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I said I was going to stay home more this year and so far I haven’t been anywhere. But, of course, assignments I hadn’t anticipated are tempting me to a few places I haven’t seen before. So I have travel on my mind.
I have a secret suspicion my family believes, even though they do not say it aloud, that I sometimes like to travel on my own to escape them. But what they don’t know is that the very opposite is true. They are with me no matter where I am. But, sometimes, in a new place, I am able to get a clearer picture of who we have all become.
When I am at home, they are never far from my thoughts. Even when I try to push them into a corner, the people I love, all the quirky, precious, problematic people who make up my family, are always on my mind.
And the moment my attention strays from whatever task I’m working on, there they are, front and center. I often find myself sitting with my fingers still and frozen just above the keyboard, the brochure or column or whatever else I’d been writing forgotten for the moment.
Instead I am thinking about the son who is trying to find his way, worrying about the daughter who is too far away, the married daughter who is struggling to balance her own career and a family, or missing the youngest who is just beginning to figure out who she is and where she will go.
I see them as adults but that view is filtered through the images of their childhood and my time as the mother of four children.
At home everything reminds me of my children as they were; the house is full of photographs, mementoes, heirlooms and souvenirs of the life we’ve lived. I fold laundry and find an old t-shirt one of them left behind on the last visit. I look into the refrigerator and it feels strange to be making a meal for only the two of us after so many years of feeding a crowd.
I pick up toys after the granddaughter goes home and I’m assailed by memories of her mother playing with the same things and wonder at the speed at which the years have flown.
When I am home I can’t get enough distance from who we are were to see who we are now. But when I travel, especially when I am alone, the hotel room is sterile. No memories linger in its corners.
The landscape, sometimes even the language is unfamiliar and it’s then that I find myself figuring things out. It is as if I’ve brought a puzzle with me and relaxed, away from the distraction of what used to be, by looking only at the way the edges fit and not at the picture on the box, I can begin to piece together the mystery of the people I love.
Alone, with enough time and distance to think clearly, lying awake, unable to sleep in a new time zone, I replay our time together and sometimes there are sparks of clarity that startle me. I recall some small tone of voice, some turn of phrase or brief body language I missed in the moment. Sometimes, when they are not in front of me, I see more than I saw before.
Of course, this goes both ways. I’ve noticed that when my grown children return after some time apart, they seem to be making their own adjustments to us, their parents. Most of them, and the youngest is almost there, chart their own course. They make decisions, sometimes life-changing decisions, without our input, just as we did at that age. But the awareness that we won’t always be here is creeping in and without the tension of the adolescent and young-adult tug-of-war for independence, they are more relaxed, more affectionate toward us.
I don’t say any of this to them. Not now. I let them tease me when I occasionally go off on my own because they’ll figure it out eventually. True love is impossible to leave behind and, like a star, sometimes shines brighter in a different sky.
Milo keeps watch.
Pope Francis had a message for married couples on Monday: four-legged friends don’t offer the same opportunities for love and godliness as raising a child.
The Pope addressed a group of 15 couples that have been married between 25 and 60 years during daily Mass on Monday, held in the chapel of the Santa Maria residence in the Vatican. The Pope stressed the importance of three qualities in a successful Christian marriage — faithfulness, perseverance and fruitfulness — during his remarks, according to Vatican Radio.
But the Pope also counseled childless couples to be fruitful and multiply, and not spend time raising pets when they could be raising children. Full story. TIME
But it's okay to have kids AND cats, right? What do you think of the Pope's remarks?
The angelic faces of Syria’s children stare back from the television, the computer, the newspaper. They stare with deep sadness in their eyes. These beautiful, innocent children living in refugee camps throughout Lebanon.
And like all children, they dream.
The Beyond Association, a UNICEF partner, provides schooling as well as art and music therapy at Fayda Camp, some 25 miles east of Beirut, Lebanon. These moments beyond loss and grief find a way into the children’s imaginations where they can dream of a future, one with all their family members, with peace and with the normal routine children deserve – school, soccer, chores, friends and laughter.
War disturbs so much of our intended life: the landscape, pieces of our cultural and communal past. But somehow, war – any war – seems to claim children more than anything else; if not their lives, then their very souls.
(S-R archive photo: Syrian children stand near their tent at a refugee camp in the eastern Lebanese border town of Arsal, Lebanon)
I haven’t set the kitchen table in weeks.
Each morning I wake up, pour a cup of coffee, open the back door and step out onto my patio. Usually it is cool enough to wear a robe or the heavy man’s denim work shirt I sometimes slip over my gown when I'm too impatient.
Lunch might be a salad while I work at the big table on the patio or idle in the shaded corner of my backyard. Dinner is eaten late, on the patio again, just as the sun slips behind the trees on the horizon. After the meal I leash the dog and walk to Manito Park to take a stroll around the gardens, where it is always at least five degrees cooler and the air is thick with the heady perfume of flowers. Then, at night, after the dishes are done and the dog and the cats have been fed, I slip out the back door again for a few more minutes. I sit on the glider, pushing myself back and forth with my toes against concrete that still holds the warmth of the sun, and I mark the end of another day.
This time of year, my living area is always turned inside out. I eat, read, relax, work and daydream outdoors. When my children were all still at home, before we moved out of the big house in the country and into the cottage in town, I set up a daybed on the patio. During the day they would sprawl over it, reading for hours, surrounded by newspaper comics, crossword puzzles, Barbie dolls, Breyer horses and empty Popsicle wrappers. At night, after dinner, after the last bit of daylight had faded, my youngest and I would lie down together on the summer bed. Often her sisters and her brother would join us and we would lie there like puppies in a basket, gazing up, watching the stars come out and the Milky Way spread like spilled paint across the black night sky. We pointed out the Big Dipper and called out when shooting stars streaked across overhead. We counted satellites. Sometimes we spotted the flash of the Space Station’s solar panels as it orbited, and once an owl startled us as it flew low and silently over the backyard.
Eventually the others would wander off and the youngest would drift off to sleep in my arms. But I would always lie there a bit longer, breathing the shampoo-and-green-grass fragrance of her hair, reluctant to let her go.
Finally, around midnight, I would rouse her and help her stumble up to her bed and then climb into my own.
Anyone who has ever lived where the humidity chases the temperature up the thermometer and the mid-summer air—day or night—is as uncomfortable and heavy as a damp blanket, will understand the way I delight in the season here. I grew up in the South. Summer could be long and cruel. But here in the Northwest, where the season is short and sweet, mornings are deliciously cool, afternoons are hot and bright and the twilight is long and slow and luxurious.
I can’t bear to waste a minute so I take my cup of coffee out to meet the sun and I’m there to watch the moon rise. And one by one these beautiful days go by while I sit and watch, and think of children whose hair smelled of green grass and lavender shampoo.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yesterday, at just about this time, I saw a co-worker in a grocery store. He was pushing one of those toy-car carts that a little kid can ride in.
Seated in the toy car was his preschool daughter, Hazel. Though I had never met her in person, I have initiated quite a few conversations about her in the last few years. I like hearing about her adventures in growing up. And I think it is safe to say I root for her, like I do all of my colleagues' children.
So, anyway, I was delighted to have an opportunity to say hello to Hazel. I have always liked her name.
Well, let me tell you. This kid is a total sweetie. I mean, she simply could not be any cuter. Four stars.
Unfortunately, she mistook me for Godzilla and withdrew just a tad. It happens.
But the truly odd thing about our encounter was totally my doing.
I introduced myself to her as "Mr. Turner."
Since when did I start doing that?
I'm all for kids respecting adults and recognizing authority figures and all that. But "Mr. Turner"?
If I had it to do over, I would invite her to address me by my first name. And I would assure her that I do not devour small children. Well, hardly ever.
So what do you do in that situation? How do you introduce yourself to young children of friends?
FISHING – The 2013 Youth Fishing Day at Clear Lake is set for May 4, but registration is due by April 19 so organizers can order the t-shirts and fishing rods given to each kid, ages 5 -14, at the event.
About 6,000 rainbow trout – including some lunkers – will be stocked in the swimming bay at the Fairchild Air Force Base recreational facility on the lake. Up to 900 kids are assigned a time to fish.
Volunteers from area sportsmen’s groups have been meeting to rig rod-reel combos that will be given to each participant to keep.
Cost: $10 per kid.
Register at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 2315 N. Discovery Pl. in Spokane Valley, telephone 892-1001.
Or go online to download and mail the registratin form.
Life can be cruel. Erin Broughton Hughes and her mother, Claire, are both undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of breast cancer. Erin, a single mother of two young boys, has a heart condition as do both of her sons.
As you can imagine, medical costs and bills are already piling up, so a group of local vintage vendors is putting together a tag sale tomorrow at the Bigelow Gulch Grange, north of Spokane.
Donations have poured in and the organizers have been busy gathering and pricing hundreds of items that will be for sale. In addition to gently used and household goods, toys, furniture, accessories and vintage items, raffle baskets will also be available.
By all accounts, tomorrow is going to be cold. But the sale, spearheaded by Unexpected Necessities' Jennifer Walker, offers a chance to do something that will leave you feeling a warmer and at the same time do some real good.
Note: If you are not able to make the sale, please consider making a donation to the Erin Broughton Hughes Benefit Fund. Drop by any Spokane Teachers Credit Union location and ask to donate money to the Erin or send a check to Kim Leighty at 3228 W Alice, Spokane WA 99205. Make the checks out to the "Erin Broughton Hughes Benefit fund."
I was riding slowly, so it was not going to be an issue.
But the little girl walking ahead of me beneath the tree-branch canopy on 40th looked like she might be about to veer across the street right in front of me. And that's what she started to do, but only after looking behind her.
I swung wide, well out of her way. But I didn't want her to think I felt inconvenienced or anything. So I spoke to her in my friendliest tone.
"Did you have a good day?"
It was implied that I was asking about school, which had just let out. She was carrying a backpack. It's the first week of classes.
If I had to guess, I would say she is just starting the third grade.
And I was moving past and away from her, second by second. I was not a threat.
"Yeah," she said in a cheerful little voice. "Did you?"
Totally charmed by her asking me that, I told her I had had a pretty good day.
Truth is, I was ready to adopt her on the spot.
"Look what I brought home!"
But something tells me she already has parents who know what they're doing.
(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
The wind had picked a bit up the night before, sweeping through the tall pine trees, taking with it loose branches and needles, dropping them to the grass below.
I noticed something else in the litter on the lawn and as I got closer I could see it was a small bird’s nest, still intact after its long fall. I picked it up and studied the way it was made. I have never seen a nest that isn’t, in some way, beautiful. A marvel, really. But this one was exceptionally so.
Made almost entirely of long strands of dried grass woven around what appeared to be wool or even dryer lint, the inside was lined with a soft, golden, feathery material. At first I thought it might be the bird’s own feathers but then I realized it was a layer of shredded cattail blooms, the tall plant that grows in ponds and marshes and bends and dances in the breeze. The compact bloom had been pulled apart and separated into downy fibers.
I held the nest for a long time, thinking about what an engineering and artistic accomplishment it was. And to what lengths the birds had gone to to create it.
Grass and lint are all around us. That could have come from any house nearby. But the cattail had to have come from the park down the hill, several blocks away. It would have been no small feat to bring home, bit by bit, enough of the fibers to fill even such a petite shelter. What compelled her to use that particular plant? Surely there must have been some easier way.
I carried the nest home and set it on the mantel in my living room. For days, every time I walked by, I would stop for a closer look. One afternoon I sat down on the sofa—a piece with a new slipcover, sewn by a friend who does beautiful work. I searched and searched for just the right fabric before settling on the natural cotton and now every time I look at the sofa, it pleases me.
Still cradling the fragile thing in my hand, still puzzling over the curiosity of it, I reached behind me to adjust the cushion at my back and felt the fine weave of the soft linen pillow cover under my fingertips. Immediately, I remembered the day I’d purchased it in a small shop in Estonia. I’d spent an hour pulling out cover after cover until I found a pair that were exactly right.
I glanced at the curtains hanging at the window and recalled discovering them in a second-hand store in Reyjkavik. I hadn’t given a thought to how I would get the four panels home, I just had to have them. The eight yards of material had stretched my already-full luggage to its limits and when I got to the airport I was told it was overweight. The gate agent listened as I told him how I’d found the curtains. How they were old and soft and the color was perfect and that I would never again find such beautiful fabric. Still looking at me, without saying a word, he tagged my heavy bag and sent it away without charging me the extra fee.
I turned to look at the small Native American rug behind the glass doors of the secretary standing in the corner. I’d spotted it in a weaver’s studio outside of Chimayo, New Mexico, picking it up and putting it down twice before committing. I tried to be practical, but I simply had to have it.
My own nest is filled with soft things from unlikely places. Things which, although I stumbled onto them at the time I was, in some sense, seeking. Who am I to question a bird’s choice? After all, exposed to the elements, at the mercy of wind and rain and sly predators, she had fragile eggs to protect and tender fledgelings to care for. I have four sturdy walls and a roof over my head.
The delicate nest is still on the mantel. I think I will keep it there as a reminder that the real difference in a shelter and a home is what surrounds us when we are there.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap can be reached at email@example.com
You make the call.
(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
My son has been on a boat out on the Pacific for weeks now and every so often a few lines arrive by email.
“This has been a great trip,” he writes “The hurricane turned so the seas are not so rough now,” he writes. “Work is going well,” he writes. “Saw some whales today,” he writes.
I see one word: Hurricane!
I’d just settled into my usual routine of vague worry and superstitious bargaining with fate when, and, as usual, it was the last thing I expected, my daughter—the brand new geologist—was assigned to a job on a boat off the coast of Greenland. (Wait, isn’t Greenland melting?)
Already living 200 miles away from me, with less than a day to prepare, she packed and flew away without my being able to see her face or hold her close. Now I’m left to wonder how two little land-locked children could grow up to sail so far away. At the same time.
My friends point out I shouldn’t be surprised. Don’t I fly over oceans every chance I get? Why would I expect any less of my children, especially these two adventurers? Stop worrying so much, they tell me.
Of course, I have an answer ready. I’m not green. I’m not confident like my son. If anything, I’m overly cautious and too careful. I’m not young and beautiful and vulnerable like my daughter. I’m just another middle-aged woman on a train or in an airport, hugging her purse and keeping one eye on her luggage.
But, truth be told, I finally had to admit to myself that what’s bothering me as much as worry, is guilt. I’m consumed with guilt. I can’t shake the feeling I’m not holding up my end of the bargain. I’d already booked a work-related trip to Alaska before I knew my children were going to be traveling; not that it even occurred to me to ask. And now, thanks to me, we’ll all be scattered across the globe. How will they reach me if they need me?
Children are meant to fly, some tiny voice inside me whispers, mothers are not. It’s our job to be home base, the place our children come back to. If I am not here, what will become of us? What kind of home base goes to Alaska where cell phones and computers don’t work? The swallows only return to Capistrano because it’s there waiting for them.
Before my children came along, even after I was married, I came and went as I pleased. I bought plane tickets and train tickets at the drop of a hat. But after the babies, when the occasional chance to travel solo came along, I usually let the opportunity pass.
Occasionally, when I would mention some place I’d been or adventure I’d had before they were born, they would look at me, confused, trying to imagine me anywhere else.
“Well, Mommy wasn’t always Mommy,” I would tell them, laughing at their confusion. “I used to be another girl.”
But if I'm honest, what held me back was that I couldn’t bear the idea of leaving them. Overwhelmed with love and responsibility, I wasn’t just afraid of something happening to my children. I was terrified something would happen to me. How would they survive without me? Who else knew them so completely? If something happened to me and they asked their father or grandparents ( or their new mother!) for a Sadie Sally story, no one would know the world I’d created for them in my head. No one would know that Johnny was the little boy who kept a dragon named Jimbo or that Sadie was the sister who always discovered magic dust in her pocket just when it was most needed or that a road divided the enchanted forest and one side was a wonderful, magical, place but the other was dark and frightening and no matter how hard they tried something always lured Sadie, Sally and Johnny into that dark place where they had to rely on their wits and the dragon and a little magic to escape. Who else could tell Sadie Sally stories? Nobody but me.
Only I knew who preferred her milk warmed. Who was afraid of the dark. Who liked to talk about dreams first thing in the morning. Who needed an extra kiss and glass of water before bed. I knew them on a cellular level. After all, each had peeled away from me, physically dividing us at birth. We were, at least in the beginning, two parts of one.
Imagining the possibility of not being there for my children unhinged me. Just thinking about it, I whimpered and paced like an animal separated from her young. I didn’t put my traveling shoes back on until the three oldest were out of the house and on their own and the youngest showed an independent streak I wanted to encourage.
I thought I’d left all that worry and guilt behind me, but again they’ve exposed me for who I really am.
Mommy is always Mommy.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. In addition to her Spokesman-Review Home Planet and Treasure Hunting columns and blogs and her CAMera: Travel and Photo blog, her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Measured in total fluid ounces, what Inland Northwest kid has spilled the greatest volume of liquids (both at home and in the car)?
A 13-year-old boy has been arrested allegedly setting fire to a vacant home in north Spokane last month.
The boy was booked into Spokane County Juvenile Detention Center after being arrested at Glover Middle School. He was to appear before a judge on Monday, officials said.
Investigators with the Spokane Fire Department say the boy confessed to setting fire to a home at 4218 N. Ash St. on March 30. Crews quickly extinguished the blaze, which was confined to one bedroom and the roof area above that room. The rest of the home suffered extensive heat and smoke damage.
The suspect faces a charge of first-degree arson.
A medical marijuana patient arrested in Yakima Monday told authorities he provided marijuana to his three young children.
Troy Mallard Craig, 32, said two of his children also have medical marijuana cards, according to a complaint filed today in U.S. District Court.
Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration executed a search warrant at Craig's home in the 3300 block of Barge Street about 4:15 p.m. and seized 67 marijuana plants, bags of processed marijuana, a digital scale and several medical marijuana cards.
Craig said he'd been growing marijuana for about two years and giving it to five or six friends in exchange for "donations."
"Craig admitted to providing marijuana in one form or another to all three of his children, ages 2, 5, and 7," according to the complaint.
Craig remains jailed in Yakima after appearing before U.S. Magistrate James Hutton Tuesday.
A 31-year-old man was arrested for allegedly pointing a gun at a father and his three children recently.
Anthony L. Volavka is out of jail on bond after appearing in court Monday.
He was arrested Friday at 24821 E. Roxanne Ave., after Michael A. Walkinshaw, 44, said Volavka pointed a gun at him as he went to the home to get his children, two of whom are 10 and 9 years old, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.
Volavka was in the garage when Walkinshaw approached. He told deputies he had his pistol ready for Walkinshaw because he was expecting a fight, according to court documents.
Volavka faces charges of first-degree assault and three counts of reckless endangerment.
(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
Holding my newborn granddaughter, gazing down at her as she sleeps, I study her closely, mapping her with my hands and my eyes just as I did with her mother, my firstborn child. Just as I did with each of my children.
Cradling her in my left arm, instinctively holding her close, pressed against my heart, I trace the curves and folds of her ear with my fingertip. It is as tiny and perfect as a seashell. With my hand I follow the already discernible swirl of her down-like hair as it wreaths her head. I take her hand in mine, marveling at the strength of her grip, aware that each tiny finger is already marked with her unique signature. I rest one soft, wrinkled foot in my palm, imagining the steps it will take as she walks into the future. I fold into her, putting my face against her skin and breathing in the heady perfume of a sleeping newborn. I am lost in this child. Just as I was with her mother. Just as I was with each of my children.
Most of us would, if asked, describe ourselves as ordinary. But the truth is, if we stop to think about it, there is no such thing as an ordinary human being. Even beyond temperament and personality, each of us comes into this world extraordinary in countless physical characteristics; in the flecks of color in our eyes and the way our brow furrows or our smile curves, in the imprint of each foot as we stride. Sculpted around a ladder of bones, draped in soft skin, we are unique and individual. Unlike any other living creature. We arrive complete, an exquisite product of the complex and mysterious cellular shuffle that takes place at conception.
But somewhere along the road, most of us forget this. We lose sight of the fact as we swirl in the crowd of humanity—a snowflake in the blizzard—that each of us is one-of-a-kind and like no other. Oh, we all secretly know it about the children we’ve created. We marvel at them even as they grow up. But we forget we are also wonderful.
Perhaps this is why new babies capture and claim us. It goes beyond love. Beyond pride and a sense of fulfillment. When we reach out and take a newborn, when we bring a child close and look down on the miracle, we are reminded that each of us comes into this world, and leaves it, as a rare and beautiful thing.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. In addition to her Home Planet , Treasure Hunting and CAMera: Travel and Photo blogs, her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at email@example.com
For parents who feel like they're failing to make sure their kids get enough sleep, this may be comforting: Your parents also failed, as did your grandparents and great-grandparents. A new study shows that kids get about half an hour less sleep than than recommended, the same deficit as a century ago, even though the recommended amounts have changed over that time. Andrea Petersen explains on Lunch Break. At least that's according to a study released Monday in the journal Pediatrics, which found that children haven't been getting the recommended hours of shuteye for at least a century/Andrea Petersen, Wall Street Journal. More here. (AP file illustration)
Question: How many hours of sleep do you get a night?
(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
I don't deny it. I'm smitten with my new granddaughter. This new addition to the family is the last thing on my mind at night and the first thing I think of when I wake in the morning.
And as I hold her, watching her adjust to this new bright, noisy, chilly, world, I can't help but project forward, imagining the life she will have and the wonderful, incredible, changes she will see. And I hope I'm always close enough to share some of those adventures.
A young girl narrowly avoided gunfire late Saturday after an 18-year-old man fired a gun into her apartment, police say.
The girl's mother, Elizabeth Harper, told police she and her friend, Bryan Chavez, were at the home on East Pine Ridge Court in north Spokane when she heard a gunshot about 9:29 p.m. and a stranger opened her unlocked door and stepped inside, according to the Spokane Police Department.
She repeatedly yelled for the man, identified by police as Alexander B. Pardue, to exit as he demanded to be let in "with a panicked look on his face," police said in court documents.
Pardue left when Chavez emerged from a backroom, police say. Harper told officers she heard one of her daughter's crying and found a bullet hole just above her bed from a gunshot that traveled through the apartment.
A witness said he heard a gunshot just before he saw Pardue running through the parking lot holding a black handgun, police say.
Pardue's girlfriend, Stephanie Diluzio, told police an unknown man with a knife hit Pardue in the face with a baseball bat, and Pardue chased him and fired a shot. Pardue told police he'd fired his 9 mm handgun at the assailant "after yelling at him to stop," documents say.
Pardue was booked into jail on a first-degree burglary charge. He could face more charges.
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) — Police in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez ticketed a 6-year-old boy for reckless driving, driving without a license and not having his toy motorcycle registered after he crashed it into an SUV.
The boy's mother, Karla Noriega, says police also impounded the child-sized motorbike that her son got for Christmas after he ran into an SUV at a park on Dec. 27.
Noriega says she decided to go to the media and make the case public after finding out she would have to pay what she calls a "ridiculous" $183 in fines before she could recover the toy motorbike.
She says authorities dropped the fines and released the motorcycle to her son Gael on Wednesday after local newspapers published her story.
I hope that when you opened your eyes this morning—no, even before you opened them, even earlier than that—I hope that when you first found yourself swimming into morning light and out of whatever dreams you’d been having, somewhere in your mind there rang out the words Christmas Morning! And for a moment or two you were a child again, thrilled by mystery, consumed by possibility.
As an adult, I know that doesn’t always happen.
It’s so easy to lose the holiday spirit when all you can think about is the fact that you’re the one who is responsible for making the magic. That you’re the one who shops and wraps and cooks and cleans and plans and then makes new plans when the old plans fall through. It’s easy to lose the joy and let any happiness you might find in a song on the radio or a kiss under the Mistletoe slip through your fingers when you are already looking ahead to Visa bills and taking down the tree and packing away the decorations and standing in line to return gifts.
This time of year, the darkest part of the year, is laden—some might say booby-trapped—with reminders. There is the dragging weight of all the invisible holiday baggage each of us carries. Nothing is safe. Food, music, celebrations and even movies and books come wrapped in memory and association. Some pleasant, some not so pleasant. And, to add to the fun, for those with young children, there is the suffocating parental pressure of creating the mythical perfect holiday; the self-imposed quest of taking on the impossible task of sending our children into the world without the legacy, the thousand little failures, of an imperfect parent. Good luck with that.
So much of the stuff of life is out of our hands. Forget holidays, on any day the big things, war, weather, economic turmoil, toxic bosses, family issues, bad fortune and lousy luck, are beyond our control. But the one thing we can choose is how we will face each day in world that perplexes and frequently exhausts us. Even the weariest among us can, if we so choose, celebrate the gifts of sleepy eyes that open on a dark December morning and a childlike heart that unfolds to let the spirit in, and with it the mystery and the possibility of another Christmas Day.
(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
I turned the corner, down an unfamiliar street, my mind so oblivious to where I was going I might just as well have been a dog with its head out the window, lost in the delicious rush of mysterious and fragrant air, just happy to be out and about with no thought of what might be ahead.
Most of the leaves had fallen from the trees, swept down by the wind and an early snowfall, and the sidewalks and street were littered with the russet and copper remnants of a spectacular autumn. But at the end of the block a scarlet tree still blazed, a burning bush, bright and vibrant against the faded landscape. Even the sun could not ignore it and sunlight danced in the tree, painting the leaves with subtle shades and shadows.
It was impossible to look away and I didn’t try. I gazed at it as I drove by and even looked back at it in the rearview mirror.
Thursday my family will sit down to our Thanksgiving meal and for the first time one of our small group will be absent. My son is away, working in Japan, and we will miss him even as we celebrate his success.
We are so fortunate to have made it this far without an empty seat at the table. Even in difficult times—and I have never pretended there weren’t some truly difficult days—we gathered, held hands, and spoke aloud the things for which we were most grateful.
Each year I compose a mental list but when it is my turn to speak, the words fly out of my head. I tear up and can say only that I am grateful for the love of those around me. But what I can never seem to get out is that I am filled with gratitude for the gift of a million small moments.
There were quiet Sundays spent reading, curled in the big chair beside the fire, my husband stretched out on the sofa. There were Saturday morning feasts that lured home grown children who filled the house with the sound of laughter and the smell of bacon and coffee.
There were quiet walks through the park with my dogs and the rapturous look on my daughter’s face as we stood in Notre Dame Cathedral on a rainy January day in Paris. There was the afternoon my son turned to me and recited a poem I’d read to him when he was a boy, and my firstborn’s secret smile when she told us her news.
There were shooting stars glimpsed from my back door and my youngest daughter’s shining face as she sat in the saddle, flying on horseback. There was, just this week, the chance encounter with a beautiful brilliant tree in a landscape that had already surrendered to winter.
On Thanksgiving Day I will blink back tears and fumble the opportunity to say what I feel. But in my heart I will celebrate the quiet gift of time and the chance to have lived one more extraordinary year of ordinary days.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review and is a contributing editor at Spokane Metro Magazine. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
…are Lauren McIntyre's eyes. Lauren's father, a Port Authority Police Officer died on September 11, 2001. Lauren, born after the attacks, is one of ten children profiled in this week's People magazine. She says of her dad, "He would have liked me." The pendant around her neck carries his photograph so he can be with her all the time…each year Gabi Jacobs Dick sends balloons up to his dad, Ari Jacobs, who died in Tower 1. He attaches notes that let his dad know that his life is "going great."…Alexa Smagala holds her dad's firefighter's helmet and knows she can curl her tongue like her dad could do. She says she wishes her dad wasn't so brave.
As we recall our own memories of that horrible day, these children must create images of the men who gave them life; images through stories told to them, as well as the longings of their hearts. When we say we shall always remember, we do well to remember the strength of these families, the hope found in these sweet faces.
I woke up to feel my heart pounding, beating like a fist against the cage of my ribs, and for a moment I was confused. I realized I’d had a bad dream and just enough traces of the frightening things I’d imagined remained to poison the first moments of the morning. I tossed and turned for a while, trying to get back to sleep, but the damage was done. I was, for better or worse, awake and up for the day.
As I waited for the water to boil so I could press that first cup of coffee, I stared out at the sky watching it change as the sun rose slowly. I heated the milk, poured the coffee into a mug and sat down in my favorite chair by the big window in the living room to gather my thoughts.
Just thinking of the list I’d made the night before of things that needed to be done made my heart pound again so I put it out of my mind and went back to gazing out at the quiet street as I sipped.
Stress is a complex element in even the most ordinary life. It is a natural part of our existence and has been since the beginning when we worried that there would not be enough roots and berries to hunt and gather or that the wooly mammoth would win the fight. Stress has evolved with us and has found a modern wardrobe in agitation about long delays in traffic or screaming headlines with bad news about the economy and the state of the world. It chases us a we take on complicated jobs, or think about keeping a job in an uncertain market. It settles on us as we fret about our children or a roof that will not last another winter; about cholesterol levels or the number on the scale. It nags us as we push a cart through the grocery story or fold the laundry or sit down to watch a movie.
A certain amount of stress is, the experts say, good for us. It keeps us sharp and competitive. It feeds us the chemical cocktail our bodies need to navigate safely in and out of danger. But too much of anything is toxic. Even chocolate.
As I sat there, the dream began to fade as the sky lightened. Morning had broken its hold on me. The list, the more I looked at it and made plans for the day, began to seem more manageable. The coffee was good and hot and ideas began to percolate as I thought about the week’s deadlines.
Energized, comforted, I poured a second cup - my limit - and shrugged off the vague, nameless, fear that had shaken me out of a sound sleep. I was ready to take on the world again.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review and is the editor of Spokane Metro Magazine. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at email@example.com
It takes some getting used to when your children grow up and leave home. After years of living according to their schedules, from 2 a.m. feedings to a 2 a.m. curfew, even when they’ve been on their own for a while, it still feels odd on occasion to realize days have gone by and you haven’t heard from them.
I have four children and two are out of the nest and settled into their own lives and homes. The third is only home when she’s not in school and the “baby” is edging closer to the door. I think of each of my children every day. Something - a song, the sound of the back door, the sight of outgrown boots on a shelf in the garage or a glance at the photos hanging on the wall - will bring them to mind. Other times, the best times, are when they reach out to me.
I heard the chime indicating a text message on my phone the other day and I picked it up expecting to see a note from my husband to pick up cat food on the way home, or a message from the dentist reminding me of an appointment.
Instead, in the palm of my hand, was the image of my son on top of the world. He was standing in the snow on the summit of Oregon's Mt. Hood at daybreak and the sun was just rising, tinting the sky. A friend had snapped a photo capturing the moment.
I gazed at it for a long time, trying to reconcile the tall slender man in the photo with the memory of the sturdy toddler I carried on my hip. The boy with a headful of curls and the habit of wrinkling his nose and tipping back his head whenever he laughed. Where have the years gone?
Looking at the photo on my phone, imagining him standing at that elevation, exhilarated after the before-dawn climb, I could hear the familiar sound of his voice. I could see the energy in his stance, the pride in his smile. He was there, I am here, but he’d found a way to bridge the distance and include me in his happiness.
Too often we complain about the way our phones and computers enslave us. They interrupt our thoughts and fracture our ability to concentrate. But there are times the tools that torment us turn about. They soothe and comfort us. They bring us closer to the ones we love.
I send my son photos of home. He takes me to the top of the mountain. And love, unspoken, travels on invisible waves between the two.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review and is the editor of Spokane Metro Magazine. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
A 5-year-old child who grabbed his mother's cellphone from her purse during a shopping trip inadvertently helped arrest two repeat theft suspects in Spokane.
The child accidentally took pictures of the suspects' vehicle as they fled with the woman's purse just after 5 p.m. Tuesday outside the Walmart on North Colton Street, according to the Spokane Police Department.
The pictures included the car's license plate number, which police say matched the car driven by purse-snatching suspects Andrew V. Auerbach, 24, and Samantha D. Thomas, 21.
The couple already is accused of purse snatchings in April and May but was allowed to stay out of jail pending trial. Police arrested them again today and booked them into Spokane County Jail on new felony theft charges.
Police are looking for the victim of an attempted purse snatching outside Winco on North Nevada Street that occurred about 5 p.m. Tuesday.
The victim is urged to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.
A Coeur d'Alene man accused of offering a woman money in exchange for her granddaughters left jail just hours after he was arrested Wednesday.
Shan A. Anderson, 32, posted $1,106 bond on four misdemeanor charges, including attempted child enticing, Wednesday night, according to the Kootenai County Jail.
A Spokane Valley woman told police she was distracted by her 5-year-old son when she hit a pedestrian Saturday, then fled "because she was confused and scared," police said today.
The man who was hit was sore but not injured, police said.
Wendy E. Berg, 32, was arrested after police located her truck at 11900 E. Broadway Ave. A witness said he was stopped at Pines Road and Broadway Avenue when he saw the the truck hit the pedestrian, then drive away on Pines.
Berg told police "she slammed on the brakes, but panicked when she knocked the man down," according to a news release. "She said she drove home in a circuitous route because she was confused and scared"
Berg was cited and released.
A Spokane County sheriff’s deputy’s quick actions may have saved the life of a 16-month-old girl who had stopped breathing Saturday.
Deputy Philip Pfeifer was responding to another call when he heard a medical call for a “child not breathing” in the 4900 block of East Upriver Drive and rushed to the scene, Sgt. Dave Reagan said.
Pfeifer found the child was not breathing, had bluish lips and no sign of consciousness. Her eyes rolled back into her head. After learning the mother had left the child with a cookie, Pfeifer moved the child’s head and neck to examine her airway to see if it was obstructed.
When he moved the girl, she began breathing again, and Pfeifer watched over her until paramedics arrived. The girl’s mother credited his quick response for potentially saving the little girl’s life.