Sunday, February 28, 2010

Full Weekend

We are experiencing a full weekend. There is the parish breakfast, set up and serving, friends over for pizza, brownie sundaes and games (not necessarily in that order), a Jesse Manibusan concert, (God are we lucky to hear him.), and altar serving, mixed in with the more mundane of,flute, laundry, homework, sap collection, cooking, all topped off with substitute teaching an 8th grade religious ed. class. This has my worried.

My sixth graders know to expect the unexpected. Prior to class I read the book, thinking about what's important, look around the house at what I can bring in, write a game plan, then wing it. This class is supposedly doing the same material we are... go figure. Our fearless leader and director said, "Just do what you do with your class... you will probably build a Shack."

And last night as I laid in bed and wondered just what we would do, I thought about that Shack, and how it can be tied into the concepts of Active Listening and being a Friend. I even thought about whether I should bring in the quilting project. I need red squares cut out... This should be an interesting class.

We are rolling from one activity to the next.

Off to wake the children for the breakfast. It's an early rise and shine day for us all.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Many hands

My sixty grade religious education class is making a quilt for a little boy who is surviving leukemia. We started this process last Fall. First with each student designing a square around the theme of friendship, then learning how to sew; both boys and girls. We have at most two meetings a month, at which the students, listen to lessons, read, create banners and sew when there is time.

Last week I looked at the calendar and realized that we have 5 meetings left, and the squares needed a whole lot more than 5 meetings worth of sewing. For when the designs are finished, they need to be pressed, and sewn into strips. Which can then be sewn into a quilt top, to be made into a simple quilt.

Two days ago I pulled out the pile of hoops and started working a little on each project. Not to finish the projects for the students, but to give them a helping hand. Today I brought the project bag to the Friday morning knitting group so that I could continue on one or two of them. When the ladies saw what I was doing, each took up a hoop and lent a hand.

I am so touched by the generosity of the students and that of these women. It's a good day.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gastly Weather

It is warm warm warm here. Warm being a constant 37 day and night. There is no sap. Well two gallons from 13 taps this morning and none this afternoon.

Mother Nature, if you ever surf the web, it's warm days, sunny would be nice, and cold nights that cause the sap to run like stink upon the land. Cold then hot, not warm, warm, and more warm.

Cold, hot, cold, hot... anytime... I'm waiting.

postscript: It's 6:30 PM and the temperature is 47; not good.

Fairest of All

by Serena Valentino

While vacationing it is a habit of mine to pick up a book or two. Usually a cookbook, (an addiction), sometimes a novel. I picked up both on this last trip to the land of the mouse. The cookbook is a small spiral bound edition of authentic Mexican recipes. The novel is a new spin on the tail of Snow White from her stepmother's perspective, Fairest of All.

This book delves into the whys and wherefores on how such a wonderful momma figure becomes reduced to ugliness and evil. How someone who so loved in her lifetime forsakes all that brings happiness for an image in a mirror.

As I was reading I was brought up short in my analysis of the book when the question, "What are our modern day magic mirrors?" crossed my mind. Where do we turn away from those closest to us, whom we love to look for remote acceptance and praise? The answer is staring me right in my face. It is this blasted computer. My own mirror out into the electronic world. Where I check email. Who wants to hear from me today? Facebook. Who wants to read what I've been up to today? And what have all my friends been doing likewise? News and gossip. Thank God I'm not rich or famous, having to live in their fishbowl.

Daily, well almost, I write on this blog, post a favorite picture or two then wait to see if anyone has thought my diatribe is noteworthy enough to comment about. And when it comes in, alas acceptance from the remote ether. Breathing easy once again.

Scary, the thin veil between real life and a Disney novel. And as in Fairest of All, it is those closest to us, who love us, and understand best of all.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Best Time of Year

Despite the rain, I went out today to check the buckets. I was expecting cold biting wind, and that raw overall feeling that stays with you three cups of hot chai later. What I got was the complete opposite. Yes, it is raining. But it is a delightful rain. A rain that turns snow into slush. A rain that signals the start of mud season. A maple sugarmakers delight.

The buckets were at half the usual yield. The taps were putting out at a pensive pace. Just enough to let me know that I'll do another pass down the line later this afternoon.

Full buckets

Yesterday the temperatures were in the low 40s, and it was rainy and cold. Still, the buckets must be checked, and much to my delight, they were full.

This morning my opening eyes were met with the sight of snow on the ground. The weather radar shows we should be having rain. Someone has to tell those guys their rain snow line is a bit off. No sap this morning, well maybe a little from those trees that could. The little one and I will walk line before school. Truly they get upset if I check the buckets without them.

The forecast calls for warming and rain... If it reaches the 40s the sap should be still running. Forties, rainy, and windy is not what I call warm and cozy.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I'm Up!

Drat! Sometimes having insomnia is not a good thing.

Yesterday was so busy with playing catch up on all the tasks that languished while we were away. I had a stack of phone numbers to call. Tables and a bar to rent. Food to buy and then cook for dinner. A dress to pick up from the dressmaker. Children to shuttle about town. And a 30 minute walk to get in. On top of that it is delightfully sugaring season. Twice, I walked the 13 bucket line. It takes 20 minutes to empty the buckets... not that I have timed it.

With the craziness of life, I did contemplate not sugaring this year. I don't want my all time favorite activity to turn into a chore. So as I was walking the line, happy that none of the taps are split and leaking, I was also getting a sense of how I felt about sugaring. Was I enjoying it? Was I happy to be out? Was my heart leaping with every bucket full that got deposited in the holding bins?

Yes, yes and yes. Sugaring is like prayer, or meditation. In the quiet of the day goodness comes. We have a rustic set up. Thirteen buckets, hung off an assortment of Maple trees. Some are sugar, some are not. Some are ours, and then some belong to our neighbors. We even have friends who tap their own trees and bring their sap over. When they pull up in their cars, the image of the little orphan boy asking for more gruel flashes in my head. "Please sir, will you boil our sap for us?" The answer is always, "Why of course, and deliver your syrup right back to you as well."

Buckets, not bags or tubing; though with the winter storm predicted for the next couple of days I wished we used bags to keep the rain water out of the buckets. Yes, we have those cute roof-like lids, but still rain water gets in. What's a little rain water right? After all, with our hodge podge of trees we average 1 gallon of syrup for every 55 gallons of sap boiled. What's a little water added to the mix?

So, I'm up. I've check the long range weather forecast: Day time temps in the 40s, with snow... or rain, how can that be. If the temperature is in the 40s, the sap should run. Only time and the trees will tell.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Always the worst days of the year

I am worse than the kids. For I hate the Monday after vacations. On a long sigh, I will slog forward.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

It's Time

The girls and I are heading out to tap our trees. They have our jobs allotted. I get to lug the equipment and hand it out upon request. Let the season commence.

Friday, February 12, 2010

You, Call 911

A month ago the local fire department visited our scout meeting to teach us CPR Anytime. It was a great class, on how we can all save a life. The instructor came with mini Anns for everyone. We learned how to assess an emergency situation, to point and instruct a specific someone to call 911, and then to do the CPR anytime technique. Yesterday we got to use some of these skills.

While walking home from school, I noticed an older woman lying on the sidewalk outside of line of stores. She was calling for help. I yelled out to the girls, "Look there is a woman down," and ran over to her. The lady, coherent and able to lift her head off of the sidewalk, told me she had felt dizzy and fell down. Not wanting to move her I slipped my purse under her head to offer her some cushion and then covered her with my coat. By this time my girls were standing next to the scene and I pointed to and instructed the one I saw first when I looked up, "You, go into CVS and tell them to call 911, that a woman has fallen on the sidewalk." And dutifully, she did.

Soon after the lady's companion joined us. We all waited until the fire department and ambulance arrived. They seemed to take forever... But time has a way of slowing... The firemen took over, bandaging the ladies wounds and giving me back my coat and purse.

Thankfully the situation didn't require doing CPR. Still it was great to be able to drawn upon our new emergency skills.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

An inch...

We stayed home.
Awaiting the storm.
The flurries came.
The flurries stayed.
We got an inch.
Barely covering the walkways.

Today is for catch up.
Chinese starts.
Food shopping and banjo.
Stained glass and coffee.
A walk and some cleaning.
Maybe knitting a row or two.

Oh Annie, with each piece I hear your voice.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Let it Snow, let it snow, let it snow.

It is almost surreal. A storm is coming today. With timing and dates, this looks like to be the big storm before the sugaring season starts. Oh it won't begin this weekend or next, but in the next few weeks, under the covers of a thick blanket of snow.

What is also unbelievable is we have close to two quarts of maple syrup left from last year. One is very dark, probably from the last boil. Always savored and held on to for the final waffles. And the other is a story, that goes something like this.

After the finishing step (i.e. bringing the syrup up to temperature) we can it in mason jars. As the liquid cools maple sand, salts from the sap, precipitate out of the syrup and settle to the bottom of the jars. Big, more than 15 taps scattered among the neighborhood trees, sugaring operations have a filtering system to separate the syrup from the sand. We use time. For over time the sand falls out of solution allowing us to decant the clear beautiful syrup into other containers. Simple.

In years past when I did the decanting I would discard the sand and the little bit of syrup I couldn't get out of the jar. Last year, being a person who hates to waste anything, I saved all the sand and the residual syrup into one jar, then stuck that jar in the back of a cabinet. It was three quarter full of sand topped with a thin layer of cloudy syrup. Now fast forward 7 months and I am rooting around in the cabinets for a cake pan and what do I find, but a jar of medium amber maple syrup with about an inch of solid packed sand on the bottom.

It took me a while to remember last season's experiment, but there we had it. Our conclusion was two fold. One, there is a lot of maple syrup in the sand. Don't throw it out. And two, it is the finest maple syrup we have ever produce.

Maple syrup, like wine, pulls its flavor from its surroundings. It can taste peppery, buttery, spicey like cloves. This collection of the dregs has such a fine complex flavor that I truly can't put my finger on it. All I know is we love it, and will never toss out the sand again.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Sometimes it's a do over

It is down to the wire on this stained glass project. Well at least the glass cutting, as there is still foiling and soldering. But the cutting was, is just about over and I wasn't happy with the top line of birds, so this weekend I took it all apart, and redesigned the piece. Before I felt as if I was fighting the tide. The design was rough, and probably not square. Now, ruler in hand, hopefully the progress will go piece by piece smoother.

In addition to cleaner lines, this redesign is giving me the chance to cut outside my usual box. Use different colors for the sky and birds. The rest of the piece is traditional, so I can't step out too far without breaking the over all flow -- but a bit.

I started on the left and move right only when the pieces fit; piece by piece. Calmly, slowly, patiently and it will eventually come together.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Love Santa

While treading it this morning, Kate and Leopold was on the tube. During my 47 minute segment Kate utters her famous, in my mind, quote about the Love Santa getting stuck in the chimney. Leopold is so attentive, respectful. Cooking a romantic dinner, Making her breakfast, Starting the dishwasher. Lucky Kate.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

We Are Home Alone

Except for my 30 minute walk this morning, I have been home. I did have errands to run, but the man was heading out and he took over my out of the house list. I have been home, editing, preparing to teach, going over scout stuff, writing up meeting notes, practicing my banjo, playing cribbage, and now cooking dinner. I still have to work on my stained glass design. Maybe tomorrow. Definitely by Tuesday.

Yesterday for all its pulling was great. I got so much done on a busy day. Today was great as well.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Today I feel like a star

Yes, a star, but maybe not as you think, so bright and twinkling. Today I am being pulled in a multitude of directions. There was the 30 minute must have walk for my health towards weight lose. The elementary school winter concert. An hour of sitting for 6 minutes of my own child singing with her grade. The aquarium cleaning. The fish are threatening to walk out. It might be healthier for them on dry land. The laundry, which is being surveyed as the newest growing land form in our town. The dining room table: take note Nana and Grandpa, we probably won't be eating your Anniversary celebration dinner in style. Can you say, card table? Sorry. The house needs shoveling so anyone besides immediate family can traverse the doorway. I shifted two piles to get to this computer in order to write this blog. The dishwasher requires emptying. Cookie pick up at 2:30, a good thing as I need more space for the meeting. The Girl Scouts will be arriving at 3 PM for the fore mentioned meeting till 5. The Anniversary dinner, will be after the Scouts leave. The track star needs a ride home somewhere between 4 and 5. Remind me to clone myself. And then there is the middle school dance from 6 or 7 to 9 this evening. Mom will find out the time later. Mind you, Mom found out at the elementary school concert the middle one is heading to the dance with more than dancing on her mind. Moms always find out. So add a firm discussion on appropriate behavior to the list.

Yes, I am a star.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

It is in giving that we receive

"I hate that saying."

That was the response when I tried to explain why I would let someone out of a side street during the drive to school.

It all started when I had to stop, before taking a turn, for on coming traffic. We were stopped, dead -- when a bus pulled up on the cross street. I waved them on ahead of us.

"Why did you do that?" came from the backseat.

"Because it was nice to do. Because you don't know how a nice act that you do will impact the world."

"You don't know them. Nothing good will come from letting them go."

I replied, "Letting them out in this traffic might be the turning point of their day. You don't know."

"Nothing comes from it," was the adamant response.

To which I replied, "It is in giving that we receive, and I can't wait for you to realize that."

And from that... the focus of this blog entry -- "I hate that saying..."

I have talked and talked and talked about how we all have two choices: 1. to only be happy for ourselves, or 2. to be happy when those around us are happy as well as when we happen to be happy. This whole kindness thing follows the same line of thought. If we hold tight to our chest all that is ours, and offer no acts of kindness, then little by little all that we have falls from our hands. Leaving us with nothing.

But if we open our hands to give to others, soon our hands are overflowing with more than we can ever give.

With the world's focus on immediate gratification, this hands open philosophy is being lost, and soon sad and alone we will all have nothing.

Open your hands. Maybe your act of kindness is all it will take to shift the balance, and change the world.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


Lately, wherever I turn, the importance of communication is front and center. I spent Sunday evening being a teaching assistant for a presentation to middle schoolers on using communication to keep yourself safe. The focus of the new scouting handbooks is communication. And further a field two prominent women in our community are stepping down or stepping aside over communication issues. And I find all this quite interesting in a Chinese sort of way.

A world where we communicate via so many different venues is having serious communication issues. Email, blog, chat, facebook, myspace, texting, the old fashion and the cell phone, pen and paper, books, nonverbal and verbal communication means and we still can't communicate clearly. And when we do communicate the curtain of respect has been wrench from its rod. Since when did it become okay to insult or degrade someone?

Since when is it acceptable for children and adults to become bullies? I fear the growth of distant and or anonymous electronic communication has caused the widespread divorce between ours heads and fingertips. How easy it is to type off a few choice words and hit send. Then with that comfort in place, how easier still it is to shout out face to face. Cares and feelings put aside.

Personally I am tired of it. Tired of hearing children wise off to their parents, teachers, or other adults in authority. Tired of telling my own children to stand down, that an adult -- whether it be me or someone else -- is in charge. Is responsible for setting the tone and direction. Will have the authoritative last word. I am tired of the bullying: children and adults. Worried by the fact that excellent role models for young women are being bullied enough to say, they have had enough. What gives their oppressors the right to oppress? And why do we as a society uphold these people? Great coach! Great mentor! Great superintendent! Great for whom?

How often are the popular youth or adults bullies? How often do we witness them and their court putting down the weaker of their age? This concept is clearly upheld in films. The well dressed, the well suited, the smart, the sports minded -- climbing to the peak by stepping on the faces of others. My belief is that their self esteem is so shaky that they put down the easy marks to insure their own rise to the top. And the repercussions are resounding. Young children hanging themselves. Teens killing themselves or taking the lives of their oppressors. Adults shooting their families or fellow employees.

So what is the solution? Truly, I don't know, but I suspect it is rooted in self respect, and the mantra to treat others as you would want to be treated. For when we dish out venom then we must fully expect that venom will come out way. Wouldn't it be novel to try being nice and see what happens.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

What Would Daddy Do?

Whenever my husband feels under the weather he retreats to our bed, only to be seen upon recovery. As a mom I could never understand how he could do that. Children still have to get places. Food still has to be cooked. Laundry... well maybe not laundry, but you get the picture.

Yesterday I woke up at 6AM with a headache so big, (How big was it?), my stomach hurt. I woke my daughter for her shower, made lunches and went back to bed until 7:20. At this point I crawled out of bed for a second time for the the first school delivery, after which I retreated back to my covers. Where I was contemplating the next trip, when the phone rang and I was saved. A dear friend, learning I was down and out, came and picked up my own (after putting her's on the bus -- He loves to ride the bus.).

Yesterday I spent 95% of my day prone. Not reading, not listening to music, not watching TV, but sleeping or at least trying to sleep. I didn't move. I wasn't logged in, or plugged in. And except for the nagging thought of having to make flight and hotel arrangements for Chris Padgett's visit in December, I didn't contemplate much else but feeling better.

In the evening when my husband came home and I was still in bed, I don't know who was more shocked him or me. As my being in bed meant the little one missed religious ed. And when the phone rang -- he was the one who journeyed out to gather the track star. Home, I eyed the shower which ran steaming hot. I probably emptied the tank. I needed the heat, I had to move.

Monday nights features two children heading out to two activities. It takes the effort of two parents. To get used to be being upright, I offered a homework assist. Before heading out I took another dose of the magic headache basher meds and by the time we returned from our Monday jaunt there were signs of relief. With my shoulders not pressed above my ears, still I returned to the bed early -- but this time with a book, The Magicians Nephew.

And now I am up... having slept more yesterday than I have slept in weeks. I could look into those reservations...

Monday, February 01, 2010

I'm Sick...

It might be just a headache, with a sore throat, stomach ache and body aches. It could be the flu. It's been a crazy fall now heading into winter. I have dreams of spending days in bed, eyes closed, and resting. Must get these children off to school. Thank God I made chicken soup yesterday. Not for me; for I don't want to eat anything -- but at least I don't have to worry about making dinner tonight. And I won't be folding laundry today either.