gathering good :: 16 march 2017

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A day early this time (or three weeks late, depending on how you’re counting), but lots of links for the easily distractable. Have fun, but don’t forget to go outside.

After seeing the movie Hidden Figures, I think we’re ready for this all female NASA Lego team, don’t you?

Cement factory magic castle is a thing. Kind of breathtaking.

Here’s a lovely longish read: What writers really do when they write.

I have several friends on Facebook who have passed away, yet FB reminds me of their birthdays every year. Is your digital life ready for your death?

I love this…book reviews in 3 paragraphs or less. The Brief Book Reviews blog.

Nope, we didn’t just make it up. The Science of Hangry.

This cracks me up (and yes, it would probably work on me). Repackaging junk food for the hipster crowd.  Heh.

34 books by women of color to read this year. Time to stop talking and start supporting.

These are beautiful. Designer turns Arabic letters into illustrations of their literal meaning (you have to see it to get it).

Finally, we have something new on This is Plan Be, Be the Change postcards. They’re free. Come visit and get a pack of your own for sending or just some inspiration for creative resistance.

See you on the flip side.


Photo by Kim Tackett. Almond orchard in Yolo County.

I’m with her


I’ve been on an accidental and unintentional blogging hiatus. Somehow the combination of winter hibernation, working on Kate’s wedding, working at working, and being a daughter and daughter-in-law didn’t leave room for me to ponder and write about whatever was happening in my brain. I was bored with myself, and didn’t think my thoughts were worth sharing. I’ve been waiting to feel awe-inspired by something so beautiful, charming and delightful that I would instantly feel creative and productive.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

What did happen is that I turned on the GOP debate, and was shocked (I mean SHOCKED) when  he decided to talk about the size of his, well, his manhood. And then I sat, frozen and incredulous, while he mocked everyone who dare question him. I had to remind myself, several times, that this wasn’t a late night TV skit.

It’s our life. And our country. And possibly, our next President.

And this isn’t funny.

Just a few weeks ago I declared my Facebook page a politically free zone. I wasn’t going to bash him (see, I can barely use his name) as I didn’t think it would make a difference, and I didn’t want to offend people.

But he offends me. He offends the office of the President of the United States. He offends all of us. He offends democracy.

I get that people are angry, disenfranchised, and want a change. I get that our system is a mess. I also understand that I may never be as inspired by a President as I have been by Barack Obama. We have a big country and we aren’t aligned, on anything. But I thought we were aligned that the President of the United States was the most respected and respectful office in the country.

Last September, on our trip to Spain, every taxi driver asked us about him. They said they didn’t understand why he hated everyone. We replied that we didn’t understand either, and we assured them that he would go away soon.

At Thanksgiving, Alex, our then 21-year old daughter, asked us to stop making jokes about him. She said he was racist, misogynist and dangerous. We agreed, but I admit, I thought she might be over reacting. Spoiler alert, she was right.

I love being an American. I want to fly my flag with pride. I am proud of how our country is changing, making room for everyone. It’s slow, but it’s happening. My daughters may not see how far we’ve come, but my mother does. And I do.

I’ve watched most of the debates. I have been inspired and educated by Bernie and Hillary. Last night Steve said of John Kasich,  “At least with him, we wouldn’t have to move to Canada.”

Yesterday I went to Hillary’s site and joined her team. I bought a few bumper stickers and buttons. I will stand and fight with her. I will work for her, and I will encourage everyone I know to vote for her.

Is she a perfect candidate? Of course not. Do I have issues with her past? Yes, of course I do. But my daughters will be safer with her in office.  I believe the world will be a better place with her representing our country, than the other choices (though I do appreciate Bernie, and hope there’s a place for him at the table).

I am not afraid of change. But I am afraid of him, and the hate he is amplifying and normalizing. I hope you are, too. Especially if you are a Republican, because we really need reasonable and responsible Republicans to make this democracy thing work.

Our lives depend on it. And others depend on us. My voice and this blog, are my small, but mighty tools. So I am putting them to work and I am going to believe I can make a difference.

By the way, tonight we are binging on Season 4 of House of Cards. Because now Frank Underwood isn’t nearly as scary. I’ll let you know how that works out.




thankful for the golden hour

Thanksgiving morning we drove 1-80 from Davis to Steve’s folks house in Redwood City. Outside of Dixon, from the freeway, I spied the most amazing row of trees, standing guard over the farmland, reddish, with a glowing crown of sunshine. On Friday I convinced Steve to come with me at golden hour, so I could get a closer look and photograph them.

We found them easily, and it turned out, they were nothing special. They weren’t straight, but they weren’t bent in a way that was interesting. They were brown, not red, and they certainly weren’t glowing. We wandered around the back roads, and the most interesting thing I saw was a canal, with the word “canal” stenciled on it.

Finally, he suggested we visit Stevenson Bridge before we lost the sun. He rides over it almost every week and noticed new spray paint on it.  He said, “I think it will surprise you again, you’ll like it.” He was right, as he (almost) always is.

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thankful for trees and other living things

Steve and I left the studio early today. He took a bike ride and I took a walk, and someone else was cleaning our house (for which I am thankful). We did the Thanksgiving dinner prep and drank a bottle of wine. Alex is on an all night train from Oregon and we’ll see her in the morning. We haven’t had Kate home in years…ever since she went to college in Canada. My brother and his wife are with my parents and we’ll be with Steve’s.

Everything is the same, and everything is different. Tonight Steve texted his cousin Kathy for stuffing instruction. She always makes the stuffing in Pa’s pan. This year Steve is adding his Steven spin to it.  Earlier in the evening I sent Kath a message, remembering her mom, Louise, and Aunt Pat, preparing for Thanksgiving at the cabin in Squaw Valley. That was then, but times have changed.

Thankful for memories and family and future. Nature and light. Changes, especially the kind that give us a chance to breathe and remember to be thankful. For what we had, what we have, and for what’s around the bend.

The trees seem a little more vibrant this year, don’t you think?

Thankful for trees, and every living thing today. Amen.

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all I’ve got

This is all I’ve got. I may be in the midst of the longest creative/writing/blogging drought in memory. Nothing horrible, just trouble connecting the dots and keeping up with my brain, which is a messy place right now. So for the moment (or perhaps the month), I will depend on someone else to provide the spark.  It’s not especially profound, but it made me grin. I’ll be back when I can…thanks for hanging with me.



paddle fourth (and why we wear life vests)

We took a four-day weekend to celebrate July 4th, because it made more sense than a 3-dayer (of course it does). We headed to Point Reyes and stayed on Tomales Bay for an adventure of cheese eating, wine drinking, kayaking, kayak capsizing, reading, drawing, writing, lighthouse climbing and viewing, ukulele playing, and bicycling.

Our main event was renting a kayak for 36 hours. What we didn’t count on was a leaky boat that became heavier and more unbalanced as we (coincidentally) paddled further from home. Our three-hour trip turned into six+ hours as we moved into our default problem solving positions…I was certain I was doing something wrong, Steve was upset he couldn’t fix it…as we got more and more frustrated (we were closer to freaking out, truth be told). Finally, we capsized, 100 yards from shore. Thankful for life vests, the dry sack (that held my new iPhone) and each other, we calmly saved our respective SF Giants caps, paddles and the boat…and finally swam to shore. Some folks helped us figure out that the boat was half full with water, which was the problem all along (yay, it wasn’t me!). It took three guys to lift the boat and drain it, and we were still an hour away from the dock. We paddled on, stopped to drain as often as we could, and finally made it. We did go out the next day, and they had their best boat waiting for us (and yes, we got lots of apologies and a refund). We were soon laughing, but it was also kind of cool to keep learning about ourselves and how our default problem solving solutions might possibly be flawed. Also, there’s a reason why people buy their own kayaks…so next time.

The weekend reminded me why I love Northern California (and also my husband, Steve, who really is swell). It looked a little like this.

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holding on and letting go :: remembering pat

The Ram Dass quote, “We are all just walking each other home” helps me when I’m faced with the seemingly impossible challenge of how to live when someone I love is dying. A year ago I had the great honor to walk with Steve’s Aunt Pat. We had a month with her, supporting her son Chris and his wife, Christine, as we all learned how to do this together. After each visit I would write, so I could remember the layers and details of this gift. This is how I process…grief, joy and the act of showing up the best I can. I’ve spent the past 12 months trying to edit this piece to 1,000 words. But some stories don’t fit into a convenient word count, and this is one of them. Thank you for reading. With love and gratitude (and a very full heart), Kim



May, 2014

I’ve never been this close. To cancer, or to death. I’ve always been the one on the other end of the phone. Never the one holding tight as they’re letting go.

It’s quite a remarkable experience. She’s really Steve’s Aunt Pat, but for the past 35 years I’ve also claimed her as my own. Maybe because we’re both troublemakers at heart, I always felt a special connection with her. We loved and enjoyed each other, and always had a wink, a laugh, and most often, a glass of wine, to share.

We’ve been in her home for three days, surprised by how ordinary this feels, as if people do this every day.

Kathy was here for the handoff. It doesn’t seem fair that she already knows how this will go, because she’s done it before. She’s the one we all turn to—who comforts us—as we’re learning how to be the comforters ourselves.

Pat has had two lovely, perfect afternoons, sitting in her patio with her nieces and nephews, telling stories of growing up in San Francisco, skiing at Squaw Valley, births, and a few other deaths. Yesterday her sister-in-law, Liz, gave her a letter, written by her husband and Pat’s brother, Frank, when he was in the service. A letter he wrote to her, his nine-year old sister, postmarked fifty years ago–the same date as his death, just two months ago.

She wants a Catholic funeral, with Kathy singing. And of course, a party afterwards. Russ and Cindy will bring the wine, we promise.

She’s gone through her papers and jewelry, remembering, giving instructions. We sat in bed, and I shared my slide show of every Thanksgiving at her cabin, first meetings with her grand babies, her older, beloved sister, Louise. Five hundred and sixty four slides. It took three sittings to get through them all.

Morphine, applesauce to chase the awful taste, the hum of the oxygen tank, the long tube carrying air to her lungs. Equipment and inhalers, pills and charts for the pills.

She shows us her body, her mastectomy scar from years ago. The tumor that is growing daily, as if it wants to be sure we know it’s the one responsible. She’s amazed and intrigued. And open. She’s so open, it helps us return the favor.

She tells me her tumor doesn’t hurt from the outside. But I have seen it wretch her with pain from the inside. That’s what the morphine is for. That’s what we’re here for.

It’s visible, watching her shed the layers of what was hard…making her load lighter for her journey. She’s had a complex life. More than a few disappointments, and has faced the sorrow of burying her oldest son, Carl B., when he was still a young man. Then her husband, the first Carl, years after he was disabled by a stroke. She’s protected herself, and hasn’t always let us see the soft spots. She’s let a few of us in, but mostly she was the independent one who could do it on her own. She had her own tools, literally. Pat was the strong one who could take care of herself.

Maybe it’s the morphine. Maybe it’s the journey. But we can feel the change.

Yesterday we had an “event” and I’ve never witnessed so much pain. I held her and prayed over her. I have no idea how long it lasted, but we were all grateful when the medicine kicked in and it was over. Three hours later, her recovery felt like a small and welcome miracle.

The tumor seems bigger this morning. She’s tired and a little more wobbly. She’s not eating, but laughed when I had to video chat Steve (who had returned home) to be able to hook up the Nebulizer.

She says, “I am happy. This is working out really well, don’t you think?”

We say, “Well, we are almost ok…but if you’re happy, we’re happy.”

I am so honored to be here. To be this close. To be able to serve her, to be her honor guard.


She’s had some good enough days, some bad days, and a great day. It’s been a week and we’re back. She’s excited to see us, but all of our visiting will be bedside today.

She tries to sit up and I can see it’s harder for her to breathe. She turns away from me and won’t acknowledge what is wrong. I move so I am sitting right in front of her, where I can see what I was hearing. She finally asks for morphine. Steve brings it, along with the applesauce. We don’t take the time for one of her pretty blue dishes and a right-sized spoon. She gets the plastic container, with a soup spoon. We waited too long this time. The medicine doesn’t help. I rub her back…as gently as I can. She doesn’t complain, but asks for more morphine. Steve and I look at each other, and we decide, without speaking, that we will double up for her. She asks how long it’s been. Seven minutes. A very long seven minutes.

And then the pain subsides, I climb into her bed and we watch the Giants game. She tells us about her first marriage, the one that no one talks about.

I realize that out of the 500+ photos I have for her I have none of the two of us, so I ask Steve to take a few. And then I decide to try a selfie with her and my new phone. She’s tickled…I don’t think she’s ever seen one before. She laughs and one photo turns into ten, each one funnier than the last.

When she’s resting I go to her yard and cut a few succulents to bring home. I find a tomato sauce jar and arrange them. She has succulents everywhere, tucked away. I am struck by how healthy they are. I have cut so many, but you can hardly see what’s missing.

We tire her out by five. I leave with my phone and my pictures, and a few new cuttings in an old jar. Also a deep appreciation for the power of morphine.


June, 2014

We had a party for her yesterday. It was to be a surprise 80th birthday party, planned months ago. The venue changed to her backyard, expectations changed, and we all crossed our fingers that she would make it and it would be a good thing.

I made silly coffee filter flower garlands, feeling like I was making 1000 cranes. They seem so irrelevant, but also necessary. If I keep making the flowers, she would make it to the party.

She was even more fragile, as if life had been draining out of her all week. We arrived early to wash dishes, cut flowers, set tables, get ice and beer, visit while it was quiet. Hang the garlands, one for her room, the others for her patio.

Cousins and aunts and uncles arrived. Her sister-in-law, Ellen, from Oregon. Steve’s sister, Sue, from San Diego. Friends from her teaching days. Hugs and just a little awkwardness, and as each took their turn down the hall, following the path made by the oxygen line. This is as it should be, being able to say goodbye.

I don’t know what happened behind the doors. Each person emerged with red eyes, standing to the side quietly, and eventually rejoining the party.

At one point someone asked me to come help her. She was sitting on the side of the bed, trying to stand, agitated and confused. Lynn and I were able to get her back in bed, and we called for Chris. I sat holding her hand and reminded her that Chris was on the other side, holding her, too. She called him by the name of both her son and husband, Carl, and buried her head in his chest. I found Lynn’s hand and somehow we were able to make our way into the hall. We couldn’t do anything, yet we couldn’t move. I got the nurse, and within minutes it was over. Her grandson dove into the room, as only a three-year old can, and we hear her voice…joyful and enthusiastic. “Avery, I am so happy you’re here.”

A few hours later, it was time to say goodbye. I wasn’t leaving the house, but I needed to say goodbye while we both could. I wished Steve were here with me. The nurse was on one side, and Chris was at the foot of her bed. I crawled up onto her bed, and got as close as I could.

I looked into her eyes and wished I could crawl inside of her heart.

I told her, “Pat, we’ve been saying I love you for a long, long time. At every event, every gathering, you would pull me aside and tell me you loved me, that I was special to you, and I was special to Carl. And for the past three weeks, we have said I love you over and over again. You have been special to me, and to my daughters, and to Steve. You have a special place in our hearts and we will think of you and remember you always. So I am going to say again, without crying, I love you. You are special to me.”

She nodded and whispered, “I love you. You are special.”

I kissed her and walked out. I said, “I love you and I’m not crying.”

She said, “I’m not either.”


She died a week after the party. On her sister Louise’s 91st birthday, which is what we all expected. Chris was with her, and said it was the longest 5 seconds of his life.

The last week was much harder. She was in and out. She was confused about what hospice was doing, and thought they had something to help her go. Chris had to tell her she had to do that part on her own.

I felt more empty than sad. But I also felt like it went as well as it could have, relieved that she was still in her home, until the very end.


Chris called Steve and asked if he would do the eulogy. Steve was hesitant and I didn’t understand why. He’s an accomplished public speaker, and this is his role in the family. I said I would help him, that we could do it together.

Later in the week, it was clear that Steve would have a harder time than I expected, though I think he knew, which is why he was hesitant in the first place. I said I could do it…it was in my wheelhouse, I think Pat would be ok with it.

Chris was ok with it too, though I worried that some would wonder why it was me, a niece-by-marriage, jumping into a place that wasn’t mine.

I spent two days writing five minutes of memories. Her joys, Louise, her brothers, her nieces and nephews, her husband, her sons, her cabin. The bear story. And what she found at the end.

“She was at peace with what was behind her, and before her. In her final weeks she was able to give so much love, and in turn, receive our love, and use it for her journey ahead.

Pat showed us that no matter where we are in our own journey, and what preceded this moment, there is always a time and place for discovery, love, joy, and little fun, and especially–most importantly–family.”

I made copies for my father-in-law Vince, who doesn’t hear well, and I wanted him to be able to read along.

It was my gift to her, and to Steve, and Chris and Vince, and the family.


The church was bigger, more beautiful and light-filled than I remembered. Kathy was practicing her singing, and she belonged here. I was in unfamiliar territory.

I walked to the back, circled the lectern, with its giant ceramic bible. I gathered myself. They told me they were changing things, and I would go first, rather than last after communion and Kathy’s song. That was good news, but so soon? Really, so soon?

I saw Steve with the pall bearers. I saw Chris and Christine. I couldn’t talk to him. I just had to stay within myself, so I could do my job. I sat alone on the side, reviewing my lines, imagining Pat chiding me “C’mon Kim, you can do this, you love this stuff.” In my imagination she even winked at me, as she did when we were sharing an across-the-table secret.

Kathy whispered, “You’re talking to Pat, just remember you’re talking directly to her.”

They brought in the casket and I could barely look at it. Steve and I hugged. I could barely look at him, either.

And then it was my turn. The priest introduced me as her niece. Not her niece-by-marriage, but her niece.

My hands shook, but I think my voice was steady. I spoke slowly, and was able to share what I intended. I could hear a few laughs, a few sniffles.

“Pat cherished the stories of our lives, and loved giving us a place to make and share them with each other.”

Steve and I held hands, so tightly, during the mass. We approached communion with our arms crossed over our chest, so we could receive the blessing. Gary had the wine, and I tried to stay with his eyes, and remember this.

Kathy sang. We all cried. I heard Steve sob twice. I saw Vince bent over in grief. In the past two months he has buried his brother and his sister, and we can feel his sorrow.

And then they brought out the incense and the ball swinging over her casket, smoke surrounding her. I thought, “Well, look at you Pat, all of your fancy Catholic stuff…you got it all.” I may have winked.

Steve joined the other pall bearers…his cousins, they have done it so often. For their grandmother, their cousin, Carl, their Uncle Frank, and others. I didn’t watch as they took the casket out of the church.

We followed the hearse up to the cemetery. It was a slow drive. How can it be so slow?

I felt disconnected from the casket and still couldn’t imagine her in there. The cousins stood together, as they removed their boutonnieres and gloves, and placed them on her casket. The man from the mortuary brought us each a flower. We stood in line, everyone in black, sunglasses, flowers in hand…placed them in a row on her casket.

I kissed my hand and touched her. I took an extra second.

One more prayer, then the workers lowered her down. It wasn’t lovely, it was just a job to be done. One of them wore his sunglasses backwards on his head. They do this every day.

Behind us was the grave of her son. Carl B, 1995. I remember how much my heart hurt the day we buried him. Some began walking up the hill, towards his grave. It looked like a movie.

We stood in a circle around him. Chris took off his glasses, and said to us, “I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I feel really lucky right now.”

I think Pat would have loved that we took time for Carl B.

Back at her house, Russ and Cindy opened the wine. Steve and Kathy stayed together in her bedroom. The garland I made for her birthday was still there, I could see the strings of the glue gun hanging like a thread.

His family thanked me for what I did. I told them I was honored. And I was.

And then it was over.


We went to Vince and Adeline’s house, and changed our clothes. We were exhausted, sitting in the living room. We could barely talk…just alone with our thoughts. We heard Adeline fumbling with the phone…returning a doctor’s call. Then we heard her say, “A mass or a tumor, which is it?”

And it starts again.


June, 2015

It’s been a year. My mother-in-law, Adeline became a three-time cancer survivor, but Cindy just finished chemo. We lost Dennis. Kathy lost her mother-in-law, also named Pat. Alex went to Amsterdam, Kate got engaged, Kathy’s grandson, Luke, turned one. Avery and Zeal are bigger. Her house has a new family. Life goes on. But I still have our “selfies” in my phone and they still make my heart break a little, before I remember to laugh.

a trip to chico via the wayback machine

It’s taken me all week to catch up from last weekend. And not because it was so wild, but because it was one of those time warp weekends and my brain just needed a moment to regroup and reset itself. Steve and I went to college, met, married, worked at the Chico News and Review and learned to be adults (relatively) in Chico between 1978 and 1982. We also met people who would help us form our life and world view. Lifelong friends, as we now know.

The excuse was our professor Gregg Berryman’s retirement. Gregg continued to keep all of us connected, long after graduation, and a surprise party was just a small way of repaying him for all he’s done to inspire and influence a few generations of designers.


So there was a party, then ice cream at Shubert’s, and perhaps some wine by the pool. Of course, that would be followed by breakfast with the bald man group. Clearly there was a memo to shave your head, wear a black t shirt and black glasses so people wouldn’t guess you’re almost 60.


And that would be followed by a Sunday morning walk through campus, and visiting the design department. I suspect none of us had been on a campus tour since the first day we visited, over 35 years ago. Alan works for the university and knew every interesting thing that had changed, and shared them all. It was very cool. There may have been shenanigans. There was also a moment when Steve saw that Gregg had displayed his B.B. King poster in his collection of favorite posters. Surprised and honored, both of us. We passed my dorm, and the places where I hung out with my other friends (the ones I made first, truth be told). We passed the tree outside the art building, where I used to wait for my boyfriend with long hair and striped overalls. His name was also Steve (That’s a joke–I dated three Steves in college and Steve Barbaria was the third, but he was the cute artist one and the keeper).

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Of course, we ended at Madison Bear Garden, and each recounted our 21st birthdays, a million years ago. Most of us have children older than we were then.

In the afternoon, Steve and I went on a scavenger hunt to find and photograph all the the houses we lived in. I am sparing you the photos, because they are scary, scary places. I will never again give my daughters a hard time about their choices. Yo mama lived in a few dumps.

The time warp experience wouldn’t be complete without a trip through Bidwell Park…spectacular. Always. We stopped at the spot where we were married, June 30, 1979. The oak tree is huge…and we stood under it and thought about the people who were with us then, but are gone. Twenty of them, at least. Perhaps one of us cried. Two of us kissed. And we had a moment, as we do. Gosh, that’s a good tree.

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There was one more activity planned before we headed home. A trip to the Silver Dollar Fair, to take photos, mostly of the photo booth. You know, I spend a lot of time taking pictures, but most of these friends are professional photographers, and they teach me so much. In fact, I’ve been learning how to see from them for the past 35 years.

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And finally, it ended like this.


We crawled back to our car, and back down the valley to home. Home, where we were grownups (again, a relative term) with a studio and clients, a mortgage and a garden, two daughters, four parents, a past and a future.

Thank you, Chico. And Gregg and Phyllis, Mark and Leslie, Monica, Craig, Tom and Tom and Tom, Alan, Linda, Rose, Anne Marie, and of course a few who weren’t with us, but are part of the group–Alix, Kevin, Gene, Susie, Kathe and Tim. Thank you for letting me into your world of design, and sharing your view with me.

Let’s do it again soon. We’re not getting any younger, you know.