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Familiar hometowns, possible Main streets

That crisp feeling, and a scent when you first step out the door on an early spring morning. It's familiar, you know it because you've felt it or smelled it a thousand times before. From the time you were a child, when it held possiblity and the unknown world, through the years up til now, when it still holds possiblity, but the world is better known now, and a little more predictable. There were times when you wanted to escape this place and go places where no one would know you - you would be invisible there, and perhaps the world there would again be unknown, but this place has always called you back. No matter how many times you left or dreamed of leaving, it has called you back into its familiar nest.

There's something about hometowns that we both love and hate, isn't there? The familiarity is sometimes good and sometimes bad. What's really great about hometowns though is when they seem to improve over time. In my lifetime, Sacramento has gone from being a relative cow-town to having its very own star on the map - and not just because it's the state capital. Admittedly, sometimes it does appear to think itself better than it is, and gets a bit big for its britches, but the trees have only grown bigger, downtown has become more walkable, and people seem to be getting more conscientious overall. Seeing old friends in old neighborhoods just adds to the charm. I've always tried to escape it and it appears that I am continuing this trend. Nevertheless, Sacramento holds a place in my heart. So for that, here's a great big shout out to hometowns.

And speaking of hometown improvements, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has this neat little program called Main Street. It is an effort to revitalize the downtown areas of cities that have become - in a word (my word) - blah. It is an effort to beautify the downtown area as well as boost it economically, make it more walkable and promote community events. It strives to capitalize on a neighborhood's best assets, like cultural or architectural heritage, walkable streets and points of historic interest. I love this program. Not that I've ever participated in it, but it is inspiring to me and it gives me hope for our future. Who wants to look at Walmart shopping centers all the time? Not me, but if you know me, you know how much I dislike the way our country's landscape is losing its individuality, becoming homogenized with Walmarts and the other big box stores along all our freeways. Anyway, I'd like to love my hometown more. Maybe our new mayor will do good. I heard we recently broke ground with the railyards area - and that it will take 20 years to complete all said and done, but hey, Rome wasn't built in a day.

Maybe by then our britches will fit us.


You're not swine, you're bovine! A break from mainstream media

All this talk about swine flu is making me antsy. I hate to think about staying indoors, but I've got a toddler and sometimes, even though you don't want to panic or be extreme, sometimes hand washing is not enough. Especially the way my boy puts his hands in his mouth. I think he must be growing some molars or something because he's got his little hands in there more than usual. And the last two days I haven't been making sure he's getting a lot of walking in, so last night trying to get him to go to sleep was useless until 11pm when he just konked out. The little guy needs to be outside. And trains. The public transportation system here in Portland is great, those crowded, germ breeding little cans of tin. He LOVES the trains. I think if I weren't holding his hand when the little streetcar trains passed by he'd walk right into one of them. We'll see how this whole swine flu thing plays out. Whenever we talk about the "swine" flu he informs me, "You're not swine, you're bovine," a line he loved out of one of our library books.

Take a break from mainstream media and look at the Americana photo blog I just posted on my sidebar. These photos are gorgeous. Just makes you think about real. simple. things.


Some Mother's Child, Pennies for Peace, Changing Priorities

Last night, after watching the dvd Slumdog Millionaire, (for those who haven't seen it, there is a small spoiler ahead) I told my husband that I felt that one of the reasons the young man loved the young woman so much was because he'd known her since he was a child and she connected him to that time when his mother was still alive. I probably wouldn't have noticed this if I weren't a mom, but since having Tristan almost 29 months ago, my point of view on many things has changed.

There was a time when I didn't care to donate money to any group except environmental groups. I feel that the earth should be our number one priority because we are taking up space on it, infecting it with too many people and raping its resources. All the environmental catastrophes that are occurring are a result of these and earth's way of saying "Enough!" I still feel this way, but since having Tristan, I have seen his face in so many different faces and so I also feel now that it is beneficial to help people - especially children. Everyone is some mother's son or daughter and I have to assume that some mother felt about each person I see the same way I feel about Tristan. Admittedly, it is easier to feel sympathy or empathy for someone who is in need than some jerk who cuts you off. But sometimes anger turns to compassion because you start to think, "Maybe they didn't have a mom who loved them." I have become a complete mush ball, I think.

If children grow up loved then they will in turn love, and if they grow up educated, the hope - for me- is that they will not continue to poison the earth. After reading Three Cups of Tea last October, I sent off for some information about the organization Pennies for Peace. Three Cups of Tea is the book about a mountaineer who got lost in the mountains in Pakistan and was helped by a small village of people, without whom he probably would not have survived. He vowed to come back and help them build a school, and it was hard, but he did. Since then many more have been built. That sums it up in a very small nutshell. Pennies for Peace is an off-shoot from the Central Asia Institute, the main organization that helps finance all of the building.

I started collecting pennies (and dimes and nickels) around Christmas and am still putting them in my little container. At some point this year I'll take it to the bank and get a check for Pennies for Peace. What Pennies for Peace does is educate children about other children around the world. It was started by children here in the U.S. raising pennies to send to Afghanistan and Pakistan to help build schools and educate mainly young women. According to what I read through Pennies for Peace and Central Asia Institute, studies have shown that when you educate a young woman in remote Pakistan or Afghanistan, she is more likely to return to her village and use her education in a way that helps her village, whereas young men are more likely to leave and not necessarily return. Anyway, Pennies for Peace is an organization for children by children, so I'm doing it in Tristan's name. Take a look at the websites because it's a great cause. All this talk about erradicating terrorism, well, Afghanistan is where that's at and educating kids there is probably the best way to weed out future terrorists. Politicians take note.

I'm not doing justice to these organizations and all the good they've done. Certainly don't take my word for it, check it out yourself or for your kids. If you're anything like me your priorites have probably changed since you had kids. I'd heard motherhood would do that. I just didn't know how much.


Lemonade, Road Travel and Billboards

I always just assumed lemons ripened in the summer - why else would lemonade be such a summertime drink? Now that I've owned a house with a lovely Meyer lemon tree, I see how much work it takes to give away all the lemons that actually ripen in the winter. This is despite the fact that I have three in-laws who love them and eat them by the bagfuls, and a mom who also appreciates a bagful now and then. So even though we give bags and bags away, as we approach May, our tree still has tons of lemons. Well, only one thing to do with lemons - make lemonade. We just squeeze 'em, boil up some water with agave syrup and crushed dried mint, wait for it to cool, add to the lemon potion, let it sit for a few days in the fridge, then pour into ice cube trays and freeze it. When frozen we throw them in a baggy and use them to make little glasses of lemonade. Yummy.

This morning we are headed on up the road to Portland. First trip in a while. Portland is our home away from home. Several years ago we decided we would eventually move there, now that's a little up in the air - but we still love the place. Usually we fly but since we last visited our son passed the two-year mark and you all know what that means for airline prices. I thought 2-year olds flew half price but apparently I thought wrong. That means we're driving. My son is looking forward to it because it's the only time he gets to watch t.v. - on long car trips. We have a Caillou and Elmo video for him to watch - I know, I know. I'm a hypocrite - but lordy what else to do to keep him in his car-seat for 10 or more hours? I suppose it would be less of an issue if car-seats were not the law, if it were 1950 and he just went sliding about on the pleather bench seat and dvd's were non-existent. Oh how I wax nostalgic for a time when people could drive without being bombarded by media, advertisements and billboards. I think there are some scenic byways where billboards can't be found, but be sure the billboard lobbyists are looking for ways to change that. Besides, what would it matter that there were no billboards if I'm listening to Elmo's computer say, "Elmo has mail, Elmo has mail." Ugh.

Have a great weekend!


Darkened Theatres, a Disappointing Twist and a Dying Breed

Yesterday was a landmark day. It was the first time in over 28 months that my husband and I have seen a movie. I've missed movies. I've missed arriving early and sitting in the darkened theatre munching on popcorn. It was such a treat and where we used to take for granted that freedom of being able to come and go as we please, yesterday we savored each moment. We even went to dinner afterward! Our son is getting older and we are becoming more willing to leave him in the care of another person. We enjoyed it so much that we thought we could do it once a month. I hadn't even driven in the front seat of my hubby's car but one other time since he bought it. Times have changed. Well, I wouldn't trade my life for the world, but it sure was nice to see a movie.

We saw "State of Play" - our anniversary was 2 weeks ago and we specifically waited for this movie to come out to go on our "date." My husband loves Russell Crowe. In fact, the last movie I saw in the theatre before going into labor was "A Good Year," also with Crowe. The movie was great - a mystery with twists and turns, lots of great actors (most notably Jason Bateman who does an awesome job in his small role - seems to be a trend for this actor who rose up from the death of his teen heartthrob status) and a theme that threaded through the film about the dying off of newspapers as the internet takes over the role of news reporting. The movie was great until about 10 minutes before it ended when it took a final twist. As soon as the film ended my hubby said, "It was great until that last twist." My sentiments exactly (do couples just start thinking alike after a certain amount of time together?). That twist sold the film out. You sort of wonder why the actors who were previously meant to play these roles that Crowe and Ben Affleck ended up playing, dropped out (Brad Pitt and Ed Norton). I have no real idea, I'm only guessing that the final twist at the end backs off the political implications the film makes up until that point, and sells out. You can almost hear some producer saying, "No, we can't put that film out - it's too politically inflammatory. Add on a final scene that doesn't look like it accuses anyone of anything." Sorry for being so vague about the film, but I don't want to review it here or give anything away since it is an entertaining film and for me it was worthwhile because it helped me understand military-industrial complex a whole lot better. The best part about this film though, was the theme that ran through regarding the dying out of newspapers as the reported news is being replaced by blogs and other forums on the internet.

The final montage - played as the credits flashed after the film itself was over - was of a newspaper in several incarnations as it goes from being a celluloid sheet to being in print form, following the printing process until the newspapers are in stacks, wrapped in plastic and put on a big delivery truck. It took place in a lonely warehouse room - with very few people (possibly only the driver of the truck). In the background played CCR's "Long As I Can See the Light," a song about dying. I call that scene "Ode to the Newspaper." It was sweet - only a technical overview of the printing process but the music in the background and the film just seen gave it a sad feeling. It may be awhile before newspapers are completely gone, but surely that is the way they are headed. As Ben Affleck spoke about on Rachel Maddow last week as he promoted this movie, he imagined a scene sometime in the future where his daughter found out about newspapers. Roughly paraphrased from memory here: "You mean the news was printed on paper and the paper was brought to each house?" Weird, huh? Yeah, weird. Here's to blackened fingers after a leisurely Sunday morning breakfast over the paper. Although, really now - when was the last time I had time for that?


West coast family, An auntie's wisdom, the Handmade process

great grandma's hand-stitched quilt

We hail from the west coast - my whole family, both sides, live all up and down the west. My sister lives in a village in rural - make that "the bush"- Alaska, I have cousins in Seattle, an aunt and more cousins in Boise, my folks here in Sactown, and more cousins and an aunt in various places in southern California. I had one aunt in Texas. She lived south of Houston, on a little island - right up to about last September. My husband, son and I were in Boston as we watched the news of Hurricane Ike in all of it's doppler radar colors creep slowly up over Houston. My aunt had fleed north to weather the storm and escape its eye, but her little house was flooded beyond repair, and subsequently razed, along with many of its - her things.

I often think about how my aunt's devastation was my mother's and my luck. In January, she came to our town to live. Strangely enough she had been considering moving here - as we are her only family - and well before she had considered moving here I had had a dream that she lived here and was quite comfortably celebrating Christmas with us. Presto-chango, my aunt - whom I really did not know aside from the occasional card, crafted gift and infrequent visit - now lives here. It is great having her here. My mom is enjoying their time together too. My mom (who is also great with her hands, although uses different mediums - like beadwork = gorgeous necklaces) only recently, surely due to my aunt's influence, has picked up a crochet hook and knitting needles and gone to work on a ball of yarn. Friday evenings have become a semi-regular dinner date for all of us, where we get to show off our latest project. My aunt is a master craftsperson - although I'm not sure she would describe herself that way. She's done just about every thing a person can do with handcrafts and it is awesome to be able to learn from her.

In her house was many a project, books, and the things that make up a life. Much of it, save for the items higher up, was lost in the hurricane. I think about the handmade items that she can never again take out - the time spent on them, the resources lost. She works on new things now every day, and every time I see her I learn something new about her and tips or advice about whatever project I happen to be working on. What a gift for me - I only hope she enjoys sharing her knowledge and the wisdom that comes from all that she's done as much as I enjoy receiving it.

One of her latest projects is working on a quilt top. She's doing it by hand. Hand sewing. Not machine. "Why would you want to do it by hand when you can do it by machine?" I asked. "It's part of the process," she said. Of course. The sound you hear is my future master's degree bonking me in the head. That's sort of hard to explain. The whole idea of doing any work with your hands is to slow the process down, right? The truth is, we can buy just about anything we want. Just purchase it. But to make it yourself - to twist the silver with pliers, cut out the shape you have drawn, or pull the needle and thread through the fabric - the process of making something out of nothing, that is why we do it. The end product is great, yes, but the idea of the end product - the vision in your head of what it will look like before it is complete - that is what moves our hands. The repetition of the process, the more fluid way the hands move each time something is done, the way that the hands move as the motions go from being awkward and new to becoming fluid and familiar. All of this is the process. It has been done since forever and the speed with which we can produce things and buy them now makes it easy to forget how long it once took to create an item. A shirt, a chair, or a quilt were once so cared for that they went through numerous incarnations. Let us not forget our humble beginnings - we are rediscovering some humility as our dire economy toils on.

Anyway, here's a great big shout out to my aunt, and a real long explanation for the new button on my sidebar. Buy handmade - you'll know who made it - maybe not personally but at least by name, and it might not be perfect but it will have heart, something Walmart doesn't have.


Sweet Boys

Lately my husband and I have been receiving wonderful comments about our son and how polite he is, how sweet and well-behaved he is - I am so thankful because he is polite, sweet and well-behaved - most of the time, not all of the time. But we are also blessed with unique circumstances, and that may play a part in Tristan's behavior.

In several of Dr. Sears' books, he's the well-known attachment-parenting writer/doctor/guru, he writes about the coming together of the personality of the child and the personality of the parent, and how certain personalities will come together in harmony, and others will clash and the relationship will be more difficult. This may be the case in our family, but I feel there are three unique things our family has that contribute to Tristan's behavior, whether it be good or not. The first: my husband. He is 19 years my senior and has the benefit of having parented two boys already who are in their twenties. This gives him experience that many people don't already have. I am so lucky that he brings that to his parenting skills. He balances us out - lord knows I would have much less patience if it weren't for his reminding me to chill out when the occasion calls for it.

The second thing is: my husband. He is very complimentary toward me and very encouraging. He thinks I'm a good mom! How sweet is that? His faith in me only spurs joy in my interaction with Tristan, and this seems to pour over into Tristan's personality. A child who receives joy is also joyful - at least that's how it seems. My observation is that when Tristan is happy he is more willing to listen and pay attention. When I am in a bad mood or a "no" mood, that also transfers over to him. He seems to become less willing to say "yes" and certainly he's not as pleasant to be with!

The third thing is: my husband. He works at home most of the time and Tristan sees him often throughout the day - this is just luck. It's probably like having two stay-at-home parents, except that he knows that much of the time when daddy is in his office, he can't be bothered. Tristan seriously has no idea how lucky he has it, and telling him does us no good. In a way it ups the ante - we have to be even more ingenious in coming us with soothers or distractions, since seeing one of us isn't "special," because he sees both of us all the time.

My son is NOT well-behaved all the time - by any means. Politeness is important to me so I emphasize it with him many times every day, and it seems to be working. He is a high-spirited boy and our personalities fit that well, as Dr. Sears talks about. He has a lot of energy and we also seem to have a lot of energy. My husband also doesn't engage in "pissing contests" with Tristan, making an issue out of something that could be resolved without issue. He brings tremendous heart and knowledge to the table of parenting and without him, surely, it would be a different story. Hats off to my hubby - he'll hate that I wrote this. He hates to be singled out. Oh well. He's a Leo - it's gonna happen from time to time.

Happy Monday!


Toothbrushing and the Terrific Two-year-old

toothbrush heaven

Daily life with a small child is filled with laughter as well as struggles, as any mom or dad will attest to. The laughter is the most joyful, belly-full and surprising - these young ones are unpredictable with their thoughts and so creative with their language. Lately, every morning has been delightful - I usually wake up early and get to work (play) in my office for a little while and Tristan wakes up a bit later and calls to me. I run to see him - those first few waking minutes are so precious I don't like to miss even a few seconds of them - and he nurses a little, then stops to tell me something out of the blue. Maybe a snippet of a conversation or situation from the day before, sometimes he pulls something out of the depth of his memory and surprises me with all that he remembers. Most of the time though, he tells me a 2-year old joke and we laugh and laugh. He's really pretty hilarious. I was blessed with a boy with a great sense of humor. Thank God. I love to laugh.

The flip-side of that coin is the struggle that comes from our ideas of what he should and shouldn't do coming up against his emerging sense of self. And opinion. And likes and dislikes. Case in point: tooth-brushing. This has of late become an issue I would rather avoid but can't because of the possible consequences. He will take a toothbrush with toothpaste and put it in his mouth and move it around a little. And that is it. It's not enough. I'll tell him I can see the "sugarbugs" on his teeth, and at first this helped and he brushed more, but then it stopped working. It is a frustrating situation. I have remedied it slightly by offering him a toothbrush as often as I can remember during the day. Honestly though, most of the time, he ends up brushing once - just before bath at night.

Yesterday, something interesting happened. I asked him to brush his teeth. "No, no, no," he said, and threw the toothbrush on the floor. "We don't throw things, Tristan," I said, (we are not a family who punishes, but we do use repetition, modeling and correcting behavior, and showing our son - sometimes in an exaggerated way - the natural consequences of his behavior) and told him we wouldn't go outside until after he brushed. Usually, when he throws something I will get upset and that will color any other issue - the toothbrushing issue in this case. At this point it had to be two separate things because I didn't want my anger to color the toothbrushing situation. I let go of my anger about the throwing, telling him how we don't throw things because throwing can hurt and he has the words to say "I'm upset," or even just "no." The difference yesterday, for me, was that I didn't speak to him or treat him out of anger or frustration. He responds well to an exaggerated response to throwing or hitting (saying, "ouch that hurts. I have an owie!" almost always results in him hugging whomever he hurt and saying "I'm sorry.") My fear about cavities is thus far only a fear, not a reality, so why am I frustrated or upset about him not brushing when nothing bad has happened? Don't borrow trouble from the future is what I say.

Well, I didn't engage with him too much over the next hour but instead went about doing chores. The toothbrush remained on the floor. Every 10-15 minutes I would remind him that I was still waiting for him to brush his teeth. We were still talking but I was more serious than usual and he sensed that. This kid has a lot of pride! He will not just do what you want, something has to change and enough time has to pass that he can "save-face." He has always done this, since he was a wee-babe. After about an hour, dishes done, clothes folded, I walked with him toward the bathroom. Knowing about his pride and wanting him to brush his teeth but also not "lose-face," I decided to change the situation so that he could keep his dignity. It wasn't about forcing my will on him or getting in a "pissing contest" with him, as my husband calls it - I just want his teeth to be healthy!! I picked up the toothbrush and said, "Have you seen all the different toothbrushes we have in here Tristan? There are so many to choose from and they are all so neat and colorful! Let's see what we can find." I pulled out every toothbrush I had for him and for us. We ended up with about 10 on the countertop. He was excited to use the little green oval shaped one I bought as one of his first toothbrushes - a baby brush. We put some toothpaste on there and he brushed a little. By that time, it would have been o.k. with me if it had just gone in and out of his little mouth! But he did brush a little more than I had expected. My theory is that by shifting his attention to the different toothbrushes rather than the struggle of trying to make him do something he didn't want to do, he was able to save-face but still do what he knew I wanted him to do.

Today he was much more enthusiastic about brushing, gathering brushes that were still laying on the countertop and putting different ones and sometimes two at a time in his mouth and start brushing. He talked about the colors make comments about them. "What's this one doing?" he'd ask. "It's just sitting there waiting," I'd say. The photo I posted is proof.

It's a start. We'll see if it sticks!


A lesson in composting

The last few days have been spring cleaning days, and I visited a woman with a compost in her backyard and learned something - mainly, what I've been doing wrong. I've been adding kitchen "green" scraps - banana peels, eggshells, stems, apple and cucumber peelings, etc. that's o.k., but covering them with dirt and adding water every few days. Not supposed to add dirt. Nope. I need grass clippings. This woman has a pile of grass in her compost and she dug her hand in there and said, "Feel how warm it is underneath all that." So I put my hand in the little grass pile and sure enough, it was baking in there! That stuff was doing some serious decomposing. I went out to the street today and got some grass clippings. Hopefully they're not filled with neighbors' chemicals!

Today was an office-cleaning day and I'm hoping this will inspire me to make the shirt I've been wanting to make out of some lovely Amy Butler Midwest Modern fabric. This little Spring Top Week contest is a motivation (see the little button on my sidebar).

Hope everyone's week is going well!


Natural dyes: vinegar try-out #1


I imagine this post could have been handier if posted on Friday, but it wasn't until Saturday that I was inspired to see how dark I could dye some eggs using only what I had in the fridge and freezer, with a little help from my new friend vinegar. I boiled the papery skin of purple onions (rich brownish maroon result), then some coffee grounds (brown, not terribly dark), tumeric (a nice ochre result), blueberries (faded indigo), tangerine peel (nada), chard/parsley/spinach (nada, but I read spinach produces a nice green, I think I just didn't use enough of it), and cranberries (a light pink).

I boiled each of these items in a little pot with just enough water to get some color and pour into a peanut-butter jar but not enough water to dilute the color too much. I boiled each for 10-15 minutes, strained the liquid into a jar and added 2-3 tablespoons of white vinegar. It was not an exact process by any means. After boiling the eggs, I dropped 1-2 eggs in each jar of dye mixture and let them sit the rest of Saturday and overnight. On Sunday when I took them out, they each had a filmy substance that was brightly colored, but I rinsed them off, and with exception to the onion skin mixture, they all faded. The colors were still really nice though, earthy-pastelly tones and I found a new use for vinegar! Unfortunately, my camera battery was dead on Sunday morning and I wasn't able to take these pictures until Monday morning, so they faded a bit again because they were drier.

My favorite is the onion skin which not only produced the strongest color but also some really neat designs on the egg. I also liked the turmeric, which I have had stained on my skin after a toe-stubbing incident. Turmeric mixed with egg as a topical treatment is a home remedy which is supposed to reduce swelling. By the way, I used brown eggs - I would imagine that using these natural dyes on white eggs would be that much more brilliant! I hope everyone had a happy Easter!


Karma, karma and ouch!-Karma!

Several days ago I was walking out of the gym and had to cross a driveway into a parking lot. A woman in her car whizzed past me headed into the parking lot, cutting me off. Not having a choice, I stopped and waited for her to go. After she passed, I went in the door of the parking garage's pedestrian entrance, down the stairs and then headed off to get my car. As I was walking toward my car, I saw this woman again, looking for a place to park. She again crossed in front of me and turned down the aisle where my car was parked. I got to my car and got in. I realized that if that woman hadn't cut me off back up on the street, I would have gotten to my car before she had passed it, and started it in time for her to at least see my lights, and she would have been able to park there. I'm sure she eventually found her spot much further away, but I couldn't help but think of how karma had come into play instantly for her. Sometimes karma works in very obvious, literal and instant ways, and sometimes it's subtle, not so obvious, and takes longer. The most interesting historical karma I can think of involves Ronald Reagan. Remember back when he was saying "I don't remember," during the whole Iran-contra issue? Later, he literally became unable to remember when he got Alzeimers. Certainly I'm not saying he was being punished - this is simply a cautionary tale - be careful what you ask for and what you do, because karma is very real - in my family, we might say "the karma gods are listening."

Yesterday, a homeless man handed me a card that said, "I am a deaf person." I didn't read the rest. I didn't have money on my person and my son was sitting at a table on a busy street on a Friday night and to get up and get money would have meant leaving him alone, not something I was willing to do. So I just shook my head and said I didn't have anything for him. Now, had I gotten him money, maybe it would have helped him get a coffee or a bite to eat or what not. But what I failed to give him was not money, it was compassion. I didn't look into his eyes. Initially I did when he handed me the card, and that's when I saw the sadness mixed with anger there and I couldn't look back. There is some sort of fear that we as individuals face when we have to literally look into the eye of our own humanity and say something with words or not. And that fear is sometimes too great. My step-mom doesn't seem to have this problem. On several occasions I've seen her look directly and intently into the eyes of a homeless man or woman and with great compassion she will shake her head in regret or reach into her purse for something to give. What is the fear for me? I'm still working on that. After the man walked away I was awash in sadness for him. It wasn't the homelessness per se, but the added burden of being deaf. I have a moderate hearing loss myself and know how lonely it can be when you can't hear everything going on around you, and this man couldn't hear anything, so I could only imagine how lonely he must have felt.

My own shortcomings and regret is what I am left with this morning. Is this my karma? Only time will tell. I'm not a perfect person and we all have our individual crosses to bear, as my mom would say. I write this on my blog because one of the reasons I started this blog was to be more open and not keep so many things to myself. I tend to compartmentalize different parts of my life, keeping things separate. I could write something else this morning with all of this burning on my mind, but that would be false, because what is on my mind needs to be what I write about. File this under "Spirituality and hopeful growth."

Have a great Easter weekend.
Love, Genny
PS. I realize that I said Happy Easter last Sunday. My mistake. There were so many easter egg hunts around town I just assumed it was easter without looking at the calendar. Obviously, I'm not Catholic.


Two roads "divulged" and a lovely poem

Yesterday, I recounted to my hubby an incident that had happened earlier in the day. Tristan and I were driving home from the library just after a giant black cloud broke open and rain began to fall. We were about to turn onto our street when I saw a man approaching the curb at about the same time, so I pulled into the bike lane to let the traffic flow in the street behind me as well as to let the man cross the street. The man had stopped at the curb and at first he didn't look at me - I was waiting to make eye contact to let him know he should go ahead and cross - and then after a long delay, he looked at me, in obvious irritation and with one giant loop of his arm, told me that I should go. I went.

As I told this to my husband, we were asking each other, was he irritated because I had held him up? He had to stand on the curb in the rain as I waited and he waited for the other to go. Was he irritated because it was raining after such a lovely start to spring? Maybe he was irritated for some other reason entirely. What comes to mind though is our dour economic condition and the way it seems to be affecting so many people in so many ways. Everyday there is news of a killing rampage and suicide and homelessness and kidnapping (this kind of news is exactly why I stopped watching local television news on t.v. altogether). I think everyone is hit to some extent by this recession - but some far worse than others, and it is here where the desperation comes from. I just want to shout out that nothing is so bad that a life has to end because of it. If there is no light, one will not appreciate the dark and all it has to offer, and if there is no dark, one will not appreciate the light and all it gives. The hardest of times and the darkest of days have two paths, one of desperation, of being a victim, and one of changed circumstances, of seeing the difficult time as a chance to make a positive change. In our family, we are by no means desperate but our standard of living (from the point of view of our consumer culture) has definitely diminished. This blog is the evidence of a giant burst of creativity that has resulted in my lessening my family's overall "footprint" in both the environment and the economy. Obviously I can't know the depth of burden that someone else has to carry, but what I think is important here is that all of this is temporary, none of it has the ability to change who we are at our core. Who we are is not what we buy or where we live or how much we know. My husband's father had a saying, "If you cannot change your circumstances, you must change your perception of your circumstances." That possibility is within us all. There is always a choice.

As far as the man on the street goes, well, I am "thin-skinned" as they say, and my feelings are easily hurt where others may not think twice about something. But be that as it may, you'll notice that if you walk down the street with a furrowed brow, you'll meet other furrowed brows, but greet with a smile and you'll get smiles - and this can make someone's whole day.
Below is a poem by Rumi, - it is so eloquent that it really is all I should have written today. Think of everything above is merely a lead-in for this lovely piece:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks


Going green gradually

clothes hanging near tricycle

It is raining now, in Northern California, and these showers are greatly needed. The old adage goes, "April showers bring May flowers," but I can't help but think of how this will bring on more mosquitoes as well. Uplifting, I know, but last night at the play park, my son was attacked by mosquitoes. So were we, but I just saw him standing there surrounded by monstrous mosquitoes.

At the zoo a few days ago, I was looking at a display about how frogs are disappearing and dying off because of so many pollutants that contaminate our environment. Their skin is apparently too thin to withstand the onslaught of everything that we put out there. The question is then asked, if all the frogs disappear, what will become of their predators and their prey?

Indeed, what? And that is why I am picturing these mosquitoes. I am wondering if something has become of their predators...larger insects, small amphibians and what not, perhaps dying due to some environmental pollutant? Am I contributing to this in any way? If so, how can I change that action to something positive? I have said before that my son, god-willing, will live another 80 some-odd years on this planet, and already I can see the difference in our local environment since my own childhood. Hotter summers and more mosquitoes are just the tip of the iceberg. Change from us as individuals needs to happen quickly, before that see-saw has tipped too far in the wrong direction. Slowly but surely, I am making changes. I can only hope that everyone else is too.

I have two great sites I visit regularly. One is the blog (listed on My Blog List in the sidebar as well) of my friend , Cheryl, called The Well-Rounded Child. Cheryl is a wonderful advocate and resource for changing your ways and going green gradually. This post of hers called, "Why Greenify?" has wonderful info on basic steps to take on changing our ways when it comes to food, household cleaners and body products. Also on my sidebar under "Places I Like To Go In Digi-land" is Healthy Child, Healthy World -go here and click on the "5 Steps" box to see what you can do in your own home to make some changes. It is also a great resource.

My next project is to see how much I can do with vinegar!


Sunday suppers, grace, less waste

bountiful organic garden in Esalen, Big Sur

Sunday night suppers have been a tradition with my father and step-mother for around 10 years. Several months ago it became an issue with Tristan because after his nap he would want to stay home and getting him changed and dressed and over there for supper by 5:30 became too much of a forceful event and no longer fun, so I put it on hold for awhile. I'm hoping that now spring is here and he's a little older, maybe we can start to go again. Sunday supper, after all, is where Tristan learned about "Grace." My father, though not overly religious in any one direction, starts each supper with a grace. "Dear God, thank you for the food you have set before us and for the precious hands that prepared it." Tristan seemed to love the idea of holding hands before a meal and as often as his daddy and he and I sit down together for a meal, there is also a grace. Tristan initiates it usually by spreading wide his hands to hold one of each of ours. "Say grace Tristan." "Mommy say grace." O.k., I say grace - something long and overly inclusive. Then I say, "O.k. now Tristan's turn." Tristan has a lovely, simple grace. He bows his head low, and then very quietly he says, "Dear God thank you for the food. I love you God. Amen." How sweet is that?

In the book I mentioned in the April 4th entry, You Are Your Child's First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy, she talks about the importance of grace before meals also. The one she mentions that I like best (unfortunately she cites the author as "Unknown") goes like this:

Before the flour, the mill,
Before the mill, the grain,
Before the grain, the sun and rain,
The beauty of God's will.

Yesterday, my hubby and I in a three-hour period got to plant 8 varieties of tomatoes, 3 varieties of cucumbers, some garlic and some dill. Some of the ground we planted in hasn't seen a plant in decades. I am far from being an expert on soil but this little patch in particular gets a good 6 or 7 hours of sun each day, at least in the spring and summer. We'll see how that goes. We also planted a few of the items in containers. We had great luck with containers last year and hope to have more luck with them this year. Planting our own veggies definitely gives me more consideration about wasting food. We have such a plentiful state here in California. Food is everywhere, easy to get and the varieties are endless, all the time. How spoiled we are here! But when we are growing our own, I become more mindful of what gets lost - the squirrels who get the tangerines and persimmons before we do, the little hands that pick the tomato before it's ripe! I am so happy that Tristan has taken to saying grace, as it gives a little moment of pause to remember just where the food came from, the energy and time that went into growing and picking, and to be mindful of its waste. One nice thing about having that compost hole is that I can often put some of the waste back where it belongs. I do notice that between composting our kitchen scraps and recycling, our garbage has become smaller, which was one of my main goals in creating the compost. I think I'll call the city and order a smaller garbage can. That will save a little bit more!

Have a wonderful Monday.


School, Stress, Sleep, Sunday

Well, I got back into the master's public history program. Now I have to think about sending my boy to preschool! That is the only way I'll have time to study. It's not a perfect world, so part of me feels a little sad at having less time with him, but on the other hand, I saw how much he blossomed during the few days we had him in another preschool. By August he'll be older and more ready - almost three. Wow, how time just shoots by. Seems like I was just preggo. The other night when I couldn't sleep I was stressing out about getting back into the rhythm of studying and reading and it was stressing me out more - I just have to remember not to gobble it all at once. One step at a time is how it goes best, and in fact is the only way it goes. That is how to not stress out - just remember to take it as it comes. Excitement and stress are wicked, prank-playing stepsisters though!

Speaking of not sleeping, I'll really have to remember NOT to finish the coffee in the afternoon by treating myself to a nice little sweet iced-coffee. My still-nursing boy is too sensitive to the caffeine and I found that out for the second time the hard way (I guess I'd forgotten the first time). Needless to say, we had quite a long play-time/story-reading time in the middle of the night. I got to watch him seriously avoid sleep by being impish and cute and kicking his legs just a wee bit too close to me! Finally though, he drifted off. And it gives me time to post something this gorgeous Easter Sunday morning. We have no definitive plans for easter eggs. I didn't do the egg-coloring thing - he's not quite old enough for it and I wasn't motivated enough to get the materials. I have been working on this cute little crown for him though...not the best sewing in the world, but then I've never had to sew around bends of a bejeweled crown either! My aunt said that every thing you ever make needs to have at least one imperfection to keep the bad spirits out of it. Not exactly her words, but the jist of it is, who wants to make something perfect? If it's perfect, how can you know it's yours? The mistake is your mark. Anyway, I'll take a picture of the crown on Tristan's head. I hope he likes it.


Field of Poppies, that changing wind, "two-year old" issues

field of poppies

Ah, it's Saturday and the moodiness is starting to lift. The sun is shining today and the sky is a glorious blue. The wind I enjoyed last week for flying a kite has become hair-whipping and full of pollen and seems to have affected the moods of everyone around me, including myself. Wind has that tendency. The stomach flu has been making its way around the blogs I've been reading and in the people I know and love. I hope it is on its way out.

In the middle of the night last night I couldn't sleep and so I read from a book that I've kept handy since Tristan was just a wee babe! It's called You Are Your Child's First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy. The writer uses Waldorf-inspired child rearing principles and I enjoy reading it because it is the gentle path to raising a child. I refer back to it now and then - especially when I hit a bump in that child-rearing road. Lately, Tristan seems to be living up to that ubiquitous "two-year old" personality I've often heard about. Clean-up time and tooth-brushing are two of the major problem areas. Today I avoided issue with the clean-up issue by not talking about it as clean up time, but merely playing a game of "ba-doop" - the sound I'd make as I through something in its container. I asked Tristan to "ba-doop" something in the container too, and it seemed to work. We got through cleaning his playroom, and when we were done (save for sweeping) he said, "My room is clean!" So although I was worried that I was manipulating him into cleaning up, it looks like that wasn't the case at all. He seemed to be aware I was making a game out of it. Phew. That's all I needed - confirmation from him!

Today my hubby brought home some tomato, cucumber and green onion plants to put in our garden. Our current house is not a permanent home so I haven't wanted to invest too much time in a garden, but we'll have a few items at least. We seem to have a small strawberry patch in the front yard, so we may add more strawberries to that! Anyway, this afternoon and tomorrow is planting time. The weather is perfect for it.


Zoo and a cute little bag from a free pattern!

zoo animals

Today, we went to the zoo again, to appease my little one's daily need of adventure. Sometimes it's equally a way for us to get out of the house, we're a little out of sorts today - according to the ephemeris the moon was void of course and went to Leo at approximately the same time we left for the zoo. Things did seem to improve at that point, but the wind didn't help. In any case, Tristan may have been fine remaining on the pile of dirt in the backyard with his sand toys all day. We got home in one piece, less grumpy, and Tristan went to sleep fast! My good friend is in town and I am so looking forward to seeing her! Our boys are 6 weeks apart - we sort of wanted to be pregnant together and I was sort of waiting for her to get pregnant so I could too...nice way to do pregnancy, with a friend.

Anyway, there are bills to do, but I wanted to post this picture of a cute little bag from a free pattern I got from JCasa Handmade. I used fabric I already had (can't believe I actually had 2 different fabrics that go semi-well together!) - I don't have much fabric on hand, but it turned out pretty good - except the handle on this one is a little bit too lengthy.
kidlet wall pocket bag

Homeschooling, problems with television

I had something else I wanted to write about but am having so much fun reading other blogs that I changed my mind. Or forgot. One theme I see running through many of the blogs that pull me in is homeschooling. What a commitment. Wow. It has seriously crossed my mind, to homeschool Tristan, but part of me really wants to send him to Waldorf when the time comes. Finances will have a large say in that. Since we're most likely having only one child, it may be possible to send him to a Waldorf school in a few years. I have my own aspirations in public history, but seriously am not sure if I want to work outside the home. I love doing research (why else would I love history?) so...we'll see about that. If it is all a "perfect storm" - homeschooling is definitely a possibility. It is the only option I can currently see if Waldorf isn't feasible. I really don't want to send him to public school. It's not the teachers - I think the teachers are great, committed, qualified people. It's the other kids. Everyday on the playground I see such negativity and anger and selfishness. Not always, no. But the truth is that television and video games are such a major part of most children's and families lives, that the violence and sarcasm picked up while watching it permeate daily interactions. Older kids are often immune to violence and unimpressed with the neat things that happen in daily life. That's how I see it. I know I'm making a blanket assumption, but what I see coming out of Waldorf are well-rounded, confident, creative people - and I'd be willing to bet the same from home-schooled kids too. Not that public school doesn't produce these kinds of people, but the building blocks of these children's lives are based on different ideas.

One of these differences is television and video games. I cannot let my child watch T.V. on a regular basis. I tried letting him watch Caillou once a day for a few days. It resulted in temper-tantrums and anger and tears (when it was time to turn it off) in my normally cheerful boy. Not to mention the glazed look on his face while he was watching. We stopped this on the third day. Now Tristan can watch a Caillou or Elmo movie on the van's DVD player when we take a long car trip (he watched on the way to Big Sur a few weeks ago, and will watch again on the way to Portland in a couple of weeks). He knows that while we're at home there are no DVD's in the van (I physically remove them so I don't lie when I tell him we don't have them except for long trips), and he no longer watches T.V. at home. Thank goodness. I find that I'm not watching much either. In the political season, I was a junkie with the news shows, but now I don't have the time for that. I watch a movie now and then, but not often. There are so many other things I want to do it just becomes a time-sucker!

I took some pictures yesterday but the camera is in our room and Tristan is still sleeping so I'll post them tomorrow. Happy Friday!


Hanging it up to dry, oral traditions

I was unable to finish writing this on Tuesday and avoided the internet due to the April Fool's internet worm on Wednesday, so "today" refers to Tuesday and "yesterday" refers to Monday.
Yesterday, Tristan awoke from his nap with a fever. He later got sick (threw up) - and took a bath and then nursed for hours 'til he slept. This morning he woke up, still feverish, saying, "I'm all better now," and decided he wanted to go outside immediately. Getting dressed is usually an hour-long process for him but today he started the process of taking off his own pajamas! What was the lure outside? Besides the beautiful spring weather of course...it was the dirt pile next to our new compost hole. He got to play with his bulldozer and dump truck in the dirt, and use his toy hand shovel and rake, and I, lucky me (seriously) got to hang up our laundry to dry on one of the nearby lines my hubby strung up yesterday. Tristan's fever broke sometime during this playtime, and as I started in on my second load of clothes to hang dry, I got to reap the rewards of this new way of doing laundry: it dries faster in the sun than it does in the machine. And I fold them as I pull them down instead of leaving them in a heap in the basket to fold "later." Not to mention the energy and money I'm saving. Obviously, as a stay-at-home mom I have more time at home than a lot of people do, and it does take a few extra minutes to hang them (although truly not more than 5 minutes for an average load), but I hope by doing this I can inspire others to do this as well. And it was a fun way to be outside with my boy!

A couple of days ago I spontaneously told Tristan the story about Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox and the briar patch. I had my own version that didn’t include tar-baby, but telling it inspired me to look up more of these folk stories usually passed on by oral tradition. I found a plethora of the Brer Rabbit series here. I hope to read through some and tell them to Tristan. He’s always asking for a story and it comes in handy if I can’t read to him, like in the bathtub or while I’m driving or doing some dishes or hanging the laundry!