Saturday, November 21, 2009

China's China Town

I took this photo of the market standing at a window on the second floor of the Macy's store in "China Town" in Shanghai. (The area looks exactly like San Francisco's China Town and is meant to cater to tourists.)
We complain about the crowds at the mall, but each weekend this market packs in as many as 10,000 people who come to shop and see and be seen. Most are locals.
The Shanghai Macy's store anchors the square, and busloads of tourists are dropped off to spend their Yuan. But the basement level is a warren of tiny shops. Rugs, antiques, pottery and other exotic items are sold from stalls. There's also a Burger King.
We spent our last day here, fighting the crowds and picking up souvenirs.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

October of My Discontent

Take Southwest Airlines current fare deals, add deep hotel discounts from Hotwire, stir in my deep desire for a weekend in Portland, and you have the perfect recipe for discontent. I don't know if I can resist...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Color Purple

We'd only been in Vienna for a couple of hours when we stopped at one of the sidewalk cafes for a bite to eat.
We sat there, tucking into our Weiner schnitzel, watching the people stroll past us as we ate. I began to notice something. Many of the women who were walking down the narrow cobbled lane were wearing the color purple. For some, it was a scarf or a purse. There were T-shirts, shoes and one eye-catching purple raincoat tossed over the arm of an elegant woman.
I called everyone's attention to it. We commented each time someone walked by wearing the color.
Later, after dinner we strolled along the wide plaza near the Opera House, window shopping and getting the feel of the city. At almost every store I stopped to admire something purple on a mannequin or displayed on a rack.
The next day I pulled a deep violet colored pashmina - purchased in a little gallery in Whitefish, Montana - out of my luggage and looped it around my neck. I was a chameleon trying to take on the hue of my environment. I wanted to fit in.
I wore it the rest of the trip.
This morning, one of the coolest we've had, as I dressed to go out, I picked up that soft wool scarf, and wrapped it around me. Instantly, the sights and sounds of Vienna came back and I back on the cobblestone streets. And I was lost in a purple haze.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Menlo Park, California

Dear family,
This is goodbye.
I am leaving you for an attractive resort in the Bay Area. Although I have enjoyed all these years of cooking and cleaning and making sure you wake up in time, I have decided to let someone take care of me like that for a change. I'm sure you understand and support my decision.
Please send my sunglasses and that paperback novel I've been trying to finish for three weeks now. And don't forget to feed my chickens.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

From where I sit, life looks pretty good.

I'm in my thinking spot. Like Winnie the Pooh...
There's an old chaise lounge, one of those pieces you used to see in 1950s boudoirs, tucked into a corner by the fireplace in my living room. It faces the big window on the front of my house. That's my thinking place.
I bought the chaise at an antique sale. A woman from the San Juan Islands had brought over a truck load of goodies and she had the chaise front and center in her display. It was covered with a bright 1980s chintz, but underneath the the newer slipcover was the original 1940s or 50s chintz. That fabric was done in those wonderful mid-century browns and greens.
Anyway, I bought the chaise (for a very good deal) and brought it home.
and dyed the cover to soften the color.
I had it in my bedroom when we lived in the big suburban house. But, since the move to the cottage in the city, it's been in my living room facing the window.
I'm not very tall, just under 5'4". When I sit on the chaise, my feet don't quite reach the end. It's a perfect fit.
I start - and end - most days here. With my laptop and a cup of morning coffee, I write and think and look out the window. Before bed, with a cup of tea, I go over the things that happened during the day.
I've solved a lot of problems from this thinking spot. And, I've let a lot of things go as I sat cocooned and wrapped in the throw that is folded over the back.
Sometimes an old chair, or chaise or corner of the porch, is more than just a place to sit. Sometimes it's a place to think and plan and simply muddle through another day.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A new path

After leading the editorial staff for 11 wonderful issues (the August 09 issue of Metro is in done and awaiting printing) I've ended my relationship with Spokane Metro Magazine. I resigned August 5 to pursue other creative avenues.
It was a bittersweet decision. While I loved every minute of interacting with the public as well as coming up with story ideas and working with writers and photographers, I realized that my ideals and that of the parent company were at odds.
As I told my family when I made the decision to leave Metro, no matter what else is on the table it's important to hold to one's values and principles.
I wish the publisher and the company only the best. And I look forward to reading the magazine in the future.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Satori writers

I'm teaching creative writing at the Satori Camp this week. I love this part of the summer every year.
The kids range in age from Middle School to High School. It's always interesting to see them find their way in the class.
Each year I have them capture a memory on paper. We spend the week refining what they write. I ask them to make it personal and real. We look for passive tones and fluffy adjectives. I want them to learn to write narrative that pulls you in and makes the reader a part of the story.
Each morning they read aloud what they wrote the night before (or that morning on the way to class...)
Everyone in the class has a chance to critique. That way, we are all vulnerable.
So far, after just two morning sessions, I've already noticed changes. The shy boy at the back of the class has started to join in. He stopped me on the way out of the building today to talk about what he has in mind.
The outspoken girl who sits near the front read her piece. It was very good. But when it was time to make comments, her confidence flagged. She was a bit defensive. I get the feeling she's not used to having that kind of input from peers.
It was interesting to watch.
At the end of the week, the kids will go home. They won't remember me or the week they spent with me. But each year I am haunted by some of the stories they tell. Their words stay with me. And that's why, each year when I'm asked, I go back to do it again.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Sorcerer's apprentices

We saw the latest Harry Potter movie last night.
Sitting in the theater, the three of us, just one teenager sitting between her parents, I couldn't help but think how much things have changed since the first movie.
When it was released in 2001, we took a car full of kids to see it. The youngest, the only one left at home to take last night, was only six at the time. Her older sister was 16, with a 14-year-old and 11-year-old between them. And, looking back, it seems like we took one or two others with us, as well.
It was an expensive evening. I do remember that. Admission for eight. Popcorn. Sodas. Junior mints...
But last night there was just the three of us. The "baby" is almost the same age as her oldest sister was when the first movie came out. We had dinner before, so no popcorn. No sodas. No Junior Mints.
In the film, the characters have grown up. Like my children. And their adventures, and experience have grown darker and less innocent. I guess that's what happens to all of us when we grown up.
I listened to the sniffles in the theater when Albus Dumbledore died on screen. I saw, from the corner of my eye, my daughter wipe away tears.
My husband's father died last month. We lost our partiarch, too. I wondered if that crossed his and my daughter's minds as we watched. I know I thought about it.
A lot has changed in the last 9 years.
Harry Potter isn't the only one trying to find his way.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hello again

I am a boomerang blogger. Like a kid who goes off to school and then comes back home to figure out what comes next, I've been here before and have returned to familiar territory.

As a freelancer writer, staff writer and then Home and Garden editor at The Spokesman-Review, I created two blogs.
I loved writing Home Planet (2005) and Treasure Hunting (2004) but after a few years found myself feeling a little burned out. I let both blogs fade and finally stopped posting to either.

In the spring of 2008, I left the S-R to join the staff of a new publication as editor of Spokane Metro Magazine
Much of my time is spent away from my desk. I'm out and about talking to readers, taking part in community activities and dressing up for the social side of life in Spokane. Each week I see a lot of things I'd like to write about, but they don't always fit in my editor's column. Or, in the weekly Sunday morning essay I record for Spokane Public Radio.

Moving forward:
I finally admitted I wanted another page. Another voice. So, now, I'm blogging again.
It's good to be home.