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Articles in "Spiritual Smart Aleck "

Sometime in the last couple of years I saw a young standup comic, a guy, riffing on relationships, which is a pretty reliable comic vein to mine. He said that no one he knew looked at people who had been together for 30 years and thought,

This year, on top of the holiday stress, we are looking at my husband’s being laid off from his job. He plans to make the best of the cards he has been dealt by calling himself retired. The man is 67, after all, and on dialysis. People have retired with less justification.

It is time to call it a year, and in the spirit of tidying up and finishing the unfinished, here are a few items I never got around to this year:

Hello, boys and girls. Much as I love struggling with the problems of being human and attempting to write about those problems in a way that can make us all laugh, sometimes it’s good to take a break and bring in another voice, and another story.

Around the time a story circulated of Romney saying it was too bad you couldn’t roll down the windows on jet planes to get some fresh air, I decided to stop re-posting political memes on Facebook.

It occurs to me that I could probably save a lot of time and energy by ceasing to try to control other people. It’s a relief to think about doing that.

We have had no animals living with us since our last dog, Jive, shuffled off this mortal coil last March.

No more animals, my husband said then, and we agreed. No more responsibility, no more grief when the animal dies, no more expenses for food, vet visits, toys and treats


My beautiful cousin Nancy and I were talking the other day, having a nice canter down memory lane as we so often do, and we remembered the 1950s television show, "Queen for a Day." We both watched this tear-jerker show, which some have called a forerunner to today’s reality shows.

One of my favorite ways of blowing off steam or working off a case of mad is to pull weeds. Several times a week I go out in the yard, put on my gloves, grab a trowel and a pair of pruning shears, and go to town on the buttercups, Stinking Robert, blackberries, and dandelions. Pulling weeds make me feel better, and it makes the garden look better.

This morning I sat on the kitchen porch and stared at the trees. It was a perfect day - cloudless, sun shining, a slight breeze. A small airplane grumbled by overhead, followed by a jet lumbering in to land at SeaTac or Boeing Field. The song birds were chirping incessantly over in the blackberries, and a couple of blue jays were wrack-wracking at each other up the hill in what I think of as TK’s bird sanctuary.

Thinking about politics ties me in knots, because as soon as I do I feel like I’m in a funhouse maze, trying to find my way through the dark alleys and dead ends, not mention trying to parse out what’s real in the illusions created by smoke and mirrors.

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light." – Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas was writing of his dying father when he penned that poem in 1951, or so the story goes. You can find the complete text online or at the library or perhaps on your own bookshelf.


We recently returned from California, where we attended a reunion of people with whom Rick attended high school when his dad was stationed in Germany 50 years ago, and where we also spent some time with Rick’s dad and step-mom.

My Cousin Nancy and I went to the Quinault Resort and Casino ("$89 rooms!"), out by Ocean Shores. It was a good trip for both of us, getting away from our regular lives for a couple of days and doing pretty much nothing. Nancy and I are skilled at doing nothing, especially together. Oh, we talked a lot about our lives, "solved the world," as Nancy likes to say, and we also napped, watched TV, gambled a little, and walked on the beach.

Cousin Nancy came up from California to visit the other week. She is going to become a grandmother in the next couple of months, and her expectant daughter-in-law Ariel grew up in Seattle, so Ariel’s Seattle friends and family held a baby shower for her.

Here follows part of an email written by my friend Susan Bardwell some years ago. Susan passed away last November after a brief fight with lung cancer. We miss her terribly. I must have written to her complaining that some religious proselytizers had come by the house and she responded:

The series "House" has ended, and the character of Gregory House stayed unrepentant to the end, though he (spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it) redeemed himself in his own twisted fashion by faking his death so he could be free to make the final months of his best friend, Wilson, happy. He literally lays down his life for his friend, and as we have been told, greater love hath no man.

First of all, an apology to Narcissa Whitman, who has suffered enough. After I sent out my last column I was informed right smartly by several people that the person who brought the dandelion to Seattle was in fact Catherine Maynard, second wife of "Doc" Maynard, Seattle’s first doctor.

Sunday. It is the first beautiful day, almost like summer. The sky is clear, the sun is hot, the sounds of lawn mowers and weed eaters are abroad in the land. It is a day that makes you feel like you’re young again and anything is possible.

Well, I felt like that until after I’d worked pulling weeds at the church for an hour and came home and sat down for a while.

Our dog, Jive, passed on about a month ago. I’m sorry if I forgot to tell you. I thought I’d told everyone, but I was talking with Sonya yesterday and said in passing, "Now that the dog’s dead..." and she shrieked, "WHAT?"

After my cousins Charlotte and Nancy and I finished visiting the Pioneer Cemetery in Watsonville, we headed out to the Pajaro Valley Memorial Cemetery to pay our respects to our grand parents, Percy and Lyllian.

When I was a child, we used to go out and place flowers on Lyllian’s grave. She died in 1938. After her passing, Grandpa took solace in the brothels of Watsonville.

My cousins Charlotte, Nancy, and I made a cemetery tour. My father and their mother were brother and sister, so we share grandparents and great-grandparents. Charlotte has become more intrigued by genealogy the last couple of years, and she wanted photos of family headstones to put up on the internet.

Drove down to California a few weeks ago.

I went down I-5 as far as Grants Pass, and then cut over to Crescent City on the coast, where I spent the night, after driving up to say hello to Smith River. Had to say hello, because my father’s family used to have a place there.

In a recent column I spoke of a VW van in less than flattering terms. Those remarks prompted a friend, Alan Blue Heron Milinazzo Barnett, to write in praise of the VW bus. I asked him if I could run his letter as a guest column. He said yes. Here it is: