Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Presidential politics

So although I missed the first Presidential debate, I watched every minute of this one.  I don't know how anyone can remain an undecided voter at this point in our election process.  The two men are fundamentally very different people with very different philosophies.  If you think one of them will be a good President, you would think the other would make a terrible President.  Maybe the ones who are still undecided think neither of them would serve well.

Tonight I loved how Romney's arragant face fell when Candy, the moderator fact checked and backed up what Obama was saying.  I also liked that Obama said Hillary Clinton has been a terrific Secretary of State, and she works for him . . . so if the deaths at the Councelet were at anyone's feet they are at his.

It bothers me that throughout all of these debates and election speeches, nothing is being said about what we can all do to try to slow down the ecological disaster that our world is currently hastening toward.  Obama talks about "clean coal" but that was just about the only thing I heard that even acknoledged the problem.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

going home

This morning I am flying to the town I grew up in - beautiful Marquette, Michigan, on the shore of Lake Superior.  When I usually am setting off for this destination, I am filled with excitement - What will I see has changed in Marquette?  Will I see any of my friends from Jr. High and High School?  Has the city become more metropolitan or remained pretty much the small town I knew?

This trip is something different though.  I am going home to meet up with my sisters so that we can put my mom's ashes in her gravesite.  Mom died in February, but with winters often making traveling difficult up there, we made the decision to have her creamated at the time and then take care of the final steps this summer.  So I'm going to town to bury my mother with her parents.  I will stay for a week - longer than any of my sisters.  I want the chance to sit by the Lake and think about mom's life.  I want to be able to come home to Seattle afterwards feeling like I've said good-bye to her, blessed her and sent her on to wheverer we go when we die.

I have one friend who lives there still, and she was excited to hear I would be in town for a while.  She also told me that another of our friends is there right now for two weeks, so there will be some time of us getting together, remembering the silly girls we once were and laughing at ourselves.  Maybe we'll have a "sleepover" and stay up all night talking like we used to do.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Childhood fears - One minute writing

The thing I was afraid of when I was a kid was the Indian I used to see outside my bedroom window.  He had feathers in his hair and I knew he was there . . . watching . . . stern-faced . . . never mind that my bedroom was on the second floor of the house.  In the daytime, I could see that it was probably just the shadow from the streetlight coming through the tree outside my room, but at night, it was definitely an Indian, and no mere pane of glass was going to protect me from those eyes.

There is a One Minute Writer website where a prompt is given each day.  Today the prompt was "What were you scared of when you were a kid?"  And this is what came out from that prompt.  I didn't even have to think about it - even after all these years, that fear came back to me instantaneously.

Too many westerns watched as an impressionable child?  Maybe.  The Native American man who lived in a school bus near the path I took almost daily to Janey's house in the summer?  I'm sure he played a part in it too, although I never even heard him speak.  In fact the only time I ever used to see him was when he would walk past our house on his way to Mr. Kimber's corner store with an empty beer bottle in a brown paper bag and then a few minutes later when he would pass again with his bag containing a full bottle.

Growing up where I did, the minority that was discriminated against was Native Americans.  There were no black or hispanic people up there in the snow zones at that time - just lots of scandinavians, a few germans and englishmen - and the Native Americans.  Since the whites vastly outnumbered the reds, the Native Americans were seen as "other" than the rest of us.  It never occurred to me as a child that their ancestors had been there long before ours came from Europe.  And no adults ever pointed that out to me.

Our school mascot was the Redman, and none of us ever thought anything about that.  I will say that we always regarded our school representative as a good thing.  He was not mocked or disparaged, but rather, since we were playing sports, regarded highly for his fighting spirit.  Years later, someone came in who was more politically correct and wanted to see the figurehead for the teams changed to something less offensive.  But I think in the end, the school administration received so much heated response from the alumni who were proud of our Redman that I don't think they changed it after all.

But now, as an adult, I can't help but wonder how the kids who were Native American felt about our Redman.  Did they see it as a respectful gesture or as yet another put-down to their ancestry?  I guess I'll never know the answer to that question.

Friday, June 1, 2012

getting the hang of empty nesting

My younger daughter just got married, my older one is off to Orcas Island to live and I am here in this big house with just my husband and my cats.  So far I've kept the boogiebear away by taking on getting things done on the house.

I hired a yard guy to come in and beat the ivy and blackberry bushes along the back fence into submission.  That area is all cleaned up and nicely barked now.  There are big trees over there, so the grass is spotty at best for lack of sun, so this is a better solution I think.  He also cut back a laurel that was completely out of control.  He planted some arbor vitai to create a visual screen between our neighbor's house and ours.  Further along the fence line, I'm thinking about planting some tall grasses - maybe pampas grass.  In a way, I'd like to plant bamboo all along the fence.  But I know that bamboo can bring it's own headaches and I don't want to have to try to keep up with them.

So the upstairs rooms are all done now.  The staircase has been painted except for the trim.  The downstairs bath and hallway are done.  So what is left?  The kitchen, two downstairs bedrooms, the living room and all the trim.  I haven't decided on what I want to do in the kitchen.  It is currently red, but I want a change.

I've also started working on about a million six inch quilt blocks made from my scraps.  Eventually they will become a bedquilt.  It will have to be functional because it won't be a piece of art, that's for sure.

I've also been making an effort toward getting rid of things I don't want or need.  I've gone through my closet and my fabric stash.  I moved a book shelf next to my bed and got rid of some books I don't want to have.  I even got my husband to follow suit with his clothes closet.  I have an entire file cabinet to go through, which has lots of photographs in it and God only knows what else.  My goal is to get rid of the file cabinet.

It doesn't help that we have five guitars (only one is mine), a bass, a dulcimer (mine), a banjo and a violin.  Perhaps we can get to the point where all of his instruments will live in his studio - there's a novel idea.  I will happily take care of my own two instruments.  There is also an electric keyboard to deal with (I almost forgot that one).  I know Jim well enough to realize that we will not be shedding any of the instruments, and that's okay.  I just don't see the necessity for all of them to be living in my bedroom.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Today, my "baby" got married.  She is 26, as is her husband, and they've been seeing one another exclusively for five years.  They have a lot of common interests.

Both are artists.  My daughter's main medium is drawing - pen and ink over watercolor washes, but she does beautiful work in other areas as well.  She paints, does scratchboard pieces, draws with markers and color pencil, and has done some amazing pieces with cut paper.  My new son-in-law is schooled in animation, and that is the medium he loves.  But he also draws, does air brush work and pen and ink drawing.  For five years, I have watched them spend many hours sitting together on our couch drawing.  They go to the zoo to draw, as well as the aquarium.  They are currently working together on a short animated film about a character named Rackitty who they designed together quite a while ago.

They are both very straight-arrow young people as well.  Neither of them drinks at all.  Neither of them smokes pot or does any other kind of recreational drug.  They are both smart and introspective.  Neither of them flies off the handle over things.  I think they are well suited to one another.  And I don't think they made this decision to wed without giving it a lot of thought and discussion.

They had a very small and simple wedding.  They got married in a courthouse by a judge, with only their immediate families in attendence.  Both of them have only one sibling, so the group in attendence was very small, and the wedding felt intimate.  They spoke traditional vows promising to cherish one another and remain faithful.  The judge talked about the importance of communication, the committment to one another, the compromises that lie ahead, the importance of being honest with one another and of being able to forgive one another for their human frailties.  He also spoke with them alone in his chambers both before and after the wedding.  I think he did a wonderful job in performing their marriage ceremony.

I have grown to love Bill right along with Tasia.  He's a wonderful young man, who is level headed and has integrity.  I think Tasia has chosen a good partner.  And she is devoted to him.  I think he has made a good choice for a life partner as well.  They believe in one another's talents and strengths, and I believe they meant every word they spoke to one another today.

I wish them much luck.  Marriage has times when it is difficult - when the easier thing to do is to walk away.  Her dad and I have been together for 40 years.  And Bill's parents were together until his father died.  So they have both had examples of what it is to stay the course.  I hope they can do the same.

Life is hard at times, for all of us.  And it's nice to know that someone has your back, someone is with you on things.  If there is a God, I hope that he blesses this union with much joy and satisfaction:  With children if they decide they want them, and with an enduring love.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

retirement concerns

I'm 61 and my husband is 63, so we have begun the process of deciding what to do about retirement.
Should be buy an annuity that provides $1,000 per month for the rest of either of our lives?  Should we take charge of our own destiny as far as our investments go?  Should we take a little more risk on the chance of getting a little more return?  Should we take our Social Security or should we wait til it's higher?

We started saving toward retirement later than we should have.  When you are young and you think you have lots of time in front of you, the kids need things; that's an easy trap to spring.  I'm pretty optimistic.  I think that we'll be okay regardless of what choices we make on the questions I posed.  My husband is more pragmatic, and maybe that comes from being the primary bread winner in our family (the only breadwinner when the kids were young).

I look at the people I know who are retired and they all seem to be doing okay.  Some are in better financial shape than others.  Some have more discretionary income than others.  But all of them seem to be fairly satisfied with what they've got.  I don't see any sign of them wishing things were other than they are.  All of them seem to be enjoying their lives whether they are free to travel or content themselves with the occasional movie and pizza.

I've pointed out that even after we retire, we still have options of change - we could sell the house in the Seattle area where we've lived the past 15-20 years and probably buy a house back in the midwest for half of what we'd make on the sale.  So that would give us some more cash assets.  If we bought a duplex instead of a house, we'd have potential income from the rent from the other unit. 

Not knowing what lies ahead is food for fear.  And the only thing that combats fear is hope.  So I hope.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

being proud of your daughters' accomplishments

This afternoon, my younger girl came in and put a display of her art work in the glass case of the library where I work.  She did a beautiful job with burgundy fabric behind the pieces and it really made them pop.  Most of the pieces are framed, but a few of her newer ones are just matted at this point and not framed.  She has three scratchboard pieces, a very realistic watercolor painting of a zebra finch, several stick bugs and moths she made by hand that look very realistic. and three new jellyfish which I just love.  The bugs are all so intricate that at first when people see them, they think they are just real bugs that have been preserved - not so.  They are constucted with matteboard, color pencils, watercolor paints, tiny bits of feathers and glue.  At times she had to put them together with tweezers because they wee too intricate to do with her hands.

When my boss comes in tomorrow, it will knock her socks off.  I want to find out when the next free month is and make arrangements for my older daughter to put her art work in the case for a month as well.  It might be more of a challange with Emily because a lot of her art pieces are larger than Tasia's, so we might not be able to put as many in.  Emily will be moving to Orcas Island soon, but I can always fill the case as long as she gives me the pieces to go in it.

Tasia was smart enough to leave some of her business cards on the bottom of the case, so if anyone is interested in any of the pieces, they will know how to contact her.  I didn't do that when I put my month's worth of art in that case (I don't own any business cards).  But people recognized my name and would come in and ask me about the process I had used, so that was fun.

My daughters and I spent a lot of time cutting paper, coloring, painting, etc. from the time they were wee ones.  So I would like to think I played a part in encouraging their interest in and love of art.  I didn't get serious about wanting to make my own art until after my kids were pretty well grown.  Until then, my creativity had gone into Rainbow Brite costumes and bats and snails costumes. 

I work only part time right now, so I have the luxury of time to devote to making lovely things.  I love trying new things - alcohol inks, encaustic wax.

thoughts for today

Yesterday, I handed in my letter of resignation on my second part-time job.  Whew!  This morning it felt so good to be able to go outside and plant bulbs in my garden instead of getting ready for another eight hour shift of mindlessness.  I wasn't at that job very long . . . just long enough to see that I wasn't going to learn anything I wanted to learn and that there are things I regard as unethical that I won't take part in.

My younger daughter is getting married this month.  My friend, Melinda, is coming out to visit me next month and in July, I will be taking a trip to my home town of Marquette, Michigan.  We will put my mom's ashes to rest in her cemetary plot there and I will spend some time sitting on the beach of Lake Superior contemplating things.

Hopefully I will see some friends I've known since we were kids and get to know a cousin I've never known but who graduated from high school with me.  Divorces have a way of preventing things like closeness or even friendship between cousins sometimes.

In September, my husband and I will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.  It has been a long and amazing ride we've taken together.  Certainly there were times when neither of us were particularly smitten with the other, but we always respected one another.  Our friendship seemed to help sustain the relationship during the times when we weren't feeling "in love" with one another.  And then one of us would fall in love again, and so would the other.  And we'd have that magic back again.

These are the things I want to tell my daughter and her man as they embark on their trip together.  Be kind to one another.  Respect one another.  Be gentle to one another.  There are plenty of people in the world who will make your life harder, so be a respite for each other from that.  Have each other's back.  Remember the things you promise one another on your wedding day, and try to abide by them.  Forgive one another when you make mistakes.  Things will surprise you about one another no matter how well you feel you know each other.  Make each other laugh - that's important.  It feels really good to look back on my life and have my husband share so much of it with me.  I hope you will have that too.

Friday, April 27, 2012

National Poetry Month is nearing its end

Here is a poem I love by Naomi Shihab Nye. 

Valentine for Ernest Mann 

You can't order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, "I'll take two"
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate. 

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, "Here's my address,
write me a poem," deserves something in reply.
So I'll tell you a secret instead:
poems hide.  In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping.  They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up.  What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn't understand why she was crying.
"I thought they had such beautiful eyes."
And he was serious.  He was a serious man
Who lived in a serious way.  Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so.  He really
liked those skunks.  So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him.  And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems.  Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Birthdays, Birthdays, All the time

Yesterday was the marking of another year on this earth for me.  There are lots of great things that I can think of that are worth celebrating another year of, but I want to talk for a few minutes about the things I see that aren't so great.

Recently I saw the President of the Maldives on a television news show.  He was saying that the people in his country are afraid that within a year there will be no Maldives.  The country consists of a group of islands located in the Indian Ocean.  The highest point on their islands is only 6' above sea level.  With the climate change that is occurring, the Oceans are expanding.  Soon there will be no Maldives.  He said that the leaders in  his country are traveling around the world, trying to find land big enough to move their 328,000 citizens.  This is a tragedy for them.  Their main source of revenue has been tourism because they live in a veritable paradise.

It makes me sick to think of the regal polar bears swimming until they drown because there is no- where for them to pull themselves out of the water.  And that is happening.  I feel terrible that even in this time we allow animals to become extinct by encroaching on the land on which they live.

I worry that our Senators and Representatives are so far removed from the rest of us that they have completely lost touch with the reality of life as most of us know it.  They all make wonderful wages for now and will leave office with a pension for the rest of their lives.  It is no wonder they don't think Social Security and Medicare are important - they will never need them.  Are they so blind that they cannot see how it is for old people in this country?  Are they so blind that they do not see that each year, with inflation and budget cuts, it gets worse for those same people?

I heve two daughters and I worry about how things will be for them in the future.  Will their be any help for them when they get old?  How can they possibly save money for the future when they are just getting by now from paycheck to paycheck?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

April is National Poetry Month

I tried writing sonnets, but somehow always stumbled.  Then I took a class from a woman who wrote wonderful sonnets.  She said, "Choose the end words first."  So simple and yet it had eluded me for years.  Here is a sonnet I wrote for my husband many years ago.

On First Bringing My Husband To Lake Superior

Lying, protected by these blazing sun-
flowers, my shoulders stinging, pinking, red
with too much sun.  Before this day is done
and we leave this sanctuary, I head
into Superior’s blue again.  White-
caps slap my ankles; north wind bites my cheeks.
This is my gift to you – my great delight –
In wind and these shrill gull-calls my God speaks.

Chicago boy, now grown to man, I know
your soul.  Your rapt attention to this sound
will become your sonata once we go.
This beach and Lake, to me, are hallowed ground.
I bring you to this sacred space to share
this cerulean inland sea, so rare.