April 2007

Monthly Archive

Garden Notes

Posted by on 29 Apr 2007 | Tagged as: garden, Uncategorized

With help I was able to get two trees planted today — they are very small, but it was a chore even with assistance. I had M do most of the digging and heavy work. We now have the beginning of a deciduous “hedge” of (from the house toward the road, approximately parallel to the length of the yard) witchhazel, ornamental maple, ornamental plum , lilacs.

Color-wise, it goes: green leaves, green and burgundy leaves, deep burgundy leaves purple cast in summer, deep purple and lighter purple flowers. I love these colors!

I did a fair bit of weeding — too much to get done in a week, but at least it’s started. The garden is so pleasant to be in, but I am trying to pace myself so I don’t overdo it before I am back in shape. It’s a lot of bending and stooping… but it feels good to exert myself.

Tom mowed a fair bit of the front yard, too. Unfortunately, he forgot to look at the margins of the flower beds and mowed over my yellow wood-poppy. Not sure it’ll survive this insult. We put a small wire fence around that bed, and I’ll be more careful in the future when he pulls out the grass guillotine!!!

The cherry tree is covered with blossoms. One of the quince looks like a pink cake, it’s so fluttery with blooms!

One chestnut, the one on the south edge of the yard, is already quite green with leaves, the other just beginning to leaf out.

I lost one blueberry to big dog romps, but the others are looking very happy and established. Of course, next year (probably in the autumn) I will be moving them into the boggy area near the road which will set them back… but for now they are safe and healthy.

New feature: I will try to post a “critter of the day” pic from my garden daily (or thereabouts). Today is the first, the mourning dove mentioned a couple days ago.

Found Poetry

Posted by on 27 Apr 2007 | Tagged as: Gardens and Life, Peace Making, Politics and War, Uncategorized

Gestalt Prayer

by Frederick Perls

I do my thing and you do your thing
I am not in this world to
live up to your expectations,
and you are not in this world to
live up to mine.
You are you
and I am I
and if by chance we find each other,
it’s beautiful.

I found this poem through David P. Brown.


Posted by on 26 Apr 2007 | Tagged as: birds, garden, Uncategorized

Well, I updated my “critters” list on the sidebar to include the scientific names of birds. My father was able to identify the golden-crowned kinglet that was in my yard yesterday. There was quite a flock of them, not sure I had seen any in my yard before. So, I thought I should at least be thorough enough that if someone from another place wanted to know exactly what I am seeing, they could look up an accurate picture.

Then this evening there was a mourning dove in the driveway! Hadn’t seen any in my actual yard before, though I have heard them many times while I work outside. I was a little worried, because it just sat there for a long time, but I suppose it knew what it was doing. Will be watching to see if it is nesting in our yard. Apparently they nest fairly close to the ground. If so, we will want to avoid having dogs or lawn mowers operating in the area we see them.

So much fun, to meet new critters!

On Sunday, 29 Apr, my mother mentioned that it might have been a golden-crowned sparrow. Will have to check again if they visit the yard. Meantime, I have both types listed in the sidebar. ~mama

An interesting parenting question

Posted by on 25 Apr 2007 | Tagged as: children, hope, musings, parenting, Uncategorized

Here is the origin and inspiration of this thread… Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Smart Dad, Stupid Dad

What makes for effective parents? Is it the opportunities they give their children? The information or values they impart? The sense of being loved? The security of place or status?

I suspect we all know people (maybe even ourselves) who say, “If I had more time/money/help… I would be a better parent.” And we probably also know people who seem to be perpetually short on all three and still manage to turn out healthy, well-adjusted children who become healthy, well-adjusted adults. And we probably can also point to a few families that seem to have it all but never seem to enjoy anything, families in which the children are not healthy or well-adjusted…

Something I try to keep in mind when watching other parents and children is that there are often stories behind what we see. It is easy to armchair parent, just as it is easy to armchair quarterback. The sickness of a parent or child, or mental illness, anxiety over job security (or lack of), increasing prices on fixed incomes… stress can lie under the surface in any family, even one that seems to have it all. Children who wear older, used clothes may come from families that spend their money on vacations or concert experiences, or from families that have a strong sense of moral obligation that precludes new clothes unless necessary — they may not be from poor families at all!

In recent conversations with folks I think are pretty well-balanced I discover that they also have times they doubt their parenting, or worry about whether their children are getting what they need. I hear from parents of children who seem well-adjusted that at home they can be quite moody — something that is reflected in our life when people compliment me on my children’s manners!

In the blog that got me thinking, I note that these characterizations of “dad” also apply to any person: there are childless people with those attitudes also! I don’t know — or don’t associate with — people who fall into the Rich, Poor or Stupid categories…

We sometimes do live from paycheck to paycheck because we will take opportunities to go to concerts or museums — or to visit relatives — even when we don’t have money already set aside. Still, we manage to set a bit aside for planned excursions, and we meet all our financial obligations. I don’t want to get to the end of my kids’ childhood and look back to realize that they are now all grown up and we never fished on a lake or met my favorite cousin or ate in a fancy restaurant. As a couple, Tom and I have always been this way. People have taken precedence over things, over jobs and over education.

Was it Irma Bombeck who said that at the end of her life it wouldn’t matter if the bed was made or the house was tidy… it would matter if she had said all the things she wanted to her kids. I think the Smart Parents take time to be with their kids without smothering them; I think they know the difference between a comfortably tidy house and a showplace; I think they understand that children are underfoot for less than 20 years (in most families) and with life expectancies of 70 -80 for most of us that leaves a good 40 years after the kids leave the nest for work, travel and personal development.

At the end of the day, I don’t think our jobs, the type of house we live in or clothes we wear, the neighborhood or schools we are part of , or the number and content of bank accounts are important. At the end of the day, I think what matters is if we were kind, if we took those opportunities to say “I love you,” if we grew more flowers in our yard than will ever be put on our graves.

Happy Earth Day

Posted by on 22 Apr 2007 | Tagged as: climate, garden, holidays, musings, Uncategorized, weather

May your gardens be green,
May your harvests be golden,
May your heart fill with love,
and your larder with food,
May your life be fulfilled
with all that is good.

Today dawned sunny and bright, after what was obviously a very cold night — there was a light frost on the ground when I let the critters out in the morning. As noon approaches, the blue sky is hazed with more and more solid strands of white fairy-tale clouds. The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming. Later on, it will rain, the life-giving (sometime life-taking) waters will wash everything clean and refill the aquifers.

More than appreciating the beauty and grandeur of it all, on Earth Day I like to also consider how I preserve it. Here are my thoughts as I sit here in a reasonably warm, well-built house, with plenty to eat and power for my computer, the lights, the laundry and the television…

We drive older cars — would newer cars with better mileage make up for the resources needed to produce them?

We eat some foods that are imported — though possible to live on foodstuffs grown and available locally (how locally would that need to be?) much of the year, we are generally limited to buying what is in the stores when we get there. I buy organic most of the time, though it is easily three times more expensive than chemically-grown or treated foods. We grow some of our own foods, but lack the space and time (and money) to grow most of the things we eat on a regular basis.

We tend to wear our clothes until they are outgrown (and then donated to other children) or worn out, and we buy many things at Goodwill rather than in stores that sell new items. Now that I have a sewing machine again I will make more of my own clothes… but shoes, coats, and other items need replacing often. And sometimes — well sometimes a dress in the store is pretty, and so much less expensive than I could produce — sometimes it makes more sense to go to a store where economies of scale lower both my cost and the costs of production.

We used only organic, natural cleaning products for years. But my poor health, the high mineral content of our well water and the high cost of these items that really didn’t get things clean have moved us toward a more moderate approach. We purchase stronger cleaning products for the bathroom and kitchen now; but I use vinegar and baking soda most of the time and the least toxic but still effective substances everywhere else.

We recycle as much as we can, after trying to buy things with the least packaging possible. Paper, plastic, metal, glass, garden supplies, shopping bags… everything gets at least a second use. But some things aren’t recyclable, and sometimes recycling isn’t available.

It is a common theme in my writing: Though it would be nice to live entirely by repurposing, reusing, or doing without… and I know many people do! …it is not practical for us. We are not willing to join the ranks of people who live communally — or in the city — we are not willing to give up all the comforts we grew up with. But we do minimize our usage, consciously, and we teach our children how to consider the needs of the earth and its denizens when making decisions. Our parents don’t understand and sometimes our children (who want to have all the latest and greatest like many of their friends in our affluent community) complain, but perhaps our grandchildren will understand and lead better lives as a result of our efforts.

Garden Pics

Posted by on 19 Apr 2007 | Tagged as: garden, Uncategorized, weather

Here are a few pictures from yesterday in the garden. Sometimes, when the world seems to be falling apart, reaffirming that LIFE continues is important.

Here, highlighted against the sky is the tall lilac bush.

And these are some tulips, blooming in the lawn.

Finally, the apple blossoms on stidkid#1’s tree…

hoping for a good crop this year!

And for those who may be keeping track, we are very low on rain this month — in fact for this year, but still way ahead for the “rainy season” that officially began October 1 last year.

AA Milne: poem for today

Posted by on 16 Apr 2007 | Tagged as: musings, poetry, Uncategorized

Sometimes there are no answers

Posted by on 16 Apr 2007 | Tagged as: children, hope, musings, social justice, Uncategorized

Today a horrific shooting at a university in Virginia… dozens dead and wounded.

Pre-teen children have been in the news recently for doing sex acts in front of their classmates when the teacher was out of the room.

People setting fires to homes in the wee hours of the mornings, children dying in their beds.

Elderly people living in filthy conditions or extreme poverty, found only when they are missing for days — or weeks — or (as in the case of a few recently discovered mummies) years.

These are human tragedies, large and small, not natural — not part of life to be gotten through, these are things that need not happen.

But they do happen.

And there are no answers for many of them. But there may be answers for you: in what ways are you keeping tabs on your children? Do you know what they watch and do at their friends’ houses, at school? How do you stay in touch with your family whether next door or far-flung? What decisions do you make that increase or decrease the health of your family? Of yourself?

What does your community do to minimize bullying (primarily it seems a learned behavior), to support people with mental illnesses (who are more vulnerable to victimization), to deter crime?

And, when something sad happens, what is your response? Do you ignore it and hope it won’t happen to you? Do you sit down and talk about it as a family? Do you find a way to reach out to the people who were directly affected?

There often are no answers, no specific action that was or was not taken, about these personal tragedies. But with awareness we can and do make a difference.

There may not be answers, but there is HOPE.

Garden Walk

Posted by on 13 Apr 2007 | Tagged as: garden, Uncategorized

Today in the garden, the pear tree is in bloom, the apple trees are just starting to break their buds, the blossoms on the asian pears (large white bells ringing softly in the wind) are stark white and the clusters on the elderberries, conical and creamy, back up the tall lilac, conical and deep violet. The bright yellow japanese kerria adds punch across the driveway, makes it sunny even on this overcast, gloomy afternoon. Its color is repeated in the centers of the otherwise sober maroon primroses under the lilac… peach-colored tulips are blooming near the orchard, dark purple dwarf iris beginning to emerge in borders that need tending, spears of asparagus pushing up through soft dirt.

Life. Growth. Love.

It’s all here.

In my garden.

A Special Time

Posted by on 13 Apr 2007 | Tagged as: Family Matters, Gardens and Life, Uncategorized

While Tom took M up skiing for three days — remember the broken arm our younger son had in February?  G and I had the time of our lives.

The first day, we slept in, had a leisurely morning and then went to his friend’s house for the afternoon.  I had intended to go back home and clean a bit, but got into conversation with the mother and so had just enough time to go home, let the critters out and feed them, change my clothes and go pick him up.  It was his night, so he chose to go to the Ranch House, a local restaurant that has wonderful barbeque.

When we got home it was time for a movie.  He chose to watch the second Matrix flick.  I had resisted letting him see any of them for a couple years, but after thinking about it, I realized that they are probably no more violent or disturbing than some of the books he has read… and by watching with him and discussing the sticky parts I could use them as teaching tools.  So we watched.

He had good questions and observations.  The philosophical ideas that the movie stimulated were priceless!  He is a good kid, and quickly grasped some of the subtler pieces of the plot.

The next morning we slept in again, watched a couple of “Ben Ten” cartoons; and after discussing our options, decided that the Tacoma Art Museum (we have a membership) was a good destination.  So I called Avis/Budget cars downtown (did you know the two are connected? — at least in our area)  and we rented a PT Cruiser for the day.  Good thing, too.  My little Sentra backfired as I was coming off the freeway, a couple of times.  I fear it’s not much longer for this existence.

Well, the PT Cruiser surprised me.  It had been years since I tried to drive an American-made car, usually the switches and controls are hidden or otherwise inscrutable.  This little car was about the same size and shape as my Sentra, the seats sit higher (a nice feature in heavy traffic) and everything was in reach (unusual for me) once I put the seat forward enough to reach the pedals.  Usually I feel dwarfed by cars, even my Honda minivan.  If it weren’t for the poor mileage, I think a PT Cruiser would be a fun car.

We zipped up to the museum and had a great time.  An hour of looking at Paul Strand photos in the first room and images of Frida Kahlo by both modern artists and people who knew her in life.  We had great discussions about framing, features, use of light and texture…  real artist talk.  Then to the coffee shop for coffee (me), and hot chocolate and a brownie.  Just in time — they close TWO hours before the museum does!

Back into the museum then, and a walk through the Northwest Biennial gallery.  A lot of new works by artists resident in our area.  Some of the pieces were predictably strange.  Others unexpectedly eloquent.  Many fun items; a few that made us laugh out loud, and a couple that really caught our attention.

My favorites:  a large painting in the style of ancient greek vases titled (I think) “The Greek and the Trojan.”  Red, black and deep orange.  Striking and beautiful.

“Peaches and Buffalo” (I am not good at the titles) caught my eye also.  Though I usually don’t see the point in perfect rendering these days — why not just photograph something, I think — in this case I was in love.  It starts out being really big of course, but it’s a still life in front with a background of a horse-back native — maybe Souix? — spearing a bison in a mountainous landscape any Victorian artist would have appreciated.  Things like this, the still, elegant, genteel glass dish of fruit in front of the wild, exuberant landscape…  this was art!

And some lovely pieces of jewelry, silver with white enamel — I chose this for my vote in the “People’s Choice” ballot.  The work resembles miniature chandeliers, with mirrors around and behind them.  Some of the pieces were jointed, others the chandelier passed between or through supports.  Though very small (I missed them my first pass through) I really appreciated the time and vision it took.  I wish I could remember the title — or even the artists’ names.

There were others: a sculpture of hemlock, a ceramic “story,” a gorgeous pencil drawing (we had seen this one before) of two enigmatic figures on a raft, a pile of bronzed blankets, a “peep” box with three different scenes inside.

And then time to go.  We got to Osaka, a Japanese restaurant in Lacey, at 5:30 and had a pleasant, leisurely dinner.  We discussed what we had seen, the music that was playing in the restaurant, the items on the menu.

On the way home we got him a new pair of sneakers (20% off) at a local store.  His feet are now officially bigger (longer anyway) than his father’s, and he is within a half inch of my height!

Home, we watched “The Twelve Chairs” by Mel Brooks and played a game of Monopoly (I did not win), ate a prodigious amount of ice cream and retired late but happy.

Wednesday morning yet another lazy start.  I returned the rental car a little early after consulting with the young man who usually works on our cars to be sure it was safe to drive the Sentra home…  And the rest of the day was just a long, lazy “at home” time.  We watched the final Matrix movie in the afternoon and basically just hung out until Tom and M returned for supper at 7:30.

A very good, very happy three days.

Surprised there are no pictures in this post?  We were having too much fun to take photos!

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