Sunday, December 07, 2008

These are our first 3 birds.  They are zebra finches, and we got them in August.  (From left to right: Susan, Jack and King Tut)

Not more than a month later, we had eight birds. (Susan laid 5 eggs, and they were all viable!) They are sweet.  They have a chatter/chirp that isn't constant, but it is regular.  At first I thought it would drive me crazy, but it doesn't.  It is very calming - a kind of white noise that I really didn't know I needed until it was there. 

Thursday I was changing their water and I noticed that the perches were all bloody.  It wasn't a lot, but they are birds.  It was King Tut.  His belly was red, but he was fluttering around OK.  So I didn't really give it a second thought.  (This had happened to Susan within the first month, and she was fine the next day). Friday I found King Tut on the bottom of the cage, with his poor little orange feet in the air.  I was all for just chucking him in the trash. Cold, I know - but I really didn't feel like having the conversations with the kids ( that I was SURE we would have) once we told them.  Luckily, my husband saw reason, and placed King Tut in a butter-box and set him outside in the snow.  The two boys were already at school, but my daughter, M, (who is almost 5) was still home.  My husband gently took her onto his lap and said "M, honey, I have some sad news.  King Tut died last night.  Somehow he cut himself, and ended up dying."  M took a deep breath, her eyes were wet and bright, and sighed.  She said "OK, on the next sunny day, Mama will get a shovel, Daddy will bring the flowers, the boys will help me carry King Tut, and we'll sing him a song and bury him."  Then she hopped off C's lap and said "Mama, are you ready to go to school yet?"  

I really don't know where she came from.  (grin)  I'm glad she's the way she is, though.  And it's not just tragedy that makes her start making lists & delegating.  Today we were talking about how close Christmas is, and she started "we need to get the ornaments out - do you know where those are Mama? - and then the stockings.  And we need to frost cookies." and so on.  sigh.  I am going to frustrate her -  Poor girl.  I just barrel ahead and do stuff, I don't think of a logical progression.  (which is probably why I'm so tired all of the time.)  It's more of a "oh, and I should do this" and then I do, which reminds me of something else, which reminds me of something else... etc. 


Yesterday I went to a cookie swap.  I made toffee.  Mmmmm.  Ya know, you really can't go wrong with 2 lbs. of butter, and 2 lbs. of sugar topped with melted chocolate chips.  (some of it had pecans in/on it) .  I came home with some marvelous cookies as well.    I need to learn some photography skills.  


I've been making felted flowers and then beading them.  OMG so much fun!  I take 100% wool sweaters (that I get from the Goodwill) and wash them in hot water, then throw them in the dryer, cut them into flower shapes and then bead the stamens.  I've made them into pins.  Then I've  made a few stuffed animals - a mouse, a Totoro (Japanese wood spirit), a pig, a cat, etc.  I had to take books back to the library UNREAD because I was having so much fun with the needle work that I didn't have time to read.  The kids have been working with me.  I'll try to set up some kind of photo booth so I can post pics.  I've been toying with the idea of setting up an Etsy shop.  (Have you been to Etsy?  My friend Debbie has a shop  here:

She uses a similar technique, but I'm not sure if she has any flowers on her site. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

How can it be December already?  I guess I've been caught in the crush of kids-going-to-school, grocery shopping, and house-cleaning.  (can't wait to read more about my exciting life, huh?)  

My parents drove up in October from Brownsville, Texas.  They brought their cat, Stella, in the back of the camper.  My mom is doing well - this chemo is less toxic.  Her hair has grown back, her strength is back.  We had a blast while she was here.  (They never stay long enough.)  grin. I did put my dad to work - he built a mesquite counter top for us.  So pretty.  (and so useful.  The kids just love sitting "at the bar".)   

(SOAPBOX)  I just have to scream for a moment.  My parents are 64 (too young for Medicare), have no insurance, & a limited income (made even more limited by the recent stock market woes) - but not limited enough for Medicaid.  In order to get the best price on a port (for her chemo) my mom had to shop around at hospitals for the best price.  A port (so that they don't need to poke her veins each time) costs $11,000 if you have insurance - she got them down to $3,000.  Of course, that does not include the physician, the lab work,  or the anesthesia.  It makes me so angry that she had to shop around for something that was integral to her care.  Sigh.  (end SOAPBOX)

But...  in the interest of full disclosure, her sister  had a fund-raiser for her that contributed; and her church also had a fund-raiser, so this one is covered.  It still makes me angry. 


I decided this year that I needed to pull back a bit - to tighten my circle of concern.  Mostly because I was worried about my mom and I felt I wasn't giving enough attention to my family.  Also because I was giving giving giving, and not taking any time for myself.  So, I took a leave of absence from the school board; I am not volunteering in the kids' classes; I'm taking Pilates at the YMCA.  It's working very well.  I have time to cook.  I've been going Crazy with needle-felting/recycling sweaters into flowers and stuffed animals.  I've been spending WAY too much time on the internet.   I wish I could find some sort of balance, but maybe this is the way.  


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Last week we went to Wisconsin for a family reunion.  It was lovely.  

(It's not often that those two terms, family reunion and lovely are used in the same sentence.)

We were celebrating my grandfather's 93rd birthday.  He was born in 1915.  

The cottages were old, and fairly well cared for - linoleum tiles on the walls

 (baby blue and dark brown in the kitchen, yellow and red in the bath), kno

tty pine cupboards and trim, gawd-awful beds with fitted sheets that didn't hold, and feather pillows with no support. I'd go back in a minute though. It was so nice to live in that leave-it-to-beaver kind of way - I'd send L to my aunt's house to get coffee, or butter. We'd take turns feeding the lot of us (15-20) at our respective cabins and then sit around and ask my grandfather questions about his early life.  The kids and I sent him a book called "me and My grandfather" or something like that. It has lots of questions followed by blank pages to write in. we learned how he met my grandmother, (during a stomach surgery - she was a student nurse, he was a resident), their first date (in which they both held down a patient during electric-shock therapy), where he proposed to her (the garden of a mental hospital), why he decided to be a doctor, pranks he pulled. It was very very fun. 

As my mom is dealing with cancer and the bitter aftermath of chemo, she couldn't come to the reunion. (too many germs for her suppressed immune system) So it was bitter-sweet to spend time with her sisters without her there. My mom has 4 sisters - I did get to look at each one and appre

ciate those parts of them that are like and not-like my mom. I really am so lucky to know (and be related to) so many interesting people.

 and my girl-cousins were there, and they are wonderful and supportive and huggy, which is just what I needed. (one brother, and a few boy cousins were also there. They too are huggable, and creative, and super cool - gives me hope)

My kids loved spending time with those relatives.  M fell in love with my aunt Sara.  It came as no surprise, as Sara and M are cut from similar cloth: the youngest, very girly-girls.  My aunt looks a bit older than me, but not much.  She's fit, tan, and dresses the part.  She and M were squealing over in the corner about being twins (they both had lip-shaped band-aids on), being the babies, etc.  Sara said, “M, you'll have to come visit me”  and a little while later, M came over to me and said “I have a new Mama now.  You can come visit us.”  and she was serious!  When we finally figured out that M was planning on moving to Colorado (she is only 4!) it took us awhile to talk her down.  So funny/cute/etc.  

We came back home through the Upper Peninsula.  What beautiful country!  I can see why I-27/I-75 is packed every Friday.  Who wouldn't want to run away to that?  

Sunday, May 11, 2008

About two years ago, I visited an art gallery with my mom. (The Peachbelt Schoolhouse Studio Gallery near Saugatuck, MI ) I was so moved by the artwork there I spent the drive home scribbling on the back of an envelope. (Yes, I was the only one in the car, and I was driving.) It's taken me two years to get up enough nerve to send the poem those scribbles turned into to the artist (Dawn Stafford), but I did, and she answered! So cool. And I'm so glad I did. Here it is:

For Dawn Stafford

Schoolhouse Solace

I stood in the middle of the schoolhouse, looking at Vineyard Grapes V and was lost in them for a moment –

Felt sunlight dapple my arm

(As it must have yours

in that vineyard on that afternoon others might call lazy )

Could hear a fly, or a bee


Buzzing around the dead fruit,

or your hair

Pausing on your shoulder

To look at the full dusky purpleness

I can only imagine your intention –

Never before have I wanted to speak so eloquently about work – not to define it, but to communicate how my spirit soars in recognition of the moment/light/image you've captured.

I look at the painting and my soul shouts yes yes yes! – that is it – I've been there.

dappled in sunlight

I'm not convinced that the magic lies in your schoolhouse. One look at the walls and how they work so well with your art; the flowers outside, the placement of pen and flyers and small studies of the larger work–the magic is in you – your ability to look at yourself

lay open for others that bare spot so vulnerable, raw and say

This is What I See. This is Who I Am –

it is beautiful and strong and so what I long for.

I so wanted to put my hand on your shoulder, reassure you that taking time for yourself, time to recharge, renew – is all important. You are right to do that. Right to take care of yourself. You can't keep giving so much of yourself to your paintings without caring for you. There won't be anything left.

It has been so long since words have forced their way out onto paper for me. I spent the entire ride home trying to capture them, trying to look out the window of my car and see what you see, trying to make sense of how those paintings rocked my world.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I feel like I'm breathing through wet wool. I'm tired of coughing. Every exhale is an imminent cough. I can ignore the tickle for awhile, but then the urge to cough overpowers and my back & neck muscles tense up and the cough racks my body.

It's at times like these that I think of making my life easier. I barely have enough energy to make it downstairs, much less cook breakfast. And then, during one of my many naps today I dreamed that I was in WalMart. (For the record, I hate WalMart with a passion. The one here smells mildewy and most things are made in Vietnam or Korea. And I don't really want to fund the Sam Walton family's life.) At any rate, I was actually shopping at WalMart in my dream. So, when I woke up, I went. We needed bread anyway, and it was right there. UGH. If I wanted to make life easier though, I would go there. It wasn't as bad as I had remembered. (they've remodeled, and the smell isn't there anymore.) It was crowded, but every grocery is on Saturday anyway. The thing that struck me was the prices. It really was cheaper. If I wanted to relax my standards a bit, I could probably save an awful lot of money by going there on a regular basis. BUT... It is important to me to support my locally-owned businesses. I like knowing where my money is going. I like to know that some of my money will be reinvested in the community, somehow, someway. Yes, some of my money that I spent at WalMart today will go into the pockets of those who work there. Small comfort.
I really enjoy the small business owners I know. (Linda, Laura, Scott, Aura, Janice, John, etc) And I give them a lot of credit for doing what they do. It is worth a few more dollars to support them and reinforce that sense of community.


Just finished reading The Bone People by Keri Hulmes. Beautiful, poetic, and stirring.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

There's something about the lick of a cat

rough and gentle

that speaks of quiet nights and peace.

(Even though I hate the sight of that cat,

she's old and mean and doesn't like to cuddle.)

There are times when she pretends well – acts

like one would expect a cat to act, and yet

at that last second.

The split before your hand reaches the back of her neck

the pretense shattered, your hand touches nothing.

And so, each day. You'd think I'd learn

the cat doesn't like to be touched.

Yet I try, I get sucked into the calmness that surrounds

a sleeping cat

Teased by burnished black fur, glossy under the overhead light,

lulled into believing that this once, she'll capitulate.

Such is the curse of eternal optimism. Even the rats in the maze; even Pavlov

was successful in teaching his dogs the meaning of repetition.

Here I am, stuck in the endless loop of choosing to believe the best,

even from an old black cat that hates the world. Lucky for me she doesn't have claws.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Our Weekend:

Saturday we headed down to Cobo Hall for the North American International Auto Show. It was fun. The kids enjoyed themselves and we did too. People were very kind, not pushy or rude (which I've come to expect with large numbers of people). The guy who took our tickets warned me against the high prices of the food inside.

The people-watching was incredible. All walks of life, all countries, lots of kids, tired moms & dads, dreaming teenagers. We sat down in a side hallway to share a bottle of water ($3!!!!) and a protein bar (between the 5 of us). This guy came up & said "I wish I had a camera - this is what life is about! Everyone sharing. What a beautiful picture." So nice.


Ugh. my arms/fingers are asleep/tingly this morning. Guess I carried M too long on my shoulders yesterday. (Large groups of people + an interested 4 year old = frantic mom-state.) it was easier for my heart to keep her up on my shoulders. (We did write our cell phone numbers on all three kids with a permanent marker in case we got separated. A & M loved their "tattoos".)

Cirque de Soleil (Saltimbanco) was delightful. I had the most fun watching M & A watch the show. We were on the main floor, in the back row, so the dancers/acrobats (I'm not sure what to call them) walked by us often. One in a pink dress patted M's hair for about 30 seconds or so. M was in heaven! Then C's coat had fallen off the back of the chair & another clown came up & put it over his head. Good for another couple of giggles from my kids. L was on the other side of C, so I didn't see his reaction to most of it, but M & A were all over my lap, and their two chairs. I was thankful we didn't have anyone behind us.

Gee, I am so lucky. We have had a tremendous weekend. I really do love my family, even if they aren't exactly sure where dirty dishes go... (that silver thing, with the water spout, in the kitchen? It would be the sink, kids.)

They were excellent travelers for the 3 hour round trips (both days!) And we only watched one DVD.

The blight of downtown Detroit makes me sad. (at least what we could see from the highway) So many burned out buildings, boarded up houses, closed down stores. A lot of fanciful names though: The Victory Social Club; The Pentacostal (sic) Church in Christ (founder, Samantha Bullet); my favorite building - I've never been in - King's Used Books. (OK, so that last one wasn't very fanciful, but when I see it, I know I'm close to Joe Louis Arena.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Day After...

OK, so really it's the day after the day after, but why be picky?

The organizer wasn't as scary as I'd anticipated. She was oh-so-helpful (really) and very calm & collected about the whole house.

J (the organizer) handed me a pad of paper & a pen and we started walking through the house. She gave me ideas about how to tackle each closet and room. (Move this clothes-bar, install hooks for the kids, move the boots to this side, take off the door) And ideas of where to purchase the needed items. She also noted empty bookshelves and dressers and where they could be used elsewhere in the house. (who knew I had 3 empty dressers and 4 bookshelves to play with?) I followed with my pen & paper, taking copious notes and explaining my "organizational style". (those who know me well realize that I don't really have an organizational style...)

J gave me ideas for games to play with the kids to get them to do their part in the cleanup of the house, and a structure to do so. (Choose a time an hour before bed, set the timer for 20 minutes, give everyone a basket for their stuff & yell "go!" Race to get everything off the floor and PUT AWAY IN IT'S PROPER PLACE before the timer goes off. ) I mean, gee, that's a great idea, why can't I think of these things? I can think of 50 different things to make out of popsicle sticks, but I can't think of a way to get kids to pick up their socks. Sigh.

She also looked at my huge storage area (i.e. the basement!) and gave me ideas for that too. Then we tackled the room in the basement that could be a game room, but needed all the toys off of the floor first. While we were cleaning that room, we found two of the ORGANIZER's business cards - I had picked them up a different times thinking I'd call her - and a book at the very bottom of all the toys entitled Confessions of an Organized Homemaker.

Well now, most of my books are on shelves (oh so pretty!) and the games are on their own shelves, and there's space on the floor, and we found the loveseat. I have a plan for each room, and ideas of how to attack them. Now if only I could find some way to live on 4 hours of sleep...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The organizer is coming! The organizer is coming!

OH SH*T, the organizer is coming.

I am approaching this with joy, and reservation. I crave order, simplicity, starkness; but I am afraid. Not of her judging me, because I know no one is harsher than I am about that! I'm afraid of what I'll learn about myself. Can I let the "stuff" go? What will happen to me once it's gone?
Will I be able to maintain? How many hours beyond the 3 1/2 I'm alloted will she have to be here?

She said not to clean before she comes. She needs to see how we use & don't use the space. I'm all aflutter. Since she said not to clean, I've had the biggest cleaning jones. Is that all I need? Someone to tell me not to do something, so I'll do it. The Reverse-Psychology Institute.

So, since she told me not to clean, I've been playing this week. On Monday, at the MSU Surplus I found a stack of vinyl records in the "free" pile. I took them home (yeah, I know, I am trying to git rid of stuff!) and looked up info on the web about making bowls from records. 200 degrees in the oven for 5-10 minutes, then form over whatever shape you like. Oh my. They look terrific and it is so fun! I've made some trays, some shallow bowls, some plant-pot-covers, and the beginnings of a purse. Now I have to figure out how to seal the labels, and sew in a lining in the purse - well, and a handle.

I also gave away 3 pieces of fabric from my stash.

Maybe getting rid of all this stuff will help get the rest of my life going. What-ever-it-is I'm doing next. I can only hope. and clean. and prepare for it.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Cleaning and the New Year

L went to a friend's house for a birthday party today. I drove him over, went up to the door like a good mom, and peeked in the house. Oh my. My resolution this year is to be happy with what I have. I should have waited to make that resolution.

The walk was shoveled, they had Christmas decorations outside. The door opened to reveal a foyer, with halls on both sides of the wide staircase, The dining room table was dust-free, and shining. The thing that struck me was There was nothing on the stairs or the floors. This place was beautiful, and clean, and everything had a place. Obviously, they don't have pets, or children under 10. But oh, how I long for a room without stuff on the floor.

We have too much stuff. Too many books, too many toys, too many clothes. I know that. I know that I buy too much as well. Last year I gave 20 bags of stuff to Goodwill. I have two boxes of books ready to go in the next shipment. Oh, it is so hard to get rid of books. Like a junkie, I get a little shaky at the thought of fewer books around me. I haven't read every one, and I probably won't. So what's with this irrational desire to keep them, stroke them, need them? Oh Buddha mind, don't fail me now! I need to keep the lesson of impermance up front & centered.

And still, that siren Amazon calls.(well, emails at any rate) And the local bookstore (Schuler's) and I'm swayed by the call of QPB (free books!) and the emails from Barnes & Noble's. Somehow, I can't say no. This is my year of enough! I shall use the library, I shall get rid of 2 books for every one I bring in.

I do have an appointment with a personal organizer. I cannot wait. Somedays I just want to call for a dumpster. I get bogged down with the idea that I should be a steward for some of this stuff - preserve it for future generations, or at least my brothers, or cousins, or children. And then the headaches set in, and the clenched teeth & aching jaws.

What I need is an older sister to come in and clean up. C gets upset because I don't put things away; well, sometimes they don't have a place. Sometimes I get tired of being the designated place-finder. Sometimes I'm just too tired from cleaning up messes that other people make, that I just can't find the energy.

Today I was going to change my name. If I heard "Maaaammaaa" ONE.MORE.TIME. I was going to scream. How hard is it to walk around and find me? I haven't left the kitchen for more that 10 mintues today, and that was to either go to the laundry room or the rest room. Grrrr.

Wow. Time for some tea, methinks. Relax those jaw muscles, put my feet up, watch some brainless TV. (of course, there are dishes in the sink, dirt on the floor, laundry to fold...) sigh.

I am reading Kate Maloy's Every Last Cuckoo and enjoying it immensely!