My Husband’s Mother

Six boys in under seven years. The fact that she still has her sanity is proof she has been sneaking bliss.

Everywhere I look, I see evidence of naysayers being cast aside.
Little expressions of what brings her joy are on display in this corner or that.
Mementos from family trips.
Her family wall of portraits, young and old.
A shelf full of children’s books.
Her garden is a masterpiece transformed to greatness by her culinary prowess. Yes, she is that good.
Perhaps the greatest evidence of bliss is a beautiful trillium painting, her painting, hanging in the den.

The most recent picture of us. She graciously tagged along while I was shooting research pictures at San Francisco Zoo. Tim snapped a few shots with his phone.

I treasure her presence in my life. Not only because she is the mother of the man who holds my heart, but the woman to woman wisdom she brings to our relationship is immeasurable. I have benefited greatly from her experience.

It is only fitting that every so often her birthday occurs on Thanksgiving.

Happy Birthday Mom,

“Trillium” by Norma Livingston

Just One More Thing

In 1997, the pastor of our parish asked if I would assist a fellow parishioner named Walt to purchase a computer and learn how to use it.

When I greeted Walt, I recognized him immediately. The previous summer I took a portrait of him with his wife, Ruth. Ruth had Alzheimer’s and wasn’t too keen on me positioning her for the photo. Walt began speaking to her softly, “Now, Ruthy, it’s okay, she is going to take our picture.” She caught his eyes and was immediately calmed. Her eyes danced in the photo. It was obvious to me, there was something special about this man.

With this we began our journey.

Walt had a dairy ranch, much of his computer lessons involved teaching him to enter data on his heard, run reports, etc. Walt is bright and eager to learn new things, so he caught on quickly.

A 30 minute session took 4 hours.

The tech stuff was accomplished in the first and last 15 minutes. The rest, well Walt told stories and if he noticed me looking at the clock, he said, “Just one more thing.”

And so our routine was born. I started planning for the longer visits. In time, he needed no assistance with his computer, but we went through the motions anyway.

We all need story tellers and Walt is a master.

Little by little I learned of his youth. I learned of his days in WWII. Which roses in the yard he liked the most and about stray voltage in the barn.

Sgt. MatthewsPhoto from the Walter Matthews collection

Sgt. Matthews
Photo from the Walter Matthews collection

I laughed and cried when he shared stories of his daughter, Pat. She was the light of his life and brought much joy to Walt and Ruth. Pat died at 37 from primary biliary cirrhosis.

Not long after that Ruth was stricken with Alzheimer’s. For many years, Walt cared for her every need. The kind of care not born of obligation, but born of love.

A few years after Ruth passed, Walt was blessed with another chance for a love in his life and Bee came into his heart and ours.

Bee and Walt, just after Valentine's Day 2008.

Bee and Walt, just after Valentine’s Day 2008.                               Photo by MaryALivingston

Every once in a while, we still sneak a morning together and a cup of tea. We make no pretenses of caring for the computer, the time is ours to enjoy the stories and share a little bliss.

If you ever have the occasion, ask Walt to brew a cup of tea and tell you a story.

Your life will be richer for it.

I love you Walt,

Happy Birthday

The two of us. Photo by Bernice Bennett (Bee)

The two of us. Photo by Bernice Bennett (Bee)

Hidden Beauty

Camera shy people never cease to amaze me. The lengths they go through to avoid the lens are impressive. As is the case with our daughter-in-law, Amanda. Most attempts to capture her on film end like these two shots.
dont-shootHowever, if we are sneaky and distract her with finger painting or puppies, we can catch her in a moment.

The finger paints were for our grand-daughter. Much to our surprise and delight...Amanda and Stephen enjoyed them the most.

The finger paints were for our grand-daughter. Much to our surprise and delight…Amanda and Stephen enjoyed them the most. photo MLivingston

Puppies serve as a perfect distraction to capture her beautiful smile. Along with our grand-daughter, she enjoys the pups. The one she is petting will grow up to be the sire to her dog.

Puppies serve as a perfect distraction to capture her beautiful smile. Along with our grand-daughter, she enjoys the pups. The one she is petting will grow up to be the sire to her dog. – photo MLivingston

If an official shot is required and she will gladly be in the frame with someone she loves. She is all smiles.

This is perhaps one of my favorites. I was so surprise how easy it was to take her picture for their wedding invitation.

This is perhaps one of my favorites. I was so surprised how easy it was to take her picture for their wedding invitation. – photo by MLivingston

The most interesting thing about camera shy people is they are often the ones behind the lens. I think Amanda’s awareness of the discomfort the lens brings to others gives her sensitivity when she shoots portraits. Amanda is a gifted photographer.  No, it is not her day job, but a visit to her Lightly Spiced Photography by A Adams  Facebook page reveals her eye for composition, lighting and attention to a shot’s emotion. I hope you visit and see what she is up to.

I enjoy the portraits she takes. My favorites, of course, are the ones of our GrandThings.

Keep smiling and keep shooting –

Happy Birthday, Amanda
We Love You!

In Search of Dirt

GrandThing 3 sets out to find dirt.

GrandThing 3 sets out to find dirt.

There are defining moments that burn themselves onto our internal processors. I remember vividly four years ago, today,  the moment he popped into this world all wet and shiny new. But in my mind’s eye, he will forever be the little boy in search of dirt.

When he visits, he inevitably is drawn to his daddy’s old Tonka toys. So it was, one spring day. With a lot of rain, the wild grasses and weeds had taken over the fields. What this little boy really needed was dirt.
Nothing more.
Nothing less.
Just dirt.
He spent the better part of the afternoon dragging the backhoe and tractor around, looking for a proper place to put them to work.  Alas, he spies a pile of decomposed granite.


Happy Birthday GrandThing Three!

Bliss! perfect dirt for play.

Bliss! perfect dirt for play.

Fishing with Grandpa

Fishing with Grandpa – The Forester Artist

Showing off his catch. This one went back after the photo.

Showing off his catch. This one went back after the photo.

GrandThing 3 tells Grandma all about his painting.

GrandThing 3 tells Grandma all about his painting. “He caught grasshoppers with Grandpa and they caught a fish.”

The Duckel’ing

One soppy morning, on our way to the hen house to gather chicken eggs, my oldest granddaughter was just the right height to spot movement in the tall stasis near the duck pen.

“Grandma, what’s that? Something moved.”

It caught my attention about the time she finished speaking. A newly hatched duckling was attempting to get back into the duck pen. On the other side, floating lifeless in the water was another newly hatched duckling. The pen was not a safe place for the hatchlings. I quickly rescued the living duckling and wrapped it in my top against my belly to keep it warm.

“Is it okay? Is the duckel’ing okay?”  GrandThing1 was very worried.

We hurried back to the house where we gathered a storage bin, some rags and a heat lamp. When the makeshift brood box was ready, I slipped the little bird from under my top. Thing1-ducklingMy granddaughter’s eyes widened as she raised her delicate little hands in an open cup to receive the tiny baby.

“Oh, Grandma, it’s so cute. Hello, baby duckel’ing.” Reassured by her soft little voice, the duckling settled in. She cuddled it close.

“What will it eat?” She leaned over and whispered into her hands, “Are you hungry? Grandma, the duckel’ing is hungry.”

I dialed Grandpa’s cell and held the phone to her so she could leave a message.

Grandpa, we need food for the baby duckel’ing.”

We placed the feathered baby into its brood box. GrandThing1 announced, “The duckel’ing needs a nap.” Off she rushed to where she napped during her visits.
Thing1readsI heard rustling, a little bit of grumbling, then, “Here it is!” Back she came with her favorite nap time storybook. She seated herself so the duckling could hear. Her little voice did not miss a beat retelling her memorized tale.

“Brown bear, brown bear…”

The Duckel'ing as she remembers. Of course now she says "duckling" it has been many birthdays since this event. We will always remember the "duckel'ing."

The Duckel’ing by GrandThing1. Of course now she says “duckling” it has been many birthdays since this event. We will always remember the “duckel’ing.”

Happy Birthday GrandThing1


GrandThing1 draws pictures for Grandma in a hangout.

GrandThing1 and Grandma draw pictures together  in a hangout.

I Don’t Do Princess

Our grandchildren love for us to carry them to bed after story time. Such was the case on this particular visit.

T2, our second granddaughter, wanted me to carry her this time, instead of Grandpa.

She says, “Grandma, carry me.”

Pleased to have the honor, I approach with arms out.

“Grandma, carry me,” she repeats. “Carry me like a princess.”

Princess? Really? Princess? Anyone who has read my posts, especially Wedded Bliss, can ascertain – I don’t do princess.

I gently leaned down and tenderly said, “Grandma doesn’t do princess.”

Well, she stood very tall, placed her hands on her hips, cocked her tiny head to the side, peered at me through her brow and in a pleasant, encouraging voice not matching her stern posture said, “Grandma, you can try.”

Princess it is.

One of Thing2’s art pieces displayed on The Repository of Bliss.

Happy Birthday GrandThing2

Catching Bliss

Have you ever noticed that children left to their own devices will gravitate toward an activity to capture bliss?
No one has to tell them to use a crayon to draw upon the walls or that when paper tears it makes a cool sound. They are fully capable of finding these pleasures all on their own.

Curiosity and discoveries fill their hearts and open the world.

Our youngest was the most prolific scribbler of walls. He loved to draw on paper, but what he relished most was a simple wall canvas.
What must have gone through his mind when I grumbled while cleaning the walls before selling the house?

I hope he knows we saved his paper art. He must, because in his home, his children have an art table at the ready for spontaneous creations.

So today, as we celebrate his birthday, we can only speculate what wonders of bliss his children will reveal to their dad and mom.

Happy Birthday Stephen
With love,

– By Stephen Livingston (age 5 years)


9-11 Birthdays

Tim brings me coffee every morning. Our morning time has developed a routine, we watch the news and like most great friends, our best conversations solve the ills of the world before we set about our day.

The day started as most others; Tim crossed the living room with a steaming cup of hot coffee. His eyes reflected his flirty smile.
As he began to speak, I noticed his distraction to the news feed.

“Happy birthd… the towers are on fire.”

We turned up the volume just as the second plane hit.
Everyone remembers where they were, what they were doing on September 11, 2001.

People are born everyday; odds are we all share our date of birth with an unpleasant event of some sort or another.  For me, for my niece, and for countless others, 9-11 is our birthday.

Life is a balance.  Good things and bad things happen everyday. I hope for those of us with a 9-11 birthday, that we strive for good, that we strive for balance.
As I give thanks for the blessings in my life, I offer prayers for those lost and those who still mourn.

May we all celebrate life and bring a little bliss into the lives we touch.

Odd Duck

I was different.

One of the boys grabbed the snake from her cage, she bit him. He dropped her and she quickly hid behind textbook boxes. The kids all stepped back. When I reached into the six-foot boa’s hiding place, she calmly slid into my hand. We became friends. It was the first week of school, I turned 11 that week. I liked drawing pictures, racing bikes, climbing trees, snakes, and math. I was an odd duck.

In all fairness, I understand her perspective. The program instructor from Seed Planted 4. When the program instructor told me that I was not good at art, that I should focus on math and science. I was crushed. She did not do this to be mean, she was trying to help me. The circumstances were such:
I lived in a poor community.
I was from a poor family.
I did not have a good home life.
I had a high math and science aptitude.

The instructor viewed math and science as my way out of cultural poverty. This was back in the days, those unenlightened days, of girls don’t like math. I was an odd duck. I liked math and was good at it. The numbers just made sense. So when she announced that I had a class where I could learn anything, I said, “I want to learn to draw,” my request did not sit well with her plan for my future.

Truth be told, I don’t think she relayed the message from the expert who looked at my art. I did not receive direct feedback. It came from the instructor, not the source, and the instructor had an agenda.

The saving grace for growing up. My favorite teacher. My grandparents.

Art finds a way in, no matter the path we take.
When the front doors are closed, we may just find a back door left ajar and have a chance to sneak bliss on the naysayer’s watch.

Kids – the original backdoor artists

Many parents have stories of various hidden locations where their child’s art had to be removed when preparing to move from one home to another. I believe this was the sole inspiration for the product Mr.Clean® Magic Eraser®.

Children seem to sneak creating art wherever they can.
On the wall.
In the closet.
Under the bed.
The backsides of doors.
On the inside of clothing drawers.
On toys like wooden blocks and trains.
And my personal favorite… on their siblings.

To a child, any surface is a canvas. Kids are naturally backdoor artists, sneaking a little bliss even when they know it’s a “no, no.” I ponder this thought, because today is my eldest son’s birthday. Framed, on my office wall are creations from when he and his brother were little.

Hot Air Balloon

by Chris Livingston (age 5 years, 11 months)

He continues his creative aspirations, sneaking in art while programming games and apps.

Happy Birthday Chris.
With love,