Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Adios 2013

This is my 43rd post this year. That's two more than 2012 and a little less than half from 2011. Could it be I've run out of things to say? Could it be I've stopped noticing the world around me, stopped listening to the thoughts inside me? Surely I cannot have run out of things to say. That's too easy. I think it's that while I haven't stopped paying attention to the world around me, to the magic and beauty that is always there, I have somehow stopped exploring, stopped taking the time to let it all soak in. I don't like that realization, not one bit. It's about time, really, not about taking the time but about making the time. Observation must be a priority, a habit that takes root and becomes second nature. It used to be that way with me but I disconnected from that in 2013. I'm not sure why.

I seek to change that in 2014. Starting today, the last day of 2013.

I am heading to the cabin in a couple hours, going to spend the changing of the calendar in the place that I love, among the trees and the lazy moving river. Nature knows not of the calendar or the clock and I like that very much.

Have a safe and happy new year and, of course, all my best to you and yours.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

On this day

What a beautiful morning this Christmas morning is. It's quiet, my front and back doors open to the chilly air. The only sound really is the crackle of the fire in the fireplace and the chattering birds outside in the trees. I took Josie and Dixie for a walk last night, each wearing one of Cheyenne's two jingle bell collars. We jingled through the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights and decorations. We walked again early this morning, a long walk, jingling all the way. The warm smell of smoke pouring from many chimneys, just perfect.

Last night, my nephew, his girlfriend, their three-year old daughter, Faith, and I went to the children's service at my church. We sang and prayed and rejoiced. I realized that was all I wanted this Christmas, to go to church with them, to watch Faith experience the thrill of worship and song on such a special night. I wore my mother's pearls and a ring my father gave me many years ago. I felt them there with us, the light in their love was clear.

This morning, my niece Catherine called and opened her gifts from me while we were on the phone. I wish I could have seen her face but the tone of her voice left me little doubt what her smile looked like.

Later today, I will visit a dear elderly friend and listen to her stories about me when I was a baby. She loves to tell those stories and I can't deny that I love to hear them. She will close her eyes, tilt her head back and chuckle to herself at the memory. I will close mine and wrap my heart around her. And later still, friends will be coming over for cooking, dinner and celebration.

This is my day, quiet and beautiful, love and long distance. It is a magnificent time, this Christmas day. I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas. And I leave you with these words:

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.” -Roald Dahl

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


When I was in the shower Tuesday morning, he was stepping off the bus. I wasn't thinking of him and no doubt he wasn't thinking of me. We had never met. We never will. When I drove to work, I saw him on the street. A white sheet covered him. Police cars were everywhere, so many police cars. A fire truck. A news truck. People standing on the grassy median. I was westbound, he was in the eastbound lane. I lost my breath. I began to cry. Because it was just too much, to see a body that was no doubt so recently a life.

When I got to the office, I searched every five minutes or so for news of the accident. His name, I would learn, was Carl. He was a mentally challenged 60-year old. He stepped off the bus at 6:30, on his way to a job he held for over 20 years. When he crossed the street, he was hit by a car. That driver stopped. The second car that hit him ran over him. That driver did not stop. The two coworkers who were on the bus with him ran for help. The first driver desperately tried to help him. But it was too much, and it was too late.

I thought about him most of the day yesterday, I wondered about those who loved him, who knew him. I imagined his life. I grieved that it has ended.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cabin weekend

Josie made her first trip to the cabin this past weekend and although she didn't come right out and say it, in the language of tail wags, I'm fairly confident that she loved every minute.

The winter months are my favorite at the cabin. The sun rises across the property with long rays that  that cut through a low-lying and ghostly mist. I like to wake early in the morning, make coffee and take the dogs for a walk through the quiet and changing light of this time of year. It's incredibly peaceful. Mornings are a big part of what I love about being there.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Now we are three

It started last week. On Facebook, no less. It's a story about more than one. Her sons were grown and had years ago moved on. She lives on a ranch in Brenham. Picturesque, rolling hills, a big pond, a green expanse with Live Oak trees spreading their branches low and wide. Her sons had been worried, she wasn't able to care for herself or the house any longer. Her memory was slipping by the day. They made the decision to move her to an assisted living facility. But what about her dogs?

The small one, a cow dog mix breed, was easy. One son volunteered to take her. The other one, a 120 pound three year old chocolate lab, wasn't as easy. A daughter-in-law contacted her vet, asking them to put the word out on Facebook and post a picture. Turns out, her vet is also my vet.

After Cheyenne died, I couldn't imagine ever getting another chocolate lab. She was the once in a lifetime dog for me and I wasn't sure how I would connect to another dog of her breed. I miss her every day. After going through the puppy years with Dixie, I couldn't imagine wanting to do that again. So, I decided Dixie and I would be a family of two. Until I saw the posting from my vet on Facebook.

I worried what would happen to this dog. I worried about the woman whose life was changing so quickly. I thought about my mom when she was moved into assisted living care. I felt such a pull to do something, for her, for her dog. I knew I could give her peace of mind by giving her dog a good home. My only concern was Dixie but I wanted to at least try. I called the vet for the contact information.

On Saturday, my friend and I drove to Brenham to meet Josie. Thirty minutes later, we were on our way to her new home, Dixie and Josie riding in the back seat not seeming to mind each other one bit. I had some concern about Dixie's alpha dog mentality, if she'd be aggressive with Josie. If she was so, I'd explained to the family that I'd have to return Josie, not wanting to put either dog through that.

Surprisingly, Dixie has done pretty well. Her main concern is that what's hers is hers, as you can see in the picture below where she is chewing on a bone while keeping one of her paws protectively on her other bone. Dixie has never been one to share. That includes me. But Josie is not an alpha dog; she's quite the opposite, docile and quiet. She has figured out her position and settled right into it. Right now? She's asleep beside me on the couch. Dixie is on her bed by the fireplace, happily gnawing on her bone.

So yeah, a two dog household once again. Josie isn't at all like Cheyenne but she opens my heart again, to the memories of Cheyenne, to my love of Labradors. I like the way it feels. It's good for me, to have her in my life, and it's good for Dixie too. Together, the three of us will be just fine.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Whisper to a scream

At first this site was about discovery, fun, photos of Cheyenne. Then for the longest time this little spot of mine was about loss. Fear of loss, dancing with loss, arm wrestling loss, daring it, burying it, bleeding it. Fucking facing it and taking it down. I think I've always been afraid to lose. Not a race but a person, a heart, love, scent, laughter, familiarity, patterns, meaning. I've never once trusted the present so much so that I could see its colors taking me into the future.

We'll put aside my faith in sunrises and sunsets, in wet sliding colors and hope. For now.

My favorite words for clarity? "It is what it is." You can't argue with that. You could try but you really cannot argue with that. I like those words because they remind me to keep perspective. 

When I was in college, three people challenged me: Two teachers and one contemporary. I was terrified of his intelligence, his resistance. I was hungry to learn from him, to be ripped open and exposed by him. I was hurt by his challenges, his laughter. I was inspired by his heart, when he cared to show it. Not once was I in love with him, but every single minute I loved him.

At 21, I brought him to my apartment after a night at the bar. We were both drunk. I made him scrambled eggs in a large soup pot (the only pot or even pan I had at the time). He stood across from me in the kitchen, one eyebrow raised. My goodness he was handsome. I thought he was appreciative, or at least intrigued. He was not.

It became a joke to him, to his friends, that effort I made, something thrown at me as if my gesture of cooking were a failure. It hurt me, his laughter. I had thin skin back then; I did not stand up for myself.

He was smarter than me, more clever to be sure, tricky, at times cruel. He was independent, knew his politics, his history, his fight. I was just off the bloom, struggling to define myself outside of my family. He often left me in tears as he made me question every single thing that I was because he demanded that I know not only what I felt or thought, but why.  Always I had to defend myself to him. Always it was painful and tiring.

He challenged me and he exhausted me, and I feared, loved and hated him for that. Yet today I smile. I wonder if he knows that his challenges prepared me for my life. I wonder if he knows that he made me strong. I don't think he set out to mentor me but that is what he did.

Some battles he did lose. I still believe that hope and optimism are powerful tools.

The other day, someone commented here. Someone commented anonymously and mentioned Lubbock. I looked at the words, allruntogetherlikethis, and I wondered. Could it be him? Who knows? If it was though, I wonder if he'll come back and read this as well. If so? I say hello old friend, you with the same initials as me.

I now cook eggs in an appropriate pan. Though with no less enthusiasm. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Doodlebug

Sometimes I watch Dixie and shake my head. How did I get this dog? I know the answer. It was impulsive. I saw the hand painted sign, "Coonhound Puppies," and decided if it was there when I passed the following day, I would stop by, just to take a look. I pulled onto the dirt and grass shoulder from the long Texas highway I was driving and I saw her face and her tiny body and, well, we became us.

She refuses to be house trained if left alone for more than five hours and I refuse to be okay with that. She acts like she expects the privileges she has, acts like she's Paris Hilton, all long and tall and without a second thought as to how she drew the lucky straw. I scold her and she completely dismisses me.

She has taken over the green chair in my living room. If I sit on it, she will whine because suddenly that is the very spot that she wants to be, needs to be and nothing in the world can ever be right again until she gets in that chair.

She curls up in the smallest of circles, looking like a buttered biscuit, hiding those skinny butterscotch sticks of legs, tucking them way up underneath her long curled body. She is a wonder of shape and expressions and surprise.

She does not eat, this one. She can't be bothered. There's air to breathe out there, a leaf might fall, someone might walk past the house. OMG! Her whole life is all caps OMG excitement. This is nothing half-ass about Dixie -- everything she does, she does 100%.  Run becomes RUN. Bark? Oh her bark, she has something to say and by gosh she is going to bark at you until you understand you HUMAN. She whines when she's not understood. She paces in circles when she whines. When she sleeps, she's OUT. I can lift her ears, move her legs, play with her lips, nothing will bother her because she has checked out.

She has pretty much chewed up my coffee table over the past two years. I have purchased a new one but I'm afraid to put it in the house since I busted her the other day nonchalantly chewing on the arm of the wooden chair on my front porch, nibbling with her front teeth. (sigh)

She is sweet, very sweet. She is curious and entertaining and a constant source of amusement to me.

Dixie is her own girl, preferring to take on life in her own unique way. Including travel.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

On the road

Good morning and happy 4th of July! Just as soon as I finish this wonderful cup of caffeine, I am throwing some shorts and t-shirts in a bag, some groceries in the cooler, and heading to the cabin for the long weekend. I can't wait to spend the day there, but mostly its the dusks and dawns that thrill me, the quiet moments of fading light at the ending day and the equally quiet moments when the morning light stretches across the river and touches the house. I love that light. I need that light. And I'm going to get a good dose of it this weekend.

It's sad for me though that I am not travelling with my Cheyenne. This is the first time in over ten years. Since she came into my life, I have not been to the cabin one time without her by my side. Not once. She is all over that place and I am so happy that I had a place like that for her, for her to be nothing more than what she was, a dog. I am so happy for the wide open spaces and the water's edge, for the big sky and thick woods across from our house, for all the spots that she loved to stick her nose in and explore.  After so much time, she is part of the cabin itself. She is the porch and the grass, the blue chairs in the living room, the rug under the kitchen table. Her dog bowl is sitting on top of the refrigerator.

And so it is that I will be scattering some of her ashes there this weekend. In the morning light, the light she and I would take our walks through, along the path we shared together. Cup of coffee in my hand, my brown friend beside me, that strange and wonderful morning mist hanging in low clouds around us. My sweet girl is going home.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

By Request

A friend of mine contacted me on Facebook recently and told me that she missed me here. Here on this website. She missed my words and she missed my photos. Her words meant so much to me. To be honest, I miss me being here as well.  I've thought about this place, this tiny homestead I've carved out as my own on the web. But it lost its meaning in the past months. I let the weeds grow and I really didn't care. My attempts were half-hearted. I gathered some loosely formed ideas and I threw a net over my emotions, tried to pick through the muck and find the gems. I considered stringing it all together, but I didn't care to make the effort. Words became shapes and writing became stringing the shapes together and nothing more. I wanted to be here but intentions are not actions are they?  Nope, they are not. In truth, the last place I could be in the past several months is right here.

If I acknowledged what my thoughts were, expressed what my feelings were, tried to figure them out myself, then I would have had to slow down enough to not only realize but accept what was happening with Cheyenne.  I did not want to do that. I could not do that. Not then and certainly not here.

I didn't want the record of it. Recording it would make it real.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I knew it was real.  Somewhere inside of me, I knew that Cheyenne would not reach her 13th birthday. But I locked that away and put it in a dark place, wrapped a blanket around it and shut a door on it and then locked that door tight. Then I turned out the light. 

I chose to carry on, to take each day and move forward with it and her. I attempted to keep one step ahead of the inevitable.  Each vet appointment, each ailment, each treatment would rattle that door and I would shut my ears to the noise. I cooked her food, measured protein, balanced chicken and sweet potatoes and green beans. I blended solids into mush. I took her on slow walks, counted our steps and counted the grey hairs on her paws. I rubbed her soft ears and tried to freeze time.  I gave her the best care I could and did my best to ignore the passage of time. After all, I used to joke that she and I had made an agreement early on in her life that she would never ever ever die. Silly stuff, that sort of mental game, but when you do it, it's childlike and magical, and on some crazy level believable. In other words, sometimes when you fool yourself it is perfect and you can swim in those warm waters, but only for a while. The truth catches up with your foolish self.

Of course I knew I would lose her some day. There was nothing to process, no rush of time to speak unspoken words or seek forgiveness. Her death was as inevitable as her being alive, as sure as all the ground we crossed together on our walks. I just didn't want to face it, to face the calendar, to talk about her slowing down. I wanted to absorb all of it and keep it ours, hers and mine. I wanted her aging and her death to be something we shared, like our walks, something we experienced together.

And in the end, it was that. The last weekend we spent together, her many dog beds all over the living room floor, and for me the mattress from the upstairs sofa bed also down on the floor. I wanted to be on her level. I gave her water with an eyedropper, rubbed her head and her body while she fell asleep, stared at her while she snored, fell asleep with my hand on her shoulder, waking every few minutes just enough to know she was breathing. I guided her and helped her carry the burden of her own weight downstairs when she needed to get into the grass. I cried. I cried a lot. But I did none of that here.

No one could have told me what it would be like to lose her, to let go of this incredible animal, this beautiful dog, this beautiful brown girl. No one warned me, though I heard so often that perhaps I loved her too much. They worried, my friends did, I had unzipped my heart and let it glow all over Cheyenne. I knew it too, the risk, the inevitable heartbreak I would have, to lose her to the inevitable end to a life that nature designed to be much shorter than my own. But who is to say how much love is too much? It felt like gliding, when I saw her smile at me. It's a different love, that which we feel for our pets. The grief is equally different, no less real and no less deep or familiar to me than times I've mourned the death of loved ones and my parents, but so different.

I have her paw print in a frame and I have a snip of the curl from her tail in the same frame. They remind me that she was here. I have her ashes. I have hundreds and hundreds of photos of her, of us, of places we traveled together, of places I might have walked past had she not called me to her discovery. I have my memories and I have my gratitude that her life was in my care and that she provided me with so much joy. My sweet Tiny Hiny, Banana Monster, Shiny Cheyenne gave me so very much happiness in our years together. Her life gave mine meaning, responsibility, fun and joy.

I have all of that and it is enough. It has to be enough. For a time in my life, for an all too short period of time, there was a beautiful brown dog who walked beside me, lived beside me. She was my friend, that brown dog was. She will forever be in my heart. With every step I take.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Honah Lee

I met Phil when I was five. He was eight but that didn't stop my beating heart from making him my first love. He wasn't much intersted in me then but I loved him just the same. I met Jacqui when I was 25. She was my first true challenge. I worked hard for her, and she me. We stumbled several times but came out on top. Time and experience took me down a path that had me loving, truly loving both. As much as they meant to me, I don't think they would have met each other, had my father not died. Funny how that is. She was the first one I called when my father died. He was the second. He couldn't breathe when I told him; she came running.

On the night of my father's service, a friend gave me the Peter Paul and Mary Greatest Hits CD. There was one song for me on there and she wanted me to have it that night.

CD in my hand, Phil, Jacqui and I snuck away from all the noise and sympathy at the party at my parents house following the memorial service. We slipped out the back door and across the driveway. I needed to escape, they needed to escape. I needed to be with them and the song. We walked across the driveway and to my father's new suburban. Without a word, we knew our places. Me in the driver's seat, her on the middle console and he in the passenger seat. I turned the key, Jacqui put the CD in. We listened to Puff the Magic Dragon on the CD player. On Repeat. Over and over again. Very loud. We didn't talk, we sang. Tears fell from our eyes, for different reasons. He had his, she had hers, of course I had mine. We sang and cried and sipped champagne. Together. We held hands, leaned on each other. Three heavy hearts.

I remember that night as a party my father would have loved, had he only been there as a host and not a reason. Such adoration, such love. Such loss and sadness. My mother holding court as best as she could, broken and lost as she was. I walked through that house, looking at all the sad faces and missing my lifelong friend. I knew we would never be there again, not all of us. I knew every face in that house, knew that every heart was heavy. I saw every eye on my mother, felt their worry, their compassion. 

It would be a long journey after that night, helping mom through her days of loss and confusion, her anger and dementia, stumbling through strange days without him, through the deep waters of grief and mourning. It would prove to be my darkest hours and best of my abilities. Sometimes it still does.

That night though, that night there was no time beyond my father, no future beyond the loss. In those minutes in my father's suburban with my two friends, everything hung in a timeless pause, every firework was frozen in burst, every dimming memory still in its glow. We sang, my two friends and I, we sang out loud. In a bubble of time that we stole. We sang of strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. We sang of painted wings and giant rings. We sang of Autumn mist and Honah Lee, of traveling on a boat with billowed sail. We sang of that rascal, Puff, the mighty dragon who ceased his fearless roar.

My eyes are not dry, my heart is not put back together. They never will be, never can be. It's been eight years (Wednesday) that I lost my father. Tonight, I listen to Puff the Magic Dragon. On repeat. Over and over again. Loud. Tonight I remember two friends, Jacqui and Phil, holding all my broken pieces together and singing out loud with me.

Tonight I remember the last time I saw my father alive. I was walking out the front door after a Saturday afternoon spent together. I stopped and took a step back to look at him sitting in the kitchen.

I told him, "I love you, Dad."

"I love you too, Cat."

Eight years

I've been listening to this song over and over tonight. I can hardly breathe from the sadness I feel and the tears I have. So many tears, still so many. I miss him, my lifelong friend.

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Little Jackie paper loved that rascal puff,
And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. oh

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on puffs gigantic tail,
Noble kings and princes would bow whenever they came,
Pirate ships would lower their flag when puff roared out his name. oh!

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie paper came no more
And puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, puff could not be brave,
So puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave. oh!

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Monday, Monday

This afternoon I drove to pick up my friend Jessie and take her to her doctor. Jessie will be 84 in May and she doesn't get around very easily. She fell and broke her wrist a little over a week ago and was advised to have an orthopedic doctor review her x-rays.

On the way to her house on a busy street I noticed a dead dog against the curb of the median. I could see its face; it didn't appear to be older than a few months. My heart dropped to my feet. I looked around at the busy street, big rigs, vacant lots to my right, warehouses to my left. The poor dog likely was a stray, trying daily to survive. It didn't really have a chance crossing that street. I wish I could have shown him love. Instead, I cried as I said a little prayer for him.

The doctor reviewed Jessie's x-rays, removed the splint from her arm and began to move her wrist a bit. She cried out in pain. Her cry cut right through me. He placed a pillow on her lap, explained that he needed to put her arm in a full cast and promised to be gentle. I saw the pain and a growing fear in her eyes as we waited for him to return with the material for the cast. He seemed to take great care to not cause her any more pain. Slowly she began to relax. Her cast is light blue and she says that she likes the color.

On the way home, it got very dark and began to rain, just a bit. Jessie began to get hungry. We drove through Whataburger, her favorite fast food spot, and I got her a burger and fries. Such a small gesture but she was thrilled and it got her mind off her wrist which was feeling uncomfortable as the new cast's warmth cooled. She laughed at herself, for the way she was digging into those fries.

As I was driving home, the dark skies opened up and it absolutely poured. And then it suddenly stopped. The clouds moved and rays from the sun cut across the sky and bathed everything in gold. It was beautiful, like Jessie's laughter, like a prayer for a dog.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Back then

Photo Challenge Day 31 - You, again

I'm sitting here in my flannel pjs. My hair is a mess. There is no way I'm taking a self-portrait. But look! I took a picture of a picture. My hair is also a mess in this picture. This has been a lifelong theme apparently. The man who took this photo is the man who inspired my interest in photography. He was a neighbor and  family friend. It seemed he always had a camera in his hands and I cherish the photos I have that he took, photos of my parents, of my pony and yes, even this photo of me. This photo perfectly captures my childhood. All adventure, not a care in the world. And no interest whatsoever in brushing my hair.

003 by groth.alison

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A morning gift

Photo Challenge Day 30 - Nature

I know that some people struggle with Gardenias, the leaves get overtaken by aphids or the buds fall off before blooming. I know they like sunny days and acidic, well draining soil. I've read on some websites that the plants should be pruned regularly and even be protected from the drying wind. 

When I moved into this house, I removed some shrubs along the fence and transplanted two Gardenias I had in big pots on my old patio. I didn't give two thoughts to the soil acidity and I never prune them. Those plants have thrived. In the summer they produce hundreds of flowers and the yard smells heavenly. In fact, the plants bloom regularly. Last night a cold front blew in on the back of one heck of a rain storm with high winds and big raindrops blowing almost sideways. This morning? Two beautiful blooms.

Mother Nature is best left to her own when it comes to these two plants. I think my role is simply to notice and appreciate.

005 by groth.alison

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Keep refrigerated

Photo Challenge Day 29 - Inside your fridge

Several  months ago on the Today Show there was a segment on kitchen organization. I took one thing from that: Putting a Lazy Susan in your fridge. I picked this one up at Bed, Bath & Beyond with a 20% off coupon making it less than $7.00.  It's an inexpensive way of keeping control of the smaller tubs and jars that otherwise get moved to the back where they sit way past their expiration date. It makes it easy to reach what I am looking for because it makes it easy to find what I am looking for. All I do is spin the thing!

002 by groth.alison

Monday, January 28, 2013


Photo Challenge Day 28 - Light

As evidenced by the railing in the bottom left of this photo, my house has a curved staircase. This stained glass window and ledge are in the middle of the curved wall. I was not so fond of this stained glass when I moved into the house but have since grown to like it very much. A window would be terrible there, as it would only show me the second floor exterior of my neighbor's house. But the stained glass allows light in while keeping the neighbor's house out. Sometimes, the light shines through so brightly it throws big rays of golden light into the dining room downstairs and the landing at the top of the stairs.

One thing that immediately grabbed me about this house was all the windows and natural light. There is no need to turn on a single light until the sun is down and the moon is up. I like that very much. 

005 by groth.alison

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Today is about my mother. I miss her so much, so much that when I think about it, when I think about what I am feeling, like right now, it's hard to breathe.

Today is the day my Mom died five years ago. I knew she would die, some day. Of course. That thought was the stuff of many nightmares in my young life. What I didn't think about and didn't know was what life would be like without her. What I would do without answers to my questions, unconditional parental love, the shoulder of support, the advice giving comfort known as Mom. Without her hugs.

I simply never thought of life beyond my Mom. I miss her voice. I miss her perfume. I miss her stubborn streak and her sense of adventure. I miss her belief that nothing was impossible. I miss her celebration and her laughter, her wonderful laughter.

I miss her love. 

I miss her presence even as her absence gains familiarity.

p.s. Today's photo challenge is "Lunch." I don't eat lunch on Sundays. I eat a late breakfast and much later in the day I'll have dinner. No photo today.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Brown & Blue

Photo Challenge Day 26 - Color

This challenge just might have been the most challenging for me. When I think of color I think of bright shiny shouting hues of pink or green or yellow. I think of a purple headache. My home is decorated in muted tones of mossy greens, dusty blues, creamy yellows. My closet is filled with blue jeans, white t-shirts and black t-shirts, a few blue shirts. My shoes are black or brown.

Today was an unusual day, a spring-like Saturday in the middle of a calendar winter. A perfect day to take the dogs to the park. And that is where I found my color. Brown dog, brown earth, blue water, blue collar, pink tongue, red tag. Happy dog. My colors.

003 by groth.alison

Friday, January 25, 2013

With my own two hands

Photo Challenge Day 25 - Something you made

Something I made? I could show you the stack of dishes in my kitchen sink. I made that mess. Or, I could snap a photo of the pile of laundry in the laundry room. I made that mess as well.  I was considering one of those when I remembered a little something that sits on a shelf in the office upstairs.

I made this little bowl with my own two hands. It was my first and only time at a pottery wheel. I glazed it and scratched my name into the bottom before it went into the kiln. I was 10 years old, the summer was 1972, and I was at camp for a six-week term that no doubt my parents were thoroughly enjoying.

I was so proud of this little bowl and I was so excited to give it to my parents. On the last day of camp I packed all my belongings in my foot locker and then folded my sheets and blanket, placed them atop my top bunk, put my pillow on top and then set this bowl on top of that before heading out into the morning activities that the camp and campers arranged for the parents.

That afternoon when my parents and I went to my cabin to retrieve my things, my father reached up to grab my bed linens and pillow. He couldn't see that little bowl that I had made and it came crashing down to the hard tile floor. And broke into many pieces. I looked at him and he at me. He pulled his handkerchief from his pocket and carefully, oh so carefully, he, mom and I picked up each piece. He gathered them in the handkerchief and told me he would glue it back together when we got back home. And he did. And then he placed the little bowl on a shelf of treasures in his office.

So, something I made. And my father repaired.

004 by groth.alison

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pop Culture

Photo Challenge Day 24 - Guilty Pleasure

Today's challenge was an easy one for me. My favorite guilty pleasure is People Magazine. I don't subscribe to it but I do pick it up whenever I am in the checkout line at the grocery store. Like yesterday, for instance.

I remember the first time I saw People Magazine. I don't know why I remember because it's a memory of no importance but nonetheless I do. I was at the neighbor's house across the street. The kids that lived there, some other neighborhood kids and I had all run into the house to get some water after playing flag football in their front yard. There on the coffee table in their sun room was People Magazine. Farah Fawcett was on the cover. While I was already into music magazines such as Cream and Rolling Stone, I had never seen this one before. I picked up the magazine and flipped through its pages. The oldest kid in the family informed me that it was about stars. Stars, she said. I could see them in her eyes. Putting the magazine back on the table, I rolled my eyes. I could not have cared less about the topic. 

And yet, even though I still do not care, I find that I do enjoy reading this magazine. It's a fun break from my own reality. I like to look at the fashions and there's always a good story on a local hero. I like that this magazine does not take a tear-'em-down approach to the celebrities it covers. I read it at night when I'm too tired to dig into my books. It's light and I like it.

There, I admit it. Guilty.

003 by groth.alison

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tick Tock

Photo Challenge Day 23 - Something Old

This clock. I don't know much about it, never thought to ask when the answer was available to me. It belonged to my parents and for as long as I can remember it has been on one mantle or another in our home. It's a Tiffany & Company clock so I'm inclined to believe it was a wedding gift. But my parents could have inherited it from their parents. I just do not know the story. It does not work. When I brought it to a clock and watch shop a year or so ago for a repair estimate I was told it couldn't be repaired, that the parts for this clock are long gone from any readily available supply they were aware of.  I don't mind that it doesn't work, its part of the clock's mystique.

003 by groth.alison

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Photo Challenge Day 22 - Your shoes

These are the shoes I am wearing today. They are brown, which is unusual for me. I rarely wear them but these jeans are so short that these are the only shoes I can wear with them. That's all I have to say about that.

PhotoChallenge22 by groth.alison

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inauguration Day

Photo Challenge Day 21 – Reflection
President Obama was inaugurated for his second term as the President of the United States today, which also happens to be the date formally dedicated to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. From the man who lead a monumental movement of civil rights and freedom, from we the people to our chosen leader, truly this day is a reflection of Dr. King’s dream.

004 by groth.alison

Sunday, January 20, 2013

No better friend

Photo Challenge Day 20 - Sweet

This girl, she can show her awesome teeth and growl and kick and scare any stranger. But I laugh when she does because the truth is, she much prefers to flip over on her back and have her belly rubbed. She is the most vicious sweetheart I've ever known and I love every bit of her, including every single tough-girl face she makes. The sweetest gift, she is, my Tiny, Shiny, Wooby cat, Cheyanna banana monster, Pussy cat. Yeah, what she brings to my life is definitely sweet. Aprapos of everything about her.

PhotoChallenge20 by groth.alison

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Kit Kat

Photo Challenge Day 19 - Someone you love

She is my niece, the first grandchild, the apple of my eye. Years and years of laughter. Years and years of awe. Years and years of love.

PhotoChallenge19 by groth.alison

Friday, January 18, 2013

Cold & Flu Season

Photo Challenge Day 18 - Something you bought

PhotoChallenge18 by groth.alison

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Baby it's cold outside

Photo Challenge Day 17 - Water

Today is the second day of clear blue skies here. Had only this photo prompt been earlier in the week I would have had so very many options, from drips to flows to pours.

Alas, even though science was not my strength, I do know that water is either solid, liquid or gas. Since it froze here last night, I present the solid, or ice state of water.

I'm sure that friends in the northeast would find this photo laughable but this indeed is winter moisture on the ground. Not snow, but a light frost on the grass. Look closely, it is there. This is the winter wonderland of my front yard.

PhotoChallenge17 by groth.alison

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Photo Challenge Day 16 - Morning

My friend Sharon gave me this wind chime for Christmas last year. I hung it on the back porch where it catches and reflects the rising sun. The chimes make the sweetest sounds, such clean and bright music.

The past several mornings have been grey and rainy but not this morning. This morning the sky is blue and the sun is shining. What a joy to see!

PhotoChallenge16 by groth.alison

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A picture in words

Photo Challenge Day 15 - Happiness

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Can words paint a picture? When I read today's prompt, the first thing that came to mind was a memory. If you'll indulge me, my photo today is to share that mind's image in words.

My earliest memory of happiness is clear in my mind, and black and white. I was just a toddler and I had climbed out of my crib and crawled down the hallway towards the living room. My mother was there, ironing and watching the television. I remember looking up at her, the love, the safety, the thrill. When she saw me, she smiled at me with such surprise and joy, such love, and she walked to me and scooped me into her arms. I remember how good that felt, I remember being happy to my toes.

Of that moment, she told me, you were so happy, you just squealed with delight.

I like that memory, that full body memory of being so happy.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Night Table

Photo Challenge Day 14 - Something you're reading

Usually I have two books and one or two magazines in my reading rotation. For the past year or so, I've been reading biographies and memoirs and these two books are no exception.  Last night I finished reading Shirley MaClaine's I'm Over All That - And Other Confessions.  Inside these pages, in a series of essays she writes about all those things that have fallen from her list of importance, and several that never will.  She shares personal stories of her life, her home, celebrity, loves, past lives, reincarnation and politics. Hers is a wide open mind and I like that. The book isn't a light read because it is so thought provoking.   

Andrew McCarthy, I have learned, is so much more than the Blane McDonnagh in Pretty in Pink.  His book, The Longest Way Home, takes his readers on his journey of his restless travels -- far and wide across the globe -- that led him ultimately to being able to settle down. He is incredibly self-aware and posesses a tremendous ability to bring his sights and experiences to your mind's eye. I am half way through this one and already wishing it were twice as long.

And then there's Vanity Fair. My friend, Carrie, renewed my subscription for Christmas. I read this pop culture magazine cover to cover. It covers fashion, crime, society, entertainment and politics in well written articles of decent length and usually I've just finished reading one issue when the next arrives in the mail. I like that in a magazine -- heft enough to last me the month.

And there you have it.

PhotoChallenge14 by groth.alison

Sunday, January 13, 2013

In the bag

Photo Challenge Day 13 - In your bag

This is my camera bag. It holds my camera and two lenses and then all this stuff that I hang onto but never use.

PhotoChallenge13 by groth.alison

Day 12 a day late

Photo Challenge Day 12 - Close up

I shot one picture yesterday and this is it. While it is close up, it's not really what I had in mind. Still, I like this photo because I want to look at it later in the year and remember that Fall colors do dot Houston in the middle of winter and they are so pretty among the ever present greens. This tree is almost bare today from the rains and winds last night. 

I was away from the house most of the day yesterday and was too wiped out to upload and post this last night. So, this photo is technically from the challenge day, it's the post that is not.

PhotoChallenge12 by groth.alison

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Friday, January 11, 2013


Photo Challenge Day 11 - Where you sleep

At the top of the stairs, two steps up from the landing, through a short  hallway, past some framed family photos, and through a windowed-door, is my bedroom. When I bought this house I thought those windows might bother me but the truth is that I rarely shut that door because Cheyenne sometimes likes to wander the house at night.  That reflection in the door is the stained glass window on the opposite wall along the stairs.

PhotoChallengeDay11 by groth.alison

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Winnie the Pooh

Photo Challenge Day 10 - Childhood

One thing came to mind when I read today’s prompt: Winnie the Pooh.  That silly ‘ol bear was such a big part of my early years and, to be honest, he still is part of my life today.

When I was a toddler, my body developed an allergy for a host of things:  Johnson & Johnson products, my mother’s lipstick, long-haired dogs and cats, and stuffed animals. Stuffed animals? My first taste of the bitter in life. What is a typical birthday or Christmas gift to a young child? Stuffed animals. What did I have to do with every stuffed animal I received? Give them to my sister. You cannot imagine the tears. Is it any wonder I learned to love books? Is it any wonder I fell in love with the animals in the 100-acre woods?  Rabbit, Owl, Kanga and Roo, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, and of course my favorite Pooh.

My mother would tell a story that she was in a toy store and saw towards the back of a shelf a plastic Winnie the Pooh. He was in a box and the cellophane front had been torn. He was so dusty but he was the perfect gift for you. The lady behind the counter couldn’t believe I wanted him but I knew he was special. 

I don’t remember what birthday that was but maybe my 5th? I wrapped my heart right around him, his glistening eyes, rosy cheeks and his cheerful smile. We became inseparable.  I slept with him every night for years, never minding his hard plastic body, just loving that my best friend was there, always there. This little guy went everywhere with me, even to college (though I no longer slept with him by that time) and he's lived in every house that I have lived in. My mother painted a portrait of him in 1972. I cherish that as well.  Good, it is so very good.

In his early the years, my best friend Pooh took some abuse. My brother burned his upper lip with a cigarette to get me where it hurt over something I had done that he didn’t like. My brother also stabbed him once, which is there is a bandaid is on Pooh’s belly.  That bandaid? Ancient. He was put in the toilet countless times and even hung from the ceiling fan by a rope around his non-existent neck. When people talk about issues they dealt with in their childhood, these are at the top of my list. But I saved him, dried him off, cleaned him up, bandaged his wounds and loved him through it all.
Pooh and I are together still.  He stays on a shelf in my bedroom. His faded and worn face so wonderfully familiar, so reminiscent of my mother’s love, of the Winnie the Pooh connection between us. He is my favorite friend, favorite story. One thousand stuffed animals could never replace him.
PhotoChallenge10 by groth.alison

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Lacing up

Photo Challenge Day 9 - Daily Routine

Today I offer my walking shoes, worn and in need of replacement though they may be. When I read the photo prompt this morning, I laughed. Since I lost my job in 2009, no two days hold the same routine for me. In some ways that has been refreshing and in other ways that has been very challenging. I like routine, like the familiar. Planning each and every day is a bit of a burden. I work for myself now and I've come to find out that that is a whole lot more responsibility than working for another. Some days I work at home and some days I cannot work at home because of the tv, the dogs, the floors that need constant sweeping or just that I am at home and feel like being at home and not working at home. Sometimes I go to my friend's office and work in her conference room and other times I am one of those people who camp out for hours at Starbucks. What is daily routine though is the morning coffee and walking the dogs.

Although perhaps I should have taken a photo of the coffee because it's pouring rain here today and neither the dogs nor I care to take a stroll in all that wetness.

DailyChallenge9 by groth.alison

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


Photo Challenge Day 8 - Your Sky

On Sunday evening, the eastern sky was the palest lilac, so soft and delicate a color. It didn’t seem that the same sky could unleash rain or tornados, could be dissected by planes, or take balloons slipped away from little hands, higher, higher. It didn’t seem the sky could support a single feather.

Monday’s sky was bright blue.

Today’s sky is neither of those. Today’s sky is grey like lead and swollen with the rain it holds. Today’s sky is moody and grumbling, wanting to throw down its power over me, as if I didn’t already know it was there. Today’s sky looks like nothing but air splintered by this tree.

PhotoChallenge8 by groth.alison

Monday, January 07, 2013

No surprise

Photo Challenge Day 7 - Favorite

Are words really needed here? I don't think so.

PhotoChallenge7 by groth.alison

Sunday, January 06, 2013


Photo Challenge Day 6 - Makes you smile
This painting my friend Mary Beth made me, this painting makes me smile. It's big, 36" x 18" and the blue "o"s are painted in blue in a nod to my father's eyes. It was a generous gift and it hangs in my hallway between the dining room and kitchen. The memory and the message are clear; and never fail to make me smile.  
PhotoChallenge6 by groth.alison

Saturday, January 05, 2013

You wear it well

Photo Challenge Day 5 - Something you wore

My friends Jacqui and Carrie gave me this scarf for Christmas. It is so very soft and oh so warm and cozy. The weather here has been consistently chilly and rainy so the scarf has not had a chance to see my closet because it is either wrapped around me or hanging on the back of a chair so that I can easily grab it when I walk out the door. Beautiful and functional.

PhotoChallenge5 by groth.alison

Friday, January 04, 2013

It's in the mail

Photo Challenge Day 4 - Letterbox

When I moved into my house in 2010, I had very few changes on my list: new curtains in the living room, painting the powder room, and putting seagrass on the stairs so that Cheyenne wouldn't slip and hurt herself. On the outside, I wanted to do a few things such as plant a couple trees and replace a couple of unruly bushes with Gardenias.

And then there was the mailbox. I like mailboxes. I enjoy looking at the different ones when I walk through the neighborhood. Whether they are on a post or column or wall mounted, I think they should be sturdy and clean with clear numbers. The mailbox on my new house was none of those things. It was rusty and unevenly affixed to the fence with zip ties. It had to go.

When friends asked what I wanted for a housewarming gift, there was only one thing. We looked high and low, in stores and on line, before finding the perfect mailbox for me. I wanted it to be fence-mountable and vertical, made of sturdy material, not too plain or ornate, and be black in color. Finally I found the one I had in my mind at a local hardware and gift store. Mounting it prooved to be quite a challenge as it required drilling into the iron fence rails. Thank goodness for determined friends with special drill bits.

Today's photo prompt was Letterbox. Do people write letters anymore? I don't. I write thank-you notes and mail birthday cards but I don't know the last time I penned an actual letter. I've saved many letters that I have received in my life and I keep them in an old hat box. Perhaps I should have taken a photo of that. But it's my mailbox that came to mind when I read the prompt. My lovely mailbox that receives bills, magazines and catalogs, and the occasional hand written card or thank you note. My lovely mailbox that is partially blocked by the rapidly growing Blue Plumbago. I think I'll be trimming that this afternoon.

PhotoChallenge4 by groth.alison

Thursday, January 03, 2013


Something you adore. Something? Some things. The internal discussion: But you can't adore things. Humans do not feel emotions for things. This dialog sends me to the dictionary for an exact definition. Adore: Verb 1) To love and respect someone deeply; 2) Worship; venerate. And then 3) To be very fond of <adores pecan pie>.  Really? The difference between fond and adore is a level of degree?

I don't remember my exact age at the time but when I was a young girl, I think seven or eight, I stated to my Grandmother that I loved my boots. She countered that I did not love my boots, that I liked them very much. I did love my Grandmother. She taught me how to read and she encouraged the spark of many ideas in my young head. Of course I argued that I did too love my boots. She, in turn, asked me if I loved my pony. Of course I did! She asked if it was the same feeling I had for my boots. No, not at all. She then said to me that humans do not feel love for inanimate objects.

What, I asked, does inanimate mean?

Look it up.

I did, and I understood.

So today's photo-a-day prompt, something you adore, had me furrow-browed because, yes, I am quite capable of making a little bit of nothing into a big deal. Such is life in my mind.

I found a compromise though.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Day 2

Breakfast. That's my photo-a-day challenge topic for today. I suppose I could have snapped the dogs inhaling their food this morning or my warming up their soft food in the microwave because it's cold and I thought it would be a nice treat for them to have a warm meal. But the prompts are interpretive and I opted for my breakfast.

I'm a creature of habit so I will go through long stretches of the same thing before I get bored. For months, breakfast was yogurt and coffee. For months after that, breakfast was a hard of soft boiled egg and coffee. These days, breakfast is a toasted multi-grain english muffin with a bit of reduced fat peanut butter. And, of course, coffee.

That coffee mug is intentionally blurred since I was playing around with depth-of-field, but it says New York all over it in different fonts and sizes. I bought it when I took my mother to New York for her birthday in 2006. It's a simple thing, just a mass produced inexpensive tourist item, but it makes me smile to have it, to remember where and when I bought it.

The most important meal of the day. 

Tuesday, January 01, 2013


Ah, here we are in the first day of the new year.  It's a dreary one here, chilly and wet from the rains last night and this morning. I like it like this, it's quiet outside, a gentle beginning. Inside, I have a fire burning in the fireplace, Cheyenne is snoring beside me on the couch and Dixie is curled up asleep on Cheyenne's bed that she has taken over for herself. The Tournament of Roses Parade is on the tv. I'm in my comfy pajamas and I intend to stay in them all day, even when I go to my friend's house later on for cabbage, black-eyed peas and some champagne. For now though, the front door open to the cool and quiet outside, the snoring dogs and the parade add up to a perfect New Year's Day morning, by design.

Also by design is a photo-a-day challenge I've opted to participate in this month. Day One's challenge: Me. I offer you a snapshot of myself taken in the living room mirror shortly after waking up. This one not so much to stretch any photography skills but to launch myself into the challenge, which I am doing because I want a daily prompt to launch myself back into this blog.

So, with that, here's me this morning, New Year's Day 2013. Happy New Year to you and yours. I hope it is one that sees you closer to your dreams. See you tomorrow!