of the pictures I took of us. I could have taken a picture of the living room of our Air B ‘n’ B house, which is where we spent most of our time. Or of a Denver bus–we rode them all over town. Or of the interior of Union Station, which, it turns out, is an extremely cozy place where you can hang out for hours for free, just gabbing and people-watching, as long as you don’t lie down on the couches.

But again…sorry. This getaway was about each other. The only real touring we did was of memory; the only real exploration of feelings; the only real adventure was peering into our mutual futures.

Still, I’m blogging about it, so SOME pictures would be useful, eh? We did wander through Denver’s not-exactly-downtown Downtown Aquarium, which was exceedingly noisy for an aquarium, but also yielded some extraordinary beauty.


I’ve been in many aquariums. (Aquaria?) Never saw anything like this anemone before.

Another slow wander: the Botanical Gardens. (See, we do know how to tourist!)

I think these crazy giants are from South Africa…

And for good measure, one quirky photo from downtown:

I completely support this statement.

But that’s it. That’s the whole post. What I’m saying here is–love your family in your own way. Do it with, and for, the camera if you want to. Or don’t. Call or text or email, or don’t. But love ’em. Life is short. One day you’ll turn around and be 60. Or, if you’re so blessed, 80.

Me, I hope to re-post this when we’re celebrating each other’s 90th. Inshallah!

Road Trip VIII, Days 28-31, Durham, N.C.: The Five Things I Miss About My Hometown

Spending a full week in Durham and Chapel Hill has me reflecting on the answer I give to folks who ask me what I miss, since leaving the South 27 years ago. It’s a short but sweet list.

1. My family. Officially, all that’s left here are my amazing parents—Mom shown here with a salad containing the last of the Traveling Avocados that ripened as we crossed the country.

Mama knows what’s good for you

Unofficially, our “family” now includes friends the Mate and I have known in some cases longer than we’ve known each other. But that’s another category. I do know, as a 56 year-old, how incredibly lucky I am to still have both healthy parents living in the same house where they raised me.

Mom in her truck, pulling her horse trailer

My dad’s collection of shoes reveals his active life better than anything.

2. Friends—both tribal and non-tribal. I’ll explain that in #5.

Respect the oak.

3. Oak trees. I’m not talking those scruffy things they have out West. With a few exceptions—talking to you, Laytonville, CA—those oaks are piddly, short things with prickly leaves. But the white oaks of the east? They have GRANDEUR. And their dead leave smell like life.

The next generation of red oak—so vibrant

4. North Carolina-style pulled pork BBQ and Mama Dip’s fried chicken. With fried okra, and hush puppies, and greens. Sweet tea optional.

I’ve blogged enough about soul food—I’ll just leave it at this.

5. Tarheel basketball. With the Tribe—a.k.a. a bunch of over-educated lefty lawyers, professors and administrators, and retired ditto—who gather once a year to eat #4, above, and scream at 20 year-old guys tossing around an orange ball. I didn’t want to violate my friends’ privacy by posting their picture, so here’s a shot of a Chapel Hill fire truck—just to give you some idea of the grip Tarheelism has on this town.

Even the paramedics bleed Carolina blue

Last year our team won the National Championship, but they did so in April, when we were already back home in the northwest…where nobody cares, except to inquire, “What IS a Tarheel, anyway?” So, yeah—I miss that.

Go Heels!

If you are someone who no longer lives in your hometown, what are your five things? Take your time and think about it.

Family Pranking: Fun New Resolution for 2018?

Meet Ali the Gator:

“Could someone lick me clean, please?

Oh, why’s he covered in whipped cream and jam? Therein lies a tale. Allow me.

Ali joined our family a couple of years ago when the Mate was out doing yardwork. Spotting a lizard near the compost bin, he decided to catch it, in honor of Wing Son One, who does such things. So he stalked it, for several minutes, before realizing…

a) it was plastic

b) it was an alligator, not a common lizard,

c) it was missing two of its feet (likely a lawn-mower accident)

So he brought it inside. Of course I decided to place it under Son One’s pillow the next time he visited. (Gratifying yell of surprise.) Ali then showed up successively in…

a) the soap dish in the shower

b) my tin of Earl Grey

c) the Mate’s tin of coffee beans

d) my hiking boot

The hiking boot prank was especially good, because I was putting on that boot at the visitor center of Haleakala on Maui, last winter. So I sent Son One this photo of “Ali in Paradise”:

Later, he took a hula class and attended a luau.

From Maui we continued our Epic Journey to New Zealand, so there I took another photo of “Ali with Kiwi Mate”:

“Hey, it’s OK–I can’t fly either, mate.”

This past summer, both sons + Mate gathered in Vermont for a construction blitz on our cousins’ “new” old house. Ali flew there in a care package of cookies, to make a legendary appearance inside an ear of corn the Mate was shucking. (Sadly, no picture of that.)

Don’t know how Ali made it back to the Wet Coast, but he reappeared this past month, folded inside the ferry commuter ticket in our glove box. I decided Ali must have a special Christmas. So I stuffed him inside the yule log cake (Buche de Noel) I was creating.

In you go, lil’ guy!

Don’t eat too much whipped cream in there!

Of course I made sure that one of our sons got the “special” piece of cake. (Son One got the honor.)

Alligator? What alligator? Have a slice of Yule Log! Merry Christmas!

We actually borrowed this idea of family pranking from our Vermont cousins. They did the same thing with an evil-looking doll they called “Malice.” The idea of finding a creepy doll inside, say, one’s freezer, veers too close to heart-attack-land for my taste.

But a cute little alligator? All he does is make us laugh, and think of how much we enoy each other. 

Anyone else out there have an ongoing family prank to share? Anyone want to start 2018 with a new tradition? Be sure to take pictures!

Instant Vacation: The “Kids” Are Home

“Happy Thanksgiving!” “Merry Christmas!” I had a tough time keeping myself from calling out these greetings as I hiked with my family. Last Friday. January 15. But you can’t blame me for being confused. That was the day The Mate and I were having.

Sons One and Two (25 and 23) arrived in time for dinner Thursday night–a gift in itself, since we hadn’t expected them until the 9 pm ferry. For dessert we ate the leftover cake from my Mate’s birthday, which I’d been saving in the freezer. (This cake is SPECIAL: 15 layers and as tall as a tophat.)

The next morning I got up early and made our traditional Christmas morning Danish (from Holly B’s cookbook, of course). When the “boys” finally arose, it was time to open presents–okay, no stockings this year, but then we had no Christmas tree either. (I mean, it IS mid-January. I put lights on our houseplants.)

Dinner was full-on Thanksgiving: turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce (thanks to a friend who had some cranberries in her freezer–try buying ’em fresh in January!), roasted sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts, and Yorkshire pudding. (Yeah, sounds weird, but we like it better than stuffing.) We couldn’t quite face pie after all that rich food…but I made one next day, just ’cause.

Christmas Danish, baby.

Christmas Danish, baby.

‘Cause why? Vacation, that’s why! In my book, when you’re down to rare sightings of your offspring, ANY time with them becomes instant fun-time. Grocery shopping? Sure! Folding laundry? Absolutely! Our best time on this “holiday” weekend wasn’t even that hike; it was working together to make a new compost pit.

I don’t have any digital baby pics of our boys, and I don’t like to violate their adult privacy by posting current pics, so I’m compromising by posting one from 8 years ago. They look a bit different now. 🙂

Gotta grab those precious moments while you can...sometimes literally.

Gotta grab those precious moments while you can…sometimes literally.

So, did I get any writing work done since my last post? How ’bout choosing that new blog theme?

That’s a big fat No. Do I care? An even fatter, happier, more grateful No. Merry Thanksmas!

That Annual Thanksgiving List We All Love to Write

Pretend you’re in third grade. It’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and your teacher just gave you That Assignment.

Now pretend it was your idea all along. With me? Let’s do this. Here’s mine:

This year I am thankful for…

…the good health of my family, myself, and most of my loved ones.

…the communal strength, love and support that continues to go out to those in need of it.

…the power of Nature’s everyday beauty that she keeps surprising me with (Spiderweb! Lichen! Wing of thrush!)

…really DARK chocolate

…the way gardening and eating local food is re-awakening in America

…my amazing amalgam of work, which allows me to get my hands sticky, get paid, interact with lovely people, and still retire to the quiet of my writing bench

…those hard-working folks still teaching and nursing and fixing pipes FULL TIME (y’all know who you are; I am so grateful to you–please let me make you pie!)

…friends who push me to improve my Spanish and my guitar-playing.

…mis hijos. Los dos.

…my Mate. Always. Always. But somehow, after 37 years–increasingly.



Know what? I could do this all day. How ’bout you? What’s at the top of your gratitude list? HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

PS–don’t forget to #optoutside this Black Friday!


Grandparenting Practice: Bring it On!

The Mate and I are not grandparents–unless you count our grandsnake (although Son One gave him to a school a couple of years ago). Or the grandgarden Son Two planted at our place this summer. Maybe I should just say, we don’t have any grandkids…yet, anyway. (No pressure, guys. Really. No, REALLY.)

But this is all the more reason why I’m looking forward to joining my Mate down in the Bay Area this weekend. Yesterday he flew down there to see his nephew through hip replacement surgery. I’m joining him this weekend. Oh, the nephew’s not that tough a patient. It’s just that he’s the dad of two year-old twins.

Two year-old. Twins.

Said nephew’s wife keeps telling us how happy she is that we’re coming. And I actually believe her. Did I mention she has two year-old twins?

Lucky for us, they are SUPER CUTE. Oh, I know they’ll probably be pretty shy at first. We might just end up doing errands and cooking for the time that we’re there, or taking care of Dad while Mom takes care of kiddos. We are thrilled to be able to finally participate in something we’ve always watched from afar: being there to help our adult “kids” take care of their kids. A.k.a., grandparenting.


Except for one grandma, my family was always strictly nuclear, no extended family around. I always felt a little envy when I heard my friends say, “Oh, we’re just leaving ’em at grandma’s for the weekend,” or, “Oh, my folks’ll stop by to help.”

Now we get to be the “folks.” And I can’t wait!

How many of you have played the grandparent role for your family members, or had them do it for you? Would love to hear.


When California is Even Better than the Dreamin’: America’s Incredible Backyard and the joy of hanging with your adult kids

Road Trip IV, Days 5-9: Oakland to Los Angeles, via Santa Cruz and Big Sur.

I have only two points to make, then I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

#1: Even with all the movies and car ads and calendars I’ve seen in my life, I was not expecting Big Sur.

We spent 10 days biking around islands in Greece last fall and never saw anything this beautiful. It is RIGHT HERE. It costs almost nothing to get to. There is no admission fee (ok, a $10 day use, but we saw plenty of cars avoiding that by parking on the road). There is no platinum class that gets to cut ahead in line. Everyone can walk and look, or just drive and look.
It is beauty on a huge, American, democratic scale.


#2: Even though they were great guys growing up and everyone says nice things about them as young adults, The Mate and I are still overwhelmed by how wonderful it is to camp with our adult sons.

All we’ve done is walk or drive or sit around the picnic table together, eating and drinking, playing guitar, playing Farkle, and we’ve been about to bust into tears of joy the entire time.

My conclusion: family love is like the scenery at Big Sur. Sometimes just being there is enough. More than enough.

I would love to hear from you. What place of simple, accessible beauty has taken you by surprise? What simple, accessible joy has done the same?




Moo-rry Cow-ristmas: Letting Holiday Traditions Evolve

We’ve added a new tradition to our family Christmas: cow-catching.

Following the special breakfast, which I’d gotten up early to bake, and the gift-opening, which didn’t take that long since there are only four of us and we’re all adults now (despite the fact that my husband and I can still be pretty immature), and the mid-morning hike, and the preliminary, early-afternoon dinner prep, Son #2 and I took our dog for a walk. When we returned, we found cows in our front yard.

Lucy 1
Two of ’em. Well, one cow and one steer. (Hey, I’m a country girl, I know my farm animals.) Basic black–at least from a distance. Up close, the female turned out to be much more stylish. Her back was a nice russet color, her udder nearly white, and she sported a gorgeous red topknot–or would that be a cowlick?–on her forehead. We named her Lucy. Her escort, the steer, was a little plainer, and more shy. Bo, we decided. Bo kept his distance while Lucy accepted the carrot we fed her and licked our hands with her giant tongue.

My little family sprang into action. While I made phone calls to neighbors, then the sheriff, trying to determine if anyone knew whose cows these were, husband procured rope and Son #1 hid it behind his back while #2 distracted Lucy with another carrot. Soon she was tied to a handy telephone pole. (No attempt was made to capture Bo. Hey, we’re Washingtonians, not Texans. Real roping? Forget it.)

Unfortunately all our neighborliness went for naught. Despite someone from the sheriff’s office assuring me they’d find someone to “take care of it,” no one called us back. When darkness fell, we decided we couldn’t leave poor Lucy tied up all night, so we let her loose to find the feckless Bo, who’d ditched her. (I heard ’em walk past our bedroom window last night, so I guess she did, then returned hoping for another carrot snack.)

Lucy 2

We don’t have many Christmas traditions, we Wings. Extended family is too far away to visit, and we’re a pretty pagan bunch, so The Church of the Great Outdoors is where we go to “worship.” We always go for a hike or at least a walk, even if it’s raining sideways like a couple of years ago. Here are our others:

Preparing food, then eating it, that’s a biggie. (This year, Son #2 made the chocolate pecan pie; I was so proud!)

Playing silly games like Yahtzee or Bananagrams–check.

Watching dumb movies on TV–check. Last night we switched back and forth between Pirates of the Caribbean III and Ocean’s 13.

Calling far-flung family members and friends–check.

Ummm…guess that’s about it. I know I could feel more sentimental or nostalgic about our lack of special traditions. We don’t have special dishes that we use only on Christmas, or a special grace to say. We don’t even have one special meal that we always have.

We just enjoy each other’s company. That’s our tradition, and it evolves beautifully with our evolving ages. (The four of us now total 163 years, if that tells you anything.) These days both boys have been playing a lot of guitar, teaching each other new chords and strums. Who knows what it will be next year? More cows? Sheep, pigs? Bring ’em on. As long as we can catch them TOGETHER, it’ll be plenty traditional for me.

What about you? What are your favorite holiday traditions? Any new ones evolving? Do share!

Hug Your Kids, Hug Your Parents, and Leave Newtown Alone

I remember exactly where I was when the news reports started coming in one year ago: driving the Senior Center van, delivering lunches. I was doing the exact same thing today, and that horrible Friday, December 14 of 2012, came back to me.

The disbelief. The helpless grief. The fury, searching hopelessly for a valid target…only to turn back into grief.

I only think of the Newtown massacre periodically, because I have no real connections to it. I know how lucky I am. And that is why I hope fervently that the news media heed the pleas that Newtown community leaders have been issuing for the past couple of weeks, to please, please, please leave them alone for this horrible first anniversary of their tragedy.

One year later, I don’t want to talk about gun control or mental health. I don’t want to argue. All I want to do is send healing love to those poor, torn-up families, and to stay out of their way. And, since I’ve re-opened this well of emotion which is now overflowing again, I plan to “hug” as many virtual kids as I can this weekend.

My own grown sons I have recently seen (and hugged) and will (inshallah) see and hug again soon. So tonight I’m going to call and email my two “goddaughters,” and send some hugs via email to all my former students.



What should we do to remember the Newtown families? Hug our own. If your own family is not available to hug, hug someone else’s kid, or mom, or dad. Call someone. Email someone. Tell them how much you love them.

Hugs can’t heal everything. But they can keep us going even in the face of that knowledge.

If you have your own words of remembrance or comfort, please share them. Then go and hug.

Happy Thanksgiving From Wing’s World

From my world to yours…here are some wishes for all y’all:

  • That you are with someone you love right now
  • That you had enough to eat today…and hopefully not TOO much
  • That any pain you or loved ones might be suffering is outweighed by the love and hope you provide for each other
  • That you are able to feel thankful regardless of burdens
  • That you are able to help someone else
  • That you feel some hope for the world
  • That you feel you are making the world a better place–locally, globally, however you think about it
  • That you have a good book to read
  • That, when you take a shower, you feel thankful for hot running water
  • That you are taking care of your body that works so hard to keep you moving
  • That you aren’t spending too much of your Thanksgiving reading blogs like this
Happy Thanksgiving!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

And now, my all-time favorite question: WHAT ARE YOU THANKFUL FOR???