Blur and Focus

January 29, 2013

Luray, Virginia

Smudged branches, fences cutting into greenscape, and a cardinal red barn with crisp white windows. It all flies past the passenger window. I like the mix of blur and focus. 

Surgery is tomorrow morning. I am trying to hold fast to the moments of clarity and calmness that flicker past; trying to harness my eagerness to end this liminal state, while anxiety and fear mingle and muddy themselves in my gut.

Blur and focus: looking in and looking out.

Little House in the Big Woods

January 28, 2013

Four days in the woods, in a little house overlooking the Shenandoah River, at the end of a twisty, little lane. No internet access, no phone service, just the four of us with a bunch of books and games, pretty winter walks, toasty fires, and icy trips to the hot tub. It was the perfect winter escape.

Luray, Virginia

Kitchen Shop Cousins

January 24, 2013

Camille and Clementine at The Kitchen Shop in Grand Coteau, Louisiana...carrying on my dad's annual tradition of Christmas Eve shopping and picking up our Gateau Nana. 

The girls are exactly a month apart and although they haven't seen each other for the past three years, they fell right into a happy rhythm of playing and giggling together. I love my cousins dearly and I now love seeing my kids with their cousins. 

And speaking of cousins, I can't remember if I have shared this series here or not, but it's worth doing it again: The Cobble Street Cousins by Cynthia Rylant. It's a fabulous early chapter book series about three cousins spending the year with their young aunt while their parents travel the world as famous dancers. The illustrations are enchanting and the stories are super sweet. It is a good reminder for me to pull them off the book shelf because  Camille is the perfect age for them. And speaking of Grand Coteau, John Slaughter's recent book is also wonderful. Alright, off to pack for our winter weekend adventure. Hope your weekend is full of good books and lots of laughter!

Rainbow Flakes

January 23, 2013

 It's that time of year when we go through a scissor-clipping frenzy and cover our windows with paper flakes. In the past few years, we have been big fans of using coffee filters of all different sizes. They really are the easiest things for little (and big) hands to cut. This year we branched out a bit and decided to make use of the newspapers that have been piling up. Water color paint helped to bring them to life and now we have some cheery winter windows. 

But as wonderful as our paper flakes are, what we are really hoping for are the real flakes! There is a possibility of snow tonight and to increase our odds we are heading to the mountains for the weekend.  

Thanks to all for the warm wishes and good reading/viewing/listening suggestions. Seriously, thank you.

A Farting Owl and A Request

January 18, 2013

Noah made this farting owl for Camille during our Christmas bird exchange. It makes me giggle. And I need that right now.

I have gotten better about being able to say this out loud to family and friends, so I am going to say it here, too. I am undergoing evaluation for ovarian cancer. The only way to confirm or deny that scary-ass diagnosis is through surgery. My surgery will be at the end of January. In addition to doing acupuncture, yoga, walks with friends, I am also trying to occupy/distract myself. It turns out that when you are faced with such a frightening possibility, you have a hard time ignoring it. In fact, it turns out that it is similar to buying a car. Suddenly, every other car on the road seems to be the model you are considering. Two of the tv shows that I turn to for mindless numbing/escape suddenly have cancer as a theme (Parenthood and Private Practice) and there's Tig's recent proclamation and scary sections of the library. I need to escape those things right now.

So, here's my request for help: please, send me reading/viewing/listening suggestions. Things that are funny, thought provoking, meaningful, fluffy, healing, silly, and most importantly devoid of any sick mothers. And music! I need good music suggestions. And podcasts and movies. And if you come across any other farting owls, please send them this way!


January 17, 2013

 I finally got my feet back on the yoga mat. I have been avoiding it for the past month. My yoga teacher and I decided that I should cut back on classes until the medical issues were more resolved. She gave me a nice set of restorative poses to do at home, but I never did them. I convinced myself that the pain was too much and the space at home was too cramped. However, the reality is that I was/am pissed. Angry and distrustful of my body, I find myself vacillating between hyper-awareness and disconnection. And underneath those angry waves, there are the knotty tentacles of fear that wrap themselves around the fibers of my being. 

So earlier this week, I created a yoga space, lit a new candle, and started to de-tangle my mind and my body. It's a slow, quiet, solitary process.


January 14, 2013

The tooth fairy was bad last week, very bad and forgetful.  The first morning there were a few tears when a sad little girl discovered that the tooth was still under her pillow. However she quickly recovered her composure when she realized that the tinfoil might have been the problem. She fixed that problem by sticking the tooth in a ziplock bag and happily stuck it back under her pillow (sadly, we seem to have lost the adorable little toothbox we bought in Paris).  

The next morning the tears took much longer to dry. This time the space under the pillow was completely empty. No money and no tooth. Very troubling indeed. Things were remedied in the afternoon when the sweet girl returned home to conduct a thorough investigation of her room and she discovered a little ziplock bag with coins under her bed. It turns out that delinquent tooth fairies are granted special permission to conduct exchanges during the day light hours. 

In all seriousness, it made me feel dreadful. It also had me thinking, what do fairies do with all of those teeth? toss them? save them? Really, what do you do?  I have a distinct memory of one of my childhood friends showing me a special little container in her mother's jewelry box. My friend proudly showed me her mother's collection of special pearls. I wasn't an idiot and could clearly see that they were teeth. Tiny, little baby teeth. And related to issues of belief and parental involvement, did anyone hear the This American Life holiday story about one family's elaborate and complicated relationship with a few different Santas?

Return to Little House

January 13, 2013

Several years ago I read a travel piece about a family who traveled to the mid-west to have a Little House/ Laura Ingalls vacation complete with an overnight trip in covered wagons. Being a travel junkie, I am constantly reading and bookmarking/clipping out articles that strike my fancy, but this Little House vacation article unlocked some deep seated sentimental urges and plunged me right back into my childhood when I loved the Little House books and the TV show. Right back to a time when my cousins and I feverishly built houses outside, identified ourselves as Ma and Pa and the kids, and played out elaborate tales of survival and family strife. 

That Little House travel piece had me itching to read the series with the kids and it was seriously one of the first things I thought about when I knew that we would be leaving Italy and returning to the States. I couldn't wait re-visit those beloved  characters and to introduce them to my children. I couldn't wait to share this treasured slice of my American childhood with them. I couldn't wait to climb into the covered wagons for our own family Little House adventure. It was all going to be so gosh darn wonderful. And then I gave the kids a beautifully illustrated copy of Little House in the Big Woods and suddenly my nostalgic dreams quickly came to a startling halt. 

At the end of the first bedtime reading session, Noah declared it a horrible book and insisted that I not read any more of the butchering sections to him. He really was dismayed by the amount of animal slaughter that occurred in the just the first few chapters. He declined to be included in the subsequent reading sessions, but Camille and I trudged on in the Big Woods. 

Now we are nearly done with the first book in this famous series and I am eagerly anticipating the final page. If Camille wasn't so hooked, I would have stopped many chapters ago, but Little House seems to have cast its' puzzling magic on her just like it did to me so many years ago. I shouldn't call it puzzling magic. I can understand the allure and interest in a time and place that seem so long ago and so far removed from our modern luxiourous existences.

However as an adult, the book has been a depressing disappointment to me and my sentimental Little House fantasies. I had forgotten how much corporal punishment there is. I had forgotten just how scary the Big Woods are with all of the panthers, bears, and swarming bees. I had forgotten or perhaps never really saw how insecure and whiny Laura could be, especially in regards to her hair issues (her ugly brown hair pales in comparison to Mary's golden locks...although, in reality I should thoroughly relate to Laura since I also had hair issues growing up thanks to my sister's curls). I can re-frame all of those things in the context of history, but what I can't get over is how monotonous it is to read. 

Yes, the every day details can at times be interesting, but why does it have to be written so blandly? Instead of crafting a richly, textured tapestry of daily life, Ingalls has a roughly hewn structure that lacks eloquence and enchantment. Her words are clunky and elementary. And to put it bluntly, it is boring. Even with all of the inherent drama and impending danger of living in such an isolated setting, I still find myself yawning and wishing it would just end. I think I'll get the audio books for Camille, but I just can't bring myself to read any more of the series.

Sadly, it turns out that returning home isn't always easy, even if it is a fictional house in the woods. We are planning to read the Wizard of Oz soon so it will be interesting to see if that famous trip home will be more satisfying. I hope so.


January 12, 2013

Christmas Day 2012


Christmas Day 2012

December Field Run

January 11, 2013

Two cousins, two dogs, and a late afternoon run in the field. I used to love doing the same thing when I was a kid. Actually, let me take that back. I still love doing it. 

I am still working my way through pics from our December trip. These were taken in the field in front of my family's home on the prairie land of south western Louisiana (Vermilion Parish). When most people think of south Louisiana they conjure up images of swamps and bayous, but there is actually quite a bit of prairie land: coastal prairie land where bison used to roam. Those wide open spaces make for some wonderful sunsets, spectacular cloud viewing, and lots of running.

Fancy Feathers: Papier Mache Birds

January 10, 2013

Here are a few of the birds we made back in December for Christmas gifts. I have been itching to make papier mache birds ever since bookmarking this and this several years ago. And I have to admit that it was such a surprisingly enjoyable process. The kids also had fun getting in on the action since this was a multi-day activity. One day for newspaper/masking tape construction of the bodies. One day for the papier mache application (We used white paper towels and found that it was much easier and faster than working with newspaper. The paper towels also added an interesting texture to the birds). One day for painting the first coat for the bodies. And one final day for adding additional coats of paint (acrylic), details (sharpie marker), and wire feet. We all loved the quirky and colorful results. In fact, I kind of wish we had kept them all for ourselves, but that wouldn't have been in keeping with the Christmas spirit. I guess that just means we will have to make some more again soon.

Wednesday Morning Walk

January 9, 2013

Georgetown View from Theodore Roosevelt Island

The dreary January morning was strangely soothing. All of those greys, browns, and muddy textures wrapping themselves around us and providing a neutral canvas for de-compressing. And then the most delightful spottings happened over and over again: bright, red cardinals full of cheerful chirpiness. Their solo pops of color so striking and bold against the muted winter background. 

This morning my friend, Angi, and I met for a walk around Theodore Roosevelt Island. It was the perfect tonic for my anxious soul. 

Thank you also for all of the kind comments, phone calls, and messages. Friends (and cardinals) really do make things better. 

Unwanted Reading

January 8, 2013

My new year is not off to the greatest start and spending a few hours at the library this morning was a grim reminder of that. I started in the kids section and had fun picking out some new reads for the monkeys (WWII stuff for Noah and iceskating cats for Camille), but then eventually worked my way back into the corner of the adult non-fiction section. I tenderly poked and prodded my way along the shelf until I hit the hysterectomy/ovarian cancer/endometriosis section also known as the scary/depressing/lady parts section. After selecting a few books that looked they might be helpful, I plunked down on one of those little black rolling stools that only seem to be found in public libraries and started to read things that I never really wanted to read. 

However, I kept getting distracted by all of the other books that dominated that same section of shelving, all of those pregnancy books with adorable baby toes and pretty pink covers. It suddenly felt as if the Dewey Decimal system was taunting me with its logical placement of female issues. Why couldn't the scary books be sandwiched between the gardening books and humor? Ever since my life threatening pregnancy with Noah ten years ago, I have never once wanted to re-experience pregnancy and yet here I was in the middle of a public library feeling so sad. Damn Dewey.

I am not sure how much I will be writing about what's been happening and what will be happening, but needless to say this is not how I wanted to start 2013.

Exploring: Palmetto Island State Park

January 4, 2013

We spent Christmas Day exploring Palmetto Island State Park. It's a fairly new park south of Abbeville and it's great. Beautiful swampy areas for canoeing, nice paths for wandering, super clean bathrooms, and interesting Louisiana wildlife. We saw several alligators, turtles, and hawks.

In addition to the trails, the park also has a campground and some new cabins that can sleep up to 8 people. My sister and her husband stayed in one of the cabins a few months ago and kept raving about it. I am thinking we might try to do that on a future trip home, perhaps in the summer months when the splash park is open. Did I mention there is also a cool looking splash park? To be honest, I was kind of shocked by how nice this park is. It really is a special little spot in South Louisiana and it turned out to be a perfect Christmas Day outing. 

Louisiana Christmas Unwrapped

January 3, 2013

A Louisiana instead of stockings, t-shirts and shorts, a special letter from Santa, a shameful amount of wrapping paper, delicious and bountiful baked goods thanks to Emee, and canoeing with alligators (more on that later).

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