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Friday, April 9, 2021

Day Seven: of Hobbits and Yoda and Second Breakfasts

I find great joy and comfort in the very existence of Hobbits, and in the inversed subject-verb sayings of Yoda. 

Now, let's not get all technical about the notion of reality vs. fictional characters. You know as well as I do that Hobbits and Yoda live in the places that matter: in the minds and hearts of generations of people across the world. Alive, they are.

Without the Hobbits and their traditions, I would have no legitimate excuse to sit down at 9 am with a bowl of yogurt and toasted oats which is not my first breakfast of the day. Second breakfast, merci beaucoup, is a real thing. It is the moment after the rush of the first morning chores, to stop for a nice cuppa...and maybe a snack. 

Hobbits also ground us in their love of home and hearth, in the smallest of small things to appreciate in life, and in the inevitable moment of having to get out and face our fears; bravely, while whimpering and whining, maybe, but fully present nonetheless. 

As for Yoda, besides the fact that he is short and green and wizened, gets angry more often than one would believe a sage really should: his voice and his speech give solace and excellent counsel. Right now, the one speaking to me is a reminder to slow down, open my eyes and come back to the present. "Always in motion the future is." -Yoda

Monday, March 22, 2021

Day Six of the Ordinary: Where's All the Stink Gone? Post-Covid Positives

I must first make an offering of compassion and recognition for the grief the pandemic has strewn across the globe in its wake, before telling my own tale. I am sorry for your loss, for our common loss.

Our family's burden has been narrowed down to the plight of feet no longer smelling...ripe? Body odor is a thing of the past, bad breath too. But: does anyone really know whether or not the kitchen garbage has begun to rot? 

We do not. Papa Noël (dear Ol' Santa) dropped off the Cornona virus on Christmas Eve. Our symptoms were all a little different, like the way each of us first gets a cold; sniffy nose here, scratchy throat there.  I had bad case of the chills, leaving my teeth chattering and my extra wrap extra tight around as much of me as I could fit in. I really thought nothing of it, as I was in my habitually cold room, and wearing shorts. I ran down to the basement; half an hour on the mini-trampoline would warm me right up. About ten jumps in, I realized I felt something akin to "dreadful". This was not right, what "this" was was unclear, but I did not feel normal. By 4 pm, I was a feverish mess, with an ache on the back of my head, shivering and stupid. That was the end of my Christmas Eve, by then, two others were feeling ill as well. We had dinner, I think. Christmas happened in a blur, but the next day I felt much improved.

On the 26th, my oldest called right after Thierry had dropped her off at her home 3 hours away: her Covid test results had just come through on her phone: positive. I really do not think we would have known otherwise, the only other hint of it was that the world smelled burnt in some odd way, but that was fading after day two or three. My daughter had a test because she always got tested before returning to her home she shares with a roommate, it was a pact they agreed upon. 

When we told the other kids, two of them casually mentioned; "Oh yeah, I haven't been able to taste or smell for a week." It is astounding how many things came to mind at that point, but what one of us said, or maybe both Thierry and I, maybe repeatedly was; "WHEN were you going to tell us? WHERE have you been? Everyone knows lack of smell is a dead giveaway for Covid. Etc." The other six of us were tested on Monday: all positive. It was, I suppose, a mild case, although Thierry came down with the "second wave syndrome", poor guy, a week later. One minute he was fine, the next, he was white as a sheet and scaring the crud out of me. In a few days, he was right as rain again.

And now, three months later, not a one of us can smell like we used to. My youngest and I can taste normally: bliss! But the others have remnants of not being able to taste much of their food, or it tastes different, some say chicken tastes bitter. One kid was left at home to cook rice one night and missed the fact that it was burning until the fire alarm went off, good thing the batteries were fresh. I can smell "something burning", and brewing coffee, my shampoo has a scent to it, but the rest is as though the odors of the world had been smoothed over. And no one, but no one, knows if they need to change their socks. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Day Five: Ocean Swimming

Have you ever swum in the ocean? It is positively primeval. It is the one thing I most look forward to when I am near the beach, and a thing I gave up on for unimportant reasons for a time. I would wet my toes, knees, maybe up to my waist, but really rocking along with the waves as they wash over me, one after another? 

Waiting for the next one, turning my back to it, facing it full on at a jump or diving right under it? Riding a wave back towards the shore? Feeling the salt on my tongue, the sun on my shoulders? It had been years, and I was poorer for having missed it.

There was a group of women in San Sebastian or Donostia, Basque Country, when I lived there, who met each and every morning for their swim out into the bay. My heroes, and wow: what  way to start your day! I wanted to stay there forever and join their club.

I have never experienced the Pacific or another warm ocean. Nope, it has always been the icy Atlantic for me, on both sides of the pond. The exhilaration in the first hit of freezing cold water, first the feet, then the shins, further up with each step and backing away as the wave recedes, then blam! I am hit in the chest by one that is a little higher than the last. Once you're in up to your neck, you are good, aren't you? Not much else to soak, so you may as well stay and swim. And in the swim is the beauty, the power, the washing away of past, present and worry. Immersion, oblivion and total presence in the here and now.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Day Four: Unexpected Bit of Beauty-Brown-Eyed Susans of the Sand

A flower I remember my grandmother pointing out on our woodland hikes was the Brown-eyed Susan. I often wondered why Susan got her own flower named after her, so it was memorable. Today I saw a new variety of them, growing in the dunes, just like back home, only on a vine along the ground. They were side by side with what I call begonias; which were also growing wild and abundantly, all over the dune.



Brown-eyed Susans evoke marvelous memories from childhood. My grama was the one who took us on outings to places our parents did not take four children, so often it was my sister and I having some "just us" time with her. They were not frequent, but memorable, yes. We hiked in nature preserves, the park with the creek through the middle where we spotted craw-dads, docks down on the Mississippi to hunt for clam shells, which we found incredible with their shine and their very marine-lifeness. Growing up land-locked, I had an odd fascination for all things aquatic, and these sand dune flowers linked past and present, land and sea in a lovely way.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Day Three: (30 Days of Writing about Ordinary Moments)-Healing Heat

I look out from my magnificent PALACE of a shelter; a beach chair almost covered by a rainbow parasol with a window opening onto the waves crashing on the shoreline. I melt and turn awful colors in the sun, but I love the ocean passionately, it's tough. To my left, my husband has fallen asleep on his towel, haphazardly, the sleep of the perfectly content, to my right: my two boys, one sunning in the best angle, the other digging a giant hole in the sand, probably plotting who he might best bury. 

Miracle of all: nothing hurts, nothing is off, everything is well with the world. I am an advocate for the spring, fall, winter is nice and I tolerate summer because things grow in the summer, and green is good. But this warmth is luscious, unexpected in the depths of our normal winter, and my whole being is reveling in it, and in this chance to slow down, watch the waves, swim in the ocean and just be. I am awash in gratitude. I feel great too.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Day Two of Challenge: A Reptilian Moment

The plant-infused patio, with it's white wicker furniture is still warm with a light breeze to keep it all cool today. As I sat and pondered, a little lizard came up to say hello. She is brown and rust-colored, blending in with the floorboards. Curious too: as she darts closer to me and backs up in turn, over and over.

What I know about lizards is from our years of caring for Neen the leopard ghecko. They like the heat and eat crickets. This one keeps returning as close to my bare toes as she and I both feel comfortable with. It seems that she is eating up the quinoa crumbs left over from last night's dinner. Or at least, that is what I gathered by first observation. I saw her tongue dip down between the floor boards and snatch a minuscule morsel of something. A few minutes later, looking over, I saw a flat sort of bug slip back down into the floor, and decided she must be hunting live prey. But she moved to the flat part again and picked up a grain of quinoa: vegetarian after all! Or just supplementing her regular diet of bugs?

When startled, her tail curls up into a high spiral and she rests, motionless, for a moment, like a squirrel caught too close to the house. She looks at me as though she would speak, at least long enough to say; "hey, I have no intention to bite you. You have no plans to squish me, right?" I look back to reassure and remind her that I think she's adorable, but I really would rather she did not scuttle over my feet, thank you kindly. I promise to cook more quinoa tonight. We have reached symbiosis of a sort.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Challenge: Write About What is, Day One: Cheat Day

Decision made: a challenge to myself to write for 30 days in a row about normal, about noting the small beauties of the every day. I am easily inspired by the beautiful and the adventurous,  but it is a little harder to make a silk purse of a sow's ear. I began this post on an average March day in the Midwest; 45 degrees and sun battling with the rain and clouds for dominance, neither winning in a sort of spring mud of a day. I had taken the dog for his walk, taken a Zoom call for work, had lunch with my husband between work sessions on our French with Kids program, greeted the boys when they came home and corrected the kids' essays before they turned them in.




I would like to tell you that I have some inspiration to share from that day, a glint of appreciation for life exactly as it was in that moment. I am sure I felt it, I'm sure it is what prompted me to write, but it has faded, 72 hours later, as I sit out on a patio in the warmth of an afternoon way down south. We left home, husband, me and the youngest two kids, punting ahead of a spring blizzard that swept over the region as we dove in the opposite direction.

Today, I hesitate to claim the right to the ordinary, for it is so very beautiful here, and so warm, and so out of the ordinary for this family who lives in Iowa. My moment of "wow, it is OK for life to continue," came when I lay back on a towel on the beach, and for the first time in 24 years, I could close my eyes and let go. Always, when we have taken the kids to the wild Atlantic coast, or even to a lake or a pool, I have felt the requirement to be absolutely vigilant, watching in two, three, four or, most commonly, five directions at the same time. Today, there were only two swimming, both old enough to know better, and I could relax for two minutes. Extraordinary. 

What do I mean by "life continuing"?  Just that: time passing, everything changing, all of it. Only a year and two months ago I was having a true crises of the soul, a sadness so deep that it could be qualified as depression, as I considered my vast library of children's books and homeschool materials we had acquired over the years. My youngest had elected to attend school full-time, and it was as though part of me had ceased to be useful and good. Who was I if not a homeschooling, Waldorf mama? I had to reevaluate, to reconnect, and it did not happen in a day. 

I can't find that I wrote about that moment, only about the aftermath and lessons learned. I was too sad to write. The action I took was to put out the word to local Waldorf homeschoolers to see who might like to peruse and take home anything useful in my collection, and then give the rest away.

It was still a work in progress when confinement hit, and I was, of a sudden, mother to FOUR children who were learning at home for two weeks, then for a month, and then until the end of the year...and I never took a moment to appreciate the universe responding to my sorrow in such a dramatic way. It would have felt far too self-centered, in any case, but I did have daily thoughts of gratitude for each and every day that we all awoke healthy and together. 

We just do not know what tomorrow may bring, do we? For this very reason, I entreat you to take a deep breath, look around you, not too far! maybe into the eyes of a beloved, out your own window, and thank the heavens for what is...then enjoy it to the fullest!

 

P.S. If one of the mysteries you are trying to figure out right now is short or long-term financial stability, I would highly, highly recommend this online class by Leonie Dawson "Money and Manifesting Multiple Streams of Income", from which I learned a bunch. I mean, I love the American instructors-of-financial wisdom as much as the next girl, but there is something endearing about this 30-something Australian entrepreneur, hippie, mom, artist and eminently successful businesswoman. She makes me smile.

There is not one moment I would redo in my entire life (OK, there are a butt-load of moments I would redo in my life as a mother and a wife, but those have to do with the most personal instants), but if I were to redo the professional bits, here is where I would start, with the incredible Leonie Dawson, who teaches us to become the helper/healer/best human that is within us to shine through and make the best life for our families whilst doing so...earn money from what you know best and love doing.) The classes I have found the most incredible and useful, from just starting out to ready to sell your offering, in order of how far along you are in your journey and what that journey is:

40 Days to Sell Your E-course:

https://leoniedawson.mykajabi.com/a/17744/zeNUTzpp

 

 40 Days to a Finished Book: 

 
https://leoniedawson.mykajabi.com/a/16702/zeNUTzpp

 

 Sell Like a Star!

https://leoniedawson.mykajabi.com/a/44084/zeNUTzpp

 

This post contains affiliate links, a first for me, but the classes have given me such a boost of get up and go, confidence and kick in the pants, that I wanted to be an affiliate.  Leonie has a gift and gifts should be shared. I have taken all four of the classes and I am gleaning many, many things from each. 

 

Friday, March 5, 2021

Day Seven: Waking Up

Going to sleep is better, but as waking up has become a habit of late; I suppose that appreciating how very wondrous it is could lead to less resentment and more gratitude. 

I used to think the frequent wakings at the end of pregnancy were to ready us to wake up with our precious baby later. Not that it takes a whole lot of training to hear the cries of one's newborn, they have a set of lungs on them, those babes. 

Then, it would follow, that this learning to function (barely) in a highly sleep-deprived state must be preparing a mother for...no, nothing makes any logical sense, never mind. And then you hit "middle life" and the regularity with which nights are interrupted is exactly like being pregnant or having a newborn all over again. Except there is only oneself to nurture at that hour, perhaps that is the power in it; finally, time to be alone with just you and the world, in silence.

Later, once it is sometime past 5 a.m., waking to a new day remains one of the great renewing graces of life. I may not feel refreshed, but I feel the pure possibility of every single chance that this sunrise and this day might bring.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Digging Drama Denoues and Size 1 Needles

Sometimes a girl's gotta' call in the troops, or the stronger arms with shovels. To illustrate: you take a shivering friend of your son's home from swim practice down an unknown dead end, and there happens to be an awful lot of snow and ice just in front of the house. Your big ol' truck sinks further in the longer you wait to make sure said kid gets let into house. (You do not know this, or you would have waited down the street a bit further.) Kid waves, you take off to head home...and go nowhere. "Spinning"'s original meaning: the tires spin, the car goes not. And it turns out to be an act of universal benevolence, because the same shivering kid (no coat, everyone knows coats are uncool), is back again. Did he see you needed help and arrive with a shovel...and a coat? No, he is truly locked out and no one else is home to jump to the rescue. "Hop in and warm back up." 

 

This happens throughout the cold and snowy regions of the world. There are known techniques to dislodge a vehicle, and as a Midwesterner, I know them all. After a neighbor loaned us a doormat to lodge under one tire, hoping this would be the key to a little traction, then promptly disappeared into his house, we had tried about all we had at hand. Pushing, reversing, gunning it in 3rd gear, starting all over again. With the marked absence of any other helpful neighbors appearing to lend a hand, I had to face the painful music and call home for shovels and brawn. It was dinner time and dark.

Of course, the men felt they had to take over, which would have perhaps miffed me in earlier times. As it was, I had 20 rounds of decrease to work on the back of a baby bonnet on size 1 dpns* of various lengths, It was a bit dicey to keep all of the stitches on that 4" one I had to throw into the mix: all in all, there was nowhere else I needed to be. Having been deprived of any knitting during last weekend's campout and severely limited during the subsequent work week, by Wednesday evening, it was time to knit again.



*Notes for the non-knitter: My mother-in-law calls these needles "smaller than Mikados" in fun. A dpn is a double-pointed needle, size 1 is the diameter of a fat toothpick. The parts we are not knitting are held on 4 of these while we knit with a fifth. It is just the thing for working small bits in the round. "In the round" equals no sewing up seams when we are finished.

Illustration credit: https://www.instagram.com/richardduijnstee/

 


Monday, February 1, 2021

Invitation to a Challenge: Accepted!

The question "WHY" is the one most asked the world over when a human who is lucky enough to live in a perfectly comfortable home decides to pack up and spend a few days or maybe a week performing the seemingly torturous rite of camping out. 

I had plenty of time to ponder the notion this weekend, as I put myself into exactly this scenario, in January, in the Midwest. It is easier to justify a camp-out in the clement weather of the other three months, I suppose. Being out of doors is a pleasant experience for part of the year.  But I had been invited to join the Scouts, and I find that an invitation to a place that is out of one's comfort zone, when accepted, is the sort that can take you places you would never have discovered on your boring lonesome own. Besides, I do believe in spending more time outside than in, I just don't always get around to doing it.

The outdoors; a beautiful, snow-covered landscape, was calling to me, my husband had warmly welcomed me to join them, and all the work I needed to do at home had been done. The only voice still sounding a small alarm was the pending weather forecast: 33 degrees F, with rain beginning at noon, it said, ending by 8 p.m., then snow. Ah well, they could be wrong. There was snow on the ground, I like snow. What was the likelihood that we get rain in January? The new system of two sleeping bags should mean not repeating that one time when my toes froze all night during a November camp-out. I knew how cold it could be, and yet, I was going to do it again. 

As I said, I was given ample time to reconsider the entire concept, in-depth, while standing around, under a picnic shelter with the rain pounding down, my toes growing cold and the smoke from the portable woodfire stove constantly burning my eyes. It did not only rain, it rained for ten solid hours. The dads encouraged the boys to take a hike to warm up. All were game, so we left to walk along the Hennepin Canal, an engineering marvel that was scarcely ever used. This had the mixed result of warming us all up, getting to see some scenery, as well as my first in-person coyote sighting, and drenching our outer layers and, in my case, the inner ones as well. 

I spent the evening as mindfully as possible. There were discussions on history, on why we go camping, on a love of nature as experienced up close. I was not feeling much love, but I was intent on paying attention to these moments out of time, in another existence. The challenge was to stay the course, in good humor, come what may, to serve the purpose of letting this experience for the young scouts be all that it could be. We knew the morning would bring snow instead of rain, and the arctic beauty that had begun with the trees icing over as the temperatures fell would surely take our breaths away in the morning. 

The ideas of adding tarp walls to the shelter to protect us a bit from the rain and wind was offered, accepted and executed. Pre and post hike, the little fire in the mini cooker smoked and steamed us into some semblance of warmth. There was no card playing; social distancing and circling the fire on picnic table benches and a few chairs did not allow for games, there was no sketching or journaling; too wet, and there was not even cooking to be done. COVID regulations preclude the sharing of food this year, so each scout arrives with their food ready to be heated in individual packages. No meal prep, darn, that would have constituted an activity in P.C. times.

Dinner, when it arrived, was a fabulous feast. My husband and son had been experimenting all year, and they have precooked meals down to an art. Mostly dad cooks, and my kiddo packages the portions. Tonight we were having rice cooked with fresh mushrooms topped with garlic-sauteed shrimp. It was so good.

The night, which we all agreed, should not begin before the rain stopped, was a cozy one. At least in my tent it was, since it was the only one with more than one person. I followed the techniques my sweetie recommended for getting into the sleeping bags as dryly and as warmly as possible. It was a true feat of planning and execution in some crazy positions. Wet shirt and wet socks changed in car, wettest layers (first coat) left in car, dash to tent, remove snowpants as entering, turn them inside out and slide them between the two layers of sleeping bags for warmer recovery in the morning. Bottom half inside the sleeping bag, I look around to see where I put my other coat, thinking I might put it too in between the layers. I finally realize I am still wearing it. Coat off and quick, into the bags all the way, hat on, scarf handy to keep over face. Zip. 

The morning rewards us with a snow-covered wonderland that is every bit as beautiful as we had hoped. Bliss! Yes, it was worth it. Head out and enjoy where you are today, even if it means breaking out the mittens and scarves and boots. Consider this my invitation and challenge.


 


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

French and New Writings


 

Dear Reader,

I may have mentioned that we are in the midst of big, fascinating changes in our home. Today is my birthday and I am about to pose pen and take up a good book, (et un petit café) but before I do, I wish to share that I have still been writing, just almost all about languages and French. This is where I am posting these days, take a look, I kinda like this post: Sharing French.

Tomorrow I will post a link to a free pdf on language learning here, stay tuned.

Joy and peace and the happiest new year to you!