I couldn’t resist the title. The word conjures up a fond memory for me. (And where did your mind go just then?!)

I last made it home for Christmas in 2008. My oldest niece and my nephew were both 4 at the time. Just before Christmas Eve dinner, Ella tore down the stairs from my mom’s playroom and through the house screaming. She stopped dramatically in the dining room, brushed the hair from her face, and declared, “Isaac is trying to screw me!”

My siblings and their spouses all looked at her with confusion. Screw? What!

Seconds later, Isaac ran up behind Ella with a devilish grin on his face…and with a giant, orange plastic screwdriver in hand.

Ordinary Things


I started this blog a couple of years ago to, as my tagline reads, find the beauty in ordinary things. A while ago, I lost site of that purpose. I thought that unless I was traveling the world and posting images of far away places, I was somehow failing as a photographer. Failing to grow and branch out. Failing to catch the eye of Lonely Planet or National Geographic so I could abandon my job in favor of more glamorous prospects.

Sometimes, we become so familiar with our surroundings that they become unremarkable, maybe even ugly. My challenge this year, to myself and to anyone else who feels uninspired, is to look at your home with the eyes of a tourist. Pretend you’ve never been there before. What might you see that you’ve missed? There are no magical locations around the globe, only ordinary people with a talent for finding the beauty around them. In 2013, let’s allow ourselves to become enchanted with the places we call home.

New Worlds


People are fascinated by pictures of doors, especially those that are old and weathered. In fact, I’ve seen entire websites dedicated to them. Perhaps they symbolize our longing to enter new worlds? Or, maybe they represent the secrets of old worlds and past lives that shouldn’t be revisited.

I found this particular doorway at Ardgillan Castle outside of Dublin.  Sure, the lighting effect is no more than a trick with a camera lens, but it carries a symbolic weight for me – like I am about to enter a new world, and some divine blessing awaits.

OXO Boys

I like a bit of a mystery.

Captivated by the Georgian architecture in Dublin, I set out to photograph some of the doors and buildings for a later project. On this particular door, I found a note that read The OXO Boys. The OXO Boys…who are they?? I wondered. Did they like kisses more than hugs? Were they aspiring graffiti artists who didn’t believe in defacing public property, so they tagged it with paper instead? Were they clever painters, carefully hinting to the building’s owners that it needed a facelift? Or, maybe they liked to run naked through the streets of Dublin at night, advertising their exploits with sticky notes?

Well, if Google is correct, The OXO Boys are actually a folk band. I suppose that’s a far more practical explanation.

Mystery solved.

Crumble and Fall

Crumbling stone wall in The Burren

The only way to experience the west coast of Ireland is by car – even if you are like me and have absolutely no sense of direction. I often find the most interesting subjects to photograph just by getting lost, though. Here is one roadside gem from County Clare, Ireland, found on one of my many mapping misadventures.

The Dog Days of Summer are Almost Over…

Definitely Boomer

Because of all of the attention I have been giving my book, I have neglected my Nikon. Sure, I see her sitting in the corner of my bedroom, alone and dejected, crying baby tears. Sure, I feel guilty about letting at least 24 GBs of memory go to waste. But, I have felt uninspired and therefore unsure of what I would do with her anyway.

One early Saturday morning back in July, my guilt got the best of me. I dusted off Nikon, hopped in my car, and drove around Whatcom County looking for something to photograph. Nothing was really jumping out at me, and Nikon looked bored – until I saw a white Subaru pull over on the side road. A woman literally jumped out and frantically swatted at the air. She looked familiar…I made a U-turn to investigate.

The woman was my friend Tracy, and her car had been invaded by bees. By the time I pulled up next to her, she’d taken care of the problem. She’s so self-sufficient – unlike myself. Insects and arachnids are not my thing, and I usually end up calling my neighbor Andy to save me from anything bigger than a penny. Shiver. But, I digress.

Tracy invited me to go for a walk with her and her two dogs, Baxter and Boomer. This made Nikon happy. Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to actually editing the photos I took that day until recently. Also, I’m not entirely sure which dog is which. Tracy says the close up is definitely Boomer. They look exactly the same to me, so how does Tracy know? “Two big eyes like the two big ‘o’s in his name!” she said. Also, because I’m using his image on WordPress, “He expects any royalties to be paid via his own peanutbutter-pal account!”

The other two pictures may or may not be Boomer. They might be Baxter. Collectively, Tracy said they are known as the B Boyz or the Brothers B or BaxyBoo. Regardless, I have some good memories of being dragged along for three miles by two very energetic dogs and their equally energetic doggy mamma – and being bitten squarely in the forehead by a mosquito. See, insects are my nemesis!!

Might be Boomer?
If not Boomer, this is Baxter
Darn Mosquitos

Same thing, only different

My high school math teacher used to say of some problems, “Same thing only different.” Yesterday, I happened to think of that expression when I asked my friend Tracy to blow the seeds from a dandelion so I could get a picture. I envisioned a small cloud of seeds dispersing into the air, but instead I got clumps of quickly falling fluff. Wondering why this happened, I did a little research and found this was a “false dandelion”. It looks like a real dandelion, only it’s different. Most likely, this flower is actually a weed called a Catsear.

An interesting note about real dandelions, though: I found out that they can be used for all sorts of useful things such as herbal remedies for digestion or even wine. They are actually rich in vitamins and minerals too. Who knew they were more than just a pesky weed? The University of Maryland Medical Center has some information on their website, if you are interested in other dandelion uses.


I attended the Chuckanut Writers Conference this weekend and pitched my book, The Parting Glass, to 3 different agents. All three expressed interest. Two requested a couple of sample chapters via email and one wanted a completed manuscript. So, now I have the challenge of actually finishing my book. I’ve been so focused on perfecting every last sentence I write, that progress has been slow (although I am about 25,000 words in). Some valuable advice I got was to set a minimum writing goal. Each day, for example, maybe I write 15 minutes at an absolute bare minimum or maybe 2 pages. I can perfect it later.

I know many hours of writing and self-promotion are in my future, but that’s okay. It will all be worth it when I see my book on the shelves of Village Books. It will be worth it when I can actually do what I love for a living. I’ve never wanted anything so badly in my entire life.  And to think (as my friend Sherry pointed out), I almost took a political science class last fall instead of Laura Kalpakian’s Memory into Memoir class. Sometimes one decision can change the course of your entire life.