Friday, December 29, 2006
Believe me I don't condone his administration, nor his leadership. My heart goes out to the hundreds of thousands of people that he had tortured and murdered. I pray that the war in Iraq will come to a peaceful resolution. And I know I'm praying for a miracle. But still, I pray.
And I have questions: Will his death bring them back? Will his death serve as some justice, or will it blacken our collective soul?
A long time ago the law was an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Then a new law to turn the other cheek was suggested. I think it is for the better of us all to follow this newer way of thinking in backyard or worldwide skirmishes. As the Amish did when their children were murdered, so should the world.
I'm not suggesting we allow people to continue their line of torture or deceit. But is it right to impose the same wickness of which they are accused? These wicked acts, like a cancer eat at our soul. Making it hard to breathe and see the goodness around us. Can we teach our children to behave any better than this if we don't set an example?
In the movie Scrooge, when Jacob Marley pays Scrooge a visit he is draped in the heavy chain he forged in life. A chain built upon the ill will he showed his fellow man/woman while he walked the earth. There is a lot to be said by that chain. And I wonder about our own. My own.
My eldest daughter says I am liberal in our line of faith. I tell her that I am hopeful. Hopeful that despite my faults and failings that when it is my time to face the Maker, there will be love in His eyes. That by being accepting, forgiving and holding no ill will that my soul won't be darkened by hate.
So for Saddam Hussein, for the Iraqi people, for our soldiers, and for the people of whole world I pray for you. May our Maker be with us all.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Monday, December 25, 2006
Two Thanksgivings ago it was the eldest and asthma. This past Halloween, the little one with an earache. To me, being sick on Halloween is worse than being sick on Christmas. You can't go trick or treating Nov. 1st. with the explanation that you were sick. But you can open presents Dec. 26th.
The day started with call to the Dr, and a dose of motrin. Now, she is almost her old self. Stiil, there have been two calls to relatives. "She's sick... no coughing, no puking. Your call." They're still coming. That's love.
Santa was very good to us. The presents have been opened. My eldest is voluntarily playing Christmas caroles on her clarinet. The goose is in the oven. (Hence, a brief spot of computer time.) Despite the fever, life is good.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
When I got up this morning I walked into a kitchen where a Christmas prep food bomb had gone off, yesterday. I have Christmas dinner almost under control. Most of the side dishes can be prepared entirely or to a point before the big day. Thus, relieving some of the stress and clean up mess. I love to cook when I'm not under pressure. I'm not so good a pulling a supper out of my refrigerator, or my hat for that matter.
So, in the quiet, I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, washed down the counters and sink, and took note that the stove top needs some attention. And after this bit of typing I'll wash the kitchen floor.
Despite the fact I grimace when I see the bright and shiny 4:00, and wonder how my clock got set an hour early, I'll take it. It's not everyone who gets an hour or two or three of quiet to themselves.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that sets the tone for the holiday more than this play. As much as I love listening to the Boston Pops, or Handel's Messiah, watching 38 young people explain the love of God, puts me over the moon. There were tears, laughter, and so much applause I am surprised the parish hall is still standing. And I would have to conclude it stands only by the love of God.
The people that braved the rain and came out for the show were not disappointed. All left with a smile and a full heart. And if you couldn't make it, I'd mark my calendar NOW for next year's performance.
Christmas is still about Jesus. And I thank the cast and crew of Just Believe, and God for this wonderful reminder. May you all have a happy and holy holiday. Merry Christmas.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
After one hat, two hats, big hat, small hat, I decided to try my hand at knitting mittens. Two reasons really, I would learn how to knit on double pointed needles, (A prereq. for making socks, and we can always use mittens around here.)
The pattern was for an adult. SO, me in my infinite wisdom and spacial brain pictured how to size it down to fit my middle one. All was going well until I hit this little bit of knit speak:
Rnd 1:(Note the number. We're not far into this process) K17, M1, k2, M1 k23-44 sts. K1 rnd.
Rnds 2, 4, 6. 8, 10, 12: Knit
So in my downsizing K17 translates to K10, (fine so far). M1 is make 1 stitch, again fine. And k23 -- for me is knit to the end of the round. The problem was what did/does K1 rnd mean?
For the first mitten I realized I was knitting 2 rounds between each increase row. But on second thought did the K1 rnd equal knitting the next round, which was implicity stated in the directions? I called around to my knitting friends and family. "Sounds like a redundancy in the directions," was the overwhelming conclusion.
No worries. In making this pair of mittens I just might have to knit three of them. In the end the mitten fit my sweetie just fine. All smiles, full of confidence I started mitten two. Piece of cake.
However, with this mitten I was smarter. I knew what the knit speak was telling me. No questions, just knit, knit, knit. I was a knitting machine. Waiting at the doctors, knitting, riding in the car, knitting, 10 minutes before the girls come home from school, knitting. Heaven.
Last night, I finished the body of the second and it didn't look quite right. I slipped my hand in only to discover it was a rather tight fit. I dug out the other mitten...
One mitten. Two mittens. Big Mitten. Small Mitten.
In the morning I had my littlest one try it on. It fits. And then I realized what I did, or in this case didn't do. I didn't knit all those extra rows.
It looks like I'll be knitting 4 mittens. Maybe more.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
The house schedule is out of control. It was only this past Sunday that I figured out what we will be eating for Christmas dinner. Usually this is well planned out weeks ago. Likewise, the annual holiday visit to the Post Office was equally delayed.
I braced myself. Comforted myself with the truth that after dropping the girls off at school, I had a whole hour and 25 minutes before I was on deck as a Mystery Reader in the library. Kisses and love distributed, I was prepared for what lay ahead. At least I thought I was.
I arrived ten minutes to opening. Already five people were ahead of me in line. Not bad. I looked up, and walking in the door was a person from the church choir. We chatted about the up coming Masses and concerts. Finding out the woman behind me was also from our parish. Next walked in the President of the local pool club.
"Great to see you."
"Good to see you, too."
Three people later a Brownie Mom walked in. "Are you ready for this week's booth sale?"
"Yes, we'll be there after I get off from work."
Next was a mom that I've known through school and walking. "Are you ready for the holidays?"
"No, are you?"
By this time I was starting to think I'm just a bit too social in this town. Or someone was setting the stage for This is Your Life Ptcakes. Finally the window opened. But for some reason the computer system was very slow with the transactions. That's okay. In walked F.C.
"Hey, F.C, I heard you liked BigMama's piece this week."
"She's a genius."
"Of course." (I have since read F.C's piece for this week and I thought my heart was going to stop. It can only be concluded that Genius recognizes Genius. Kudos to you both.)
Finally, twenty-five minutes since crossing the governmental threshold, it was my turn at the counter. Painlessly, I mailed my three packages and overseas letter. Before leaving I walked towards the end of the line to chat with F.C. On the way I said hi to CoffeeNick, the Deacon and a Church Lady.
Visiting the Post Office was a pleasant holiday surprise. The only thing that would have made it better would've been cup of Paulo's wonderful decaf gingerbread coffee.
And for everyone who couldn't make it yesterday morning, I have one more package to mail. I'll shooting for Thursday AM. I'll bring the coffee.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
While researching the battles of World War II, I discovered a friend's uncle, Billy Kouri, was killed at the battle of St. Lo.
"Your kidding?" I said. "That's the same battle where my character, Charles Boss, gets mortally wounded."
S smiled, and filled me in on the limited details she had. After all it was way before her time. I asked her if it was possible to get more information from her parents. She did. Details on his departure, copies of letters from the Army, and a military birthday card he sent to his little sister.
These details were woven into my book. Billy and Charles knew each other. Fought along side each other. In his letters to Martha, Charles tells his wife about Billy's death. For a while it seems that this is the last letter Martha receives from him.
With the book finished, (for the ninth time), I gave copies to S and to her parents. Two weeks later, I received a lovely note from her mom thanking me for mentioning Billy. That she was greatful for the remembrance.
No worries, V. Thank you for sharing your brother's memory.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Still, I wasn't going to do this year. I'm cutting back. Not going hog wild with card writing, cooking, shopping, shipping or fudge making. But there is something about fudge and Christmas that I couldn't ignore. Maybe it was the ten pounds of chocolate calling out from the cabinet, "Melt me. Mix me with Kahlua and feed me to your friends." Maybe it was the Church Lady's own wonderful double layered fudge that put me over the edge.
So, early today we made a double batch of kahlua fudge. We dropped some off at BigMama's for quality control and the verdict was a resounding, SEND MORE! With the follow up comment of, "I like your hot pepper fudge best. Are you making some of that?"
After dinner, we whipped up a batch. (After all, BigMama is family.) At first your mouth is overwhelmed with chocolate. Then like a stealth fighter, heat swarms your taste buds. Interesting enough, I think this batch has too much chocolate in it. But I tasted a bite or two or three, okay four, when it was still refrigerator cold. Generally this fudge is better a room temperature.
No worries, I'll suffer through the testing. Somebody has to do it.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Given the normal day in day out stresses, I can be at home with 40 fundraiser-oversized candy bars and not be drawn to the cabinet. I can overlook Wheat Thins, Yo-Gos, 10 pounds of chocolate chips (waiting to be melted into fudge), and Harry and David confections stashed in the freezer for emergencies. But leave a plate of assorted Christmas cookies on the counter and there is no hope for their survival.
There is something about Christmas cookies that shotguns all my willpower sensibilities. Yesterday, while working away on the parish directory (11 pages -- preformatted), I ate more cookies than I care to admit. By God, were they good. Especially the 7 layer cookies, and the chocolate peanutbutter fudge. Then there was the chocolate cherry cookie that was so soft, it melted into flavorful splendor the minute I laid it upon my tongue.
To save myself, and in an attempt to be giving and sharing, I put several of the cookies in the girls' lunches. They had the same responses when they returned from school.
"Mom, where did you get those cookies?" asked one.
"From the lady heading up the parish directory project."
"You have to do MORE work for her."
I had to agree.
The next daughter made a list of all the recipes she wanted me to have. And luck would have it, I had to talk with the "Church Lady" about a formatting issue. She was pleased to hear the cookies were a hit. (How could they not be?) And will get the recipes to me. It will probably be an exchange of sorts, one recipe for each formatted directory page.
I think me and mine are getting the better end of this deal.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
I think life is one big project, like the parish directory. Sometimes the (life's) images just piece together and before you know it you have one if not two or three pages formatted. And then there are the other times, overcrowded, with everything and everyone grasping for your attention. This is when I stand up, breathe in and out, get a cup of tea or coffee and then slowly start in again.
Don't let the hectic pace run your life. Step away and breathe.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Saturday, December 09, 2006
This Advent I am going to be very selfish and make sure I get to Mass every week. For it's truly a gift when we all join voices in song and prayer. And I smile when I hear Mr. S singing. He doesn't sing often. But when one of the old standards is called for, his voice is right there.
There is a festive quiet to our gatherings. By quiet I don't mean cold silence. Our parish is far from that. But my mind is quieted as I am refreshed on life's most important lessons. And I could absolutely float away when one of the girls asks me about the reading or the homily. For they too, experienced the quiet of the season.
I'm not up on all the particulars of all the world's religions, but I think this time of year has holidays or holy days for most of them. So when the weather is coldest, and the sky darkest, we are all offered the opportunity to gather with our family, friends, and our God. To sing, pray and sit in the quiet. Be selfish. Take this time for yourself. There is more to this season than sleigh bells, snow, and maxing out credit cards.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Today, 3 minutes into my wiggle walk, as my girls call it, the channel changed to PBS (preprogrammed for recording by my husband) and I was watching and listening to a collage of Pops Holiday concerts. Listening to music was wonderful. And when the sing-a-long segment came on I had tears in my eyes as I watched Santa with the children, both young and old. This is such a magical time of year. There's joy in the air. And tears on the treadmill.
Did anyone catch the forecast today? It might be snowing outside, but a dose of the Pops will keep you warm all day long.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
As an example, take today. I ran around this morning, doing laundry, the parish directory, lunches, kids' scrap books (don't ask), breakfast, shopping, and baking for the holidays. Somewhere between peeling the hard boiled egg and making the salami sandwich, I realized life is like one of those retro bubble lights that decorate our kitchen. That I subscribe to the bubble up principle. Where I have seven thousand tasks on my plate and at any one time one of these tasks becomes the priority. This prioritization lasts but for a moment when another task bubbles to the top, steals the limelight, and my focus is moved on, and so on and so on...
Our government does the same. We are focused in the middle east until something happens in N. Korea. Then we try to get back to the middle east, while dealing with N. Korea and we have the famines, and killings in Africa, and major flooding or electrical outages here at home. All important events, but like things at this house, nothing gets the full attention it needs for completion. Nothing gets finished. And as a nation, we have several tasks, being poorly dealt with. It's to no one's gain.
Maybe this is life. Maybe I'm just finding this out. Maybe I'll get to the Christmas cards that have been stacked by the kitchen table for three days to remind me I need to start sending them out. Then again, maybe those cards aren't so important anymore.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
A while ago, I blogged on knitting 100 scarves of Christmas. Our church circled the needles, so to speak, to make scarves for the homeless in our community. It's painful to think about 100 people needing scarves in our town... sadly, it's probably more than this. Anyway... I finished my knitting, turned in my scarves and was delighted, I thought, with the idea of doing something else with my hands for the rest of the holiday season.
One week passed, and then two. I found myself roaming around the house. Unable to really settle down. Unable to get comfortable with any of the hundred tasks that surrounded me. And I was unable to write. Something was definitely wrong. Three days ago I figured it out. I wasn't knitting.
But what to knit? I didn't have large blocks of time. There is the TCAN contest deadline looming, (Good Luck to my fellow Niblets!), the parish directory, doctors appointments, food shopping, baking, HOLIDAY SHOPPING, (a biggie), getting packages ready to mail, and then the lines at the post office. So I needed something small. Something easy. I grabbed up my stack of knitting magazines, and started the hunt.
Meanwhile, as my needles were clicking away this fall, dear friends of ours were even busier having their first baby. This baby was long anticipated and fought for. Her first ultrasound hung proudly on our refrigerator, as if she were our own. Truth be told, she is the reason I started all this knitting in the first place. I wanted to make her a pair of ruby slipper booties. So for the better part of a weekend my mother sat next to me, helping me decode the pattern. (The first time I never knitted anything that required knit speak.)
So, when I saw the baby hats, I knew this was my next project. With the shimmery red and soft white yarn left from the slippers I would make a striped beany for the baby. I followed the pattern for a six month size exactly. I sat for the better part of a day knitting and purling. Calmness coursed through my veins. I was reading the pattern all on my own, and understanding it. And when I was done I had a hat that fits my 6 YEAR old. I called my mom.
"What did I do?" I asked.
"Did you check the gauge?" she asked back.
"Well that happens. Sometimes patterns give you odd sizes."
My little one is delighted with her hat. My husband counseled me to try again. So I thought about the size of a newborns head and adjusted the pattern. What yarn balls, I had, to think I could look at the pattern and fix it. But I did. Instead of casting on 68 stitches for the smallest size, I started with only 50 or so stitches. And instead of knitting 16 stripes on the sides I did eight, before starting the decreasing to shape the cap.
One hat. Two hats. Big hat. Small Hat.
What to knit next?
Monday, December 04, 2006
Another outside favorite is taking pictures in the rain. I love the effect of the rain when it smears all the colors together.
Last night, a friend dropped by while I was reviewing the finalized copy of this year's "A Year with Ollie" digital slideshow. She said, "I don't even know these kids, but is this suppose to make me cry?"
I smiled and replied, "I know these kids, and it's good, if it makes me laugh and cry."
All she said was, "It's good."
I love photographing children, especially when they are moving. At Thanksgiving, my niece was spinning around in her dress. I had her spin a few more times, (I don't think she minded), so I could capture her just right. Last night when I was reviewing the T-day shots, I realized I could see through her almost completely.
And I absolutely love looking at photography. At Paulo's Espresso, a small book store/coffee bar in town, he has had some wonderful exhibits. Yesterday a show of nature photography opened. We went early to do some Christmas shopping and admire the shots. We each picked our favorite which we will revisit almost daily for the month.
Mine is the Screech Owl, what's yours?
Friday, December 01, 2006
I have a noneater. From the moment that lovely child came into this world, she refused to eat. Trust me on this one. I was there. And to this day, she is still a noneater. Generally, she sits at the table long after everyone has finished dessert, the dishes cleared and our evening lives are on a roll. And eventually she shows up at my side, all smiles, asking for dessert and proclaiming,"I've eaten all my dinner!" A few times I questioned her, "Really, you ate it all?" Her answer was always the same. A beaming smile and a good firm multi nod of the head. Dessert would follow.
Last night, night two of the chili, the wailing and nashing of teeth were at an all time high. There were pieces of tomato in close proximity. The rest of us finished our bowls of the world's most wonderful bean and meat, laced with offending fruit, concoction, and those who weren't still trying to loose the required 5 plus pounds of Thanksgiving weight had dessert. Dishes were cleared. She sat. The homework was resumed. She cried. Practice testing for the Social Studies test on Islam was in full swing in the living room, when the distinct sound of scraping a spoon against a bowl could be heard ringing in from the kitchen. I looked to my oldest, "Please go in there and just look."
Three seconds later, (it's a small house), she was back. She said nothing.
"Did she scrape it into the trash?" I asked. I knew the answer, but I was hoping for a miracle here.
Ria just gave me one solemn barely detectable nod. Remember she's the oldest, she knew what was going to happen next.
I walked into the kitchen where my little eating wonder was sitting at the table with the empty bowl in front of her. I asked, "Did you eat?"
I got all smiles.
"Are you sure?"
I looked into the trash bin. Hidden under some paper towels and other debris was her three tablespoons of chili.
Up to bed was all I said. Tears followed, with the dragging of feet.
Tonight's dinner is a Cape Cod Christmas Clam Pie, another almost complete family favorite. Along with squash and salad...
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
With each shadowy stint behind the wheel, I remind myself of the people in Barrow, Alaska. They don't have any sunlight for 51 days from Nov. 18th to Jan. 23rd. I am sure they don't roll up their lives, like small towns roll up their sidewalks. Maybe I have some small town bear in my heritage. Where darkness and cold are triggers to curl up with a blanket, a box of Thin Mints and good book. Or at least to warm my hands, resting them across this laptop.
Still I manage to go for "late night" walks around 8 PM. With flashlights and reflective vests we face the dark streets of our town. And they are dark. I firmly believe the street lights are just for show. To cast a warming sort of almost light -- without actually illuminating anywhere to any level of safety. Town government must have decided that no one walks anywhere these days. They drive, and cars have headlights. Well, here is some news: People still walk around here. It is common to see people lighting their way down the sidewalk with flashlights. I wonder if Barrow has this problem?
So to the people of Barrow, good luck, stay warm and safe. Someday, in the winter's darkness I will come up for a visit. I just hope you have a taxi service, because I really don't like driving in the dark --whether it be day or night.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
I faced the keyboard again this weekend, and again yesterday. Still nothing. And now... still nothing. So, to move ahead I am writing about this nothing. And as I type here I have some clue as to why I haven't been able to write. In a word: Interuptions. Half ideas mowed down by life. Just to get these two hopeless paragraphs down has taken 2 hours... and breakfast, making lunches, one trip to school (due to rain), homework, and decorating a gingerbread house. And next to me is the last scarf I need to finish for our "One Hundred Scarves for Christmas." Ten more rows -- max., and it will be done. Ten more rows of no writing.
And I need to come up with something for dinner. I need to go food shopping. I need to go to school and take some pictures. I need to go for a walk.
The search is on for that peaceful place where ideas can safely emerge and develop.
Monday, November 20, 2006
We have dear friends. And no matter how hard they work, and both parents work fulltime plus, life is very hard. They're not looking for handouts. They never have, and I doubt they ever will. They make plans to get ahead, and half way to completion they get blindsided back to square one.
The other night while out for a walk we talked about how hard life is sometimes. How unfair it can be. My heart goes out to them. I want to do something. But I can't buy their house, I can't rush time or improve the weather. Maybe a little secret Santa action... Still, I don't want to hurt their feelings or pride. Ideas? Suggestions?
Friday, November 17, 2006
When I saw this weeks writing prompt I wondered, "Who is my hero?" He is my husband, who saves me when my nerves are frayed. My children, for all their wisdom and prespective. My friends, and for the many miles we have walked/talked and the many cups of coffee we have shared. What about Mr. S.? Every week he saves the leftside of our pew for me and the girls. My children's teachers are my heroes. They get ideas and concepts to go where I can't seem to penetrate. In the morning, when I am driving the girls to school, my hero is the person caught in the traffic outside our house, who lets me out of my driveway.
Back in my old days of C.C.D. my teacher was a bit taken aback by my choice. I hadn't produced the obvious correct answer. (And I knew it the moment I arrived at church and saw all the signs with Jesus' face.) She asked why I picked Mingo, a fictious character from a T.V. show for a hero. I remember in my own simple terms explaining how loyal, trustworthy, caring, and compassionate Mingo was. And I wanted to be just like him. She smiled and something about him being Christ-like. I replied,"But he doesn't believe in God. He worships the earth and stars." Of course, T.V. back in those days didn't expound on such topics. But everyone knew that Native Americans worshipped the gods of the earth and sky.
Now I understand. For our family, Christ is the center of goodness. He is the shining example for us. But Christ-like goodness, that pervades all my heroes, doesn't have to come directly from Christ. Long ago He looked like Mingo. A man that loved and cared for his mother earth. Today, He is a writing friend, family, my children, a helpful stranger, a homeless person. The truth is, the face of God is everywhere. Creating heroes in us all.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
"Good morning sweetheart."
"Good morning mom."
What an excellent way to start a mom's day. No coffee needed today.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I know, I know... if you're from the northeast, the last thing you expected me to comeback with was fruitcake. I should have paid homage to D.D. and said donuts. But it's true, in this household, in my kitchen, it is time to make the fruitcakes.
So even before I gave one thought to lunches, or remembered I had three sleepy children to wake, I was piling the dried fuit in the largest covered container I own and pouring on the rum.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
This woman knits socks like it's no one's business. I haven't tried knitting socks yet.(I will soon, hopefully.) They are my favorite knit items. Every and any gift from my mom is a success story as long as it is a pair of her wonderful knitted socks.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Love, a jagged deception
beared potential, but
was awashed in delusion.
A distorted and distant reality; dogged dreams
nurtured with piercing criticism.
Be warned, I've broken out. I know the lies.
Your woven web thickened
with missed steps and half truths,
does not behold me anymore.
My life in a pile. Interesting at best, not boring in the least. As the girls head off to school I remind them of their afternoon commitments. "Clarinet for you, CFF for you two." There is elation and frowns. One of these days I going to say, "On ITunes for you. Finishing that knitting project for you." Smiles will be all around.
But that is what Thanksgiving is for. Over the Thanksgiving break, as a family we all stop the race. My dear one reads, watches movies, converses with relatives and puts up with me coming in for the cuddle on the couch. All the girls knit. From the moment we arrive at the holiday gathering spot, their knitting is out. They cross and recross those needles from morning to night -- breaking only for meals and sleep. I do suspect this year will be a bit different, as the oldest is plugged into an iPod the majority of her waking time. But she knits just the same.
I cook, dance the turkey dance with my sister in law, go in for the long cuddles, and help with the knitting. I can only offer to help, since I am the Mom. I am second best. It is my Mom and my Aunt who are hounded by the girls to sit and knit. And that's good. The girls love their grandmother and great aunt. And over some crossed needles they have learned to stop the racing and enjoy being in each others close knit company.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
On warm fall days we are outside, getting ready for the season.
Thanksgiving? No. Christmas? No. Hanukah? No.
We are preparing for the maple sugaring season. Even though it’s early November, the start of sugaring season is not until late February or early March, it cannot come soon enough. My dreams are full of sap buckets, brisket morning air, quiet sun rises, and the sweet scent of maple.
In October we built a sugaring shack. Okay, we didn't build it ourselves, but we paid for it to be built. And today we set up shop. The burner is in place. The pan is waiting to be filled. The pails and lids, and the taps are stacked and ready. The collection bins have been cleaned. Tomorrow we'll go to the hardware store and pick up lights, and install the ventilation system.
It's going to be a great season. Already we have invited the Brownies over for a repeat pancake breakfast. The kindergarten classes and my daughter’s third grade class have been offered "a walk over field trip" to our house so they can see a sugar shack and maybe try some waffles with syrup. In years past we went into their classrooms. This year I would love for them to come here and empty a bucket, taste warm sap, and have a waffle or two. We will see.
Last season, there were some long boiling days. We would start at , awoken not by an alarm but by the excitement of sugaring. The finish came sometime around 8 at night. With less than a gallon of liquid gold, from over 40 gallons of sap, boiling inside on the stove. We watch the bubbles and check the density with a hydrometer.
Who wants some maple syrup? Like that jolly old elf, we make a list. We try to fill all orders and have some left for surprise visitors. Last year we produced four gallons of syrup from 200 plus gallons of sap. We had a quart left for ourselves. It lasted until June. In August, while camping in
I'm not wishing away Thanksgiving, or Christmas. These are times for friends and family. But sugaring is such a time of promise, that I can't help but hope for its quick arrival.
Who wants some maple syrup?
Friday, November 10, 2006
As an undergraduate I had the pleasure of taking a Genetics course. And like the tens of thousands of other students who have taken such a class, I conducted experiments involving specific genetic crosses (forced unions -- we used very small shotguns) of fruit flies with various traits. I employed fruit flies with curly wings, straight wings, red eyes, white eyes. To this day I can determine the sex of the fruit flies buzzing about my fruit bowl. It's like riding a bicycle. The more traits the merrier, so to speak -- but I digress... The point is, in my life time I have purposely breed more fruit flies than I care to admit to.
Now when I see a fruit fly. I clap down first, check out eye color later.
Lately, I haven't been making enough killing progress with my two hands. So I decided to purchase a few traps. At first the population decreased fairly rapidly. That is until a population bloom over the past few days. Still puzzling this genetic turn of events I peaked in the traps to determine their effectiveness. What I noted were fruit fly larvae on the trap walls. Needlesstosay, the traps are sealed and in the trash.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Editting is a battle between good and evil. It's a relief to rewrite. Almost liberating. But at the same time, I've had a relationship that spans over eight years with many of these words. And to almost steal a phrase, parting is tough.
But the King is waiting for this copy. So I will be tougher, and edit until my fingertips and keyboard are red.
Nibs... after I turn this over to the King, it's in your hands. USE RED INK. Tell me exactly what you think. If I can't trust the world's greatest writing group, who can I trust?
But I think there is a more hopeful meaning. A soft rain is good for taking stock, praying to one's God, talking with old friends, catching up and relaxing. Soft rain slows down life's hectic pace. Smooths out life's jagged edges. Sips of coffee are longer, deeper. Conversations are more heartfelt. Listening is truly listening when it's a soft rain. Children delight in playing in the mist. Being outside is more of an adventure. And the mud puddles are warm.
So I thank God, for today and the wonderfully refreshing soft rain.
Monday, November 06, 2006
But I'm going to move away from the calendar for tracking age and take up a different approach. I'm now tracking life on friendships. Friends are the biggest component of my new age. Without friends a life is only half lived at best. And when my time comes, I want to check out after a full life.
Smiling is another huge one. A smile can make a day. Maybe it could even save a life. You never know... but I'm not taking any chances.
Acts of kindness will feed into the number. Acts given and acts greatfully received. It can be hard to be accepting. I'll work on it.
Listening, hugging, good morning smooches, shoulders to cry on -- are all in there. Handing off dollar off coupons in the check out line will definitely age me. I've noticed when I hand off the savings, not only do people save money they also smile. It will be a double hit, but I'll take it.
I looking forward to growing very old, very fast, very happy. And to my friends and family who helped me mark age this weekend... I love you all very much. Thank you for being so wonderful.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
My friend's father left in the blink of an eye. And with all of life, there is a lesson here. Live each day as if it is your last. For whenever father and daughter parted company, even to run out for a coffee, she always said, "I love you Dad." And he'd reply, "I love you too." So in that blink of an eye, both knew the love they shared. Despite the fact there wasn't time for words to be spoken.
My thoughts and prayers are with you both.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Ideas for writing
Friends, and counting
Minutes before mania
Cups of maple syrup
Loads of laundry
Million miles of dusting
Skeins of yarn
Jaunts on my motorcycle
Jelly beans for snacking
Steps to the mailbox
Inches around my hips
Grapes in a bowl
Hugs make up a cozy
Bags of raked leaves
Books on my to read list
Years of my life
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Saturday and Sunday was a scream. We had dinner with my old grad school buddy and I rode my motorcycle on the street. Sweet.
Then twists and turns hit. This morning at 2 AM, the little one woke up with an ear ache. Of all days to be sick -- HALLOWEEN! (Going UP!) Despite a goodly dose of motrin, we were awake for the day. At 7 AM I decided I would take her to school, check in with the school nurse, and see what she thought. Was my little pirate princess too sick to participate in the Halloween parade?
"Yes, the ear is infected. Yes, she needs to see a doctor today?" AND "Yes, she can stay for the parade." (Thankfully, GOING DOWN!)
The parade was wonderful. The wee pirate and her fanciful classmates thrilled and delighted everyone that saw them.
An hour later, at the doctors, it was a confirmed ear infection.
"Can she trick or treat?"
"As long as she feels up to it," smiled the Dr.
(WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE....... Going DOWN some more!)
A quick trip to the pharmacy, antibiotic in hand -- she was back at school for the party. Then we were off to Daddy's for his office trick or treating, before hitting the neighborhood streets.
We now have a mountain of cavity inducing sweet stuff, and three sugar charged children...
(I'm GOING UP to bed!)
Monday, October 30, 2006
I'm going to have to take it a day at a time and not go anywhere without my calendar.
God give me strength.
Friday, October 27, 2006
In this house the nut does not fall far from the tree.
When I was a little girl, my parents started the bedtime routine at 6:30. Why? You ask. Me, is the answer. As it turns out I would save everything and anything I absolutely needed to convey to my parents for bedtime.
"Mom, I gotta tell you this now. Did you know Nancy is getting a new kitten?"
"No, go to bed."
"And Laurie and Dean have two kittens. Can I have a kitten?"
"No, go to bed."
"I have a spelling test tomorrow. Will you quiz me?"
"Why didn't you mention this before going out to play this afternoon?"
"I forgot." These type of queries generally bought me 15 - 20 minutes.
"Dad, can you help me draw a Native American for my project?"
"Tomorrow, go to bed."
"I have Girl Scouts. Can we do it now?" A half an hour later, I had learned how to draw a Native American, actually any American, sitting down. I can still do it. So, my attempts at extending the evening were not a total waste. Maybe as a mom I can branch out and try to draw Europeans or Asians.
Sometimes I would sit at the top of the stairs, or behind the couch, and listen to my parents talking. Not that they said much. But I liked to be close.
Now skip forward to my own tribe. My smidglings (the latest term of endearment) have the art of extending the bedtime down to a science. Long before and even longer after the lights are to go out, there is the parade. And I didn't teach them this skill. (So that's one for Nature.)
"Mom, will you braid my hair tomorrow?"
"Yes, go to bed."
"Noah pushed me in line yesterday."
"Did you tell the teacher?"
"Because I pushed him first."
"Go to bed."
"Mom, she's touching the ladder to my bed."
"Is she climbing up to your bed?"
"No, her foot is rubbing against it."
"How do you know this, if you are lying down reading?"
"Well, I was watching her."
"Go to bed."
"Dad, we're ready for a story." A good bedtime extension in my opinion.
And as I did, sometimes the little ones sit on the stairs, listening to our conversations. They think they are being sneaky, sitting ever so quiet. What they don't know is they sound like a herd of elephants getting to the stairs. And they all have different foot falls. Long before they reach the stairs, I'll look at my husband and say, "It's the littlest one." or "Bet you it's the middle one."
Over time, I mastered the sneak approach. Maybe one day, I'll teach it to them. (That would give Nurture one, and tie the score.)
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Tight muscles relax, eyes closed, I dream
Of stoppering the drain and
Easing down into the warm pool
Collecting at my feet.
My knees weaken
Oh to be warm; to be comforted.
I open my eyes. The vision is gone.
Chased away by lunches to be made,
Children to waken, breakfast, and laundry.
I scrub my skin. The moment -- a memory
Someday -- someday sleepy eyes will find me
Content, prunish, pink, melted
Lunches unmade, breakfast not started,
laundry piled by the door.
I wonder when Someday will come.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Late night walks
Dinosaurs and drawing
Clawfoot tubs for reading
Playdates, boat rides
Magic 'til 2.
Carpools, swimming pools
FC, CMC, MBY --
just to name a few.
A glass of wine, while children sleep.
Swimming out to waters deep.
A lifetime, a phone call,
A promise. an ear, a shoulder
I am -- Forever Yours,
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Last week I was facing a root canal, on what appeared to be a perfectly good tooth. My laptop, the computer that holds all my phone numbers and the family calendar died. And the oven died. It was not a noteable week, but there had been no trips to a doctor, hospital, or to school for meetings with the principal. We had plenty of food, that didn't require the oven. And was lucky enough to have a quick visit with a good friend I hadn't seen in a while. So by taking CMC's advice to look for the brightside, we were, as the saying goes, made in the shade.
This week I found out the problem with the computer is a broken on/off switch. Not major. My tooth doesn't require a root canal, but it would probably be a good idea if I stop grinding my teeth. And the oven will be fixed, on warranty. No worries.
So thanks CMC for the good advice. If I had wallowed in negativity last week, nothing would have been gained, except a few extra pounds from stress induced over eating.
There is a real power in smiling. Both for the smilee and the viewer of the smile.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Yesterday was our annual Halloween party. Twenty-three children, 16 helpful adults in total. (I think that counts us...) We transformed our house into a pirate ship. Guests had to prove their worth by eating an eyeball. Then the invitation was extended, "Welcome to the cursed crew!"
We taught them the fine art of one handed WAR. Where the winner had the most cards after just one hand of play. They decorated skull cupcakes with frosting and candy. Gambled, played pirate bingo, practiced boarding a vessel, avoided the black spot, and pinned the patch on the pirate. For their dining pleasure we provided parrot wings and tenders, dead men's toes, toasted bones, devil eyeballs, and toasted spicy ones too, cheesey hard tack, fruit to ward off the scurvy, grog and lemonade, and treasure cake.
The highlight of the evening was the treasure hunt which tested the mental mettle (mby, thanks for the spelling fix) of the participants. Their clues were in code. For a good pirate knows the code, and can follow it.
In the end, they all went home the richer. Still, I think the Captain and I had the better time.
Friday, October 20, 2006
I'm a below the radar, middle child. My path through life was cut by keeping my head low, mouth shut, and not making any waves. Without even trying, I was the good daughter. For the better part of 34 years I used this approach at home, in school, work and marriage. And I thought it was working, until the day I decided to having a differing opinion.
That day I stood up for myself.
I said, "No."
I said, "I can't handle that right now."
Quickly, life became a war of the wills. I was accused of being a lair and breaker of promises. I was devastated. The pressure mounted. With my head down, I saw only one way out. I couldn't believe my life would end this way.
As I was veering towards that bridge abutment, I picked up my head and saw that a life can have many paths. All I had to do was stop, and take another. And I did.
I don't keep my head down anymore. My mouth is wide open, and at times I make really big waves. I'm not good. But I'm happy.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
If I could stop time I would slowly wake my children
with multitudes of kisses.
Blanketed by love thickened with hope.
Rubbing their backs and carressing their faces.
Whispers of sweetness would hang in the air.
If I could stop time I would work for world peace.
Preaching the mother's approach,
Keep Your Hands to Yourself.
Treat Others As You Want to be Treated.
All governments could learn from a good dose of mothering.
If I could stop time I would take the time to,
Read all those good books I hear about.
Knit one hundred scarves.
Play a billion board games.
Wisely spending each moment,
as if I were to be my last.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
But-cept for the 45, it's all still true. All the days pretty much start the same. Then somewhere between dawn and dusk, I finished my book for the eighth time, kissed my children, ate turducken, did a little turkey dance, decorated our Christmas tree with friends and family, finished phase one and two of the house painting, painted at the pool, put in a lawn, wrote a few poems, did homework, kissed my children, put up a sugar shack, (Oh, I forgot to mention that, sorry!), went camping (twice this year), kissed my children some more, put the youngest on the school bus for the first time, threatened to dance naked in the street as it drove away, got my motorcycle license, visited a small pox graveyard, and knew that the souls of the departured children still play in those woods.
It's been a good year. Forty-six, ready or not, here I come!
Monday, October 16, 2006
Okay, maybe not a HOG. It was a Nighthawk, but a motorcycle all the same. My spa weekend was spent in Acton, MA at Ironstone Ventures Beginner Motorcycle Training. In addition to the 3 hours of classroom time on Friday evening, from 6:45 AM to 5 PM on Saturday and again at ungodly 6:45 AM to 1:30 PM on Sunday I was living and breathing a Nighthawk labelled C.
Along with 10 other lucky souls, I learned how to start the bike, (good beginning), and stop it. Also good for when balls, small children or other vehicles get in your way. We did swerving, turning (the slow, press and roll) , shifting, fast braking, and manuevering in tight spaces. We learned what to do in a skid, and what not to do. And at the end of the lessons we all passed the RMV test and got our licenses.
Now all I want to do is ride, ride, ride. My hands ache to once again squeeze the clutch and front brake. My left foot keeps probing for the gear shift. The right is inching forward for the rear brake. And my ass is only comfortable cradled in leather. I've got to get out there.
Maybe I'll ride over to the salon. I wonder if Marge can squeeze me in for a manicure.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Backpacks and lunch boxes
stuffed with fluff'n nutter and love.
We walk hand in hand
to the place of building blocks and story time.
Beads for counting, clay for the molding,
Word cards for writing your scariest pumpkin patch story.
I kiss and hug you. You squirm away.
Eager to join your friends.
And as I turn for the lonely journey home,
I pray that this moment is not our last.
That at the end of day, we will once again,
walk hand in hand.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Truthfully, I've struggled with knitting in the past. And I can knit and purl with most of them. I've even made scarves for two of my lovelies. But ask me to YO, (yarn over for those in the loop), or PSST, (your guess is as good as mine), and I'm lost. And God forbid I drop a stitch. On such occasions, like a zombie with my work held out before me, I find my mother, aunt, sister, or daughter. For they are the knitting goddess who can fix anything.
So I joined the group with the hope to acquire enough knitting knowledge to become indoctrinated into the secret society of knitters. I got so much more.
There are eleven women, but anyone can join. Meetings are just once a month, and there's homework. "One hundred scarves to donate to charities for the holidays." You can knit or crochet them anyway you want.
Most women had the fancy bulky yarn with the oversized needles. I brought a skein of something I picked up years ago because it was soft, and I thought I might make something nice out of it someday, and notably not oversized needles. The upshot, for every row one of the more experienced knitters produced, I knitted four. I look upon the difference as added practice.
During that first meeting, in addition to handing out the assignment, each member received the directions for making a prayer shawl. (After the holidays the plan is to make shawls for cancer patients.) On size 11 needles cast on 57 stitches. Then for each row knit three, followed by purl three for the length of the row. For all rows repeat until the shawl fits from wrist to wrist. The directions seemed simple enough. On my size 8 needles I cast on 18 stitches. My first attempt at making a scarf with this stitch resulted in a ribbing that one would find at the top of an oversized sock. Still the scarf is soft, and fits nicely against my neck.
As I worked my second scarf, I realized how the ribbing was formed and when I modified my pattern, produced the seed stitch of the prayer shawl. I can't wait to share my scarves with the group. Better still, I can't wait for the holidays. For out there into the community will go my scarves and each set of three stitches (ribbing or not) represents a prayer for the wearer.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Could I do that? Would I do that if such a horrible tradegy struck my family?
The Amish are right. They know holding onto anger darkens the soul, blackens the heart and removes all love and joy from life. These peace-filled people threw off their anger and offered forgiveness. They opened their hearts and extended their hands to help. They know that darkness cannot dwell in an open heart. Hatred does not fester in an open hand.
There is a lesson here. And on the prayers and souls of five little girls, perhaps it is a lesson we as outsiders to the Amish should embrace.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
What is going on now? I send my children to school and then proceed to worry that some madperson will decide our community is their community of choice to find a school for killing.
I admit it. I'm from the old world where children were taught:
To keep their hands to themselves.
Don't hurt other people.
Don't take what is not your's.
Treat people are you would like to be treated.
What has happened? If this has anything to do with progress, give me the good old days.
I'm sick of this violence.
Where does this disregard for life start?
Saturday, September 30, 2006
When I think of my mom's mom, that's all I hear. It's been at least six years since those words physically left her lips. But I hear them all the time.
It's strange how people form attachments to relatives. I loved my mom's mom. Not that I don't love my dad's mom too. But the heart pulls favorites. Whether we're looking for them or not. My sister lived for the times she spent with our paternal grandparents. She'd be visiting on the exact weekend they were going into the North End to do their shopping. Every time. Me, we'd hit the Purity Supreme across the field. Still it was fun. But not my sister's full bodied fun.
I, on the other hand, loved to visit my mom's parents. Nana was forever trying to teach me to sew a straight seam. I still can't. But my sister is an expert seamstress. She can sew anything she dreams about. My sister can also knit and crochet. Never dropping a stitch or having to read a pattern twice; not me. I'm just starting to figure out what all those odd symbols in a pattern mean. Despite sharing a domestic green thumb, my sister didn't appreciate Nana. I never understood why. Even in death, and me lacking in home economic graces, I love her deeply.
Nana seemed to relish the fact that my sister never lets anyone get the last word. She is quick thinking, and no one ever takes advantage of her. So I can understand why she held my sister up as a shining example for me to follow. She wanted me tephlon tough. She didn't want me to get hurt. Such love.
But still, I wonder. Was Nana right? I tend to forget those disturbances that happen in relationships. There isn't enough space in my brain to keep track of all that stuff. My sister never forgets. She remembers every fault, every hurt, every anything that comes her way. Her backbone is fortified with them. Her tongue honed.
Despite her thick skin, I know she gets hurt. I've seen it in her eyes and heard it in her voice. But I wonder if her thick outer cover prevents her from healing. Acting like a scab that holds in the infection.
So is having a thick skin truly worth it? I probably will never know. Instead, I'll live out my life, smiling through my thin skin. Shedding the hurt, and looking to each day as a new beginning.
Friday, September 29, 2006
FC you are so right. And yesterday the heavens opened and the angels sang as Miss Snark posted "Synopsis versus plot outlines in queries". On my desk I have stacks of example query letters, okay there's only seven, and three pages, handwritten of my attempts at cutting to the chase of my 49,976 word novel. In her post Miss Snark states the obvious areas that must be addressed in a query. I have paraphrased here. Please see the original post.
Who is the main character? I have that one answered.
Does what happens in the first 50 pages set up the story for the rest of the book? I believe so, but will continue to rewrite to tighten the plot.
Who is the enemy? This question has stopped me. On the surface, the enemy seems to be Sarah's Dad. After all he moves his family across the country for a job. Imagine that -- the selfish soul that he is. But is he the enemy? Me thinks not.
What about Jeff? Yes, he's the classroom bully. But is he the enemy?
What about the ghost? Or the thought that the house is haunted?
As I have been painting the porch (almost done!) I have been pondering over many a brush stroke on this query letter.
I need to list out who are the enemies and why.
And then I can go on to the last query letter criteria:
The twist in the plot is:
Thank God, for Miss Snark.
Monday, September 25, 2006
But I have learned the meaning of the phrase: Never Say Never Again.
Last week I finished my book. Last night I started the research to find an agent. Most want the first ten pages, some even want fifty. I decided to reread the first ten. Choppy, choppy, choppy...
I rewrote them again. So if I emailed you a copy of Forever Yours, swearing it was done... if your not my dear dear printer friend who writes and takes pictures, through both producing works that will knock your socks off, you don't have the latest and greatest.
AND if you want the latest and greastest, send email and I'll send it out, again. I guess these revisions will go on until it hits the shelf. So I'll never say it's done again , until then.
Friday, September 22, 2006
While rewriting my book, the eighth time now, I got an Ah-Ha moment.
Sarah is half asleep and she sees someone on the attic stairs carrying a book. When she wakes fully, she assumes it was her father, who has been busily setting up bookcases up there. I am hoping the readers follow her lead and make the same assumption, but I know who it is. After all I wrote it.
I have often wondered about where the ideas for my book have come from. It started out as an innocent picture book for my lovelies. A cute read about moving homes and finding the good in new places. But over the course of 8 years, it has taken on a life of its own. I see things, like the August 12, 1944 cover of the Saturday Evening Post. I know Martha and Alice Boss saw that cover, and it affected them. I've found cards, music, plant holders, Christmas decorations and old canine tags in this house and I know that they are their's. Treasures left here for me to ponder. When I dig in the gardens, I am curious if it will be in this shovel full that I'll find a thin warped wedding ring engraved "Forever Yours."
This draft is the one I will use to find an agent. Once that mountain is conquered, I am sure more rewriting will take place. Still, I hope and pray that my lucky agent will have Ah-Ha moments.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Monday, September 18, 2006
I also took the opportunity to add the little details I picked up during my trip to Stockbridge this summer. A word here, a phrase there that adds substance to the story.
I love rewriting, but I've said that before. I wonder when I'll be ready to let Sarah, her family and friends go?
Saturday, September 16, 2006
"I brought coffee and some pictures."
"Look at the girls. Haven't they grown?"
"Do I know you?"
"Yes, I'm Sonny's daughter."
"Do you like Ri-Ah's dance picture?"
"Lola rides the bus to school."
"Maddielou has shot up like a weed."
"Do you remember the girls?"
Do you remember Dean?"
"Yes, and Angie?"
"I can't remember your other sister's name."
"It's Margie. She's rich."
"Good for her. I remember Great Grandma Pagano."
"She was my mother. She was fat."
"That lady there is fat. And when she comes over
here I'm going to stick my tongue out at her."
"Nana, she seems so nice."
"I remember sitting on your porch with Aunt Angie."
"Yes, Angie would come over and we'd sit."
"The breeze was lovely."
"And drink lemonade."
"And Grandpa's tomatoes."
"They were so big and fat. Not fat like that one."
"But probably just as sweet."
"You like her?"
"I don't know her really. But she seems very nice."
"I won't give her any of my whiskey."
"Nana, I didn't know you drank."
"I'll see you again soon."
I drove home. Vacant.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
My Dear One took on the task last fall. Right about the same time I started the painting. He got half of the construction debris sifted, removing all the rock and several thousand boulders before winter hit. The weather halted the backyard work, and likewise painting stopped too. Funny how that works.
Well, to make a long story short, the Dear One spent most of his free outside work time finishing up this job. And for the past two evenings we have been putting the frosting on the cake. In otherwords, we have been spreading loam and planting grass seed.
We even went a bit overboard by reseeding some of the balder areas in the lawn. I think we have one more evening of spreading and seeding and the outside, except for painting the porch, will be done. It will be so nice to have the yard back in shape again.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Taken from The Eucharistic Prayer For Masses of Reconciliation
Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we praise and thank you through Jesus Christ our Lord
for your presence and action in the world.
In the midst of conflict and division,
we know it is you
who turns our minds to thoughts of peace.
Your Spirit changes our hearts;
enemies begin to speak to one another,
those who were estranged join hands in friendship,
and nations seek the way of peace together.
Your Spirit is at work
when understanding puts an end to strife,
when hatred is quenched by mercy,
and vengeance gives way to forgiveness.
For this we should never cease
to thank and praise you.
(And) In that new world where the fullness of your peace will be revealed,
gather people of every age, race, creed, language, and way of life
to share in the one eternal banquet
with Jesus Christ the Lord.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Several ideas had perculated to the surface, but none had stood the test of typing. The process by which the smokey mass of electronically impulsed details is funneled down into words, sentences and scenes through my fingers and keyboard.
The other night while out walking it came to me. And last evening it was still there. Hanging with possibility. It's mostly dialogue. Will it truly work? Only time will tell. It would be nice to get it published.
But let's not put the literary magazine before the pen.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Why do I write? How did I ever come to embrace, to absolutely live for the written word?
My writing started with wanting to produce a simple children's story when I was the mystery reader for Ri-Ah's kindergarten class. I read to her all the time and I wanted something different for her and her classmates. While walking the middle one in the stroller, I came up with the idea of Sarah and the Jelly Jars. A picture book story about a little girl that finds a stash of jelly jars and recipes when she and her family moves from Bainbridge Island, Washington to Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The making of the jelly helps the little girl accept and see the possibilities in the move. There was to be a jelly recipe at the back of the book.
I never finished this book. What happened is, it took on a life of its own. Growing from 28 picture book pages to a whooping 178 full text pages; so many changes, so many additions and enhancements to the story line.
It's been seven years in the making, and it's still not complete -- almost, but not quite. Soon. Yesterday, I had my work space laid out before me and, as usual, before I started to write I closed my eyes and slipped between the pages. I try to become the characters, so that my fingers will type what they feel, what they say -- and not what I say.
But still I wonder where all these twisting and turning ideas come from. Over the course of the last three or four years I have discovered some very powerful similarities between my book and the circumstances in our house. For example, in my book the little girl finds a box filled with letters and cards, etc... in the attic, and I found a box full of cards in our attic. I found out that two sisters lived in this house two sets of owners ago. (During World War II.) In my book, the little girl discovers that two woman lived in her house, and her classmates tell her that the women haunt the house. (Again, during World War II.)
Am I a ghost's writer?
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Well last night we, notice I said we, had our first math homework assignment. It was on BIG NUMBERS. The directions were to count out at least five groups of objects where the population count would be between 100 and 1,000. My quiet internal response to reading this was, OH PLEASE! Don't make me count to a thousand. Finally, I was making time for my book (Remember I'm supposed to be writing a book?), and this assignment without the use of multiplication was going to take forever.
I smiled. "Get started and if you need me, I'm here."
The stairs in the house were counted. Thank GOD we don't have over 100 stairs in the house.
The DVDs were counted. Three shelves. First she tried counting all of them, but got lost. I suggested she count one shelf, and then add that number to itself three times. Task completed.
Then the holes in a rectangular plastic pin cushion. My heart sunk. There is no way we can count all those holes. By herself she'd lose count or lose her place. And I wasn't sitting there for an hour counting.
"Why don't we count the holes in two lines and then count up how many sets of lines there are.
1, 2,3,4,5,6,7,8....... 30 holes
And the number of two line sets: 24.
I set up the multiplication problem, 24 time 30, then asked, "What's the answer when you multiply zero by anything?"
"OH." I saw a flicker. The information was noted and rightly stored.
"What is the answer of 4 + 4 + 4?"
(Bring out little fingers here.) "Twelve"
"Right, Four times three is 12. And next what is three plus three plus the one we had to carry?"
(NO fingers this time.) "Seven."
"Right again, three two times is six, then plus the one to be seven. So how many holes are there in this pin cushiony toy?"
"Seven hundred and twenty." All smiles.
"Yes, and you did multiplication!"
The heavenly lights shown down, angels sang, trumpets trumpeted and she did ten more counting exercises than required. All due to the power of multiplication.
There is a God, and he/she loves math. And hopefully my children will too.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Friday was fine. Cloudy, but fine. We arrived at the campsite around dusk, set up camp (our tent and screen house with our kitchen set up and table), ate dinner with family, sat around and visited then went to bed. That night the mud flaps on the tent caught the breezes and kept thrumbing against the ground. So, Saturday morning we found some rocks to hold the flaps still. As it turns out these rocks probably saved our tent.
Saturday afternoon, Ernesto came a calling. First, with a few brisk breezes and then, in the evening, the campfire flames were being driven sideways. Before turning in, afraid when the rain finally came everything would get soaked, I packed up all our dishes, and put everything that we normally keep out, back in its storage bin. The only things left out were the two lanterns. They were sitting on the table.
That night, the cool air and whoosh of the wind kept the kids fast asleep while my husband and I laid awake watching the tent top being pushed all over the place. Finally I nodded off still wondering if we'd be awoken by having the tent collapsed on us. What woke me was the soft tinkling sound, like something hitting up against a tent pole. My Dear One got up to investigate. Within seconds he made a brief return to the tent door, "The screen house is blown over." My first thought was for the lanterns. One of them was new, but the other was from my Grandfather. I could remember camping with it when I was a little girl.
In the pitch dark, I groped around for one of the four flashlights, but couldn't find one. I found a a small sweat shirt, a tiny t-shirt and finally a pair of jeans. I slipped them on. They were my Dear One's. Despite my apprehension about the screen tent, I was delighted they fit, thinking, maybe I'm not so fat after all. Next I found a jacket. It turned out to be my eldest. That fit too. I did manage to find my own shoes, and with them on I was out the door, looking at a mangle of screen and poles.
"Your Grandfather's lantern is fine, but the globe on the other is smashed."
As we burrowed through the debris, our friend emerged out of the darkness. She had been calling to us, offering us bed space in her trailer, but we hadn't heard her with the gale force winds that were still howling.
Since I had packed up the night before, it took us no time to untwist the screen house and put our belongings into the car.
Back in the tent we tried to go back to sleep. It was then HE said, "You know I heard two trees snap off around midnight." I thought about getting everyone into the car, but if one of these trees feel on our vehicle we'd surely be killed as if it fell on the tent. Why worry everyone. So, I said my prayers, we had a few laughs and soon I was back to sleep.
In the morning, Ernesto was still flexing his muscles, but there were longer lulls between the gusts. The kids up, we set up our stove, made hot cocoa as usual, and then cooked bacon and eggs for breakfast. After breakfast, we assessed the damage: two poles snapped like dried twigs, a few rips in the screen tent, three out of four legs broken off our kitchen unit, and one broken lantern. Later, while the Dear One set up a lean to out of tarps, I walked around the tent. At least three pegs were pulled out completely and several others were being worked out. If it weren't for the rocks, I fear the tent would have gone over like the screen house.
In the end, we got very little rain, the wind died down by Sunday evening, and we had a lovely campfire. As they say, "A bad day at camping is still better than a good day at work."
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Today, as I ventured out, I passed one of the usual, but nameless. I see him everyday. So do my children. This is what worries me. Two monthes ago I saw this man placing a pint of clear liquor into each of his front pockets as he searched our neighbor's recycle bin for returnables. (He knows not to look in ours, we cherish every nickel.) I tried to tell myself that I was seeing things. After all it wasn't even 9 o'clock in the morning. Still very loud mental bells were ringing.
This morning as our paths crossed, he was drinking from an oversized can of Bud wrapped up in a napkin. He was all smiles. My heart raced as I offered a passing wave and replied to his hello, making tracks to put distance between us.
Rounding the corner, and feeling safer, I started to recall the other constants that walk by. The older woman that used to run with her even older dog. Now she is walking and she is dog-less. I fear he passed away. The man not much older than me. Usually walking alone but lately pushing a baby in a stroller. Could it be a grandchild? He offers a wave as he races by. The two older gentlemen that wear out sneakers going from recycle bin the recycle bin. Somedays they are so loaded down with cans that there is a noteable skip in their steps. I wonder what they use their treasure for, the rent or a coffee or some liquid relaxation?
Then there is the overweight hitchhiker. Always laughing, always trying to engage me and the kids in conversation. For monthes we kept our distance. Seeing him by the grocery store, in coffee shops, standing on street corners. When he saw our car he would wave. Soon the kids were waving back. Then one day, in a coffee shop he gave us a Pooh umbrella. Telling us he found it and thought one of the kids would like it. I thanked him, and as I turned he said, "I find pens everywhere. And when I don't find one I steal one."
The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. "Oh, really."
"Yes, and the other day I found a pen at the mall and when I opened it..."
"Why would you do that?" I asked.
"Because, inside was a ten dollar bill and some coke. It was a great lunch."
So, I ask, who are the people in your neighborhood?
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
It's such a nice little bike.
Our house has the first day blues.
The backpack is loaded,
Tissues, hand sanitizer, paper, pencils
Markers, erasers, crayons, art smock, and binder
Lunch is made.
Bologna sandwich special -- a first day tradition.
The favorite shirt, the most comfortable pants
Sneakers or tevas --
Is the bus really coming?
Or can we just pretend?
Monday, August 28, 2006
We had one day to do any real hiking. And it being our first day, it had to be gradual, short, and kid friendly. We picked the hike up Middle Mountain. Actually, I picked it and then convinced everyone else it would be fine.
The age range of the hikers was 5 (Mommy, I'm almost 6!) to 69 (NO, I'm not pushing 70!). The little ones were running ahead and I was in the rear, counting heads and nursing the tendonitis in my heel. Hoping we would all be able to make it. Praying I had read the contour lines correctly and I would have both feet functioning and attached when I got to the top.
Little legs tire easily, and soon we were stopping and resting after every 200 feet or so. A few times there were tears, and a bit of whining about wanting to go back. But when given the option to turn around, little legs ran on ahead.
About halfway to the top, our path went from being a six foot across road way to single file. We consulted the map quite a few times, made sure we could see a red blaze, rested some more and then pushed on to the tune of "I'm tired, can we rest. Grandpa how are those replacement knees doing?"
All the while, steadily climbing. Finally, the junior choir hit a crescendo... unlike our valiant party. Being the map holder, I replied, "After a quick left, we'll be circling to the summit."
Little eyes, and a few sets of older ones looked at me. The trail was still going straight and up.
"Well, eventually it will take a sharp left."
We climbed on. Finally the kids emerged out of the woods and on to a barren rock. Cheers erupted. "We're here."
I hated being the bearer of bad news, "Not quite. Close -- we're definitely getting up there."
More walking and not so much climbing... a cheer went up from ahead. "The trail, it's turning! Are we there?"
"Just follow it and see where it goes!" I yelled up from the rear.
And they were. When we gathered for our summit photo. We were young and old. Some looking forward to more hiking, others picturing the couch as there next vacation conquest. But we made it. All smiles, we sat around, admiring the view and eating trail mix. And except for the steep rocky drop offs that kept calling the children to venture ever so close -- it was wonderful.
And my ankle -- it's sore, but it was worth it.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
"Really," I'd reply.
"Yes, in Tech-Ed."
"Hummmm.... Tech-Ed, they couldn't have covered everything. You need me to teach you about this stuff. I'm your mother. I know about these things. I watch CNN."
And last year, I thought, maybe this gauntlet would pass us by. Most of the children filing out of her school were either pulling out a cell phone or plugging into an i-pod before the school doors could hit them in the backpack. I was smiling, and thinking, maybe she won't be enticed, but I was wrong.
Last week, she asked for an email address. Without blinking an eye, I said, "Sure." She had had a yahoo account many many moons ago, but never used it. So this was a fine step towards maturity. Not a problem.
Then, earlier this week, along with picking up the usual two gross of pencils and pens (All of which will somehow evaporate before Thanksgiving.), notebooks, a new backpack, index cards, post its, you get the picture, she asked about a cell phone.
I took a deep breath, and as I pushed our overflowing cart from notebooks to ink cartridges I knew my decision was made.
Of course, I've told everyone, even Ri-Ah that it's my second phone. That I am allowing her to use it so she can call me. An electronic leash, as such. So that she can be out of my sight without me requiring certain medications to hold my embarassing mother bear anxieties at bay.
I justified the purchase on two levels, besides the medication thing:
1. The price of gas. Do I really need to drive her to and from school? It's less than a half of a mile from the house. With this she can call me when she gets there and when she is going to leave. Already I feel better.
2. It gives her some freedom without me giving up my parental rights.
Still it's my phone. We've had it two days and it's set to speed dial, me at home, my cell, (for when I'm out running errands), her grandparents, in case she can't reach me, and then those important numbers she felt she truly needed -- five of her closest friends. My phone, remember.
And then the second shoe fell today. Or to be more truthful, in that first hour with my cell phone in her hand, while shopping for a ringtone that was to be all hers, on my phone, (Of course, I get to pay for it.), she asked if she could buy an ipod.
"What," I said, "Frank Sinatra isn't your kind of music?"
She didn't even answer. I got the look. You know the one, straight lipped, eyes peering over the top of her glasses, kind of looked like me when I'm aghast at the little ones. I took a deep breath and asked the another question, "Who's paying for this?"
I should have expected the answer. Afterall Ri-Ah is responsible. "I will."
So for two days we shopped around. Visiting every electronics department within a 30 mile radius of the house and hitting every, and I mean every internet shopping site. The criteria, price -- with or without taxes and shipping. And last night we got.
We weren't in the house two minutes when she made the gentle request to put the software for the tiny device on MY computer. I took a sharp intake breath. This technological maturity was going to be stepping directly on my electronic fingers; the going price of motherhood. I pushed her off for the time it took to put the little ones to bed, and then gave in.
I won't mention the two hours it took me to install the software on my computer and then get it to talk with that little device. I won't mention the fact that during the installation my computer has now completely forgotten that it's closest and dearest electronic neighbor is a scanner.
This morning, I got up early in order to secure my two minutes of computer time. All of a sudden I see vailed looks of "Mom you're on your computer again" coming my way.
Technology, you have to love it.