Saturday, January 27, 2007

Hard to say.

This is before.

The garden bed is choked with Mexican Petunias, dead leaves, weeds.

Some people, including myself at one point, BUY Mexican Petunia, because when they are young they have pretty lavender flowers.

Some people think dead leaves are great in garden beds.

Some people call a weed a volunteer.

This is a collection of rocks, roots and leaves that was in the garden bed.

Oops, rock, roots and leaves, and a small tiny snake.
Um, actually a pretty good size snake, about three feet long.

He's where he belongs, doing his job.
(giving the cats something to stare at...) Posted by Picasa

And what is this?
A big fat spider living under a rock edge.
I'm not sure what kind it is.
(Sure is ugly...)

Not a Black widow.
There's no red hour glass mark, and the legs are too short.
And not a Brown Recluse, as there is no brown violin mark on his back, and the legs are again too short.
Tickling him with a pine needle, I urge him back into hiding again.

This was our garden to tend.
Its boundaries to defend.
We knew what we were doing.

The petunias, despite their summer blooms had choked the garden bed with their woody gnarled roots and lanky leggy necks.
(We would not allow them to crowd the space.)

The leaves would harbor fungus, and not compost well,
(We wouldn't allow them to bank the borders, and clutter the view.)

The snake we checked to be sure it was harmless.
The spider we questioned, and noted its space.

We spread rich soil to enrich the native clay base, got gritty, and warm, and our faces became covered in smiles and sweat.

We felt good about our day.

I got a call.

A friend who has no time for gardens.
She tends those who are dying.
(Spending days without sleep, as only she know what the dying need.)
She cares for those who are sick.
(Spending years in that watchfulness, gone from her home multiple days each week.)
She fills out forms for those in need.
(Spending hours calculating, and filing, they wouldn't know how.)
She drives long miles to visit those in prison.
(Spending hours traveling for a brief visit and chat, who else would go?)
She opens her home to the homeless.
(Spending her understanding of alcoholism gained from a parent as a child to understand the alcoholic at her door.)

It's hard to say sometimes.

Weeds or flowers.
Dead leaf clutter or the beginning of mulch.
Space or snake.
Harmless or harmful.
Lost boundaries or open heart.
Exquisite care or expressed dysfunction.
Works for her or working her.
A call of God or comforting chaos.

Dying to self

Or just dying.

Hard to know the boundaries of what to say to a friend.

She see flowers. I see choking weeds.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Considering lilies

This morning:

A beautiful dawn.
A garden sun-warmed.
A morning dew dance.

Tiny flower faces peer into the light.

Vapor still clinging as dew glitters.
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The sun's glow breaking through the dark of night, captured here in the tiny viola heart.

In my mind is carried a thought..."Consider the lilies..."

But there was more to consider today.
A tour has been arranged for some of us.
A visit, to the Star of Hope.
Houston's homeless shelter.
A one hundred year long battle ground against "addiction to concrete", the wrack and the ruin of drugs, alcohol, and poverty.
A Place for people in circumstances beyond their control.
Or for those pinned down by situations gone out of their control.

Three huge facilities to see, one for women and children, and two for men.
We tour for over three hours.
I learn some of the homeless come for a few weeks, only needing a short stay while a temporary setback is remedied.
Others come for a year, a year and a half, and begin to unwind the knotted twists of a lifetime through discipline, study, and counsel.

From plain grey dormitories filled with bunks covered with equally grey blankets, men work their way up to the relative luxury of a room that is shared only with one other.
Hard work, (emotionally, physically, intellectually...), and broken lives are reconstructed, (sometimes), sheltered within the shelter's boundaries and limits.
Sheltered for a time against ill-considered choices.

I was interested in the process, the computer classes, the Bible study, the meal preparations.
But was untouched.
I have worked with the "down and out", trained them, and helped them.
I'm a little hardened.

It happened as we walked the final hallway.
The hallway where the rooms only have two beds.
(That final level that a man can achieve before moving on)
That's were it happened.
I saw this room.

Posted by Picasa A tiny bear.
A Bible.
A cot,
A chair.
And five clothing items hanging in the open doorless closet.

My hardened heart was touched.

And a mist rises in my eyes at what I see in this room:
The dawning of a new life.

The shelter is downtown,
and tour over,
I have another errand to run.

The hat that "bucked me off" awhile ago has been awaiting me,
resting forlornly on the back seat of my car,
just in case I have reason to be downtown,
and have time to shop for a hat band.

The sky in town is beautiful.

At a stop light I think:

Inside every tower,
behind each window:

A man or a woman
finishing their week,
looking forward to returning

I've reached my destination.

I feel a familiar rush.
Like an addict, I take in colors and textures, using my eyes and fingertips to fuel my cravings for beauty.

High Fashion Fabrics the store is called.

And I am high indeed.
King Solomon in all his glory was still not arrayed in such as these.
Posted by Picasa This beauty is costly.
My boundaries are firm.

(My eyes take it in, but I leave it behind.)
Each creation has a glory.

The four corners of the earth.
Falling water, crevases of ice.
Posted by Picasa Lilies of the field.
Sparkles of light.
Undersea gardens.
Silvery fish of the deep.

What is beauty?
What lasts?
What is vapor?
What is mist?

What have I gotten, have done with my day?
Which things were like lilies, which has beauty, yet tomorrow is thrown away?
Posted by Picasa What of the flowers,
of businesses,
of homeless,
of hats?

What shall I say, what will be written when I blog this day at last?

(The curved silver building in the picture above was formerly the home of the tragic company known as Enron.)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Who are all these people anyways???

So, a blogger walks into a side bar and says "Give me a link!"
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That's pretty lame humor, but I wanted to talk about blogrolls and sidebar links to other blogs.
(And this is funny...I am posting this directly to my blog with the newly de-glitched Picasa to Blogspot interface, and my cursor is staying on the right, and is filling in going to the left, like if I was writing in Hebrew. Yo, Google Crew, I'm not Jewish, OK?
Well, I guess I'll just have to cope with it for this post.
And yes, I did already try to change the justification setting
One of my favorite past times is link surfing. By that I mean finding a blog on a subject I am interested in (such as cats or millinery...) by going to "Search all blogs", or just clicking on the "Next blog" link after mine posts.
Or even just by checking out the "Blog of the Week" or "Blogs of Note."
If I like what I see, I then start clicking on the sidebar links to that blog writer's recommended blogs.
It's sort of like going to a party at a friend's house, and meeting the rest of her friends at last.
Great fun!
Now if I like a site, I try to remember it. Sometimes I even write down the site's address. Of course I usually lose the little piece of paper I write that information down on, then have to try to figure out some key word that might get me back there.
If I am really lucky, I type in the URL, and then it just shows up in the drop down menu on my address bar.
Some sites I check everyday. I should set up an RSS feed so I would be notified when there is something new, but usually I can click through my favorites pretty quick without doing that.
Plus most of my favorites are sidebar links on the sites that are MY side bar links.
Which brings me back to the original question:
Who are all these people on my sidebar anyway???
Let's find out.
Autumn Cottage Diarist is a woman perhaps a tad older than myself who lives in England and has the most gorgeous garden, adorable village, charming friends, and in general is like someone in a Rosemunde Pilcher novel. I read her infrequent posting and wallow in her former postings when ever I want a quick trip to England without the long flight.
I found her site when I first started reading blogs and have no idea how I got to her site.
Her side links go to other interesting women who tackle late midlife women's issues, religious issues, and various gardening, crafting etc. adventure.
Those side links will eventually lead you to "As Time Goes By", a HUGE blog specific to aging issues that is (horrifyingly) often submitted by folks my age.
A great stopping place to grab some pointers on the years ahead from those already living the challenges and blessings of later years.
Time really will go by if you stop there, so I don't have it in my sidebar.
Too tempting. I get too little done each day as it is without going there each morning.
Dressaday was selected as a blog of the week about a year ago.
I was clicking through a list of the selected blogs and went absolutely crazy over her.
Her being Erin McKean, as I later learned.
She is the editor of the New American Oxford Dictionary (wowzah!), is married, has a six year old son, lives in Chicago, and LOVES dresses and roller skating.
When I first started reading her blog I was just FLOORED at her command of the English language, and just drooled over her writing style, as well as the daily dress.
When I found out about the dictionary thing...well, NO WONDER she writes so well!
She is so personable, actually responds to emails personally, and her readership is enormous.
In two words: Erin ROCKS!
Her side bar links are pretty thirty-something in tone.
DO NOT MISS reading Threadbared, especially the comments, and be thankful that Erin loved You Knit WHAT??? so much that she kept it as a side link even after the site writers hung up their keyboard.
Fourfiftythree is a lovely blog I found by hitting "Next Blog." Dawn writes a very brief post every "dawn", and it is a lovely way to put a cheery note in your mind while you savor your morning cup of coffee. She's in New York area, and has sons in the Air Force, a mother with Alzheimer's, and is a pastor's daughter.
Her blog roll includes children's book illustrators (nice to know they have days that entail dealing with car and kid issues too...), various homeschooling moms, her own daughter's blog, and in general a nice circle of beautiful crafty minded blogs that usually make me want to try something new cooking or crafting wise.
(Which I probably would be doing more often if I wasn't so dumb and happy just reading about what others are doing... )
Dawn occasionally pops over to my blog and leaves a sentence or two as well.
She usually invites you over for coffee...maybe someday that could happen for real!
Hatsbykatrika is single handedly responsible for both my being a milliner and a blogger.
Katrika is the childhood nickname for my friend Kate, who was my millinery instructor in Houston before she left to go live in Switzerland with her attorney husband.
She decided to write a book about her European adventures "one page at a time" via blogging.
I was impressed.
She said it was easy.
(I trust her, when she says something is easy, it is easy, if she says it's kind of hard, it is kind of hard. I like people who know the difference!)
So far, Kate is the only blogger on my sidebar that I actually have met.
Itsgoodtobeme is written by a woman I actually know a little too well...she's my daughter. She writes about her life as an oncology and bone marrow transplant nurse.
She has never held back about anything important to her, and her blog is a look inside a world most of us will never (pray God..) have to deal with.
(Disclaimer: I am not responsible for, nor do I necessarily endorse everything she says. Even thought I pretty much egged her into writing a blog because I have been so taken by the expressiveness and humor of other blogging nurses. She is a fabulous nurse and I love her to pieces!)
There aren't any side bars on her site, but if you like hers, I will suggest these:
Finally, I have recently added Whatmattersmost.
I could call this link "Seven degrees of Separation", the theory that everyone on the planet knows everyone else through seven connections. The "I knew a guy who knew a guy who knew...thing.
Lovella is hammering out her blog from BC Canada, another country, just like Texas. (You might have to be a Texan to get that joke...)
How did we link? Well, my mom suggested I go to a Bible study that was being held on the beach near my house. I went, and later a guy, Rich, who had been at that study ran into me at a book store. He remembered me, and introduced me to his roommate Scott. Scott later became my boyfriend, and in the room next to his room was a guy named Brad. Brad's roommate was Dennis. Dennis met Del, who was in school with Bernie, and brought Bernie along to a Bible study in Brad's room.
Later on I married Bernie, and Brad married Chris. Brad had a son named Josh, who went to England and met a girl named Heidi, who was from Canada.
They got married on the beach where I originally went to the Bible study, and where both my parents and Bernie and I had our first dates.
Heidi started a blog, Chris let me know (Chris RARELY reads my blog or Heidi's either for that matter..) and after I made a few smart alex remarks about Josh on Heidi's blog, I surfed over to Heidi's mile long collection of links (mostly about EVERYONE'S new babies, by the way...) and somewhere along the line I came across Lovella's post about an enormous egg her husband had brought in to her one morning.
I asked Chris to ask Heidi who Lovella was. Answer: Heidi's Aunt Flo's friend.
OK...have we got that all clear now?
I don't want to repeat myself.
Now it feels like we're old friends, separated only by a half a continent.
I'd add more links, but for now I think my little group is a manageable jumping off point for exploring blogdom.
And who ARE all those people in the picture at the top of this post?
The guy in the middle is my grandfather. The seated folks are his folks, my great grand parents.
The other people are his siblings, in a picture taken around 1900, either in Germany or Salt Lake City.
I'm glad I'm a link to all of them too.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Grey and Yellow

Grey rainy weather.

The temperature is a good 20 degrees colder than typical here for this time of year.

I find myself buying yellow flowers, and yearning to surround myself with the color yellow to dispell the grey gloom

Outside my study, a moving van arrives, cheerily brightening the view with yellow and the word "flower" (the "May" part of that name obscured by the moving van's door.

The house next door that has stood vacant for months now has new owners.
And I have new neighbors.
A husband and wife roughly my age, with an eleven year old daughter still at home, and two adult children my kid's age.
They're from California!
And they have a yellow lab.

Out in our back yard, the new squirrel proof bird feeder has been hung.
A Christmas gift from my folks.

The squirrels spent yesterday twirling their tails in frustration, looking like small gray helicopters attempting to fly.

Now the birds are discovering it.

A grey titmouse nervously lands, perches briefly, pecks a single seed and then jolts away quickly.

The cardinals are everywhere except the new feeder.

I like how this one is just visible in the middle of the picture, his red body repeating the color of the Aunt Lu begonia, which has miraculously survived the freeze without being covered at all.
Posted by Picasa Our sweet gum (also known as liquid amber) has shed all its colorful leaves, but still holds its prickly sphere "gum ball" seed pods.

This picture looks like it was taken in black and white.

It wasn't.

The sky and trees are simply devoid of color in the cold.

Inside it is nice and toasty.

Earlier I had gone to the store, driving through drippy rain and ponding water on the side roads.

It was cold enough that my eyes watered a bit as I loaded the groceries into the car.

When I returned home, I was so happy to see Bernie pulling into the driveway right next to me.

(I guess I don't check my rear view mirror as conscientiously as I thought I did, or I would have noticed him following me!)

After two days apart, hugs warmed me up better than anything!

I really didn't want to head into the study to do what needed to be done on our desktop computer.
I wanted to stay in the living room, by the fire, watching the birds.

I whined a bit.
(It was a fine whine, vintage 1954, aged in California...good legs, nice color, a bit sweet...)

I want a lap top.

He had been suggesting we get a lap top for me.
(I used to have one with a company I worked for, so I know how nice it is...)

The unmerited favor received in response to my kvetching?

In the above picture, grey cat Hart supervised Bernie as he helps me customize my order for a new laptop from Dell (shameless plug, they're a client...) using his Dell laptop as we sat together watching the birds in front of the fire.

For my sweet Honey, I'm soaking up a batch of 13 bean soup.

It'll taste great with yellow cornbread, butter and honey.

(Wish I had started it earlier...)

Bernie is starting another bonsai forest.

Posted by Picasa And of course you can always count on Tiggie to pose to perfection.

Yellow flowers, yellow lemons, yellowish cat.

The part I don't get is how he did the yellow eyes.

Usually, his eyes are a nice shade of green.

Now how did he do that???

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Reaction: A mixed bouquet

Knowledge is power, ignorance is bliss, and no information is innocent.

That last part is what powers my pondering.
When I grabbed the paper this morning, it was, thankfully, dry for once.
This dry state of affairs out-of-doors did not last.
It is now half heartedly raining, cold and dreary out there, which could easily dictate my mood.

Bernie being gone today, I climbed back in bed with the paper, for a while I am a slatternly woman, more concerned with information than household ecology.

I read rapidly, and often dog eared articles that I wished to consider again later.

There was an article about blogging scientist. I can really get behind this idea: Scientists blogging about their research, so we common folk can catch their enthusiasm for scientific discovery.

But, as usual, part of the article made me laugh.

"People hear the word "blog" and they think 'what I had for breakfast'..."

Add that to the Pew report comment that the average blogger is a fourteen year old girl writing about her cats, and you've caught me red handed.

From what I've seen, it's middle aged ladies like myself who are writing about our cats.

The fourteen year old girls are blogging about sex, school, travel, and mental anguish.

I often wish they were just writing about their cats.
I think they would be happier if they did.

Or at least not so disturbing to me.
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Then there was an article about how 80% of our 18-25 year olds see getting rich as their top goal.
Parents are spending 500% more on their kids than just one generation ago.
And that is after adjusting for inflation.
The kid's reaction: They feel empty inside.

How odd that these kid's parents were mostly the "all you need is love" generation, they of hippy beads and anti-business sentiment.
The generation who thought they were right while they lived in hippy communes eschewing capitalism, and now think they are right as they seek more financial leverage in all their endeavours.

Speaking of our children, the children's book awards, the Newbery (remember: only one "r" in that...) and Caldecott Medals were declared.
The Newbery went to "The Higher Power of Lucky."

It is a book about a ten year old coming to terms with her mother's death, "a perfectly nuanced blend of adventure, survival (emotional and physical) and hilarious character study."

I'll have to check it out.
Somehow "hilarious" and "My mom died" don't readily click together in my mind.
Newbery books are always interesting.

David Wiesner won for his illustrations in "Flotsom", a book about a camera that washes up on the beach and opens up a magical underwater world for a young boy.
Wiesner is a gifted artist. Feel free to give his books a whirl and get back to me with your take on it.

Getting other people's "take" on things is always interesting.
The other day Bernie was talking with a man who blogs.
The man blogs about politics.
Bernie shared that I blog.
But not about politics.
He did a valiant job of explaining the scope of my blog, and then was very surprised that evening to find that I actually had blogged about politics.
Instead of my notable tendency to blather about millinery, cats, and in one instance, what I had for breakfast.

Our President is giving us our annual State of the Union address tonight.
The newspapers and the airways are filled with observations, condemnation, and accusations.
My friend Kate posted her political opinion.
We don't match up in our politics, but we share other interests.
Hats, specifically.
We could choose never speak about our politics, but what a loss that would be.
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I truly do love being "being pleasant" as the ladies said in the book "The Land of Second Chances."
I think politics often is not very pleasant.
Disagreements rarely are pleasant, unless you trust the one with whom you disagree.

A wise person once gave me this illustration:
You are holding a very large ball, and you can see that the ball is blue.
Another person, whom you respect and trust, is standing facing you, and holding the same ball.
The other person says the ball is red.
The natural thing is to think you are right and they are wrong.
But if you truly trust that other person, you will listen to them and learn something.
And the learning will allow you to see what you could not see from where you were standing.
One half of the ball is blue, and the other half is red.

The other person didn't know all the truth, and neither did you.

I think I need to hear what others see, read and hear, to know about what they are thinking, promoting, championing, and protesting.
People who speak from a different viewpoint than my own.
People who give me information that melds with my information, information that loses its innocents as it mates with other information, thereby creating new ideas and agendas.
People who will say what they say because they are working from the information that has come their way.
If I trust them, I will listen, and learn.
Perhaps to agree, perhaps to disagree.

(A facinating instance of open consideration is comic strip writer Gary Trudeau, he of the highly liberal comic strip "Doonsbury" fame. His anti-war viewpoint has never been subtle, yet he now hosts "The Sandbox", an open blog for all those who serve in the military in the Middle East.
The authentic first person voices of the individuals who serve speak distinctly about a view quite different than what Mr. Trudeau has historically promoted.
Plus it is so interesting to read the writings coming in daily from the war.)

(My African violets bloom in a wide array of colors and patterns. I never concern myself with deciding if one color is right and the other color is wrong. I might prefer one color over another, but they are all interesting members of the African violet family. Mine are on the windowsill around my tub, along with visiting bonsai, and a painting by my grandmother-in-law.
The windows above the tub look out into our private garden. I often enjoy soaking in a hot bath while taking pleasure in observing the garden as it goes through its seasonal changes.)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Mundane Monday...

The good news is that I got an email from the Blogger Team out at the Googleplex.

They have fixed the glitch in my Picassa to Blog posting.

The bad news is that apparently I can only post small or large centered photos.

I haven't taken the time to write them again, or play around with it either.

Other than that, life is same-old same-old.

Tiggie is playing "Aquarium Cat" by sitting beneath the glass top of our dining table.

This is why I usually use table cloths instead of placemats whenever we have guests.

He sits looking up at our guests, following each forkful with his green eyes in a manner that is somewhat unsettling.

Othertimes he just looks like he is practicing being a "collectible" inside a glass display case.

The reflection below his nose is of the chandelier hanging above the table.
He's looking sad because Bernie is out running an errand. Sheesh.

I'm trying to be fair and balanced.

I caught up with Hart as he was all cozy on the couch in the breakfast nook.

It took three tries to get this shot.

He just isn't very good at posing.

But he will sit on your lap and purr.
Something Tiggie never does.

Ever. Period.

Both boys supervised me as I planted violas and pansies.

Bernie had worked the soil for me this weekend, and so all I had to do was dig holes and drop in the plants.

(You'd think the boys could of helped me there. You'd be wrong.)

I need to make another run to get another flat of pansies to finish up the bed.

There probably is a math formula I could use to figure out how many flats I need.

Instead, being nearly math illiterate, I just buy a few flats, plant, and then routinely make another trip.

(You'd think I'd remember from year to year how many flats I need to fill up the bad. You'd be wrong about that too.)

To thank Bernie for doing the heavy soil work, I weeded his bonsai.

You use tweezers to do that.

(That was new information to me. I was trying to pull the seedling weeds out with my fingertips, when B. caught up with me and told me Bonsai Masters use special tweezers to weed their bonsai. Ah so!)

I love the bonsai, because I love being able to have a tree on my coffee table, or counter.

Imagine, a tree that I can cart around with me the rest of my life.

Perhaps someday a great-grand child will enjoy these trees as well.

Wouldn't that be cool?