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Grandma’s Rose

As some of you may have heard, my grandmother passed away on March 25, 2015, at 96 years young. Still full of obstinance and vigor to the very end, I can only hope that she left this world knowing just how big of an influence she was in my life … and the lives of my brother and cousins.

When she passed, my aunt asked, “How is the world supposed to keep spinning on its axis without her in our lives?”

The statement, of course, was a joke.

The world continues.

The sun sets on each day.

The moon rises.

The seasons change.

But for our family, the universe is a bit darker without her fierce independence, stubbornness, drive, intelligence, staunch opinions and … well … her belief that she needed to be around to keep things running. If anyone ever wondered where I learned my obstinance, sarcasm, and intense irritation of the dim of wit, you had to look no further than my grandmother.

Really, my grandmother taught us all a lot. She was a firm believer that actions were far more powerful than intentions could ever be. She insisted that if you wanted something, you should work hard for it rather than ask for it. And she stressed that people should try to improve themselves every single day.

She suffered no fools.

She put up with no crap.

And she never, ever allowed us to speak a sentence in her presence without correcting our grammar, if need be.

Thankfully, my friends understood and appreciated the gifts she gave me over the years.

When my friends first heard that she had passed, I received nothing but an outpouring of love. And within just a few short days, I also received a large box on my front porch. The box contained — to my surprise — a bare-root rose from wonderful friends of mine in Los Angeles. They told me that the rose was in memory of my grandmother. A constant reminder of all she taught me.

Of course, the rose was perfect, for — other than my stubbornness and sarcasm — the biggest gift grandma bestowed upon me was a love of gardening. Specifically, the careful cultivation of roses.

Thankfully, my mother and step-father came over and helped me plant the Princess Anne rose because I had never handled a bare-root plant before, and wanted to make sure I wasn’t about to kill it.

This week, the first buds blossomed. The fragrance fills the air around my front door, and I can’t help but think of my beautiful, stubborn grandmother every time I see the delicate pink blooms.

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Thank you, Jim and Justin. I love the rose, and I know that my grandmother would love it, as well.

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Lost Lake in Two Acts, Part 1

This past spring, a little part of Oregon became a big hit on social media. It’s an area of the Mt. Hood National Forest called Lost Lake. The reason of the social media coverage is because the lake — funny enough — disappears (hmmm … is lost, perchance?) each spring, when it is too cold for the mountain snow to melt, but we start to lose our monthly rainfall.

Of course, the funniest part is how few of these sites got the story right. The lake, while relatively close to a highway, is easily 30 minutes up a windy mountain road. There is no way that drivers from the closest highway would ever be able to see it.

That said, I found the lake for the first time last fall. I was staying on the other side of the mountain range, in Welches, Oregon, and I was in search of a new place to take pictures of the super moon with Mt. Hood in the foreground. After a little searching, I found Lost Lake and decided to make the extreme, insane, backwoods trip on a mostly gravel pass called Lolo Pass Road that was barely wide enough for one car, let alone two (and traffic definitely traveled in both directions on the narrow passage).

While I made it to the lake without incident (thankfully), I barely made it in front of a bank of clouds headed our way. Within a very short period of time, the glorious view of Mt. Hood was quickly obscured before the moon could even rise.

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Even a relatively rare lenticular cloud made an appearance.

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It became clear very quickly that I was not going to have the chance to capture the mountain and the moon in the same image.

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So, I headed back down the mountain and tried to capture an evening photo …

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… with only limited success …

So, I decided that I was going to return this spring to try again. I booked two nights at the Lost Lake Lodge, determined to get an amazing sunrise photo of the mountain.

Mother Nature had other plans.

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Yep, that would be the lake. All three days I was there, the surrounding mountains were blanketed in low-level clouds and fog. I awoke before 5 a.m. each morning, only to find rain falling all round. Each evening, the rain lifted, but the clouds remained.

I could have been frustrated, but I decided that this was a great chance to find beauty among the dreariness. So, I hiked …

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And appreciated the scenery …

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And decided that I could always find another view of the beauty that is Mt. Hood …

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Even if it meant driving back down the mountain to get the shot I had always dreamed of …

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I will always love this mountain. It is symbolic of Oregon and all that is wild and beautiful. So what if it confounds my photography aspirations on a regular basis? Such is the joy of the pursuit …

The Promise of Julia Child

On this day, at the end of May, I spent a good part of the evening dead heading and trimming back roses that had grown too long and gangly for the weight of their blooms.

It’s not an unusual activity. Since planting my roses, I have found that it is essential to prune them back at least once a summer to keep them from falling over as they grow faster and taller than their still-spindly canes can support while reaching for the often-weak Pacific Northwest sun.

The unusual part is how early in the year that I have had to do this. Generally, I make it to the summer solstice before I have to trim back the canes. This year, not so much.

And because we had no real freeze to speak of, my rose bushes have already been plagued by pests. Aphids have come in conspicuous numbers, hopping, skipping and jumping between plants. I have also dealt with early cases of fungal infections in the forms of rust, black spot and (the heretofore unusual) powdery mildew.

Through it all, one plant has stood out.

One plant that has — both in years past and this year — remained untouched.

My beautiful Julia Child has managed to grow strong and resilient, resisting all needs for trimming spindly canes and repelling every pest, mite and fungus that has been the scourge of my other roses.

This is, to say the least, an immense surprise. After all, while I generally try to select roses that are deemed disease- and pest-resistant, I have found that many in the rose industry appear to subscribe to the “liar-liar-pants-on-fire” type of marketing practices. Abject hyperbole seems to fill every description they write for their roses (if that’s not the case, I wouldn’t want to encounter roses that are considered less than “disease resistant”) because all of my roses that have been termed relatively free from pests and disease are filled with — surprisingly enough — pests and disease.

But not the Julia Child.

This rose, which I didn’t expect much of, has grown strong and seemingly immune from all manner of illness and strife. It thrives even when I ignore it. The blooms overwhelm me every year, and this year is no exception.

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My Julia Child. The purple is a sage brush that it is holding up.

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A mass of flowers hiding among the top of the rose bush.

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The clippings just from the Julia Child. I was completely overwhelmed.

If only every rose bush was this hardy and prolific …


Avocado Love

On this day, I learned that, in addition to bread and tortillas, avocados are no longer safe on my kitchen counter.


Because my insane cats have decided they might be tasty … and fun.

I returned home from a quick trip to the grocery store and found the one below on the floor of my bedroom. And there were clearly incriminating teeth marks all over it.

While I would normally blame Zoey for this, I think that Colby is actually the culprit this time.


Because I brought home two additional avocados, and when I was unloading them on the counter, she came running up and immediately wanted to start batting them around.

Given that they are best friends, it probably shouldn’t surprise me.

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I Wish …

I had more time. Instead, I have a lot of flowers. Flowers that have bloomed far too early. But at least I have the chance to share them here …

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Bunny Boy

Yes, it has been FAR too long since I last posted. Life has been a little insane around my little world, so I have been more than a little distracted. Still, my beasties have kept me entertained, and I will be posting many pictures of the crew over the next few weeks.

In honor of the upcoming Easter holiday, I thought I’d start with the latest Cooper-humiliation photo: Bunny Boy.

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I think he’d plot my demise if it weren’t for the fact that I feed him every day. 🙂

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog (sorry I haven’t posted much lately … lots going on, but more to come in the New Year!).

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,400 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Tale of the Eye

It seems that around my house when it rains, it pours … at least when it comes to animal issues and vet visits.

This past week — after already dealing with yet another Cooper-stomach episode — I found myself dealing with a squint-eyed cat.

I have come across the issue from time to time with Lilly, who has a tendency to develop allergies in her eyes. But this squint-eyed cat issue erupted in Zoey, the little girl who is already prone to asthma issues. I tried to watch her for a bit, hoping it would clear up by itself, before realizing that the area around her eye was starting to swell.

Of course, the realization came on a Saturday.

When her regular vet is open only for minor vet visits and couldn’t take the little girl.

So, I bundled her up and took her to the closest open vet clinic.

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Needless to say, she wasn’t happy about it. She had to be pulled out of the crate, turned her back to me and leveled a killer glare at the vet tech — all unusual acts for the little girl and clear signs she didn’t feel well.

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After a thorough exam and a couple of tests, the vet prescribed antibiotic drops and sent us home.

At first, I thought they were working. The swelling around her eye seemed to subside and she grew a bit more active. Of course, on the flip side, she suddenly became very cranky and decided that she needed to attack Izzy for no clear reason.

As each day passed, I contemplated whether I should bring her back to the vet.

Thankfully, her regular vet is wonderful and called to check in on her, even though she hadn’t seen the little girl over the weekend. After a little talk, we agreed that I would call back in a couple of days if she was still squinting at all.

Within a couple of days, I bundled her up in the carrier and had her headed back to the vet. While the swelling wasn’t quite as pronounced, her body was clearly still off. My sweet little girl was irritable and angry and didn’t seem interested in any of her normal antics. Even at the vet’s office, which she normally likes to explore with wild abandon, she could barely muster a mild interest in the shelves on the wall before settling in the sink and drifting off to sleep while we waited for the vet to arrive.

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What the vet discovered was that while the eye had looked better for a short period, a deeper infection was clearly setting in. She was running a temperature and the swelling around her eye was even more pronounced.

So, after a second thorough examine in a week, we traipsed home with two additional prescriptions and instructions to keep administering the antibiotic eye drops. Coupled with the two prescriptions she already has for asthma, she is now on more medicine than Cooper is. At least for a short time.

The good news is that the medicine seems to be working. After only three doses of the oral antibiotic she received, she has already returned to her normal, happy self and she is squinting a whole lot less.

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Here’s to a fully recovered Zoey.

November Ice

I will admit it. When it comes to dealing with weather, I am a wimp.

Or, rather, I am just very, very stuck in my ways.

A native Oregonian, I am used to the ebb and flow of the seasons. In fact, I have come to celebrate them: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

But 2014 has decided to send us — as well as most of the rest of the country — for a loop. Last night, we were buried under ice that blanketed us all day. We don’t normally get this much ice in November. This time of year is generally dedicated to planting bulbs in mild temperatures and cleaning gardens for the coming winter, when the weather really turns nasty.

We aren’t used to such bad weather so early.

Still, there is beauty to find among the ice, which offers a good distraction from the frigid cold.

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Cold Winter’s Night: Protecting Those Who Can’t Protect Themselves

Dearest neighbors:

I try to understand others. I really do. I want to see everyone’s side of a story. Despite this, I have to say you suck.


Well, let me start by asking, “On this evening, when we are supposed to have our first storm of the winter and the wind chill has already dropped the temperature below freezing, do you know where your cat is?”

No? Well, I do. She’s on my front porch — as always. Since the first cold night, she has been on my front porch, under the protective cover of its roof and tucked within the little cat house I bought to give her a safe place to sleep. It’s the same place that I keep insulated against the cold with blankets and towels from my own house, so that a cat I don’t even own can stay warm during the coldest nights.

In the past 24 hours, when it has been so cold that the water I keep on the front porch for her has frozen over, she has only left the little house when I have stepped outside to make sure she is OK. Tonight, when I opened the door, she cried as she emerged from the house, clearly understanding that the freezing temperature was going to drop even lower. I could see she was torn because she wanted in my house, but she also knew that I have cats of my own who wouldn’t welcome her.

And where are you? You haven’t bothered to come look for her. You haven’t even taken the simple step of opening your front door and calling for her. How do I know this? Because my house is literally a stone’s throw from yours. I also know if I go to you and ask you about your cat, you will make a lame attempt to come get her and then decide that it’s all too much effort. And how do I know this? Because we have been down this road before the last two winters.

So tonight, before I go to bed, I will scoop up your cat from my front porch and carry her into my laundry room, which has already been set up for her to sleep in for the night. As I do, I will be cursing you the entire time. I know I shouldn’t — after all, it’s not very charitable or understanding of me — but I won’t be able to help myself. You accepted this little animal into your life, pledging to house it and protect it, and you don’t care about her.

I do.

I care.

I can’t help it.

I believe that how you protect those who can’t protect themselves — children, pets, the dead — defines your humanity. If you can’t accept the responsibility, don’t accept the pet.

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My neighbor’s cat, who also kept me company Halloween evening, when her family was too busy having a party to wonder where she was.