Saturday, February 28, 2009

The story of Mr. Penguin and the Road-kill Bunny...

photo by Dean

...or, the wonderful toys handmade for me by Kym, which arrived all the way from Australia. Isn't Mr. Penguin magnificent? Glad he arrived with his own warm, woolly scarf since it's still quite chilly here and odds are that we aren't done with the snow (although that should all make him feel right at home).

photo by Dean

You have just got to love the wonderful sense of humor proven by the creation of a 'road-kill' toy for a pet! We weren't sure, Dean and I, that we were going to let Biscuit have his new toy; not that we're mean or selfish, but he's not been the best doggie to his soft toys in the past.

We took a deep breath, told ourselves that Kym said it was for Biscuit, and introduced them:

And it was love at first bite! I am delighted to say that so far, anyway, Biscuit loves his bunny but has not loved him to death, which is wonderful. Those knots on the ends of bunny's appendages are Biscuit's favorites, and they seem to keep him occupied enough so he doesn't chew up the bunny otherwise. Also, the lack of stuffing is perfect, since Biscuit's general trick is to knock the stuffing out of a toy as quickly as he can.

Thanks again, Kym!!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Flashback Friday

Me, Chicago, springtime, 1963

Yes. Ahem. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Monday, February 23, 2009

An Open Letter to Kate DiCamillo


You disappoint me.

It's not so much that you blatantly stole (blithely borrowed? is that your game?) the underpinning of Hitty: Her First 100 Years by Rachel Field. Come on now, did you really think we wouldn't notice? That we'd get caught up in the Velveteen Rabbit comparisons?

And it's not -- believe me -- that I'm incapable of giving my child exposure to sadness, difficulty, despair. (Go back and read my posts about watching sad movies with him. Go on.) Great literature does cover the course of human experience, human emotion, and I know all that stuff about the inevitable path of a protagonist -- the pain and suffering that leads to redemption. Check.

Spare me.

So really, after trusting you completely based on the triumph that is The Tale of Despereaux, we began reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane without worry or care. Now the irony here (at least I think it's irony -- I know it's not sarcasm) is that I wanted us to start reading Hitty as the new bedtime story. Got it out and everything. But Dean doesn't feel he can trust Rachel Field, after the very difficult part near the ending of Calico Bush (which his teacher recently read to the class). Dean says he'll NEVER read another Rachel Field book again, which is how I now feel about you. So there you go.

[If you are not Kate DiCamillo and you *think* you want to read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, you might want to stop here -- but I BEG of you NOT to read this book to a child until you've read it yourself and decide that you really want to inflict it on the young.]

Why am I so upset?

Could it be because of the horrific depiction of child abuse at the hands of an alcoholic? Because for a four-year-old girl that abuse/neglect results in her death? That her death comes after the words "she coughed up blood"? And that's after the five-year-old boy who dies by "drowning" thanks to pneumonia. Could it be because every kind, decent person meets cruelty, abuse, torment -- and that no ill befalls any of the evil-doers? The message that nice people are chewed up and spit out by the world while evil people get their way? That you actually have Edward nailed by the ears to a CROSS at one point?

Yeah. Nice bedtime story.

Kate, if this was the story you felt you needed to write, then you and your publisher needed to work together to place this very clearly as an ADULT title. Not a children's book. It pains me to think of how many others will continue to be subjected to this horrific story based on your reputation as a great children's author. No, I honestly do not feel I am over-reacting; I am a student of children's literature, knowledgable about fairytales, the real Brothers Grimm, the long rich history of sad tragic tales told to educate.

You disappoint me.

PS: Consider our partnership, real or imagined, severed permanently, irrevocably. Unless you do something in future to redeem yourself and change my mind. Just a hint -- that probably won't involve selling out the rights to a story and allowing a film to be made that takes virtually nothing to from your original work other than the title.

[I know -- just don't ever get on my bad side.]


Walt Disney World, Animal Kingdom, 'Asia' Oct. 2008

I was peripherally aware that the Academy Awards were coming up, although my mom caught me off-guard yesterday when she asked if we'd be watching them. What, already? And, no -- I really can't think what year it would have been when I last watched them. Dean's not even to blame for that; I'd been getting up for work on Monday mornings by 4:30 a.m. for years before he was born, and that's just not a schedule that allows for Sunday night tv watching past about, oh, 7 p.m.

Even more difficult to trace is the point at which I stopped caring. Movies used to be a big part of my life. I even wrote film reviews for a small newspaper on Cape Cod at one point. I mention that only because it's an element of my interest and commitment to film; it was not the kind of thing that literary careers are made of. Anyway.

I suspected, and then confirmed, that the only film nominated this year that I saw was Wall-E. I'm having a hard time figuring out where I file that bit of information. Is it under "pathetic," as in "are you going to get a life anytime soon?"? Is it under "somewhat liberated from mass media"? Is it under "parenthood"? Another slippery part of the equation is how movies have changed. What passes for entertainment often doesn't interest me -- too violent, too graphic, too deeply disturbing. Partly that's age and partly that's just me, so there's less out there that I'm interested in seeing. I guess Benjamin Button would have been a maybe, but I really don't want to do anything to encourage Brad Pitt. (Enough, already.)

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Grate on a storm drain

The complete circuit around the cul-de-sac on which we live is one-third of a mile. I walk the dog around that circle between 6 and 15 times every day (depends on how cold it is, depends on whether or not anyone else helps with the dog-walking effort, depends on how much time the dog needs). It's difficult to go farther afield during winter because the accumulated snow and ice makes the somewhat busy road to which ours connects very narrow and somewhat treacherous to walk. In warmer weather, there's a big stretch of time during which most of the sides of that road are covered in poison ivy and we don't want the dog to carry those oils into the house on his fur. So I've traveled somewhere between 2190 and 5475 times (730 to 1825 miles) on this small stretch of road in a year.

It takes real effort to see each day, to really look at what's out there, what's different, what needs to be noticed. I was thinking about her walks and all the beauty she captures -- with envy. I wondered what was out there that I haven't seen, haven't appreciated.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I'm delighted that Kym received the swap package I sent her: a family of three very different bears. (It happens sometimes in families.) Anne set up the swap as a tribute to handmade toys, and I felt it had been too long since I'd had toes in the swap-y waters. Aside from the delight of putting a package together, I enjoyed traveling to some new blogs and meeting new friends of handmade things. Some of my regular blogs are temporarily illegible; there's a corrupted font somewhere in my Mac and we haven't been able to ferret it out. This comes of having billions and billions of fonts, loaded in several places. THIS drives poor Ken crazy. Oops.

As far as loot flowing into my own mailbox, this very wonderful and tiny little monkey arrived today; a birthday gift to me from my sister. Thank you, Paula! (No, I don't think this counts and yes, I will write a real thank-you note.) I also had a lovely birthday card from one brother today and my other brother called me for a nice long chat on the morning of my birthday. I do love when birthdays last and linger.

Today is one of those days when Dean looks very grown up to me; no question that childhood is NOT lasting nor lingering as long as I'd wish. The brilliant sun on the snow made us both a little blind, but not so much that it prevented me from seeing that he is changing. Growing.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Flashback Friday

Birthday party, Chicago, 1966?

A bit stuck on a theme, I guess -- sorry about that. I promise to move on by tomorrow. (Head of the table, nearest you; but you knew that, right?) There is something to be said for the olden days, when we dressed up for birthday parties and behaved so well that big groups of us could gather in each other's homes and nothing got broken.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


...and counting!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Kindergarten school portrait, Chicago, 1966

Getting ready by looking a little further back....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Poetry in motion

A whole city out there, made of ice. But in miniature now. Crushable, melting, thin.

We know what's coming.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Way-back Machine

1980 High School Year Book

Whoa. I'm not sure what I was expecting from Facebook, but it wasn't the return to high school that it's turned out to be. I would never have thought people outside of my very immediate circle (which was small) would have remembered me. It's weird to think about the places where your own story intersects with other people's -- especially without your being aware of it much or at all. Facebook has a very different feel than blogging; for the moment I'd say it's shallow but broad and much more public. The 'public' is more people you know directly, even though a blog is open to everyone and Facebook works off of personal invitations. I'm not expressing this well because I'm still processing it, but so far I'd be willing to recommend checking it out over there if you haven't yet.

And in the "life is so interconnected that my brain is having trouble comprehending it all" department, this experience is dovetailing for me with Natalie's deep thoughts about beauty and self-image. I did not think I was beautiful when I was in high school; I consistently measured myself against standards of beauty that left me falling short. I wish I could have appreciated and valued what I had then, and wonder if I'm capable of applying that appreciation to my current self (whom I think of as having danced way past 'prime').

Sunday, February 15, 2009


You can feel the difference in the quality of the light. The angle of the sun is already noticeably enough different. In just three weeks we'll 'spring ahead.' (I pledge that I will do my best not to complain here about daylight savings time; I've sung that song often enough before.) Anyway, you would just know; you would go outside and you would know that change has happened and that more change is coming. I love those deep instincts we have, the abilities we forget to use.

I only just figured out recently that the design of an analog clock -- the hands moving 'clockwise' around the dial -- corresponds exactly to the movement of the sun as marked by a sundial (or by a person standing perfectly still for as long as the sun shone). Did everyone else realize that except me? It made me happy to discover it, in any case, and it made me feel better about my preference for clocks with dials and not digital numbers -- does this happen to you too? -- if I see a digital clock (4:53 or whatever), or if someone just tells me the time, sometimes it doesn't really stick -- it doesn't make sense to me, or I can't easily figure how much time I've got left before I have to do something. But if I can see a clock face -- just glance at it and really just take the information in visually, instinctively -- then I have a much clearer sense of what time it is and that I have about 20 minutes before I have to get going. Sometimes I compensate by picturing a clock face when someone tells me the time.

Ah, another post that went off in a direction on its own, before I realized what was happening. I need to make the best use of the time that's left on this gorgeous Sunday afternoon; better go see what the boys are doing.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

Flashback Friday

Me, Chicago, the blizzard of '67, in front of my high school which was across the street from our house

I completely forgot it was Friday until just now. I don't know why I thought that a post-a-day was ever going to be possible. I picked this photo in honor of my high school friend Alisa, whom I just discovered on Facebook today. I better go finish cooking dinner before the onions burn.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

S, continued

So yesterday I started my list of 10 things I love that begin with 'S.' Here are my final four.

7. Sweden. People from Sweden, Swedish design, a Swedish Christmas; what's not to love?

8. Socks. Seriously. I pretty much always wear them (which I why I love sandals by Keen). I love these; I just wish they made crew length, which is my favorite.

9. Stamps.

10. Seasons. Oh sure, I'll complain. I wish spring were longer and winter just a wee bit shorter. I'll get tired of being hot and tired in summer. But I can't imagine life without all the seasons.

Want to play along? Just ask and I'll give you a letter so you can make your list of things you love.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Soul searching

Well, then.

Somehow, in the midst of getting ready to move from California back to Australia (and needing to line up a place to live and other related details), Lesley's made time to post an alphabetical meme. She's assigned me the letter 'S', so my challenge is to list 10 things I love that begin with that letter. Given that I started this post at 6:30 a.m. and it is now 7:40 p.m. (work -- how it interferes!!), I think I'm going to start a list that I'll finish tomorrow.

1. Sushi. I love sushi. I didn't think I would, way back when on the day I first drew upon my courage to give it a try. And now I love. it. This beautiful plate was enjoyed at the California Grill at Disney World.

2. I love softies. I love making them, as I did these three erstwhile Musicians of Bremen, and I love seeing what others have made. Of the eleventy-million things I wish I had more time for, designing my own softies is waaaay up high on the list.

3. Admittedly I am tired of snow, but I adore snowflakes. I love when it snows the kind of snow when you can look down at your mitten and see each tiny, perfect, crystallized flake, and I also love these that my mom made for me.

4. Stargazing never ceases to captivate me. I know so little about what I see, but I love each moment spent looking.

5. Sea glass. I especially love collecting it for real on the beach; I love that the ocean, and even Great Lakes, can take in garbage and give back jewels.

6. Sunrise is my favorite moment, and I love to be awake to see it (I almost always am).

OK -- four more tomorrow. Meanwhile, if you'd like to play along just leave a comment and I'll give you a letter.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The journey

Getting there; trying to feel better. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement.

I'm not quite myself yet, but am sure I will be -- soon.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Sometimes, you just have a bad day. I'm hoping for better tomorrow. Just tired, and blue, and having trouble doing anything right. Meanwhile, feeling just terrible for everyone in Australia affected by the fires, and hoping that nightmare can end soon.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

How bad?

Whenever I'm in the mood to make my mental list of things I used to have that I wish I still had, I always include "that basket made to look like a creel, filled with old buttons." The basket was a favorite toy of childhood; I never lacked for things to do with those buttons, including just dumping them all out to sort them yet again, to touch them and dream of owning clothing so elegant that they would include such amazing buttons. I pick up old buttons when I can, and now have a small collection to play with.

I am about to take two buttons off this card to use on an owl that I'm making from scraps of vintage kimono cloth (purchased as part of a mixture, years ago). It was hard to cut into the fabric, and it will be hard to take the buttons off this card, but I know more pleasure will come from having these treasures see the light of day than comes from leaving them to collect dust in closets. Right?

Last night we finished watching Finding Neverland. I get my say on our Netflix queue every now and again. Loving children's literature as much as I do, I was very familiar with the story of J.M. Barrie and how Peter Pan came to be. I knew it was a sad story. So am I a bad mother for having Dean watch it, since it made him cry? Captains Courageous also made him cry -- it makes everyone cry. Dean is at the age where he gets it, he understands what death means. He's also at an age where he can sometimes be very cynical about it, in a normal 10-year-old-boy kind of way, and enjoying movies where bad guys, oh, get blown to bits and stuff like that. I like to think that I'm helping keep balance, and keeping healthy sensitivity. But it's hard when family movie night ends in tears....

Friday, February 6, 2009

Flashback Friday

The people who were on their way to being my parents, January 10, 1953

I meant to post this one last month, but magically it works for me for this week. It's 9 degrees f. outside right now; I'm hoping Biscuit can wait until it warms up to 10 before I take him out for his walkies (something about a double-digit temp, as long as it's in the positive, sounds warmer).

The magazine finally arrived last night. Dean and I have the day off together. It's going to be a great day.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I realize that it probably sounded pretty weird.

I write on February 1st that I love the month, and then the very next day I'm writing about the anniversary of my dad's death. Huh? Well, February does have other things to recommend it, like my birthday and Valentine's Day, and even Groundhog's Day even though the day changed for me. And I probably can't say this in a way that makes sense, but that I can tuck my dad's death into a quiet, reflective, and otherwise positive month has somehow helped all these years. So there you go. Plus I'm just the kind of person who's going to go out of her way to want a love a month that so many other people profess to hate.


If you've ever seen the owls over at Moonstitches, you've probably fallen in love with them too.

I've always respected her for not posting the pattern (since she got it out of a book), and never felt quite up to the challenge of trying to make my own pattern (even though she gently tried to show that path). Imagine my delight, then, when paging through one of my own Japanese craft books for the hundredth time and finally noticing -- ho-HO! -- the owl pattern! For reasons that will never be clear to me, I chose to "follow" the Japanese instructions rather than paging through her "Tutowlrial" (seriously, I don't know what I'm thinking half the time) and one result was needing a do-over on eye placement since I put them in his ears first time 'round. Next time, I'm using her instructions. And a next time there will be, and lots more after that. I love these guys. Don't tell Dean but he's getting one for Valentine's Day. And don't tell yourself that you just might be getting one or a flock for Christmas.


We had more snow yesterday -- about 4 or 5 more inches when it was all over. We New Englanders are feeling very sympathetic to our friends over in England, who do not have the kind of equipment it takes to deal with the amount of snow they've had.

Why does winter seem endless, in a way that summer does not? Although I guess that depends on your summer (thinking of the heat in Australia).

Meanwhile, in the "endless" department, I've been waiting 2.5 weeks for my copy of:
this to arrive. From here. I felt I couldn't risk trying to get it from local bookstores that might not carry it, but apparently my ability to wait patiently has fallen victim to the otherwise instant pace of life. Sigh. Soon, I hope. And now I have to figure out how to handle my desire for this:
which features an apron of Kim's.

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Depths of kindness

Yesterday morning, writing about my dad, I struggled to think what I needed from the day -- the tenth anniversary of his death. It's hard every year to know what to do, how to mark the day, even though in all honesty I do think about him every day.

At his request, I'd scattered his ashes in the Gulf of Mexico, just off Siesta Key, Florida where he lived the last years of his life. Yesterday I thought, "if only I could scatter some flowers in the water down there." And then I realized that I do in fact know someone who lives near Siesta Key, someone who would understand.
And so I wrote Kim an email, asking such a big favor.

And she did this for me. She gathered a whole basket of beautiful Florida garden flowers, she went down to the water -- even her husband Fred went along to help take pictures -- and she let my memories and sadness and celebration and love float out on the water.

I will forever be in awe of this kindness. I sit here struggling with words -- how can I express this? How hopeful and amazing that perhaps we really never can know the depth of kindness in the world. Thank you, Kim.

Monday, February 2, 2009

In memory, Daddy-ola

My dad and me, May 27, 1989

He would have had something funny to say about the fact that he died on Groundhog's Day; he was just that kind of guy. He died 10 years ago today. The pain doesn't go away, it just changes. I think, "how can he possibly not have been a part of the last 10 years?" I take huge comfort in Dean's having been born before he died, so that my dad could know about him. And he was very happy that I married Ken.

I just thought of something -- I know someone who might be able to drop a flower into the Gulf of Mexico today, where we scattered his ashes. This makes me teary and it also makes me feel better, to think of it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

February Every Day

I love February. I truly do. I have an idea this morning that I am going to try to post every day this month and I intend to do my best.

Flickr is one of those wonders of which I have barely scratched the surface. I still have just the free account, in fact, and haven't posted too much there yet. Through last year's ABC-Along, I was invited to join a Queen Anne's Lace group; it never would have occurred to me that such a group would exist, but knowing it is there has made me pay even more attention to my winter garden.
Still playing with polar bears. I'd like to figure out how to make future bears stand up on their own; would it just be a matter of weight in the legs? or would it take wire armature as well?

Although I'll be the first to admit that this latest piece is not perfectly rectangular, it IS less wonky that it appears here. When I showed this to Ken and Dean, they were both worried that it was not intended for us and were delighted to hear that yes, guys, I did actually make something we're keeping. Valentine's decoration, don't you know?

I tried a different method for the binding. Four separate pieces rather than one continuous piece, with the idea that it would help keep my corners more crisp and consistent. I do like the lack of seams in the binding along the way.