Don’t fear the pumpkin

Zebu and I carved pumpkins last night. When he was little Zebu had some tactile issues that made it unbearable for him to do stuff like fingerpaint or clean out a pumpkin’s innards. Carving pumpkins wasn’t a positive experience.

We remedied that last night. Zebu and I talked and laughed as we grabbed handfuls of pumpkin guts, squishing stringy orange pulp through our fingers. Zebu handled the sensations just fine and turned down the offer of a wet rag. I was the one who felt compelled to rinse my hands during the process. (Pumpkin makes the skin feel tight, yo!)

And here are the results. Zebu’s Jack Skellington on the left and my triangle head on the right. Here’s hoping they look as scary in the dark as they do in the light of day.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday Confessional: I should’ve paid attention

I ran cross country in high school. In addition to the regular conference meets, our coach entered us in quite a few invitationals around the state. We ran on many different courses. Before every race, our coach had us jog the two-mile course. One of my teammates always paid very close attention to the flags and turns, noting each. It was vital she knew where she was going because she was a front-runner and frequently won the races. From my perspective, the pre-race course jog was a warm-up and nothing more. There were always plenty of runners ahead of me in races and I’d just follow them.

Yesterday I decided to run the race route of a local 5k organized by the high school cross country coach. I’ve run the race several times and thought it would be a nice change to do a workout outside my immediate neighborhood. I assumed I’d remember the course route.

Turns out it would’ve been a good idea to go online and refresh my memory before taking off. Without runners ahead of me to lead the way, I got lost out there in the hot afternoon sun and with all the backtracking, ended up running considerably more than 3.1 miles.

Old habits die hard.

I used to dye

Zippy and I didn’t color and hide eggs. We have no chocolate eggs nor bunnies in our home. There’s no plastic-y green grass strewn about the floors. However, as soon as I saw this photo on Pixabay.com, I wanted to display it here. Because, memories.

Happy Easter!

Thanks for the memories

Today’s been a difficult day.

I’ve had no energy and stayed in my jammies until 2:30 when I dragged myself off the couch so I could walk Emma and get some sun. Despite the sunshine and blue sky, I felt weepy as we walked, and kept tearing up. And then it hit me: January 23rd…Scott’s birthday. My childhood friend should be making a wish on his candles and eating cake, except that he died almost exactly twenty-five years ago.

Oddly enough, figuring out why I was feeling so down improved my mood. (Well, that plus the sunshine and exercise.) Because then I started remembering. Odd conversations about olive loaf and Salsa Rio Doritos; Scott’s old blue Pinto; the St. Patrick’s Day we spent together; his English class demonstration in which he taught us how to keep score in bowling, but became confused and had to step back from the board to figure out exactly out where the score had gone wrong; the Sears catalog poses he’d do for me whenever I asked; singing Victor Banana songs together; laughing until we cried. Laughing some more.

Here’s the photo I keep on my desk:

Scott’s smiling.
And now I am, too.

Happy birthday, friend.

Sing Ho! for the life of a Bear!

Apparently, today is #WinnieThePoohDay. I just pulled my Winnie-the-Pooh collection off the shelf in search of a passage to quote. After getting lost in the pages/memories, I chose the following:

Sing Ho! for the life of a Bear!
Sing Ho! for the life of a Bear!
I don’t much mind if it rains or snows,
‘Cos I’ve got a lot of honey on my nice new nose,
I don’t much care if it snows or thaws,
‘Cos I’ve got a lot of honey on my nice clean paws!
Sing Ho! for a Bear!
Sing Ho! for a Pooh!
And I’ll have a little something in an hour or two!
(from In Which Christopher Robin Leads an Expotition to the North Pole)

I can’t help but feel a kinship with Winnie-the-Pooh. He finds great happiness in composing silly little songs, and the next smackeral is always on his radar.

Thank you, A. A. Milne for all the smiles and fun-to-sing songs.
Happy Birthday to you.
Tiddly pom.

Birthday Cousins

Born on the same day, five years apart.

♫   May you smile into the camera
And squint against the sun
May you stay forever fun
Forever fun, forever fun   ♫
May you stay forever fun.

Happy happy birthday to two of my favorite people on the planet!

Twofer Tuesday: rebel hikers edition

When Zebu was a high school senior, he brought home a paper outlining the “rules” for senior photos. In addition to sensible guidelines such as “Do not wear sunglasses,” and “No props such as guns or weapons or other offensive material,” was “Students’ heads should not be pressed between two trees.”

October 13, 2017

Ever since reading that, we take every opportunity to photograph ourselves with heads wedged between two trees. Granted, Emma and  I are nowhere near wedged in this photo, but it’s the thought that counts.

Zebu would approve.

Sidetracked by aquatic mannequins

I’m drafting a new scene for my middle-grade novel, a scene that takes place on a lake. There’s a raft and it’s a hot summer day, and the protagonist is learning how to do a back flip off the diving board. Anyway, I wanted to document where I’m at with this book and so went to Pixabay in search of a lake-raft-swimmer image to use.

I found this:

The photo has absolutely no connection to my scene (okay, this lake is comprised of water, as is the lake in my book), but upon discovering this image, I quit my search. I mean, this piece of photographic genius deserves its own documentation.

There’s so much weird going on here. You could focus on the fact that these women are playing cards / gambling in swim caps and goggles or that the mannequins are wearing robotic assassin expressions, but all I can think about is how it’d feel to stand in lake muck while slimy lily pad stems wrap around my legs.

Eww.

So. Many. Words.

Only 26 letters in the alphabet, yet so many words to choose from as I write this book. I’m not talking “damp” vs “moist.” ** I’m talking about the pressure of potentially stringing together words that inadvertently take my novel in a whole new direction. Words wield so much power.

But words are also a writer’s playground, and it can be very cool to play with them. Sometimes, though, writing a first draft reminds me what it was like to get off one of these old merry-go-rounds.

I’d be disoriented and slightly fearful about what I was about to crash into. I’m having that same feeling today.

** (Sorry, moist-haters, couldn’t resist)

I changed my mind

Just now, I sat down at my computer and went to pexels.com in search of a Lamb’s Ear photo. My plan for this blog post was to publicly declare my new-found hostility toward that invasive plant, and to describe how I’d ripped out AT LEAST SEVENTY GAZILLION of them from my garden today.

But when I got to pexels.com, my search results from several weeks ago were still there; I’d been looking for images for the characters in my work-in-progress.

And this guy was the very first photo:

I’ve decided to drop my rant and, instead, dedicate today’s post to this delightful child.

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Family vacation flashback

I asked Zippy if he could locate some old photos from 2003, and he (quickly!) found them on a CD. And even though I wasn’t looking for this particular photo of the young Wildebeest and Zebu strutting their stuff in San Francisco, I couldn’t resist sharing it.

wildebeest-and-zebu-sf-march2003

Because this picture made me smile. And smiles are always, always welcome around here.

 

 

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Twofer Tuesday: Monarch Butterfly edition

When I was in Florida visiting my mother last October, we took many walks around her community. On one of those walks, I spotted the familiar orange-and-black-and-white markings of a Monarch Butterfly. It was completely intact but no longer of this world. I gently cupped it in one hand for the rest of the walk and, when back at my mom’s, carefully wrapped the body in a tissue and tucked it inside an empty medication bottle.

I forgot about my little treasure until today.

monarch-at-rest

While we have lovely butterflies in Colorado (lots and lots of Swallowtails), I have never seen a Monarch here. I know they’re struggling as a species, and that hurts my heart. It’s strange to have lived a childhood filled with these beauties feeding on milkweed plants, and then exist without them.

I was very happy to find this one on our walk, even if was no longer in flight. Nothing else looks like a Monarch.

extreme-closeup

 

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Leon Russell, RIP

Leon Russell went to the big piano bench in the sky last night. When Zippy told me the news, I felt deflated. But I didn’t realize how hard his death had hit me until I put on “A Song for You.” I couldn’t finish listening because the grief was too intense.

Leon Russell was a singer-songwriter who created music I was ALWAYS thrilled to hear whether it came on the radio, popped up on an iPod shuffle, or was background music in a shopping mall. I never wanted to tune him out. Leon Russell’s music made me smile, made me feel, and inspired me to sing along. His voice was unusual, his phrasing could trip me up, and his piano playing made me want to dance.

leon-russell-albums

These two albums reside in my record cabinet. I don’t remember when I bought the Best Of, but have a very clear memory of buying Looking Back. I’d spent the day at the beach and was in the neighborhood supermarket in West Los Angeles when I passed a bin of deeply discounted albums. (I remembered this being a cut-out, but when I pulled it out of my cabinet just now, I was surprised to see there are no notches in the cardboard). This particular Leon Russell record was being sold for about $2, and I snatched it up. Any Leon Russell is great Leon Russell, right? He could sing the phone book and I’d listen.

Well, I got home and discovered that Looking Back was purely instrumental. Leon didn’t even sing! Not only that, Leon didn’t play the piano! On Looking Back, Leon played the harpsichord!

I have to admit I didn’t listen to that album a whole lot over the years (and I doubt any radio stations ever played cuts from it), but I’m still glad I bought it. That record represents an enduring memory from my time in LA. Also? It’s fun to think of Leon now playing in that super-band in the sky, shredding on his harpsichord while Leonard Cohen plays piano.

Thank you for all the music, Leon.
Rest in peace.

 

 

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Freewheelin’ Bob nabs the Nobel

As has been documented here over the years, I’m a long-time Dylan fan, so wasn’t completely surprised when it was announced today that Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. (Although, as I said in an email to a friend, I do wonder whether Bob should’ve been disqualified from consideration due to his Victoria’s Secret commercial years ago.)

Bob Dylan in November 1963 (Unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Bob Dylan in November 1963 (Unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Nonetheless, this year the committee chose to honor Bob Dylan’s work which, on a personal note, feels very fitting because Zebu is studying in Sweden right now. The award also feels fitting because of one Dylan song in particular that tragically never, ever goes out of style. For “Masters of War” alone, I’m good with Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Masters of War
Written by Bob Dylan

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people’s blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain’t worth the blood
That runs in your veins

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I’m young
You might say I’m unlearned
But there’s one thing I know
Though I’m younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand o’er your grave
’Til I’m sure that you’re dead

Copyright
© 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991 by Special Rider Music

Amelia, is that you?

This morning I took my exercise and yoga routine to the basement in order to escape the cacophonous roofers. As I did a quad stretch next to the support post, something caught my eye:
_mg_0300-amelia-earhart-inititals

AE?
My first thought was that those initials were etched by Alex E., one of Zebu’s best friends throughout childhood. But then it hit me: Amelia Earhart!

Because look what else I found just inches from those inititals:
_mg_0303-route-or-island

That’s clearly either a flight route or maybe even a rough sketch of Howland Island where Amelia was headed on that fateful flight. Do you know what this means? I’ve uncovered a clue that could help solve the mystery of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance!

Wow! Who knew what was in store when I woke up this morning?!

(Okay, okay. Cut me some slack. I’m suffering the effects of WAY too much loud noise. The hammers are echoing in my head.)

 

 

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All our exploring

Just finished a Skype session with Zebu who is in Sweden. He’s been there about ten days now and feeling more settled, especially after getting this issue resolved. I carried the laptop around the house so he could see the dogs and cats in their various poses of slumber and he told us of his many adventures.

The son who demanded I hold him for the first year of his life now eats breakfast paste from a tube and purposely gets lost in an unfamiliar city.

Who knew?

Marcel curled up next to my weight bench that's covered with the T-shirt Zebu designed for his 6th birthday.

Marcel curled up next to my weight bench that’s covered with the T-shirt Zebu designed for his 6th birthday.

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
~  T. S. Eliot

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This may or may not be evidence

Zebu has completed two years of college and is getting ready to study abroad for the next year. He just finished sorting through an accumulation of notebooks, folders, and binders filled with paper from high school and the last two years.

He came across personal notes that made him cringe, Calculus test scores he’d rather forget, and class notes from his all-time favorite class so far, a Latin American history course.

Here’s something I rescued from the recycle pile:
Zebu vocab notes

He believes it’s from a high school English class and as he held it out for me to see he said:

“This may or may not be evidence of me cheating on a vocab test.
I honestly don’t remember.”

Know what?
I honestly don’t care.

Gaining perspective is a beautiful thing.

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Young girls dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming cover

I finally read Jacqueline Woodson’s BROWN GIRL DREAMING and here are some quick thoughts:

  • This book is lovely and absolutely lived up to its well-deserved buzz and multiple awards.
  • While Ms. Woodson and I are the same age, our childhoods were vastly different. She was a brown girl dreaming in South Carolina and Brooklyn while I was a pale girl who did the majority of my childhood dreaming in rural Wisconsin.
  • On the surface, there were some very big differences in our experiences. Hers included:

Institutionalized prejudice
Religion
Big city life
Loving grandparents and extended family

  • Despite those differences, much of Woodson’s story elicited memories so real I could feel, smell, and taste them while others echoed in my head and heart.

Sly & the Family Stone
Crissy dolls with their adjustable hair
“Tingalayo,” the song about a little donkey I remember from my elementary music class
Bubble Yum
Candy cigarettes
The Funky Chicken
Scooby Doo
Pine-Sol
Keds
Siblings
Best friends
Summer vacation
Listening quietly while grownups spoke
Feeling deeply for those we loved
Struggling to find our voices, our places
Words

Good literature is supposed to help us better understand others and ourselves. BROWN GIRL DREAMING bridged the divide to do exactly that.

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Clean Windows, Gloria Swanson, and Me

I’ve come to the startling realization that when life gets particularly difficult, I sometimes cope by washing windows. (Full disclosure: I also cope via cookies, beer, and Netflix.) I just spent the last few hours washing interior and exterior windows plus screens, and I actually enjoyed it. Just me, a clean rag, a bowl of vinegar-water, and a stack of newspaper.

Big deal, right?

It is kind of a big deal. See, when I was growing up it seemed I was always washing windows (and lemon-oiling the paneling and vacuuming the basement stairs and . . .) The combination of a slightly obsessive-compulsive mother and a house full of windows made for many, many hours scrubbing at fingerprints and smudges and whatever else my brothers stuck on the glass, and I resented the chore. The Wisconsin humidity made it impossible for the windows to dry correctly and I was forever battling streaks so that window washing was more often a rage-inducer than a coping strategy.

Now I’m an adult living in oh-so-dry Colorado, and washing windows is almost a zen activity. The windows dry quickly and mostly streak-free! It’s me deciding when to wash windows, not my mother! Plus, clean windows make bird and squirrel watching so much more enjoyable!

Also? These days I don’t have to worry about anyone mistaking a clean sliding glass door for an open sliding glass door. When my sons were little, Wildebeest chased Zebu through the house right after I’d washed windows and poor Zebu hit that glass door so hard he bounced back several feet as blood poured from his nose. I heard the impact all the way down in the basement. (Full disclosure: at that point in my life I probably used the incident as an excuse for letting the windows stay dirty for a good long while.)

But I’ve since adopted a new attitude. And for the time being (at least until the cats and dogs smudge them), I have clean windows and a calmer spirit.

Gloria Swanson by Edward Steichen

Gloria Swanson by Edward Steichen

” My mother and I could always look out the same window without ever seeing the same thing.”  ~ Gloria Swanson