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Home Planet

Archive for March 2010

Parenting without a map

      Last week at the bookstore, I spent an hour moving slowly along the rows and bookshelves, my head tilted to one side, reading titles.

      After an hour or so of skimming titles and sampling chapters I had three books I couldn’t leave behind so I carried them to the cash register and got in line. There was a man talking to the cashier and just ahead of me a pregnant woman stood with three books of her own. Tilting my head again, I read the titles she held.

      Each of them had something to do with parenting.

      Ah, I thought. She’s looking for an owner’s manual. I remembered doing the same thing.


A slice of life

My middle daughter Becca swept into the house on Friday night. Like spring, she comes into any room with a lion’s roar.

After takeout from Gordy’s, and spending some time visiting with us, she turned herself over to the little sister. They disappeared upstairs and we were left with traces of laughter and an occasional wave as they made a foray for food or some other entertainment.

Saturday morning she baked a loaf of banana bread, filling the house with wonderful activity and delicious fragrance. And, then, she flew away again.

Now, she’s off to enjoy spring break with friends, somewhere under sunny skies. We’re left with clouds and leftovers. With a quiet house and one lonely slice of banana bread.

One Yellow Bell

 photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap   

     Undressing, I slipped my hand into the pocket of my skirt and pulled out one single small flower. A forsythia bloom. A tiny yellow bell.

      I’d forgotten it was there.

      I have a habit of dropping things into my pocket, like an overgrown child, and often find odds and ends like buttons and stones and flowers there at the end of the day. Sometimes I hear something rattling in the washer or dryer, or discover the crumpled remains in a suitcase and remember too late.

       Today, one of those gray and chilly early March days that belie the coming spring, I was hurrying headlong from one meeting to another and I almost walked by the flowering shrub without noticing it. But the bright yellow blooms stood out against the gray of the building and the dry winter soil and caught my eye. I stopped.


Anchored at home

     Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap

     I am, and I have to believe it is true of most others, two people in one body.  On one side, I am a contented hermit. I love nothing better than time at home surrounded by the rooms full of furniture and paintings and books that I have collected or been given, with the telephone, television and computer turned off.   I love the warm tones of the paintings on the walls, the deep crimson rugs on the oak floors, the soft silk of the curtains that frame the window’s familiar view, the bright colors of the pottery and pillows.

      Some of the things around me have been with me for as long as I can remember. They are, when I close my eyes and think about it, the inanimate images that come to mind when I think about the word home.

     But on the other side, I am a wanderer.  I am restless. I want out of the armchair. I want to go places and see new worlds and do things I haven’t done before. I read what other travelers write and I get itchy feet. I covet their freedom. I follow their blogs and turn down pages in books and magazines and long for a chance to follow in their footsteps. I want to blaze my own trail.

Rainy day carb overload

I wish I knew why cold rainy days (look out the window!) make me crave a grilled cheese sandwich. I also wish I knew what childhood psycho/emotional conditioning makes me crave a mug of hot chocolate with my grilled cheese. This is a dangerous and nap-inducing comination. And it probably explains the wide range of sizes in my closet…

I still can’t fight the sandwich, although I do make it with whole wheat bread, but I have gone to a less fattening version of the hot chocolate.  It’s the little things, right?

My Bunny is Back on the Ocean

Two years ago when my son took his first job on a restored 1949 oceanographic research vessel, I wrote the column below. He was to be the boat’s new engineer.  It was his first time at sea. And my first experience with sending a child out into an unknown frontier. It has been a learning experience for both of us. The boat, once host to people like Albert Einstein and Jacques Cousteau, has gone through many changes. Now, a work in progress, the skipper and his crew travel up and down the west coast from one charter to another. This month, they are heading back to Alaska to tender - in this case to take fish from the fishing boats, keeping them chillled in the huge tanks on board, and then deliver the load to the processing plants. It’s hard work.  And, it’s still hard work to say goodbye.
June 23, 2008

Home Planet: Children leave home but not our hearts

Cheryl-Anne Millsap
The Spokesman-Review

The chime signaling a text message woke me out of a sound sleep. My phone, lying on the bed beside me, there in case of emergency, in case someone needed to reach me, close at hand for late night messages, glowed in the dark room.

“Just left the locks,” the message read. “And hit open water.”

It was from my son.

I typed a short reply, part message part benediction, and rolled onto my back to stare at the ceiling.

I was alone in a hotel room, on a weekend tour through the Walla Walla wine country. At the same time my 20-year-old son was on a boat cruising toward Alaska. It was the first night of his new job, and at that moment he was alone in a tiny cabin, watching land and all that was solid and secure, slip away.


So, I had this little thing I wanted to write. I tried all day to get it right, but the words played a game of chase and stayed just out of reach. Finally, out of patience, I walked away.

“I don’t care,” I called over my shoulder. “I didn’t want you anyway.” And, just like that, there they were.

Typical Monday.

Signs of spring

In case you’re luxuriating in the warm wonderful springness going on outdoors: You’re welcome.

You see, after last winter’s endless snow fell on top of my half-prepared vegetable garden, roses and flower beds, I learned my lesson. I made sure all the winter preparations were made. I raked. I mulched. I trimmed. I put away the pretty things on the patio and brought out all the snow shovels and de-icer. Yes, sir. I was ready for winter.

Obviously, I jinxed us all. Old Man Winter never made it to Spokane at all. (He did, however, enjoy an extended stay in the East.)

Now, in early March, we’re having May. I take complete credit. Unless, of course, we get a blizzard in late spring…

Stepping back to Portland

I’m planning another trip by train to Portland. It’s one of my favorite vacations. I don’t mind the late departure, I don’t even mind riding in coach. There is plenty of room to stretch out and I usually find someone interesting to talk to along the way. Planning the trip brought this 2008 column to mind:

Moments in time quickly pass us by

Cheryl-Anne Millsap
The Spokesman-Review
Originally published: April 7, 2008

I stood on one corner of a busy street in Portland with my daughter and a young family stood on the other. The mother carried a diaper bag and the father carried their daughter. The spring day was unexpectedly wintry and sleet had slickened the streets. The baby was bundled in her coat with a soft pink fleece cap covering her head.

I glanced over at them and then looked away.


It was the sound of the man’s voice that made me look back. As he stepped off the curb, he lost his footing on the uneven pavement. He went down hard. What I had heard was his cry as he began to fall.

I knew that sound. Every parent knows it.


Where the Wild Rivers Run

 Special to Pinch

March 2, 2010

By Cheryl-Anne Millsap 

    Waking early in the February morning, it took a minute to get my bearings in the dark Missoula hotel room before I dressed for the day’s drive. We were crossing a swath of the wide Flathead Valley in Northwest Montana and I wanted to take advantage of the wintery sunlight. The days are short in the Northwest this time of year with precious little sunlight between the dark of morning and dark of night.
    Stopping to pick up a pastry and a cup of coffee, we crossed the Clark Fork River on our way out of town. The sun was just coming up and the sky along the horizon was fading, changing from a deep indigo to violet to plum.
    The river, already awake, already on the move, snaked quietly between snowy banks following the curves it had already cut, centuries before.    It seems a shame to drive right over or alongside a river without slowing down for a closer look, to be so blind to the beauty. Because a river is a wild and wonderful thing.
    Impulsively, I pulled over. A few more minutes wouldn’t break the day’s schedule

Looking back: Raising a son

February 25, 2008

Home Planet: Kids often leave us hungry to know more

Cheryl-Anne Millsap
The Spokesman-Review

The first person on my mind when I opened my eyes in the morning, was my son. I suppose that was because I had talked to him the night before.

He called me and we talked a long time, about a lot of things. But when I put down the phone I still had unanswered questions.

I had caught up with him, but there was still a lot I didn’t know.

“What’s really going on with you?” I wanted to ask. “Are you OK?”

Later that morning, packing a lunch for my daughter, his little sister, I put a handful of Goldfish crackers in a zip-top bag. And I had to smile.

There was my answer.

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About this blog

Cheryl-Anne Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement. Cheryl-Anne is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. She is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."

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