Thursday, July 1, 2010


Much to my husband’s shock, we flunked the electrical inspection on our new basement yoga studio and gallery. It seems the code (an ever-changing tome) now requires a certain kind of electrical outlet designed to protect children from electrocution on all outlets, not just the ones in bathrooms. This new requirement was clear as a bell in the small print of the code – SO small that it escaped my husband’s notice. Now, he is faced with rewiring 48 outlets. I may not see him until Halloween when he comes up for air.
It seems little boys are prone to sticking things into outlets. My husband admitted that he did stick something in an outlet when he was a little kid and our son followed in his footsteps. When our boy was two years old, he stuck a key into an outlet in our hallway and made sounds like he was driving a car. I entered the hallway in time to see him fly two feet in the air. The incident left a big black mark on the wall. There was a visit to the emergency room to check for exit burns and cardiac arrhythmia but basically our son was fine. The only lasting effect was the jolt of electricity permanently straightened his curly hair. That and the wall required repainting.
A perceptive friend, on hearing about the new code which requires Mike to spend the rest of the summer rewiring each and every outlet responded, “You know, today’s children are such sissies.”

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Vacations are wonderful things if they provide you with what you need. One requires different travel experiences at different phases of one’s life. You may have loved camping when your children were young, but now perhaps you crave leaving your camping stove at home and taking a cooking class in Santa Fe or even Oaxaca, Mexico.
If you are totally stressed out and exhausted, spending lazy days on a beach letting the sound of the surf polish your jagged edges may appeal to you.
If you are citified and longing for Mother Nature and adventure, then hiking through Patagonia in South America or even the more primitive trails in your home state may be your choice.
At the moment, my daughter and her new husband are in Alaska visiting our son who lives there. She has fallen head over heels in love with Alaska and the fishing experiences she is having. Her first day there, she stood in the ocean for six hours straight throwing out her line without a bite. Eventually, she snagged a salmon and hauled it in and was ecstatic! To my shock, my son informed me that she ate the fish eggs from the newly cut open fish right there on the beach-apparently that is what fisherpeople do. I am amazed that anyone would find joy in standing in waders in thigh high water all afternoon without food, drink or a toilet and then dining on fish roe without the sour cream or crackers. Not my thing, but then again, I don’t have a desk job in an architectural firm like she does where she pores over blueprints and the fine points of design. No wonder the majestic spaces and wonderful smells of Alaska appeal to her!
So dear readers, if you had unlimited time and resources at your disposal, what would your dream travel experience be at this point in your life? Where would you go and what would you do?

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I travel all over the world and the one thing I’ve learned for sure is that it really doesn’t matter how fat one is. What matters is how long one can go without peeing.
Nothing is worse in Europe than the excruciating pain of an overfull bladder and no toilet in sight. Even if you stumble on a toilet, if you don’t have a coin…you are screwed. The way it works is that you are supposed to find a coffee shop and buy a coffee as payment to use the facilities. This makes no sense as the coffee goes directly to one’s bladder and the cycle simply repeats itself.
On my trip to Europe this past April, I was searching frantically for a toilet on the streets of Barcelona and was unable to find one. Desperate, I ran into a museum that was twenty minutes from closing and threw 6 Euro at the ticket taker just so I could use the toilet. I bought a 6 Euro cup of coffee so I could pee in Santorini, Greece and a 6 Euro glass of bad wine to pee in Dubrovnik, Croatia in a camping potty behind a curtain on the edge of a cliff. Each time, it was money well-spent.
Some days I’d travel to some far off destination on a fancy motor coach with a toilet on board, BUT, the toilets are always locked, mocking you as you curse that one teeny sip of coffee that mostly you only smelled but didn’t drink for breakfast. I guess if management unlocked the toilet and let the passengers actually use them, then they would have to clean them which would increase their overhead! On a train ride to Rome, I needed to pee so desperately that I used the toilet at the end of the car. Unfortunately, the toilet locks itself at the train station when it is standing still and unlocks itself as it is hurling 80 kilometers an hour down the track. No wonder the walls and floors are sticky!!!
When I was lucky enough to find a toilet on my travels, the line reached to Jamaica! But only if you are a woman. The men never waited, something to do with the ease of not undoing a belt and the freedom of peeing standing up at a urinal. My husband was in and out in a flash and I spent most of my vacation in a cue at the “ladies room.” So ladies, this is the new rule. UNDO ALL YOUR CLOTHING FASTENINGS WHILE YOU ARE STANDING IN LINE. GO INSIDE THE STALL AND PEE. IMMEDIATELY EXIT THE STALL AND DEAL WITH YOU FASTENINGS OUTSIDE THE STALL. I’ve done the math. The fastenings add two minutes to each person in line.
And remember, really smart people make it a policy to never drink any liquids when traveling, no exceptions.

Friday, May 14, 2010


I have been back from my last cruise for eleven days Рthat means I have gone eleven days without ice cream, pastries, Cr̬me Brule, Apple pie or sugar of any kind. Of course, my husband does a light dusting of sugar on the cappuccinos he fixes for me every morning and I do have a small piece of dark chocolate everyday (it is a medicine, like CO10 or Vit. C РWithout it I would grow anemic and die).
It is true that I am a “cruise addict” largely because of the magic of the most wonderful food appearing in front of me whenever I want. It is also true that it has taking me about 20 cruises to learn to not overeat as a way of shipboard life. The food was so good on this last cruise across the ocean and around the Mediterrean that I went for quality rather than quantity. Every morning, I started the day with homemade muesli with a side bowl of fresh mixed berries. If my throat was sore, I’d request a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice that someone would fetch from the top floor and bring down to me at my table in the second floor dining room. Get the picture?
If it was a port day and I was going to walk miles, I’d add an egg cooked to perfection with half and English muffin, very lightly buttered. Of course, occasionally, I’d eat a small cinnamon roll that was baked while I was sleeping. I am only human.
Did I mention that there was flowers on the table and a polite man from Bali would snatch a linen napkin off the table and lay it on my lap? Did I mention that someone else washed my dirty dishes?
I would write more, but I can’t go on. I am hungry, I need lunch and I must prepare it myself. Reality calls.

Monday, May 10, 2010


This year Mother’s day was wonderful and continues to be my favorite day of the year. My son who lives in Alaska chatted with me on the phone for an hour and informed me that he and his girlfriend bought a microwave oven on Craig’s list in order to make homemade soy candles as a Mother’s Day gift.
My 29 year old daughter spent the day with me and during the morning we were out and about and ran into many people I know. The reoccurring comment was “Your daughter looks just like you.” I don’t really know how I feel when I hear that comment. I remember when Suzanna was ten years old hiking up the hill to catch the bus to school. My neighbor who watched her said, “Your young daughter looks just like you, in fact, she even walks like you!” At the time, I remember thinking, “Poor Suzanna.” In my heart, I was hoping for more for her.
Yesterday, I phoned my mother who lives in a nursing home in New Mexico. When my daughter talked with her, I overheard the following – “Mom and I went to the nursery this morning and looked at plants and it was so much fun. When I was a little girl, my Mom made me help her in the garden and I hated it. Now, I love gardening, it is so meditative!”
Unlike the comment that we look alike, which is the luck of genetic draw, I knew exactly how I felt about her turning out just like me in the gardening area. I was very pleased. I had exposed her to the beauty of digging in the earth and it had imprinted on her. In this regard, my daughter is just like me and it is all I hoped for.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Great News - - I am this year's first place winner of The Unknown Writers' Contest sponsored by the DENVER WOMAN'S PRESS CLUB for my nonfiction essay "The Color of Love".  My three year writing effort of my memoir, Back to Bali, is finished and this win will hopefully get me off my butt and shop it around to agents - a dreaded job at best.  The essay is below. I would love to hear your comments.

Namaste,  Quinn Reed

By Quinn Reed

Sometime during my marriage, my bright eyes slowly cloud with cataracts of fading appreciation. My husband fades into shades of muted heather grey and the soft golden ochre of a well-worn sweater rather than electric blue and the scarlet color of pomegranate juice of our early days. I’ve become accustomed to his face, his voice, his scent, his smile… his able hands. As one year follows another, color blindness sets in, reducing the image of my husband from the technicolor of new experience to the monochrome of familiarity.

The realization that tomorrow marks our fortieth year of marriage astonishes me. Our time together has evaporated as quickly as rain water falling on the Serengeti plains where we began our married life as Peace Corps volunteers in Africa. I am so overcome by the significance of this milestone that I decide to throw a party. My decision to celebrate may be a stroke of genius or more likely, simply a stroke of luck. In any case, it is the catalyst that reawakens my appreciation for my husband.

How can a party re-energize a lazy heart and rekindle memories that sweep through the body, cleansing perceptions, and clearing vision? How can a wedding dress transform feelings like a pair of old shoes made to squeak once again with newness and shine with promise like the day they were made? What power does a scuffed wedding album hold to tell a story? Why does putting pen to paper to write a toast reveal dreams that have come true?


Three times during our marriage, I toss my wedding dress and veil into the trash. Each time my husband rescues it. “You shouldn’t throw your wedding dress away!” he’d say.

“Why not? It’s just a humble, handmade dress that I created on my Singer sewing machine. It served its purpose. We no longer need it.”

Believing that it still has value, each time I toss it, my husband retrieves it and hands it to me to stuff back into the plastic zippered bag. We drag the wedding gown with us into each new chapter of our life as we move from job to job, house to house, state to state. As the years pass, I give no thought to the bridal dress languishing in some dark corner of the basement. Once, at year thirty, I thought that the dress was gone – lost forever.

My allegiance to the wedding dress has long since turned to other dresses - better made dresses, like the flirty cocktail number in a fuchsia silk, with its price tag still on, waiting to be worn with the hundred inches of pink pearls at our wedding anniversary party tomorrow night.

On the eve of our party, I spot a crumpled ball of white on the top shelf of the guest room closet. Climbing onto a step stool, I pull the bag down and open it. I remove the garment and spread it out on the bed. My husband sees the forgotten wedding dress and suggests I iron it. So I spend the eve of our anniversary arranging the tired crepe on my ironing board, pressing life into the long, cuffed sleeves and the gentle falling skirt trimmed with white fur that skims the floor. Next, I tackle the veil – four tiers of tulle attached to a tiny pillbox hat. Not having ironed the veil since my wedding day, I wonder if it will shrink and burn - if the edges will curl in protest from the assault of the heated iron. It doesn’t. Rather, it returns to life and falls into beautiful cascades, just as it did during the January blizzard when my husband and I, still in college, wed forty years ago.

Returning to the guestroom closet, I take out my husband’s wedding suit. Worn only once, it is an exquisite garment. Made of finely woven virgin wool in a deep navy color, the double-breasted suit is impeccably tailored. I notice its faint pin stripes still catch the light, just as they did the day we were married.

I hang my wedding veil and the white crepe dress, with the bow at the back of the waist facing out, on a peg on the guest room wall. This is the view the guests filling the church pews saw that Sunday afternoon four decades ago. Only the priest was privy to the tears streaming down my face as I knelt next to my future husband exchanging vows.

Carefully, I hang the handsome suit next to my dress and the years between that January and this one disappear. Separately, the dress and the suit are only garments. But hanging next to each other, shoulder to shoulder, they become imbued with enough energy to reincarnate the past. They begin a dialogue with each other and the air changes color as it becomes charged with faith, hope and promise. Like a living piece of art, the diorama that hangs on the pegs, delight the guests who come to celebrate our wedding anniversary. As they deposit their winter coats on the guestroom bed, the women squeal with delight and the men grin. All who gaze at the bodiless couple hanging on the wall are made aware of the significance of the day when the lovely young woman with the tiny waist joined her life to the tall, slender man of twenty-one. All our heartbeats quicken, but none more than mine.


Wanting to toast my husband at our party, I retreat to my office with a note card and pencil and reflect on our life’s journey together. When I was a teenager in North Dakota, my aunt encouraged me to think big. On her advice, I sent intentions out into the universe as to what I hoped my life would bring. Today, I visit those intentions one by one.

Someday, let me stand at the foot of the great pyramids of Egypt, one of the wonders of the world.

With my young husband at my side, I have stood on the banks of the Nile, visited the pygmies in the Congo, felt the spray of Victoria Falls on my face, and climbed Mt. Kenya in a snow storm. I’ve seen Buddha’s tooth, camped at the foot of the Himalayas and visited Moscow when there still was a Soviet Union. Throughout our years together we have traveled the globe and seen all the places I had read about as a child in the basement of our city library built of stone.

Someday, let me have a family that will be my rock, a source of joy.

I think of our parenting years and our grown daughter and son, both wonderful people, and smile.

Someday, I want a home that is uniquely me – a place where my soul can fly.

I look around my home of tall ceilings filled with light. From my windows, I see mountains, wildlife, and wide open vistas. This home provides me with privacy to feed my spirit and with space to gather friends and family. My husband was my partner in designing this home with its art studio, a labyrinth, and patios enough to follow the sun.

Someday, let me become the woman I was meant to be.

I wanted my life’s work to make a difference - to work as a therapist with people with disabilities, to serve in the Peace Corps, to volunteer in my community and to become an artist. They have all come to pass. When the hour comes for the toast, I know what to say. I say thank-you.

Thank-you, husband, for the pyramids.

Thank-you, husband, for being a wonderful father.

Thank-you, husband, for our lovely home.

Thank-you, husband, for taking in stride all my reinventions over the years.

With you as my partner, I have become the woman I was meant to be. All my dreams have come true.


Searching our bookshelves, I extract the Bridal Album recording our wedding day. It hasn’t been opened in years and the silver letters on the cover are dull and the plastic holding the photos in place has grown brittle. On a whim, I gently dust it off and place it on the side-table in the living room.

Throughout the afternoon’s festivities, every time I glance at the table, I notice guests, bent over, carefully examining the album, slowly turning each page. I am surprised that it is such a hit. My son-in-law approaches and touches my arm. “Those are really nice photos.”

Surprised at his comment, I respond, “Oh, you think so?” We didn’t have a professional photographer to artfully frame each shot. At our modest wedding, a kind relative with a Kodak camera in her purse thoughtfully snapped the shots, willy nilly. I make a mental note to look at the album later, alone, to discover the story it tells.

After the house is empty, while my husband rinses out wine glasses, I sit, exhausted, on the couch and switch on a light over my shoulder. I open the album and examine each photo, trying to break the code, attempting to see what my guests found so interesting. Like an archeologist, examining an ancient manuscript, I tease out the clues of the images of the couple that existed then.

Immediately, I am struck at how beautifully innocent and full of hope they seem to be. In some of the photos, the bride looks a little lost. She reminds me of a person getting off an elevator on the wrong floor, stunned, struggling to get her bearings.

As I turn the pages, I notice the groom is smiling. A wide grin of pure pleasure and happiness radiates from his face in image after image. He looks so present, so grounded. He looks so sure….about this day and the ones to follow.

A pictorial pattern emerges; in every photo the groom is holding his bride’s hand. Sometimes, he wraps her arm through his and tucks it close to his side, other times, he gently but firmly cups her small hand with both of his. But there is more. When the groom looks at his bride, his face is close to hers. They seem to be connected by a non-verbal language unique to them.

Even though, these two people in the photos share the same DNA as my husband and my present self, I feel like a voyeur. But the pictorial story reawakens my heart as I crack the code of the wedding album. He loves her very much.


This morning, the day after our anniversary, I wake with my arm tucked through my husband’s and I am filled with gratitude. Before I open my eyes to begin year forty-one, I sense the color of our bedroom walls will appear more vibrant. Yesterday, the wedding attire hanging side by side added tonal nuances to my black and white palette of appreciation. The wedding toast contributed rich jewel tones of drama and depth to my vision. The wedding album embellished my perception with shots of metallic gold, silver, bronze and copper. No longer color blind, I am once again looking at my marriage through the eyes of an artist. Once again, I see the color of love.


As a Master Gardener with Larimer County, I am back at it taking refresher classes and getting excited about spring. Recently, I blogged about hummingbirds. Today, I want to share some quick and dirty ways to have a beautiful, healthy lawn and trees. Know that diseases rarely get a foothold in healthy plants that are not stressed.


With that in mind, do not over or under water your lawn. There is no formula (one rule for all) because the amount of water depends on the type of grass, the amount of sun, shade or wind and other variables. Put some jars or cans out in your lawn to catch water so you know what you are spraying on. Ask the wonderful volunteer experts (my husband is one of those) at CSU to do a water audit for a nominal charge of $75. Do not water during mid-day or when it is windy. Do not over fertilize (it runs off into sewers contaminating our water supply.) Aerate twice a year (Easter and Halloween) and punch many, many holes. The holes should be two inches apart. If you hire a service, make sure they do way more than one pass. Leave the plugs on the lawn. When you mow, never, ever cut off more than one-third and leave the clippings on the lawn to mulch, decompose and recondition the earth under the grass. If you bag your clippings for landfill, you are throwing money away.


Never plant trees too close to anything. Would you make your infant son sleep in a crib his whole life? No. Trees grow big. The roots of trees do not grow deep into the earth like a carrot. They spread out for long distances in a shallow manner. The roots need water and air; if a tree is surrounded by concrete, it is going to be STRESSED. Do not water next to the trunk (unless it is a twig) – water around and beyond the drip line. Do not allow a tree to develop two leaders (main trunk). Prune one off. Need a new tree? PLANT A TWIG AND WATCH IT GROW BIG. Seriously, in a few years the twig will establish and catch the big, expensive tree who is struggling to get established because its root ball was cut to a fraction of what it needs to support itself. I wish I had known this five years ago when I bought five huge trees to put in my labyrinth.

Okay, gardeners, tree-huggers and lovers of the outdoors, have fun and let me know if this advice was helpful.