February 23, 2015

Watch now, how I start the day in happiness.

What a weekend!  My mother is fond of the phrase "no rest for the weary" and that seemed to be the case the past few days!  All good stuff though, so I'm not complaining. Just kind of wishing I had one more day to rest up before facing this morning...

Friday night, instead of our usual wine and cheese date night, found us in jeans and masks, ripping up the disgusting blue shag carpet in our bedroom.  The same blue shag carpet that I insisted would be the first thing we took out when we moved in...eleven years ago.  As we started moving out furniture and emptying the closets I admit I was a bit surprised at how much stuff was tucked away in this room...under the bed I found two boxes of the kids' baby clothes, one box of letters I wrote to my mother when I was in college (doing the math, I think the letters qualify as "vintage"), four violins, a harmonica and a slinky.  Huh.  Not quite sure what to say about all that miscellany lurking under the bed!  I also found the requisite dust bunnies...and all their relatives!

I would normally post a "before" and "after" picture, but honesty only goes so far...there is no way I'm posting a picture of how hideous that blue shag was!  Here is a picture of how it looks sans carpet, waiting on the new floor.  Yes, go ahead and try to picture my yellow-orangish faux stucco walls (my husband says Steeler yellow, I politely remind him it is Tuscan gold and Greek sunsets...) with blue shag carpet.  Yuck.  Make that double Yuck.  You know it was bad when the sub floor looks way better!

Displaying IMG_20150221_104856624_HDR.jpg

So after we kicked off our weekend with manual labor, we followed it up with hitting the road north on Saturday to see our son and his girlfriend in a college play.  The college occasionally uses theater alums, and it was so exciting to see my son back on the stage!  They both did a great job, and it was a lot of fun.

It was a new play, The Boy Inside, written by one of the college professors/playwrights on campus and is about a head football coach who is leading his college team to its best season ever at the same time the college president decides football is too dangerous for an academic environment. The conflict leads both characters on a journey of self-discovery and the true meaning of football and sports.  As my husband played college football it made for some interesting discussions on the drive home!  We also had the chance to finally meet my son's girlfriend's parents and little sister, and had a wonderful time getting to know each other over dessert following the play.

Such a wonderful time, in fact, that we completely lost track of time and didn't make it back home until 1:30!  So our early Sunday wake up call came way too fast, and before we knew it we were back on the road, this time heading west to go babysit Lily.  I can't believe how fast she is growing!  I think she is going to bypass formal crawling (she scooches on  her stomach liked greased lightning) and the way she is constantly pulling herself up to a standing position makes me think she'll be an early walker. 

Trying on Grandpa's hat

Teaching Grandma how to blow kisses

And now here it is--Monday morning--and I need a "jump start" following my extra busy weekend.  I choose to start the week with an extra large mug of coffee and this lovely reflection by one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver.  Let's all start today in happiness and kindness!

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

February 19, 2015

the engine of my gratefulness

Gratefulness.  Gratitude.  Appreciation.  Thankfulness.

I'll be the first to admit it, sometimes when I am caught in winter's frozen grip, it's hard to keep that attitude of gratitude.  It's hard to focus on what I have to be truly thankful for (and it's a long list!!) when my nose is constantly cold, and no matter how many slippers I put on my feet stay frozen.  My chest feels tight and all I really want to do is climb into my flannel pjs after work and huddle up on the sofa, preferably wrapped in a blanket near the fireplace.  With a windchill way below zero, it's hard to scrounge up a few crumbs of gratitude.

But I'll try...let's see, for starters my sister-in-law has just informed me that today is National Drink Wine Day.  Who knew?!  I'm grateful that I can do my part to celebrate this significant holiday.  And what was in my mailbox today??  All sorts of "hang on, spring is coming" little cheerleaders!  First cheerleader...a garden bulb catalog.  Hmm, I'll take three silver lace vines and raise you two caladiums.  Oh wait, that may be the wine talking...

Second cheerleader?  Three more Inspector Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James books by Deborah Crombie.  I love these two characters and of course the British locale, and have been eagerly waiting for these books to arrive.  And I am seriously thankful for abebooks.com, that makes finding books so easy and affordable.


Another cheerleader...two new room sprays from my sister's spring Scentsy collection also arrived!  Sweet pea and peony...the beautiful fragrances give hope that spring will arrive, even if it doesn't feel that way right now.  And last, but certainly not least, my first copy of English Homes magazine arrived--I've been waiting for my subscription to kick in so I could curl up and sip tea, while dreaming of the English homes and gardens so beautifully displayed.

So on second thought, I guess I have much to be thankful for this cold winter's day.  Sometimes it's the little things that get us through...

by Dale Biron

Each day the engine of my gratefulness
must be coaxed and primed into action.
Of course like any old clunker,
it would just as soon stay put.
For even after the labored start beats the inertia,
and the plume of white smoke struggles upward,
the same hills always appear,
soaring daily—tall and ominous as before.
There is the long slow hill of “aging”
so gradual and smooth at first.
And then that steep grade called “the news.”
Yes, and always some mountain of a war
looming out there, never too far in the distance.
Even an old idea or a feeling long abandoned
might conspire to halt this fragile progress –
valves sputtering, tires flattening, clutch slipping.
But the old “potato, potato, potato” sound
of the engine, and all its mysterious fuel,
for which I am truly grateful
keeps stumbling along.

February 17, 2015

Make it be spring...

Blam...more snow in the night!  Just a dusting covering everything, but I am sure I am not the only one who is weary of white at this point.  I need the bright oranges of my hibiscus and sunny yellows of my lilies...

I need the blushing pinks of my peonies and bleeding hearts..

I need the royal purples of my lilacs and iris.  I need spring, my friends! 

Poet Margaret Atwood must have had the same cabin feverish I can't take the snow one more day thoughts when she wrote February.  I'm with you, Margaret---please, please, please make it be spring!

Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am
He’ll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,
which are what will finish us off
in the long run. Some cat owners around here
should snip a few testicles. If we wise
hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,
or eat our young, like sharks.
But it’s love that does us in. Over and over
Again, He shoots, he scores! and famine
crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing
eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits
thirty below, and the pollution pours
out of our chimneys to keep us warm.
February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries
with a splash of vinegar.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.

February 13, 2015

Some days it is enough to just be. Be alive, be in the moment, be your best self, and if you are lucky, be with the one you love more than life itself.
 "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."
Happy Valentine's Day!
The Third Body
Robert Bly

A man and a woman sit near each other, and they do not long
at this moment to be older, or younger, nor born
in any other nation, or time, or place.
They are content to be where they are, talking or not talking.
Their breaths together feed someone whom we do not know.
The man sees the way his fingers move;
he sees her hands close around a book she hands to him.
They obey a third body that they share in common.
They have made a promise to love that body.
Age may come, parting may come, death will come.
A man and a woman sit near each other;
as they breathe they feed someone we do not know,
someone we know of, whom we have never seen.

February 11, 2015

the dust of snow...

Ever have one of those days?  Computer woes at work...discovering you left your wallet at the office just as you are ready to check out at the grocery store after work...finally getting home after driving back to work to retrieve said wallet while husband (thank you, honey!) goes to the store to rescue unpaid groceries from customer service...reaching for your purse and cellphone in the car and discovering that somehow you have managed to lose one leather glove between work and home...managing to somehow stab yourself in the finger with your needle after administering your insulin shot (how the heck did I do that??)...and finally cutting the same finger again while opening a bottle of steak sauce.  One of those days that makes you look up at the sky and say what did I do to deserve this??

While this is a much darker poem than the small petty mishaps listed above call for, I couldn't help but think of Frost's poem A Dust of Snow...

Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

While I didn't encounter any actual crows (which would simply have been the last straw!), I had a lovely "dusting of snow" that changed my mood and I was reminded once again of how simple acts of kindness can lift your spirits and turn a day around.  First I received a kind and thoughtful email from one of my supervisors, which made me feel really appreciated.  Then I received a sweet and lovely Valentine from a very dear friend, which made me feel special.  And then another friend sent me a cute email referencing yesterday's blog post that made me laugh out loud, which made me feel proud of what I write.  Appreciated--loved--enjoyed.  It puts paltry annoyances into perspective very quickly!

May the sun shine on you all day long!

February 10, 2015

feelin' groovy...

My momma always says....you get more bees with honey than with vinegar.  In other words, it pays to be nice.  So, for example, if you are flying down an empty highway, in your sporty little red Camry, going slightly over the speed limit while belting out the lyrics to the 59th Street Bridge Song by Simon and Garfunkel, it pays to be extra sweet to the nice young trooper who pulls you over.  Because being friendly and cooperative and looking slightly flustered can result in a pleasant warning to slow down and be safe and have a nice day.  Thank you, Mr. Officer, for not spoiling my groovy mood.  ( (this might be a true story that I might have "forgotten" to share with my husband, but all's well that ends well, right honey??)


The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy
Hello, lamppost, what’cha knowin’?
I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’
Ain’t’cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in doo-doo, feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy
I got no deeds to do
No promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life, I love you
All is groovy

 And I'm not making this up!  Literally as I was belting out slow down, you move too fast, I saw the red lights in my rear view mirror.  He must have been hiding in a cornfield...

And now, just because it's Tuesday and it's gray and cold outside, here are a couple of pictures that make me feel extra groovy all over!!  What's not to love about a  little girl in a bonnet?

unless maybe it's a pretty blue hair ribbon to match her eyes?

Happy Tuesday!!

February 9, 2015

I have come by the highway home

In January I had to make two unexpected trips back to South Dakota.  My aunt passed on New Year's Day, and a short while later my dear friend Barbara's mother passed.  My husband had commitments he couldn't break so I found myself driving alone across southern Minnesota on a lonely stretch of highway for the second funeral.  Usually when I am traveling across the prairie the lyrics from Simon and Garfunkel's Look for America run through my mind...

So I looked at the scenery,
She read her magazine;
And the moon rose over an open field.
"Kathy, I'm lost", I said,
Though I know she was sleeping.
"I'm empty and aching and
I don't know why."

But this time I did know why I was empty and aching--returning home to once again say goodbye to a dear woman who lived her life gracefully and loving was hard.  Even when someone has lived a good and long life, it is still hard to say goodbye.  Watching my friend grieve the loss of her mother was difficult.  Knowing that each day I grow a step closer to being the "older generation" whose shoes will be so hard to fill, is a somber thought.

I took these photos as I traveled through Wisconsin's glaciated cliffs and coulies, across the Mississippi, and passing small towns nestled next to lonely snow drifted prairie roads, watching the sun, not the moon, rise over the open fields.


My travels brought to mind one of Robert Frost's poems, Reluctance, as I watched the miles speed by through the warmth of my car.  My heart agreed with his passionate resistance to not willingly go "with the drift of things".  God bless the two wonderful women we have had to say our last goodbyes to.  May the winter be over for them. 


Out through the fields and the woods
   And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
   And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
   And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
   Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
   And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
   When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
   No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
   The flowers of the witch hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
   But the feet question ‘Whither?’

Ah, when to the heart of man
   Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
   To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
   Of a love or a season?

February 6, 2015

...and went out in the morning, and sang

I'll be the first to admit that I am a world class worrier.  I worry about everything...work, home, family, the world, my dog, my children, my mother.  You name it, I've probably spent hours fretting about it.  Last week I came across a poem of Mary Oliver's that brought me up short--and made me realize that I don't want to spend the rest of my life worrying over so many things that probably won't happen.  Or if they do happen, I will find the strength to deal with.  My mother (who also knows how to take worrying to a whole new level) used to be so irritated when my dad, in response to her voicing her concern over an issue, would shrug his shoulders and say "what good will it do ya?".  I also live with a glass half full kind of guy, so I know how she felt.  And yet, maybe if I keep this poem close to my heart there's hope for me yet.  The picture is one of my Door County photos of sunrise over Lake Michigan.  I hope it inspires you to love more, live deeper and find the joy instead of the worry in life!

Happy Friday!

February 5, 2015

Winter fell...

Looking out my kitchen window...
Yay!  Mycomputer is fixed and all my annoying pop-ups and flashing media plug-in reminders are finally gone.  It had reached the point where, although my computer has virus protection, the malware pop-ups had maliciously run amok and using my computer was an exercise in annoyance and futility.  In short, it drove me crazy...every time I tried to research something I was taken to a Russian dating site.  Sigh.  A big thank you to my son for getting to the bottom of the problem and restoring internet sanity!

So...where was the snow when I really wanted it?  Our very brown Christmas has come and gone, but now when the arrival of seed catalogs has me dreaming of spring...the snow has arrived!  Thankfully, February is a short month. Spring can't be too far away, right? (ah what lovely rose-colored glasses I am wearing!)

We recently splurged on a trip to the IMAX theater to see the last two episodes of last season's Game of Throne's (HBO) and the first preview of the upcoming season.  The next day the snow began in earnest, and I had to admit to a quiet chuckle or two as I looked out at the snow and saw the back of my Little Free Library...

Why yes, Winter fell all over our yard, driveway and street!

Winterfell, the castle and seat of the House Stark in Game of Thrones

And to round off this post, here's a poem by Wallace Stevens that seems appropriate...

The Snow Man  
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.