March 28, 2014

in the should smell like dirt

Today, I'm grateful.  Grateful that it's Friday, to be sure, but more importantly, grateful for the friends I have in my life.  Friends that don't let miles between us make our friendship less strong or less meaningful.  Friends that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt "have my back" and would be by my side in an instant if I needed them.  And, lucky me, they are also the type of friends that know when a little package arriving in the mail can change a gray day into a happy day.  And who doesn't need a few rays of sunshine beaming from the mailbox after this long winter?!

Sunshine beam #1:  from my wonderful friend, Mary, who knows me soooo well!

Sunshine beam #2:  (peeking out from my kitchen drawer) also from my friend, Mary, a lovingly designed apron made by her that incorporates so many things I love!  And I smile every time I put it on. 

Sunshine beam #3:  from my dear friend Rita this package arrived last week--warm and wonderful mittens created from sweaters...check out the beautiful beading!

Sunshine beam #4:  and holding on to the hope that spring WILL arrive, these gardening gloves were also in the package!  Oh my, I can't wait to use them!

March 27, 2014

Sing, O muse...

“Sing, O muse, of the rage of Achilles, son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans.” 

What a juxtaposition...moving from the pastoral scene depicted in Edward Hicks' painting The Peaceable Kingdom to a powerful, moving theater performance at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater that tells the story of war.  One war--the Trojan War--and yet it is a masterful condemnation of all the wars that mankind has waged.    Adapted from Homer's Poem, The Illiad, it was a performance I will never forget.  I have seen so many plays in my lifetime, and have witnessed amazing acting, but I can truthfully say I have never seen acting so powerful, so masterful, so moving.  It will be a night I will remember forever.  I have admired Jim DeVita's work on stage for many years at the American Player's Theater, an outdoor venue not too far from my home that specializes in Shakespearean productions.  I've sat breathlessly through Jim's interpretations of Hamlet, MacBeth and Romeo and Juliet, but his demanding role in An Iliad left me speechless and stunned.  I couldn't begin to describe it as well as the review in the Milwaukee Sentinel, so I hope you enjoy reading about the play and if you ever have a chance to see a production of it, please consider attending.  You won't regret it.

American Players Theatre standout Jim DeVita now 53, freely admits that actors, like the rest of us, have stretches during which they wonder why they bother — and whether anyone out there is listening or cares.
But imagine being dogged by this sense of futility for 3,000 years. That's the situation confronting the bone-weary Poet in "An Iliad," a powerful, one-actor adaptation of Homer's poem by director Lisa Peterson and actor Denis O'Hare.

The Poet is described as "traveling for a very long time," and the opening lines of "An Iliad" explain why: He has been singing Homer's song — which focuses on the final weeks in the decade-long Trojan War, with all its mindless carnage and waste — since it was first written."Every time I sing this song, I hope it's the last time," the Poet tells his audience. But it never is, because that audience isn't listening hard enough to stop similarly avoidable wars.

While telling the story of that long ago conflict in Asia Minor, the Poet also is living with and referring to all the wars fought since — literally, at one point, during an extended, trance-like incantation in which he names more than 100 of them, from the Peloponnesian War to the civil war currently raging in Syria."The conceit is that he's been in every war, and seen young boys and women raped and bodies desecrated for thousands of years," DeVita said during a recent interview at the Rep, explaining why the burdened Poet struggles at first to even remember his lines.

"It's not just that he's tired of it," DeVita continued. "It's that it's right here on his chest and he can't imagine having to tell this story again. He's told this story tens of thousands of times and it hasn't made a difference. 'How,' he thinks, 'am I going to make a difference on this night?'"

One might just as well ask how one conveys the gist of Homer's sprawling poem — which comprises 24 books and more than 15,000 lines, and which would take 24 hours to read aloud — into an effective, 100-minute piece of theater. The answer involves skipping any effort to detail every Homeric battle and intrigue, although passages from Robert Fagles' great translation ensure that plenty of both remain, from Achilles' great rage through Hector's death and on to the Trojan grief and Greek pity that this needless death provokes.

But even as he recounts these iconic moments, the Poet is using Homer's poem to provide a visceral account of the horrors of war, through modernized images and stories that help bring it home to a contemporary audience.

"Time and again, the Poet urgently asks the audience, 'do you see?,' or 'imagine this,' or 'see this,'" DeVita said. "His main job as a storyteller is to really try to make us — today and now — see what war is like."
"So, for example, he'll start reciting the long passage where Homer names the places from which these thousands of Greeks are from. And when he sees that the audience isn't getting it, he starts over: 'So you know what it's like? It's like these boys are from Nebraska, and Florida, and Milwaukee and Kenosha,' and he'll go on with this huge list, naming American towns and cities. At the end of the list, he'll look out at the audience and say, 'Now do you see?'"

"The conceit, and it's brilliant, is that the Powerhouse has been hit by a bomb," DeVita said. "They're going to build a replica of a stage, and then tear it apart. Proscenium walls will be pulled apart and crushed down. The stage is going to look like it has holes. It will literally look as though Milwaukee has been in a war."
"I know it sounds weird," DeVita continued, "but this bombed-out set will make the space feel more intimate."

That sounds right; if the Poet's goal is to bring war home to his audience, having that audience enter such a playing space should make it easier to feel a kinship with the Poet and grasp what he means when, for example, he describes the trenches of World War I — or names the boys who died in them. In "An Iliad," the Poet does both.

DeVita also is convinced that the onstage presence of cellist Alicia Storin will further enhance the audience's appreciation of how this long-ago story remains a story for all of us.

"Just having the sound of a cello at times will evoke the women who are talked about in the play," DeVita said. "Seeing a woman out there alters the story. So often, women and children are the collateral damage in war. Alicia's presence, while I describe things like Hector's son being thrown from the battlements, will change how that account resonates."

"The Poet is losing his distance from his story," DeVita said, growing emotional as his voice dropped to nearly a whisper. "He is saying to himself — he is saying to us — that 'I don't think I can look at those young boys, 18 years old, slaughtered on the battlefield. I can't tell that story again tonight.'"

Perhaps a tough play to watch, comprehending the thousands of years of strife and sorrow that war has brought to each generation, but a performance of a lifetime and one I am so very glad I was able to see.

“Generations of men are like the leaves.
In winter, winds blow them down to earth,
but then, when spring season comes again,
the budding wood grows more. And so with men:
one generation grows, another dies away.” 
― HomerThe Iliad

March 26, 2014

peaceable kingdom

I saved my favorite picture from the Uncommon Folk exhibit to share with you today.  I have seen reproductions of this picture (or one of its variations) many times, but never the original.  It's title is Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks.

Hicks, a Pennsylvania Quaker and artist in the 19th century, began to paint a series of pictures featuring the peaceable kingdom described in the Old Testament book of Isaiah (11:6–9) between 1816-1818. Sixty-two versions of The Peaceable Kingdom have been identified to date, although the actual number he completed may have been considerably larger. He probably initiated the pictures in response to criticism he had received from a few Quakers who felt some of his ornamental work was too fancy and in conflict with the Friends’ codes of simplicity and plainness.  Hicks often incorporated forms from popular graphic illustrations into his compositions: the grouping of the lioness with her playful cubs, the torque of the bear's head, the commanding stance of the lion, and the view of the Delaware Water Gap closing off the background are direct quotations from contemporary prints, as is the scene of William Penn signing his treaty with the Indians, another allusion to the theme of peace and harmony.  It is really a lovely work.

When I started looking for an appropriate poem to pair with the painting, I discovered it is a popular theme. Here are two versions I particularly enjoyed.  Hicks recast the Biblical verse as a poem to accompany this painting:

The wolf did with the lambkin dwell in peace

His grim carnivorous nature there did cease
The leopard with the harmless kid laid down
And not one savage beast was seen to frown.
The lion with the fatling on did move
A little child was leading them in love.
And  here is one written by Denis Martindale in 2013.

Peaceable Kingdom
When four bear cubs were granted space
To stroll along one day,
There was no sudden sad disgrace
Because they chose to play...
Thus side-by-side without a brawl,
Just like four musketeers,
With all-for-one and one-for-all
They each shared smiles not fears...

Of course, they'd bonded like bears do,
Each knew there was no harm,
They faced that morning rendezvous
With no trace of alarm...
Thus peace was reigning, kingdom-wise,
With gentle harmony
And surely that's the greatest prize
That's ever meant to be...

If only humans chose this path,
Aspired to its aims,
There'd be more reasons still to laugh,
Less reasons to call names...
Yet love takes time in every heart
To blossom like the rose,
Before its blessings can impart
And lifelong friendship grows...

And when my friend and I had finished perusing all the collections and exhibits, we had to of course check out the museum gift shop!  You never know what you mind find there, and I certainly chose two completely different items, although both will, I am sure, bring me pleasure.  The first was a CD of Appalachian music, featuring violin, cello, guitar, mandolin and flute

I've had fun all week listening to the toe tapping tunes on my way to work, singing along with Down in the Valley, Keep on the Sunny Side, Shenandoah and Morning has Broken.  It reminds me of one of my favorite books when I was a teenager, Christy by Catherine Marshall, as well as my vacation to Gatlinburg and the beautiful Appalachian region a few years ago.  

And for when the cooking muse strikes, we both ended up purchasing this cookbook, because you just never know when you might need to bake a cake that looks like art!

Modern Art Desserts: Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Confections, and Frozen Treats Based on Iconic Works of Art

Yum....which dessert to try first?  I know my friend and I will at some point spend a weekend together trying one of these creations, just because....just because it will be fun.  And who doesn't need a little more fun in their lives?

Maybe the ice cream cones?

Although today, a cup of hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows, patterned from Buckminster Fuller's floating tetrahedron city might be just the ticket!  Who knew art could be so much fun?! 

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

March 25, 2014

And...a dusting of snow outside!  Does it ever end?  Even the most die-hard winter enthusiasts (and believe me, Wisconsin has a LOT of them!) are ready for winter to disappear and some warm sunshine to grace our days and lift our spirits.  I would say is that too much to ask for, but I think I know Mother Nature's answer and I don't want to push any of her buttons.  I've seen some pretty harsh April blizzards in my time!

Today I'm going to introduce you to a few art works from a special exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum:  Uncommon Folk - Traditions in American Art.  Some of it was whimsical, some of interesting, other pieces I found rather creepy or disturbing, but all of them revealed a small glimpse back at America's history and how "regular folk" expressed their creativity.

The exhibit's program probably says it best:  The unprecedented selection of paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, textiles, and furniture featured in this exhibition offers unexpected beauty, power, whimsy, and wonder. The authentically American artistic expression identified in the work of folk and self-taught artists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries gave American art its own voice separate from the classical European style that dominated the art world at the time. These artists, operating outside the art establishment, created work that was influenced by their communities and cultural traditions, rather than by art historical movements.

I'll start with the downright creepy...can anyone say "The Bad Seed"??  I definitely wouldn't want this portrait hanging in my home!  
Young Girl with a Cat, Drossos P. Skyllas (1955)

Nor would I want this hyena greeting me at my front door!

The exhibit was separated by categories such as Toys, Advertising, Religion, Found Objects, Patriotism and Decoys and several items were displayed within each category.  The Possum Trot puppet show theater is one of the first things you see when you enter the exhibit.
Puppet show
This schoolhouse is in the “Found Objects” collection and reminded me a little of my grandmother, who taught in a one room schoolhouse in Indiana.  Made from bottle caps, I'm guessing someone had to drink a lot of Milwaukee beer to make this!bottle cap school house
I've been lucky enough to visit several American folk art exhibits, and they would not be complete without quilts.  This exhibit displayed both the exquisite side with an album style “fancy” quilt as well as some of the functional quilts made by the Gee’s Bend Quilters. 
Album quilt
I loved this Shaker sewing cabinet!

Here is the perfect poem for this American folk art exhibit by Robert Martin, who must have seen one or two yard sculptures in his time!
Folk art poem
Start with yourself,
Keeper honest,
Look around for what you got,
The black stove pipe
no longer good for smoke,
Keeper bent,
Add two rakes for feet,
Make sure their walking days are over,
Keeper red,
Find something familiar for the ears;
Leather gloves without a finger,
Drift wood pulled from the river,
A beer can, 
A bottle of medicine no longer good for tacks, 
Martha’s tobacco tin smokes, 
bottle caps,
What holds your teeth, 
Whatever works
for the eyes,
Whatever didn’t work 
for the ears,
For the smile;
The whole thing 
makes you smile,
Put her in the front yard,
Wear your overalls,
Take questions--

March 24, 2014

Good morning!  I hope you had a pleasant weekend, even if the "spring" weather isn't too spring-y yet!  I managed to strike just the right balance over the weekend--some housework, some laundry, some grocery shopping, but still plenty of time for cross-stitching, knitting and painting.  Shh...I can't clue you in yet on all I'm working on, but with birthdays, babies and weddings approaching I'll have a lot to share with you down the road!

I promised you a peek at the two special exhibitions I was lucky enough to see last weekend at the Milwaukee Art Museum.  The first exhibition was Flow: The 2014 NCECA Ceramic Arts Invitational, with stunning ceramic artwork displayed in the beautiful Baumgartner Galleria.  I was so disappointed to discover I had left my memory card out of my camera, so I'm having to pull pictures off line rather than show you my absolute favorites, but here are some of the wonderful works we viewed:

Tangled Up in You, Beth Cavener Stitcher
Stoneware, Ink, Paint, Rope (2014)

Hanging from the center of the gallery hall, this sculpture of a rabbit who is about to be bitten was extraordinary.  The rabbit is being held by a snake, and the snake's skin is filled with images of birds, fish, flowers, roosters, tigers and even a praying mantis.  While I had sympathy for the rabbit I found the piece strangely captivating.

Jeanne Quinn
True and Reasoned and Impure and Inexplicable
Porcelain, Steel, Wire, Vinyl, Paint

 "True and Reasoned and Impure and Inexplicable" is made up of layers of individual images that together, create a three dimensional black and white drawing on the wall. An initial layer of the piece is made up of white, rectangular forms painted on the wall. Layered on top of and around some of the rectangles are white, geometric structures protruding off of the wall. Small, black objects which are reminiscent of growing cells, calligraphy, and the baroque decorative arts, are attached to parts of these structures as well as the wall itself. Though they hang from their supporting brackets, these organic object seem to be climbing and growing off of their supporting frames.

Unfortunately, I do not remember the name of this piece, but I absolutely loved the blue color against the white wall.  This picture really doesn't do it justice.

Formed of fragile white porcelain, American Tourister Still Life by Elenor Wilson displays how luggage becomes furniture to a traveler. Speaking to the fleeting nature of style, the feet of the “furniture” and the lady’s high-heeled shoes, discarded nearby, underscore the transient nature of fashion. Trends flow through time and reappear, re-imagined.  The feet of the furniture belong to the Victorian era, the heels and Coke bottle connect to mid-century and the luggage to the 1970′s in this object created in 2009. We form materials, but the materials we surround ourselves with have the ability to form us.

This poem, by Peter Elliott (1970) amusing captures some of the art museum visitors I saw trying to puzzle out some of the pieces we viewed.  Art can be challenging and confusing, and I'll be the first to admit I don't always "get it" but I do know I always come away with a new appreciation for the world, as seen through other's eyes.

Art Gallery Poem II
Take a picture, 
Hanging to a wall
In a restful symmetric frame.

Place carefully, 

So as not to over-balance
Very gently
One, Or two, Human Beings, 

It is their first time at this exhibition

They gape

Like butterfilies leaving their cocoon
Like playing first time a CD tune

With eyes focused

On the painting they stand, 
Gazing rigidly, intently.

Or staring faraway through infinity.

They are trying to understand the painting.

Trying to clarify and classify
A foreign experience
Into their store
Of known experience.

Like a zen novice in the hands of a zen master

Doubts arising in a pastor

They will never understand


Have a wonderful Monday!

March 21, 2014

If Batman answered building he'd be correct, but on your first visit to the Milwaukee Art Museum you might be as confused as Robin! First time visitors are usually stunned to see what looks like a giant white bird getting ready to take flight and soar over Lake Michigan. The point (prow) of the museum is also evocative of a sailing ship and that seems appropriate, as the museum is located right on the shore of the beautiful and mighty lake.Since I am drawn to art museums in the same way that words on a page entice me to enter the story, you can imagine how excited I was to visit this beautiful building again. 

The War Memorial Center, completed in 1957, was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen to create a new home for two previously separate art collections and a veterans’ memorial. The modernist building is shaped like a floating cross, with wings cantilevered from a central base. The graceful Quadracci Pavilion is a sculptural, postmodern addition designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Highlights of the building are the magnificent cathedral-like space of  Windhover Hall, with a vaulted a 90-foot-high glass ceiling; the Burke Brise Soleil, a moveable sunscreen with a 217-foot wingspan that unfolds and folds twice daily; and the Reiman Bridge, a pedestrian suspension bridge that connects the Museum to the city.  What a stunning addition to the downtown landscape.

My friend and I had a mighty fine time wandering through not only the permanent collection but also two special exhibits currently on display, one on American folk art and a ceramic arts exhibition.  As many times as I've written about my affinity for this artist, you can probably guess correctly that I was itching to get to the impressionism gallery.  I have to admit, though, that I was a little disappointed, as the museum only has one Monet and it's not one of my favorites.  Titled Waterloo Bridge, Sunlight Effect (1903) it has an industrial feel to the painting with the smokestacks that just doesn't charm me in the same way as his series of haystack paintings do.

I did admire this lovely Sunset Landscape (1855) by Theodore Rousseau, though.  The colors were breathtaking and so intense.  Since I have a whole wall of sunset photos and artwork on one of bedroom walls, my affinity for this picture didn't surprise me.

Tomorrow I'll share a few highlights from two special exhibits on display, and give you a peek at the two items I found in the museum gift shop--completely disparate and yet both promise fun!  At one point my friend and I put our feet up in a small enclave and looked out the huge panes of glass at Lake Michigan, watching the ducks bobbing on the waves and the seagulls soaring in the cloudless sky.  Poet Robert Creeley must have had a similar view when he penned this poem, The Birds.  I hope you enjoy it.

I'll miss the small birds that come
for the sugar you put out
and the bread crumbs. They've
made the edge of the sea domestic
and, as I am, I welcome that.
Nights my head seemed twisted
with dreams and the sea wash,
I let it all come quiet, waking,
counting familiar thoughts and objects.
Here to rest, like they say, I best
liked walking along the beach
past the town til one reached
the other one, around the corner
of rock and small trees. It was
clear, and often empty, and
peaceful. Those lovely ungainly
pelicans fished there, dropping
like rocks, with grace, from the air,
headfirst, then sat on the water,
letting the pouch of their beaks
grow thin again, then swallowing
whatever they'd caught. The birds,
no matter they're not of our kind
seem most like us here. I want
to go where they go, in a way, if
a small and common one. I want
to ride that air which makes the sea
seem down there, not the element
in which one thrashes to come up.
I love water, I love water -
but I also love air, and fire.

Happy second day of spring!!

March 19, 2014

ladies who lunch

I found such a lovely poem to share with you today!  And it ties in beautifully with the first adventure I'm sharing with you today from my weekend in Milwaukee.  It involves delicious pots of tea, an elegant store and "ladies who lunch."  Do you remember browsing through the slightly mysterious department stores of the fifties and sixties and their oh-so-refined tea rooms?  While the store itself has shrunk in size, now hosting a bridal shop and an art gallery as well as its china shop (I was terrified of getting too close to the displays and knocking something over!) the Watts Tea Shop has been a mainstay of downtown Milwaukee for years.

The roots of the shop go back to 1870, when George Watts, an immigrant from Bristol, England, took an excursion boat from Chicago to Milwaukee. While walking along Reed Street, the 18-year-old responded to a “Boy Wanted” sign hanging in the window of Massey and Co., merchants of china, glass and sundries. He was hired and immediately put to work, tasked with sweeping the floor and unpacking merchandise. Watts was able to buy partnership in the company with a loan, and later the entire store.  When it outgrew its original digs, the store, now under the George Watts banner, moved to a narrow three-story building on North Milwaukee Street in 1879.

The Cook sisters, who opened the Cook Tea Shop in 1901, moved their restaurant from Jackson Street to a space designed according to their specifications on the second floor of Watts’ new building. They brought with them their recipe for Sunshine Cake, a stunning triple-layer sponge cake filled with French custard and topped with a boiled frosting that is still served today. So my friend and I shrugged off our every day personas and became, for two blissful hours, ladies who lunch.  In style.

Quiche, fresh fruit, English muffin and Earl Grey tea, followed by the famous Sunshine Cake

As I dined and conversed with my friend, I couldn't help but think how much I would have loved growing up having tea at the Watts on special occasions with my mother.  And looking around at all the gracious older women having fun with their friends, I vowed to make this a special place for any granddaughters that I may be blessed with in the future.  I can't wait to experience the famous Watts Tea Room children's tea special!

Displaying hat 4.png
My friend and I a few years ago at a garden wedding

And...did I mention how elegantly the customers were dressed?  Clearly, dining at the Watts is an experience--as such an occasion should be.  And this is where Robert Hedin's lovely little poem comes in. My father also loved to watch my mother head out the door and always remarked what a fine woman she was.

My Mother's Hats

She kept them high on the top shelf,
In boxes big as drums—

Bright, crescent-shaped boats
With little fishnets dangling down—

And wore them with her best dress
To teas, coffee parties, department stores.

What a lovely catch, my father used to say,
Watching her sail off into the afternoon waters.

Displaying 181669_10151344899721106_1771998787_n.jpg
My mother and I all decked out in our finery!

Happy Wednesday--let's have a wonderful day!

March 17, 2014

Top of the morning to you!

Question:  how much fun can two friends have in 36 hours?  
Answer:  An enormous amount!

My good friend and I had our yearly "adventure" this past weekend, although instead of Chicago, our normal haunt, we tackled downtown Milwaukee and managed to squeeze in more fun than should be legal in the space of thirty six hours.  I'll have to get creative with sharing our adventure(s) with you as I discovered I had left the memory card out of my camera so disappointingly I have no pictures of our trip, but I do have wonderful memories tucked away in my brain's memory card!  

And because it is St. Patrick's Day, I'm sharing one of our experiences out of order.  We ended our grand adventure in the vibrant city of Milwaukee with an afternoon concert by the magnificent Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the amazing Irish group Cherish the Ladies.  Or, as the group's leader announced from stage, Worship the Women, as they were once mistakenly introduced!  

We had front row seats (and I mean front row) and were literally just a few feet away from all the action--marvelous musicians, world famous Irish step dancers and Milwaukee's own amazing young Trinity Irish Dancers.  What a lovely way to cap off a weekend of fun and also a way to welcome a little bit of Irish into our hearts.  Because today, everyone is Irish, right?!  Tonight I'll make my family's "leprechaun soup" and a loaf of Irish bread and be thankful for all my blessings.  Sláinte!!

March 14, 2014

“Beethoven tells you what it's like to be Beethoven and Mozart tells you what it's like to be human. Bach tells you what it's like to be the universe.” 

Yesterday was a long day at work.  Lots of meetings, high level discussions, difficult news, all in all a stressful day.  As I was driving home all I could think about was reaching my piano and slipping into the comforting world of music for awhile.  And when I'm stressed or upset, it isn't fiery or passionate or intense music I crave but rather something steady...something measured...something you can count on to bring your world back into focus.  My slightly worn and battered book of Bach Inventions that I've had since college is the first thing I grab as I sit down at the piano and let the music wash over me.  It tells me "steady on" and "everything will work out okay" as the notes unfold in perfect design from beginning to end.  In a way they mirror life, simple at the beginning, and then they begin to weave in and out, questioning and responding, but always ending with a satisfying, firm conclusion.  The inventions were designed as teaching pieces, not for performance, and in a larger view isn't that life as well?  We are here to learn--to figure out the order and the timing of our lives and how we fit into the universe.  Thank you, Mr. Johann Bach, for sharing your exercises with the world--I hope I am learning them well.

Listen to Bach's Invention #8 here
Here is one of my favorite poems by Elizabeth Bishop that was running through my mind as I headed home last night--I hope you enjoy it as much as I. 

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!
There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

And after I was calmed by Bach, I finished the FAFSA!  So happy Friday everyone!!

March 13, 2014

What goes around comes around...again!

I can't believe I'm doing this, after swearing I would never, ever "recycle" a post, but right now it's the best I can manage.  I don't know what I was thinking, but I've been so focused on the upcoming baby and wedding activities that I entirely forgot to check the FAFSA deadline for my daughter.  And when I sat down to write a post last night, it randomly popped into my head that perhaps I should do so.  And guess what?  That April deadline I was thinking is actually this FRIDAY.  My daughter is graduating in May, but plans to start work immediately on her master's degree, so I had offered to do her taxes and complete her FAFSA application for her since I have all the paperwork and forms at home.

So in panicked desperation I'm posting my thoughts from last year about this whole darn process.  Does it ever end?!  I'll be back with original content on Friday--I promise!  In the meantime here you go...I guess some things really don't change, because we are once again counting down the days til Season Four of Game of Thrones!  I guess that will be my reward for getting the paperwork finished and sent off to the government.

My family are huge Game of Thrones fans, and as such we are anxiously counting down the days until the new season premieres in early April. We've been waiting almost a year for the next installment of HBO's adaptation of George R.R. Martin's epic series A Song of Ice and Fire and we are growing more excited and anxious every day to discover the fate of our favorite characters.  There is, however, another countdown happening at our house this month, although I seem to be the only one really concerned about it.

Game of Thrones, Season One (although in this instance Winter was coming, not the FAFSA)
It's here and I can't hide my head in the sand any longer.  With our kids' college FAFSA deadline less than two weeks away, I've been sitting at the home computer every night working on taxes, taxes and more taxes (three returns!) and the dreaded (drumroll, please) FAFSA.  For the uninitiated that stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  This form was not around when my husband and I went to college. I know this for a fact (ok, I don't really know this for a fact because Google couldn't find an answer to my question as to when it was first created, but I'm pretty sure we didn't have it when I was preparing for college because my mother still has her sanity.  I, on the other hand, do not.  Proof positive, in my opinion.)


Times, my friends, have changed.  And because I had four children in seven years (did I mention I no longer have my sanity?) I am now working on my ELEVENTH straight year of FAFSA forms.  You can't get financial aid for college without filling out the forms. And you can't fill out the forms until you have completed your taxes.  And I am the designated form-filler-outer in this family. Believe me, I didn't ask for this dubious honor.  So I've been stuck  happily working on the dang forms every single night, because of course mothers LIKE to do this kind of thing after work.  (Do you think my guilt trip is working? my kids even read my blog?  If you are reading this, yes, that's right, while you're up at college having fun, your mother has been working all day and FAFSA'ing the night away!)

I am probably two days away from being finished at this point, and it is going to feel really good to hit the submit button.  I'll try to keep my crown in place and stay calm, but I think I'll be easy to spot at next year's college graduation ceremonies...I'll be the mom who is hysterically shouting "whoo-hoo, no more FAFSAs!!" 

And you simply won't believe this, but I found an honest to gosh poem about the FAFSA!  I'm not going to pretend it's a fabulous poem, but there's a gritty honesty about it that I can certainly relate to!

Jingle Bells, FAFSA Smells

Dashing through the Web,
With a decade's worth of pay,
To the Feds it goes
Laughing all the way (hahaha).
Something makes me say,
"I hope my form's alright,
Or good old FAFSA'll make me pay
For full tuition tonight."

Jingle bells, FAFSA smells.
I'd rather get the pox.
Oh what fun it'll be to live
In a soggy cardboard box.
Oh, jingle bells, FAFSA smells.
Too bad it's not April Fool's.
Oh what fun it'll be to pawn
My class ring to pay for school.

At least this year it is only ONE FAFSA, but still...twelve years in a row?  That deserves an extra chocolate bar or something, right?  Have a wonderful day and I'll be back tomorrow--hopefully reporting that I finished and submitted everything on time!!

March 12, 2014

Who goes there?

While I am more than ready to say goodbye to all the snow in my yard the one thing I will miss is waking up each morning and checking to see who has been playing in my backyard.  I may not have little ones now to make snowmen and snow angels, but I certainly have a number of little critters that like to frolic in the snow. One evening I caught a glimpse of three bunnies all playing together--leaping and jumping and running all around.  I have to admit, it looked like fun!

I think the bunnies live under the row of arbor vitae at the right edge of my lawn, while the sliding tracks of our resident groundhog show that he has clearly taken residence under the deck.  I'm not so sure of the other tracks, but I have seen giant raccoons (and I do mean giant!) and fox on occasion so you never know who has stopped by for a little conversation and snow play.

Maybe I should pick up this book for my library?  

With the snow starting to melt, I guess I could take this creative approach with play dough and make my own snow tracks!  Where were all these great ideas when my kids were little?  I am now tucking them away for future grandma days...

winter play dough play for kids

Here's a short (by definition!) little haiku about tracks in the snow:


tracks in fresh snow -
a Reynard
Let's make it a wonderful day!