Thank You

No metaphysician ever felt the deficiency of language so much as the grateful.           Caleb C. Colton


The Pink Sheffield Chrysanthemum

Many thanks to each and every one of you who has reached out to me since Berkley’s death. Please know that every word you have written me has been read and re-read and surely will continue to be for some time yet to come.


The Mexican Bush Sage


Sadly, I don’t have the words to adequately express how thankful I am for your friendship and support during these painful days.


October Skies Aster

So I’ll say it with flowers as the old ad campaign used to urge us.


Nature’s perfect timing


The garden is slowly coming to rest, but there is one last flush of beauty.


“Will’s Wonderful” Chrysanthemum and an unidentified something.

The garden knows that the end is drawing near, and there is a defiant beauty to the botanical last hurrah of the chrysanthemums and asters.


Dear Berkley was born on my birthday. He died on my daughter’s. Why I find this so comforting and oddly significant is hard for me to say, but I do.


Another great comfort to me is how many of you grew to know and feel fond of my dear old Berkley-boy.

Again, dear friends, my inexpressible thanks to each and every one of you. You have helped me immeasurably.

Posted in Garden, The Boys | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

My Fragile Circle


“We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we would still live no other way.”        Irving Townsend


Our beloved Berkley-boy suffered a stroke yesterday and passed away peacefully. He does leave an awful gap.

December 22, 1999 – October 28, 2014

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A Wee Taiwanese Tea Party

Sunday was just the best day.

You remember, perhaps, that I wrote recently about my travails preparing the soft food diet for my daughter’s fractured jaw. In the comments of that post, my friend, Jim, who writes the fascinating “Road To Parnassus” blog and resides in Taiwan, suggested I give “bai mu-er” a shot.  As it happened, my husband was in Taiwan that very day – what are the odds, I ask you? – and could get his hands on the ingredients which he dutifully lugged home. Culinary kismet at work. I would definitely be giving this exotic dessert soup a try soon.

Sooner than I thought, it turns out. Saturday we heard from friends from Washington state who were in Virginia for a family wedding and wondered if we’d be around on Sunday for a visit. Would we? Oh, I don’t pass up a chance to see my friend, Kathy, easily.  A bit of schedule reshuffling and we were on for tea in the early afternoon.1414367655665

Last time I saw Kathy we had abandoned the merry band of wayfarers with whom we’d hiked the Scottish Highlands and hit Edinburgh for some serious book shopping. Oh my, oh my. Those book stores are post-worthy in and of themselves. Dash it to bits, I wish I had been writing my blog then.

Putting together a spot of tea was a snap. Beloved husband had come home with tins of delicious oolong tea and special tea cookies from Hong Kong. All I had to do was whip up the bai mu-er the night before and we were all set.

So what the heck is bai mu-er? It’s a fungus. A lovely delicate fungus that when combined with water, sugar, and dried or fresh fruits yields a delicious, sweet dessert soup. I learned very early in my Asian travels not to concern myself with what is in a specific dish (within reason, of course.) One of my favorite Chinese desserts is a black jelly. Yes, I agree, a bit of rebranding is in order to appeal to most Western palates.

Here I have the bai mu-er soaking:


Here it is simmering away with Chinese red dates and Chinese wolfberries:




And now I let it chill overnight in the fridge in preparation for tea on Sunday afternoon. Would our friends be willing to give it a try? Because, you know….fungus.

Well, I really do have the coolest friends, I have to say. Because, of course, they gave it a try with a terrific sense of adventure. You know there is such difference between “What’s that?” and “Ooooh, what have we here?”

So we sat in the garden and drank tea, sipped bai mu-er, nibbled cookies, and caught up on life. What could be better? Well, maybe if Jim could have joined us, but it is a tad out-of-the-way for him, I suppose.


After the first slightly hesitant taste, the bai mu-er was gobbled up.


What a great sport!




I am wearing a top from a shop in Edinburgh. The colors represent the heather and lochs of Scotland. A favorite “souvenir”, however, is standing right next to me.

How about you? What’s the most exotic thing you’ve ever eaten? Have you ever been served something as a guest that you really, really didn’t want to try?

Thanks for reading,









Posted in Food, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 61 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art: Sphinxes

For this week’s Photo Challenge, stimulate your creative process and imagine which of your images you would like to see gracing the cover of a book, an album, or a magazine.

Sadly, this is what the publisher deemed acceptable as cover art for a James Patterson thriller:



Well, that’s what they get for not consulting me first. After all, we do have this:


Sphinxes. Not by James Patterson.

Have a great weekend!


Posted in Books, Challenges, Humor | Tagged , , , | 63 Comments

Two Words

It’s the strangest thing to find yourself playing a role for which you have no preparation and no escape. That’s how I felt when medical staff looked at me with such kindness and empathy and a trace of “This poor Mom just can’t accept reality.” That’s right, I was abruptly and unwillingly cast in the role of that mother….you’ve seen her in movies, the one who won’t let them pull the plug….the one who sits bedside for decades clinging to hope.

Some of you know about my daughter’s decade-long struggle with violent seizures which has left her brain-injured among other things. I don’t write about this much, mostly because I don’t really want to. I’ve never wanted my blog to become a repository of dreary hospital stories and doom and gloom.

But life is not all hyacinth bean vines and cute little Westie boys, is it?

Once in a while a memory of those early terrifying years will pop up so powerfully and unexpectedly, and with it such a strong life lesson, that I want to tell a bit of the story. That was the case in cleaning out my closet in preparation for fall. Funny the things that trigger memories.

Through a blur of ventilators, medically-induced comas, and at the lowest point, the administration of Last Rites, we never really believed that Jen would die. And inexplicably she did not. Her wonderful nurse shrugged her shoulders at one point later and said, “She’s young.” Sometimes that counts for a lot when you’re critically ill. Jen seemed on her way to some form of recovery when the seizures came back with a vengeance. This time they really did a number on her.

She became a word you don’t ever want to hear describing your loved one: Spastic. She flailed uncontrollably in bed, rocking back and forth endlessly with her hands contorted into a sort of lobster-like claw. And when I would lift her eyelid to try to stimulate some period of awareness, there was nothing. Nothing at all. This went on for two agonizing weeks and in the background, of course, the chilling question of what would remain when she did wake up.

Eventually the hospital informed us she would have to be transferred. The rehab hospital screeners arrived and stood at the foot of her bed as she rocked to and fro. Not surprisingly, they saw her as unfit for rehab.

Except I knew she was in there hiding from all the neurological chaos in her brain. I envisioned her huddled in a dark corner waiting for the terrifying lightning storm overhead to pass before she could make the trip back up to consciousness.

I don’t have to tell you I pleaded with staff, right? Begged and cried for just a little more time before she got transferred “out” to wherever people like her get placed. And one good doctor agreed to let her stay the weekend before transferring.

Saturday morning I showed up early to her room in ICU. She was in her customary fetal position but this morning, somehow, it was different. The relentless flailing had stopped. Her hands had relaxed from that awful contortion. I placed my hand on her cheek to let her know I was there. She opened her eyes and said two words.

“Nice sweater.” This sweater:



How does one burst into simultaneous tears and laughter? Word spread through the ICU like a happy virus. Nurses who had cared for Jen so tenderly were laughing with me and saying, “It IS a nice sweater. No wonder she had to say something.”

No need for me to trot out any cliches here, right? We know when things seem at their bleakest, we sometimes earn a reprieve. And that casting somebody – anybody –  into a particular role can be a terrible mistake.

Winston Churchill said something about “This isn’t the end, it isn’t even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” And so it was for us.  We had many struggles ahead of us, but I was learning to trust my instincts and to fight for them.

And to wear nice sweaters.

PS: Jen spent almost three years in rehab and did eventually make it to Virginia where she lives nearby.  Mercifully, she doesn’t remember any of it.

Posted in Random Ruminations | Tagged , , , | 78 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Refraction

For this photo challenge, show us what “refraction” means to you. It could be an image taken in a reflective surface, it could be light bent from behind an object, or it could mean remedial math homework: the choice is completely up to you. I’m looking forward to seeing how you interpret “refraction.”

Refraction? I commented to my friend, Sandra, that I’d be sitting out this week’s challenge. But wait! Look what I found while looking for something else….the garden to the rescue again!




And a good day to all,


Posted in Challenges, Garden | Tagged , , , , | 39 Comments

Just Give A Listen

I was greeted this morning by this lovely thing from a friend. Some things just shouldn’t be kept to one’s self. Chrissie Hynde, after all.

Posted in Random Ruminations | 39 Comments