Friday, January 30, 2009

Flashback Friday

My mom, Chicago, 1950s, photographed in the snow by my dad

She probably made that coat herself.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gift of a day

For those of you living in places that are hot and dry right now, I share with you a shivery, sparkling rush of cold, cold snow. We're at the beginning of a storm this morning that's caused school to be canceled; even Ken is home from work which is so rare that it tells you just how bad the forecasters are expecting this one to be. Not so much because of inches of snowfall, although there is a possibility of 5 to 10, but because it could eventually turn to slush, then sleet, then freezing rain, then rain and that causes treacherous roadways and often a flooded garage for us.

I'm afflicted with the tendency to think I'll achieve more on a snow day (or a weekend, or a vacation) than history suggests I will. I'm trying to keep that in mind as I think about our plans. I'd like to do some sewing, some crafting, some cleaning, some baking -- already I feel myself getting too far out ahead of what's likely. Hmm. OK -- what I'd like is to feel at the end of the day is that I took advantage of the gift.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Day length

I realized yesterday that I've been composing posts in my head so often lately that I somehow let myself think that I've posted those thoughts when I haven't. A little catching up, then.

I'm still processing the Inauguration. We watched it at school, in a big room with about 135 kids -- some significant majority of whom were only vaguely aware of what was happening. At school, we felt it was important for all the children to have the experience in whatever way they could. Sometimes, that made it a little hard; lots of distraction and noise made it challenging to focus. But overall it was impossible for me, anyway, not to have the sense of the impact this president will have on the lives of these children. What amazes me about Obama is the incredible ability he has to be at the same time in charge, in control, and powerful while still having the kind of humility and grace to seem to wonder what all the fuss is about -- that he can have the experience of the Inauguration in a sense the same way we're having it; in awe, and hopeful, and amazed. To be in the midst of this pageant that's all about him, and yet not to let it be all about him. That takes an astonishingly centered and calm sense of self that few politicians seem to have.
We recently watched Oliver!, the 1968 musical adaptation of Oliver Twist. Dean loved it, as I knew he would, and wants me to read the original to him. I was part of a theater group when I was just a little older than Dean is now, and our only production (but in many incarnations) was Oliver! At various times I played either Oliver or Artful Dodger, and therefore knew all the songs (which I refrained from singing throughout the movie). I think Dean is just the right age -- 10 -- to explore the questions about good and bad and about the mix that's within real people. We talked about whether Dickens wanted us to think the workhouse boys had it better (living within the "legal" system administered by the government) or Fagin's band of pick-pocketing boys, and about the difference between Fagin, and Bumble, and Bill.

Strangely, our theater group once performed Oliver! orphanage. Angel Guardian Orphanage was quite near where I grew up and it was a huge place. I very clearly remember the girls' dormitory where we changed costumes and my conversation with one of the girls there. I can't imagine how any group of adults thought that it was a good fit -- for us to perform a story about the horrors of being an orphan that ends with the kind of impossible fairytale ending that you wouldn't want an orphan to fixate on. Can I hope that we didn't make much of an impression on the residents?

How far away is economic recovery, do you think? Is this thing that we're perched on the edge of still just the upper edge of the pit, or are we near bottom and close to the climb back up? Living simpler lives is magnificent as long as there are still ways for people to earn a living. Ken said he thought malls might disappear as the result of the retail collapse and I disagreed -- they'll change, and the stores and what we buy will change, but the experience of getting out of the house, of being social and being entertained by shopping, won't go away (just in the way that home video capability didn't kill movie theaters). I don't think that, as an adult, I've ever wished this much that I could know where we'd be in a year.

And I noticed just this very morning that sunrise is earlier.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Flashback Friday

My grandmother, Lee, second from left, circa 1916?

Said it is only a paper moon
Sailing over a cardboard sea,
But it wouldn't be make believe
If you believed in me.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

How many words for snow

I had a feeling. That's what prompted me to do a little research first. And then I wished I hadn't.

Haven't you always been fascinated and curious about the whole "Eskimos have 25, 50, 100 words for snow" thing? Better, that Inuits can describe every aspect, every fine detail of snow by the use of just the precise word. I want a word that means fluffy light snow, early in the season, that you're delighted to see. Another to mean fine, hard, icy snow that stings your face. Another for the flakes falling in a blizzard, another for snow that will mean you will have to cancel your plans. I want the depth of experience of snow in the winter to come with vocabulary.

But it turns out that there's a whole lot of research out there to refute the 1911 writer's assertation about snow and language and Inuits. To say that we've been misled about the whole thing. And that the Inuit words currently recorded seem not unlike our own -- snow and slush and sleet.

It's doing it out there now, and has been all night -- whatever you want to call it. "Arlish: the snow that falls mid-way during a 3-day-weekend and makes you glad you got your groceries yesterday." How's that?
And I keep sewing away. Flannel comfy pants for Dean, from a print that I adore. Does it remind me of pjs my brothers would have had? That could be it. If I can find more of it, I get the sense Ken wouldn't mind a pair of his own.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Flashback Friday

My great-grandfather, Chicago, circa 1945?

It's hard for me to express what a treasure this photograph is to me. It is new to my collection, sent to me last week by my mother's cousin. I had never seen a photograph of my great-grandfather before -- I certainly never met him, either. To see his face is to see the face of one of his daughters, my grandmother. This came in an envelope with other treasures, all appreciated, but this is the most special.

I had sent, for the first time, a letter and Christmas card to my mother's cousin last month. My mother speaks of him often; they are the last two of their generation in this particular line of the family. He and I share an interest in family history and I know I've found a friend with whom many letters and stories will be shared. He is in his 70s, so I'm particularly grateful to have made this connection now.

Are there people in your family to whom you could reach out? I heartily recommend doing it. I'll be honest and say I had less favorable results a while back when I reached out to extended family on my dad's side; the person I reached was in fact not directly family but the husband of my dad's one surviving cousin and he was an angry man with an agenda (which my dad would have warned me, I know). But you know what they say about one bad apple not spoiling the whole bunch. So I hit one dead end but this time found a wide open path and reclaimed some family. A magnificent way to begin a new year.


It is comforting to think that this is waiting, right there underneath all the snow and ice.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Where the time goes: 2008

A look through the year, with mostly new (to the blog) images.


February, and the blur of a puppy that Dean was about to choose for his own -- really, though, they chose each other.

March, and a desire to record the everyday.

April 4, Dean's 10th


June, and our trip to Maine with dear friends who visited from Ireland.

July, captured by Dean during one of our daily drives to and from camp when we talked and laughed and listened to music and enjoyed the ride.

August, and happy birthday to Ken.

September, and we couldn't recall the year without including soccer and lots of it.

October, and Walt Disney World.



12 months, 365 days, and countless moments of joy. It is either my strength or my weakness that my built-in rear-view-mirror for life picks up and magnifies the good and just leaves the less-good totally behind. I remember things as having been wonderful.

When I look through this finished collection, I see that even though I was thinking (as I chose the photos), "OK, not ALL pictures of Dean...", it ended up being nearly all pictures of Dean anyway. And I'm good with that. He is central to my life and I love that; sure, I could find other images with which to summarize the year, but they wouldn't be true to what the year was really about. Our time together as a family defines so much of me. There are days when I struggle a little with that, and when I purposefully make time to make choices that are more about me. But my life isn't "me," it is "we." It's small and it's quiet and sometimes noisy and chaotic and sometimes it's on the road but a lot of the time it's at home. This good life. This one that I wouldn't trade for any other.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Flashback Friday

To be honest, I am not entirely sure how a photo of James Whitmore came to be in my possession. This wardrobe still was for the production of The Great Diamond Robbery (a movie I haven't seen, but perhaps I should check it out). My grandfather on my dad's side was in fact a movie still photographer, but he worked in Chicago and I don't want to claim he worked on that film, but it might be the answer as to how this got tucked in with other family photos (a colleague may have given it to him?). When people hear "movie still photographer" they generally think of publicity stills that are used in advertising (and that used to go up in glass-fronted cases at the movie theater to advertise upcoming films). But wardrobe and set still photography (the work my grandfather did) was intended to keep an exact record so that actors could be dressed, and sets could be prepared, exactly as they had been during the last filming for continuity. Every detail of Mr. Whitmore's collar, and pocket handkerchief, and boutonniere had to match day-to-day as they filmed -- so stills were taken.

Meanwhile, I'm at work at my own year-in-review-in-photos that I hope to be able to post in the next few days. I'm chosing one photo per month and am chosing things that I don't believe I've posted previously, mostly as my own exercise in remembering the highlights and details of 2008. The great clean up continues around the house, although not with quite the same energy nor enthusiasm (yet). And baby, it's cold outside. Just had to say it. Our driveway is under a solid inch-plus coating of ice. I'm trying to focus on why I need the winter, on what it does for me, what it reminds me, how it shapes me. I know I'd miss it if it were gone, so I'm trying to appreciate it rather than resent it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Clean and shiny: during, day 2


Yesterday went south on me with a trip to Ken's parents; I thought we'd be back in time for me to do a little more and post again, but no such luck. I'm at it again today, though, with big plans and some fiddle music on to get me hopping (Traditional Fiddle Music of Kentucky -- Up the Ohio and Licking Rivers; available on iTunes).

1:02 p.m. I'm at my least favorite point in this whole business; lots of stuff necessarily pulled apart to be sorted out and cleaned, but in process that creates an even bigger mess. If you don't think I've made progress, check out the 'before' picture and get back to me. I just have miles to go before I sleep. So far today I haven't had anything other than 2 cups of coffee and a banana, and Ken's convinced me to take a lunch break by making my lunch so I'll be back shortly.

4:12 p.m.

Not 100% done, but it feels 100% better (if that's possible; conversational mathematics not my specialty). The stack on the ironing board isn't nearly as high as I thought it would be. I can both work on projects and continue to clean, so no time will be wasted in here (she said, optimistically). I'm tired now, and utterly, utterly shocked that the 2 week winter vacation has ended. Too bad it's just been Christmas because I do feel about ready to face it now.

Did you see all Helen got done? And she's trading, and giving away over there so you should definitely take a look. Now, to the dishes....

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Clean and shiny: during

Good morning! This is the start of a day (well, it's really going to be two days) of cleaning up and finishing up, shared by Helen over in England, Natalie in California, perhaps by Gina in South Wales (if she decides to start her redecorating project), and by Laura Jane in spirit (but it's waaaay too hot in Australia just now to be cleaning up a small room). If you'd like to check something off your to-do list, why not say so here and get in on the action?

I had to start by clearing off my desk top; my hope is that I can take more pictures from further back, soon, to show progress over the horrors that I posted yesterday for your viewing pleasure.

I'll update this post as I go.

Progress: 9:27 a.m.
I can walk to and from my computer table unimpeded! That desk top surface is (still) clean!

The sewing table has been cleaned! I won't get to the vacuuming until tomorrow, most likely, when more of the general cleaning has been done.You might feel that my various shelves and bookcases are not tidied up to your liking. I understand. I've learned, however, with these areas that are in constant use, there's no point beyond having things where they belong and accessible because if I neaten them all up to make everything fit perfectly, it comes undone the moment I take anything out and then I get discouraged.

How's your day coming along?

Next update: 11:02 a.m.
This is too. funny. So we've got to leave shortly to spend a Christmas visit with Ken's parents -- long story short, today's the day that got rescheduled. All week, I've been asking Ken to get his gifts wrapped. Didn't do it. Just now? He tries to set himself up at my newly cleaned sewing table to do his wrapping? Ah, no sir. Dining room table for you!

I'll be back this afternoon with more updates. Wish me luck with the relations.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Clean and shiny: before

I guess that in order to get clean, I have to come clean. Helen, my partner in "use as much time as you can this weekend to clean up or catch up on a project, knowing that you have a blog friend urging you on," insists that I must post my "before" photos, and I find myself generally doing what Helen tells me to do. I bet she has that effect on a lot of people.

Anyway, to my great shame I show you the condition of my craft room (aka the spare bedroom). Let me say in my defense that it is the universal place that Ken and Dean dump things that they don't know what to do with (but that, ah, generally belong to me) and also the room where all the Christmas presents got wrapped and where all the ironing goes to lie in wait until hell freezes over or I get to iron (whichever comes first).

This photo (above) is particularly sad to me, since I had this whole business cleaned up earlier in the year but it didn't stay that way "forever," as I had intended.
Yes, actually, I DO have to climb carefully over quite a bit to get to the computer -- thanks for asking! Know anyone who needs a bed rail in perfect condition? Dean outgrew the need for this one ages ago.
You get the picture. Natalie says she's going to pick a clean-up project to join in, and Gina has a bedroom redecorating project that she said she'd trade me for (but that was before she knew the size of my mess). Please do go give them some encouragement, too, and let me know if you'd like to join in with a project of your own.

Meanwhile, I have continued my sewing projects from Christmas; I finished the new robe for Dean today and will try to get him to model for me tomorrow, and I made Biscuit's stocking (only way to be sure we'll be ready for next year). I see I'll have to straighten that cuff a bit, and of course Biscuit will have to try to be good enough to deserve anything in his stocking next year.

[Edited to add: this is, of course, exactly why I get myself into such trouble. On January 2, I'd rather spend time making a stocking for a dog than cleaning my house or ironing or putting laundry away or doing any of those much more legitimate tasks. The first step is admitting that you have a problem.]

Flashback Friday

This happy little new year's baby is Louise Morhoff, and the photo was taken around the turn of the last century. She's from my great-grandmother's photo album. The Morhoff's seem to have been friends; it's not a name I'm familiar with and I don't believe they are related to us. Interestingly, my great-grandmother seems to have been more careful to label the photos of people who weren't family -- makes sense since you know you won't forget your own family members as you look through an album and it's just difficult to imagine that any future family member wouldn't know everything you know about who's who in the family. Anyway, this little winter time baby seemed just right for welcoming the new year.

What are you doing tomorrow? Care to join me and Helen in getting some tasks checked off your to-do list? Pick a project, take "before" photos if so inclined, and post updates during the day as you get your work done -- and let us know about it in the comments section here (I'll include a link in tomorrow's post if you do want to work along with us). We did this once before and although I should be too ashamed to admit it, I've got the same problems to tackle this time (meaning, I didn't keep it up after getting it in shape). However, hope does spring eternal.