The Handyman

“Do you have a white cat?” he asked.  “There’s a dead cat in the backyard.”

He spoke straight and with a heavy Russian accent.  Our neighbor and handyman had been working for hours in the rain carrying off sludgy pine needles from our roof and gutters to a remote corner in our backyard using a large wheelbarrow.  He wore a round cap over his long hair making him look like a Dutch boy. He was a nice man and hard worker. I don’t think he was having an easy time of it in his adopted country.

 “What? “  I asked with alarm.   “Are you sure you don’t mean the little cat statue made of concrete?”

The stony sleeping cat was a memorial to one we had lost years before.   The cat’s name was Benjamin, the same as our handyman.   He was a beautiful Himalayan with true blue eyes and long white hair streaked with silver and gray.  I had lost another cat named Joey more recently to heart failure.  It was totally unexpected and I was still heartbroken.  We got Tiger shortly afterwards.

“No, it’s not a statue, “ he said with a nervous laugh.  “I think it’s real.  I poked it with a stick and it was hard.” 

 “O God,” I said solemnly. 

‘What?” he asked.

I tried to explain though it seemed odd that I would need to.  I still believed he saw our cat memorial figure and not a dead cat.  But my luck with cats had turned of late and part of me feared for the worst.  I couldn’t take another loss. 

“Didn’t you ever have a cat?”

“No.”  He laughed and looked at his feet.  “We had guinea pigs before.”

It was getting dark.  I wondered how he could have killed my cat.  Was he overly zealous with shovel or wheelbarrow?  No.  It couldn’t be.

“Are you sure it was a real cat? It must be the concrete one you saw. It’s white and looks like it’s sleeping.”   

“No,” he said.  “I don’t think so.  It was a white cat with fur.  A dead cat. I poked it with a stick. It was hard.”

Tiger wasn’t white but he did have a soft white underbelly. I dared not go and look for fear of finding him with those beautiful green eyes frozen in death. I left Benjamin to find my husband. 

“Bob,” I said with a tearful voice. “Ben said there’s a dead cat in the backyard.  Please. You go look.  I just can’t bear the thought of losing Tiger.” 

So he went out in the waning light of dusk with flashlight in hand, and scoured the area near the brush pile but found nothing.  I waited in tearful silence. He returned  to ask Benjamin where he saw the dead cat and was taken to the stony white memorial to our old cat named Ben.

A misunderstanding.  A case of mistaken identity.

I hear laughter.  I am relieved but not laughing.

~  Susanne

Epilogue:  This little saga happened early last year and at the time I almost felt like an observer to the strange conversation.  It seemed to me a curious little window into cultural and language differences and the value of pets. But mostly I was happy that my sweet Tiger boy was alive and well and Benjamin’s memorial remained intact.

Gray skies and post vacation doldrums..

Is it the jet lag, time change or bad weather?  Usually I’m ready for home after vacation, this time not so much.  I had gotten used to slow mornings, lazy days, and beach walks.  Sunshine, palm trees, and playing in ocean waves. Good bye Maui and welcome back to the Pacific Northwest where we are cold and wet and trying hard to break free from winter.  (February was the second rainiest on record in Seattle and we haven’t seen this much snowfall in years.)

Today the sun made an appearance through the cloud cover and I stepped outside for fresh air and to survey the garden.  There is much to be done.  Still, I found miniature daffodils in bloom, their brilliant yellow heralding spring to come.

I also found two boys more bonded than when we left almost two weeks ago, sharing their backyard kingdom and at peace with one another.

This makes me happy.  They know it does.

~  Susanne

Postcards from Maui

Greetings from the valley isle of Maui!  I’m here to answer the burning question, which Hawaiian island is my favorite? After visiting all four major islands at least once over the past few years I had settled on the Big Island for the number 1 spot but thought Maui deserved another chance.  And she sure is putting up a good fight.

Take the beaches for instance. Plentiful. Accessible. Gorgeous beaches.

Or  Haleakala, where you can travel from zero to 10,000 feet in less than an hour and be on top of the world! And gaze into her otherworldly  crater where astronauts trained for moon walks.

And the Road to Hana delights with its twists and curves through tropical jungle, waterfalls, charming seaside villages and colorful eucalyptus trees.

And say hello to this friendly tree!

I recently read a readers poll from Hawaii magazine that ranked the travelers favorite islands in this order: Maui, Oahu, Kauai, the Big Island. The number 4 ranking of the Big Island surprised me; I guess it is an acquired taste. The number 1 ranking of Maui did not.
Maui has it all.  She has everything you would want in a tropical island vacation. With all the beautiful beaches and exotic terrain nearby and easy to get to.

And so as our wonderful trip is winding down I have to say Maui has nudged out what had been my sentimental favorite, the Big Island of Hawaii, for the number 1 spot. At least until our next trip!

Aloha!  Susanne

Favorite Hawaiian Island?

It’s a hard call but somebody has to make it. I’m willing to give it a try.  First, some background. It wasn’t that long ago that Hawaii was just a dream to me, a place for only the lucky or the rich. But ten years ago we decided to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary with a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii and Oahu. Wow and wow!  I was immediately and forever smitten. After that trip I was determined to see all of those beautiful islands at least once, if only so I could pick my favorite.  Thus I found myself coming up with more reasons to go.

‘Why don’t we go to Hawaii to celebrate my birthday?’ or  ‘let’s go to Maui for my retirement present!’  Both worked.  Last time it was, ‘we’ve got to see Kauai; how else will we know which island is the best?’  And so we finally completed our mission (okay, mainly my mission) to visit the four major Hawaiian islands:  Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island. I loved everyone one of them but which is my favorite? They all have so much to offer.

There’s Oahu where we stayed at Waikiki, climbed to the top of iconic Diamond Head and looked down upon Honolulu.


We paid our respects at Pearl Harbor, drove to the North Shore, and went to the Dole Pineapple Plantation.

On the Big Island (so called as the other three islands would fit into its massive size with room to spare), we hiked through lava tubes and watched a glowing volcanic vent at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We enjoyed the turtles at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach (perhaps my favorite beach in all of Hawaii) and stopped by the Waipio Valley Overlook.

. 20141019_164559_burst03


20141020_1447173We loved Waimea Canyon and the rugged Napali Cliffs on the island of Kauai, the oldest and smallest of the islands.  It was there we woke up one day to an amazing sunrise when a hurricane was expected to arrive (but thankfully didn’t.)  What’s not to like?


On Maui, the second largest island, we went to the top of Haleakala, drove the winding road to Hana (one of America’s most scenic drives), and visited many gorgeous beaches, including our favorite snorkeling beach, Maluaka. 122



468598_10150658595327335_342349669_oAnd every night whenever we could we watched a beautiful Hawaiian sunset.024How on earth do you choose between these beauties?  Of course you really don’t have to but isn’t it fun to try?  So if I am pressed, I would say that the Big Island is currently my favorite, with Maui running a close second. But we’ve been to the Big Island multiple times and to Maui only once.  To be fair, it seems another trip to Maui is in order. And so we will escape the winter rain and snow of the Pacific Northwest and make our second trip to Maui to settle the matter once and for all.

‘Love is lovelier the second time around,’ goes the old song.  Will the same be true of Maui?  Will it take the top spot from the Big Island?  It’s going to be tough but I’ll let you know the verdict when we return.  Either way, we are the real winners.


Aloha!   Susanne

February Sky

Just before sunset tonight I took a brisk walk in the neighborhood and was reminded again of how much beauty there is in the ordinary everywhere.  I love to travel but if I wasn’t able to I’d be happy knowing that all of this exists outside my door.  Just give me the sky, clouds, trees and sunset and it is enough.

~ Susanne

Office Antics with Benji

Just another day watching TV in the office.

Wonder what he’s so grouchy about?

Better not find out.

– Benji

The mouse had no chance

This is Benji and let me just say it up front, right out loud: I am not a vegetarian.  No, not from my youth.  Neither were my ancestors.  Nor my big brother Tiger.  We are all hunters. If this bothers you then read no further.  I understand. For those who wish to continue, be assured that no blood was actually shed today. Here’s how it went down.

It was a beautiful day with mild temperatures and no rain. Tiger and I were out sporting around, all in good fun. Sue happened upon us just as I found the catch of the day.  Bad timing to say the least. And wouldn’t you know it she accidentally let him escape by picking me up to cuddle at the most inopportune moment. Oh well.  I’m always up for a cuddle.  And I knew I could catch him later. He was not that bright and he was awfully slow.  (Just begging to be caught in fact. No challenge at all.  But I digress.)

When Sue tired of the outdoors, Tiger and I were left to ourselves. As was the mouse. We played in the garden awhile.  Nibbled on the grass.  Chased one another and a few squirrels.  But it wasn’t long until that slow mouse wandered back into the grass and lost all cover.  I pursued for a while. Gently for play.  When Tiger took note and I perceived he wanted a go at him, I said to myself, why not?  What are brothers for?



And so we had some brotherly bonding time today over that mouser until we both tired of him and let him go.  (Honest Sue we did.)

Anyway this kind is not good for eating.

And so I remain,


~ Benji

Morning sky in the woods

I woke up too early this morning and after a few restless hours ventured outside as the sun was peeking through the woods, painting everything with a rosy glow.


Tiger was pleased to join me.

~ Susanne

More than half way there

After a rendezvous with winter earlier this week (was it really only six days ago?)


the rain quickly followed and washed the snow away leaving only heavy clouds by yesterday.

Today the sun emerged victorious giving us a foretaste of spring.  Still cold but perfect for walking so we headed to Gene Coulon Park on Lake Washington, where children played and walkers of all ages joined us on the path. The lucky ones sailed by in their boats.


dsc02937-2Even Mt Rainier made an appearance.


A small reprieve in the dead of winter to give us hope for spring to come.  Be encouraged.  We are more than half way there.

~ Susanne

Hawaii – the beginnings

No, not the beginning of the islands themselves.  (Though you can still witness them grow as molten lava flows into the ocean.)  I’m talking about my own humble beginnings with these wonderful Pacific islands collectively known as Hawaii.

It started sometime after my 20th wedding anniversary when I said to my husband, with a smile on my face and stars in my eyes,  “Isn’t it wonderful that we will celebrate our 25th Anniversary in Hawaii?”

His laughter indicated he didn’t know this to be true at the time.  In fact, I knew my husband had little to no interest in Hawaii, why I do not know. Nevertheless, I continued this prophetic speak when the occasion so warranted, wisely and judiciously until the message was heard; until he deduced from my unabashed hinting that I wasn’t kidding, and yes it may be time for such a trip.

“Honey, if you really want to go, we will go.”

And so my planning began in earnest as we settled on the islands of Oahu and Hawaii  (aka, ‘the big island’) to celebrate our anniversary almost 10 years ago.

I won’t bore you with too many details from that first trip.  (For I have been making up for lost time ever since.) I can only tell you that I was immediately smitten; it was everything I hoped it would be and much, much more. I can find no word more suitable to describe this magical place than Lush. 

Lush.  Hanging vines.  Coconuts. Papayas and mangoes.  Banyan trees. Waterfalls. Rich fragrances of fruits and flowers filling the moist air.



And so while the Seattle winter rains are heavy upon us I am making final preparations for our next trip, the second to the island of Maui. It may be our last, who knows?  But I am so glad I spoke that first trip into being many years ago, by a few simple words.

“Isn’t it wonderful that we will celebrate our 25th Anniversary in Hawaii?”

Yes.  It was.

~  Susanne

via Daily Prompt: Lush

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