Tag Archives: Family

A Starting Point

The Tuesday after Labor Day feels like a transition, a “start.” Summer vacation has ended and you start back to work. The kids –and their teachers—start back to class. Football season kicks off. I notice the leaves of the poplars have started to change; now they flutter gold in the shorter days.

And did it feel a little chilly to you this morning?falltime 2011 004

As you start your autumn, I admit there is a restlessness within me that I won’t be there with you. For six years you allowed me to be on your TV in the morning while you got ready for work, rustled the kids out of bed, cleaned up whatever the cat threw up or dragged in overnight. I will miss sharing the news with you, but I won’t lie to you (I never have). I don’t miss the alarm going off  at 2:44 in the morning. When you no longer have to get up when you’re supposed to, you will love it. If you have earned your retirement, you certainly know what I mean when I say it feels so liberating to start my day not when I have to, but when I darn well feel like it.

Sure, I still get up at the crack of dawn to work on the novel, but for me, sunrise is sleeping in! At mid morning I take a break from writing. The dogs get their walk, the lawn might get mowed, and then I’m back to the book for another few hours.  I’m shooting to finish SALAD DAYS before the end of the year.

Will a publisher print it? I don’t know, but I’m following my passion. And that’s a start.





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Why I didn’t install a dog door…

512px-Coyote_closeupI’m taking a stroll with a glass of wine at twilight and notice two of my dogs have wandered off; something apparently has caught their interest. So I call out their names and here come Kingston and Sawyer—with two young coyote right behind them, trotting in like they had accepted an invitation for a sleep over.

Me being the bad guy, I flap my arms and inform the coyote they are not welcome.  One turned tail immediately while the other stopped in its tracks, as if waiting to see if King and Sawyer would change my mind.  I don’t mean to be a profiling snob, I tell my dogs, but coyotes have a reputation. They are not playmates.

Coyote are predators, but not necessarily aggressive, to people, anyway.  The last recorded attack in Washington happened two years ago in Kent when three coyotes ganged up on a man in his backyard (The ER treated him for scratches and he eventually received 24 rabies shots). The attack prompted Fish and Wildlife to advise homeowners to stow their trash and keep an eye on their children, small dogs and cats. The game wardens warned that coyote encounters are bound to happen more often as humans build homes where coyote hunt for their food.

Aha. Coyote eat fruit.  I’m told in the winter they rely on the leftovers in the orchards.  I figure the peaches and nectarines in my yard and the ripening apples in the surrounding orchards are bringing in the coyotes.Gpa_bill_coyote_pup

Adorable as they appeared, I did not change my mind about the slumber party, and after another shout, the two coyote disappeared into the sage brush, but they didn’t act like they were thoroughly dissuaded. I think they’ll be back. The apples are coming in, and my dogs like visitors.


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A veteran at 18

frame kelleyThe soldier who spoke at the Veteran’s Day assembly at Pasco High School had an immediate bond with the students.

Kane Kelley graduated from Pasco High only last year and right after enlisted in the army.

What a difference a year makes.

“It’s changed who I am as a person,” Kelley says.  “It gives you perspective and a whole different outlook for the little things back here at home.”

Not a typical teenager anyway, Kelley was already serving in the National Guard during his senior year. (His parents had given him permission to enlist.)  He comes from a long line of veterans, with about 45 relatives who have served in one of the branches of the armed forces. The Pasco graduate is training to become a helicopter pilot and plans to attend college following his military service.

Standing there at the podium, wearing his army-issued fatigues, Private First Class Kelley looked or acted nothing  like a teenager. He had that composed and humble manner that comes not necessarily with age, but with life experience.

“God Bless America,” Private Kelley told the audience, “and go Bulldogs.”

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A half-#@! good deed

I’m leaving the station today and across the street a man is wobbling.  The heat’s got to him. He drops his backpack and crumples to his knees.

I ran over to see what I could do to help .

“Water,” he says. “Got any water?”

I ran back to the station, scooped up two bottled Evian and returned to the sidewalk where the man still sat, pale and perspiring, that cold sweat caused by dehydration.  I twisted off the cap and handed him the first bottle and, watching him pour it over his head, I’m thinking If I  knew you were going to do that I  wouldn’t  have bought the good stuff.

A few minutes go by. I learn his name, Ed, and ask him where’s he’s going. He says his mom’s in East Pasco, which isn’t a walking distance, especially in 100 degree heat. But the bus stop is just over there, Ed says.

A few minutes more go by. Ed has finished his second bottled water–this one he drank–and he’s looking better. I help him to his feet.

“Sure you’re okay?” I asked.

Ed thanks me. We shake hands and he starts walking to the transit center and I get into my air-conditioned truck, wondering if I’ve done enough.  I suppose I could have gone a half hour out of my way and given Ed a lift to his mom’s, but you know how it is; a stranger and all. 

I’m home later and it hits me. No bus service on the 4th of July.

Ed was having a bad day and I could have made it just a little less so had I taken that 30 minutes out of my day.

(And this brings up the question. Why there isn’t at the least limited bus service on holidays? How do people like Ed who rely on public transportation get around, get  to work, to church, to visit relatives?) 

I hope you made it to your Mom’s okay, Ed.


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Endless Summer

The beach at Coronado, California

The beach at Coronado, California

The beach at Coronado at sunset

The beach at Coronado at sunset

When you’re a kid, summer seems endless: hanging out at the beach, the lake; if you were a city kid, you rode your stingray or caught the bus to the community swimming pool. Three months of sleeping in, sleeping outside on those hot August nights, just hanging out . Endless.

I regret I didn’t make better use of at least some of that downtime;  learn the sax, join the Scouts, volunteer for something.

So now,  summer always includes a project, a goal to pursue, something that when I look back I can say, “Oh, yeah. That’s the summer when…”

  • I was 19 and lost 35 pounds. You should have seen the faces of Diane and Vivian on the first day back at college.
  • I remodeled my house, although my physical labor stopped at writing the check to the contractor.
  • I started a small backyard fruit orchard, one of my favorite summer projects because unlike most aspects of life,  at the end of day, wine in hand (stained with irrigation pipe glue), I could go out and see immediate results. This summer I’ll harvest plums and nectarines. Next year I should have cherries and apricots, maybe a few apples.
  • I learned how to read music, thanks to Music Theory for Dummies.
  • I bought a CD-Rom and sat in the shade trying to learn Slovak. I didn’t get too far beyond knowing how to say the names of fruits and vegetables, but I sounded so fluent when I said “vidlička” (fork).

This summer, I’m helping Ian Tripp save the cat in my second novel–and pitching my first to any agent or editor willing to take a look.

What about you? What’s your summer project? Paint an oil seascape? Paint the house? Read all Louis L’Amour westerns? 

(I’ve done that, but it took me two summers.)

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Calling all artists

frame cbc vetsColumbia Basin College is accepting proposals for a monument to be erected on campus honoring veterans.

Veterans Committee Chairman Jason Schlegel says CBC is looking for a creation that is timeless, gender neutral, and captures the spirit of service of veterans.

schlegal3“We really want the piece to speak to all generations of veterans that are still alive to include Vietnam-era veterans, any remaining World War Two veterans, Korean War veterans and possibly future veterans.”

CBC hopes to raise $75,000 for the project through private donations made to the CBC Foundation. Schlegel says if they can do for it less, swell.

The 400 veterans currently enrolled at CBC will get to vote on the two finalists. The committee, which is made up of students, faculty, and staff, will then pick the winner in June. If everything goes right,  the monument will be ready by Veterans’ Day November 11.

Artists wanting more information–and to pitch their idea– can  click here.

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The air you breathe is free. The air for your tire is 75 cents. Bring correct change.

free air

I’ve been driving around lately with a slow leak in the right front tire, meaning to get in and get it patched. During the procrastination window, I’ve discovered more “gas stations” have bolted a coin slot to the air compressors.

Really corporate guys? Air? You’re now charging for air?

If you’re a baby boomer or thereabouts, you remember back in the day when the family pulled into a service station and a man in a clean, crisp shirt and sometimes wearing a bow tie would come up to the window and ask if he could check your tires.texaco1

No fooling, you drivers under 30. He would also open the hood and check the oil.

I’m dying if I’m lying.

And while he’s doing all that, another man in uniform would clean your windshield.

It used to be service with a smile.

The smile was also free.

texaco3Now it’s self-serve and 75 cents for a few squirts of air–and sometimes the smile wanes if you ask the clerk for quarters for the compressor without also buying a maple bar.

You probably should bring your own tire gauge, too.

Personally, I will not pay for air. I’ll use my bicycle tire pump; I will be sweaty and late, but I’ll have the satisfaction knowing I didn’t patronize those air sellers.

(And here’s a shout-out to the Mini Mart at the corner of Washington and First in Downtown Kennewick. It’s the one convenience store remaining that I know of where air is still free, though the last time the compressor was out-of-order.)

BTW, Les Schwab patched my tire free, recognizing that I’ll return when I need new tires.

And the smile was free too.

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