Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday Musings....

It's Monday and it's raining and I haven't blogged for a while and there are several things to cover. So...........

1.  My friend Jan and her family are mourning the death of her nephew Christopher, USN. He was a demolitions expert in Afghanistan. He and his entire group were killed when an IED exploded under his humvee. Christopher not only shares a name with one of my kids, but he's the same age. I am still trying to wrap my head around this because if my kid had been inclined to join the military (and he's not), this could've been me writing this message. I grieve with her because this young man sounds like a lovely person; I never met him, but he has a close-knit family and community who are mourning the loss of yet another life in a war which has been fought since before Jesus.

When you pray or meditate or take quiet time or whatever you do, please spare a thought for those young people who have died in this senseless war and also for their families and communities.

2.  My fantastic therapy dog and I have a new gig as a fill-in for the Child Advocacy Center. It's to help parents and children in the pre-interview room. I will not go into the interviews; it's not allowed, which is fine with me. But I think Tippi the Wonder-Dog will be a great fit there. When we went for an interview, everyone but one grumpy guard loved her.

3.  Forty minutes of complete panic. Hubby calls and says, "I've lost my wallet." Yikes!! Called the doc's office; he runs to the doc, to the dog park, to the grocery store... Then Kid #2 calls and says he found it at home. Whewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!! Bullet dodged.

4.  The carb detox is working fine; it's a good thing that I'm the kind of person who can eat the same thing over and over and over and.... wait, I'm talking myself out of this!!  Anyway, it's getting easier to avoid the "white processed" stuff, though today I fell slightly off the wagon. (sigh) It happens.

5.  I'm going to be calling my friend Sonda. Hospice is coming in to evaluate her this week. It's not looking good from a survival perspective, but Hospice is such a gift.

6.  The conservatives who continually pound us over the head with "What the Founders wanted" and "no *^&% mandates" need to read history. I know it's hard, and there are some big words. However, even George WASHINGTON issued mandates for ship owners to buy insurance on their crew, and for longshoremen to have health insurance. Mandates, folks. We shouldn't make it a dirty word.

7.  Just about done with a mala bag. I have a lovely clear quartz mala and it needs its own bag. I'm using some more of Sonda's blue hand-dyed yarn, which is what I used for my "quick winter hat" that does NOT slouch. I'm working on the i-cord now.

8.  My foot hurts. There are less than 39 days left till the Avon 2-Day Walk; I've made my financial goal (yay!) but now my foot hurts. I think the plantar fasciitis is acting up. Lovely. Can I do the whole thing on my elliptical so it's all low-impact?? I didn't think so.

Gotta get used to this new blogger format. It's very strange.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

RaNdOm thoughts...

Well, it's been insanely busy and I'm trying to do a million things at once. Of course you know how that'll turn out!

So, first off, I had a private lesson with my yoga instructor. I now have a lovely 15-minute routine for my back. Actually lots of core strengtheners. And I've managed to mostly stick to it daily!! Yay... But I'm also going to go back for a few more lessons, because she and I are also working on getting me ready for the Avon 2-Day Walk - and I've got nasty-tight hamstrings. Even 7 years of yoga haven't fixed that --- and it probably never will.

Second, I did finish my MIL's mitts. Here's the picture, but they're not sewn up yet. Again, the Liberty Wool has pulled a stinky on me. These are from the same ball of wool. It's a good thing my MIL isn't picky.

And again, I love that the wool makes the chevron lace "pop." It's a cute mitt, takes probably a weekend's work if you do them straight through, and I will be trying to adapt this pattern to a skein of pale pink merino/silk that I have in my stash.

You can't have too many mitts, in this age of HVAC systems with minds of their own (as I sit here with sunshine and 66* outside, with the A/C blowing in my office).

Third, I have some really, really bad news. My friend Sonda, who owned the LYS where I re-learned how to knit and made some interesting friends, is now beyond treatment for her melanoma. They never found the original site; it's in her brain, and once it gets there, there's really not much to be optimistic about.

What's saddest for me is that we're the same age. It's not my first brush with death or death by cancer, but it's a friend who's my age, who's going to die well before her time. Her family was incredibly "up" about her chances, but when I was doing some research on the treatment, I came across the statement that all this treatment would do was "extend and potentially improve quality of life" but that it was "definitely not a cure." Obviously, I kept that bit of wisdom to myself. I'm not going to rain on anyone's parade.

The other stupid thing that's a result of this is that a couple of the "yarnies" (folks that would hang out at the store and knit - some of her regular customers) are now engaging in the totally ignorant spectacle of "who can mourn the most." Yeah, you read that right. "Who's known her longest? Who's spent the most time at the shop? Who was closest to her?" All that high-school crap that's totally useless and incredibly insensitive toward the family. One of them called me and told me "in confidence" that So-and-So is hysterical and can't cope, and yet she went over to Such-and-Such's house when she blah, blah, blah, blah.

STOP IT. For God's sake. A woman is dying far too young, and her family is in turmoil. When I last talked to Sonda's mom, I asked if she wanted visitors, and was answered with a quick, "No." And I assured her that I was totally cool with it. Which I am. This is SONDA'S journey. Not mine. Not even her family's. It's HERS. And she gets to call the shots. Nobody else. Period.

I can't begin to explain how mad this makes me. Grown women acting like hormonal teenagers, each with their own agenda to make the whole thing about THEM.

I am very sad that I'm going to lose a friend. We had different political views; we had different views on how to raise kids; we have husbands who are totally different (frankly, I'd have shot hers...) but we had common threads as women of the same age and as knitters. We could agree to disagree without too much trouble (wow - imagine that!) and be able to have reasonably respectful discussions, because the things we DID have in common made us realize how cool it was that we were friends in the first place!

The one high note of the past few days? Well, good old Tippi has done it again! We attended a "Stress Relief Week" event at our local college and Tippi was a hit as a therapy dog. Here she is with a couple of the students and a worker at the food court. We were interviewed by a student for the school's paper and the young man was quite skittish about Tippi.

Well, that's the kind of challenge Tippi likes! She sat on my left side, quietly, and the young man was talking away. Then, very gently, she insinuated herself between him and me, when he crouched down a bit. Soon, without him even realizing he was doing it, he was stroking her ears. He asked me, "So how does it work with a therapy dog?" I put my hand on his shoulder and said, "You're doing it right now! You're petting my dog when you really were reluctant to do it at first." He admitted that he "didn't really like dogs," but that "this is a dog I really do feel comfortable with." And there you have canine therapy in a nutshell. Tippi made yet another convert.

Here's another favorite shot. This was a young man who was missing his own dogs, and just after this, he and Tippi had a case of the "Zoomies" where she was scooting back and forth playing with him. After he was finished, he and I sat and talked. The student health coordinator just sat there nodding her head: "That is what I want to see!" she said. She wanted the kids to bond with the animals and start to talk.

Tippi was her usual well-mannered self, and I got to talk a lot about the responsibilities of a dog owner, how dogs enrich your life, and our rescue work. As well, we discussed her training and the various temperaments that made a good therapy dog.

They were so happy that the student health folks are going to talk about a "Tuesdays with Tippi" program to have her visit the campus on a regular basis just so the kids (and faculty and staff) have a furry friend to help them through the day.

Here's another shot that was a highlight. The girls just loved the time they spent with her and they asked me lots of questions about dog training. I love that we can impact the kids that way and I love that Tippi is my vehicle to do so.

Can't wait to see if "Tuesdays with Tippi" becomes a reality.

Sometimes, it's these bright moments that make me able to deal with the crappy moments.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Today in History...And How It Hasn't Changed Much...

So today in 1939, an estimated 75,000 people were at the Lincoln Memorial to hear famed contralto Marian Anderson sing. Not to mention the millions who tuned in to their radios to hear her. She was supposed to sing at Constitution Hall, but the Daughters of the American Revolution nixed that.


Her crime was "singing while black."

Listen up:

Tell me this doesn't send shivers up your spine. Don't listen to the "style" because she was very much a classicist and sometimes that turns people off. Listen to the tone. The purity of the notes. The gift from Heaven of that voice.

And then look at why she wasn't allowed in Constitution Hall. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was so miffed at the DAR that she withdrew her own membership, and helped Anderson (along with FDR, of course!) to set up that concert at the Lincoln Memorial.

Marian Anderson was a fascinating woman. She was the first black woman to sing at Metropolitan Opera. She was an "accidental" civil rights activist. She had an amazing concert career.

And the reason I'm saying not much has changed is because of the recent decision to NOT bring the Trayvon Martin case to a Grand Jury. Yep. And Trayvon's only apparent crime was 'walking while black' - and George Zimmerman may very well get away with murder.

Yes, I'm sure there's more to the story. But the bald facts are that the "Stand Your Ground" Laws (a/k/a Stalk and Shoot) do not apply under this case. Zimmerman was told (on tape) to NOT pursue Martin. Yet he did. Begs the question of *who* gets to "stand your ground" - though the answer appears to be "the one with the gun."

So. Marian Anderson, celebrated contralto, can't sing, back in the late 30s. And Trayvon Martin dies in 2012. Because of skin color.

I thought we were better than this. Apparently, and sadly, I'm wrong.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Spring has Sprung...

In the midst of some sadness, spring has sprung. I went with my friend Susan to the Morton Arboretum. Susan is an avid, and I mean A-V-I-D birder and botanist. Down to knowing bird calls cold, and knowing the botanical name of most every plant we encountered. It was thoroughly cool to walk the arboretum with her.

Redbuds & Daffodils
Here are some of my shots. We were shooting all kinds of stuff and just enjoying a lovely afternoon. Friendships can really help you out. Even if you don't think they will, they do. Without trying too hard, which is the nicest part.

This is one of the first sights we saw as we entered the drive. Twin redbuds with a veritable ground covering of daffodils. I had to wait till the guy on the right walked away. He was shooting some mighty close-up shots of the daffodils. I only had the small camera. I wasn't sure if we were going to hike for a while, and the bigger (better) camera is a pain in the neck - literally - to haul around. Of course, if I had any sense, I'd have done what Susan did and brought a backpack. Oh well. Live and learn.

So dig the gorgeous daffodil.  This was what was under those redbuds. I had those growing in my south garden. Except that the squirrels loved them. To eat.

There were several areas of the arboretum that had been "naturalized" - where they took the bulbs and literally tossed them (well, ok, some landscape designer probably did a lot of it) and wherever they landed, they got planted. The garden has some lovely sections and we drove around most of them, just seeing what we could see. As it's still quite early, in spite of our winter-that-wasn't, the trees are only now starting to bud. But the wildflowers and spring bulbs are going crazy.

We didn't see a lot of wildlife. That was a little weird. We saw some bluebirds, robins, ducks and the like, but I can't remember even seeing a squirrel, much less anything else. Maybe that's a good thing, but on the other hand, even the lack of songbirds was a little odd. You'd expect some singing to be going on.

More of the arboretum's nature: a lovely reflection on one of the many small lakes. We saw that there were fish in there, and at least one turtle. But even with the gorgeous day, no amphibians were sunning on the rocks.

I wasn't sure which path we were going to take, so I did bring the walking poles; a good practice for my upcoming Avon 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer (click the link if you'd like to donate!!).

We took a partial trail. Ran into a very helpful docent. We just missed the wildflower walk. However, the very helpful docent told us that the plant we were staring at and trying madly to find in the Peterson's (wildflower guide) was a trout lily. Well. I never. They were all over the place. Next to one, we found Dutchmen's Breeches.

So if you look at this picture, the flower on the top (note the spotted leaves) is the trout lily. It takes seven years to shoot up a second leaf and then the flower. Talk about persistence. Dutchmen's Breeches is the little string of flowers below. It's not a particularly great shot, because if you've ever really seen the Breeches, they really do look like skivvies on the laundry line!

We went quite a ways and then we saw it. The tree I had been oooooooh-ing and ahhhhhhhhhhhhh-ing over since Downton Abbey and possibly the last "Masterpiece" great British miniseries. And you don't see too many of these around, because we're a young nation. Here's the tree. Or, more appropriately The Tree. This tree would be perfectly at home in a Tim Burton film. Or a Hitchcock noir. Or anything Vincent Price did in his B-movie Horror phase. It must be HUNDREDS of years old. It's an old oak. An old, old, OLD oak. The thing was gorgeous. I couldn't get the most wonderful picture because the light was fading, but it was a magnificent tree. You can see how some of the branches on the left are just on the ground. The tree was just starting to bud, so you have the solid, stolid, strong and sure trunk and large branches. And the oh-so-delicate catkins as the tree buds. Just the most magnificent pale green lace draping the dark brown sturdy branches. Lovely.

Here's another one - of the elusive bluebird. You have to squint a bit, but he's there - in the middle of the shot. He was literally preening for us for a little bit. Morton has quite a few bluebird houses, and we saw at least one wood duck house on another pond.

We walked through a pine grove and saw some gorgeous false rue, some shell-like fungus and some deep red trillium. Here they are for your enjoyment.

Looking up thru pines
False rue

If you get a chance this spring, get out. Get out and look at nature. Unplug. We saw a surprising number of people who were jogging on the paved pathways, plugged into their ear buds. Well, ok, the birds weren't going nuts. But please: unplug for your own safety and also to just absorb nature. You may not be buzzing about your playlist but Mother Nature has a playlist all her own. And it's very refreshing to listen to.

Shell-shaped fungus
We plan to go in another couple of months. In the meantime, maybe Hubby and I will put the bikes on the truck and go out there. With 9 miles of roads, we can do a couple of turns quite easily. It's always nice to get out and enjoy the scenery. We have paniers on the bikes so we can also pack a lunch, since looking at me in spandex in a cafe would be distressing to normal humans!

Red trillium
No dogs are allowed at the arboretum. No joggers or bikers on the mulched paths. This leaves you free to enjoy nature as you like. When you like, since they're open every day of the year. Enjoy.

Just look at this pine grove. What do you think of when you see this? Me? I think of peace and quiet. Something we can all use in our lives.