Monday, December 29, 2008

redcaps and hinkypucks

One of the parenting/unschooling boards I'm on just had its annual Great Santa Debate - its a board for families with younger children, obviously. This is a Big Issue for some families. At the tail end of the thread someone posted an article by Jan Hunt that suggested treating Santa like any other fictional character. Here's an excerpt:

I found this puzzle to be surprisingly difficult to resolve. But after much thought I felt that there might be a middle ground. If a child were simply told the "Santa story" about a kindly old gentleman who leaves gifts for children in his make-believe world, but who remains within the fictional world of the story, there would be no need to undo the lie that he is leaving gifts for the child in our world. Parents and children could play the "Santa game" by leaving gifts for each other, just as Santa does in the story. This allows the opportunity for children to learn the pleasure of giving to their parents and siblings, as well as gaining the knowledge and appreciation of their parents' efforts on their behalf - an opportunity that is completely missed in the traditional approach.

Interestingly, we've always told Morgan that Santa was a fictional character - always in the context of one of her favorite characters, like Clifford, that she "plays" with as a sort of imaginary friend. The trouble is, to paraphrase Sartre, there are other people in the world. Other kids wanted to know if she Believed. That threw her for a loop. So we explained more directly this time around about fiction and "the Santa game" and she didn't want anything to do with it. She was pretty offended by the idea of a game where she doesn't have any input into the rules, as well as by the fact that there's allllllll this misinformation out there, aimed at people like her.

On the actual 25th she was rather put out by the lack of snow. All the holiday propaganda shows snow! I've mentioned in the past that it didn't necessarily snow for xmas, but I could tell it was one of those things where she wasn't convinced that I was right. Like tadpoles turning into frogs or corn growing on a plant - she didn't believe either of those until she saw it, either. So this year it failed to snow on Dec 25th and Morgan was affronted. The horror! The world is full of misinformation! Gasp!

This is the part where I get to say something insightful about organic learning and opportunities and not having to teach lessons, blah blah blah. Feel free to imagine I just did that.

We've been having some lovely times. I had five days off and will have another five this weekend. I've gotten a lot of work done on my one commissioned piece, a whole lot of cleaning and scheming, and some carefully calculated lounging around. I even had a few drinks at a party on xmas itself. Ever tried Grappa? We passed some around at the fete and most of the festive gagged over it - I actually liked it! Of course, now I'm going to have to try some of the stuff when I haven't already had a glass of wine and a Cosmopolitan, but I'm sure the opportunity will present itself one day, even if I have to buy some myself.

We've really only begun to celebrate. This week we get to start spending xmas money. New linoleum...ahhhhhhhh. And I'll even have time to put it on the floor, how perfect. We're also going to get another PS2 - ours is fading, and the computer is getting crowded with Everyone wanting to post and chat and play games, too. George is talking about Trains, so we're going to look into that. Mo has enjoyed the one cheapo train set we got last xmas, and she and George need more projects they can work on together. I hope they can manage to work on the trains together, opinionated people that they are!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

work-a-day mom

This month's unschooling "blog carnival" is on the subject of unschooling parents engaged in gainful employment, and I thought I'd chime in:

Every morning around 430 George gets up and makes me coffee. He's sweet like that. Now that it's turned cold, he also builds up the fire in the woodstove. We sit in bed together, drinking coffee for about half an hour, and then its up and breakfast and put a lunch together and find the mp3 player and if its Monday I grab the week's laundry to leave in my locker and its out the door I go, to change into my plaster-covered work clothes in the restroom at work, before clocking in.

This is where I work, if you're interested and/or have a hankerin' for some really fancy crown moulding:

George's sweetness in the mornings carries me through the first part of the day, and often the whole day. Most of my coworkers aren't terribly sweet, so the thought of dear, sweet George at home with the kids is a kind of balm when the negativity starts to peak. Its amazing to me how negative some people can be. I'm not talking about cynicism, per se. Its more of an attitude of "I just don't give a shit". About everything. Today one fellow was complaining that the preacher at his church gave a sermon on "Love" - went on and on about it. The other guys commiserated: "You shoulda walked out." I stood there thinking about George, curled up against my shoulder just that morning saying "I love you" and "Thanks for being nice to me." Sweet.

Sweet was the first compliment I ever gave George. I remember him wriggling and glowing with embarrassed pleasure. He's still sweet. He's been fretting about all the things he can't do now that he's hurt his shoulder again (did I tell you? He slipped and fell on his bad shoulder and its hurting again. Bummer!) and he's kind of fallen into a rut with the kids so I've been helping him and them think of projects and games and activities and just Things to Do Together. Especially indoor things, since its chilly and damp and its a hassle to keep both woodstoves going (house and barn). This week I've come home to sweetness and smiles. Not as many dishes are getting washed, but I'll help him catch up on the weekend. I'll take smiles over dishes.

Okay, to be utterly truthful, most of the time I'll take smiles over dishes. There are days, though, when I come home and shudder. Not that I was a picture of tidiness when I was the at-home parent! But there are days when I'm worn out with Doing - casting and cleaning and patching and cleaning and sanding and cleaning (plaster is messy!) - and the idea of coming home to wade through the detritus of an unschooling day and have to wash my own coffee cup is enough to make me shudder. Some days I sensibly take an emergency chocolate break before I go home, but sssshhhhh! don't tell on me!

I'm glad to have been on the other side, as it were - to have been the one at home. It helps me to envision the happiness that led up to the scraps of pink and yellow and blue cupcake wrappers all over the house, the pile of muddy shoes, the trail of sugar leading halfway to the stairs (or maybe from the stairs), the total absence of spoons. I'm lucky that way. I can piece together the stories from the scraps and smears and random comments.

I'm lucky, too, that I had time to absorb all the sweetness that comes from living an unschooling life. Not that every day was cupcakes. Not that I was (or am) always the sweetest person in the world. But to live in a home where sweetness is valued! To live surrounded by love, sometimes inconvenient, sometimes stuck all over with juice and cat hairs, sometimes grumpy or awkward or just plain tired, but love, nonetheless. It makes it easier for me to go to work, just knowing I'm supporting that kind of life for the kids and George.

Most of the time I enjoy my job, even if I'm not always thrilled with my coworkers. I like being on my feet most of the day, and I like creating things. So much of what I do at work comes down to attention to detail and dexterity - I love that. Its satisfying. I like the fact that so much of what I do teases at the very edge of what I already know - I'm always learning! I love that part. I love the fact that the Ops mgr runs up to me in a panic and blurts out questions like "do you think you could cast xyz in some material you've never even heard of before?" I love saying Yes! to those sorts of questions. So I have no idea what he's talking about! I'll learn!

I really like working for a small business, too. That's something I've done before and it fits my skills and lifestyle and quirky ideology all at once. I certainly can't support small local businesses by buying from them very often! The owner and ops mgr are sometimes amused and nonplussed at my starry eyed idealism. I come by it honestly, though - my parents and brother are all idealists (yeah, I'm on to you, dad) in their own ways.

I love the fact that I can go home to a family where optimism and enthusiasm are part of the daily life. I remember the homeschooling days of trying to shove Ray into learning, and the school days of homework and stress and above all, aversion to learning. That was ugly. That's the kind of attitude I run into with my coworkers! An aversion to learning and trying new things. Even when one of the guys gets excited about learning something new he has to temper it in front of the other guys - shrug and find something to complain about. Now and then one of them will share a little enthusiasm with me. They know I'm safe, in a way. I still jump up and down and clap my hands when I get to try something big and new and impossible.

I miss my days at home sometimes, but I'm fascinated by the new relationships developing between George and the kids. He's still getting his feet under him, in some ways - his troublesome shoulder combined with his guitar making keep throwing kinks in the wheels. But he's figuring out how to do what he does and be a full time Dad, too. That's exciting. In a way, its part of what makes the whole having to go to work thing more than simply a chore I'm slogging through for the sake of the family. We're all learning to do and be differently than we were before. It only looked impossible from the other side.

lovely evening

When I got home from work, this evening, there was half a pan of chocolate cupcakes waiting for me, along with my smiling family (stuffed full of the other half of the cupcakes... ahhhh).

And then later, walking out to the barn I could hear the lovely sounds of Ray and George playing music together - another ahhhhhh. A brisk almost-winter night, two really bright planets next to the moon, and the sounds of my guys jamming. It just doesn't get any better than this.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Goodbye dialup, hello world!

Well, we did it, we got Satellite Internet! Wooo Hooo! No more waiting a zillion years for screens to download! We can read attachments, look at pix, even listen to music. Did you know they have this thing called "You Tube"? Of course you did! I'm finally able to see what my online friends look like and watch the cute movies of their kids! Hooray Hooray!

Okay, now for the bummer: we cancelled our dish service. We're not 100% satisfied with that, but we haven't found any option we're completely satisfied with. When we finally got serious about this New! Improved! internet connection we talked about a variety of options with the kids.

We're not in a position to afford all the things we want at the same time; in this case dish service, movie rentals, and a good internet connection (no cable anything this far out, not even city water, yet). We figured out we can afford two out of those three, though, and since we've all been dissatisfied with the recent tv show selection and getting sick of commercials we decided to try dumping the dish and getting the movie rentals (Netflix) again. Its an experiment.

So far I'm thrilled to be able to look at pix and movies online, George and Ray are ecstatic that they can listen to and even download music, and Mo is utterly gaga over the Games! Oooooooh ahhhhhhhhh, Disney and Nick and OMG Lego games! Plus we're all enjoying being able to rent movies again - that was the first thing we cut back when the finances got tight, so re juggling the budget and discovering that we could have movies again is a bonus. So far, we're all agreed that this particular way of divvying up the funds gives us the most options.

George is most excited about the music options - that's what ended up fueling the whole push to better interconnectedness. It wasn't even possible to have a Myspace or Facebook page with the connection we had, much less up or download music, and music is important to George. Kinda goes with the whole guitar building thing. Here's a link to his website, where you can also hear a sample of one of his guitars being played:
And oh! look! well, you can't see what I'm talking about so I'll tell you, it took less than a minute for this pic to upload! It used to take several minutes and then maybe it would upload, or not. This speed stuff is really great... er, I mean online.

He has a Myspace page or something, too... actually he has two, one just for music, but I'm behind on all this stuff, so I don't have addresses. I'll get them at some point.

Its Thanksgiving, today, and I've been employed for a year, now. I'm thankful for that, and for having a paid day off and spending it gardening - I got a spectacular deal on end-of-season plants and had dozens of hostas, coral bells and hyssop to get in the ground while its still reasonably temperate. I'm so thrilled - I got to plant borders! I've never planted a border. Usually I plant a couple plants and spread them out over the next few years. Its exciting.

George and Ray have gone to the big "alternative community" Thanksgiving potluck and Mo and I have been enjoying a quiet day home. She got the Whole Day to play computer games without three other people asking "can I have a turn?" so she's pretty pleased about that. So many games! Once I'm done here I'll go make us some coco and we'll likely snuggle up with books or projects - me knitting, her with legos or scissors. We're not the coziest snugglers in the world, I'm afraid. Lots of points and sharp edges. Its nice when George is out or up late so we can take over the bed with our prickly brand of affection. I know I have new pix somewhere - looks like still in the camera - so I'll have to post some soon. Now that I have new internet powers I can do that thing that used to drive me up the wall and have Whole Posts of Nothing but Pictures. Ahhhhhh, this is why they call it a super highway... all this time I've been driving the internet equivalent of a backroad with grass poking up through the middle.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Recitation of glee!

One of the yahoo groups I'm on is called "Peaceful Partnerships". Its a really lovely, inspiring board and this morning someone started a thread entitled "Recitations of Glee". I love those kinds of threads - I love reading what makes others happy in their lives and relationships and I love writing about the positives in my own life. Sure we're broke and in debt and there's a drought, but Life Is Good! I'd far rather dwell on the joys than the sorrows! So here's my own recitation, and a bit of an update after my recent blogging hiatus:

  • Last night I finished knitting my "gauntlets" - elbow length, striped socks for my arms, with a thumb hole so they cover my wrists. My hands and arms were so cozy all night long and didn't ache this morning. I've offered to make George a pair so he can wake up with warm, non-aching wrists, too. Just need to pick colors and measure his hands.
  • We're going to get rid of the darn dial-up at last! George has started exploring satellite internet options and the kids and I have been pushing around thoughts about what our wants and needs are wrt tv. We've all been craving a change for awhile, so we're all excited and optimistic about doing something different. The little bit that George needed to push him over the edge? Folk Metal. He was at Ray's mom's house, checking his Myspace and found a bunch of wacky folk metal bands from around the world - imagine guys and gals dressed like characters out of fantasy novels, playing heavy metal music with mandolins and hornpipes (as well as guitars and drums). Its like some kind of dream come true for George, but dial-up is too slow to download music and videos.
  • George wants to finish the kitchen this fall. Its been half finished for a few years now - two walls are still bare drywall and starting to look really ratty. No way to clean it. I suggested paint as a stopgap sort of option, and George came back with magic words like "rangehood" and "panelling" and "turquoise formica backsplash". Glee!
  • I've bleached my hair again and just tinted it pink, this time, in a sort of swirly pattern. I'm calling it "ludicrous fuschia mist".
  • I'm halfway through appliqueeing the peacocks on my winter coat. They are very saucy! I'm also mostly done insetting the skeleton in my love-and-death quilt. Its turning out to be less difficult than I expected, so I'm relieved.
  • Its cooler! So I'm cooking and baking this weekend. Ahhhhhhh. Coffee cake for breakfast. I dug and old crock pot out of storage and cooked up a pot of chick peas yesterday, so I'll make patties of them later today. Both kids love those, and they're handy for lunches. There's some chicken left, so I'll make some chicken nuggets for Mo, too. Today the crock pot is full of venison and veggies for George and Ray. I'm excited by the idea of cooking I can walk away from. Why haven't I done this before?
  • George got the big work-truck put back together and it seems like the oil leakage is stopped. Hooray! He's been renovating the water system, since we haven't had rain for almost two months. A good time to drain the lines and clean the scunge out of the tank. The big truck lets us haul water in 250 gallon loads from the fire department, so we have water for all our needs, including laundry and hair styling for me and Ray. Phew!
  • I'm thinking about grad school. After the show (end of this month) I'll have time to research financial aid and all that. I found a program that, for the first time since I left school (more than fifteen years ago) sounded interesting: historical preservation and restoration. Geeky and hands on with weird creative elements. I'm intrigued and excited about the possibilities.
  • Things have smoothed out in a big way at work. I had a conference with Tim and Alex about building team spirit in the shop and then turned around and took some of my own advice. On friday one of they guys said something sweet about my raucous laugh (okay, translated from guy language it was sweet!) and I realized how much I can set the tone in the shop just by laughing at their jokes from time to time. Alex and I are also getting close to making some molds out of silicone and I'm excited about that. Friday I ran back and forth looking at masters and deciding which we should start with.
  • Last weekend, at the semi annual mile-long yardsale, we scored a new microwave, and easy bake oven, an old video cam-corder, fifteen yards of flannel and assorted upholstery fabrics, some books and records for George and more, besides. It was a great sale and I think we spent less than $30 all told. At the end of it all, Mo and I walked the whole darn mile back to our car only to realize I had left the keys with George! But some kindly older lady named Martha lent us her car to go get him. That was the house where I got the fifteen yards of flannel and she and I had chatted sewing and quilting - so she knew I'd have to come back for the fabric. It was sweet and kind, though, especially since she was a very proper southern Lady and I was looking my usual eccentric self, which tends to be offputting to small townsfolk in these parts. Even more delightful, when George showed up with us to return the car, he knew her from open mike nights at the local coffee house. So it was a day of fun and loveliness all 'round.
  • There's lots of music going on in our lives right now. George is playing more - at the coffee house, at drum circles, at jam sessions. Ray's been going to a lot of those, too. They've been rearranging the music area in the loft - mostly the drums and recording equiptment - so the space is better laid out for everyone. Mo's been playing the drums and also on the piano. She's facinated by the short tunes in each Ladybug magazine and asks me or George to write out the "letters" for the notes, so she can pick the tunes out on the piano.
  • What else, what else? Its crisp-cool here in the mornings and warm in the middle of the day. I'm wearing more of my fun clothes and making more pants for Mo. She has a million tops, but few pants other than jeans, and y'know how jeans feel when you put them on cold? She wants warm clothes. So that flannel I bought will be pants for her, and for me and some sheets for her bed and mine besides. I've been digging through my stash for flannels and fleeces and velvets for Mo's wardrobe and sparking new ideas for my own. Mmmmmmm.
  • I've just updated my website and its much much nicer. It was a bit clunky, before. It still needs some tweaking, but overall, it looks much nicer and is easier to navigate. I want to set up a page with the items I have on-hand but may wait until after the show. I can't afford to sell anything until then, weird as that sounds.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

new look for me!

Tada! Boy have glasses styles changed in the last ten years! Or seven, anyway, which is how long I think its been since I bought any. Mine were a shambles. George was an absolute darling about going and helping me pick some out - I hate picking out new frames. I'm utterly incapacitated without my glasses, so choosing new ones is usually an ordeal of wondering how much I agree with the person who's advising me. But George was being his charming best - sweet and goofy and romantic at the weirdest times, so I didn't stand around wondering if I was actually going to like how I looked when it was all over.
Morgan was all excited about looking at glasses and tried on a few pairs herself. She likes the idea that some day she might "get" to wear glasses like her mommy. Very sweet. She and I have been playing a new game together - one of the Harvest Moon series, which is basically about farming. Yes, here we are living in the country playing a Video Game about raising chickens and planting vegetables. Snort!
I'm afraid its sort of a dull summer for Ray, so far. Both trucks are now on the fritz, so there's not much getting out going on. Fortunately, the Pumpkin Hollow Community has been having a weekly drum circle this summer, and he's been able to get up to that. He and George are going tonight, in fact. Ray enjoys the drumming and is participating somewhat, with a drum or with his bass. He also often takes his fire-staff...OH! did I mention he's breathing fire now? One of our friends discovered how to make a mix of hemp oil and everclear that works for that without the danger if its swallowed. That's the biggest danger of fire breathing, swallowing the fuel accidentally. So now Ray has a new fire trick.
In a few weeks he'll be heading East to visit the grandparents, which should liven things up for him a bit. And hopefully by the time the weather cools off we'll have found a new vehicle and can start taking him to the skatepark again, or some other social stuff.
Our charming neighbors will be back in the fall, too - they changed their minds about hanging around all summer, since the springs haven't recovered from last year's drought. Kind of a bummer, but we're doing okay in the water department. It got a little dry for awhile but the day before George was ready to limp one of the trucks into town to get water... it Rained! and the cistern is full again. If we can get one good rain every three weeks, we'll make it through the summer without buying water. Here's to wet weather!

Monday, May 26, 2008


I never knew I was such a control freak in the garden! But its true, little Ms consensual living and win-win problem solving likes it My Way Damnit! where the plants are concerned.
Okay, here's the deal, what with the 40hr gig an' all, I'd been thinking that gardening might be a little much this year. Maybe I'd get one or two veggies and a couple new perrennials, but that would be it.
It so happens, though, that my charming and lovely neighbors, Mirror and Shiloh, who usually do a good bit of travelling, have decided they probably won't do so much this year due to the price of gas. So they want to learn about gardening. They're complete newbies, utterly clueless but full of Good Intentions. They also offered to buy plants.
Right On People! Lets make a Garden!
Uh huh, so here's where it gets sticky and I'm taking deep breaths chanting "its a process, its a process". We get some plants and they, my lovely neophytes Do Everything Wrong. OMG, I've made a Gigantic mistake! They Aren't Me and don't want to be me, or even have me stand over them and tell them exactly what to do. WTF is up with that? They want smiles and back patting and thank you very much, not
What the fuck are you doing? You don't put three mints in the same tiny bed where you just planted a Rose Bush!
NO! Idiots! The tansy will overwhelm the lemon balm in three weeks!
What part of "they compete with the tomatoes for the same nutrients" do you not understand?!?
But, dear friends, I was Good. I smiled and thanked and back patted and managed to be sincerely grateful for their help. Even when they only weeded the beds and didn't mow the paths and borders, like they said they would.
I am sincerely grateful because they have given me the one thing I really wanted - the motivation to get in the friggin' garden.
I spent Memorial Day weekend rearranging the plants.
I am not a newbie.
I may not be the greatest vegetable gardener in the world, but I've been gettin' jiggy with perrennials for Lo! these (almost) twenty years and
I know that I can dig the little darlings up and move their photosynthetic asses somewhere sensible.
Friggin' hippies probably won't remember where they planted half of it anyway.
So check it out! Ain't it purdey? I ended up making a new bed to accomodate all the extra mints - good lord, why did we need so many mints? And six lemon balms? And four, no five! different varieties of thyme? I moved one of those to a pot - the one with the fairy - since it was so tiny it was getting lost. The other potted dainty is a lemon scented geranium (these people love lemon, we have that, lemon balm, lemon thyme and... what was the other thing? oh, two lemon thymes, one varigated. Geez.
At least all those thymes gave me something to swap with the mints that were on the verge of smothering the poor rose - that bed's up at the very top, btw, and the relocated mints are in the other pic.
Now that I have more space and motivation I've been gathering free plants - from friends and the roadside and the yard by my house. That's slowly going to shade, so I'm gradually relocating all the sun loving plants and starting to think fishpond. It might take a few more years to get there, but its coming.

Friday, May 23, 2008

absolut smugness

I'm utterly tickled. Ray came home from a party yesterday... whoa up, let me set it up a little. We live about a half mile from a small intentional community, the Pumpkin Hollow Community, where George and Ray lived when I met them. One of the current residents has a son who is graduating from high school this year and he and Ray are sort of friends, so Ray was invited. He walked to the party - no reason not to, really, its not that hot, yet, and we're all used to the idea of walking up there. About an hour later Ray was back, looking disgusted.

"How was the party?"

" It sucked, it was all about beer."

George and I tried hard not to gloat. "Really?"

"Yeah, I thought someone (adult) was throwing the party for Sean, but really its just an excuse for a bunch of kids to get drunk and be stupid."

"Oh, that sucks."

"Yeah. Sucks."

So George an I are rolling in smugness that the boy who wanted a sip (or seven, or twelve) of every drink anyone had in hand is now saying that drunk and stupid sucks. Its not so much that we're geniuses, its more a matter of Ray being such a cool guy, but I just have to say it again: take That! public school. Nyeh nyeh ny' nyeh nyeh. Ptttttttbbbbbbb.

Okay enough gloating. I have my first every paid holiday ahead of me - I used to work retail so holidays meant long hours and grumpy customers. Over xmas I hadn't been with Cast Design long enough to get paid for holidays, so they were a drag of anxiety about no money to pay bills. So for the first time ever I'm going to enjoy a paid day off. So I'm feeling good about that.

And to ice the cake, "the guys" as I think of my co-workers, are going to be out of town, so I'll have the whole shop all to myself next week. Ahhhhhh. And they did a really swell job cleaning it up today, besides. Oh! Oh! another aspect of my smugness (I'm just full of it today) is that we rearranged the shop yet again, mostly the way I wanted it. We moved a whole lot of Big Stuff - molds for making fireplace mantles and domes, in particular, and at my persistent insistence, the Ops Mgr agreed to arrange them so that I can get to every mold in the darn building and move it to the casting area myself.

Over the last three weeks we've determined that I can cast Anything in the shop by myself (I just can't stop gloating, can I?) something everyone in the shop, myself included, strongly doubted those three weeks ago. But I did it, darnitall. I cast the biggest mantel we have - over three hundred pounds of gypsum cement, plus water, geez it was huge - with no assistance at all. And it looks Great - absolutely the best mantel we've cast since Tim bought the company, no exaggeration. "The guys" even complained that I was going to put them out of work if I kept casting things that needed so little patching. But it was okay, Tim went nuts and told me to cast three, while I was at it, and three of another, and this weird proto-mantel that is used to make custom designs, so there's plenty of work to be done when they get back, my fabulous casting notwithstanding.
And now that really is enough.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Its been a weekend of quilt stuff for me. I came home friday to a pair of boxes on my doorstep - the return of my quilts from the Denver National Quilt Festival ( That was scary-exciting. My first big national quilt show. I managed to get a Judges Choice award for the quilt in the pic above - which happens to be called "Winners' Circle" emphasis on the apostrophe after the s. I know a few of my online unschooling pals read my blog, so This one is for Y'all!!!! Really, its inspired by all my yakking online about valuing our kids for Who They Are, and living with kids in the moment and finding win-win solutions. Hence the apostrophe.

Saturday I went up on Short Mountain to visit with Matty and Prolivia and chat about a quilt that Matty, in particular, wants me to make. That was lovely, since it involved a walk through the woods and some really fabulous Faerie storytelling. So I have another wonderful new project to start designing... something with daffodils and wildlife and dancing in a magic circle. I'll have to figure out how that all fits together quilt-wise. Fun.

And now its sunday and I'm working on a double-wedding-ring background to a quilt of Hades and Persephone sharing their pomegranate (yummmmm) and a lone-star quilt for Jane that seems to have endless borders.... geez.

So my giant cutting counter is cluttered with fabrics and templates, the iron is steaming expectantly and I'm taking a minute to update the blogs, drink coffee and think about a snack. And maybe a new neckline for a red tshirt dress - something with turquoise and silver...

Oh, and the neighbors weeded the garden, today, which doesn't have anything to do with quilts (except that they modelled for the thing with the pomegranate), but they sure looked sexy out there, all bent over and sweaty and covered in soil and bits of weeds. Ahhhhhhh spring!

Friday, April 25, 2008

In the Pink!

Yup, there I am with my adorable new chairs, looking as utterly buff as only a woman with all those matronly curves can possibly look LOL! And of course the blue stripes look lovely with my hair, but then, everything goes with my hair! How could it not?

I've been in Super Massive Ditz mode, lately. I have decided that I'm possessed by the spirit of my Grandma, who made ditsiness an art form. I've lost and forgotten so many things this month its just unbelievable! but through it all I've been so buoyantly cheerful its disgusting. I'm starting to think of my pink "do" as a kind of warning label: Caution! Persistent Good Humor Ahead! (feel free to groan).

Predictably, the timid local townsfolk find my hair disturbing. Locals who know me enough to make conversation carefully avoid mentioning my hair, while strangers scowl and look away. Bless their hearts. Its energizing me to be even more Myself, though. I've started decorating my clothes with assorted leftover quilt blocks, appliqued flowers, all sorts of fun stuff. You can see some "tumbling blocks" on my jeans in the pic, there.

Apparently, all this enthusiasm is rubbing off on George - or maybe its just time... he's been throwing himself into neglected building projects around the house. He rearranged Morgan's room and my big closet so that her bed is in the closet - its that big! and there are all sorts of shelves and general storage in her room, including the clothes bar. Its all high up - the room is taller than it is wide or long - so Mo still has plenty of space. He also built a long, narrow "desk" for her in her room, which gives her more space for projects. And! he's starting to renovate our side-porch, which had sort of been turning into a junk room. Yikes.

All that and he cooks, too!

Oh, speaking of which, I've added a few new posts to the "Life of Rayan" blog - one about him cooking, hence the segue.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hamster love!

Morgan got a hamster! She and George were at the pet store getting "feeder mice" for the snake when she spotted the hamster display. She's asked for one before, but never actually right there at the pet store, so in the past we've just sort of delayed the issue until later. Suddenly, it was later. George commented that they were ten dollars each, which was more than he was ready to spend - but Mo had ten dollars of her own, carefully saved up from holiday cards, which is quite a feat for her. Its the first time she's managed to save more than a couple bucks. So George suggested they wait until they got home, talk to me about it, and try to figure out what to do about a cage first. Morgan agreed, but sadly. She really wanted that hamster!

Sitting in the car, getting ready to leave the parking lot, George relented - she did have the money, after all. They were right there at the pet store, and we have a bunch of old fish tanks picked up at yard sales over the years. Okay, lets get a hamster. It took Mo another minute or so to shift gears back from disappointment - what about the cage? what about Meredith? Meredith will surely say its fine, we should get the hamster.

So now we have one (and yes, it is fine with me). Mo decided to call him "Hamstery" and he has a lovely fish tank full of wood shavings with a wheel we had left over from having rats and a tunnel left from having a turtle. Nice to be able to re-use all this stuff. We also went out and bought a hamster ball so he can run around the house - Mo's very excited by the idea of him running around free, but in our mess, he'd be lost and most likely squished in no time.
Its kind of strange to be passing on these kinds of stories second hand, these days. I'm still not thrilled to be missing so much of the day-to-day kid stuff, but I'm glad George is able to do it and is actually enjoying doing it. Morgan is warming up to him more - she was definately in a "Mom is Best" phase and I was kind of worried that she and George would butt heads a Lot and she'd end up missing me even more as a result. But instead she's starting to feel good about spending time with George. That's good. It helps me feel good about going to work knowing my family are enjoying each other. Hooray!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

happy birthday to me

and George, too. We had a joint party on the 29th, which is in between our two days, and it was lovely and mellow blah blah blah. Okay, now for the good bit, I'm recovering my living room furniture! Woooo Hoooo! Thanks to my Fabulous Aunty Jane I have some delicious striped fabric for the chairs and some wonderful swirly purple fabric for the couch. I'm delirious. Its just perfect.
My living room furniture was used when I bought it, and after more than a few years of living with children, its in sorry shape. The stuffing is coming out! Its just terrible, and with our current finances I had despaired of finding fabric that was both cheap and stylish, much less finding cheap used furniture I like. My chairs, in particular, have a lovely shape to them... sort of trapezoidal, as you can see in the pic. I like that. I'd just about come around to acceptance of the fact that I might actually have to replace them with something rectilinear, when voila! the perfect fabrics at an excellent price, and happy birthday from Aunty, besides. Oh happy day.

I'm taking a page out of Morgan's book and reinforcing the "decks" of the chairs with cardboard wrapped in duct tape. Mo, of course, is the queen of paper and tape and has, from time to time, branched out into cardboard. Snort! That's like saying I'm a traditional quilter who has "branched out" into less traditional work. She can make anything with cardboard or paper or some combination thereof, provided there's enough tape in the house. George and I are careful to never run out - good heavens, can you imagine if she decided to switch to glue? No, far far safer to keep the house stocked with tape. I nearly had to defend my roll of duct tape while making new chair decks - surely that's for me, isn't it mommy? Superfast diversional tactics involving double chocolate cookies and coco with marshmallows. Whew.

Mo has been playing with the idea of Art lately. It seems that Art is something specific from her perspective. Its something that is produced on demand, for the consumer, as it were. All this glorious construction that goes on in my home all day long isn't Art. She has clearly researched the matter via that ubiquitous gallery of artwork pertaining to children, the refrigerator, both in real homes and via television. According to her research, adults (the recipients of Art) like pictures of flowers, houses, trees and cute animals. So when Morgan makes Art, that is what she makes.

This past Friday, Mo went with George to a photo shoot with our local artists group. It was decided that this year we'd get a professional photographer to shoot all our work for the brochure at once (I was able to have mine shot by the same guy a couple weeks ago, since I needed slides for a show before the group shoot). George managed to explain this all to Mo to her satisfaction, but didn't realize that she expected to have some of her work shot also. Turns out she brought a painting of a bird (adults like birds and since mommy likes red, this bird has a red tail) and was quick to speak up when things were wrapping up and she seemed to have been overlooked. The photographer, happily, was charmed - he was also shooting everything in digital, so taking a bunch of extras of a little girl with her painting didn't cost him more than an extra minute of his time.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

not exactly a eulogy

for my grandmother, Rita Higgins, who died on Thursday, March 20. It was the first day of spring, which is appropriate, since she loved to garden. Also appropriate, given that she was a "good little Catholic girl", she managed not to die on the Holy Weekend, which is not a football weekend in the Catholic Church, go figure. You can see already what I mean about this not being a eulogy. If it were, I'd have said what everyone was saying about Grandma at the funeral, that she was such a lady. No, it was the Catholic thing, I'm sure of it.

Not that being a "good little Catholic girl" is inherently a bad thing - it certainly served Grandma well many times, but most especially with regards to her 13 children. Many of them have left The church, but rather than disowning any of them, Grandma simply prayed to the appropriate saints for them to return. On the flip side, she really was a good little Catholic girl, especially on the subject of You Know What.

Despite having 13 children Grandma avoided any mention of You Know What - when she could get away with it that is. And she got away with it a great deal for awhile - to the extent of having her children wait at separate bus stops so "people" wouldn't know that she had had You Know What so very many times. Unfortunately for Grandma, my mother, her second child, was a very modern, feminist Catholic girl. As in: the Pope is in Rome, and I'm on the Pill.

My mother's attempts to bring the Feminist revolution home to roost centered around educating her mother and sisters on the subject of You Know What, my Aunt Jane especially, who carried on my mother's tradition of dragging Grandma into Those Kinds of conversations whenever necessary. Many family stories revolve around these conversations - feminist daughters staunchly insisting on being specific about "down there" and the ailments and happenings appertaining, and Grandma staunchly resisting. Surely, we don't need to talk about that.

Nothing like a family of strong minded women.

Its interesting what gets talked about after a death. Joys and slights dominate conversations. In a family of strong minded, passionate people, there are plenty of both. Happily, everyone managed to, if not overlook the slights, keep the ire to a tolerable level during the wake and funeral per se. Beforehand and in private are another matter entirely. Passions ran high. I spent the weekend with my aunt Jane (who has played the parts of mom and older sister to me many times) while she wept and raged and vented. Despite the outpourings of grief and spleen, during the proceedings themselves she did her mother proud and was every inch the lady.

At one point, in the midst of all the venting and ranting and raging, Jane asked me where I'd learned to be so patient. It certainly was an occasion for me to exercise my patience to the fullest, but it got me thinking. I'm not terribly patient, by nature. I'm as fiery and passionate as anyone else in that big, overheated family. Somehow, though, I've learned to channel some of that passion into a trait I think of as steadiness.

There's a concept in yoga, tapas, that means something like inner fire. Its often translated into vigilance or dedication, but it has always made sense to me, on some primal level, that in order to move into stillness, in order to be utterly steady, even in the most ridiculous of yoga postures, one needs a measure of inner fire. So in that sense, my steadiness is an expression of my passionate nature. And somehow I've learned to be steady outside of yoga. If anything, I'm better able to be steady in the midst of an emotional storm or other crisis than in the cool detachment of asana.

When and where did I learn to be steady? Some of it I learned from my own mother, for sure, who could be utterly calm in a crisis, provided she could take charge of things. And some of that comes from Grandma, who definitely had her steady and staunch moments. Several relatives referred to her as a strong person, and strength, in one form or another, has been a recurring theme in the family - in a sense, it has been the root of a good deal of the disagreement about Grandma's health and care in her later years: Ma is strong and doesn't need care -vs- Ma needs care so she can continue to be strong. Its also a root of other conflict in the family: who shall be the strongest and prevail? Strength is undoubtedly a Higgins family value, especially amongst the women.

The strength that is the trademark of the Higgins women is expressed in me as steadiness. Its one of the better expressions, but I've worked on that, too. From dabbling in zen to yoga to the weird philosophical side of radical unschooling, I've been working on this stuff at least twenty years. It hasn't been easy. Inner fire ain't always pretty when it surges to to surface.
So I spent several days being steady for Jane and (I'd like to think) in honor of my mom and grandma. My own garden, I'm sorry to say, is sadly languishing at the moment, but I hope to get to that soon. I'm intending to plant some more perrennials along the borders and stock the beds with onions and greens.

Monday, March 10, 2008

OMG I'm the Breadwinner!

Its been a long few months, but things seem to be settling down. I'm certainly not anywhere near as stressed out as I was this past fall, thank goodness!

Work is going okay. Turns out no-one in the whole shop knew a blessed thing about plaster, really, so I've been turning that around, looking things up online and asking "well duh" sorts of questions like "can we have a thermometer for the Water?" The boss thinks I'm some sort of genius . Too bad he can't pay me a "genius" wage! But at least I feel like I'm helping a small business get itself together in a serious way as well as helping my family in a serious way.

There was a little friction early on with the other employees - three rednecks with chronic drug problems and an older guy who used to drive buses and has no other skills. The rednecks were a bit nonplussed at the idea of a girl doing a man's job, so I came out to them, which actually helped quite a bit. At least it gave them a different box to put me in. Going out on an installation job helped, too - they expected me to balk at the idea of going up to the top of the scaffolding, but as far as I was concerned, it was inside! Woooo hooo! I could hold on to the damn Wall even if my vertigo acted up. Compared to working on the roof of my house it was a piece of cake. So I stood up there telling stories about building a house without knowing my ass from a hole in the ground until they were laughing so hard they could barely keep their tobacco in their mouths and that was the end of the issues with them.

The bus driver is more of a problem since he was, before I came along, promoted to shop foreman. Of course, he was promoted because he can't install for love or money and the rest of the guys could fix most of his casting mistakes out in the field one way or another. So here comes Meredith, who actually seems to get the hang of this plaster thing (its soooooo not rocket science - its not even cheese making!) Around the time its starting to be clear that I can cast circles around this guy (just let me get the R9 mold) the owner of this circus finally manages to hire a new operations manager and promptly tells Busdriver he's not the foreman of anything any more. Naturally, Busdriver takes this out on me by first being a general bastard, then insulting me full volume in front of everyone else, then claiming to the boss that I harassed him. Fortunately the boss didn't buy a word of it and started sending Busdriver back out on installation jobs (just for the patching) leaving me to take over the shop however I like.

Its a moderately entertaining job, as jobs go. I get to be on my feet most of the day, which I like, and I get to make things all day long, which is also okay, even if it is mostly crown molding for people with more money than taste. The best part is that the place is kind of a shambles, so I spend a lot of time saying "I know there's a better way to do this" and then figuring it out. I'm good at the figuring it out part. Most of the time, the tools I need are actually somewhere in the shop, its just that no-one knows what *that* box of junk is for. It just seemed too important to throw away.

How did a business get into this state, you ask? Lemme tell ya! Once upon a time there was a guy named Steve who was your basic geek with his own True Love and successful small business. He got cancer and sold the thing at a loss and this other guy named Tim lucked out and got a whole business on the cheap. And I mean everything - including a bunch of illegal alien employees who he foolishly got rid of, leaving absolutely no-one who knew anything at all about plaster.

Tim isn't the sharpest tool in the box. He's a veteran of the Iraq invasion, which isn't saying anything one way or the other, but he was a low level officer in Military Intelligence. Go ahead and laugh, he fits. He went to West Point but on a - oh, wait, are you done laughing yet? put your coffee down, there's another one coming. He went on a golf scholarship. Yes. He really did. His favorite story about West Point was that he was supposed to memorize "really hard stuff" (the headlines of the New York Times) every morning before inspection but found that if he got his shoes shiny enough, no-one bothered to ask him anything. Yup. Military Intelligence. Anyway, the West Point thing gives him connections, so that's how he was able to buy a business in the first place. Its his Chance.

Tim's first operations manager (since he at least has the sense to know he's not the sharpest tool in the box) was sort of a disaster and quit just before I arrived on the scene. He had some sort of brain injury - another vet - and even though he took a course of some kind on plaster casting could neither reproduce what he'd learned or teach it to anyone else. Utter shambles. The new o.m. is much better. He's been to college but, like me, would rather work on the physical and vaguely artistic side of things. In his case, cabinetry and painting interiors. He's also done photo processing. So he knows how to use a hammer, paintbrush and a thermometer, which is good enough for me. He also has a quirky sense of humor and appreciates mine.

And that's about all there is to say about work for the moment. George is settling in to the stay at home dad thing. He's getting a lot more guitars done, that's for sure, now that he's not having to worry about paying the bills. So that's good. I've shifted my energy, in terms of quilts, to entering various quilt competitions. I've done a few small quilt shows, but I just got a bunch of slides shot so I can enter big shows. The one weird thing is they (the competitions) have themes, so I can't just send any quilt to any show. I have to find one that fits the theme. Lovely.
The crow and the pitcher, back up at the top, there, are my own personal "theme" for last year. I call it "The Nature of Abundance". Forget pessimism, throw some rocks in the cup and make it full.