Questions for July 6th and 7th

Answer any of these in about 10 minutes.

  1. At what were you expert at 20 that at  your present age do not feel so knowledgeable?
  2. If you were given time to learn one skill, what would it be?
  3. Write  about something you covet.
  4. Write about the longest distance yo ever drove solo or with car problems.
  5. If you sat down with yourself and had an extensive chat, would you walk away friends?
  6. Write about something you learned from someone you never met.
  7. This Picasso print is called ‘The Lesson’:   Story? Poem?  Thought?

How to Kill a Wasps’ Nest



It’s either them or us!  The decision is made and the drive to the local farmers co-op is made:

  1. You buy a can of foam by Ortho.  This will shoot up to 22 feet.  You also have in your hand at the counter, a wasp catcher.  This device is supposed to attract wasps and once inside the gate, they cannot get out — and die — eventually.  Or you can nuke them with the foam.  You inform the clerk that the wasps somehow have branches growing through their nest.  That it looks as they are,  5 feet from your front door, in a hedge,it might be hard to foam because there are lots of exits and entrances.  The clerk smiles. ‘This is the best stuff.’  So you buy it. 
  2. You plan your attack at night.  All the wasps have to be home and asleep.  At around 7 you tell your housemate that if he sees anyone suspicious walking around in a raincoat and hat in 80 degree weather this evening,  it’s just you and the wasps.  He being the good person he is, offers to hold the hose, in case you get covered with angry wasps.  You accept the deal.  He offers to spray the foam, but you feel being the home owner and all, that this is your job.  And since you don’t have a real job right now, you take this job seriously.
  3. At 8PM you locate the clippers which are rusted out and really should have been put away after their last use about a year or so ago.  They would have been perfect, too, with their long handles and all.  You recall that years ago you had tree branch clippers with extended arms. Well that would work, you think.  You find them hanging over a nail in the shed like out-building holding everything from the last 20 years of occupancy in this house. The tree clipper idea would have been fine if you could close them up.  They have rusted out.  You think about that stuff you spray on, to undo the rustiness, and have no idea where to look or what it is actually called. And then you see the rose clippers.  Sure they have short handles but the blades are sharp.  You walk to the hedge in question and give it a few trial runs on the far side of the wasp nest.  Sure enough they cut through some pretty thick branches.
  4. You clip a little around the wasp nest to see where the nest has been attached.  You see the branch.  This makes you happy.
  5. You get a huge piece of craft paper and set it over the sidewalk.  This is for the wasp nest that you will cut out of the bush with the rose clippers after you have nuked it with the foam in the dark.
  6. You go to the outdoor water spigot and find there is no hose.  There is one on the other side of the house.  You get the hose and drag it to the spigot. Your neighbor asks you what you are doing.  You tell her. She tells you that you are doing this wrong. She has worse wasp stories and tells you two of them.  She tells you that you need to wear a hat to prevent skin cancer, and tells you about all the people in her family who have died in the last year, and how she was on the couch drinking nothing but ice water for three days.  There were lots of people who died recently in her family so the conversation takes some time. You try out the hose, and get it to work. 
  7. It is now 9:30. You have dressed yourself by putting on your youngest daughter’s soccer warm-ups over your shorts and put a fleece jacket on over the top.  You are wearing your garden gloves.  You have in the front yard by the bush the following:  the rose clippers; the rusted out hedge clippers; a kitchen garbage sack inside of which you have a plastic planter the size, you hope of the nest. You have the can of foam.  And the hose.
  8. You call your housemate; he meets you in the front.  He asks if you have a flashlight.  You do!  You find it in the bottom kitchen drawer.  It is a wind-up one where when the battery is low you just crank it up.  The battery is low so to get any light you have to keep cranking it.  This becomes part of your housemate’s job.
  9. You tell your housemate the plan, and he thinks there are a lot of escape hatches on the nest.  You do too.  But you joke if you both had cans you would probably just spray each other. You stand ready with the can. Your housemate shines the light on the nest. You press the button. Nothing happens.
  10. Your housemate presses the button.  Nothing happens.  He does something –you’re not quite sure what — but foam comes out.  He hands you the can.  You still cannot make it work.  He says something like it is a shame America’s Funniest Home Videos isn’t here … He shows you how you have to press the button. You finally get the move, and begin shooting foam at the nest.  This wakes the wasps and they are very angry. Some begin to fly out the back.  Your housemate takes the can and sprays the back. Foam drips down.  Wasps drop. Some fly. 
  11. Bravely you take the rose clippers and try to cut the branch holding the nest-village the wasps have constructed.  You conjecture with your housemate that the nest must have fallen from up high on the house into the hedge and the wasps have been doing reconstruction work. The clippers are stuck in the branch holding the nest.  Your housemate notes the ones on the paper on the ground are not dying.  He thinks they are comatose and will wake up.  He thinks you both should get the hell out of there.  You do.
  12. He calls his dad who has dealt with bees and wasps on his farm for years.  Your housemate’s dad suggests an alternative plan requiring Raid’s Wasp Killer.  He says it is at Fred Meyer’s.  Fred Meyer’s closes at 11; it is now 10:35. 
  13. Hoping to speed things along, you go to the closest grocery and they are out of Raid’s Wasp Killer; you go to Fred Meyer’s next, and they are out, as well. You go to Albertson’s, and they have it. You buy two cans.  On the way home you remember you didn’t wash your hands after taking off the gloves. Whatever, you muse.
  14. You get home. You call your housemate who again says he will meet you at the bush where the hive still sits.  You creep to the front of the house yourself.  There are no wasps buzzing.  It is quiet.  You look at the brown craft paper on the sidewalk and it is amass with dead wasps. You think the foam worked. You are amazed. You are relieved.
  15. Your housemate is happy, too.  You decide to cut the branch.  The weight of the branch on the jammed clippers makes it easier to cut through.  And you do it.  You carry the branch with the hive attached to the trash.  You hold it out straight. Your housemate walks with you.  You decide that the foam becomes inert in 24 hours and that the rest of it is recyclable but you do not know at the moment which bin to put it in. You choose the garden clippings one.
  16. You feel badly all night, and decide to re-bag the dead nest and put it in the trash bin.
  17. You don’t let the cat out for 24 hours.
  18.  And that is how you kill a wasps’ nest.  Any questions?

PS  I did put the nest into the trash in the early morning hours a day later…

Graphics by Andrew Lahmann, who caught the moment and held the flashlight.



I have fallen in love twice.  Wine conversation words music and art are elements of this love. Elements of love? Strange the way we think about love; like a composition.

He has all the right attributes. He says all the right things because he knows all the right words.  Elemental, my dear Mary.  My apologies, Mr. Watson.

Always fall in love with a stranger and never allow yourself to awaken in his bed.  Drink the wine; listen to his song and catch the next train to Paris. 

A fairy land walk along the Seine on a January night awaits you.  The river breeze shatters  ice crystals that dance in winter fog and in the distance the Eiffel Tower glows in a cloud lit by thousands of tiny lights.  And the cup of passion fashioned in your heart fills with this moment on the sidewalk by the Seine, and you forget the erstwhile lover’s words, and you forget your name. 

Nothing matters but the joy of this moment when you have found your way back to Paris, the true love of your life, not once but twice.

Meditation vs Medication

If meditation and medication were going into a heads-on battle who would you bet has the most power?  Which method of pain control do you think has the most ability to relieve suffering?

Pain is misunderstood; it is a malady of the body creating a different mindset.  Please note I am not a scientist; I had a hard time getting passed the piglet dissection in Biology as a freshman in college.  I do know that pain is hard on the body and it attracts negative feelings.

For the last 8 months I have been in a fairly consistent state of back pain. I have tried physical therapy, acupuncture, ibuprofen, and hydrocodone and steroid injections.  I have gone through diagnostic testing and I was told that I have two discs that are causing chaos in my lower back.  Back surgery comes with no promises for pain relief and it is risky.  My doctor described two procedures, of which I said of both, “That sounds barbaric.”

His reply: “It is.”   My doctor recommended one more sort of injection that has a one in five chance of reducing the back pain.  I will try this.

Hydrocodone takes my mind off the pain.  I’ve tried that method and yes, after a hard day of pain it is nice to listen to the breezy music that hydrocodone makes.  It does not resolve the pain.  If I have a flare in pain I do not mind the drug’s tune, but I only have a taste for that sort of music under physical distress.  Occasionally I allow myself a straight shot of what an uncle called hootch: medicinal and rather enjoyable as a late night-ender.

I find that pain reminds me of failings; my approach to pain put it in the same category with suffering. Oh that lovely suffering; the beautiful explanation of why I am so tragically confined in a world of pain. Letting that go is a result of dedicated meditation. I don’t always get it right, but I practice.  Since I may live with back pain I will do my best to detach myself from suffering. 

The alternative is sad and uninspired: If I hold suffering dear, my world fills with a catalog of what is no longer available for me to do.  Chronic suffering  creates a lifetime of  anxiety and fear and regret.  Pain meds  exacerbate these feeling somewhat because they tend to depress the nervous system. Again, I remind you of my “C” in Biology.

Meditation sorts pain from suffering.  I find that I observe pain rather than have it define my abilities.  If pain tells me to stop standing, I sit for awhile.  I get my little dog and put him on my lap, and do something else rather than walk around looking for something I recently lost.

At night instead of a hydocodone and Advil, I put on my earphones and listen to a Buddhist chat.  This usually puts me to sleep. I hate to admit that — but the next night I pick up where I left off.  If pain is acute, I sit with it like I would an angry child. 

For some of us the answers to our maladies are not easy ones, and at times acceptance seems downright un-american.  And that has to make you laugh.

June 15th & 16th

These questions will be presented at the beginning of  the group, and you will have about ten minutes to write a response to one of them.

1. Write about your favorite dessert.

2. A lesson learned from a mistake made?

3.  Write about your very first ‘best friend.’

4.  The strangest advice given in an emergency?

5.  Write about an unusual friendship or an interesting family character.

6.  Write about an outdoor market or fair that caught your attention.

7.  Write about something that happened while traveling on a bus.

8.  If you could write a message on a billboard and put it in front of City Hall, what would it say.

My Three Pups

All three of my dogs came to me needing homes. My beagle Ruby was 2 when I adopted her. Sweetly spoiled and absolutely loved in her first home, Ruby came to me full of beagle energy and vitality.  She is a run-around gal.  She weighs about 20 pounds and her lithe spirit and demanding nose often lead her astray.  The veterinary office knew Ruby by her tag number.  After I adopted her, my kids took her to Lake Padden for a walk. A stranger came up to them and said, “Is that Ruby?”  At 14 she has a condition called insulinoma, a rare cancer. The tumor excretes insulin from the pancreas and throws dogs into seizures.  The condition is controlled by frequent feedings in the early stages, so all of my dogs are fed 4 small daily meals. Despite this disease, she plays and sleeps and still maintains her beagle nose-to- the- ground and squeaky-toy-love-of-life.
Marcie is the bossiest of the three dogs.  The little shih tzu quicky gained 5 pounds after the adoption.  I was told she didn’t have much personality and that she was clingy.  Ruby did not want anything to do with her, but Marcie had other relationship plans. She sat next to Ruby. Ruby left the room. Marcie found Ruby, and sat next to her, and Ruby left that room.  This behavior repeated until Ruby broke and Marcie found her place beside the beagle.  They are inseparable.  Marcie is a rules’ girl: she knows the rules for everyone and does her best to keep us all in line.  That a crazy little beagle is the alpha leader is a family joke, but not to Marcie: She defers to Ruby in all household activities.
The third on the leash is Kirby.  He is a crested Chinese puff.  Ruby’s condition has no cure and life expectancy after diagnosis is months not years.  Marcie and Ruby are tethered in spirit, and in the physical world they eat and sleep and rest together.  When Ruby has been away, Marcie just looks lost.  This worried me because of the facts related to insulinoma.  A back burner concern, but real enough, I had thought about adopting a third dog, but then I didn’t want to disturb the ambiance of our household. With all this going on, I was at my veterinary clinic, Maplewood Animal Hospital, to pick up some medicine when I saw a poster featuring a very scared looking Kirby. I asked about him. 
Christa, the receptionist said,”He’s right here.”  Christa was fostering Kirby; she loves dogs from her purple hair to the stamps of puppy paws that go up her arm.  I love Christa.
Kirby was housed in a pink fabric crate behind the desk next to Christa’s standard poodle, Ramond (French pronunciation).  Raymond has free reign and occasionally you see his head pop up on top of the counter. Christa told me about the hoarder who kept 50 dogs in a county shed.  The humane shelter rescued the dogs of which Kirby was one.  He weighed 10 pound and so shy he would not look up.  The story — the dog — and my situation created an action.  I took the pup on a trial adoption but no one was fooled.  Christa had that poster with Kirby’s picture on it down before I left the office.
Kirby cowers and is unsure of himself but each day he is braver.  He’s been with us for three weeks now.
Kirby really needs to get outside as soon as he gets up in the morning — usually he waits comfortably until about 7:30 or so before his needs must be met.  Ruby sleeps in — at first light she crawls head first under the covers for a last little nap until I get her up any time between 8:30 or 9.  Marcie waits for Ruby. As the dog with the shortest legs she cannot make the leap to my tall bed, and she does not trust the footstool approach Ruby takes.  Kirby with his elfin  legs hurls himself with ease up down and over, but he is third in command.  My usual habit in the morning is to get up in time for a Kirby morning call and put on anything suitable for dog walking, wake Ruby up, give Marcie a lift from bed to floor and then crawl onto the bed and get Kirby.  Dogs do not like deviation from routine.
This morning I got up before 7 and everyone was resting quietly so I thought, great — I can take a bath and can get dressed — and so I did.  As I was getting out of the tub — would that be detubbing? — I heard Marcie start to bark, an indicator that Ruby was up and that she wanted off the bed.  Since I am the elevator my services were needed.  And yes, the little beagle head came around the bathroom door and Marcie barked louder upstairs.  Then Kirby started to cry, little yelps and whistles and a bit of a howl.  I threw on my robe and ran upstairs to sort out the demands being made. They quieted as soon as I entered the room.  The look I got was strictly, what’s with that?!  Kirby could have gotten down at any time but as long as his superior — Marcie — stayed he would not leave.  It struck me very funny. 
Marcie as vice leader to Ruby’s role as leader is akin to Palin being vice president — except that I love Marcie and she is sweet natured and smarter than Sarah …
A friend asked, if Marcie is vice leader, what does that make you?
I answered, “God, obviously.”

Summer Schedule 2010

IWS Summer Schedule

Tuesday        July 6 –  August 10        1-3 PM

Tuesday        July 6 – August 10         7-9 PM

Wednesday  July 7 – August 11         7-9 PM

6 Weeks ~ $65

Join us around the table at the Studio   in the Clover Block Building at the corner of Holly and Commercial Streets in downtown Bellingham.   Get your story on!

Call  Mary at 360.961.4477 



Questions ~ June 8th & 9th



We will take about 10 minutes to answer one of the following questions at the beginning of the group.

1.  How is a 4th grade classroom different from the parameters of daily life now.

2.  If you could listen to an owl for an hour or the head of an oil company for an equal amount of time, who-o would you choose to listen to, and why?

3.  Write about the first ‘crush’ you ever had or true love that wasn’t so true.

4.  What event is worth the traffic hassle and people congestion?  (I saw the Beatles — worth it!)

5.  Who do you have the hardest time buying a gift for?  Why?

7.  Write about a ritual you highly endorse.

8.  Write about lunch at elementary school.

9.  If you packed one bag with emergency items  just for you — what would be in the bag?

Shedding Grown-up Threads


Paining stones or cleaning bird cages — sometimes a good distraction clears the brain of clutter.  Tea and honey on a moody Sunday morning appeals to me. 

Today at my house half built stairs leading to the front porch are awash in rain.  The painter crew will not be here today to finish them and in its way it all looks so wet and hopeless.  If I filled my mind with thoughts based upon the dreariness of those wet 2X6s, I might by noon think that Sylvia Plath had it right.  The skinny gutters that lay in the long wet grass appear as another reminder of a job halted and more fodder for my thought. 

Sometimes a holiday away from the ever-present shakes the thoughts up and rearranges the elements.  The one thing I am sure of is that rain forestalls porch steps and house painting. The rest of it is arbitrary. 

I do not want to paint rocks and the lovebirds I once had passed years ago, but I do believe I need to shift my consciousness away from the stairs outside.  As I write that line I hear birds squak in the yard. I love the vitality of the early morning wake-up calls from crows and black-capped chickadees and when I see Canada geese fly over I am caught in the moment each time I see them.

The sky brightens; promises sun beyond the clouds.  Some days grown-ups have to shed their grown-up threads and play.  Well at least this grownup does.

Terrace Heights

Fall Colors at Terrace Hegihts

If you ever happen to channel Emily Dickinson — do not listen to her. 

This is Memorial Day.  We honor the dead with flowers on graves.  We remember a touch; we recall the bravery and the last smiles of those who have died. Love becomes bittersweet; we love the ones we lost to death and allow that love is now redefined.

As a little girl my mother took me to Terrace Heights on Memorial Day. Grandfather Anderson is interred at this cemetery. The tall iron entry gates opened, the road narrowed, and to one side I saw a  lovely pool where a lone swan lived by the mausoleum.  Ma told me the story about how when a swan loses  his mate, he  remains alone ever after. This swan’s mate had died at the hands of pranksters. I always felt so sad for the swan; a beautful melancholic memory.

The little road wound through the manicured acres of graves, and our first job was to find the gravestone for this man I never met, but still and all he was Mama’s father.  There was an entire area of Swedes, all early immigrants to the Lower Yakima Valley where Grandfather Anderson homesteaded in the early days of the 1900s. So Mama said, ‘There’s the Bensen’s’  or name another neighbor from Sunnyside who now was close to where her Papa was buried.  She dug up the little vase buried next to Charlie Anderson’s grave, and filled it with the flowers we  stopped to get on our way to Terrace Heights.  I went to a spigot lost to my memory to fill the vase that we stuck back into the ground with flowers. 

 As we walked to the car, Ma told me the story about how Grandma  upon one of these occasions in the cemetery had her take a pot of geraniums that were looking poorly from an unkempt grave.  She knew they would soon die, and why should they, if she could bring them around?  Ma never did anything illegal in her life.  She was a little woman  who ran on nervous energy; I could see her grab those geraniums and head straight for the car a look of fear and awe on her face, with the agility of a professional athlete in her step.  The memory makes me smile as I write.

Both of my parents are interred at the mausoleum.  Their name plates are high on the wall as you go in the door.  I will not be there today, to listen to the stories whispered in the breeze ruffling the water of the swan pool nearby. A pair of swans now swim where once the lone swan lived; the dead make way for the living.

As for Emily Dickinson, that’s another post.  Stay tuned.