Wednesday, October 31, 2007

When do you know you have too much on your plate?

1. When you can't walk from the kitchen to the TV without leaving a food trail.


2. TODAY, while walking my children to school, and after seeing a teacher dressed up like the Cat in the Hat, I wondered if today is Dr. Seuss's birthday?

Yeah, right...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

When you know what you want to say but...

you don't quite know how to say it. Many times I've used this blog to push through the mushy blockage that sits between my fingers and my cerebellum.

I'm stuck. I have an article to write, plenty of information, but can't seem to get it out onto paper. I threw up all the details into my notebook, as sometimes the pen draws it out better than the keyboard. (nothing) I've typed details into a computer file that spews, blah blah blah. (nothing again) I went for a walk with friends and complained. They said, "Make sure you put in the stuff about the flashlight." I will.

But I need a hook, angle, point of interest that the reader won't find any place else. It's not the subject, for there is plenty of interest. But I have questions that must be answered. What makes an artist who they are? What gives them their perspective? For this job, as I type here, now, I believe the answer is light.

For most of her childhood this artist lived in a one room apartment with no electricity, no running water. What is central to all her work is light. Its presence and its absence. Its presence takes you places. Winding you down roads, through archways, to doorways, and into the privacy of an embrace. It's absence casts doubt and moodiness. But in the shadows, using a flashlight to guide you, there is a doorway, a window, a place of hope and wonder.

Art mirrors life. Both require light. It's time to write.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Pay It Forward

One of my all time favorite movies is "Pay It Forward." The story of a boy, from a troubled background, who sees the benefit of helping others and then having those helped, help others yet again. And so on, and so on, and so on, as the dated shampoo commercial goes.

Over the years this has become almost a mantra to me. When asked if I can teach a religious education class I try to weave into the program a movie night, and then a community service project. (Still hasn't happened, but I'm still pushing.) I've taken pictures for the local Pinwheels for Peace installations, and wondered, does this change the children? And what about "my girls" who now find themselves donating books, cleaning trails, and thinking about how that can help those less fortunate? Little steps, like the boy, and I wonder if all this effort is really worth it. Does all this community service and thinking about our fellow man really make an impact? If we were so preoccupied with each other's well being, could we avoid war?

Unlike the movie and the little boy, I'm not in a state of despair. My world has not comedown around me, nor have my efforts been discovered by the news media. So I'll patiently watch and see. Will those helped, pay it yet again?

Can we change the world?

Would you like to help?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Cheating Our Children for the Sake of an Education

In our town, elementary school recess, is a whole 15 minutes. That's it! For six hours of education the children get to run around for a whole 15, count them, minutes. What is that... enough time to start a game of tag, swing a few times, or jump a few ropes. That's it. The rest of the time they are glued to chairs, and demanded to pay attention or it's a trip out to the corridor or to the Principal.

And when they are let out at the end of the day, payment for all that paying attention is to be buried in homework. At first it doesn't look like much. The usual 15 minutes of assignment a night. But then it's the 15 minutes of reading a night, and the reading log activity that proves to the teacher, "YES, I read tonight." And then it is: don't forget to study each night for spelling, vocabulary, and your math facts. Again, 15 minutes each... So what are we up to now: an hour and a half of homework, and let's not forget the book reports that are in addition to all this.

Are we cheating our children? I say yes. We are cheating them out of free play. We are cheating them out of knowing the importance of being physically active and fit. We are forcing them to sit for long hours. How can children forced into such physical inactivity know the importance of being active?

It's Saturday and what have we been doing since early this morning: HOMEWORK! That book report: sitting, writing, typing, drawing.

We are raising a population of children that won't know what to do with themselves or their children, or children's children unless they are fully occupied and sitting behind a stupid desk.

Yes, I typed stupid here. As a writer, I spend too much time sitting and typing, but I made that choice as an adult, and I know the value of a good walk. The value of getting out and breathing in the fresh autumnal air. I know the value of using my fingers for more than math, and writing. I learned these values as a child in my parents backyard, and in the backyards of my friends. But will our children? Will they get the opportunity to use their backside of more than a resting spot in front of a computer. Will they learn to sled? Ride a bike? Ride a scooter? Dig holes to China, by going through the center of the earth.

Will they grow up to be caring social individuals by practicing through playing with their friends? Or will they only understand the finer points of their favorite word processing software?

GET THEM OUTSIDE! Get them to be active. STOP THE HOMEWORK MADNESS! Please will some very intelligent teacher assign "play time" as part of social competence. Please.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Another busy day

leading up to another busy weekend. I have a dream of waking up in a cleaned house, with the trees planted and the gourds harvested and set out to dry. The kitchen floor is gleaming. Dinner is well planned, ready and the dishes are washed. Some days I have so much to do, that I get nothing done. Yesterday I waited for two appointments to happen... and nothing. Both canceled. One supposedly called, but must've dialed the wrong number, since no call came here. And the other, emailed regrets. Now what? And as I wait for Mr. Editor... I'm setting out to start another article today.

I realize I waste a lot of time waiting. I need a real to do list printed out so I can be constantly reminded to get up, and do something, besides waiting. In my defense, I can almost see to the surface of the dining room table. So in the spirit of the upcoming holiday: I'll make a list, check it twice... and maybe squeeze in some dusting.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Home Team

The Red Sox have won the first game in the 2007 World Series. (Insert hoopla here.) I'm happy for them and their fans. But... how can you cheer for a team that the average person, read me here, can't afford to watch? Oh, we can turn on the all American great electronic babysitter and become mesmerized by the pixels flashing on and off across the screen. But I can't afford tickets for our family to see a game, up close and personal to the Green Monster.

For me, baseball is a way to breathe. Strange hearing that from someone who won't watch it on TV. I love going to the games. I love being this close to home plate. I love a great steal, an Our Father glove tip catch for a final out. I love the eruption of a cheer. How it starts in your toes and roars out your throat like a dragon. But I have to be there to enjoy it. The action is real at the park. I'm too far away on my sofa. I can't drill my eyes into the pitcher, or offer insightful direction from the comfy chair. It's almost like being cheated. For some, the wonderful smell of coffee to find out it's decaf...

Baseball has to be accessible. The average Josephine has to be able to take a carload of wild, but well behaved girls to the park, sit this close to the batter -- without going bankrupt. Honestly, I can't do that at Fenway.

SO: Go Red Sox. Win, win, win, win...

But for me, I'll hold off my baseball cheers until the Worcester Tornadoes start up again in May. We'll be there, this close to the on deck circle. Having baseball fun, as it's suppose to be.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Fires are ravaging lives along the west coast, while I sit here safe within the walls of my east coast home. Safe from the choking smoke and the 40 foot flames that continue to consume so many homes and displace so many families in southern California. How did it happen? How do over a dozen fires get started and then define what "spreading like a wild fire" truly means?

A better question: What can we do to help?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dear Mr. Editor

My edits will not be ready for you in the morning, as promised. I've just spent 105 minutes on the phone with a high schooler. All the while, thinking, "I haven't done this since my own high school days." What is it about high school that creates an atmosphere of soul searching via the phone lines? Why can they get all their homework done, while expounding in almost endless detail their rotten day? And me, I can't write one paragraph that makes any sense at all.

Will be in touch. Please don't call. I'm leaving the line open.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Red Man

Would you believe a self portrait? Well maybe not, but on a bad day, it's pretty close.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Party's Over

What a day. What a party. There are still pumpkin guts on (in) the rug. Enough eye of newt, cheesy large intestine, and litter box cake left in the refrigerator to feed a small ghoulish army. And priceless memories I hope last a lifetime. My final thought on the event: It's amazing just how quiet 22 children can be when they are working the clues on a treasure hunt.

My eldest lent me a camera. (smile) This photo is untouched. Taken under black light, with no flash on a point and shot.

Thanks to all the adults that stayed a pitched in. As you know, we couldn't have done it without you.

Till next year -- and the ear wax coated q-tips were a hit!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Rise and Shine!

Christmas morning: Children sleep in... parents lay in bed wondering if they have passed on in the night.

Morning of Halloween Party: Children up before dawn... groggy parents lay there wondering why same children need to be awoken on Christmas.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Same Folder - Different Day

Yes, this picture is from the past. No, my camera is not back yet...

I heard there was going to be a talk on patience as a virtue, but I couldn't sit still long enough to listen. For those who know me, and you know I have only so much virtue, rumor has it I was worse in my twenties. I find this hard to believe. But it's probably true. I was in graduate school, cocky, and thinking the world revolved around the Thermodynamic and Kinetic Regulation of the Coupling Factor Complex in Spinach Chloroplasts.

When I think back to those years of frustration and wonderful discovery, the beauty of diving deeply into this biochemical process takes my breath away. And it's not until my own have come home with questions regarding membrane transport, when I say, "That's not completely correct." And know exactly where my thesis is stored, (behind the box of maps in the old winter coat closet), so I can prove it to them.

Why do those tiny bits of scientific trivia stick with me? Why is the value of 11.5 kcal/mole so important? I hear that number, and I see that graph, and I remember all those experiments, in a tiny pitch black room: me, my thylakoid membranes, lovingly gathered, and more radioactivity than you could shake a stick at.

Those were the good old days.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thank You

I read an article in the Readers Digest about the power of saying thank you. It's amazing how incorporating those two big little words into your vocabulary improves your life and the lives of those around you.

So here's a picture and a thank you.

"Thank You for visiting my blog."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Large Intestine Cheese Ball

Our annual Halloween/ Fall Birthday Party is fast approaching. I had a marathon session in the kitchen last night where the piece de resistence was a cheese ball formed into the shape of a large intestine, colon included. Being a scientist by educational training, I know what a large intestine looks like -- without even opening a book. (ie too much school... it can be a bad thing) I know it's weird, but after 5 years of the recipe called for pumpkin shape, complete with pretzel stem, I had to do something different. So we have the jello brain, the litter box cake, the intestine shaped cheese ball (other body parts were tossed about, but this is a kid's party), eggy eye balls, skeleton cupcakes, and the tamer cheesy bat biscuits. Sorry... no camera. No photos on the 11 o'clock news.

Basic recipe: a stretch of the recipe found in Frightfully Fun Halloween Crafts and Cooking

6 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
12 ounces of soften cream cheese
3/4 cup solid pack pumpkin
3/4 cup of apricot pineapple preserve
3/4 tsp ground allspice -- be generous
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg -- generous again

Mix until smooth. Wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until play doh consistency. Shape into your favorite body part.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Deadlines and Commitments

"what to put in... what to leave out..."

Isn't there a song that goes something like that? Is there a life, that doesn't feels something like that? I've noticed this blog has several reoccurring themes: the passage of time and being overly committed. Which of course, helps time to fly by all the faster.

Lately is it one step forward, 47 steps back. I'm trying to get the trim in our bedroom stained and urethaned. It's stained, and parts urethaned... and when I took the blue paint safe tape off... it peeled up all the paint under it. So now after I finish urethaning the rest of the trim, I have to sand, reprime and repaint a one inch strip along all the woodwork. Just thinking about it makes me tired. Not to mention the curtains that have to be made for the bedroom and the office.

I am trying to get deadlines off my desk. Those I did to myself. But face it, and admit it, WHO doesn't like to have a byline? My name is ptcakes, and I LOVE having a byline. I want to be a big writer someday. I want to get my book published. I want to start writing another book. I want to write, write, write, NOT paint, stain, or sand.

No word on my camera... it's been less than a week. It seems like a lifetime. Maybe I'll be a big photographer too.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Wouldn't you know it -- third place

-- from the archives - almost time for our annual trip to Plymouth Plantation...

The middle one with her blueberry cranberry crumb pie came in third place. Her prize a $20 gift certificate to Annie's Book Stop for books. We are all quite happy.

Happy blogging to me
Happy blogging to me
Happy blogging, dear ptcakes
Happy blogging to me...

Two years of writing just about whatever pops into my head.
I know it's not much... but it's mine.
Hey, at my age, you have to celebrate all the little things.

Happy blogging to me.
And many more.........................................................................

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Baking a Pie

Our church is having a pie baking contest this weekend. Okay, it's a parish picnic inclusive of a pie baking contest. We're going to bake a pie or two or three... I'm making a shoo fly pie. The last time I made one of these was on a family vacation in Florida. It won't win, but it'll bring me back to a time when our family was a bit more whole. Even without closing my eyes, I see their faces, and in my heart remember how much they liked it. A pie made out of ingredients found in someone else's house.

She, whose birthday is today, wants to bake a lemon meringue. The middle one is looking for yet another flavor to be named later; almost like a professional sports draft pick. The ringer, the one who will bring it all home to momma. It would be nice if they won. Me, I'm beyond the lure of the contest and participate to be part of the greater community. For all pies, the winners and the losers, make up the dessert table.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sleepless In...

Ahhh... all is right in my corner of the world. It's dark outside and I'm up, and working on the latest slide show project. This one is a bit different. The pictures were delivered without a lot of this is so and so, and this happened when... so I don't have the same feeling for this family as I have had for others. Still, it's interesting to watch the children and grandchildren grow up as the grandparents grow older; to get a long playing snap shot into someone else's life. To notice that their kitchen cabinets look like ours. Or to admire their build in shelving without stepping foot into their home.

For me, it's the marriage between the music and the images. Getting the timing, listening to the words, finding the spirit that moves each frame along. And then there is the nervousness: I hope they like it. I pray for tears, laughter and the satisfaction of a life well spent.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Another late start

I hope all this sleep I'm getting is good for something. It's great while it's happening, but the after affects are a bit disturbing. Kind of like the Rolling Stone song that goes something like, You don't always get what you want, you get what you need. Now to figure out exactly what I need... Before I thought I needed sleep. Now I think I need more time. Life is truly a balancing act.

I was talking with the girls the other day about diet, and asked if there is a place in life for sweets? They said they didn't know. I said, "There is, but it's a small place. That to deny yourself chocolate was to make it bigger than it is. And when you have some, it will consume you, instead of you consuming it." Now what does that have to do with hydrangeas?

Strangely there is a connection. One sister-in-law has a hydrangea that is several years old that has never bloomed. Another just bought a house with a full blooming hydrangea that is so old, at least a hundred as seen in the photos at the historical society, that it's a tree instead of a bush. Both are in full sun. The elder is planted in the hard soil, right next to a well traveled road. The unbloomed is nestled a garden in the safety of a backyard. What does one plant have that the other plant needs?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My Camera

... an old picture brought up from the depths of the archives...

My right arm is going to the shop today. It's been a long time coming, and today, I'll finally make my way to UPS and send it off. They gave me the usual, "Two weeks" answer when I asked how long I'll have to tend to the oozing stump that will limply hang off my shoulder. Since I packed it up, with love and peanuts, I've jumped to snap off a quick picture at least four times. I will miss my right arm while it's gone. I guess it's a good thing I'm ambidextrous. At least in its absence I'll be able to finish staining the bedroom trim.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Driving Home

There is something about the colors, the streaks of light, the dark places and dancing. I can't, not take pictures when we're driving at night. It's magic. Maybe someday I'll have a showing.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

I'm seeking the quiet of the day

It has happened time and time again, as it has happened now. My calendar of dates and commitments fills to the point where I can't breathe. My plate full, agenda items slip off, and I'm left wondering if I'll ever learn.

Yesterday I created a list. Things that must get done, appointments and expectations that had to be met. As I whittled down the list, I reminded myself to breathe, and focus on the task at hand. One down, the next to go. Think no further than about the thought at the end of your nose.

I made it through the day. Along the way I learned a lot about courage, bravery, and compassion. I was granted the opportunity to help others grow when faced with physical challenges. And bathed in the warmth of their accomplishments, faced some of my own challenges, and won.

There are still deadlines and commitments looming. The plate is by no means empty, but it's okay.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Tired Eyes

Did you ever have tired eyes? Eyes that wouldn't stay closed, but struggle to remain open. Since I'm not a great typist, tired eyes make for very difficult writing.

Usually lazily pursuing my way through a young adult novel, I'm buried in By The River Piedra I Sat Down And Wept by Paulo Coelho. Thigh deep, the one theme that stands out is miracles are around us. You just have to look for them. The other day while out food shopping, I wondered what miracles I'd come across in my travels. Not soon after that I saw an old acquaintance in the cereal aisle. We touched, and there was a homecoming. Thoughts of a bygone day. Was it better back then? Was that my miracle?

Tired eyes, some days feeling older than others; half closed. Do they see the miracles? Veiled, do they sweep away life's hard edge?

Thursday, October 04, 2007


It's true. It happened here.

I was walking by the tank when I noticed one of our orange platties lying on the floor. I picked it up. It wasn't breathing. Holding it gently just below its dorsal fin, I swished it back and forth in the tank a few times. Stopped. Nothing. I swished again; stopped. The fish took a gulp. It's fins wriggled. I let go and it swam away.

The fish you save could be your own. Fish CPR.

It's Early!

I'm all for getting up early and having a bit of time to get mommy things done, but this is ridiculous.

I have:
too many projects on my mind,
too many irons in the fire,
too many fingers in the pies,
too many cakes in the oven,
too many rings around the collar,
too many bats in my belfry,
too many thoughts in my process,
too many fish to fry,
too many fundraiser events to raise funds for,
too many songs to sing,
too many rows to hoe,
too too too many, too manies...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Blessings from the Garden

Our garden, though not much to look at, being a few plants here, a few plants stuck there, and eight gourd plants that are taking over everything in between, continues to supply us with fresh vegetables. A hundred times now, I think I've discovered every single green bean, claiming the plants are done, only to go out there a day or two later and have another handful for the soup. And the tomatoes rival anything out of a horror movie. Everyday there is more and more of them. Yesterday I made a barley dish (ptcakes barley surprise -- open refrigerator -- retrieve veggies -- add to pot) with our own peppers, green beans and corn. (we had sliced tomatoes on the side.) The peppers and green beans were fresh. The corn was an experiment. We dried it off the ear.

Earlier in the season our dozen or so corn plants produced some wonderful ears, and then some shorter ones that I called scrub corn. Instead of letting these ears wither on that plant, we picked them, stripped off the kernels and dried them in a special handmade bowl that has an S crack in the bottom. Allowing air to flow around the kernels. I had seen them dry corn at Plimoth Plantation and figured we'd give it a try. The texture and flavor the kernels added to this week's barley surprise was in itself -- surprising.

It's interesting and thought provoking, with all our modern conveniences and progress, we can still learn a few things from the Pilgrims.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Mommy Field Trip - the sequel

We stole off to the Blue Hills on the Milton/Canton line this morning. Imagine the guilt of leaving clothes unfolded, dishes in the sink, and furniture dusty. All to take a walk in the woods. Oh, we're justified. We can't take our girls hiking without checking out the trails first. But then again, I practically grew up in these hills.

Yes, that is a bit of an exaggeration. But as a young'un I did have the occasion to hike here. Still, I didn't remember the terrain being so rocky, and the view seemed bigger and better those 30 years ago. But, it was a nice escape and hopefully we'll be trooping through in the not too distant future.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Kids and Cameras

I love digital photography. Imagine having to get the film developed to see all the wonderful pictures your children snap off when they borrow your camera. BUT my big question is: With a SLR camera, HOW can you get a picture like this? You look, you see, you click.

Borrowing my camera. It's like asking if I would loan you my right arm, left leg and squeeze out an eyeball while I'm at it. It happens, but only on rare occasions.

Actually, my camera is going in for a repair. It's not right. After over 14,000+ images, it just doesn't act and feel like it used to. That, and the flash mechanism doesn't always retract when it's suppose to. After next weekend, I'll lovingly pack it in a box, ship it off, and then sit by the door waiting for it to return. They say, 7 to 10 days. It will be a lifetime.