Dakota Love

Dakota sleeps

You may remember we acquired a dog back in August. She’s a black German 4-year-old shepherd named Dakota. She’s got a ton of energy. A few issues have cropped up. She doesn’t like new people much. Like, at all. She barks at them, teeth bared, a ridge of black fur standing up in the middle of her back. She’s 60 pounds of protective rage. Men get her unvarnished wrath, especially if they’re wearing ball caps and hoodies, which covers 90% of Shelton males. We propose someone, long ago, beat her regularly. This mystery man shaded his visage with a ball cap and wore hoodies as a staple in a damp climate.

Zac, who collects hoodies, received a villain’s welcome when Dakota first met him. He didn’t want to be around her. She guarded us from Zac, the interloper. I passed Zac a hot dog and he was able to dilute her hatred, one fleshy chunk at a time. Now, she loves him. Her joy to see him – or any of us of the inner sanctum – is genuine. She wags her tail, jumps around and rubs against us, seeking hugs and pets.

“I love how happy she is,” Zac commented the other day, rubbing Dakota’s back as she wriggled in ecstasy, amber eyes filled with adoration.

It’s rather beautiful, and has made our house feel like a home. I want to be like that. You see the bumper stickers:



It sounds like…

Do everything without complaining or arguing – Philippians 2:14

Is Dakota perfect? No. She finds stray Kleenex and shreds it. This creates a random sort of indoor snowfall. She fishes, ahem, kitty roca out of the cat box. She loses her cool with Rex, who hisses and takes swipes at her every chance he gets. She drops her muddy, sopping tennis ball wherever she pleases. This leaves a round, grungy splatter on the carpet or wood floor. Or better yet, she loses all of her baker’s dozen of balls in the yard. Someone has to go help her hunt up at least 2 in order to keep her calm.

But we don’t love her any less for all these transgressions. We’re working on the “meeting new people part, letting her know *we* decide who is initiated and who is excluded. Rex is a goober and I’m not getting in the middle of that relationship. We can keep things picked up better so she doesn’t form her own weather pattern. Her joy in everyday living inspires us to see the world with gratefulness.


Taking Flight, Part 2

Concordia's crestWe dropped Zac off at college this weekend. All the parent orientation sessions – and there were several – spoke of community and love. Your son or daughter won’t fall through the cracks, they said over and over. How that comforted this anxious mother’s heart. Heck, I wanted to attend Concordia. It seems such a safe place to question, think and grow. Plus, no dress code.

Concordia program

Of course, all that kindness and care isn’t cheap. It ended up costing us a bit more, even after tuition remission. We picked up hand towels and hand soap and a desk lamp. We drove past mom mom’s old house on Ainsworth, right in the Concordia neighborhood. We found our old red house on Killingsworth, now with 6-foot fence and overgrown shrubbery. Zac lived there for 3 years. He played soccer in the grassy backyard and nibbled blueberries, staining his face blue. We bought soap and mechanical pencils and spiral notebooks. We ate Pizzicato pizza and bought $800 worth of textbooks for $400 (thanks, Powell’s!). Sticker shock dulled some of the impending sadness of leaving Zac behind.

Zac's dorm room

Zac, for his part, was nervous. He chattered about the lack of trucks in Portland. “Where are they?” he wondered. We told him Portland’s bent is less truck-centric, at least in the city limits. He marveled at traffic and the price of homes.

“I can’t believe that this little house is $650,000,” he said of a one-story home on a slightly larger corner lot in a desirable neighborhood. Location, location, location still holds true, especially in Portland.

We explored the dorm with him. The high-efficiency laundry room held a dozen behemoth washing machines and 8 dryers. I looked for the slot to insert quarters. The machines take debit and credit cards now. It’s 75 cents to wash and 50 cents to dry. Times have changed, and washing clothes no longer takes change.

Zac's hallConcordia's crest

We hung around as long as we could, attended all the meetings. We drove Zac to pick up a few more necessities. Finally, we took photos outside his hall.

Zac at collegeZac and us

We hugged and told him we were proud of him. Then we drove away. He’s never been away from us except for a short stint in 5th grade outdoor school. He has a steep learning curve ahead. It’s time for independence, sweet boy. You got this.

Taking Flight

Today, we take Zac to college. How did we get here?!

We’re still unpacking from the complete move-in last weekend. As Jonathon sorted through boxes, he came across this

Toddler Zac


Zac’s about 18 months old in this photo. Those chubby red cheeks produced darling dimples. His blue eyes filled with wonder at each new discovery. “Mom! The moon!” How many times did we go to Alberta Park and chase everyone else’s balls (even slimy doggie ones), or attempt science experiments, or talk about video games and politics? Where is the boy whose favorite color was red and had a need for speed?

In this last year of high school, he made some good friends. They’ve hung out a few times this summer. Zac, a non-driver, pitched in on expenses. “Mom, food is expensive!” They drove to Ocean Shores and played mini-golf. They bowled. His two friends will attend community college. Zac is the only one going away.

I’m plagued with all the parenting baggage. Did we do enough? Will Zac be able to make it on his own? He can do his own laundry, but what about time and money management? And holding down a regular job? All of that remains to be seen.

But maybe it’s as it should be. Baby bird won’t know if it can fly until it takes to the air. It can’t know ahead of time if it will make it. Mama bird must stand aside while pushing her baby out of the comfort of the nest. There is no shortcut to growing up.

And so I will stand aside, praying and encouraging. I know Zac has it in him. We’re so proud of him. He only needs to unfurl his wings.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. – Philippians 1:6

Stress Test

Zac grad

Zac graduated from high school 3 days ago. I am still processing it. He’s going headlong into adulthood. Where did the time go?! We’re so proud of his achievement and drive to finish.

I went for a short run today. I’d planned to swing some bells, but the sunrise with Mt. Rainier backlit and peeking above a cloud ring lured me outside. With the gibbous moon somewhere behind my left shoulder, I took off. The pale blue sky held a few clouds to both east and west. We’re supposed to get rain tomorrow. But that’s a day away. Today, the sun shines in the treetops and the birds sing.

As I plodded along, I considered the last 4 months. We sold our house. We moved. I quit working. Zac graduated. Other changes not listed in this blog have impacted us as well.  Curious, I looked up the Homes-Rahe Stress Inventory List. For those not in the know, it ranks major life events and gives them a point value, i.e., a stress level. I perused the list and added up the changes in the last year, with some yet to come. I’m smack dab in the second tier at 254 points.

As I read the list, I noticed that good things cause stress, too. Everyone experiences major holidays, right? Those merited 12 points altogether. The creators had listed “vacation” and “pregnancy” and “marriage”. Even “outstanding personal achievement” can cause strain on us. Thank God pregnancy isn’t on my list.

With my coveted position in the second tier, they forecast a 50% chance of a health breakdown in the next 2 years. Isn’t it great to have something to look forward to? Geez. I have no intention of letting it all get to me. That’s what time in prayer, worship and the word, plus running and good fun with friends and family will help to mitigate. Oh, and chocolate. God is fully aware of all these changes and knew about them long before they ever appeared on the horizon. Soon enough, all these variations will simply be the reality. I can’t wait to see the good coming out of them all. Jesus remains our constant in a sea of change.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  – Hebrews 13:8


Spring Change

life change


I apologize. It’s like I fell off the face of the earth.  I didn’t. I needed some time to think…and run. Last week, I resigned from my position with the City. It was a tough decision. I love those people. Shelton has many dedicated, talented public servants. Ultimately, it was the right thing to do. I wasn’t the best fit for the job. Someone else will be.

It’s felt like a free-fall, because I don’t know what’s next. I want to thank all of those who have supported me. Most of them won’t see this. But you have no idea how your texts, phone calls, emails and real time conversations have encouraged me and helped me to dream again. I keep running into ladies I haven’t seen in months, or really talked to in years. It’s like God has been saying, “See? You are loved. I’ve got you.”

The threads of my old life beckon. Writer’s group. Kettlebells. Blogging. Coffees and lunches with friends, no time limit attached to them. I relish the opportunity to breathe and reconnect with my kids and husband. I’ve missed them so much. Both of the kids will transition into new phases of life come fall. Zac heads off to college in August. Ruby will enter middle school in September. I’m savoring these moments before it all changes.

For now, I’m downshifting into home life. I thank God He holds the future and knows all the bends in the road. Right now, I can see all the way to the horizon. I’m looking forward to what’s next.

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams. – Psalm 23:1-2

Got Tuesday?


I awoke with a start. What was that? I listened. I looked around the dark bedroom. Something moved in the carport below me. Or was it in the eaves next to me? I listened again. It was in the eaves. Some animal planned to move in. I could hear scrabbling and scraping.

My watch said 4:30 a.m.

No use trying to fall back to sleep. I got up and got going.

The day progressed normally. Jonathon was down in Portland for the day, so I needed to take both kids to school. I drove Zac in. We talked about the new classes he has this semester. Myths and Legends piqued his interest.

“Mom, she’s only covering Greek and Roman legends.”


When I got home, I walked toward the back door. I heard a hissing noise.

“Mom!” Ruby said. “Your tire has a hole in it!”

Yes, indeed. Either that or a large invisible snake suddenly moved into the chassis. Anyway,now what? I already cleared coming in late with my bosses. Guess I’d be a little later.

Did I mention I don’t know how to change tires? Yeah. After filling Jonathon in on the problem, he suggested calling Dad or my brother. But the mechanic I work with was closer and already at work. He agreed to help me.

“Ruby, we’re walking to school today,” I said. I thanked God once again that we live in town and nothing is far away. The day was humid and gray but not rainy.

The mechanic showed up. He pumped up the dying tire enough for me to drive to Les Schwab for repairs. Then we drove in to work together. It proved an easy fix. I drove over a nail, natch.

Last but not least, around noon I picked up my sack lunch. I peeked in the bag to discover a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, orange and Cheetos. I couldn’t stop laughing. Guess who had my lunch?

Thanking God for Tuesday.

this is the day.jpeg


Drawing Conclusions

It’s finals were here in the Isham household. Zac had an art project to finish up. Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s stories, he drew a creature with tentacles and a great open maw.

(source)h.p. lovecraft creature.jpg

“Ruby, how do you draw tentacles?” Zac asked.

Ruby peered over his shoulder at his creation.

“You draw a circle and a line. The rest is imagination,” she said. Then she walked away.

Jonathon had to leave the room to keep from laughing.

“Thanks,” Zac muttered.

Spoken like a true right-brained person.

But life is like that sometimes. You have no pattern to follow. You move forward the best you can. Remember this book?


Yeah. Great book. Only it didn’t help me. I still can’t draw to save my life. This was more my speed.


Sometimes, we have to practice and work and seek out solutions. They don’t fall in our lap. Guides can point us in the right direction. Yet we need to put in the time and effort. The only failure comes when we don’t try again.

And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing. – James 1:4 AMP