Lessons learned while washing dishes

In the 1980s, while I attended a small liberal arts college in the Midwest, I worked at the dormitory cafeterias. I held a variety of jobs, from serving students food at lunch to replenishing donuts for brunch to working on the dishwasher line. On the dishwashing line, my fellow students and I sorted out the... Continue Reading →

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The feather

Dear Bird, I found your feather today on my walk Lying against the crisp brown late-summer grass. I wonder: Did you pluck it purposefully from your skin, Because it had lost its usefulness? Or was it torn from your wing in a dispute With another raptor? Did it shake loose in a tussle With your... Continue Reading →

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Tangled

I knit, which means I spend a lot of quality time with yarn. A lot of yarns come in skeins, which are strands of yarn looped together in a loose coil. These large loops become easily tangled, so knitters often use a yarn winder, a device with a handle that you can crank and a... Continue Reading →

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A writing life

My junior year of high school featured a huge disruption that would change my life moving forward and inspire a habit that stays with me to the present. In 1982, my mom, dad, sister and I traveled from Pullman, Washington, to London, England, where we lived for a year while my parents took a sabbatical... Continue Reading →

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The perils and perks of picking blackberries

Summertime in the Inland Empire means days so hot the moisture evaporates leaving behind oven-like breezes. Back in the 70s, it also meant my mom would load my sister and I up in the back of our '66 Dodge Dart and point it into the countryside to look for blackberries. Blackberry picking takes grit. The... Continue Reading →

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Finding the words, finding my voice

I posted a piece a few weeks ago, a letter to my 25-year-old self. I got some very positive feedback from people. The only person I didn't receive positive feedback from was me. It took me several weeks before I could bring myself to hit the "post" button. "Who cares about your 25-year-old self?" A... Continue Reading →

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Dear Younger Me

Dear Younger Me, I am standing outside the apartment building in Washington, D.C., where you lived 27 years ago. You had just turned 25, and you were young and married and looking for your first job. You had been working in D.C. for about nine months, in internship positions. You had two cats in the... Continue Reading →

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False eyelashes and failure

I do a few things pretty well. I'm a good baker. I'm a good dancer. Occasionally I can turn a good phrase. I crack witty puns — okay, some people might disagree with the with the witty puns. But my point is that I'm skilled in certain areas due to many years of practice. But... Continue Reading →

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The Tree

Every now and then when I am outdoors walking down a random path, a branch will catch my eye and remind me of my Tree. I haven't seen this particular tree in almost 45 years. I remember few things about the catastrophic illness that nearly took my life, and it is possible that the tree... Continue Reading →

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My one-word theme for 2019

Explore. It's my one-word theme for 2019. When I heard on Gretchen Rubin's podcast, Happier, that she and her sister choose a one-word theme for the year every year, I didn't think I could do it. How could I choose one word out of all the possibilities across several languages? I'm a word NERD. I... Continue Reading →

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Half-century mark

I turned 50 in 2017, so it seems fitting to reflect on existing for a half-century on this tiny planet in our vast universe. I’ve always felt very fortunate and grateful to be alive, because at the age of seven, no one thought I was going to make it to eight. One day I was... Continue Reading →

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Beach time

Bare feet sink in the sand. Small grains fall over toes. The air thunders with crashing waves in a timeless rhythm. An occasional seagull cry cuts across the cerulean sky. Shells pepper the line between sand and sea. Small shells, large, shells, brightly colored shells bleached shells; the small jewels rock back and forth as... Continue Reading →

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I’ll always have Paris

I don’t remember falling in love with Paris. My memories of my family’s first visit to the city faded long ago, for it was 40 years ago. I’ve heard stories of snooty waiters who looked down their noses at us because we spoke no French, and I’ve seen photos of my mom, my sister and... Continue Reading →

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An ordinary day

My father would have been 77  this week, but he passed away almost 23 years ago when he was 54. The suddenness and swiftness of his death left the whole family bereft, and we still miss him. Although he died relatively young, my father did a great many things, and some of those things I... Continue Reading →

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On running

I wake up at dawn, put on a t-shirt and shorts and double-knot my running shoes. I step into the clear morning air and listen to the birds chime the first welcome of the day. I start slowly, allowing my limbs to shed the last bits of sleep. Then I fall into a rhythm. My... Continue Reading →

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TMB Part 11: The ladders and beyond

We had hiked 100 miles, and on this day, we would only hike about four more. But the trail guide suggested it would take us about three hours, all of it straight up another mountain. And we would have to climb ladders. I had seen images of the ladders - narrow, metal-runged contraptions rising vertically... Continue Reading →

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TMB Part 10: The Hustle

After passing back into France, we only had two nights left. We descended 3,000 feet into the top part of the Chamonix Valley to Tre-le-Champ and the Auberge de la Boerne, a small inn that looked as if it had been around for several hundred years. The auberge sported wooden beams, low ceilings and narrow... Continue Reading →

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TMB Part 9: Peak experience

After two days of fog and rain with little to no visibility, we gladly welcomed the sunshine back. The town of Trient glowed in the morning as we marched through and down the road, once again to ascend up another mountainside. We found our way to Col de Balme, where we were rewarded with spectacular... Continue Reading →

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TMB Part 8: All things bovine

It was raining when we awoke at the Gite de Bon Abri. We ate breakfast, said our goodbyes and hit the trail once more in our rain gear. We had passed a few cows up to this point and they had always ignored us, choosing instead to focus on chewing their cuds. However, on this... Continue Reading →

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TMB Part 7: Weathering dilemmas

Our first full day in Switzerland started with skies darkened by rain. We stepped outside into the chill, jackets under our rain gear to keep us warm. We walked through a valley past Swiss chalets and small gardens full of lettuce, squash, leeks, strawberries and raspberry bushes. Our destination, Champex and its lake of the... Continue Reading →

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TMB part 6: A feast for the senses

We rose before dawn and got our packs ready, then ate a quiet breakfast of bread, yogurt, fruit and tea in the dining room. The sun began to bathe the gray peaks on the other side of the valley in light, reflecting brightly off the white snow caps. We slung our packs on our backs... Continue Reading →

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Refuge

Around Mont Blanc and other mountainous areas in Europe, you will find refuges. Most refuges sit high in the mountains, remote from any towns. They tend to feature dormitory-style rooms, with bunk beds or simple mattresses on a rudimentary bed frame. Depending upon your perspective, refuges either seem like roughing it or like the very... Continue Reading →

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TMB: Pause and reflect

When you are walking on a trail, you put one foot in front of another, and when you are writing about the trail, you put one word after another as you describe it. But on the trail, sometimes you have to pause and reflect. Am I hungry or thirsty? Hot or cold? Tired or energized?... Continue Reading →

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On the first official day of the tour, we woke up early and ate whole-grain bread, cheese, yogurt and honey for breakfast. We left at 8 a.m. and walked across Les Houches to the Belllevue cable car. It took us up 1,500 feet and we began our hike, which was mostly downhill that day. After... Continue Reading →

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One day at a time

I realized that if I took life one lamppost at a time, or one moment at a time, I might just be able to make it through anything.

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Tending a Garden Through the Years

In my youth, I fantasized about living off the land, planting, growing and consuming all of my own vegetables. I knew almost nothing about gardening, and as I began to try this activity, I questioned whether my childish dream would ever happen. I questioned this especially in the mid-1990s when I met Austin Springston, a... Continue Reading →

One thousand and one unrelated facts

My dad knew a lot of random facts. And he would bring up these facts at random moments. He could also quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail at will. Now, sometimes, those facts spring forth from me. For instance, at a recent work meeting, we were discussing nibbling amoebae, as one does when one... Continue Reading →

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