Monthly Archives: January 2014

DreamWork

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I set aside my class plan for After-School Art yesterday.

We’ve been working our way through the History of Art. A pretty large subject for K ~ 6, after school, but they are up for the challenge!

We started with Paleolithic era cave paintings, worked our way through ancient Sumerian temple figures, Egyptian pyramids and wall art. They each made a clay cartouche with their name – in hieroglyphics – etched in it. This week, if I’d held to the plan, we were going to cover pinch pots – made the day we were talking about the Sumerians – with a dark slip, and cut designs through it, in the manner of ancient Greek black-figure ware.

We didn’t stick to the plan.

The pinch pots are not quite “leather-hard” so a bit fragile, yet, to be handled.

The snow and cold have me feeling a little dreary.

For warmth and color and something out of the ordinary, we visited Australia yesterday and tried out aboriginal dot painting.

These children loved using their hand print as their “signature” on their large, butcher paper cave paintings.

They really enjoyed picking out personal elements (“curly hair,” Sophie insisted) for their temple-figure self portraits in clay.

Having the hieroglyphic alphabet key to figure out their names, and the names of their family members (“Mom” is spelled with three birds, in hieroglyphics!), was the most exciting part of that segment.

Yesterday, I gave them each a print-out of some signs and symbols used to tell a story. We talked about each, and about how the patterns of dots were used to partially hide the story, so that only certain people would understand what it said. They each wrote their own message using the symbols provided, then used Q-tips and palettes of bright tempera paints to turn their images into an all-over pattern.

Our second piece was a simple tracing of their hand. The pattern of dots went around and around, inside and outside.

It was nice work for a winter afternoon!

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Poison

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I take a little pink pill each morning, to regulate my thyroid.

I’m not much for taking pills, generally.

I take aspirin for headache. If I start getting leg cramps, I’ll take magnesium for a while. I’ve learned to take 600 milligrams of ibuprofen the minute I feel my back go out. Now and then I start a daily vitamin and baby aspirin regimen, but I forget, and neglect to form a regular habit of it.

The pink pill, I remember.

Without it, my skin dries out and my hair and nails become brittle. Without it, my cholesterol levels go all out of control. My energy level drops. Depression blankets me.

The pill does exactly what it is supposed to do.

It also strips my body of calcium. That’s a well known side-effect of the prescription drug, and I knew it going in.

I come from a family of strong-boned women…yet I have osteoporosis.

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My little dog, Rosa Parks, has severe allergies.

I inject her, every ten days, with a serum made specifically for her. It contains the essence of the many things she is allergic to, so that her body will build up defenses against them. It’s a lifetime commitment, but her little life is worth it.

Usually in about 24 hours after receiving her dose, she starts to get uncomfortable. Her ears get yeasty and itchy; her eyes water. They are the same symptoms, but in smaller measure, that she would exhibit all the time, without the treatment. If she becomes too miserable, there are other things I can give her to counteract the discomfort.

They come with their own side-effects.

It’s a balance we strike.

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My little sister Nita – my cute little sister who can make me laugh like nobody else in the whole world – starts chemotherapy today.

Her prospects are dire. Knowing it wouldn’t save her, she didn’t want treatment.

She knows what a challenge it would be!

The doctors spoke to her about time, and quality of life, and comfort.

They assured her she could stop at any time.

They convinced her to try.

Yesterday – a long day for her – she had a port put in, for administering the chemicals. She went for her first radiation treatment after that.

Today, she will receive her first chemotherapy.

I’m not thinking of Nita in the hospital bed.

I’m thinking of Nita, standing strong like a warrior, in her raggedy wide-leg bell-bottom jeans with her long dark hair showing glints of red highlights in the sunshine and a big smile on her freckly face.

I’m not thinking of the toxins being introduced into her system. I am thinking of those chemicals as soldiers, every one, dressed in white with silver swords blazing, marching in to fight the disease.

We find the balance.

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Happy Birthday, Baby!

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This is not only my story.

I think every mother harbors the same wonder at the birth of a child.

When I look back to the day Jennifer came into my life, it’s almost like I was a newborn, too, learning about life and the world around me through the brand new lens of motherhood.

Who could guess a heart could hold so much love?

Who could predict the absolute, humbling awe at the wonder of every single expression, each finger and toe, every dimple, every precious hair on the head?

No one could possibly foresee the depths of worry and despair this child could invoke with a fever, a skinned knee or (dread!) hurt feelings.

I, who took this new job – “mama” – very seriously, never saw the laughter, the giggles, the fun and the intense, heart-thumping joy this child would bring.

She still does!

Happy Birthday, Jennifer!

Rambling

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I’ve just spent a full ten minutes debating about whether this title should be “Rambling” – as in “I have been rambling around in the woods” – or “Ramblings”, like a series of random thoughts.

No kidding!

I got up and circled the chair, to look at it from a distance. I put the “S” on and then took it back off again.

More than once!

I even – briefly – considered replacing the “g” with an apostrophe…as in “I’m a ramblin’ man.”

That’s the way my mind is working these days.

Rambling.

I haven’t been sleeping well.

I was wide awake through much of last night. The little dog had gone outside to pee at three o’clock, and I’d gone to the bathroom to do the same. When I came out, she was already at the door, peering in, anxious to get out of the weather. Back in bed, she quivered and moaned in her sleep, breathing fast, heart pounding. When the other dog does that, I attribute it to dreams of chasing squirrels. I wasn’t so quick to let it go, in this case. Had she been terror-stricken when I wasn’t right there at the door to let her in? What went through her little dog-mind for those few moments alone out there in the dark and snow? Was that to blame for her restless sleep now?

After mulling that over for too long in the early morning hours, I turned my attention elsewhere. My notes for art class were brought out for examination and review. My finances then came to the forefront, were worried over and set aside. A grant I’ll be writing was given its due. Next, a hangnail that’s been bothering me, and achy joints, and the persistent tickle in my throat.

Finally, my thoughts turned to my sister Nita who, truth be told, is the cause for my restless nights.

She was sick in bed over Christmas…got worse when she expected to get better…went finally to the hospital…and no good news came of that.

Last week my sister Brenda and her husband drove from Michigan to Florida and back, to collect Nita and her few belongings so that she can be surrounded by friends and family that love her.

She saw a specialist yesterday…is having more tests and procedures today…and will likely begin a difficult treatment regimen next week. It’s not a good prognosis, in any case.

When I spoke to her, she said, “Yeah, I’m dying,” and gave a bit of a laugh. Dad and our sister, Sheila, fill her dreams, she said. “I’m sorry to put you guys through this again,” she told me.

“Don’t worry about us,” I said, “Take care of yourself!”

In the middle of the night, seems I can do enough worrying for all of us.

More Snow

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Once again, our attempts at a good walk have been foiled.

The dogs are bored, and I’m getting discouraged.

Clover and I went down the road for our walk a few times, when the extreme cold or ice didn’t stop us. Guilt at leaving the little dog at home was the only damper on our enjoyment. A bit of a thaw allowed the three of us to get out together to walk the old logging road into the woods. Still, not close to our usual routine for frequency or distance.

Now, we have more snow!

In other years, there has been a long dry spell between the end of hunting season and the beginning of lasting cold weather. Time that we could walk through the woods, keeping grasses and snow trampled down. Time to reacquaint ourselves with the path, the landmarks and wildlife along the way.  Time to get accustomed to our route so that we’d know the way when it was buried in deep snow.

Not this year!

In other winters, the snow has come down wet and heavy, forming a nice crust that would carry my weight. Then, we could leave the path. We could explore deep into the woods, knowing we’d have our footprints in the snow to lead us back home.

Not this year. Not yet, anyway.

We had our first snow early, and it hasn’t let up. Five or six inches at a time it has fallen, accumulating quickly into a deep landscape of fluffy snow. So light, snowmobiles could not go out on it; so soft, it would not carry my weight, with or without snowshoes. I don’t think an entire week has gone by without a fresh layer of snow being added to what is already here.

In years gone by, one companion was my old dog, Maggie. Maggie loved a good walk! Part Malamute, part Lab, she was undaunted by the weather. Cold didn’t bother her. Though she had bad hips, she could “swim” her way through snow that seemed impassable to the rest of us. She would lead the way. Clover and I would follow.

Not anymore. Maggie left this world a few years ago. Her spot has been filled with Rosa Parks.

Rosa has much the same coloring as Maggie. She is similar in shape, carrying a bit of extra weight around the middle. She has the same bossy attitude and snippy temperament. She even has similar health and food issues! However, she is considerably shorter and one hundred pounds lighter than Maggie was. This winter, that’s a definite consideration!

Clover is feeling her age, of late. She doesn’t have the endurance or stamina she exhibited even a year ago.

Me, too! Tramping through deep snow is hard on my knees and exhausting all around. I can go a short distance, but long walks are out of the question in this weather.

This winter has slowed all three of us down!

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Madeline

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This picture, of many wonders of Beaver Island, still hangs in my kitchen where I displayed it last summer.

There is a poster just inside the door that states “I love Grandma Cindy” in a multitude of bright colors.

There is a note in the bottom of the storage bin, in my granddaughter’s handwriting, that reminds me “Don’t forget dog food!!!”

On the trim board that frames the stairway wall, Madeline’s name, along with the names of her brothers and cousin, is penciled in along with dates, next to the painted, stenciled numbers to chart their growth.

On my desk is a photo of Madeline, receiving a kiss on the cheek from her mother. “I don’t especially like that picture,” she told me last summer, “Do you know I’d been crying?” I still like the photograph, but take less enjoyment from it now, with that information. Madeline is a generally happy, enthusiastic and joyous child, and I like best to think of her that way.

I have a string of photos on my computer that reflect those traits.

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In my mind, all that warm, bright summer sunshine doesn’t begin to compare with Madeline’s bright spirit!

Happy Birthday, Madeline!

Waiting

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Waiting.

It seems I’ve been doing that a lot these last few days.

Waiting for the road to be plowed.

Waiting to hear if my meeting would be cancelled.

Waiting for the cold weather to ease up.

Waiting for bread to rise.

Waiting for more information.

Waiting.

That’s too short a word to describe the act of it.

The “ting” on the end gives it a lilt it doesn’t deserve.

It should be replaced by one of those long, impossible-to-spell, difficult-to-pronounce words that seem to go on and on and on.

Like “onomatopoeia”, maybe.

In it’s purest and best form, waiting is anticipation: waiting for Santa Claus; waiting for the bell to ring; waiting for the announcement.

Usually, though, even when the wait is for something wonderful, the “waiting for…” takes the joy right out of the phrase. Compare:

“The baby has arrived!”

“…Waiting for the baby to arrive.”

Too often, the wait sounds like a state of Limbo, where everything is on hold until the much desired occurrence comes about:

Waiting for my ship to come in…”

Waiting for the right man/a good job/a better deal…”

“Still waiting for that apology/a raise/the respect I deserve…”

Sometimes it sounds downright fatalistic:

“Just waiting for this day/week/year to be over!”

So what happens then? We start on another long day that we can’t wait to be finished with, in our long string of days that make up our lives as we wait – inevitably – for our lives to be over.

Waiting for death.

There has to be more to life than that!

When my friend, Russell, knew that he was dying, he took his adult children to help him stock up on liquid refreshments, as, “folks will be stopping by.” He took his family on a ferry boat ride. He got up to see the sunrise and share coffee every morning.

When my Mom knew that she was dying, she decided she was going to live her days in the comfort of cozy pajamas, read just the books that would lift her spirits and eat only what tasted best to her. She welcomed family and friends around her, reconnected, reminisced and shared memories. She made note of the weather and her view of the lake (“the best view!”) every single day.

These people, with numbered days, were not waiting for death…but living.

This has been my intent: to live with purpose and direction; to pay attention and appreciate each day; to live in the moment.

Sometimes, though, it seems I still find myself waiting.