Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 New Year's Resolutions

I'll start the year by not wishing "Happy" new year to anyone.  I have been shaken this past year by the losses in my close circle of friends.  I remember starting out so hopeful in January, little suspecting the tragedies ahead.

Instead I will wish us all a contented new year with the courage and strength to face its challenges, and grace in accepting whatever good fortune it holds.

I reviewed my three simple resolutions of 2013.  I accomplished the reorganizing closets and drawers (with a couple still unfinished, but close enough to call it done).  I launched the upstairs doors and floors remodel, which expanded to include a shower remodel.  That is underway.  And while it's not finished, it will be in the early part of 2014.  So I'll check that one off.

The third resolution was a bust.  Taking care of Becky did not happen.  I had sporadic periods of walking, dieting, trying to focus on new hobbies.  But the distractions this year proved to be too much for me.  I didn't figure out how to take care of my grandchildren and take care of myself, too.  Ice and snow kept me sedentary at the start and the end of the year.  I simply did not figure out how to do this one.

So, for 2014, I have just one resolution:  Find new ways of taking better care of myself.  This is about physical health most of all.  But also about mental, spiritual, and even social needs.  This may sound selflish or self-centered, but that's not my intent.  I will always be a support to my family and friends, no question.  But I simply must do better at taking care of myself, or I won't be around as long as possible to do those things.  I do hope the year brings an ability to return to my music, art, and writing (and reading).  These are things that have brought pleasure and satisfaction in the past, but which became very hard for me to do at all this past year.

The nicest thing I did for myself in 2013 was acquire a fluffy little white dog named Frankie.  In fact, he has been a joy for the entire family.  He's on the couch here beside me as I write, all curled up snoozing as he does a good deal of the day.  I share him with my son's family and they have fallen in love with him, too, and now he spends a couple of days at a time at their house, having his own bed, dish, toys, and food there as well.  He'll offer some companionship in the coming months.

I'm entering this new year with no expectations -- high or low.  I will walk softly and hope for good things while preparing for anything.   

So deep breath, now.  Here we go . . . 2014 . . .

Friday, December 27, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me - 66

Spent my birthday as I have the entire month of December: low-key and mellow.  I'm still tending grandkids as they are out of school until January 2nd.  But it's all upbeat and fun with the boys.  And add my new little Frankie in the mix, and there's not a dull moment.  Received many nice birthday wishes and had a quiet dinner in the evening with family.  I feel content with how I marked my 66th.

I gave myself a big break this year from all the pressures of the season.  I didn't feel like putting up a Christmas tree, so I didn't.  No lights, no village, no nutcrackers.  The only thing I did was buy a bunch of poinsettia plants to place around the house.  It felt festive but calm.  Just what I wanted this year.  And I'll sure appreciate it more when the time comes to undecorate.  Just toss the old flowers out and I'm done.

It's fine to deviate from tradition.  At least for me.  I have enjoyed the season more than any in recent memory.  And since the grandkids were out of school the entire month of December, it was good for me not to push myself harder than necessary. 

I am looking forward to the end of 2013.  And I dare not think too much about 2014.  The years roll around and bring a share of joy and sorrow, success and struggle, comings and goings.  What will be will be.  I'll take it a day at a time. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How Cold Is It?

No joke, it's far below normal.  And it's only December.  We don't usually see these temperatures until January.  I fear what the rest of this winter holds for us.  It may sound funny, but I'm looking forward to the day we actually get above freezing.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Utah Snowstorm, December 7 and 8, 2013

I don't mind a weekend snowstorm.  I don't usually have any place I'm obliged to be.  Weekdays are difficult because I need to be at my son's house by 6 a.m. to take care of the grandkids.  Utah got quite the storm this weekend.  In fact, St. George in southern Utah even got 8 or 9 inches of snow and will barely make it up to freezing temps today--very rare for them.  We've been below freezing for days now and had one earlier storm that left a few inches.  This one added maybe 10 inches here on the North Salt Lake hillside.  Some of that was lake effect.  But it was not a problem.  After coffee and relaxing, I finally bundled up and took on the driveway.  My neighbor Nils helped out with the very deep hard slush the snowplows had pushed into the entrance of the driveway.  Another neighbor, Tim, ran his snowblower the length of all three of my sidewalks.  Still it took me an hour to clear the main part of the driveway.  I'm just happy I can still do this at my age; and hope to be able to keep it up for some time to come.

We are still not expected to get up to freezing for a few more days.  This is unusual weather this early in the season.  It's technically not even winter yet for a couple more weeks.

Friday, December 6, 2013

And yet another remodel project

One of my new year's resolutions was to do the "Upstairs Doors and Floors" project.  It took me till October to feel I was ready to call the contractor.  I first wanted to clean and reorganize every closet in the house.  Why they took me till October -- well, don't ask.  By the time I called, the contractor was very involved in other projects.  But I have so much confidence in him and the quality of his work, I wasn't even interested in talking to anyone else.  We went over my ideas, added a few things; he gave me a bid and we made some revisions.  But nothing happened until this week.  Suddenly my contractor is free and ready to work on the house.

Now you might think at three weeks before Christmas I'd just put the project off now until the first of the year.  Well, no sir!  I really want to have this project done.  I'm willing to put up with some mess throughout the holidays.  And my contractor is available because most people don't want the house in a mess during the holidays.  He's available, I say, "Let's do it!"

The project was expanded to a new shower in one of the bathrooms, along with paint.  And new baseboards throughout the upstairs along with the doors and casings.  The heat tape is already installed but needs to have an electrical connection done.  And  I absolutely have to make a decision about replacing that carpet or not.  I make a different decision every day.  But one day soon I need to make a decision I can live with.  I'm very excited about it all.

Today, they showed up and did demolition in the shower.  What was a dark closed-in shower with a tiny door, will be all opened up with clear glass wall and door and even a light!

I'm probably not putting up Christmas decorations this year. Or maybe just minimal, and probably not a tree. Don't feel sorry for me. I just don't feel up to it this year and the world won't end because of it. I'll probably resume my old habits next year. My grandkids are off-track and with me all day. And there's the new little doggie, Frankie. This month will be less glittery and more adventure.

And wouldn't it be just wonderful to actually accomplish one of those resolutions!  And I did finish most of another resolution: the Grand Reorganization.  The little remaining of that will be done by the end of the year.  Don't ask about the third one--putting myself on the list.  That one got lost.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Frankie's Glamour Shot

Frankie had a grooming yesterday; all bathed, clipped, and fluffed to perfection.  I didn't recognize him!  Still the same sweet dog.  Don't be fooled by this picture.  He still does not bark.  At most, I've heard a few growls and a tiny "woof" or two.  He has to have a vet visit in the next week, so maybe we can find out why he doesn't bark.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Happy Birthday Frankie

I have been looking for months for the perfect dog.  Looking at breed like Bichon Frise, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, even Maltese.  Specifically, I was looking for a small dog that would be mostly a lap dog.  I don't have a fenced yard and can't let the doggie run free.  I wanted a gentle friendly breed.  And I wanted low shedding, hypo-allergenic.  I watched the web sites for all the shelter, rescues and Humane Society.  Whenever I saw a good possibility, I hesitated too long and the pup was gone to another home.

Then yesterday, on the Humane Society web page, I saw Frankie.  He is part Bedlington Terrier and part Toy Poodle.  Just 12 pounds.  Two years old.  I didn't know anything about Bedlingtons, but my research told me he was much like the Bichon Frise I'd been looking for.  My commitments yesterday kept me from getting to see him.  I thought for sure he would be gone.

He was still on the website this morning.  But there was an adoption event going on at the Petcos around town. What if they sent him to one of a dozen Petco locations around town?!  Petco opens at 9, the Humane Society opens at 10.  I tried and then gave up calling individual Petcos and headed straight to the Humane Society, arriving a half hour before they opened.  The parking lot was filling up.  I was sure everyone there wanted Frankie.

When the doors opened, I was the first one through.  And joy!  Frankie was still there.  The rest is history, as they say.

Frankie has come to live with me.  He has met all the family.  He is so adorable and friendly.  And quiet!  In fact, maybe too quiet.  I've had him over 12 hours and he has yet to bark.  He loves everyone he meets.  He sits on my lap and cuddles up.  He is a very smart breed and already understands things that I say to him.  He is not house broken, which might be the reason he wasn't yet adopted.  It's hard for families with working parents to potty train a dog.  But since I'm here all the time, it will be fairly easy for me.  In fact, he already went outside.  He needs a grooming, and my neighbor across the street was just certified as a dog groomer and will be opening her own business.  So Monday he will get all bathed and trimmed..

I have a loveable little housemate.  It's responsibility and pleasure.  I feel so lucky to have Frankie.  Here he is at the Humane Society just after adoption.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Hunter's Moon

I took this photo a few days ago at the full moon.  This was in the morning a little after sunrise, looking west.  I am so close to the mountains on the east, I don't get to see the moon from my house when it rises.  So my moon shots are always at moonset.

When you live in a mountain valley, as the sun rises, you can see the shadow of the eastern mountains recede across the valley.  See that in this picture?

People in my life continue to heal, but oh so slowly. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

My Schizophrenic Life

Took my grandsons to the children's museum in Salt Lake yesterday.  This whole week the kids have had a half-day school schedule for parent teacher conferences.  When they are out of school, they're with me.  We had some free passes to the museum, and I thought this would be a good time to visit there.  I hadn't been there since my own kids were small.  It has really changed and really is a fun and fabulous place for kids to visit and play.  We were there nearly three hours when an exhausted grandma said it was time to go.

My time with the kids needs to be positive and engaged.  I don't just turn them loose to play.  I play with them.  No matter how I might be feeling, I have to keep my mood happy and upbeat.  I feel so aware of my influence on these little guys.  So we have lots of fun and laughing and learning. 

That's not to say it's always easy to be upbeat.  This week I've also been trying to spend time visiting, chatting with, and emailing my grieving friends.  Three of us got together on Thursday and it was such a crying fest, I wondered if that had been a good idea after all.  But it's all part of the process and there are no shortcuts in grief.  I mostly listened as the other two reminisced with stories of their lives with their lost loved one.  In some ways, it was an ice breaker for my two friends who had been grieving separately, to come together and help each other at a time when they need so much support themselves.  Over and over they expressed the importance of family and friends in their lives right now.  And I feel such a desire to be the friend they need.  That means I have to go through many emotional ups and downs with them. 

Add into this mix some additional worries and frustrations with my own aging parents, and my life is an emotional roller coaster right now.  I do my best to keep myself grounded with peaceful time spent alone. 

I'm not worried for myself.  I've been through tough times and survived and thrived.  Now is my time to help others; to influence children, to comfort my friends, to help my family.  I'm grateful to have the physical and emotional strength for this right now.  These circumstances will continue to evolve with time.  And they will be replaced by other circumstances that will be equally challenging and demanding on my strengths.

But that's life.  It will always be so.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Year of Sorrow

And another husband of a close friend has died.  Sydney was 91 and frail, yet remarkably active.  He was so proud of his garden and fruit trees he'd been nurturing along for several years.  He was an accomplished artist and sculptor--the only one I've known who was actually able to support himself with his art.  A recent fall and complications were just too much for his already frail body.  Still, he had seemed strong just recently and they were happily planning a trip to England and France next year for the D-Day commemorations.

This brings to three (out of five) the husbands of our old Reel Women movie group who have died just this year.  I add to that my much-missed internet friend, and the toll is almost too much.

My friends need me to be a strength to them right now.  So I will somehow be that.  Even though all this loss makes my own loss from a few years ago feel fresh again.

At my age, 65, you expect some loss.  You acknowledge we are getting older and  none of us will live forever.  But this is a lot in one year.  Now I just look forward to the end of 2013.  This is not a year I want to remember.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Two new birds -- to me, at least

I finally got out to Antelope Island for a little birding one evening this week.  I really wanted to get to Bear River before the opening of duck hunting (this weekend), but it was not to be.  It was a lovely evening on the island and I had success seeing two birds new to me.  The Sabine's Gulls are apparently a novelty if not totally rare in Utah.  Three had been reported near the second bridge.  Driving over, I was daunted by the large numbers of Eared Grebes and Wilson's Phalaropes spread out over the water and thought I would never find those gulls.  But on the way back, I stopped for another look and found all three right by the bridge.

At Garr Ranch, they had closed the gates for the night, but since they aren't locked, I let myself in and started to wander to the little woods behind the ranch house.  I was hoping to see a couple of different owls that had been reported.  However, I felt nervous there alone and decided to abandon that idea.  A couple of women were near the parking lot looking at some birds and I was lucky enough to get some pictures of an Audubon's Warbler (western version of the Yellow-Rumped Warbler).  I don't know warblers and haven't studied up on them, so this was a treat.  A large flock was hopping in and around the trees there, but I was lucky enough to get a few good photos.

Here are some shots from my evening.

Audubon's Warbler (Yellow-Rumped Warbler)

 Sabine's Gull among some Wilson's Phalaropes
 Two more Sabine's Gulls among the phalaropes.
 A bison who was right next to the road and inexplicably leaning up against a rock.
 Two-point mulie, also right next to the road and showing no desire to run away.
 And of course, if it's sunset as I'm leaving the island, I'm surely going to grab a shot.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The last remodel kick-off

My contractor came over today and we went over the details of the project.  I'm still undecided on what to do about flooring.  But very excited about the new doors.  In addition to the doors, I will do new casings as well as baseboards throughout.  The shower remodel is not significant, but will be a nice upgrade for the master bath.  And so pleased to put the rain gutter/heat tape project in his hands as well. His expertise is so valuable in that area.  I will get a quality product and work, and it will be hard-wired with a simple switch I can turn on and off.

As for the retaining wall on the west side of the house, he convinced me the retaining I already have is adequate, and I can just go ahead with adding top soil if I want it.  I'll have Alberto help me with that when we do the fall cleanup.

So it's off and running.  I still need to get the quote, which I know from experience will be resonable and doable, and then make a few decisions.  Then there will be a lead time to get the doors and other materials. He can start in a couple of weeks.  

This is the "last remodel" indoors.  After this, I may occasionally paint a room, change out carpet or furniture.  But the basic construction work will be finished and hopefully no more will be needed until the day I decide to move.

I can't wait to get started!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Harvest Moonset

With coffee this morning, I watched the Harvest Moon setting into a purple haze.  I awoke with no knee pain for the first time in weeks.  My old trick knee has been up to its old tricks.  I'll walk gingerly, grateful to be feeling better.  I'm ready for fall, autumn leaves, bird migrations, perennials dying back. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A little progress on projects

I have to say, it has really been a tough summer.  I'm sticking close to my dear friend as she grieves.  She said the other day, she wondered if she would ever feel happy again.  There is no medicine for that problem except time.  I feel so sad with her, it is affecting me 24/7.  I, too, long to feel happy.

But we press on.  I have put myself back to work on my projects and today I will finally finish my goal of cleaning out and reorganizing every closet in the house.  Just one hall closet remains.  With this done, I will call my contractor on Monday to set in motion the replacement of all the upstairs doors and a minor remodel of one upstairs shower.  At the same time I will get his advice on a project to replace some rain gutters and install heat tape on the eaves where ice collects.  I also want to initiate construction of a new retaining wall on the west of the house and at the same time, bring in dirt and top soil to build that up where it has eroded so much.  Those are my October aims:
  • Replace upstairs doors and shower
  • Repair/replace rain gutters, and add heat tape
  • Retaining wall and build up on west of house
 I hope writing these specific things down will help me focus on them and get them done.

I haven't decided whether to replace the carpet upstairs or not at this time.  Wood (or laminate) floors would be elegant and pretty.  But the truth is, the grandkids love playing on the soft carpet.  It is old but was very high quality when I bought it and is still in rather good condition.  It is a very dense plush that doesn't mat down at all.  It is somewhat dirty in high traffic areas and I haven't been able to really get all of the dirt cleaned with my home carpet cleaner.  I'm thinking of having a good quality professional come in to clean it.  The one thing I don't like is the color--teal.  It's so out of date now.  But it would cost a lot to replace living room, dining room, hall, and stairs.  And I hate the thoughts of moving my piano, china hutch, and server.  So I remain undecided for now.  I am definitely replacing the couch and chairs.  I'm thinking if I go with solid, neutral colors it will help tone down the effect of the teal carpet. You can tell I'm leaning towards keeping the carpet

Of course, there is the usual fall cleanup outdoors.  I have a week without grandchildren this coming week and I plan to spend that time doing some fall planting, transplanting, and cleanup.  What I can't do myself, I will hire Alberto's guys to do a little later.  They will also winterize the sprinkling system for me.

I hope to have all of these things completed before Thanksgiving.  It will make for a more peaceful and enjoyable winter to have all of that done.

And today, my friend and I will take in a movie.  A comedy because we both want to laugh.  And that will be a small step in the right direction, too.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sadness continues, and a month of unbelievable sunsets

Oh what a sad summer it has been.  Another loss--my dearest, closest lifetime friend's husband died this week after a short battle with cancer.  We feel we are too young to be widows, but life keeps giving us hard lessons.  I am glad she lives close by and I can help her through the coming tough days, weeks, months.  Life has taken a decided turn and I begin to realize the best days are probably behind us.

I'm having good success at tackling my latest projects.  And I've added a new walking schedule every morning after dropping the kids off at school.  I've been feeling so down and my body was getting new aches and pains, and the long walks do help at lot with both issues.

Every evening I take some moments with a glass of wine on the patio, while the hummingbirds and other feathered friends desperately feed before dark falls.  We have had the hottest July and August on record, and it's still in the 80's at sunset.  But even in the heat, I love those few minutes at sundown.  I've been pretty crazy at taking pictures of sunsets this year, but honestly it is spectacular every night.  The colors are enhanced by the many range fires, dust and pollutants in the air.  Not a happy thought, but there is something thrilling in watching these amazing sights.

This isn't even all of them.  But prepare to OD on sunset pictures.  The dates are above the photo.  All but one were taken from my patio.  For some days I've posted multiple pictures to show how the sky changes dramatically over a short half hour or so.
July 28, 2013
 Great Salt Lake, August 5, 2013
 August 11, 2013
 August 12, 2013
  August 12, 2013

August 19, 2013
 August 25, 2013
August 27. 2013

 August 27. 2013
 August 27. 2013
 August 28, 2013

August 30, 2013
This last photo was with my cell phone, so quality is not as good.  And the sun was actually a huge red orb, but I couldn't capture that color.

So goodbye to August, goodbye to summer.  I consider September the start of autumn, although our high temperatures remain in the 90's, well above normal, and the nights do not yet cool down.  I know the opposite extreme is coming before we know it.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

An alter-ego

I loved the Cathy Bates character in the (now quite old) movie, "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe."  Stuck in a life that seemed to be controlling and stifling her, she came up with an alter-ego, Towanda!  Suddenly, she was able to do amazing things she had not dared to do before.  In doing so, she accomplished much and changed in ways that pleased herself and (eventually) those around her as well.

Well, I've been in quite a funk for months now for a number of reasons.  Mainly too many changes in a very short time.  I don't seem to adapt as well as I should.  And I do feel that life is controlling me to some extent.  Or at least that I'm capitulating when I should be the one in control.  I'm not getting things done like I want to.  I keep feeling like I need someone to fire a starting gun or something.  I plan things out in my head, but can't seem to put the plan into action.  This is not like me!

It's time to bring out my own alter-ego.  Someone who is a part of Becky, but has perhaps been buried in order to get along with the world and take a path of least resistance.  I know who she is.  My alter-ego is fearless, strong, shrewd, and sometimes aggressive when needed.  In all situations, she is constantly alert, thinking, analyzing, deciding.  She is brilliant at planning and executing.  She has a name which I will not reveal here.

I will now make it a point that my alter-ego will be present whenever I'm doing work in the house or yard, when I'm out in public, and when I'm walking or working out, or any other time she is needed.  She will always retire in the evenings to allow the quiet Becky to enjoy some relaxing, meditative and restorative time.

This is not a multiple personality condition, but rather a willful way of selectively using the strengths I have at the times they are most needed and appropriate.  And not always succumbing to passivity and doldrums as I seem likely to do lately.

I think in all of us there is a Towanda character. We bury her in our complacency or comfort.  But it's not really a comfortable place to be and there comes a time to acknowledge that part of ourselves and make use of her to make things happen.

My alter-ego mantra:  Fearless.  Strong.  Shrewd.  Brilliant!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My friend Will

I shouldn't feel the loss as much as I do.  We were only Scrabble partners, and only online.  We never met in person.  But the more I think about it, the more sense it makes.  We met and started playing in August 2009, just a month after my ex-husband died.  I don't know what prompted us to start multiple games simultaneously, but we soon had many games in progress.  A typical evening would find us making rapid moves through our list of games and chatting from one board to the next.  We made moves in the morning over coffee.  I'd slip in moves from work now and then.  Even on vacations, we tried to get a few moves in.  Will was practically a constant companion for me for the past four years.  No wonder I feel this great loss.

It was more than the games.  It was the conversation.  Anyone who knew Will, knows what I mean.  He had a mind like no other.  He had strong opinions but always expressed with uncommon wit and humor.  We chatted about everything -- everything!  Politics, poetry, gardening, our lives, our families and friends.  When his son was tragically killed that January a few years ago, I told him we could take a break, but he said no, he'd like the distraction of the game.  So we played in silence for awhile.  And then he began talking and poured out his joys and sorrows in parenthood.  I recognized his candor was for my ears only and it remains so.  Our friendship grew and it seemed there was nothing off the table for our discussions.  We laughed in our chat dialogues just as we might in person.  His wit was hard to match, but I did my best to keep up.  Just about a year ago now his beloved sister was diagnosed with cancer, and within just six months she died.  It was such a sorrow to him and he was still mourning her loss when he, too, was diagnosed with cancer.  None of us knew at the time he had just a few short months to live. 

His son, Joe, wrote a wonderful obituary that tells the story of his life as well as it might be in a few short paragraphs.  Here's a link to the obit on line.

A friend of mine, the friend who introduced me to Will, wrote a colorful description of his friend.  I hope he won't mind if I repeat it here as it adds further dimension to this character of a guy:
One of my best and oldest friends just died. Dr. Willis L. Pitkin, Jr. -- Will -- was for years my protection against the generalized insanity that is a college English Department. He was also one of the best Scrabble players I ever knew. He grew strange vegetables in his garden, raised exotic chickens, loved plants of all sorts, and was the bane of University Deans and Presidents. His wit was pointed, his writing ditto, and he was utterly fearless. For years he walked from Hyde Park to the university wearing a construction worker's helmet that read "Chicken Little Was Right." His license plate read YNLNOT. His intellect was wide-ranging and he was probably on the verge of solving the mysteries of the universe when he died. Rest in peace, old friend. No, don't. I'm mad as hell you went so soon.
Someone posted on Facebook a link to a letter to the editor published in the local newspaper, the Herald Journal—a column where Will’s words appeared frequently over the years
Remembering Will Pitkin
Tuesday, July 23, 2013

To the editor:
Will Pitkin, a great writing teacher, wrote great letters to the editor. They were short

I wrote a Poetry Wednesday post in 2009 and copied and pasted the snippets of chat from a game where we invented (badly) a rhyme about a Gox.  I feel rather glad now that I preserved that.  I wish I had more of our conversations saved.

In December 2010, after some discussions we were having about the winter solstice, Will sent me the following poem he had written.

Winter Solstice
Will Pitkin

More than two hours ago
I opened the door to the henhouse
And spread across the space I’d cleared of snow
Yesterday’s lettuce from Lee’s Market
And yesterday’s bread (soaked in hot water) from Crumb Brothers Bakery.
Now, along the mountain ridge, the south-most sun
Edges above the solstice notch,
And, framed by the radiant icicles barring my kitchen window,
The hens now peck in sunlight at the frozen leaves
And scratch the scattered loaves, no longer steaming.

Two below zero the reading says.
The hens move about on bare feet, surely miserable.
One, in molt, must certainly have thoughts of doom, fluff showing
That should be hidden, trapping warmth and layered over with full feathers.
She stands on one foot, the other drawn beneath her ragged wing.
She has no thoughts of doom, of anything.
I worry for her.
She does not worry for herself.
I know that she, that they are miserable.
She, they do not.

We tell stories, make movies about elephants and penguins and fish
And their moments of joy, of abject terror, of hope, of hopeless misery.
Elephants and penguins and fish do not tell these stories,
Nor understand them, however slowly we spin them out.
As I mumble my solace, my miserable hens stand mindless on frozen ground,
Pecking their food,
Mindless that tomorrow will have minutes more sunlight
(Mindless of tomorrow)
Or that July will offer misery of its own.

Only a few thousand years ago,
On this very day no calendar had yet named,
A family, a tribe huddles for warmth, awaiting the south-most sunrise.
When the curved edge appears, a thin beam of harvested sunlight
Strikes a rock face
Exactly where they have dreamed, have prayed it would.
A murmur of relief,
Cause enough for cautious hope.
What they witness this day brings comfort;
They will know more tomorrow.
With this blog post, I will try to find a place for my sadness over the loss of someone who came to be a wonderful friend.  He was not one to wallow in any emotion.  Will's words have profoundly influenced my own thinking.  I will always be grateful I had a chance to know this remarkable man.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Life Changes Again

After a four-week "summer vacation" from school, the grandkids go back today.  Oh, it's all right.  They will get a wonderful five-week winter vacation from Thanksgiving to New Year.  Starting today both kids are in school for a full day and I will at last have some good solid time for my yard work and projects.  When I have the kids, we just play together and have adventures.  Even when I think I might just run the vacuum while they are here, it never happens.  We are constantly engaged.  This is entirely my doing.  But it does tend to take time away from some of the things I really need to do.

Another change, very sad, a good friend of mine died this past week.  I only knew this man online--never met in person.  We played Scrabble on Facebook for nearly four years.  In that time, such a rich and happy friendship developed.  I want to write about him a little more in length when I can sit down and do it justice.  This has left me feeling sad and lost without my best Scrabble buddy who brought wit, humor, kindness, and insight to our chats during daily games.  I am losing interest in playing Scrabble at all now or visiting Facebook much anymore as it all reminds me of the one of the nicest people I've ever not met.

I may start blogging more  now, I don't know.  I feel subdued and may be a bit reclusive for awhile.  The grandkids remain a daily responsibility getting them off to school in the morning and picking up after school.  It's a good thing, I know, as it forces me to be up, showered, dressed, and coffee'd up by 6 a.m., making sure I don't lay around wasting the day.

I don't know how to end this blog.  This marks the beginning of another phase in my life.  I think I'll end like this . . .

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Evening at home

Things have really calmed down now and settled into a nice routine.  Evey morning and every evening I spend a few minutes on the patio taking in the scenery and watching and listening to the birds.

In the mornings a robin will stop for a quick dip in the birdbath, splashing in the fresh water.  The finches, grosbeaks, and buntings stop for a sip.  The chickadees are very busy now, both mom and dashing to and from the birdhouse where tiny "dee-dee-dee" sounds can be heard.  They'll fledge soon.  It was a year ago today the last little chickadees fledged from that house. A hummingbird tries to stand guard over all three feeders despite a wide spacing of a good 20 feet each.  He can't stop them all and the other hummers manage to get a sip or two before being chased off.

In the evening, it can be a little chilly and I like to sit in the last bit of sun.  Lesser goldfinches cling to the thistle feeder.  The Black-headed Grosbeaks seem to take turns at a favorite black oil sunflower feeder--mostly.  Two young males sometimes squabble and once I saw the older male step in and break them up.  The House Finches and Cassin's Finches fill every possible perch on the tube feeders also filled with sunflower seed.  The Lazuli Buntings find their favorite white millet on the platform feeders.  The doves also like the millet and like to sit in the middle of a platform feeder, causing some disruption to the community.  On the ground, the California Quail cluck as they clean up all types of seed dropped from the feeders above.  The robins are ever present and somewhat aggressive to the other birds, despite having no interest in the feeders.  I think a nest is nearby and they are troubled by all the activity.  The Scrub Jays come looking for peanuts; and if they find none, content themselves with sunflower seed.  Sometimes a little Downy Woodpecker will work his way up the tree trunk finding bugs to eat.  Hummingbirds make a few more visits before dark with the same guy standing sentinel.  Even after the sun goes down, the bird activity continues while there is still light.  And then it is quiet.

With a cup of coffee in the morning and a glass of wine at night, it's tranquil way to begin and end these beautiful summer days.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The end of May and a minor Incident that could have been much worse

It was another rainy day yesterday.  On Monday I visited nurseries and planted annuals in the flower beds and also started a new bed for hostas and coral bells in a place that has become too shady for the usual annuals.  I'll still grow some nasturtiums there as they don't seem to care where you plant them.  Everything seems to be doing well, growing and thriving.  Crossing fingers now for all the annuals.

On the way home from one nursery stop, I had the unfortunate incident of driving over a large item of debris on the freeway.  I couldn't swerve to avoid it in the heavy, fast traffic.  It looked like a car fender and it sounded like an explosion when I drove over it.  I was sure I'd had a tire blowout and quickly moved over and took the exit that was just there at the right moment.  When I got out of the car, I could see no damage except that the right front tire seemed a little low.  I drove straight to the tire store but found them closed due to the holiday.  The tire seemed to be holding, so I drove home.  The following day, I took the car in to get the tire checked, and they found it had a screw imbedded causing a slow leak.  Now the tire is fixed and everything else seems to be okay.  I feel lucky the debris hadn't hit me in the windshield and didn't cause a blowout.  A far worse outcome could have resulted.  If I were a cat, I might cross off one of my nine lives.

So somehow, we have arrived at the end of May.  I have finished all the things I wanted to do outside and will add the usual perennial every now and then as opportunity and weather permit.  The yard is nearly perfect in a rather rustic unplanned way.

Tomorrow my youngest grandson turns 6 years old.  He has one more month of kindergarten and that means one more month of these crazy three trips a day to his school.  The kids are only out for three weeks this summer because of year-round school schedules and changing to a different track.  So I will have them every day all day for the three weeks, and then I will start a new schedule with just two round trips a day to the school and no afternoon tending of my grandson.  I'm glad I've been able to help through this year of difficult scheduling--as kindergarten always is.  And I will continue to help.  But with the two kids on the same schedule, I'll have much more time again and I'll be able to begin to really feel what it's like to be retired.

Now I turn my attention to some indoor projects I want to finish.  It has taken so long to get back around to this, but anymore, I feel good to just get one thing done at a time.  As this month draws to a close, I feel more like I have a handle on things than I have done in a long time.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

New Trees and Grass

Alberto's guys are simply incredible.  The weeding and cleanup are done and the new trees and sod are in, along with a new dedicated sprinkling line (drip and spray) just for the trees.  I have four new flowering pear added to the one I already had, one new crabapple barely visible behind the arbor bench here, and a wonderful new blue spruce.  I also kept the little blue spruce that looked like it was dying.  It appears to be trying to survive and I will give it another year and see if it pulls through.

I had dug up the old thyme checkerboard and decided on replacing with grass.  This will make a nice place for little boys' bare toes in the summertime. 

Today we are getting a deep soaking rain with cool but not cold temperatures -- the timing couldn't be better.  My flower pots are all ready to be placed around the yard when the sun comes out.  And now I'll add some annuals to the flower beds and things will be finished for spring. 

My heart feels so happy to have all this work done and things looking so beautiful.  The new trees provide a bit more screening from the road and increase the feeling of sanctuary here.  The birds are already celebrating.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Planting and Patience

Today is just the 14th of May.  I am often planting annuals much later than this.  But with temps in the 90's yesterday and 80's today, even though dropping to the 70's for the rest of the week, I felt the conditions were just right.  I wanted to wait until Alberto's crew came in and did the work I need done first.  But my plans never work out so well.  The city decided to close the road to my house for two days this week -- the same day(s) Alberta was supposed to be here.  So I had to postpone the work.  But with my large patio as a workspace, there was really no need to wait.  And in two days I have planted 23 pots.  Two rather large, and four quite small, and all the rest medium-ish.   I found some good deals on plants, and I think I have spent now about $60 total on all those posts.  A bargain.

I hope Alberto will be able to come tomorrow.  The weeds are out of control and I've decided to have his guys do the weeding one more time for me so I'm not playing catch up all summer.

In addition, they will plant 4 or 5 new trees, put in sod in the backyard to replace the thyme checkerboard that died.  Take out a dead tree and bush, do some general cleanup, and add new bark mulch to the perennial sections.

I still need to plant annuals in the flowers beds - six beds in all.  I started some zinnias and Mexican sunflowers indoors from seed about six weeks ago.  And they are coming along, though not quite ready to go in the ground.  They are on the patio "hardening" right now and I hope to be able to plant them by the end of the month.

I also have quite a few perennials that have over reproduced in one place and need some thinning and moving around.  It's so wonderful having free plants!

With any luck, I'll have all this done by the end of May -- just two weeks..  I try to spend an hour or two a day.  What with tending grandkids every day, this can sometimes be a challenge.  Plus my 18 year old granddaughter is coming to spend a week with me next week, although she is more help than she is work and will be good company.  But that should be sufficient time for it.

Bonus pleasure is the spring migration is underway and every day brings beautiful birds and hummingbirds to the feeders. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

(Mom, 1954, with Wendy, John and Becky)

At my age, it's rare and special to still have both parents living.  Mine are and still live in the home I grew up in.  It's a lot of yard and house to care for, but they don't want it any other way.  I can't say I blame them.  With eight children and I have no idea how many grandchildren and great grandchildren, they do have help looking after things.

Today is a day to express love and appreciation for mom and all she did for us.  I visited mom yesterday as my own children will be dropping by today.  It's kind of a high pressure day for everyone.  But I appreciate every gesture of kindness.

I try not to give my adult children advice.  Even though I realize I could have been a better mother, I could have done so much better, it's too late to try to change things.  So I listen and I don't judge.  I am grateful my children are all close to me and trust and confide in me.  I am definitely happy to be their mother, so this day is for me, too:  A "Happy Mother's" day. 

Friday, May 10, 2013


Below is a link to a blog I followed for a short time at the suggestion of my daughter.  It was witty and fun with kookie drawings.  But suddenly it took a dark turn.  The author told us she was suffering from severe depression.  She tried making a few posts, but then she went away completely--for 19 months.  She had a big following and many were worried at the extended silence.  And then finally this week, she entered two new blog posts.  The second explained about the 19-month absence. 

Hyperbole and a Half

It's so honest and painful, yet a good read.  I really recommend it.  For one thing, it helps so much in understanding how a depressed person feels and what they need from their friends. 

I have often wondered about depression and where sadness leaves off and depression begins.  I think the lines are blurred.  I've had so much sadness in the past few years and I've made myself deal with it and be strong.  I function.  But when I'm alone, the old sadness can be overwhelming.  And I'm alone a lot.  But I do get stuff done.  Just consider the major construction projects I've done during this time and the changes I've made in my yard.  And I'm always, ALWAYS there for my children and grandchildren.  My own feelings be damned if one of them needs me.  So I think I'm just feeling some long-term effects of trauma in my life.

However, sometime about a year ago I stopped playing or listening to music.  I love my piano and guitar.  I have a broad range of musical interests.  But all the things I loved no longer had the same appeal.  I could sit down to the piano and barely make it through a tune or two.  It's not that I lack the desire, it's just unexplainable, I can't do it.  Oh, I post videos on Facebook and watch those posted by others.  But this inability or lack of desire, or whatever it is, with my personal music has started troubling me.  After reading the blog post I linked above, I recognized a sign of depression.

But I function.  I am very busy taking care of grandchildren.  I have so much to do around house and yard.  Although I realize I'm slacking off in those areas, too.  I have so much responsibility.  I sometimes just think I'm tired--I can fall asleep instantly almost anytime anywhere.

But I put on a happy face.  I laugh at jokes.  I celebrate holidays.  I visit friends who call--though I'm less and less likely to make a call myself.  And I get out in the outdoors and watch the birds.  This last is the most
enjoyable thing I do.

Am I depressed?  Maybe a little.  Am I sad?  Sometimes, yes.  Am I happy, too?  Yes, most of the time.  I ask myself these questions because if I seriously feel I'm in trouble, I'll call a therapist I have had in the past.

I think we all go through periods of life where we struggle as I am.  And I believe there are degrees in the seriousness of the condition--worse for some than for others.  Maybe the single factor that keeps me in there fighting is my kids and grandkids. 

As I said in another post:  It's not easy doing a life.

"When you judge other people remember one overriding axiom: 'Everybody is having a hard time'. Everyone is insecure. Everyone is hassled. Everyone is tired - we all need more sleep. Everyone wishes he had more courage, more money and better social skills. Everyone wants more glamour in his life, and we all desperately need more laughter. Few can figure out how they ended up living the life they lead. Don't be misled by flippant talk; it's a battle for everyone... Give people a break. It's not easy doing a life."  Joshua Halberstam

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Poetry: When We Are Old and These Rejoicing Veins

When we are old and these rejoicing veins
Are frosty channels to a muted stream,
And out of all our burning there remains
No feeblest spark to fire us, even in dream,
This be our solace: that it was not said
When we were young and warm and in our prime,
Upon our couch we lay as lie the dead,
Sleeping away the unreturning time.
O sweet, O heavy-lidded, O my love,
When morning strikes her spear upon the land,
And we must rise and arm us and reprove
The insolent daylight with a steady hand,
Be not discountenanced if the knowing know
We rose from rapture but an hour ago. 

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Friday, April 5, 2013

A quick update

With the grandsons at my house all day every day, I'm getting very little done--including housework and blogging.  But we are having lots of fun and adventures.  The kids are loving it and it is so good for me.  I'm sure not on the couch!  Not to worry, all is well.  We just have to prioritize.  Hopefully, I'll catch up on some housework this weekend. 

The Return - movie review

Click this link to see my latest movie review, "The Return," a story of two Russian boys whose father returns after an unexplained 12-year absence.  This dark drama was a 2003 Golden Globes nominee for best foreign film.  I gave it five stars.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Time well spent

(K. Showing off medals for Spelling Bee 2nd Place and swimming medals, cheered by B.)
March has found me busy taking care of my grandchildren--getting them off to school in the morning, picking up the kindergartener at 11:30, and tending him in the afternoon, and picking up the fourth-grader at 3:30.  I arrive at their house by 6;15 as the parents leave for work that early.  I get the kids up, dressed, fed, teeth brushed, hair combed, faces washed, and allow them to watch a little TV if they are ready early.  Then we pile in the car for school.  I stand outside with the kindergartener until the bell rings and the teacher comes to lead them inside.  Most parents do that with these little ones.  It's hard to leave them on the playground until you see them safely in the teacher's care.  I prepare lunch at home for the little guy.  In the afternoon, along with play we practice letters, numbers, reading and math.  He likes school and we make a game of it.  After school, I prepare fruit snacks and help the kids get started on homework.  The parents arrive home around 4:15 and I'm pretty much spent and ready to go home and relax.

This schedule has allowed little time for everyday housework, let alone projects.  And I reward myself with birding outings even when I should really stay home and clean the house.  But this is temporary.  I can catch up on housework later on.  The schedule will be so much easier when both boys are in school all day in August.

But April will find me busier than ever.  The kids are on a year-round schedule and they are "off-track" for the whole month of April.  They will be back in school for May and June, and then off-track for July and half of August.  Having both of the kids full-time presents extra challenges.  I will no longer have even those couple of hours in the morning to myself.  And I will need to establish a routine to keep the kids occupied and interested.  We also have to keep practicing certain math and reading skills every day.

It's hard at my age to have the energy I need to do this right.  But I do it anyway, though it leaves me exhausted.  I look at this not just as a responsibility or duty, but also as an opportunity to give these kids some valuable one-on-one time and to help them grow mentally and emotionally as well as physically.  If that's not time well-spent, I don't know what is.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

"Primo" the Peregrine Falcon gets released to the wild

Primo was hatched last summer in the nest box atop the JSM Building in downtown Salt Lake. Soon after fledging, he flew into a 17th story office tower window and fell to the ground. He somehow survived the accident, and subsequently spent many months in a rehab facility in Colorado. Finally, ready to return to the wild, he was brought to Utah and released at one of my favorite places, Antelope Island. As one who had followed the peregrines from the time they were just eggs in the nest box, through hatching, growing and fledging, I really wanted to witness this release.

 About 40 people showed up in the freezing weather to witness the event. It was worth it.  Here are some of my photos of the event.
 Primo is a little excited at his first look at his new home

 Even an intrepid hunter is capable of occasional cuteness.

 Finally, the launch. The woman who had the privilege of releasing him was a volunteer who had apparently spent long overnight hours watching the injured bird.
 There he is, just visible above the mountains on his first flight on the island.

 He perched for awhile (see way back there?) on a corral fence and finally flew off out of sight. Good luck little Primo. I hope I see you again on one of my visits to your home.
 About 40 people gathered to witness the release. Most of the people here closely follow the nesting of the downtown peregines. The DWR officials there and other volunteers were asking if any of us might be able help "chase" or follow the young new falcons when another new family fledges downtown in a few months.

Incidentally, we were told that the rehab facility that took in this falcon has a policy of as little human interaction with the birds as possible.  The cage is large enough for the birds to fly around.  Live food is released into the cage and the falcons must hunt and kill their own food.  It is particularly important that the falcon show an ability to hunt for its own food before release to the wild.  Yet still we worry whether it will be able to do so in its new environment.