Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Great Northwest

While in Seattle two weeks ago, the first school we toured was the University of Washington main campus. The buildings there are gorgeous, impressive. There is a lot of sculptural artwork on the grounds. But when we rounded the corner and this site came into view, it took our breath away.

Fountain & Mt. Rainier - University of Washington

We stood on a terrace with steps leading down to this enormous fountain and pool. Students were milling about. Mount Rainier towers on the horizon.

Excellent! The Best!

When my brother Barry graduated from high school, I was a junior in college. I went to his graduation where I heard one of the best speeches ever. It was all about excellence.

I'd wager that the essence of the speech was lost on most of those teenagers. But I was at a point in my life where the words rang true. This sentiment of Oprah's echos the speech I heard long ago.

Try as you might to be all things you want to be, to 'have it all,' life generally does not offer up the options to let that happen. Maria Shriver once said, "You can have it all ... just not all at the same time." Career. Family. Spirituality. Travel. Fame. Riches. Power. Talent. Whatever the 'it' is for you.

To have a lot of any one of these things often means giving up another ... or postponing one to take advantage of another.

Yet as these choices are made, one thing is possible. To strive for excellence. Putting time, energy and attention into the choice you make will aid in achieving that excellence. But excellence does not fall into one's lap. It requires diligence and work.

As you work towards your goal with excellence in mind, rather than with success in the forefront, success usually follows. This does not necessarily mean that you are going to be #1 at the thing you are striving for. It does not necessarily mean that you will be 'best all around.' I do believe it means that personal success is possible when reaching for excellence. A personal best. Your own pat on the back.

And often, that larger 'success in the eyes of others' and the awards will follow. Those will be nice additions to a trophy case, sweet icing on the cake, but the true reward will come from knowing that you worked hard and found pride in your own abilities, your own version of excellence.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Knit Hat and Scarves

I didn't do much cross-stitch in November, and here it is, the end of the month.

But I did do a bit of knitting. My daughter knit this green hat - her first time using a knitting loom. She asked me to knit a matching scarf.

When it was done, one of her best friends liked it so much that I offered to knit a hat and scarf for her, too.

She picked the yarn. I knit it as time permitted.

Click on the images to see a larger version in Cameo's Corner in my Stitcher's Studio

The Berries

We toured the Seattle U campus just as night was falling. The color of these berries (seed pods?) popped out against the dark building. Cool texture!

The Berries — Seattle University

My Prayer

I like this definition of prayer quite a bit. It's freer and more expansive than what I learned prayer was growing up in parochial school. There, we learned formal prayers by rote. The "Our Father" (known in the Protestant world as the Lord's Prayer), the "Hail Mary," the "Glory Be," the "Morning Offering," "Grace Before Meals," "Grace After Meals," "The Act of Contrition," the prayer to your Guardian Angel ... along with all the formal prayers that together form the Mass.

In Catholic school, these prayers were said along with the Pledge of Allegiance in the mornings. We stood as a group and rolled out the prayers by rote before and after each recess. We were encouraged to stop by the church for 'visits' and have other less formal conversations with our God.

I loved most of it. Embraced it all as a child.

Then Vatican II hit and changes came to the Catholic church. I gradually became more and more aware of my personal commitment and responsibility for my faith. Though the formal prayers were still important, I had a lot more informal prayers going on. Even though I attended a public high school, I still made frequent 'visits' to church, just to have some one-on-one time with my Lord. Only now, instead of kneeling before the tabernacle, I found a spot on the floor where I liked to sit cross-legged ... a bit further back ... a lot less formal.

I became highly involved in music ministry, first as part of the 'adult choir,' then as a music leader in the folk masses, and finally as a cantor. The main music of my life was liturgical music. I lived it and breathed it, sang it while singing praise.

In my early college years I got involved in the Charismatic movement within the church. I joined prayer groups. Occasionally I attended functions at the Newman Center at the local university (an organization that supports campus ministry). Prayer became even more informal, even more personal, yet communal at the same time. It was personal prayer spoken aloud.

And time moved on. Through a series of events, I became even more closely associated with the Church ... to the point of being a full-time volunteer as a campus minister here in north Idaho. I was also one of the resident funeral singers.

More time. More life experiences.

For several years now, my life with the church has been purely tangential. I stopped attending Sunday services when the community got too conservative, when politics entered the spiritual arena, when clergy was not held accountable for their own misdeeds. I stopped attending Sunday services when I'd leave Mass feeling more angry and alienated than when I arrived in the church parking lot. I now attend a weekly quilting group that is based in one of the local parishes, but that's about as far as it goes.

Out of these circumstances, my prayer life changed once again. My prayers tend to have few words these days. My prayer tends to be more action-oriented. My prayers are found in the quiet. They're more meditative, allowing my mind wander ... and finding that I am saying 'Thank You' a lot for this blessed and privileged life that I live. I end up asking for guidance on how to best use my talents and abilities to serve others. I ask to learn how to forgive and transform injury into something life-giving.

So the above definition of prayer fits well with my current state of spirituality. It's an attitude of the soul, agape', wide-open to love, to God. Trying to be wide-open to the needs of the people in my circle of life. Opening my mind and softening my heart to this force I call God in aspects other than the pieces of him I got to know as a child.

And every now and again, in rare moments, I find myself humming a melody I learned in church ... repeating the words of the old prayers and liturgies. There is peace in those familiar phrases and rituals.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Last of Autumn

We got our first snow today! And it looks like it just might stick.

It's about time!

We usually get our first snow before Halloween. It's rare when it falls for the first time after Thanksgiving. We do have our snow tires on the cars, but other than that, I'm not convinced I'm ready for winter. But ... I probably am.

Ivy Wall - Seattle University

Two weeks ago, autumn was holding steady when we toured Seattle University. A splash of color covered the entire ivy wall.

My Life On Earth

I believe this.

I'm very aware of my spirit.

In celebrating the day of my birth, I really celebrate this particular physical life that I've been blessed with. My body. My humanity. My family. My senses. The joy I feel when my spirit collides with the spirits of my friends (in person, online, on the phone).

This human experience I've been granted is one I cherish.

I live today in gratitude.

[Plus, I like presents! Whoo-hoo! ]

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Circle of Love

A good portion of that energy was shared in our home today. What an excellent Thanksgiving.

Family, food, board games, and the smallest bit of getting boozy (accomplished on less than a single wine cooler). Kisses. Tucking in. A good night's sleep.

Life is good.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On My Desk - Thanksgiving Dinner

If it's Wednesday, it's time for another installment of On My Desk

Today's desk? The kitchen counter, once again.

Thanksgiving Dinner Plans

In the United States, we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow. Having been born on Thanksgiving Day a half century ago, Thanksgiving is just about my very favorite holiday.

We're having a small celebration tomorrow ... just my two youngest daughters, my sweet husband and myself. As you can see, we're keeping the cooking easy by using boxed mixes and canned goodies rather than going out and hunting down a turkey, baking bread just to turn it into stuffing, and cooking lumpy mashed potatoes.

Not for me! I'll do it more simply, please.

It is a rather traditional menu, though ... unlike some years when we make lasagna!

Bisquick coffee cake
Fresh fruit

Wheat crackers with hummus

Turkey breast
Gravy (canned!)
Stove Top Stuffing
Idahoan mashed potatoes (boxed flakes)
Hot Buttery Warm-n-Serv rolls (baked from frozen)
Zucchini (lightly breaded and baked Italian style)
Green salad

(OK. I like to bake. I'll go crazy here.)
Dutch apple pie
Hazelnut Pumpkin Cheese Cake

Sound good? If you're in town, stop on by!

Double Helix

When we were in Seattle a couple weekends ago, we visited two college campuses. Daughter Julie is considering a master's degree program at the University of Washington. Daughter Jodie is scoping out smaller colleges for her undergraduate degree ... three years from now.

Over the next days (weeks?), I'll post a few images from that trip. The first? The double set of winding stairways in the library at Seattle University.

Double Helix

This tiny school has some great 1960s architecture. Walking on that campus reminded me of all that was considered modern as I grew through my elementary school years.

Look Up!

It's all in the perspective, isn't it?

There's a Barry Manilow song that I love called
I Made It Through the Rain

It got me through some pretty tough years.

The beginning lyrics are:

We dreamers have our ways
of facing rainy days
and somehow we survive.

We keep the feelings warm
protect them from the storm
until our time arrives.

It's the optimist in me that never stops looking up. And I've had some dreary, dreary days.

Underneath the stresses of the day, the hurt, the pain of loss, the tough decisions, the errors made, I have this resilient side of me that keeps on believing in good and possibility and maintains hope.

Even in the gutter, it's possible to look up and see the stars.

Easier for me, though, when I have my glasses on. We can all use a bit of extra help sometimes!

Here's an unusual version of the song I found on YouTube this morning. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I reached the end of the day before looking at Today's Phrase.

It was a very good and busy day, complete with a minor medical emergency, a positive visit to the psychiatrist, lunch at the Olive Garden and shopping with my girls, finding both a sweater and a coat for myself (I've been looking for a couple months), purchasing some gorgeous new bedding (I've been looking for over a year), updating some kitchen tools, dropping off some paperwork to our investment broker, making a yummy batch of pasta e fagioli for dinner, doing a bit of work on the family educational trust, watching Dancing with the Stars, a bit of knitting, and a few tender moments with my sweet husband.

But fifteen minutes to myself? Not a chance!

I'll keep this mission in mind, though. I'll give myself that 15 minute surprise tomorrow!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Child-like Qualities

Loves to explore
Unquenchable thirst for learning
Delighted with the world
Quick to laugh
Easily shows emotions
Always ready for hugs
Seeks to love and be loved

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Secrets: Nov 23, 2008

PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard. I find it to be an amazing sociological experiment. Today, two more secrets struck a chord:

:: grin ::
I can think of at LEAST three people this applies to!

There are times ...
Thank goodness not this year.
We're all grown-ups this year!

Let's Fall In Love

Why shouldn't we fall in love?
Let's make a time of it while we are young
(or young at heart)
Let's fall in love!

To Finally Love Yourself ... to be good to yourself ... to once in a while put your needs first ... it's different from being selfish (doing things for self in spite of others or at the expense of others) ... it's self-care ... nurture ... it's filling yourself up with all good things so that you have lots to bestow on others.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

FOUND Objects

One of my very favorite websites/blogs to visit is FOUND.

What's FOUND? In their own words:

We collect FOUND stuff: love letters, birthday cards, kids' homework, to-do lists, ticket stubs, poetry on napkins, telephone bills, doodles - anything that gives a glimpse into someone else's life. Anything goes...

Most of the stuff I find on my walks is more along the lines of coins or beads or kid's jewelry or other trinkets. A couple days ago, I found dice. I've been collecting these kinds of found objects for years and plop them in a goldfish bowl in my bedroom the way other people toss loose change in a jar. I even posted a photo of my finds a while back. I'd love to stumble upon something worthy of sending to FOUND.

Here's an example of a FOUND object that tickles me:

The folks at FOUND collect these gems and publish them periodically. They also collect "Dirty FOUND" objects and have a separate publication for those. They include raunchy finds — art-filth folk art that proves everybody's sex life is secretly touching. Its 'sort-of porn' or just really bad snapshots of unclad folks doing questionable things.

It's so fun peek into humanity this way!

Changing Patterns

It's more on the theme that I wrote about yesterday. Once you realize that what you are doing or thinking is destructive, you have a choice. You can keep on doing the same thing, or you can change it. Let's hope the change is for the better.

But if it's not? No problem!

Make a new choice.

Sunday Secrets: Nov 09 & 16, 2008

PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard. I find it to be an amazing sociological experiment.

My schedule has been so topsy-turvy lately that I missed the last two weeks of my very favorite blog posting! So here I am to catch up ... and more tomorrow morning (I hope!)

Yowsa! How passive aggressive.
I wouldn't actually DO it, but I'd consider it!

We need this president.
I hope he gets the chance to serve well and long.

What a great idea! I hope I check out one of these books.

Ugh! Betrayal. It sucks big time. I deserve better.

Regrets. We all have a few, right?

There were times, especially in college, when letters from friends did this for me.
I was so lonely and needed that connection.
(Postcard from Post Secret France)

My sweet husband does the same for me!
(So do some sweet friends)




I am a huge fan of Marla Cilley, the Flylady. Her system of building routines to keep your house in order, discard clutter, and take care of yourself -- love yourself -- has made a gigantic impact on my life for the better.

If you don't know about the Flylady, I invite you to take some time to poke around her website.

For a short introduction to her system, check out this short video.

[ And it's all FREE advice! ]

She does have a book that you can purchase, too. It's the same advice, just more portable!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life

This is where Eckhart Tolle's book, A New Earth, comes in for me. In it, he encourages being aware of what is going on in the present moment ... to keep one's thinking present to what is happening right now, right where you are. Be aware of your breathing, your surroundings, your current state of being.

I've learned, through practice of presence, that if I keep my thinking in the present moment, I can generally get rid of persistent negative thinking.

When I was in counseling, one of the things my counselor helped me with diligently is how to recognize my own negative thinking so that I can change it. Besides learning to purposely insert positive thoughts into my day, I also needed to learn to replace the negative thoughts that tend to loop in my brain over and over. I don't know that I had 'avalanches' of negative thoughts ... my problem was more like having the same negative thought repeat itself ad nauseum.

One of the greatest tools my counselor gave me was this simple statement:

It's just a passing thought.

How simple! How profound. That phrase made so much sense to me. As I considered it, I added a bit to it that made the idea even more valuable to me:

It's just a passing thought.
Like a traffic circle,
I can veer out of the loop at any time.

Once I recognize my perpetually looping negative thought, I can then choose to ease out of that loop whenever I'm ready. Once on a new path, I can replace the negative thought with one of my positive phrases.

By changing my negative thoughts, I can change my circumstances.
By changing my circumstances, I upgrade my life.

If You Are Lucky

One of the things that make my daily walks enjoyable, besides taking pictures, is grabbing my Zune and allowing myself the pure pleasure of listening to selected podcasts.

The Writer's Almanac is one of my favorites. Hosted by Garrison Keillor, these 5-minute daily segments start with a chronicle of writers who share that birthday and a brief statement about the writer. He also notes anniversaries of important events that changed the world. Then he'll give a slightly longer bibliographic note about one writer in particular. The podcast ends with the reading of a poem.

Listening to these podcasts stirs my literary blood and helps me reconnect to the latent English student that rests inside my skin.

The poem featured on November 6, 2008 was particularly poignant. I thought I'd share it here:


by Tony Hoagland

If you are lucky in this life,
you will get to help your enemy
the way I got to help my mother
when she was weakened past the point of saying no.

Into the big enamel tub
half-filled with water
which I had made just right,
I lowered the childish skeleton
she had become.

Her eyelids fluttered as I soaped and rinsed
her belly and her chest,
the sorry ruin of her flanks
and the frayed gray cloud
between her legs.

Some nights, sitting by her bed
book open in my lap
while I listened to the air
move thickly in and out of her dark lungs,
my mind filled up with praise
as lush as music,

amazed at the symmetry and luck
that would offer me the chance to pay
my heavy debt of punishment and love
with love and punishment.

And once I held her dripping wet
in the uncomfortable air
between the wheelchair and the tub,
and she begged me like a child

to stop,
an act of cruelty which we both understood
was the ancient irresistible rejoicing
of power over weakness.

If you are lucky in this life,
you will get to raise the spoon
of pristine, frosty ice cream
to the trusting creature mouth
of your old enemy

because the tastebuds at least are not broken
because there is a bond between you
and sweet is sweet in any language.


To learn more about this poet, visit Blueflower Arts

Or purchase his book of poems, Donkey Gospel.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Incredible Edible

One of the things I love most about blogging is getting familiar with blogs of other creative people. There is so much inspiration to be gleaned from poking around the sites of artists, designers, needleworkers, photographers and other crafty types.

What really strikes me as odd is when I get inspired to do something in the kitchen after reading a blog. I mean, I'm a very decent cook. Yet spending time in the kitchen is not one of my favorite past times. Still ... baking is something I enjoy quite a bit.

So look what Vicki of Turkey Feathers inspired me to bake!

Dutch Apple Pie

You can find the recipe at All Recipes. It's a winner!

What I love about it most is that it has a full bottom crust, but the top reminds me of the apple crisp my mom used to make. The secret lies in the way you wrap the Granny Smith apple pie up in parchment before popping it in the oven.

Ohmygod! This is SO GOOD ... that I had to make a second. And then I made a peach pie with the same kind of topping. And I have enough Granny Smiths for a third pie. For Thanksgiving, perhaps? (Whoops! There goes the weight loss plan! SO worth it!)

The pie is sweet and tart and crispy and to die for! If you get inspired to bake this beauty yourself, let me know!

The Unbreakable Bond

These kinds of moments are indelibly marked in my life:
  • Catching the middle two swings in the kindergarten playground with SS
  • Being chased by RS through the hedge at the back of the elementary school playground
  • Having my tears soothed by LW when JS dumped me as her best friend
  • Laughing with BB over kelly green socks bought for the priest
  • Accepting my standing as "reject" with DB, and becoming our own clique' of two
  • Grasping the hand of LB in a London lift
  • Standing in the 100 section of the library with JT, talking about philosophy and belief
  • Accepting with awe the gift of a 12-string guitar from VM
  • Playing and exploring and breaking up and reuniting with TM
  • Midnight walks and coffee with TW and DC
  • Holding hands with MP while gazing at the night sky in the San Bernardino mountains
  • Looking into VB's eyes after our literature class, sensing her need for prayer and a friend
  • Feeling calm in the quiet presence of AB when I told her I was pregnant
  • Listening to GE's stories of divorce as he helped me find my way through my own
  • Working through marital troubles over lunches with BP
  • Creating new needlework chats with MA and finding excuses to work together
  • First kisses with DD
  • Sharing secrets of past loves and daughter's antics with SF
  • Admitting guilty pleasures and conflicting emotions to SN
I'm incredibly grateful for these friends that have shared a season of their life with me. I relish those who stay in touch. I send blessings to those who have fallen away as rose petals, drifting to earth in the night.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On My Desk - At the Laundromat

If it's Wednesday, it's time for another installment of On My Desk

Today's desk? A folding table at the laundromat.

Considering that I haven't posted a 'desk' in a month, I guess it's OK that this picture is really from last Wednesday instead of today, right? Seems like I just can't keep up with all that goes on in my life ... and this was a particularly off-track week. I spent a good portion of it in Moscow, ID with my middle daughter, then traveled across Washington state to Seattle for the weekend.

While in Moscow, I helped my daughter wash six huge loads of laundry. I did some knitting while the clothes were washing, then helped her fold the clothes and bedding. Voila!

[ Hmmmm. That's really all six loads? ]

Today's desk should have been from Quilters again. This morning, my buddy Susan and I laid out five lap quilts. They were 'throws' ... without theme or discernible pattern ... made up of left-over rectangles from other quilts. But of course, I forgot my camera.

[ That's OK. Throws are not my favorite things to make. The jumble of fabrics makes them feel like hot messes to me. ]

Or I suppose I could have shown my current knitting project ... but it's more on my lap than on my desk.

Ooooo Temptation!

And I have been sorely tempted this week!

Looks like I'm in good company.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Laugh. Just Laugh.

This is the best gift my sweet husband gives me, and he gives it regularly.

On days when I'm really struggling with my inner demons, his oblique comments and understated wit can reel me to the surface every time.

I spar with him verbally.
I laugh with him heartily.

I am one blessed and lucky woman.

So come on.
Just laugh.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Back on Track

Tough day today.
Slight headache most of the day.
Inability to pull myself out of my head.
Focused on the past instead of the present.
Wishing for things that cannot be; people I must not connect with.

Staying centered is always harder when I'm overly tired or off schedule. Being away from home for a week ... being present at Julie's cat's death ... travel across state to a city with too many steep hills and bridges ... wrapping my head around the idea of my girls far away at college soon ... not enough down time with my sweet husband ... all these things knock me off my stride.

I made a couple faulty steps today, but didn't stray too far off track.

I just need to refocus.

Take more steps in the direction I want to travel.

I need a steadying hand right now.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Let YOUR Light Shine

This is one of my favorite things to do.


Then watch others reflect my shine, and shine a bit on their own.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

To Each His Own

So, the situation with my daughter's apartment took a turn for the better!

Shortly after I posted yesterday's blog entry, my daughter's landlord called to say that he'd be by in the morning to pull up the old flooring, treat the mold with bleach, and have someone come in to fix things up. Though he knew the bathroom needed attention, he hadn't realized how bad it had gotten. He said I gave him a wake up call.


True to his word, he came by. Poor guy. I could hear him retching as he pulled up the old vinyl flooring, scrubbed the icky stuff and washed on the bleach.

In between treatments he worked on some stuff in the yard. I helped out in the main part of the apartment by cleaning the entry way and scraping the crud out of the kitchen sink and de-greasing the stove. So ... he saw that I wasn't just some mom demanding other people do work, I was willing to get in there and help, too.

Later on, we had a very nice conversation about our kids and the whole learning-to-become-adult phase. His daughter made it through and is a fine upstanding member of society now. I apologized for my rather aggressive attitude yesterday, and noted that the mama bear was coming out to protect her child.

I guess what I'm saying is ... because I was so forthright last night, he saw the situation through the eyes of a parent instead of his more usual role as the eyes of the landlord. When I spoke to him in terms of not wanting my daughter to live this way, he could see that he wouldn't want his daughter to live like that, either. To his credit, he took direct action.

In our conversation today, I got to see through his eyes, too. He explained his time constraints. He made a comment about how he was disappointed in the housekeeping abilities of his current tenants. It was a small, non-vehement understated comment ... and it said volumes. As a landlord, he had a hard time wanting to make improvements on a place when the tenants weren't taking care of what they already had.

We had a chance to see through the eyes of each other's experience today. We each gained a valuable new perspective.

Well done. Good, good day.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I get sick and tired of bullshiters.

So ... I had another great day with my college daughter. She wrote her presentation for her senior class project. I edited it. We ate together. I dropped her off at class. I helped her tidy up the handout for the class. I attended her presentation. To celebrate her accomplishment, we went out to dinner with one of her best friends.

Did I mention it poured rain all day?

After an excellent day and evening together, when we got back to her basement apartment ... it was flooding. Under her desk. In the bathroom. In the laundry room.

The landlord came and jimmied the rinky-dink pump and plumbing system. After we cleaned up the mess, and he got the pump working, the water flow stopped.

But ... ick. This place is a mess. You can tell that there's been plenty of water damage for years. There is a moldy smell in the wet rooms. It needs attention.

So when the landlord stopped back in to see if the seepage had stopped, I asked when he intended to fix the bathroom problems ... redo the floor and lower portions of the walls. Get rid of the rim of rust and deal with the mold.

He said, "Well, for the mold, just use bleach on it."

"That's fine for the surfaces, but that's not going to fix the mold under the flooring and in the walls. When is that going to be addressed?"

"Well, the walls ... I just painted them a year ago."

"That may be, but paint doesn't solve a mold problem."

"I don't know. The basement's been dry for the last nine years."

"That can't be right. Just look at these walls. They've obviously been water damaged for quite a while."

"You'll just have to believe me. The basement has not flooded in years."

"I suppose I can believe that it hasn't flooded, but there is obviously still some kind of problem to have this much water damage."

And around we went. Pleasant, but insistent.

So ... why couldn't he just own up to the obvious problem? Why not be real? Why use semantics ... it didn't FLOOD so there is no water damage? Give me a break!

If I can be real and unashamed of who I am and acknowledge my faults, then I have two options:

I can work on changing aspects of myself to live a new way or I can admit that this part of me is a feature, not a bug.

But to ignore and deny the obvious ... well, that just makes you look like an idiot, even if you are a university professor.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Popeye Expression

"I am what I am!" ... or is that, "Oye, Olive Oil, Iyam wha tie yam!"


Today was a sad day for our family. One of us died. Julie's cat, Rolly, was a part of our family for over 12 years. He was a big, muscled, long-haired black cat. Ornery! He was a one-person cat, only really loving Julie, though he could tolerate Jodie on his good days. He'd run away from Dale ... and stand and hiss at me. We used to call him the Stealth Cat because of the way he'd slink in the shadows then hide in the closets or behind the furniture.

Over the last few months, Rolly went from 16 pounds down to less than 10 pounds. When I held him this morning, he was all fur and bones. Julie made the tough decision to help him peacefully leave the earth. She asked me to drive down to Moscow to be with her and Rolly during this transition.

We did first things first. Made Rolly as comfortable as possible and gave him lots of love, then drove him to the vet. We stayed with him, giving him love as the drugs were administered. After one last, loving head butt, Julie and Rolly said good-bye for the last time.

What does this have to do with today's phrase? I suppose it's that it was ME that Julie wanted by her side for this. That I could bring something to this situation that is unique. I could love my girl as she poured her love into her cat. Then I could hold her up and keep her busy with tasks ... breakfast as our favorite nook, a bit of craft shopping to get supplies to make a memory box, moving Rolly's things out of her apartment, cleaning her space, taking her to work, eating dinner, doing a boatload of laundry, buying snacks for the all-nighter she needs to pull to get her class presentation complete.

In that mix of tasks, we rib each other, tell dumb jokes, and simply enjoy the oblique humor the two of us share. In between each task, we stop and cry, grieving for the furry critter that has left his mark on our lives.

I don't for a moment think that I'm the only person in the world that could help Julie through this tough time. But I do believe that I have some unique qualities that she seeks to make it over the bumps of this week. I'm so glad that Julie embraces these unique and quirky gifts I have to give her. She helps me understand my own gifts. She brings them out in me.