My Town Monday: Trees of Remembrance

Surrounded by Susie Tree tags, Nancy works on her journal

I met Nancy eleven months ago when I went on a Creativity Retreat.  Unlike a majority of the women there, she wasn’t quilting, nor was she sewing or scrapbooking.

I was curious about her creative pursuits and walked over to meet her.

Nancy MacKerrow keeps a daily journal, writing a few lines about her experiences that day and then sketching out something that spoke to her artistic heart. I was impressed by her talent and her determination to not allow the days to pass unheeded. But Nancy doesn’t just keep a journal; she also creates miniatures that make me wish I could have had her for a grandmother. (I would have had a fabulous dollhouse!) She showed me the walls and windows that she had just set aside in favor of her ultimate labor of love.

While cutting strips of brown paper bags — strips that will become tags to hang on trees — Nancy told me about the trees that she began planting after the tragic and untimely death of her daughter, Susie, at the age of 36.

Tags for Susie Trees, ready to receive wishes

The tree tags are biodegradable, made from paper shopping bags, written upon by people at the tree plantings, then hung on the branches of the tree for all to see. Time and weather fade the written wishes and eventually the tags will disintegrate but the thoughts remain as the trees grow.


The Susie Forest bracelet that I made for Nancy on Saturday — a small gift to show how her story has touched my own heart. Wooden beads represent trees, with leaves growing between every two hearts.

Time has taken the roughest raw edges from grief, but pain is still clearly evident in Nancy’s voice when she talks of losing her daughter. I spoke with Nancy again this past Saturday.

Susie Stephens, an activist for the rights of pedestrians and bicyclists, was killed in 2002 — while legally crossing the street in a crosswalk — when she was hit by a bus in St. Louis, Missouri.  The tragic irony is not lost on me.

What began as a single memorial tree to be planted in Susie’s honor rapidly became a project with a purpose for retired librarian Nancy MacKerrow. She has found comfort and purpose planting trees in Spokane, Washington, and around the world in an initiative known as the Susie Forest and described in her website of the same name (

Nancy says, “The good that has come after Susie’s death is that I have found a purpose and joy in life even without her. I feel her presence at every tree planting, and she lives on in this good work.”

She added, “Once I began planting trees I didn’t want to stop.”

In one of her articles, Nancy describes a plaque with these words:

Dedicated to Susie Stephens
4/16/65 – 3/21/02
whose work and joyful enthusiasm moved people to positive action.

I would add that those words also describe her mother, Nancy MacKerrow.

The Susie Forest

A Susie Tree in a Spokane city park — please “click on pic to embiggen”

That “forest” of trees has grown from a one-woman project to honor and memorialize her daughter, by planting trees on her birth date and death date, to a world-wide planting of trees for a variety of occasions including memorial trees, birthday trees, retirements, and reforestation projects.  This isn’t just a passing phase for Nancy MacKerrow; she has been busily planting and dedicating trees every year since 2003. In 2011 alone, there were 111 trees planted for the Susie Forest! These trees are not only planted in Spokane or Washington State. There are Susie Forest trees in Japan, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Australia, New Zealand, Afghanistan, and Iran.  In early August of this year, a Susie Tree was planted in Ottawa, Canada.

I’m hoping that one of my Canadian friends will visit Sherry Lane Park in Ottawa to take pictures of the Susie Tree there. Please let me know if you do!

recent birthday wishes in the Susie Forest

I have searched out and photographed Susie Trees in two of our local city parks, plus a Susie Tree near the library where Nancy formerly worked, but there are many, many more trees for me to find.

[click to embiggen any picture]

You can find Susie Trees all over the world.

Queen Mary Susie Tree planting, photo courtesy of Nancy MacKerrow

If you are interested in planting a tree for the Susie Forest in your area, please contact Nancy at

To find out more information, you can check out the Susie Forest website or facebook page. Additionally, this link will take you to an article that Nancy MacKerrow wrote for an urban forestry website.

A bookmark with a picture of Susie and one of her journal entries from her own travels:
“Today’s lesson: If you don’t like where you are, pedal.”


I owe SnakeMaster (my 13yo son) a treat. He found the the perfect place for our umbrella-style clothesline dryer: the metal-capped “hole” for the cylindrical post. It was under the portable fireplace.  (Apparently, we prefer to allow the portable fireplace to rust in place.)

Yes, we have lived here for more than a year. I’ve managed to get the summer laundry dry by spacing out the loads and using a single clothesline stretched across the backyard. It’s actually my preferred method for drying most of our laundry, but there are some unmentionables that I’d prefer to not have on display for the man next door. Hanging them on the inner lines of the umbrella-style clothesline, surrounded by t-shirts or pillowcases on the outer lines, makes me feel like I am a little less on display. It’s all about how I choose to air my dirty clean laundry.  😉
So I’m grateful for clotheslines that we installed and clotheslines (and a certain hole in the ground) that came with the house and the boy who found that “hole.”

Today I am playing along with Thematic Photographic, a photo meme hosted by Carmi. This week’s  theme is GROUNDED.

There’s plenty to be thankful for in this season of transition. Sometimes you don’t have to look any further than your own backyard — especially if you have a husband who gardens. (I’m lucky that way.♥)

Butternut Squash

The end of summer means the end of fresh rhubarb. I think I can get one more pie out of these pink beauties.

the chopping block

Autumn around here means that the chopping block has seen a lot of action. The ground is covered with wood chips and the shed is filling up with logs that have been cut to fit the wood stove. I’m thankful for my husband; he has made sure that we will be warm this winter.

I’m also thankful for Janet, who suggested that I get down on the ground for T.P. inspiration this week! My knees are nearly dry now.   🙂

Ten on Tuesday: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

  1. Central Washington is still burning.
  2. It hasn’t been too bad here (current air quality is “moderate:) but other places are suffering some really awful air quality.
  3. What we are getting here are incredible skies at the beginning and end of each day: tangerine and pink suns at sunset, yellow moons hanging low in the sky.
  4. This morning, H-J called me from the bus stop to report a RED sun! I threw on a jacket and sandals and walked out to the park to see for myself. By the time I got there, it was higher in the sky and actually neon orange.
  5. I hope it isn’t bad for my eyes to stare at such a sight. The smoke made it possible… but probably not advisable.
  6. My camera is incapable of capturing such images. I tried.  And tried.
  7. Did I mention that I wore my pajamas to the park? I’m classy like that.
  8. I was so focused on things like 3 cups of morning coffee and neon sun to realize that the 13yo had not gotten up and gone to school. I woke him 5 minutes after he should have left the house. Therefore, I also drove him to school in my same attire: pajamas, fleece jacket, and sandals.
  9. That stack of decorative edging bricks in the garage needs to move out of my path. I rammed my 4th toe into them in the process of taking SM to school this morning. (My toenail now looks like it’s been painted red.) How I made it through the entire summer without injury is sort of baffling.
  10. We are a few months away from our 25th wedding anniversary. I asked SuperDad what he wanted to do — he suggested going out to dinner at a nice restaurant. Please help me come up with something better than that! It can’t be expensive, though; he keeps telling me that we’re broke. (He’s been telling me that for 25 years.)

My Town Monday: Creativity Abounds

I like My Town Monday posts because they give me that little push to become a tourist in my own city.

I will refrain from ranting about how the construction of the freeway split and destroyed entire neighborhoods. Today, I am focusing on how people chose to take something ugly and turn it into a canvas for art.

From murals painted on highway and railroad underpasses…

… to surprising finds on stairwells.

Anything can become ART.

Should we make some of these for our backyard?

Of course, one should always check out the park:

Bloomsday racers

Sometimes art is created by paid professionals.

Even without water, this fountain is beautiful.

Art should be shared with others. It is not something to be hoarded.

Creativity can be found everywhere.

I’ve even read that there are classes downtown, held every first and third Friday evenings, where a person can learn to paint while drinking! It’s true: a local artists’ group (“Van Gogh and Merlot”) hosts events where they teach you to paint a classic piece of art while sipping local wine.

Do you find art in creative places where you live? Tell me about it!

Dear Mechanic: My motivator is broken

It happens a couple times each year. Triggered by a change of season or calendar, I wonder,

“Who am I?”
“Am I who I want to be?”

And while I suppose that I am who I am — no more, no less — something digs at my psyche and pokes at my conscience, making me wonder if I am missing out on some important link in the chain of my life.

I always wanted to be a SAHM. This dream (and the fact that it became a reality) possibly annoyed both of my parents — after all, I was raised during the height of the feminist movement and my mother followed her heart to a career outside the home. I can imagine that my desire to be the antithesis, the stay-at-home-mom, might have seemed like an affront to my mother. My dad wanted me to get a college education and use it. Both of my parents were workaholics, putting in 60-70 hour work weeks. It wasn’t meant as an insult, but I did want for my kids some of the things I didn’t have: a parent who was there for them after school being one of those things.

I thought I would be a Kool-Aid Mom, the kind of mom whose yard and house were open to her kids’ friends. Images of happy neighborhood kids enjoying time together while the mom brings out refreshments (that didn’t cost a fortune, so it was simple to feed the masses) are perpetuated by advertisements on TV and women’s magazines.  However, I discovered that I often disliked the chaos brought by other people’s children. The arsenic hour is bad enough within ones own family, but adding other kids could either bring on a cranky evening or a migraine. I was shocked to discover that I wanted boring peace & quiet, not the constant lively activity of loud, happy children. Perhaps, then, it is a good thing that all four of my sons prefer to be quiet homebodies and the friends they have made throughout their childhood years have also been quiet kids. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing — but it sure isn’t what I pictured in my younger years.

As a single person, I enjoyed getting together with other people. Loud parties weren’t ever really “my thing” but I did enjoy time spent with other people, talking over dinner & wine or a couple of hours of discussion at dollar pitcher night. I still enjoy these things and I am making more of an effort to see them happen now that the kids are older. (Diaper days put a bit of a crimp in certain activities.)  Since I am married to an introvert, my social activities are rarer than I’d like and most often accomplished by leaving my man at home. It’s not how I imagined life but it seems to be a decent compromise.

I like to think of myself as a creative person. I appreciate art. In my mind, I can paint and dance and sing. (In reality? Not so much.)  I fall in love with creative endeavors the way a young teenage girl crushes on the handsome foreign exchange student: suddenly wanting to know everything about this new pursuit and diving in without regard for the realistic consequences. (Realistically, he smiles at everyone, she can’t speak his language, and she is too young to even ask him to the Sadie Hawkins dance.)  Okay, maybe that is a poor analogy, but I am quite good at falling in love with a new pursuit. Once introduced to stamping, I spent the next few months attending Stampin’ Up! parties and buying up cardstock, ink and stamps, along with other paraphernalia “necessary” to produce beautiful cards.  This was after a stint of learning to cross-stitch and after a series of other crafts that involved acrylic paints (long ago dried out), but before I fell in love with scrapbooking. Just like a crush, I fall into these creative pursuits with abandon. I have boxes and shelves full of supplies: papers, stamps, albums, and special tools to use with each of them, but for the much of the time, they sit unused. My creative supplies are mostly just that: supplies.  Next to my cluttered desk is a basket filled with yarn, knitting needles, and a crochet hook — all doomed to gather dust.
Alone, I lack gumption and creativity — and in the case of the yarn, I also seem to lack a great deal of coordination and ability.

Or perhaps it is simply that my motivator is broken. 

It’s fall here in my corner of the Pacific Northwest, with warm days and cool nights. In the past week, I have noticed the tinge of color in the trees, changing rather rapidly from summer green to autumn gold. Hints of red mix with the yellow and brown that glaze what was once a palette of green.

I’ve got a list of projects to attack: Christmas gifts to create, craft supplies to weed and organize (a project that is a hold-over from last year — consider this a shameful confession), and more than a few years of photographs to scrapbook and journal.

Intentional Observation: Just Do It!

My Town Monday, Weekend Reflections, Almost Wordless Wednesday, Pink Saturday, Thematic Photographic, and the [now sadly defunct] Weekly Words Challenge… what do these have in common? They are all photo memes. Some of them I participate(d) in on a regular basis, most of them are now a game of hop-scotch for me: enjoyable and fun, but  my husband easily becomes jealous of my computer time  I often find that there is too much going on in a regular day or week to take the time needed to swing a different direction and join a playground game instead of passing on by and it drives my husband nuts when I slow down our walks with the taking of pictures.

passing on by in the Palouse

One of the things I like about photo memes is the impetus to go on a photo hunt, to look at the world in a different way… really, just to Observe. It is so very easy to go through life in a pattern of our own making, to check off our daily lists and never willingly deviate from what is most comfortable.

Kelle Hampton wrote about this on her blog, Enjoying the Small Things.

It takes intentional observation, the freedom to snap the picture, the desire to explore further — the mental and physical energy to Just Do It! And of course, the all-important remembering to actually carry a camera with you and pull it out at the right moments.

30, 20, 11


It was a time of innocence, a time of wonder, a time before I knew my husband… but 30 years ago, this day was celebrated by a young couple and their families. Happy 30th anniversary to my SIL and her husband! They were just starting out married life together thirty years ago, rapidly followed by starting their family. Now they have the joy of 3 married offspring and 6 grandkids (I’m counting the one due in January).


We had a bit of trouble choosing a name for this one, but as soon as we held him, we knew what his name should be…. and luckily, his 16-1/2 month old brother could almost say it, too. 

On Saturday, we drove down to the university to take him out for a birthday meal. He’s not a teenager anymore.

Happy 20th birthday, Encyclopedia Blue!

EB at the farm last month with his cousin’s daughter


It was a Tuesday morning, with beautiful, clear, early fall weather in many places: El Paso, Texas, where I was living, was one of them. It was EB’s 9th birthday, although we had celebrated with a party & friends on Sunday afternoon (something for which he has always been grateful). We woke up to breaking news on the radio, then ran to the living room to turn on the TV. It couldn’t be true… but it was…

Alan Jackson’s poignant song is one that never fails to make my eyes tear up.

Four planes, 3 buildings, 2 cities, 1 Pennsylvania field…
Nearly 3,000 people died in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

9/11 Memorial, Staten Island

Pentagon Memorial

“Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?”

Who do you call?

Glennon from Momastery posed this question recently:

“Who do you call when your parents are gone? Who do people call who don’t have parents waiting to celebrate every tiny and big thing?”

This question got me thinking.
Hard thinking.
Deep Questioning.

Because I don’t have this luxury of calling my parents. My mom has been gone for more than a year now and my dad… well, it’s complicated.. he’s in assisted living and very far away. The telephone is not easy for him or for me. When I want to share something with my dad, I write it in a short letter and mail it to him (preferably with a picture of at least one of his grandchildren).

So the question remains:

Who do you call when you don’t have parents waiting to celebrate every tiny and big thing?


Another thing: If you ever wondered what addiction feels like to an addict, you should go read this post, also from Glennon.