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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Room to Grow



I am learning to love myself. 
I confess, the whole notion seemed rather ridiculous when I started this journey.  However, eighteen months and nearly thirty books later, I am beginning to think there is something to it.  
As I read more and more, I found prompts to “dig deep,” “look inside,”” embrace the inner me,” I felt like already I had the whole thing covered.  My sense of self-esteem has been pretty strong most of my life. I can speak about myself, my life and my work in affirming language. I am a deeply spiritual person; in my spiritual practice, I was taught that God loved me in Sunday school back in the 1960‘s. I never doubted that the Higher Energy, whom I call God, loved me. For me, love and God are indistinguishable. So why the crisis now? It is my habit to research anything that I find unsettling or confusing. In this case, landed on a few statistics.

According to a USA Today study of 501 adults, thirty-six percent of adults felt stress due to work.  A close second, thirty-two felt anxiety about money. Ten percent reported that children were the biggest cause of their stress.  Seven percent said it was ill-health that caused them to experience stress.  Seven percent said stress in their lives was due to their marriages.  Five percent felt that it was their parents that caused the most stress.  Only five percent said they had no stress. If those are the averages, I deserve an A in Stress.  By my calculation I am in the 95th percentile.  The fact is that I perceive that, in the last eighteen months, I have worried about my career, money, my children, health concerns, and my marriage. Where, I wonder, do my parents, real estate, and friendships fit in on that scale? In any event, I would surmise that these stressors have pushed me to look at my life -- and the way I view it -- in a new way.

I have to start with myself. As horribly self-centered as it seems, we all have to start with ourselves.  That’s where the odyssey of this stressed-out woman began.  And, if the next phase of my life is anything like the last eighteen months, I suspect there is plenty of room for me to grow.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pen Pals




                     Christine DeNoel
                               
Steve Gilson
 
                                     Dave Liebtag
                                                               
                                                 Edna Mendes

Catherine Gabilan


In the summer before fourth grade - maybe 1968? -  I went to day camp.  One of the primary activities was to stage a play.  We performed “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” I was thrilled to be cast as the understudy for the lead role. Luck was with me.  For reasons I no longer recall, the Charlie Brown character was unable to be present for our performance. I was asked to step up to the plate to play the lead. My favorite solo was “TEAM.”  The lyrics....

Dear Pen pal...
You'll never guess what happened today. At the baseball game.
It's hard to believe, what happened today. At the baseball game.
I was the manager, Schroeder was catcher. And all of the team was the same as always
But somehow or other disaster struck. At the baseball game.
Huddle up! [LUCY]
I got it! [LINUS]
I got it! [SCHROEDER]
I got it! [SNOOPY]
Woof woof woof! [LUCY (to Charlie Brown)]
I thought you had it [CHARLIE BROWN]
Three balls, two strikes, The bases were loaded with two men out
I pitched my curve, but somehow they hit it. A good strong clout
"Lucy" I hollered, "It's coming right to you"- She caught it as easy as pie-- then dropped it.
I don't think it's good for a team's morale. To see their manager cry.
Snoopy helped out by biting the runner. And catching the ball in his teeth;
Linus caught flies from a third-story window. By holding his blanket beneath.
yes, we had fortitude, no one could argue with that.
And one run would win us the game. As I came up to bat.
[LUCY] All right, Charlie Brown, we're all behind you-sort of.
I mean this man can't pitch. He pitches like my grandmother,
Charlie Brown. Now all you have to is bear down, just bear
down- and when you get on first, watch for my signals.
[OTHERS]
Go Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown-
There is no team. Like the best team
Which is our team. Right here
We will show you. We're the best team
In the very Little League this year
An in no time we'll be big time
With the Big League baseball stars
For all we have to do is
Win just one more game...[LUCY]
...And the championship is ours!! [OTHERS (echoing)]
Ours! Ours! Ours! [CHARLIE BROWN]
Two me were on with two outs and me. With one strike to go
[OTHERS (whispered)]. One strike... One Strike...
[CHARLIE BROWN]. Then I saw her- this cute little
Red-headed girl I know. Firmly I vowed I would win it for her
And I shouldered my bat and I swung...[OTHERS]
Oh! [CHARLIE BROWN]
Dear pen pal, I'm told where you live
Is really quite far ...Would you please send directions
On how I can get where you are? Your friend, Charlie Brown.
reprinted from Royallyrics.com


As soon as my children were old enough to carry a tune, I taught them this song. The life lessons were many. The idea that Charlie had a friend -no matter what- who was not the least concerned with his failures and mistakes in his daily life resonated with me. I understood just what Charlie must have felt when he let down his team at a crucial juncture.  I knew how it felt to desperately want to get away from friends, and even, from oneself. Finally, I understood the value of anonymity offered by a pen pal who doesn’t quite know you the same way your other friends do.  Today, with email, we have personas distinct and unique from our physical selves. We have on-screen personalities. Before the Internet, pen pals offered that opportunity.
I had the good fortune to have had five pen pals through-out my lifetime. 
Christine DeNoel was assigned to me by my eighth grade French teacher.  We corresponded until some time in college, when both of us were caught up in our academic pursuits.  Christine wrote her letters to me in French and I wrote back to her in English. From Christine, I learned about the tremendous weight of responsibility that can come from trying to meet with parents’ expectations.
During high school, I also had two other correspondents.  Because my boyfriend attended a boy’s prep school in Vermont, and I lived in Rhode Island, much of our relationship was defined by our letters. I saved every one of those letters, tucked in a shoebox somewhere. In the nearly forty years since we broke up, I have only opened the box twice.  It is of note that both of us became writers.
My other pen pal in high school was delivered to me by my boyfriend. He introduced me - through letters - to his friend, Dave.  Dave was going off to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; he was lonely.  My boyfriend suggested that I write to Dave since I was such a good letter writer. I did. I finally met him about three years later, as he was passing through Rhode Island. Funny, I still hink about him almost every time I eat grapefruit.   On that visit, he told me that his grandfather lived almost to 100 because of his regular consumption of grapefruit. As far as he was concerned, grapefruits were the fountain of youth.
My daughter, Kay, introduced me to my first adult pen pal. Edna Mendes, a Brazilian native, and I met because of the close relationship of our daughters.  They met in school when her daughter was visiting the U.S. to improve her English. “Edgena” (how she taught me to say her name properly) became a dear friend. More than ten years later and we still use email to correspond.  Recently, our emails have grown infrequent. However, I could see her, write her or talk to her with the utter confidence that our friendship is secure and in tact. 
My daughter, Hannah, introduced me to my most recent pen pal.  Again, it was through school. Hannah traveled to France for an exchange program. Her placement went awry; Catherine Gabilan scooped in and rescued Hannah and the remainder of her trip. Our friendship sprouted wings.  Catherine and her husband, David, opened their homes and hearts to Hannah, Kay and me over the years.  Catherine writes in English much of the time.  I try out my French.  When that fails, I resort to Anglais.
These five individuals helped shape who I am and how I see the world.  All these years later, I think I would change the lyrics of Charlie Brown’s song just a little bit...

“Dear Pen Pal, I’m told, where you live is quite far, I need no directions on how I can get where you are.  Your friend. Dawn Elise” 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Petitions 101

blogs.callutheran.edu


https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/recognize-ehlers-danlos-syndrome-create-awareness-have-eds-recognized-disability/FFWRj66T

Okay, so what do I know?  The petitions with which I am most familiar are comprised of signatures garnered outside of grocery stores, churches and post offices.  They consist of signatures recruited at Statehouses across the country for a specific cause. The petitions I have signed in the past have been explained to me on my front doorstep as volunteers went door-to-door to ask for citizens' signatures. Well, wouldn’t you know?  It has all changed.
I discovered just how much the process has changed today.  I was asked to sign a petition
e l e c t r o n i c a l l y!  I had to jump through a series of hoops to offer proof that, yes, I am Dawn Elise Evans.  Once I accomplished that, I was able to sign a petition.  A little rummaging around the website that hosts petitions for the Whitehouse revealed that anyone can petition the Whitehouse about anything. On one hand, it makes the President’s administration seem truly accessible. On the other hand, I wonder about the nuisance requests. I did a little reading after having signed a petition put forth by a young woman; she requested that the government acknowledge Ehler’s-Danlos Syndrome as a disability in the U.S.. As a result of my reading, it turns out that the petition I signed was flawed in its conception. There has to be an “actionable” demand, apparently.  Directed, concise and brief language appears to be a requisite, as well.  It is important not to duplicate a pre-existing or similar petition. The website allows one to review recent petitions, recent responses and a history of petitions. There are pages and pages of information about how to write and put forth a petition at this government website. I come back to my earlier remark. What do I know?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

You Are My Sunshine

supermarkethq.com


When I was a child, the conclusion of every family gathering closed with my grandfather, my father and his younger brother serenading us in three-part harmony with “You are My Sunshine.”  It was the first adult song I learned.  I knew the lyrics by heart by the time I was seven.  Their harmony was wobbly, at times, but it was touching to see them stretch their arms around each other and sing, smiles plastered wide across their faces.  It was devastating when my uncle died of cancer before he was 40.  With his death, the close relationship that held the three of them in their harmonic accord was, tragically, broken.  I only remember my father and grandfather singing “You are My Sunshine” one more time; it was when my grandfather turned 80.  I was in my twenties.  In a pathetic kind of optimism, I practiced and practiced that song just in case they did sing it -- just in case they asked for a volunteer to lend a voice to their duet.
It is only now, at the other end of the telescope of time that two things occur to me.  First, I realize that, by preserving their parts in a duet, leaving my uncle’s part untouched, they were leaving room for his memory.  Second, I wonder why on earth, with all that prep time I put into it, why didn’t I simply ASK them if I could sing along?  
All of this reflection was prompted by a television commercial I heard today; the music accompanying the hawking of some product or another was the sacred, “You are My Sunshine.”  The lyrics and sweet melody often have the effect of moving me to tears. However, I was so startled to hear it in that venue that tears were not on the horizon.  Instead, I was left wondering if my father might like to sing the song with me.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Worthy Words



“To get where you are going, you have to have a clear understanding of where you want to be.”

I doled out this piece of advice to my eighteen-year old son this afternoon.  He was working on a last-minute college application.  The funny thing was that when I spoke, I barely looked up from the holiday cards I was assembling for my abbreviated mailing list of card recipients. Yet, it dawned on me that - quite unintentionally - I had uttered some unusually sage advice.  The more I reflected on my hastily offered words of advice, the more I realized I had something going there.  It’s not coincidence that I have an entire file in my Documents that is entitled, “Quotes.” What started as my collection of quotes from other writers and philosophers who are wiser and more talented than I am became an amalgamation of their thoughts as well as my own.  I expect it will be the only time that my words will share a page with the likes of Aristotle, Descartes and Thoreau!

We are, for the most part, more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers.   Henry David Thoreau

An unexamined life is not worth living.  Socrates

Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.  Anon

Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.  Drake

Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday.  Skyler Greu

The essence of our love does not change with circumstance or time.  Evans

You think the dead we loved hardly ever truly leave us?
You think that we don’t count them more clearly than ever in great times
of trouble?       J.K. Rowling.

Maybe, one day, when I find myself with a surfeit of time, I will cull all my short, pithy words of wisdom and share them with the world!  It would be a new direction for me.

However, as I once said, “The first step toward change is to believe it is possible.” 


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Welcome, Kirby

Kirby


Kirby in a pocket.


We have an addition to the household. My daughter brought home a two-pound puppy to join our menagerie. For a family of five adults, all of whom have animal allergies, it is remarkable that we now have a cat and two dogs living here. Our first dog, Scooter is a large Labradoodle, weighing in at 75-pounds. While he is gentle-tempered, there is a lot of him to handle.  The new dog is a breed created by engineering a Maltese and a toy poodle. Full-grown, we can expect him to weigh a walloping eight-pounds.....four pounds less than our twelve-year old cat.  Kirby mews and whimpers rather than barks.  He is a particularly sweet dog. His cavorting can not help but bring a smile to even the most curmudgeonly of characters. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Facing Hard Truths




I visited a friend of mine who recently had a stroke.  After this catastrophic event, his life has to start over. As I sat beside his bed, I pondered great things. The meaning of life, the meaning of my life, how we choose to spend our days and how we choose to love were among the thoughts that stirred my heart.  One ride. That’s all we get. One ride through life. Sure, we can fall down, but so long as we get back up, then we are doing just fine.  There is a phrase from a song I know that goes, “If you knew today was going to be your last, how would you spend it?” I would want to answer on a bigger scale. I think I would try to.....

 “Stand up, be heard, love freely, love fully, love often.  
Put fear on the shelf, use courage, use faith. 
Be all of who I am."



What more can I possibly do than that? 
                                                         
 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Are Artichokes in Season?

www.simplyrecipes.com


My daughter loves artichokes. She particularly loves artichokes dipped in butter. For her recent holiday homecoming, I intended to stock up on artichokes. To my surprise, I could not find them in any one of three grocery stores where I commonly shop. Perhaps there was a run on them?  Is there a season for artichokes?  This kind of free-wheeling thought led me to reflect on how far-removed we have come from the seasonality of fruits and vegetables. My children were surprised to learn that, as a child, receiving either a clementine or a tangerine in my Christmas stocking was better than chocolate --
the season they were shipped from Florida was short, and they were expensive. My kids looked puzzled when I used to refer to canned vegetables. My mother was the exception to most of my friends’ families; she insisted on fresh vegetables and salads daily all yearlong. When the circumstances arose that there were not fresh vegetables available, she used frozen. She taught us to reuse the liquid the vegetables were steamed in to make soup bases, gravies or stews because she didn’t want us to waste the minerals.  We ate things like cabbage, carrots, beets, and lima beans in the winter. Spring lettuces and spinach would brighten our meals as the days grew longer...finally. Summer with its preponderance of corn, tomatoes, zucchini, string beans and peppers, tomatoes, radishes seemed like it was prolific enough to last a year. Still, we canned and froze our own produce, as well as that which we bought at roadside stands, against the long days of autumn and winter ahead.  It seemed impossible that the gluttony of beefsteak, roma, globe and pear tomatoes would cease. Of course, it did. My mother believed Eat what you know -- know where it grows. 
The connection of seasons to our fruits and vegetables changed late in the sixties when grocery stores started placing a new tomato substitute on the shelves.  It was watery, rubbery and somehow a poor replica of the tomato as we knew it.  That was the beginning of the end of seasonality. While at first, I was thrilled to eat fresh corn in December (Peruvian), but the delighted faded when I discovered the distance and circumstances that, say, my grapefruit in July(Mexico) or cherries in May (Oregon) had traveled.I lost my appetite. As a well-seasoned adult, I have pretty much resorted to my mother’s habits of eating fruits and vegetables. This allows me some sense of connection between the seasons, the land and my food. I understand that without the globalization and deseasonalization of our fruits and vegetables, I would be unable to eat kiwis and mangoes at any time of the year. I concede that I like to eat pineapple in April as much as I do in October.  After all,  am not fixated on my mother’s rule of thumb.   I am merely suggesting that we consider what we eat, where it comes from and whether it is in our best interest to eat it.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Long Day Day 52 Y2

www.homeelement.com

I come to my computer with dread, exhaustion, and a small amount of resentment. I simply want to lay me down to sleep (Pray the Lord my soul to keep).  Instead, I am, to the best of my ability, trying to keep up with some wild commitment I made to write a daily blog. In YEAR 2 of this endeavor, the definition of daily is more loosely woven than Year 1.  In the first year, I used 24 hour cycles to define a day.  In Year 2, I find that I have less of a hold on time and that the boundaries between day and night are blurred.  This might explain my propensity for sleep walking.
In any event, I have tried to be a good mother, a good wife and a good friend today.  I am not sure how I scored on any of those fronts, but I know I did my best.  With that, I will have to be satisfied.  I am going to crawl between the sheets - clean! - oh, how I love bedtime in clean sheets.  The blinds are shut and I am ready to let sleep claim me.  Confident in the restorative powers of sleep and a new day.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

An Inspiring Call Day 51 Y2



Yesterday evening, I received a call around dinner time. A woman with the lilt of an Indian accent inquired in neatly clipped vowels, “Hello, are you the owner of Dawn Elise Evans?”  I was stymied for my second, literally scratching my head. I answered as truthfully as possible, “I'd like to think so.”
She returned, “Is Dawn Elise Evans a small business?”
“No,” I said, “I am an individual.”
“I am sorry to have bothered you,” she said.  Then she disconnected.
I stared at the phone in my head for a second before I laughed aloud.

"Am I the owner of Dawn Elise Evans," indeed.  However, the question gave me pause to wonder...As a majority share-owner, am I doing everything I can for myself? Am I taking care of myself to the best of my ability?  Am I putting my assets to their highest use? Am I practicing the tenets of good business on Dawn Elise Evans?  The answer is that there is room for improvement.  I thank the disembodied inquiry from a woman who did not know me for bringing this to my attention.  

Next step, I will write the 2013 business plan for Dawn Elise Evans, Inc..

Friday, December 14, 2012

Beams of Light in a Dark World Day 50 Y2



A relative of my father’s died  in the 1930’s in an ice expedition to the North Pole.  The transport boat that was carrying the explorers from ship to shore capsized.  My father’s cousin, a strong swimmer, accustomed to the cold North Atlantic Ocean, rescued three of his travel companions who could not swim. Returning with the fourth survivor, he was just shy of reaching shore when exhaustion and the cold overcame him.  He drowned.  The person he ferried survived. I have replayed this scenario with unexpected frequency. Is that because I am a storyteller, or perhaps, a small part of him lives on in me?

The power of our imagination to create the details of scenes that unfold in our absence is nearly infinite.  This propensity is nearly sufficient to drive a sane person to madness.  In circumstances of unimaginable loss and horror, we seem fully able to conjure pictures to match our own ideas of terror.  We replay images of our own creation in every waking moment, and find that they return, unbidden, even in our sleep.  When we are rewarded with minute factual details of any sort, we weave them into our stories of suffering.  The smallest hint of fact allows us to build our tale, plugging the leaky foundation with this, even the thinnest shred of evidence.

Such thoughts weigh on my mind tonight in the wake of the Newtown tragedy. It is painful beyond measure to think of the families and the victims at the hands of a young man who went to the school so filled with rage. With as much discipline as I can muster, I turn away from the details. I turned off the television, unplugged the radio and let the power run down on my laptop.  I do not try to conjure the images. Instead, I work hard to look for beams of light that signify hope in the world.














Thursday, December 13, 2012

Balls of Wool Day 49 Y2

Yarn drying
Balls of Wool




I spent part of the past two weeks preparing a Christmas gift for my daughter, the Fashion Design major.  As part of her studies at Pratt Institute, she has learned to sew like a French couturier, knit like an Irish fisherman, and braid like a wedding hair stylist.  I am satisfied that she has garnered numerous life skills that are useful and certainly financial assets.  
My idea was to make available to her some of the wool yarn that my mother squirreled away in her knitting bags.  After her death, my sister and I divided most of my mother’s craft, knitting, sewing and art supplies.  Among the bounty I received were at least twenty skeins of wool in different colors.  I have kept it in our basement for the past two years because it wreaked so strongly of Napthalene.  Moth Balls. I am allergic to moth balls.  The challenge came when I decided to give this wool to my daughter. I was stymied as to how to remove the heavy, noxious smell from this beautiful, multi-colored wool.  
Using the advice of random people online, I tried airing it outside, tossing it in the drier on “air only” with a a dryer sheet, spraying it with Fabreeze, washing it with Woolite and rinsing with white vinegar, washing it with Woolite and baking soda.  None of these attempts were successful.  I had a heavy, sodden mass of Napthalene smelling, semi-tangled wool on my hands when I reached the end of my patience.  In exasperation, I took all the skeins and laid them outside on the front porch swing to dry.  I abandoned them.  I checked them on the second day and they had frozen into smelly popsicle shapes.  On the fifth or sixth day, I decided my punishment had been just, though severe, and brought the now-dry wool inside.  To my utter astonishment, the wool was dry and odorless! 
I brought it inside to roll it into balls.  I experienced a funny and unexpected sense of deja-vu as I started rolling the wool for my daughter. I developed a system of looping the wool around my knees and rolling the balls around my hands.  As I did so, I flashed back upon doing this same process with my mother all throughout my childhood and into adulthood.  It was a companionable aspect of her knitting that we shared.  We would sit face to face.  In alternating shifts, she would wind, and I would hold the yarn taut between my arms that resembled nothing less than football goal posts.  When my arms grew tired, we would switch positions.  Every sweater, scarf, pocketbook, pillow case, and blanket that she would knit, we would do this.  We could have had a World War Three argument, but we would assume our positions silently, in unspoken accord. 
My mother knit. In church, in restaurants and at parties, she knit.  My mother’s last job, that lasted about four seasons, was as a docent at the Martha’s Vineyard Campground Meeting Association Museum.  The job required that she sit in a rocking chair on the ground floor of a ginger bread cottage.  Visitors would pay $2 to hear her tell the tale of being the oldest living campground member and her memories of the “good old days.” 
She would describe life in the 1800‘s, while all the time, rocking and knitting.  She sold the items she would knit through a local artisan’s cooperative, and what she didn’t sell, she gave to family members.  The last thing she knit me was a prayer shawl.  It was made even more special because she knit it with intention; it was meant for me.  Whenever I wear it, I feel her presence.
It has felt so joyful to prepare to share her wool with my daughter.  The memories and the satisfaction of her art are being passed on to another generation; that, alone, is gift enough for me.

I spent part of the past two weeks preparing a Christmas gift for my daughter, the Fashion Design major.  As part of her studies at Pratt Institute, she has learned to sew like a French couturier, knit like an Irish fisherman, and braid like a wedding hair stylist.  I am satisfied that she has garnered numerous life skills that are useful and certainly financial assets.  
My idea was to make available to her some of the wool yarn that my mother squirreled away in her knitting bags.  After her death, my sister and I divided most of my mother’s craft, knitting, sewing and art supplies.  Among the bounty I received were at least twenty skeins of wool in different colors.  I have kept it in our basement for the past two years because it wreaked so strongly of Napthalene.  Moth Balls. I am allergic to moth balls.  The challenge came when I decided to give this wool to my daughter. I was stymied as to how to remove the heavy, noxious smell from this beautiful, multi-colored wool.  
Using the advice of random people online, I tried airing it outside, tossing it in the drier on “air only” with a a dryer sheet, spraying it with Fabreeze, washing it with Woolite and rinsing with white vinegar, washing it with Woolite and baking soda.  None of these attempts were successful.  I had a heavy, sodden mass of Napthalene smelling, semi-tangled wool on my hands when I reached the end of my patience.  In exasperation, I took all the skeins and laid them outside on the front porch swing to dry.  I abandoned them.  I checked them on the second day and they had frozen into smelly popsicle shapes.  On the fifth or sixth day, I decided my punishment had been just, though severe, and brought the now-dry wool inside.  To my utter astonishment, the wool was dry and odorless! 
I brought it inside to roll it into balls.  I experienced a funny and unexpected sense of deja-vu as I started rolling the wool for my daughter. I developed a system of looping the wool around my knees and rolling the balls around my hands.  As I did so, I flashed back upon doing this same process with my mother all throughout my childhood and into adulthood.  It was a companionable aspect of her knitting that we shared.  We would sit face to face.  In alternating shifts, she would wind, and I would hold the yarn taut between my arms that resembled nothing less than football goal posts.  When my arms grew tired, we would switch positions.  Every sweater, scarf, pocketbook, pillow case, and blanket that she would knit, we would do this.  We could have had a World War Three argument, but we would assume our positions silently, in unspoken accord. 
My mother knit. In church, in restaurants and at parties, she knit.  My mother’s last job, that lasted about four seasons, was as a docent at the Martha’s Vineyard Campground Meeting Association Museum.  The job required that she sit in a rocking chair on the ground floor of a ginger bread cottage.  Visitors would pay $2 to hear her tell the tale of being the oldest living campground member and her memories of the “good old days.” 
She would describe life in the 1800‘s, while all the time, rocking and knitting.  She sold the items she would knit through a local artisan’s cooperative, and what she didn’t sell, she gave to family members.  The last thing she knit me was a prayer shawl.  It was made even more special because she knit it with intention; it was meant for me.  Whenever I wear it, I feel her presence.
It has felt so joyful to prepare to share her wool with my daughter.  The memories and the satisfaction of her art are being passed on to another generation; that, alone, is gift enough for me.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mine is BIGGER Day 48 &2

Amazon.com
Canon Deluxe Photo Backpack 200EG


Canon Deluxe Photo Backpack 200EG for Canon EOS SLR Cameras (Black with Green Accent)
On Amazon, I found that 1488 people reviewed this product.  
68 people uploaded images of their personal backpacks. At first, I thought, how great! People made useful observations about loading their equipment and they offered clever tips such as including a camelback inside the backpack so that water, via tubing, would be available during the entire hike.  So, I was lulled.  I admit it.  It was, I am abashed to say, a bit like the first time I saw a porno flick.  I did so in a course on Human Sexuality at Amherst College. It took me a couple of minutes to get 
o r i e n t e d -- if you know what I mean --.  I had a tad bit of difficulty sorting out what was what and what was where. When I did, I got it.  Well, same with the bags. I looked at picture after picture of neatly packed bags without noticing a cohesive theme at all. Then, around picture 37, a thought started to bubble to the surface.  I rejected it.  At image 45, I became convinced.  I noticed that there was a direct correlation between the size of the lens with the position of the picture in the queue. In other words, the lens grew larger with each picture upon which I clicked.  There were a few spurious photos that threw the trend, but it was impossible to deny.  There was a game of one-ups-men (excuse the pun) going on here.  Apparently the “mine-is-bigger-than-yours” holds true in camera lens size just as much as it did in my course at Amherst College.  There are some inalienable truths about men.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Solitaire Day 48 Y2

http://www.mlhsoftware.com/SimplySolitaire/images%5Cgame_start.png


I am adept at categorizing, inventorying and arranging. This talent was fostered by hours and hours spent playing Solitaire when I was a child, home in bed. I missed a lot of my childhood due to respiratory infections and later, knee surgeries. I laid down cards for hours.  My mother would play Double Solitaire when she came home from school; she was a fifth grade English teacher when I was in elementary school.  I was one of eight to ten students whose parents worked at the school, a faculty brat. I pretended to disdain the title, but I truly did not mind having my mother at school. When I was running a fever and couldn’t go in, my mother made arrangements for me to stay at the house of her good friend, also a teacher. She lived just minutes from school and had a housekeeper.  Her housekeeper delivered meals to me in bed.  It was a good gig while it lasted.  By the time I was ten, I was deemed self-sufficient. The days stretched out. My parents left for work by 7:30 a.m. and my mother -- and sister, with her --  got home around 4:30, my father at 6:00 p.m..  When my parents finally allowed me to have my own television, I was ecstatic. Companionship. In a time that predated remote controllers, I had a wired button that was rigged to the t.v. that could turn it on and turn it off.  This was the height of technology and I was careful not to boast about it.  I played my endless games of Solitaire, read books, up to one/day, and completed word puzzles of all sorts. The television played in the background as white noise. Number games were more challenging for me. When my mother came home, she brought with her my school work.  I would finish it after dinner, and she would take it into school the next morning.  In a box in my basement, I have a manilla envelope containing about twenty letters my fourth grade classmates wrote me after a particularly long absence. I have just one box of childhood treasures, and those made the cut.  Little did I know that  the simple game of Solitaire would be good preparation for the long road of life that laid ahead.  I think of is as a kind of starter program in life skills.About forty years later, I continue to cling to my favorite form of Solitaire.  Array seven cards in a row, one up, six down.  Repeat with six cards, moving over one, one up, five down and so on.  Then begin chasing down Kings of each suit to start a stack of cards in descending numeric order, by suit.  Yep, I am sure good at categorizing, inventorying and arranging.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Vespers at Mount Hermon Day 47 Y2



A candle being lit at Vespers.
Vespers are the evening prayers practiced in many Christian religions.  In many New England boarding schools and colleges, vesper services occur only during the Christmas season.  I sang in an a capella group in high school.  The weeks leading up to Christmas break were always chaotic. The imperious Miss Tsua, our director, demanded two hours practice daily for a month. She demanded our best, nothing less was acceptable. We sang Mozart and Vivaldi and Bruckner arrangements. After we performed our music, our small group of twelve or thirteen singers would be reabsorbed by a larger choral group. The entire chorus would perform traditional carols and seasonal favorites.  During college and all the years since, I have loved starting the holiday season by attending a Vespers service. One of the special features of the services is that candles are used in many different ways to serve as a metaphor for the darkness preceeding Christ’s birth.  The first time I saw it, in a completely dark sanctuary, one candle was lit.  From that one, another and another were lit. We lit our neighbors candles until the entire church was aglow in the yellow warmth of candle light.  
Tonight was the Vespers service at the Northfield-Mount Hermon School.  I went to that particular service with a friend whose daughter was both in the chorus as well as one of the elite women’s group of voices. The music these high schoolers tackled was difficult -- but not out of reach.  I commanded a view of the students and the director.  The acoustics in their chapel were splendid. Dulcet tones carried throughout the entire sanctuary.  The music resonated; it reverberated through the entire space. The chorus offered their best while accompanied by an accomplished orchestral group. A moving rendition of We, Three Kings was performed on violin and cello. The organist was zealous with the pipes.  Intermittently, different readers climbed to the pulpit to recount the biblical readings celebrating the birth of Jesus. The Vespers at Northfield-Mount Hermon drew to a close with the robed students pouring down from the nave in doubles formation.  They lined the perimeter of the sanctuary.  As they sang Silent Night, the candles in the church were methodically extinguished.  One soprano voice crooned a last plaintiff note as the last light plunged the chapel into darkness. At this point, the tears were rolling down my cheeks. There was a rent in the fabric that keeps in the losses and grief and sorrow of the previous year.  I know --  all too well -- darkness and its sister, despair.
Then, full lights and jubilance filled the chapel as the choir broke into Joy to the World with gleeful abandon.  The third verse was sung in three-part harmony, the descant soaring to the rafters.  As in every other year, I was reminded that after darkness, there is always light.  

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Puddles Day 46 Y2



The rain has fallen more or less steadily for the past 24 hours. It has matched my mood, creating a stillness within the veil of rain. Early this morning, I donned a fleece, a raincoat, scarf, hat, gloves and an umbrella.  I pulled on my boots, sturdy and waterproof. The rain fell through a 40 degree atmosphere. No ice, just cold, bone-penetrating, damp cold.  It was with exceptional pleasure that I went for a walk.  I slushed through ice-chilled puddles and looked for the deepest ones I could find. I stomped, I kicked, I splashed and I celebrated the rain. The rain carried with it the joy of childhood for me. For twenty minutes, I played in the rain under the guise of taking a walk; an easy way to cast off the mantle of adulthood and embrace all that is magical about being young. The rain, a puddle and a jump.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Cold Strikes Day 45 Y2

www.lovemarks.com


When my children were little, I was comforted to read that 229 cold viruses had been identified.  What’s more -- according to the article, once you have a particular cold virus, you have immunity to that virus for life.  The way I figured it, since I was often sick as a child, I probably had 2 or 3 colds per year. I was 36.  So, say, easily, I had already been exposed to at least 75 cold viruses before my lovely little children started bringing home disease from preschool and kindergarten. With three children under four, viruses of mythic proportions attacked our house. One particular Christmas, all three children and I had fevers over 100 degrees. I thought it would be good to disinfect our toothbrushes. It seemed unnecessary to spend money on all new toothbrushes.  I dropped the brushes into a pot of boiling water, then set the timer for two minutes. When I drained the pot, I discovered the toothbrushes had melted into a lump of molten bristle.  
Those viruses were vicious. Once they found harbor in our house, they bounced around. I kept returning to that article I had read. I couldn’t be sick more than 229 with a cold virus. Every time I got sick  -- was it really six times one year? -- I was lowering my risk of future infections.  I did the math. Consider it a mathematical probability that with three children getting sick, on average four times a year, each, I would be exposed to 12 new viruses through my children alone! In a mere, let’s see, fingers, toes, twelve years, I should have gone through the 229 viruses. Home free. Safe.  
True, my oldest would be about to graduate high school, but still, hope!
Then, the news was released. These tricky little rhinoviruses are morphing. Rapidly. They are way ahead of us. We can’t keep up with their clever ways. With all the research being done to treat viruses, rhinoviruses persist. As do the colds they cause.
All of this is a very long way to come to my point. I picked up a cold on the airplane back from Denver or maybe it was from my grocery cart or at the post office. My little children are no longer little, nor are they living at home full-time. The cold virus I am courageously fighting is my own doing.  Honey, lemon, steam and maybe a Tylenol.  My body will do the rest, as it has done at least 229 times before.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Love, Honor and Not Obey Day 44 Y2



Part of the lore that surrounds my mother’s marriage to my father in 1953 was her departure from traditional wedding vows.  She was unwilling to marry my father if she had to pledge to “love, honor and obey” him.  She took issue with “obey.”  To my father’s credit, he could see her point.  Though he was a Lieutenant Junior Grade in the Navy, he was not entirely comfortable with being obeyed. My parents were only 21-years old when they married; they were inconceivably young.  My 21-year old mother had to buck the entire Methodist church to convince the minister to change the vows to her satisfaction. I imagine my grandmother's flinty determination was reflected in her daughter's eyes when the door shut on her meeting with the minister.  The exact details of the conversation are lost to the sands of time. All that I know for sure is that on June 13, 1953, my mother met my father in a church decorated with daisies that she and her sister picked that morning.  All I know for sure is that my great-uncle stood in his brother’s stead to give my mother away. All I know for sure is that my mother promised to love and honor my father until death did they part.  And she did.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Magazine Meals Day 43 Y2

Almond Blondie
Better Homes and Gardens




Today was designated Magazine Meal Day.  I chose to do this because I did not feel I was getting sufficient value from my magazine subscription to Better Homes and Gardens.  I realized I had three unread Better Homes and Gardens magazines stacked on my coffee table; they covered Halloween Treats, Thanksgiving Traditions, and Holiday Festivities.  Yesterday, I opened October’s issue and flipped through it.  I found a few recipes that looked interesting and worth trying.  I copied the ingredients I needed onto my grocery list and made sure all the supplies were on hand. 
I started with the Apple Cheddar Bagel Snack.  Initially, these little treats seemed rather labor intensive for breakfast, but they were worth the effort.  I used mini-cinnamon raisin bagels, Paula Red apples, my own cinnamon-sugar mixture and sharp Vermont cheddar.  I left off the savory sage topping -- just not breakfastlike to me. I added a Morningstar sausage patty to the plate (yes, tofu can be used to make both edible and healthy foods).  This concoction requires the use of a broiler, but if you are fortunate enough to have a toaster-oven, the browning step is easy. Essentially, this recipe tops a toasted bagel with cinnamon sugar, slightly cooked apples and melted cheese.  How can you go wrong?
Lunch. As suggested, I turned to the common cabbage. I used it and other vegetables in chicken stock to create a speedy soup.  I added garbanzo beans and parmesan to raise the protein count. Very edible, but nothing special.
Dinner was  called Asian-Style Fried Rice and Beans.  I was particularly intrigued by the use of grilled fresh pineapple in a stir fry.  It was lovely to see the pineapple sear in a hot pan.  The rest of the meal was profoundly unremarkable.  I will serve grilled pineapple again, however.  Heating the fruit brings out the sweetness and the sear marks look cool!
I did not forget about dessert.  I made Almond Blondies...except I used pecans rather than almonds, and I added chocolate chips.  The recipe differs from others I have used in the manner in which the flour is added to the melted butter and brown sugar.  This recipe calls for the butter to be melted on the stove and all the remaining ingredients to be stirred into the original pot. It wasn’t until I had added just about everything that I discovered I was out of vanilla.  Zut Alors! I spread the ingredients in a 9 x 13” pan with light-handed finesse.  I thought the heat of the oven would cause the ingredients to meld together and appear smooth. Not so. After 25 minutes, I removed a pan of blondies that still bore the mark of the final swirl I made before putting them in the oven.  They were unremarkable.  Partly my fault, no vanilla. 
At the end of this day, I have learned the following: both apples and pineapples fare well when browned in a pan.  While cabbage and vegetables are tasty in a tomato broth,there is nothing remarkable about them sharing a pot. Garbanzo beans and pineapple do not belong in a sentence involving Asian Stir-Fry. What was I thinking?
There is such a thing as too much butter! Who would have guessed?  The brownie recipe demonstrates this very well.  In point of fact, I did alter the recipe a bit and the vanilla was missing, but the palate does not lie.  Too much butter.
Maybe I should have another one just to be sure...
Maybe tomorrow I will tackle Magazine Decorating.

Monday, December 3, 2012

There's No Place Like Home Day 42 Y2



Reflection of light in window.
Sunset at Home











I have not practiced sufficient discipline recently.  With all the reasons that life can provide, I have found justification for omitting my practice of daily writing and walking; I consider these essentials to my healthy balance in life.  These two pursuits have slipped from my consciousness and been replaced by the demands of travel, life and children.  This morning, I promised  myself that I would return to my daily practice of writing and walking.  Yet, the clock was not my friend. It seemed to race forward despite my best intentions to beat it.  Finally, I saw that the light was beginning to ebb from the sky.  I decided to seize the moment, and my sneakers.  I chose my special kicks today -- the ones bearing my name that my friends gave me one Christmas -- and I drove down the quarter mile hill that constitutes my driveway.  At the bottom, I set off for a walk on level ground.  I squeezed in a mile but noticed that, as I closed on a mile, my pace was slowing like an a run-down clock.  Never-the-less, I covered the distance.  I drove back up the driveway, puttered around for a few minutes then turned to identify the source of the glowing light; the sky was illuminated in rose.  The light seemed to imbue everything with an inner glow.  When I looked down at my feet, my sneakers were every bit as glorious as Dorothy’s ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz --- and, after all my recent traveling, I already knew the secret...”There’s no place like home.”


Dawn's Kicks


http://www.organize.com/twist-over-door-3-hook-coat-rack-black.html

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Denver Impressions Day 41 Y2


Denver Aquarium School of Fish


Nurse Shark













A few Denver impressions:
-Cab drivers here who are taciturn, rude and in other ways unpleasant are not likely to receive generous -- if any - tips from me.  The others, the polite ones, can count on me.
-Powerball tickets in Colorado are at a record high.  The payout is $500 million.  They are generating lots of attention.  I thought of buying one, but didn’t find a store before heading back to my hotel.  
-I visited Capital Hill and took in the historic center of the state.  The air is, indeed, thin. A bit more work is involved in breathing at a mile above sea level -- I, for one, notice the difference. 
-How does Denver boast an aquarium when it is a landlocked state?  I wondered about this, but when I visited it today, I was impressed.  I was thrilled to see sharks and barracudas, groupers and lots and lots of toddlers.  The toddlers were entranced by the fish, but more so by the mermaids that came and did a show in the ginourmous tank.  
-Denver is flat.  Out of downtown Denver rises very tall, reflective residential towers and office buildings.  The population of Denver and environs is 1.2 million, I have been told. This figure is misleading because the population is spread across a large area of open space.
There is plenty of room to explore.