Posted Friday, February 7th, 2014 @ 4:52 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Motherhood, Nature

Here is my Sunshine Girl, enjoying peppermint ice cream at Baskin Robbins as a reward. Her very first loose tooth was not budging and the permanent one was emerging behind it. So we saw the dentist, who pulled it out. Claire was calm and composed through the process and patiently waited for the gauze to stop the bleeding.

We left with her itty bitty tooth in a little tooth necklace, and as we walked to the car she began to whimper. She was crying once we got into the car, and we sat in the back seat and snuggled. She said, “I kept my scared inside, but when we left I couldn’t keep the scared inside anymore, and I had to cry.” I assured her it’s all right to cry and held her until she felt calmer. I replied that losing a first tooth is big deal, because you have to get used to the gap and a little blood and the gum is tender. I suggested we get ice cream, and she agreed.

And of course we had to call her father at work to tell him about her courage and excitement.

One the way home, she said, “I am so proud of myself! I’m so proud of myself I could cry! I’m a big girl now! The tooth fairy is coming tonight!”


Can’t Go Back

Posted Friday, February 7th, 2014 @ 12:38 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Motherhood, Regional, Spirit

It was 3 a.m., July 6, 1994, at my parents’ home. I woke up, dressed quickly, and ate a light breakfast. It felt like a secret to be awake at that hour. My parents had also woken up. (I was leaving before dawn because it was summer, 600 miles lay ahead, and my car had no air conditioner.) My mother, still sleepy, enveloped me in her arms. It was a long embrace; I felt her sweet warmth and her grief. My father said to her, “Come on, let her go.” She did, and I turned to hug him. We were not a hugging family, so each embrace always felt new. As we separated, he said, “Go on and live life. Go make a million dollars.”

I climbed into my blue Eagle Summit, which I’d packed to the walls and ceiling with my belongings, and started out. I felt sadness and tremendous excitement. I cried for about 15 miles as I headed west. I was leaving Syracuse — my home of 31 years — for a new life in Austin, Texas. I’d sold all my furniture and most of my collection of 600 books. After sifting through all my belongings and discarding most of them, I’d packed 20 U-haul book boxes with items I deemed essential and shipped them to my brother in Austin for storage. My car was paid for; I had $2000 in the bank. I had no place to live and no job once I arrived. With each mile I felt the delight opening up to whatever presented itself. I was done with Syracuse and gladly moved on. On the third day, I rose again. Then I descended upon Austin.

I never looked back. I have never wanted to go back. It was one of the best decisions of my life. This song by The Weepies captures the heart of that experience. I imagine one day I, too, will envelope my daughter in a long, sleepy, poignant hug as she ventures into the world.

If the embed fails, click here.

Presence and Silence

Posted Thursday, February 6th, 2014 @ 1:22 am by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Nature, Quotes, Spirit

I’ve been thinking about something for a long time, and I keep noticing that most human speech – if not all human speech – is made with the outgoing breath. This is the strange thing about presence and absence. When we breathe in, our bodies are filled with nutrients and nourishment. Our blood is filled with oxygen, our skin gets flush; our bones get harder – they get compacted. Our muscles get toned and we feel very present when we’re breathing in. The problem is, that when we’re breathing in, we can’t speak. So presence and silence have something to do with each other.

Li-Young Lee

I also think that Presence is magnified in natural settings, particularly primeval forests such as the Redwoods and Sequoias.


The Japanese term Shinrin-yoku may literally mean “forest bathing,” but it doesn’t involve soaking in a tub among the trees. Rather it refers to spending time in the woods for its therapeutic (or bathing) effect. Most of us have felt tension slip away in the midst of trees and nature’s beauty. But science now confirms its healing influence on the body. When you spend a few hours on a woodland hike or camping by a lake you breathe in phytoncides, active substances released by plants to protect them against insects and from rotting, which appear to lower blood pressure and stress and boost your immune system.

Mother Nature Network

Before Putting the Nail In

Posted Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 @ 8:40 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Nature, Quotes

It’s pretty much impossible to feel anger at someone for driving too slowly in front of you in traffic when you’ve just come from sanding your own coffin. Coveting material objects, holding on to old grudges, failing to pause and see the grace in strangers — all equally foolish. While the coffin is indeed a reminder of what awaits us all, its true message is to live every moment to its greatest potential.

–Jeffrey M. Piehler, Ashes to Ashes, But First, a Nice Pine Box

Enclosing Nothingness

Posted Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 @ 12:34 am by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Quotes, Spirit

I’ve always felt that inside each of us there is profound anonymity. Sometimes I think that when you go deep inside, you meet everyone else on a sort of common ground – or you meet nobody. But whatever you meet, it is not yours though you enclose it. We are the container, and this nothingness is what we enclose. This is where Heidegger is very interesting to me. He describes the division between the world as nothing, as what he calls the “open,” and any act of conceptualizing which restores the world in a particular way.

Many of his texts are longings to experience that anonymity, the condition where we don’t have an “I” yet. It is as if we were in a room from which, paradoxically, we were absent. Everything is seen from the perspective of that absence. I suppose, in some ways, this is a mystical vision that brings to me a sense of the universe as an anonymous presence. The force of that sometimes frightens me, sometimes delights me.

–Charles Simic

This quote just touches slightly what I am exploring these days. This nothingness, or space, isn’t empty — it just seems that way to us in this dimension. The anonymity isn’t obliteration, though to the ego it feels that way. It’s so much more expansive than we can imagine, and connected too. This is a piece of what I know, what it true for me.

[Thanks Whiskey River for mining so many marvelous gems]

Building With Stories and Tools

Posted Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 @ 12:34 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Education, Journal, Motherhood, Recreation, Science, Technology

Introducing the Cat Walker, designed and created by Claire. It was engineered to exercise a cat while transporting other beings. (In this case, it’s Benjamin Cranklin the Cat hauling two Katinka the Dolphin Ballerinas.) She made this using her GoldieBlox toys.


The field of engineering consists roughly of 13 % women and 87% men. A couple of years ago, Debbie Sterling, an engineer, asked herself the question of why more girls aren’t interested in engineering, and how to get them excited about the skills related to it. I recall her Kickstarter video mentioning that girls love stories. They aren’t drawn just to build something for the sake of building. Girls like characters and plot. So Sterling set out to create a construction toy that would appeal to girls by giving them stories that incorporate spatial skills, teach engineering principles, and boost confidence in problem-solving.

I contributed to the Kickstarter campaign and ordered the first set, GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine. The focus is on the skill concept of a belt drive. It contains a storybook, 5 animal figurines, 1 pegboard, 5 wheels, 10 axles, 5 blocks, 5 washers, 1 crank, 1 ribbon. Claire loves playing with it. The biggest attraction is the five animals; they excite her imagination, and she incorporates the GoldieBlox pieces in all sorts of ways with her other toys. Other times she plays just with the pieces (as shown above) and creates things on her own.

Sterling’s company has subsequently produced two more toys. One is called GoldieBlox and the Parade Float; its skill concept is wheel and axel. The other — just released — is GoldieBlox and the Dunk tank, with a focus on hinge and lever mechanics.

We’ve also been pleased with Lego Friends. Claire considered Legos a “boy toy” and avoided them. As soon as the Friends line was introduced she became eager to play with them. Again, the appeal is in the story and characters. (And it thrills her father, who loves Lego and really wanted to share it with her.)

I really appreciate Debbie Sterling’s vision and am delighted there are engineering toys with special appeal to girls. And of course, boys are welcome to play with them (and they do)! The company website states that they will be introducing male characters in the future, and that “everyone is encouraged to discover engineering with Goldie and her friends.” These toys are available at Target, Toys R Us, and Amazon.

If the embed doesn’t work, here is the link: The Launch Video.

Interconnectedness of All Beings

Posted Monday, February 3rd, 2014 @ 12:52 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Community, Journal, Nature, Spirit

This video was shown in church yesterday, and it left me in tears of awe, joy, and gratitude. It is set in the Sea of Cortez. A group of people encountered a Humpback whale that appeared to be dead but was instead deeply entangled with a fishing net. They labored to free her, and it’s all on film. Dive into a marvelous encounter.

Click this link if the embed doesn’t work: Amazing Whale Rescue

Michael Fishbach and Gershon Cohen established The Great Whale Conservancy to protect them and their habitat.

Compassionate Choices

Posted Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 @ 9:06 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Community, Journal, Motherhood, Spirit

Stella’s last days were hard. People told me, “You’ll know when it’s time.” I wondered. But in the end, I did know. On January 13 I noticed blood in her urine. We took her to the vet and they did blood tests and urine culture. She’d lost two pounds in four months. A few days later we had a diagnosis of urinary tract infection. So we began antibiotic treatment. After a week, there was no improvement, and instead, I noticed Stella starting just to lick the gravy off her stinky wet food rather than eat it.

By Friday the 24th, she couldn’t keep much down. She’d eat — she was hungry — only later to vomit. She felt more frail than usual. On Saturday, when she puked at least five times and even if it was just water, I knew it was bad. A visit at 4:00 p.m. to the vet showed she’d lost seven ounces since the 13th. We had an x-ray done; evaluation showed a lump on her lung. (Later examination by a radiologist also revealed tumors in her bladder, hence the blood.)

The vet gave options. We could send Stella to emergency care for fluids and stabilization and then have her transported back to them on Monday for biopsies. Or we could give her subcutaneous fluid and an anti-nausea shot and take her home to say good-bye. Without a biopsy there was no absolute answer, but her guess was that it was probably “Cancer, cancer, or cancer.” The choice was obvious. Stella was 17. She was tired. I wouldn’t put her through hell just to satisfy my curiosity or to chase a fantasy of a cure.

So we brought her home. We snuggled. She stopped eating. She stopped acting hungry. The only thing she wanted to eat were treats, but they didn’t stay down. All day Sunday we hung out on the couch, and she slept on me both nights. Sunday night she kept vomiting, but there was nothing in her.

On Monday I took her outside. She toured the back yard, sniffing corners, chewing grass, lying down and listening to birds. After an hour she was done and went inside. I lay on the couch with my face next to hers and looked into her eyes. She purred constantly. At one point she cleaned my hand, which was one of her many ways of expressing fondness. She was tired, uncomfortable. If I let her die a natural death, it would likely be by starvation. I wouldn’t do that to her. At 4:00, the veterinarian and his tech came to our house. Hub and Claire were also at home. They inserted a catheter, gave an injection to make her sleep, and then another injection to stop her heart. So fast. Irreversible. I cried.


Claire and I waited in line for school to start. The mother of a classmate approached and held out a ceramic cat statue to Claire, saying, “Z made this for you because you’re sad about your cat dying.” Claire said thank you. She’s six, and she hasn’t cried much about Stella. She’s got more questions instead, and her grief is coming out behaviorally — intense anger, low flashpoint, general contrariness. And the occasional comment, such as, “I don’t like this house anymore. It doesn’t have any pets,” and “I miss Stella. Why did she have to have a shot that made her die?”

But this gift, and the kindness that prompted it, brought tears to my eyes. This little boy was at Color Me Mine and decided that he wanted to make a gift to console a friend. Bless his huge empathetic, compassionate heart. Claire will cherish this statue. It sits prominently in our dining room.


I miss the thump-a thump-a thump-a of Stella going down the stairs. I miss the click click click of her toenails on the floor. I miss stroking her as I walk by her sleeping body on the sofa. I miss the yowling when she was hungry, or lonely. I reflexively look for her to bring her up to her room at night and then realize she’s gone. I feel the absence of her energy in the house. I miss talking to her.

So this gift from a little boy to my daughter? It’s priceless — and cradled deeply in my heart.

kitty gift


Posted Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 @ 11:20 am by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Nature, Poetry, Quotes

Look at what we woke up to!


We’re praying for much much more of it.

And, from one of my favorite poets:

A Rainy Morning

A young woman in a wheelchair,
wearing a black nylon poncho spattered with rain
is pushing herself through the morning.
You have seen how pianists
sometimes bend forward to strike the keys,
then lift their hands, draw back to rest,
then lean again to strike just as the chord fades.
Such is the way this woman
strikes at the wheels, then lifts her long white fingers,
letting them float, then bends again to strike
just as the chair slows, as if into a silence.
So expertly she plays the chords
of this difficult music she has mastered,
her wet face beautiful in its concentration,
while the wind turns the pages of rain.

–Ted Kooser, Delights and Shadows


Posted Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 @ 8:49 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Motherhood

An off-kilter day. I was scheduled to go to school and check in homework, and then make photocopies for the teachers. Homework was easy. The copies, not so much. I went through three reams of paper and ran out of paper for the jobs. The new fancy copier worked well until the toner disposal had to be emptied, and I discovered they had not ordered any cartridges. So it was out of commission. The other copier — old, rickety, unstable — worked well enough, but there was one job it couldn’t handle. I felt frustrated. So much paper! Worksheets, homework, activity sheets — stuff gets handed out, written on, and recycled.

Still, it kept me occupied the entire morning. I came home to a house empty of snores, purrs, and meows. I really miss Stella. So does Claire. I gave her the sleeping blanket I knitted for Stella shortly before Claire was born. While I made dinner she snuggled under her monkey blanket while hugging Stella’s.

missing stella

As for me, I’m thinking of turning in early. Grief makes me cranky.