June 30, 2014

Cheer up, cheer up!

Remember my beautiful Mother's Day gift, that I hung on my front porch?  Well evidently, I wasn't the only one who admired the basket!

Last year I battled with mama cardinal over the front porch nest, but this year mama robin beat her to it.  My mother was visiting when nest building started in earnest and we watched her home building efforts from my kitchen window, but neither of us really thought she would be successful.

When the red red robin comes bob bob bobbin' along along
There'll be no more sobbin' when he starts throbbin' his old sweet song
Wake up wake up you sleepy head get up get up get out of bed
Cheer up cheer up the sun is red live love laugh and be happy

What if I've been blue now I'm walkin' through fields of flowers
Rain may glisten but I still listen for hours and hours
Well I'm just a kid again doing what I did again singin' a song
When the red red robin comes bob bob bobbin' along along
What if I've been blue...

Cheer up cheer up the sun is red live love laugh and be happy

Then a couple of days ago I noticed the nest doing a whole lot of shaking and moving around.  I briefly wondered if eggs could actually be hatching, but promptly dismissed the idea as nonsensical.  

The Robin is the One
That interrupt the Morn
With hurried—few—express Reports
When March is scarcely on—

The Robin is the One
That overflow the Noon
With her cherubic quantity—
An April but begun—

The Robin is the One
That speechless from her Nest
Submit that Home—and Certainty
And Sanctity, are best 

Well, guess what I saw the next day!!
A Bird, came down the Walk - 
He did not know I saw -
He bit an Angle Worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw, 
And then, he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass -
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass -
He glanced with rapid eyes,
That hurried all abroad -
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought,
He stirred his Velvet Head. -  
Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers, 
And rowed him softer Home -
Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon,
Leap, plashless as they swim. they swim.
Happy Monday!

June 25, 2014

One could do worse...

"A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness." 
 Robert Frost 

That very well may be the beginning of a poem, but a good poem becomes a part of your soul and spirit, words that can uplift and inspire you, bring you joy or gently remind that you are part of the universe and not alone.  Robert Frost is one of my favorite poets, perhaps because he loved the sound of the human voice and once claimed that "all poetry is a reproduction of the tones of actual speech."  I often think of him when I am in Door County, as he loved nature so much, and his poem Birches was on my mind when I took these pictures on my last camping trip.

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice storms do. Often you must have seen them  
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells 
Shattering and avalanching on the snow crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.  
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter of fact about the ice storm,
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father’s trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them, 30 
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was 
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs  
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May not fate willfully misunderstand me  
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk  
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

and before afternoon she'll shake her braids...

You know how some people have green thumbs, while others can't seem to grow air plants?  How some people can whip up a gourmet dinner with their eyes closed, while others can't cook boxed macaroni and cheese?  How some people can paint a masterpiece, while others (like me) can't draw a circle and get the two ends to meet properly?  Well, all I can say is that when it comes to styling hair, I didn't inherit the right genes.  I, sadly, am the girl who had to have her mother fix her hair all the way through high school.  When I tried to do it myself, odd things happened...

 like this...(eew)

or this (double eew---what a scowl!  I obviously didn't like the flipped up ends look...)

So you can imagine my unease when I realized my beautiful baby girl had hair that was long, and thick, and curly, and beautiful and....difficult.  
I will never confess how long it took me to twist and tuck and spray and pin her hair for this picture...

The two of us have had more hair conversations than you could ever imagine...curls, braids, french twists, "natural" (natural usually translated into looking good for two hours followed by two days of intense combing to get all the tangles out), and in her teens flat irons, relaxers, you name it...we tried it.  Home concoctions (like the horrifying night when we discovered the "African tawny gold" had turned her hair a weird ashen color, in stripes), beauty parlor nightmares with burnt hair and scalp from overzealous stylists, and lots and lots of how-to books on cute french braids.  And in case you didn't know, cute french braids are very hard to master on thick unruly hair!  

So when my daughter was preparing for her recent study abroad trip to Europe, our conversations naturally turned to how she was going to cope with her hair during three weeks with no easy access to hair dryers and flat irons.  Her ingenious solution?  Braided hair extensions!  So she went from this:

to this:

and then at the end of her trip when the braids were driving her crazy, she went "au natural" for a night...

followed by a trip to a Brazilian beauty salon in London the following morning for a Brazilian "blow-out":

So hopefully you can understand my delight when I found this poem while she was traveling...it made me smile, remembering all the times she patiently sat at my feet while I struggled with comb and brush and blow dryer and flat iron and products and ribbons and bows and hair clips and...

I'm braiding my daughter's hair,
crossing over one strand and one strand.
Leaf-shadows play on the closed blind,
rippling, rippling.
Nothing keeps in the continuum
of light and wind outside the window.
I hold wildness in my hand.
We continue, one strand and one strand,
the undulating curls and coils
falling along her neck, her shoulders.
I drop one hair, then another.
Though I'm not much good at this,
she is patient. Her head in my hands,
she leans in, tugs away, as do I,
crafting what we can of the morning.
I'd like to believe I've saved her
from chaos, but more likely,
she humors me, and before afternoon
she'll shake her braids,
let all that hair unravel.

June 24, 2014

Never stew your sister...

Title illustration from Under the Window, Kate Greenaway
May I just say I have two awesome sisters?  The kind that help pick me up when I'm down, laugh with me at all of life's absurdities (and lately, I've had a lot of those to deal with!) and know exactly what will make my heart beat a little faster when they choose a gift. When my mother visited last week, she came bearing two special gifts from my sisters to celebrate my becoming a grandmother--how sweet and thoughtful.  So thank you to two wonderful sisters who know me oh so well.  I can't wait to read them with Lily!

Mouseton Abbey

Can't you see my having a tea party with Miss Lily and reading this book out loud to her?!  All sorts of mouse adventures await us...and would you believe the butler is named after my favorite English cheese.  Wensleydale to the rescue!

The Little Big Book for Grandmothers

And I can't wait to start using this charming book--it is filled with fairy tales, nursery rhymes, song, stories, words of wisdom, activities, and recipes.  And did I mention 19 poems by some of my favorite poets!?  It even has illustrations from Kate Greenaway, whose artwork I absolutely adored when I was a young girl.

So in honor of my two special sisters, here's a silly little rhyme by Lewis Carroll.  I simply couldn't stand the syrupy poems about sisters so I chose one with a bit of a twist instead.  Because I also had two brothers...

"Sister, sister, go to bed! 

Go and rest your weary head." 

Thus the prudent brother said. 

"Do you want a battered hide, 
Or scratches to your face applied?" 
Thus his sister calm replied. 

"Sister, do not raise my wrath. 
I'd make you into mutton broth 
As easily as kill a moth." 

The sister raised her beaming eye 
And looked on him indignantly 
And sternly answered, "Only try!" 

Off to the cook he quickly ran. 
"Dear Cook, please lend a frying-pan 
To me as quickly as you can." 

"And wherefore should I lend it you?" 
"The reason, Cook, is plain to view. 
I wish to make an Irish stew." 

"What meat is in that stew to go?" 
"My sister'll be the contents!" 
"You'll lend the pan to me, Cook?" 

Moral: Never stew your sister.

My two little sisters and one of my brothers...circa 1968

June 11, 2014

Good morning!  I wrote this post last night after work, as I thought I might be too tired this morning to write anything that made sense.  I was right.  It's soooo hard to put down a good book!!

Some words are just so beautiful that you can't help but love them.  One of my favorite words?  Serendipity.
And as luck would have it, guess what shy little wild flowers were scattered all over our campsite last weekend?  Little blue forget-me-nots.  And why would that be serendipitous?  Only because today, after five years of eagerly and anxiously waiting (yes, five years!!!) for the next book in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series to come out, it is finally here.

I rushed out at lunch time and purchased it, so I wouldn't have to waste time after work but could come straight home and start reading.  But oh my, how those hours from one o'clock to five o'clock stretched out at work!!  And when I got home, my ever-so-understanding husband was sporting an old name badge of his on his shirt...he reckoned I probably would be so tied up in the book I might forget who he was.  He reckoned right.

It's been a long wait and I am eager to start.  I've had enough discipline to hold off on opening the book yet, wanting to write my blog and prepare supper (a quick one!) before I settle down with a glass of wine and savor opening the book for the very first time.  And I'm conflicted...I want to tear through the book as I am desperate to find out what has happened to my favorite characters, and yet...I want to enjoy each word and each scene as it unfolds, knowing full well that it might be a very long wait until the next book arrives.

In case you aren't familiar with the series, the humble forget-me-not starts the main character, Claire, on an unforgettable adventure through time into the brawny arms of a Scottish highlander, Jamie.  Since I knew the book was coming out today, you can imagine my delight on spotting the delicate little flowers at my camp site!  If I'd had a miniature Jamie in my pocket, I guess I could have set up camp like this!

That awkward moment, right before you fall through time. Notice the forget-me-nots.
And even more exciting, STARZ is producing a television series based on the first book, Outlander, which premieres August 9th.  In the picture above, you can see Claire on her search for the elusive forget-me-nots.  Needless to say, please don't try calling me that evening.

So I'm off to my reading couch, wine in hand, to say hello to the newest book!  I'll try to surface tomorrow to let you know how it's going..
Okay...I couldn't resist this picture.  But I really don't own a Jamie doll.

June 10, 2014

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things...

Yesterday my blog post was about how relaxed I felt after just a couple of days outside, camping and enjoying all that nature has to offer in northern Wisconsin.  Besides rain and mosquitoes and a poison ivy sighting and one rather large spider, I gloried in late blooming lilacs and lovely pink honeysuckle:

amazing sunsets:

and soul-refreshing sunrises.

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the world

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day
And while I was lucky enough to be able to spend my weekend in a lovely state park, getting outside really is as easy as walking out your front door.  So I was a little sad to read a study yesterday that noted we tend to underestimate how much nature affects our well being.  The report stated that even vague instructions to "spend more time in nature" has a positive effect on humans, but as we (and children in particular) spend less and less time outdoors we are developing what scientists have now coined ...nature deficit disorder.

Nature deficit disorder.  Now that, in my opinion, is about as sad as it gets. Let's get outside and soak up the sunshine.  As Emerson urges...Live in the sunshine, Swim in the sea, Drink the wild air!!  Poet Gerard Hopkins (1844-1889) must have agreed with Emerson when he penned the lovely poem below, God's Grandeur.

Have a wonderful day, and get outside!  

June 9, 2014

Days are where we live...

Hello, summer!  I've missed you so much!  And since you now seem willing to hang around and spread your warm sunshiney rays on us, it's time for a camping adventure!  We ended up on a rare trip alone to Door County, as our oldest son has just had a baby, our second son wouldn't be caught dead camping, our third son acts on the weekends and our daughter is still in Europe. That means last Friday saw the two of us heading "north of the tension line" for a short bit of r&r.  I came home relaxed and feeling like I had a week's vacation--there is something about walking along the lake shore...

and reading whenever you feel like reading and knowing there are no home chores calling your name (well, to be completely honest there were LOTS of chores back home with my name stamped all over them, but we managed to drive out of hearing range...)

that leaves me feeling energized.  Maybe it's the Vitamin D in the sunshine, but whatever it is it makes me happy. I'm hooked on camping and even more hooked on Door County.  Wisconsin is a lovely state, but the peninsula is in a class of beauty all by itself.

I have lots more pictures to share and tales to tell, but it's already Monday morning and work is calling.  I'll leave you with a lovely poem I discovered Saturday morning while sipping my coffee and looking at this view from my camp chair.  Poet Philip Larkin (England, 1922-1985) asks the question "What are days for?" and I couldn't agree more with his answer.  I hope you feel the same.


What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

Have a wonderful Monday!!

June 5, 2014

A rose by any other name...

Oh, the infinite possibilities you have before you when you first start thinking about what to name a baby!! Family names, favorite names, "celebrity" names, "fad" names, literary names...the list goes on and on.  As my husband and I pondered and discussed names late into the night each time we were expecting a child we learned one valuable lesson the hard way. Do not share your chosen name with anyone.  ANYONE.  Either the name will be ridiculed (as in "really, you want to use THAT name?!") or, as we sadly found out during one pregnancy, a cherished name that we had shared was liked by someone else who won the delivery race and named their child OUR name.  Not that you have a patent on baby names, but still...it was disappointing, to say the least.

So when we discovered our son and his wife were expecting I shared this little piece of wisdom with them.  I did not exactly mean that they shouldn't share it with ME (just kidding! well, kind of kidding...), but they definitely took my advice and kept their selected names to themselves.  So the excitement was really building while we waited for "the call."  Would it be a boy or girl?  Red hair (my son) or blonde (my daughter-in-law), or brunette (me) or black (my husband)?  Freckles (my son)?  No freckles (my d-i-l)?  And names...classic? classy? traditional?  Why yes...all of the above regarding her name!

And not only is Lily a fun name (think fairy lilies in the garden, or Lily's Purple Plastic Purse in the library), it is also the name of one of my favorite literary mothers...Lillian Gilbreth.  Who couldn't love the brilliant time and motion study pioneer who along with her husband, Frank Gilbreth, were the forerunners in the study of ergonomics?  In the early 1900s she earned a master's degree in English literature and PhDs from both the University of California and Brown University (the first degree ever granted in industrial psychology) . She became the first American engineer ever to create a synthesis of psychology and scientific management. By applying the principles of scientific management to household tasks, she sought to provide women with shorter, simpler, and easier ways of doing housework to enable them to seek paid employment outside the home.  She paved the way for so many of us now in the workplace.  And did I mention that during all of her collaborative work and research with her husband, she had twelve children and managed her home with the same precision she managed her career?  Growing up, I read Cheaper by the Dozen and Bells on their Toes every year and never grew tired of this somewhat eccentric and completely charming family.

So welcome, little Lillian Marie.  Your name is lovely and will serve you well all the long days of your life.

Naming the Baby

by Faith Shearin

When you are dreaming of the name
you are also dreaming of who they
might be. They are invented in darkness —
under cloak of skin — and, for the better
part of a year, are a swelling
or a set of symptoms. The name
books are like a box of chocolates
and when you open them you see
how many kinds there really are.
There are names of people you
have known and disliked and names
that make the wrong sounds and names
that suggest your child will be
like everyone else's. There are names
that turn your child into a character
in a novel and names that recall
the time when your great grandmother
was young. Naming the baby is a way
of dreaming about a creature who is
almost but not quite. It is a way of
imagining the soul of a person you
are making but have not made.
The name is the first way you see
the baby: their title, the syllables
that conjure a shape from the lantern.

June 4, 2014

It's official.  I'm in love again, with a tiny little girl who has captured me heart and soul.  My husband and I visited our son and daughter-in-law last night and over dinner I remarked that I had wondered how I would feel when I became a grandmother--how would it compare to being a mother?  Now I have my answer...it feels wonderful!  And very liberating, because I can do the "fun" things and not have to worry about all the parental responsibilities (been there, done that!).  My husband and I tried to share her equally, which meant while one of us was holding her the other was watching the clock, waiting for the next opportunity to rock her.

I prefer singing a baby to sleep.

While my husband prefers whistling.

Both methods seemed to work equally well!

Looks like it is time for another song!

I had my favorites when rocking my children...Michael row your boat ashore, Puff the Magic Dragon, and  one of my very favorites seemed to do the trick last night...All Through the Night.  

Sleep, my child, and peace attend thee,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and dale in slumber sleeping
I my loved ones' watch am keeping,
All through the night.

Angels watching, e'er around thee,
All through the night
Midnight slumber close surround thee,
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and dale in slumber sleeping
I my loved ones' watch am keeping,
All through the night.
All through the night, or until the next feeding...

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

June 3, 2014

Lily's library

As soon as I learned the exciting news that I was going to be a grandmother, I couldn't wait to start collecting special books that I could share with our family's newest member.  Nothing gave me more delight as a child than to curl up on the sofa or underneath the weeping birch tree in our backyard and read my way through a long afternoon.  I will have to be patient and wait to share some of my favorites, since it's a little too soon for A Little Princess, The Secret Garden and the Anne (with an "e") books but thankfully there are many charming nursery rhyme books that can start as the foundation of Lily's library.

And here is a little rhyme for today that goes along with how I celebrated her birth...the beginning of Lily's garden!  I choose to take the rhyme in a light-hearted fashion, and not delve too deeply into the darker origins of the rhyme, which are slightly macabre and involve Mary Queen of Scots and some of her dastardly doings.  

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

So if the first book in Lily's library is a book of rhymes (from a grandmother who was raised on Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verse) the first flowers in Lily's garden need to be...lilies of the valley, of course!  As I was planting them one of the first songs I learned in Brownies kept running through my head:  White coral bells, upon a slender stalk, lilies of the valley line my garden walk.

Oh don't you wish that you could hear them ring?  That will happen only when the fairies sing!

And speaking of fairies, I couldn't resist a few pink fairy lilies for Lily's garden as well, because after nursery rhymes comes fairy tales!

And I when I spied some lovely daylilies named Big Smile, they had to go in the garden as well because that is exactly how Miss Lily makes me feel.

I can't wait to see how all the lovely white, pink, and orange flowers bloom in her corner of the garden, but while I'm waiting I'll just enjoy the hues in Lily's Sunday outfit instead.

Perhaps Lily was lulled to sleep by Rudyard Kipling's beautiful ballad Seal Lullaby.  It's been one of my favorites for years, and I hope you enjoy it as well.

Oh! hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us
And black are the waters that sparkled so green.
The moon, O'er the combers, looks downward to find us
At rest in the hollows that rustle between.
Where billow meets billow, there soft by the pillow Oh, weary wee flipperling, curl at thy ease!
The storm shall not wake thee, no shark shall overtake thee
Asleep in the storm of slow-swinging seas.