Say ‘cheese!’

April 30, 2015

It’s time for a new picture.

I’ve had newspaper columns for nearly 15 years, and I’ve always promised myself that I would try to keep the picture accompanying it fairly current. This the result of having won a charity auction get-together with a columnist and being surprised by the lined face of the person I saw at lunch versus the smooth face that I saw in the paper at breakfast.

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The WTH? Files

April 2, 2015

I’m in my mid-60s and am descending the gradual hill that leads into Crotchety Valley, where all sorts of negative thoughts spontaneously pop into my brain, things like “Why do it this way? It’s stupid!” and “When did THIS change? I don’t like it!” and “I didn’t even know that hair could grow there!” I’m well-known to embrace all manner of colorful expletives, but because this is a family newspaper I’ll refer to these collective thoughts as the “What the Heck?” — or WTH? — Files.

Lately I find myself having more and more of these WTH? moments, many of them caused by a world far too informed, too digitalized, too connected and overmarketed, where data is king and content his queen, and  bandwidth must be filled. Thus:


> WTH? A weather app on my phone informed me:

Temperature: 76

Feels like: 75

> WTH? I went shopping, found shoes that I liked, and went to the checkout.

Clerk: (Not making eye contact, tapping at a screen.) “Do you know your rewards number?”

Me: “No.”

Clerk: “Can I have your rewards card?”

Me: “I don’t have one.”

Clerk: (Frowning, as if this news has made my purchase incredibly complex, perhaps even impossible.) “Hmm. Ooo-kaaaay then. Give me your phone number and email address.” Read more

A tale of two coats

February 6, 2015

When the weather is miserable here we head to warmer climes, specifically the Palm Springs area.

Although neither of us are shoppers, when we stay in Rancho Mirage with my sister (who is a shopper) we visit the College of the Desert Street Fair, which is a walk away. It’s really not a street fair at all. It’s a “parking lot” fair, and there must be a hundred booths where you can buy clothing, golf accessories, hats, visors, art, jewelry, specialty foods, sunglasses and obviously, given the number of them that you see there, male senior citizens wearing high-waisted shorts.


While visiting about five years ago, The Sainted One bought a short yellow jacket with navy trim, unremarkable in all respects except for the ability to unzip the sleeves and create a vest, something that we would forget unless we picked it up at a certain angle when washing it, whereupon we would declare, surprised once again, “Hey! You can take the sleeves off this thing!” and then would promptly forget. He adored it, wore it to death, wore it until the wrists frayed, the pockets became sieves and the stand-up collar wilted. Read more

Son of Cargo Pants

October 3, 2014

DetmerColumn 20141000This is a sad time of year for The Sainted One, and it’s not because he’s turning 75. He’s melancholy because he will no longer be wearing his beloved cargo shorts. Read more

The Great Bishop’s Weed War of 2014

August 29, 2014

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I loved my grandfather’s garden when I was a child. There were brick walkways under grape arbors, a fish pond surrounded by waving grasses and weathered little outbuildings. It was a magical place to play. I have fond memories of the Bishop’s Weed that was captured between the driveway and the house foundation. Please note that word: “captured.” And not only was it captured, but its roots were regularly frozen solid during the harsh Illinois winters. Read more

Laughing all the way

July 31, 2014

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Jack and the ice cream man. Uh, woman. Truck. Small open vehicle.

I recently wrote an article about the overhyped tests that you can take to find out how old you really are. Who needs a test? While watching my 32-month-old grandnephew Jack a few weeks ago, I easily found out how old I really am, and discovered the same about him.

I am 8. Jack is 52.

Jack is a very smart, thoughtful and cautious child who went directly from observant silence to sentences like, “Mom, did you play with dollhouses when you were a little girl?” and who often begins conversations with, “Mom, I have an idea …”

I watch him every Tuesday for a few hours, and on that day several weeks ago, the stars aligned, the Summer Gods smiled and the ice cream truck came to our neighborhood while I had him. Jack was at the kitchen table eating blueberry yogurt when I heard the unmistakable sound of summer treats approaching. I popped up from my chair and cried, “The ice cream man! The ice cream truck!” Jack looked up from his yogurt. “Jack! The ice cream man is coming! The truck is on the way! Can you hear it?”

Jack heard something all right: me, yelling at full volume from three feet away.

Grabbing some money and heading out the door, I asked The Sainted One to keep an eye on our charge. I ran down our steep driveway and looked up the street. The truck was stopped at a cul-de-sac north of us, and our Good Neighbor to the West and her Lovely Daughter were paying for their purchases. I ran back up the hill, grabbed Jack from the porch where he was now waiting, and tugged him towards the street, but before we could get there, the truck took a tight turn and puttered away from us.

Hearing my wail of dismay, Lovely Daughter chased it up the street and around the corner but had no luck finding it. At the same time, The Sainted One was backing down the driveway to go to the store. Or so he thought. His new mission was to follow the sound of the truck and bring it back.

Jack and I hurried up to the main street so that we wouldn’t be bypassed, with me jabbering the whole way about summer and ice cream men and trucks. Within minutes, the truck slowly approached us with my husband in the car behind it, pushing it along like a sheepdog herding Merino sheep. Jack solemnly held my hand as the parade approached. I could almost hear his thoughts:

“I’m pretty sure that’s not a truck. I can’t define precisely what it is, but it is not a truck.”

“That is not a man. I distinctly remember hearing ‘ice cream man,’ but that is a woman.”

“That is not ice cream as I know it. Where is the ice cream? I see only frozen treats.”

Because Jack remained mute, I followed the suggestion of the ice cream woman and bought him a cartoon character Popsicle featuring bulging blue jawbreaker eyes that scared the hell out of him. He wouldn’t touch it. The next Tuesday, I chopped it up, put it in a bowl and gave it to him with a spoon. He liked it just fine.


You can reach Pat Detmer — who also used to get very excited when Santa came by in the fire truck — at


Laughing all the way

July 2, 2014

CSI: Newcastle

I’ve said it here before: If The Sainted One ever tried to build a house, he would bleed to death from unintentional stabs and slices.

He is the Official Family Chef, but has knives that can’t cut through gelatin without effort because I won’t let him have anything sharper. There’s a secret spot in the garage where I’ve hidden a  Japanese hand hoe that will chop the most stubborn greenery into submission, and although I could use help in the garden battling the weeds, I love him too much to let him near it.

Even the simple act of checking out a bed frame …

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Safe, but not secure

June 6, 2014

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My sisters and I are a cautious lot. My mother was a careful, self-reliant German Midwesterner, and my father — German as well — was an insurance adjustor, cleaning up after accidents, tornadoes and fires. We heard all of the horrific possibilities that life could serve up while we were at the dinner table. Read more

A mighty wind

May 1, 2014

In September, we rented a large houseboat on Lake Roosevelt with my sister Susie and her husband. After taking possession, we cruised up the lake and found a perfect spot for the night: a protected little bay, embraced by wooded peninsulas. The Sainted One ran the boat on shore and we tied up.

That was the night the Seahawks game was delayed due to a freak windstorm, and to get to Qwest Field, it had to get across Eastern Washington — and Lake Roosevelt — first.

It was hot and still when we retired early, so I was pleased when a breeze blew through the open stateroom window until that breeze grew into something less appealing. Staggering out of our staterooms, we had to hold onto the walls to keep from hitting the deck. We turned on our phones and they began simultaneously ringing: High wind warning, the messages from the marina said. Batten down the hatches, because something wicked this way comes.

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Not a very pretty picture

April 3, 2014

You might come to believe by reading this column that my life consists primarily of going to parties, drinking, and then doing something that I regret, and honestly, you would pretty much be right.

This particular column has to do with a recent “Paint and Sip” adventure. You may have heard of these: “paint and sip” or “paint and pour” or — my favorite moniker — “Arts & Carafes,” where a group of people recreate a painting under the tutelage of an artist and under the influence of alcohol.

For Christmas, my nephew gifted my sister Barb with tickets for one of these evenings, paying also for myself and our other sister Susie. It had all the elements for potential fun/disaster: my sisters, alcohol and a task best done sober, Jackson Pollock notwithstanding.

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