Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rainy Days and Thursdays

I'm trying hard not to be down today, and it's not because of the weather.  I like rainy days, especially rainy days in spring when you can smell the earth thawing and sprouting.  (We'll ignore for the moment the explosion of pollen and mold spores that sends my allergies into overdrive from now through November.)  I'll be driving my sister-in-law Teresa to the airport, and I'm looking forward to that too - I love spending time with her.  She and the rest of my husband's family are flying to Ireland today for a package tour and a visit with my father-in-law's sisters.  I'm a little sad that we can't go with them for this trip, but I'm not really down about it - it's just not our time to travel right now.

I know I'm unhappy at my lack of progress with my fitness goals.  I'm off to a reaaallllyyy slow start, if a total plateau could be called a start at all.  Moving forward is hard, when it feels like I'm just going in circles.  Being out in the garden helps, though.  I spent quite a bit of time outside yesterday, cutting down the winter-dry ornamental grasses, cutting off the last of the dead perennials, clearing leaves out of odd corners, moving a couple large containers to the front of the house by the front walk, repotting a couple houseplants, and generally taking inventory of how various things made it through the winter.  If I just keep moving, I hope that I'll eventually see some positive results.

I'm a bit weirded out by applying for a substitute teaching position last week.  Now I can just wait and see if they'll call me back.  It's in the back of my mind a lot, and I wonder what I can do to bring in some extra money if the school doesn't call me back.  Obviously I'll reapply in August, but for now, it would be nice to have some financial flexibility.  I can't count on my art selling - that's more of a windfall than a certainty.  Maybe I'll get some Easter sales. . . .

There's more than that going on, relating to counseling and spiritual matters, but I'm not sure I want to put that all out in public.  However, I would appreciate your prayers and kind thoughts as I work through some of my own baggage.  Spring cleaning of the soul, a renovation of the mind, a detox of the spirit.  Time to haul some stuff out to the existential compost pile, and see if I can grow a crop of thankfulness out of recycled emotional weeds.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pushing The Elephant: Rose Mapendo

I'm definitely a PBS nerd - I've watched it for years, some times more than others.  While I've been quilting this winter, I've watched an unusual amount of it (well, listened to it while I worked, and looked up once in a while).  Last night I watched an Independent Lens episode, called Pushing the Elephant - I put the quilt down and really watched it from beginning to end.

I am humbled and amazed at the grace and strength shown by Rose Mapendo, a refugee from the ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  She was married and the mother of eight, who found out she was pregnant again soon before her husband was killed in the conflict, murdered simply for being from the "wrong" tribal group when an opposition militia came through their village.  She and seven of her children were sent to a prison camp where many people were killed (a daughter had been sent to live with Rose's husband's parents before they were sent to the camp).  While in the camp, Rose gave birth to twin boys, who miraculously survived their mother's delivery and imprisonment.  Through a heartbreaking chain of events, she and her family were given refugee status and allowed to seek asylum in the United States.  They now live in Phoenix, Arizona, which has a large population of refugees from the Congo, and from many other countries suffering from war. 

But wait, Rose's life journey was only starting.  She started an organization to help Congolese refugees resettle in the United States, and she has worked tirelessly to try to help women and children in her war-torn native country.  She has traveled around the world, speaking at the White House and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Geneva, as well as to community groups, and women's groups in the Congo and in other African nations where refugees have settled.  Her organizations, Mapendo International and Mapendo New Horizons, keep her busy traveling and speaking about the plight of women and children as refugees, and the need for forgiveness and reconciliation to stop the cycle of violence in war-torn nations.

Although she has as much reason as anyone on earth to be bitter and seek vengeance, she has chosen through her faith in Christ to speak a message of forgiveness and reconciliation.  She candidly admits her years of anger with God, and her struggle raise her children well, and to reunite with her lost daughter.  She eventually found her daughter and her husband's parents in Nairobi, Kenya, and they were reunited after 13 years.  She held on to her faith through events that would crush most people, and turned the tragedy of her husband's death and her imprisonment and her broken family into an amazing testimony of the power of faith and forgiveness. 

If you watch nothing else this week, if you have the opportunity to watch this documentary, please do - it's incredible.  That Rose and her family can still sing and worship in joy and faith will challenge you and lift you up, and make you take a hard look at your own life and faith.  It sure challenged me.

Monday, March 28, 2011

O Spring, Where Art Thou?

 See that speck on the roof peak?  
That's the first robin I saw this year, last week.  
Today looks much the same, but lots colder.

I'm loving the bright sun and the blue skies this afternoon - too bad the visuals don't match the actual temperature outside the window.  It's just above freezing here, and quite windy.  Ah, well, in the face of the obvious (that spring temps are seriously lagging in CNY), I just spent a pleasant (if chilly) half hour outside planting spring bulbs.  In two places I planted acidanthera (which sounds fancy, but they're not - they're related to irises, bloom late summer in silky white with a maroon throat, and they have a lovely fragrance).  In a large container on the back porch I planted three oriental lily bulbs, and covered them with some wire mesh to keep the squirrels out of them.  At the side of the house by the driveway I planted eight gladiolus (two shades of blue-purple), and by the back porch, in front of where I'll plant the sunflowers in May, I put a couple patches of light violet liatris.  These bulbs are all perennials (well, except the acidanthera, which isn't winter hardy in CNY - it's perennial farther south), and they can handle the early start.  My daughter's dahlia will have to wait for warmer weather, though.

The Fellowship of the Traveling Sunbeam has started up again.  The cats are loving their window-shaped warm spots on the carpet in the living room, and by the sliding doors.  Sophia is currently in possession of the living room patch, curled into a ball of fluff.

She looks so comfortable - I think I may join her. . . .

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wild Blue Yonder

Well, it's done - I turned in my application to substitute teach in our local school district.  It's getting down to the last quarter of the school year, so I don't know how fast they'll move to interview me (if they choose to), or how often they'll call me (if they hire me).  But, nothing ventured, nothing gained.  If nothing else, they'll know who I am for the fall.  Although I would very much like to earn a little extra money through the end of this school year.  Even one day of work a week would make a difference.

I redid my resume from scratch, since I haven't had a current one in about 14 years.  Interesting - I've spent a LOT of my working life with special needs adults.  And it was so long ago, it was weird to look back on it.  Even stranger was visiting the website of a former employer and seeing one of my former residents in a short promotional video clip.  It was good to see him; he was a real character, and fun to work with, and it looks like he hasn't changed a bit.

In other news, our son has made it through a whole week without losing his temper at school.  I am so proud of him!  One more week like this and he'll earn that DVD set.  He's quite proud of himself for doing so well, and he's really motivated to earn the video, so I'm glad for his sake.

Our daughter had a chorus concert this week.  She loves to sing, and she's really enjoying the third grade chorus.  Her music teacher had the kids singing in Spanish for one song, and they did two Irish tunes as well. ("Cockles and Mussels,"  and "I'll Tell Me Ma" - I wish she'd sing them for her Papa, who's from Dublin.)  I was really impressed with the older kids singing, too - the middle grade choir did fun songs, and the senior choir did some really nice jazz - "It's Only A Paper Moon," one of my favorites, and "Fly Me To The Moon," as well as a more difficult Latin church piece they're working up for NYSMA.  Princess Yakyak says she wants to continue with chorus next year, and we're all for that.  If she'd rather do that than take an instrument, that's fine.  She's already shown an aptitude for vocal music, which pleases us, and all of her grandparents and aunts and uncles (they're almost all musically inclined in one way or another).
In Dublin's fair city,
Where the girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,
As she wheeled her wheel-barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying, "Cockles!  And mussels!  Alive, alive, oh!"
"Alive, alive, oh,
Alive, alive, oh",
Crying "Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh".

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Cleaning, Garden Goodies

 Molly (who has caught a homemade dust bunny under her paw. . . .)

Do you know the best way to get me to deep clean the house?  (Well, bribing me with a massage and a day alone at the book store would work, but no one has done that yet.)  Invite someone over for dinner who hasn't been to our house before.  Seriously, there's nothing like having new guests visit to make me look at my house with fresh eyes and see all the bits and pieces that I've let slide.  And, after a long winter, a lot has been sliding around here.  If housekeeping were an Olympic event, around here it would look more like the 4-man relay (with all of us running in different directions) than the concentration and partnership of the four-man bobsled.  I looked at the house this week and went "Ew!"  So today I'm cleaning.  A lot.  Because our friends are coming over tomorrow evening, and I don't want to have a last-minute cleaning meltdown.

Spring in Central New York?  Yeah, this is pretty par for the course, unfortunately.

Too bad it's not warm enough to open up all the windows (we had snow yesterday, a couple inches worth - yuck, but it can't last long with the temps yo-yoing into the 30s, and the 40s by early next week).  At least it's sunny, though.  I've got my YouTube playlist blaring:  Phil Collins, Genesis, The Doobie Brothers, Journey, Queen, Cyndi Lauper, Swing Out Sister, Level 42 - mostly 80s stuff.  Cheerful, and upbeat.  Thankfully, that's the way I feel today.  Maybe grabbing a nap this morning (a rare treat) helped with that.

 My bargain roses from Aldi - they're HUGE!

We've finally reached the point where various stores are carrying spring plants, not just seeds.  A couple days ago at Aldi I scored some gorgeous, jumbo rose plants, for $4.99 each.  I got one last year, my "Peace" rose, and this year I got the grandiflora "Gold Medal" and the hybrid tea "Tropicana."  They'll go in the front yard, being hot colors.  "Tropicana" might end up near the porch, because it's highly fragrant.  I also got some boxes of bulbs at Wegmans - liatris, oriental lilies, and gladiolus.  My daughter was with me and chose a big purple dahlia ("Thomas Edison") for her garden.  As soon as the snow melts and the temps moderate I'll get the lilies, glads and liatris in the ground.  I might wait a couple weeks on the roses, and the dahlia definitely won't go in the ground until mid-April.

It feels so good to be able to think about planting again.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Consequences are a - well, you know. . . .

Safety Guy had a rough week last week, which included trouble at school.  I won't go into the details, but it involved some kids being typical kids, and a misunderstanding and an overreaction on his part.  Because he wasn't honest about the sequence of events when we questioned him, we realized we'd have to discipline both his choices at school, and his decision to not be completely forthright about his part in the trouble when he came home and talked to us.  His punishment:  a Saturday of chores with his father.

He took it well, really.  We've had heaven only knows how many go-rounds from him of, "It's not my fault, they made me mad, they deserved it and I shouldn't be punished!"   Some days I feel like we'll never get the idea of personal responsibility drummed into his head and his heart.  If I had a dollar for every time I've told him, "YOU are responsible for YOU!  Your actions, your words, YOU have to own them, with no excuses!" - I'd be able to take a nice little vacation.  And boy, am I ready for it right about now.  So, I was actually quite pleased that he accepted that he needed consequences for what happened, and that he performed his penance without any attitude issues.  Maybe we are making progress?  I hope?

After that discipline-go-round, I decided to see if a little incentive might help him get past this latest problem with self-control (or lack thereof).  They say that incentive makes all the difference, and you need the right reinforcement for each person you're trying to motivate, so I pulled out something I'd squirreled a way for him for just such an occasion as this:  a 3-DVD set called "1001 Classic Commercials."

Yep, 16 hours of nothing but commercials.  Really.

And why, you ask, would this be motivating to the average 12 year old boy?  It wouldn't - but Safety Guy isn't your typical 12 year old, and he loves vintage commercials.  He was born 25-50 years too late to enjoy all this stuff the first time around, but he's not letting that stop him from enjoying it now.  What would we do without YouTube, or RetroJunk?  Anyhow, he was really psyched to see that DVD set, and we told him that to earn it he has to go for two full weeks without any incidents at school where he is at fault.  He has to watch his words and actions, be respectful to his teachers, and put his hands in his pockets when he's tempted to shove someone who's annoying him.  If he messes up, we'll reset the "clock" and start the two weeks over again.  The DVD set is his, he just has to earn the privilege of watching it.

The past two days he's come home and reported to me that he kept his temper and didn't have any trouble - he was quite pleased with himself.  Hopefully this will help break the cycle of reacting first and thinking it through later.  He's been motivated this way in the past; it's worth trying again.  And, he knows that if he gets suspended in school again, the chores will be much more unpleasant than cleaning out the garage, sweeping the driveway, emptying the water out of the tote of giant Tinkertoys out back and cleaning off the front porch.  Washing out the litter boxes, scrubbing the garbage cans, and doing his sister's laundry come to mind. . . .

For the Love of a Geriatric Cat

B.C. is almost 16 years old.  We've had him since he was 9 months old, a shelter kitty who got himself adopted by virtue of his friendliness.  Some soul with a marginal sense of humor had named him "Satan" at the animal shelter (simply because he's all black), but that name was totally wrong for him.  He's the most loving, friendly cat I've ever known - we call him "Puppy Cat" because of his friendliness, and habit of licking people he likes.  But, he's also the first cat I've owned for long enough for it to reach a ripe old age, and be going down the path to decline and passing.  My parents have been down this road several times with their cats in the past 10 years, and I remember going through it with both of our family dogs when I was younger.  It's the worst part of pet ownership, when a beloved animal family member loses their health and their faculties and has increasing difficulty with everyday things.

B.C. has developed kidney trouble, and behavior issues relating to that.  Long story short, it's not medically treatable, but he's not in any pain or discomfort.  But the behavior he's developed (marking in inappropriate places) has become a real issue.  We've tried repellent sprays, we've tried dietary changes, we've tried everything we can think of.  This week we decided to try keeping him in a large cage at night and while we had to be out of the house, to prevent him from leaving messes - he can be out while we're watching him.  Last night was his first night in the cage.  I fixed it up with a litter box, food and water, and some soft towels for him to sleep on.  I put him in last night right before I went to bed, and he seemed to be okay with the situation - puzzled, but not anxious our upset.  I came down this morning to find this:

He had destroyed the inside of the cage, and pulled over a container of soil I was sprouting seeds in (that I had thought was out of his reach).  He was crusted with what looked like damp cement, bedraggled and unhappy.  I let him out, and he ran off and left a trail of gray footprints all the way into the kitchen (time to mop again).  I caught up with him and washed off his paws, tail and legs with damp paper towels, a process he didn't seem to mind at all - it's not the first time he's walked through something and needed a washing (the most memorable occasion being when he walked through a paint can lid and left white paw prints all over the wood floor in the hallway of our old house - that time I just held him under the faucet to wash his paws, and he let me - remarkable).  Then, damp and spiky with half-dried ick in his fur, he marched back to one of his illicit marking spots (a spot protected by a plastic bag - we're not stupid), stared right at me, and marked again.  His displeasure and disdain for his treatement were glaringly obvious. 

So, I've cleaned up the floor, and vacuumed out the cage.  I'll wash out the cage with the hose later.  I have to wipe down the walls, which are a mess in spite of the protective plastic barrier I so carefully contrived to prevent "accidental" messes.  We don't have many options left.  Putting him down is not one of them (although a couple people have suggested it, I can't do it for behavioral reasons - I just can't).  We've decided that we'll have to create a bigger enclosure for him in the basement, using a small dog run cage, and that he'll have to spend most of his time there.  I find that so sad, but I don't know what else to do to give him a decent quality of life and still keep our house from being wrecked.  I feel guilty to realize that it would be easier overall if B.C. weren't here any more, even as my heart breaks to think that he's at the end of his life.  Love is hard, even when it's for an old pet instead of people.

There aren't any good solutions for the last decline of an older pet, but I'm open to ideas if you have them.  

Monday, March 21, 2011

Day By Day

This weekend was busy and restful at the same time, if that makes any sense.  It was nice to have a weekend where we didn't have to travel, or have too many things to do out of the house.  Both my husband and I knocked off a handful of "around the house and yard" projects, but also had time to relax and hang out.  We even finished the weekend with a rare occurrence:  watching a movie, together.  (We enjoyed "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," which was fantastically good.  Neither of us had seen it before.)

I did some yard work, edging a couple beds in the back yard, and enlarging the corner bed in the front yard.  Later this week, if the weather clears up again, I can mulch it.  I didn't like the angular, L-shaped bed as it was, and I've planned on enlarging it and changing its shape since last year.  The ground a a pleasure to dig in, soft but not soggy, and I was happy to see tons of earthworms.  Lots of birds were flitting around the neighborhood as I worked, and as soon as I went inside the robins stopped by for a snack.

Princess Yakyak had a very busy weekend, playing with friends almost nonstop, and going to a birthday party Sunday afternoon.  She and her friend KK spent most of Saturday outside in our yard.  After a picnic on the swing set, the girls decided that they wanted to build a club house, so I helped them scrounge building stuff from our shed.  After lots of animated discussion, and me stepping in to tell them that, no, they couldn't duct tape the tarp between the house and the shed to make a roof, they created a private space for doing all sorts of girl stuff.  It even has chairs (upturned flower pots) and doors (the wood pieces wedged across the ends at head height) and decorations (the bird feeder hung from the bamboo stakes at the back).  I can see many hours of girl-talk happening there in the future.

It was good, VERY good, to get out for coffee with a friend this morning.  It's scary how similar our families and our marriages are.  It was good to encourage each other, and commiserate, and generally realize that we're not alone in our experiences - and that we're not totally crazy (at least not yet).   At the end of the conversation we asked ourselves, "What are we doing drinking coffee, when what we could really use is a glass of wine?"  Maybe some evening that will happen too.

I've got lots on my mind, but nothing has gelled enough to be a post here, and some things just don't need to be shared in a public blog.  Family stuff, kid stuff, friend stuff, God stuff - my mind is bubbling away processing and sorting and deciding.  It's a good thing I have the house to myself - I feel the need for some peace and quiet today, at least until the school bus comes 'round in a couple hours.  Just me, and the pets, and the rain.  (Shh, don't tell the laundry where I am - I'm hiding from it.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Out and About: Chittenango Falls

I have a "thing" for waterfalls and creeks.  I could look at them and listen to them for hours, and one of my favorite things to do in nice weather is to walk or sit by running water in a park or in the woods.  I've been blessed to live near many places like that in New York - Letchworth State Park in Western NY in college and my early working years, Watkins Glen and any number of similar places in the Southern Tier for many years, and now not too far from Chittenango Falls State Park in Central New York.  This morning I went to Chittenango Falls, to catch them in full spate, running bank-full with meltwater on this beautiful, warm early spring day.

During the summer you can't see much of the falls from the road, because of the trees.  Now, before the trees leaf out, you can get a really good long view of the falls as you drive up to them going south on Rt. 13 from the town of Chittenango.

The falls were roaring today, absolutely glorious in their energy and sparkling in the light.  The terrain in this part of New York tends toward big hills cut by numerous valleys, some wide and scenic, others narrow and rocky (often called glens or gorges around here).  The glens contain some of the best scenery in the Northeast, and the numerous creeks and streams pour through these defiles in an ever-changing variety of steps, stairs, cascades, pools, banks, and shelves.  Chittenango Falls is one of the larger falls in the state, where Chittenango Creek drops 167 feet from the sharp edge of the gorge not far north of Cazenovia and stair-steps down to continue its flow north to Chittenango.

In nicer weather the trail from the observation area at the top of the falls down into the gorge is a good hike - about 1/2 mile down and back, steep, with lots of stairs, but not unmanageable for the average person (definitely not handicapped accessible, though).   It leads to a bridge at the bottom, with a spectacular view of the falls.   The trail was still closed today - the snow hasn't melted from the shadowed walls of the gorge, and it was quite icy just going down the stairs from the parking lot to the railings by the top of the falls.  I'll do the trail when things dry out and warm up a bit, hopefully later in April.  It would be nice to have a series of photos of the falls in all seasons eventually.

I love the idea of the waterfall as a metaphor for Christian servanthood.  If you haven't read the allegory  "Hinds Feet on High Places" by Hannah Hurnard, you're missing a thoughtful, joyful book.  I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

Yesterday was sunny and spring-y, and I just couldn't let that opportunity go begging, so I posted gardening-related goodies on my blog.  Today is gray, cold, and drizzly - the perfect day to finally share my recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies.  Weather like this just seems to call for firing up the oven and baking comfort food.  Sadly, I'm not baking today (darn that healthy eating thing), but I still want to share this recipe with you, since I promised a couple days ago.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

1 1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cup dark or light brown sugar  (I prefer dark brown sugar)
1 cup salted butter, room temp
1/2 cup shortening
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
(1 tsp. cinnamon - I like the combination of a touch of cinnamon with chocolate; if you don't, just omit this)
2 cups rolled oats
3 1/2 cups flour (you can substitute 2 cups whole wheat flour for part of the total amount)
1 12-oz. bag miniature chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

Combine the butter, shortening, and the sugars in a large mixing bowl.  Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until light.  In a separate bowl combine all of the dry ingredients EXCEPT the chocolate chips and walnuts.  Slowly add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture.  Mix on low until just combined.  Stir in the chips and walnuts by hand.

You can treat these like drop cookies, using a tablespoon to roughly measure equal blobs onto a regular cookie sheet.  I usually form the dough into 1 1/4"-1 1/2" balls by hand and place them 1 1/2-2" apart (16 to a large cookie sheet).  Either way, the cookies don't spread much.  Bake for 17-18 minutes at 375F.  The cookies should be light golden brown around the edges and just barely starting to get golden on top.  This recipe makes a LOT of cookies, about 5-6 dozen large (2 1/2"-3") ones, or even more small ones.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Early Spring

Today, even though it's been chilly, it really felt like spring is on the move.  The sun is out, and the snow pack is melting.  I can hear birds all around.  (I've heard a robin or two, but haven't seen on yet.  I'm sure I'll see one any day now.)  I saw a woodchuck fresh out of hibernation, looking for the first green shoots of grass.  I saw and heard red-winged blackbirds today, one of my favorite bird sounds.  My tulips are just starting to poke through the mulch, and my rhubarb is barely showing its tightly curled nub of new leaves - the peonies shouldn't be too far behind.  The buds on the lilacs are strong and light green, just waiting for some warm days in April to unfurl.  The willow trees are turning golden yellow, and the brambles and dogwoods are flushed dark burgundy-red.  Patches of grass are starting to glow with hints of emerald and chartreuse. Color is returning to the muted gray-beige-white world.

I spent quite a while winter sowing yesterday, and kept at it until I ran out of containers.  Here's what I planted:

Sunflower 'Del Sol' (this was a star performer last year - 7-8 feet tall, well-branched and loaded with flowers)

Coneflower 'White Swan' (a tried and true winter sowing success story - I've grown them before)
Alyssum 'Carpet of Snow' (in a big, flat, clear sheet cake container - they get planted out hunk o' seedling style)
Summer savory  (a favorite herb for use in my chicken and turkey soups)
Sweet bell pepper (orange)
Dianthus 'Chianti'  (gorgeous maroon-black flowers with white picotee edging)

Dianthus 'Victoriana'  (various fancy eyed pink/rose/white shades)
Amaranth 'Illumination'  (new for me - bright orange/gold/red bracts)
Sweet bell pepper ('Big Red')
Zinnia 'Enchantress' (tall pink/rose)
Zinnia 'Oriole' (tall golden yellow)
Zinnia 'Benary's Giant Orange'  (tall bright orange)
Zinnia 'Will Rogers' (tall scarlet - stunning)
Zinnia 'Orange King' (tall medium orange)

Viola 'Tiger Eyes'  (wispy dark veins on golden "faces" with purple edges)
Begonia (scarlet-flowered, green leaves) - indoors to germinate, because they can't be winter sown, but I wanted to try something different

I also sowed some containers for a friend:
Shasta daisy 'Alaska'  (I've already got the shasta daisy 'Becky,' so I didn't need any more for myself)
Malva 'Zebrina'

Oriental poppy 'Princess Victoria Louise'
Zinnia 'Enchantress'

. . . . and a few others.  I ran out of containers - definitely an issue, since I probably have another 30ish things I'd like to plant, including several kinds of tomatoes and more annuals.  I'll have to see if I can get some containers from friends who don't mind me scavenging through their recyclables before garbage day.

I'll have to wait until spring is fully upon us to see if my dogwood survives the rabbit-mauling it got over the winter.  If it doesn't make it, I've decided to put a lilac in its place.  If I can find the variety 'Andanken an Ludwig Spaeth,' that's the one I want.  It's an heirloom, vigorous, dark violet-purple, and highly fragrant.  I miss the lilacs I had in my old garden, and nothing smells as good as lilacs in May.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Around My World in One Post

I was out and about and inside and out and up to my elbows in toys and dust this weekend.  After getting my bearings and trying to focus after the rude shock of Daylight Savings Time, I'm back with a snapshot (or two) of what's been going on:

We went to the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Syracuse on Saturday.  I always enjoy hearing a good bagpipe corps, and I'm glad to salute our veterans, police and firemen.  There were several Irish step-dancing groups jigging along the route (the littlest kids were so cute!).  The weather was decent, too.  We enjoyed the outing, and our daughter collected some Irish bling and candy along the way (bead necklaces were tossed by various organizations on parade).  After the parade we went out for lunch at the Red Robin burger place.  I had an awesome blackened chicken sandwich - now I want to go back.

Saturday evening I baked cookies for the church fellowship hour Sunday.  I made my oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies, and added walnuts to the recipe.  Mmm, they were good - I haven't made them in quite a while, so they were a real treat.  Fortunately the recipe makes a lot of cookies, because we all enjoyed a few fresh out of the oven.  I'll post the recipe here tomorrow.

We forgot about the change to Daylight Savings Time - until midnight, Saturday.  Um, that would be 1AM Sunday, actually.  Rats!  Needless to say, we were a bit tired Sunday morning, but we all made it to church and enjoyed the coffee fellowship time. 

After church, I helped Safety Guy clean his bedroom.  His new bed was to be delivered this morning, so we had to find his floor and enough space to maneuver yesterday.  Cleaning his room is always a difficult process for him, because he doesn't like to get rid of stuff, and gets overwhelmed deciding where to begin, and what to do in what order.  His ADD doesn't help.  Anyhow, two garbage bags of stuff were tossed, and a couple totes of things to keep were relocated to the basement.  Lots of stuff was rehomed in the closet, and all of his gazillion toy cars were put in two under-bed storage drawers.  We'll see how long they stay there.  But, for now, he has a nice, mostly clean room.  Last week I got lucky and found a "bed in a bag" set for an XL twin bed on clearance - a leftover from last year's "back to college" sales, I'm sure.  It was even in his favorite colors.  Now I need to move his reading light up so he doesn't bash his head on it with the raised bed.   Here's the "after" picture - the "before" was definitely scary beyond all reason, and maybe even NSFW:

While the great room-cleaning project was going on, Princess Yakyak was spending the afternoon at a friend's house.  She played, and played hard.  For the first time in months and months, she fell asleep on the couch after dinner.  She was so tired, I had a hard time getting her to sleep-walk upstairs (she kept trying to sit down on the stairs and go to sleep).  She finally staggered to her bed, and crawled in fully clothed.  I let her sleep that way - she was zonked out immediately, and didn't get up until her regular time this AM. 

It was a very peaceful evening last night, which I spent quilting and watching part of Ken Burns' biography of Mark Twain on PBS.  I'm getting down to the end of the quilt.  I still haven't decided how to handle the border, although at this point it's likely to be an ultra-simple straight line on the seam of the binding instead of a chain of leaves.  I'm sure that would be pretty, but I'm just about kaput, and I really, really want to get this project DONE.  It's time and beyond time to be moving on.

Hovering over my thoughts all weekend has been the disaster in Japan.  I've tried to not be a "disaster junkie" and OD on news footage of the tragedy.  What I've seen will haunt me.  My favorite relief organization, Samaritan's Purse, has sent their first teams to Japan to help with the effort to assist victims.  I'll be following their activities on FB.  If you would like to contribute to their relief mission to Japan, go here.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan is weeping

I am appalled and grieved by the disaster unfolding in Japan in the aftermath of the massive earthquake and tsunami they experienced this morning (their afternoon).  I can't imagine running from that, living through that, seeing it firsthand.  I'm sure there are many more than the several hundred confirmed dead, and the toll will only rise in the coming days and weeks.  Even Japan's experience with seismic events and their strict building codes could not protect against the massive wall of water that swept their northeastern coast.  My heart goes out to them, and they're in my prayers, as a nation and as individuals.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Random Randomness

 Cookie, up close and personal.  Got carrots?

I think I missed something important in my childhood - something involving nail polish, and glitter.  I never, ever did my nails as a kid or young adult, and nobody who has ever known me would ever associate the word "glitter" with my taste in fashion.  I couldn't be bothered, I wasn't into fashion, I wasn't a girly girl, pink wasn't my color, I bit my nails, whatever the reason, I just didn't get into the whole mani/pedi thing.  A handful of years ago I started doing my toenails in very conservative, neutral colors.  I run around in sandals so much as soon as the weather gets above 50F, so it just seemed like a good thing to do - a little boost of color for warm weather.  Anyhow, yesterday Princess Yakyak got out all of her nail polish (somehow she's gotten quite a collection), and asked me if I'd like to do my toenails with her.  So, I did - we had a pedicure party.  Now my toenails are dark rose with a light pink glitter overlay.   (The color is called 'Strobe Light' - another concept foreign to my personality.)  I have to laugh - this is the first time in my entire life that I've worn ANYTHING with glitter, let alone pink nail polish.  It was totally worth having fun with my girl yesterday.  Her toenails are now alternately lavender and dark magenta, both with an overlay of the light pink glitter.  Clearly, I missed something fun when I was a kid.  We'll have to do this again.  Maybe I'm entering my second childhood?

Princess Yakyak got Wii Music for her birthday from her Aunt Debbie last week.  It's a fun game, and both of the kids have spent quite a bit of time playing it.  One of the tunes the miis can play along with is Daydream Believer by The Monkees.  (You haven't lived until you've heard your daughter play the song about a dozen times in a row on the Wii, loudly, using every instrument from the piano to the ukelele, and even cat meows and dog barks.)  I had to laugh, since some good friends and I went to see The Monkees in concert when they reunited in the late 80s.  It was like another part of my childhood I had missed the first time around, the whole crush on a music group thing.  There we were, a bunch of 20-30 something adults, enjoying the TV antics of a 60s comedy sitcom music group on Nick At Nite, and making a road trip from Upstate NY to Cleveland, Ohio, to see them in concert.  Good memories!   I saw on some entertainment news blurb this week that three of The Monkees will be touring this year.  No, I don't plan to go see them.  But I have to smile at the memories.

I can't decide if I should sell my guitar or not.  I haven't used it in years, although I used to play regularly in college with others in our InterVarsity Christian Fellowhship group.  I bought the guitar new (a Gibson Epiphone PR-350S acoustic) while in college.  I was all set to sell it earlier this winter, did some research online, and even talked with a local music store, but I just haven't worked up to it yet, and I'm not sure why.  Last weekend one of my nephews got it out and was playing it (he plays electric guitar, and was mystified that I didn't have a pick - but I played mostly classical or finger-style music, and never mastered the pick).  The sound was so familiar, and I was really surprised at how much it meant to me to hear it played.  It just sounded right.  Now I'm not sure what to do with it, so I'll keep it around for now.  I might even take it out and play it while the kids are at school.  Some sounds are just part of the weave of our memories, I guess.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mom and Dad's Yard, March 2011

 Dry hydrangea blossoms in the snow, March 6, 2011.

I had a good time taking photos in the snow at my parents' house last Sunday.  They have a large, wooded lot with a creek, and I've wanted to take photos there for a while.  I waited for the snow to start falling before going outside for pictures - a light, fresh layer of white fluff would make the yard look fresh and clean.

My parents live at the foot of a large hill in the Southern Tier of New York.  We used to live near the top of that same hill.  Either way, we saw lots (and I mean LOTS) of deer.  I'm on a quest to help my parents plant deer-resistant perennials in their yard.  The deer left the foxgloves alone last year.  This year I'll try flowering tobacco (Nicotiana alata), and lavender, and mums (the deer are reputed to not like sticky/aromatic plants very much - we'll see).  The deer are fun to watch, and beautiful in their own way, but they're heck on a yard as far as flowers go.  A herd of them gave me a wary once-over Sunday when I stepped out on the porch to take some pictures.

There's a very large, old oak tree in the middle of the back yard.  Mom and Dad insisted that it be kept when they had the house built 13 years ago.  It's a magnificent old warrior, with a huge scar down its side from a long-ago lightning strike.

You can only see the bottom third or so of the oak tree in this shot.  
It's very tall, and about 3 feet in diameter at the base.
You can see the lightning scar on the right side of it.

Dad and Mom have put a great deal of work into their landscape, and they added a number of ornamental trees around the yard.  One is a gorgeous river birch (Betula nigra).  Its bark is a thing of beauty in all seasons, but especially striking in the winter.  They also planted a Colorado blue spruce, a corkscrew willow, an ornamental cherry, a tree hydrangea, a dwarf Japanese maple, and an ornamental pear, which have all stood up to the deer.  Other shrubs and small trees (rhododendron, pieris, azaleas) became deer chow.  It's been a learning experience.

I love the creek in their back yard in all seasons.  (Well, maybe not in late summer during a dry spell - there's not much attractive about a ribbon of mud in the back yard.)  It runs between two lakes, and in the spring some mallards usually take up residence nearby.  They know my sister feeds them bread crusts, and they follow us around, quacking, while we work outside.  There are also some very large carp that migrate between the two lakes each summer.  The creek is not very deep, and it's quite a sight to see these large fish churning through the shallow places.  Our daughter has a favorite little nook on the edge of the stream, under some bushes, where she likes to sit and watch the water go by.

My Dad built a bridge over the creek a year or so after they moved in. 
He and the grandkids have enjoyed many games 
of "Pooh Sticks" there when each was little.  
This year will be their littlest grandson's turn - he'll be two this summer.

I love this yard, especially the sound of the wind and the rain in the trees.  The large screened porch on the back of the house is my Mom's favorite place to read in the summer.  We all enjoy family picnics out there, with my Dad as the grill master.  Their home has been a haven for all of us - what a blessing!

One last photo:  this brave little tree, I couldn't even tell you what species, is actually in bloom right now.  You  have to look close, but there it is - tiny little flowers under a dusting of fresh snow.  We think spring is just around the corner, but it is already here if you know where to look.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Winter's Last Big Hurrah (I Hope!)

 Mom and the photo album I made for her and Dad - she really liked it.

We had a wonderful weekend, visiting my parents and celebrating their birthdays.  We drove down Saturday afternoon, and stayed overnight.  I don't know what weather reports we were listening to on Friday and Saturday, but none of them indicated a major storm as of Saturday morning.  The last forecast we saw called for a few inches of white stuff falling Sunday afternoon.  As Saturday went on, we heard more and more forecasts for more and more snow - it seemed like the forecasters were upping the totals just for the heck of one-upping each other.  By the time Mike Seidel from the Weather Channel was reveling in "the big storm" practically in our back yard at home (he was in Syracuse), we knew we'd have an interesting drive home Sunday. 

 The snow started Sunday AM, and this photo was taken 
around noon in my parents' back yard.  
I love their yard, with the woods, the creek, and that huge oak tree.

Now, this IS Central New York, and with our winter snow total nearing 170" we're not exactly stunned by a March storm.  It was just strange to see the Weather Channel guy enjoying the "event" so close to home, when it's really just "winter as usual" for us.  I suppose the people who live on the Atlantic coast who see hurricanes every year think it's strange that we pay so much attention to their "normal" weather when to them it's just summer on the coast.

Monday morning - that's a lot of snow!  
It didn't stop falling until almost noon, 
when it cleared quickly and we got some lovely sunshine.

Our normal 2 1/2 hour drive turned into 3 1/2, since most of the roads were snowy and dicey.  Still, slow and steady worked just fine for us, and the 5" or so on the ground by the time we got home Sunday night wasn't unusual.  Waking up to over 18" was a bit of a surprise, though.  We had a snow day (to the kids' great delight), and even my husband's job said it wouldn't open the facility until 10AM.  We dug ourselves out, and we've had a pretty pleasant day.  PrincessYakyak is out in the snow with her best friend, who fortunately lives only a couple blocks away.  The snow is well past their knees as they trudge through the yard.  They've built quite a snow house out of the pile of snow at the foot of the driveway, and sliding down the slide from the swingset into almost two feet of drifted snow does look like fun - at least from where I'm sitting, warm, inside.

 Fun in the snow - I remember doing that!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Reaching -

For the sun. . . . 

 For peace. . . .

 For my emotional equilibrium. . . .

For the Son. . . .

For comfort. . . .

For stamina for the day to day rush. . . .

For new life. . . .