Monday, July 30, 2007

Shield the Joyous

Two of my daughters spent last week at the Royal School of Church Music choir camp. My older daughter Nashy started going to the RSCM course at age 8, is now old enough at 21 to be a proctor. My younger daughter, Shiney, 17, was a PIT this year (Proctor in Training.) Nashy and the program director colluded to keep Shiney's PIT assignment a secret, and only upon her arrival at camp did she discover that she had been assigned to her sister. There were squeals and giggles and promises to make this the best year ever for the senior girls (14-17) in their care.
My children are all on the cusp of big changes. Nashy will graduate from Womens College with a Welsh Name this year; Critter will be a freshman at Big U Nearby; and Shiney will be a Senior at Tiny High School. (Even Scout, at 7, has blossomed into a reader, which is at least as big a change as college.) I'm glad they like each other, though goodness knows, they've had their days. On the way to camp, Nashy, Shiney and Critter agreed that, even if they had to leave the Little Blue State to pursue careers, they would stay nearby so they could see one another and watch Scout grow up.
I have two sisters and when the three of us are together, we laugh and talk and cry and then laugh some more. I know that no matter what happens, they're on my team. As an adult, I know lots of people who are estranged from their siblings, some actively and some through neglect. I can't imagine making it this far without my sisters and I only hope my four enjoy all the laughter, love and loyalty my sisters have given me.
Yesterday, Garden Girl, Critter, Scout and I set off to pick up the girls from camp-- three hours up, three hours back, and a beautifully sung Evensong service in between. Just beautiful! I'm glad to have everyone home, even if it's only for a little while.

And although they didn't sing this collect during Evensong last night, I'll include it here because it's my favorite.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or
weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who
sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless
the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the
joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Thunder and Lightning, Oh Yeah . . .

The big shindig was last night, and a good thing, too, because right now, the thunder and lightning are cracking in near synchronicity. I am grateful that the bad weather held off until today. I don't think we could have moved the entire party, band and all, into the house, and we certainly couldn't have let everyone shelter beneath the metal tent poles.
Last night, the weather was almost perfect after a hot and humid day and some threatening afternoon storm clouds. All the exhausted new lawyers, fresh from the bar exam -- or not so fresh, as the case may be -- underwent one last rite of passage and broke bread with the people they'll soon be working with. At least this last lap of the endurance test includes great food, a fine band, and many mojitos. (I stuck with no-jitos myself, because I'm a lightweight of the first order. Fortunately, lime juice and simple syrup with fresh mint tastes delicious even without the rum. I waited until the caterer served dessert before I dared have a glass of wine.)
The party preparations continued right until the last minute. In fact, the morning of the party I channeled my mother and began "fluffing" the house, polishing silver, lighting the new candles to blacken the wicks, ironing one or two guest towels for the powder room, and arranging the piles of books into somewhat more artful piles. By the time Garden Girl and I had a chance to dance, the party was nearly over.
P.S. The little guinea keets got lots of curious visitors. A couple more have hatched in the last few days, including one that hatched as the first guests arrived.

Friday Five - Floods and Droughts

Sally posted this at the RevGalBlogPals Friday Five. (Thanks, Sally, this was fun.)

1. Have you experienced living through an extreme weather event- what was it and how did you cope?
I used to live on the edge of Hurricane Alley. We lived on a riverfront and I loved standing in the wind, watching our calm harbor turn to whitecaps, the usually busy commercial waterway empty and gray. Once I weathered a hurricane at Nags Head and the surfers were everywhere, riding the waves before and after the storm. I can still remember the wind whipping my hair into a salty mess that slapped my eyes and mouth. What is it about teenagers that sends them toward the water in a hurricane? I thought I'd left hurricanes behind when I moved the Little Blue State, but in 2003 Hurricane Isabel brought floods that briefly cut me off from my house and children and left us without power for 6 days. My grandfather, who was in his eighties, left his home in Virginia to go to dinner and got stranded by inland flooding and it was days before we knew for sure where he was and that he was OK.
Come to think of it, Hurricane Floyd (1999) was also a doozy. Our office building was swaying in the wind by the time I left for home.

2. How important is it that we wake up to issues such as global warming?
We all have to do better. I know I do.

3. The Christian message needs to include stewardship of the earths resources agree/ disagree?
Agree. One of Eucharistic Prayers in the Book of Common Prayer refers to "this fragile earth, our island home." Just beautiful.

And because it is summer- on a brighter note....

4. What is your favourite season and why?
I love every season as long as it's not humid. I grew up in a place where the summers were hot and humid and the winters were cold and damp. No, thank you. Clear, hot summer day, snowfall, rainfall, crisp autumn, the whispered warmth of spring -- I love them all. I could never live in a place without seasons.

5. Describe your perfect vacation weather....
see answer to 4. I can bear almost any forecast except "hazy, hot and humid" or "freezing rain."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Party in the House!

The Little Blue State Bar Exam ended today, and tomorrow we celebrate with Garden Girl's law firm. Two hundred people -- lawyers and their spouses and partners -- will converge on our front lawn to eat and drink and dance the night away. The new lawyers will be exhausted and the young lawyers will be glad they already passed the bar and the old lawyers will be grateful the party's at our house and not theirs. We've spent the last few weeks painting, cleaning, re-hanging pictures and re-upholstering the dining room chairs (a DIY by the 18 year old son, thank you very much) and cleaning -- did I mention cleaning? Even the teenagers have spanking clean rooms for the occasion. Garden Girl has worked her magic and every corner of the garden is just beautiful.

We also have new members of the family. Two of our guinea hens have been broody for weeks and we were so worried that they would be disappointed. We were so wrong. Yesterday, Garden Girl got a call from our neighbor, Painter, telling her that there were tiny guinea keets scooting all over the place and to come home quick! Painter and Garden Girl got them safely inside the hen house, far from curious dogs and hungry foxes, and today, a dozen or so little keets are keeping their mamas hopping . So cute!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Best. Vacation. Ever. (Well, in a really long time, anyway.)

We're home from our vacation at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY, where I studied writing with Lynda Barry.
Here's what I learned on my summer vacation:
* Communal dining is heaven, especially if it's on a porch. Somehow, the second night at Omega we made our way to a table of people we really enjoyed and spent the next four days eating meals with various combinations of our new friends.
* Being in a place with no cell phone coverage, no phones in the rooms, no televisions, no radios, no music that wasn't a live performance, no alcohol and no meat might be the perfect vacation.
* I'm slow. I have a hard time making transitions, and I'm often late.
* I've needed a good cry for a long time.
* Fiction-writing came more easily to me than autobiography, which was a surprise.
* Lynda Barry's most recent book One Hundred Demons, part novel, part comic book, part therapy, part writing instruction, may be the best book about navigating the path from childhood through adolescence to adulthood I have ever read. Just wonderful. As Lynda would intone like a chant or a blessing: "Go-o-o-od. Good. Good. Good." Because life is good, all of it, even the really painful parts.

* Lynda Barry rocks. If you want to take her course, Writing the Unthinkable, she's offering it Chicago on Labor Day weekend. (You can sign up on eBay.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

We are away on summer vacation until Friday. I am taking a class with Lynda Barry, the cartoonist who created Marlys, pictured at left. Doing something new and different is what vacation's all about, and here at hippie camp, we get to eat incredible vegetarian food, so I can stay on my diet without feeling deprived even one little bit, and my seven-year-old is trying new food at every meal. People are here from all over the country for the many different programs offered during Art Week.

Some of us are writing or painting or dancing, but some of us, like Garden Girl, are on the trapeze -- yes, you read right. Garden Girl is flying through the air with the greatest of ease every day for a week. Today she managed to accomplish the trick you see here: she went out on the swing and let go so she could be caught by the catcher. I'm happier on the ground, but I love knowing she's flying. Wow!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday Five: Wotcher Harry . . . or not

ReverendMother posted this fun Friday Five: As you may have seen in this Wednesday's Festival, Pottermania has hit the RevGals---though not all of them. Yes, I am all over Harry like a Seeker on the Snitch, but I know there are others who will be ecstatic to see the July madness end.

So today's F5 is a Choose Your Own Adventure: do the magical version or the Muggle one, or both:

Option 1: Accio Friday Five!

1. Which Harry Potter book is your favorite and why?
Right now, I'm loving book one, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, because even as I write this, Garden Girl is reading the next-to-last chapter to our seven-year-old, who has his head shoved under a pillow in exquisite agony as they approach the end of the story.

2. Which character do you most resemble? Which character would you most like to get to know?
Minerva McGonegall. First, I always wanted to be named Minerva, and second, she has just the right mix of total authority and a twinkling appreciation of mischief. I hope I'm that kind of grown-up!
I'd like to go to dinner with Dumbledore at the Weasley's house. Chaotic hospitality! I think I'd feel right at home there.

3. How careful are you about spoilers?
It doesn't matter how I feel about spoilers. Multiple copies of Harry Potter 7 will arrive at our house on June 21st and unless I can summon my Evelyn Wood speed-reading skills, the children, who have the advantage of being on summer vacation, will finish first and let something slip. But even if I could sequester myself, I'd have to find out. I'm very good at keeping secrets, but can't stand it when I know someone else is keeping one.

4. Make one prediction/share one hope about book 7.
A happy ending, please.

5. Rowling has said she's not planning any prequels or sequels, but are there characters or storylines (past or future) that you would like to see pursued?
No. I like the idea that there will be an end, so if there have to be more books, let's stick to prequels.

Option 2: Please Mommy, Anything But Those Blankety-Blank Books!

And we do mean anything:

1. Former U.S. First Lady "Lady Bird" Johnson died this week. In honor of her love of the land and the environment, share your favorite flower or wildflower.
I love the Queen Anne's lace that lined the roads where I grew up. As an adult, I discovered the pale papery lichen and cushiony moss that clings to rocks and tree bark along the trails of Acadia Park in Maine. I know it's not a flower, but it's beautiful.

2. A man flew almost 200 miles in a lawn chair, held aloft by helium balloons. Share something zany you'd like to try someday.
I'd love to build a tiny straw bale house in the woods behind our garden. I've always wanted a little retreat with no phone or doorbell.

3. Do you have an iPhone? If not, would you want one?
No, but I'd love one. I have Treo with web access and e-mail and I'm addicted, but it's not nearly as elegant as the iPhone. (but I wouldn't bring it to my tiny house in the garden.)

4. Speaking of which, Blendtec Blenders put an iPhone in one of their super-duper blenders as part of their "Will It Blend?" series. What would YOU like to see ground up, whizzed up or otherwise pulverized in a blender?
Can you fit hypocrisy and meanness in a blender?

5. According to News of the Weird, a jury in Weld County, Colo., declined to hold Kathleen Ensz accountable for leaving a flier containing her dog's droppings on the doorstep of U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, apparently agreeing with Ensz that she was merely exercising free speech. What do you think? Is doggy doo-doo protected by the First Amendment?
At last, a question within my professional expertise. I love the jury system, and I think they got it right. For heavens sake, if the First Amendment can protect the Klan and these guys, it can stand up to a little dog poop. Here's the thing: nobody wanted to hear what Martin Luther King had to say either.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The God Interviews

This little web enterprise by Natalie D'Arbeloff is just lovely. Check it out here. It's easier to see and read if you go to the bliptv version and view it in full screen format. You may need to stop and start so that you can read the pages. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Friday Five: Hasty Edition

Reverendmother posted this Friday Five over at RevGalBlogPals :

Whoops! I have been in a family-induced haze these few days, with the July 4 holiday and taking time off while relatives are visiting. So I literally lost track of what day it was!
So rather than make you guys wait even one minute longer for the five, I'll dig up an oldie:

Today, what are you:

1. Wearing - summer nightie. It's Saturday morning, and I thought I'd missed the Friday Five. Thanks for posting, ReverendMother.

2. Reading - A Twist of the Wrist by Nancy Silverton (a cookbook by the founder of the La Brea Bakery); just finished The Not So Big Life by Sarah Susanka (not nearly as satisfying as The Not So Big House, her treatise on architecture); next up, our family summer reading book, The Brothers Karamazov.

3. Eating - Diet Coke, breakfast of champions, but in a minute I'll have the same breakfast I eat every day: Weetabix with 1% milk and Splenda

4. Doing - snuggling on the sofa with my seven-year-old son, while he watches The Fairly Odd Parents, which I secretly enjoy because it's so subversive. My favorite character? Jorgen Von Strangle, toughest fairy in the universe and dead ringer for Arnold Schwarzenegger. You're never too old for Saturday morning cartoons.

5. Pondering - paint colors, because (hooray!) the painter arrives Monday AM

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Put Down the Duckie

"Put Down the Duckie" is one of my favorite Sesame Street songs. If you listen to a little of this clip, you'll see why. (If you have five minutes to spare, listen to the whole thing. It's a star-studded trip through the late 80's.) Ernie gets great advice: "You gotta put down the Duckie if you wanna play the saxophone." Ernie wants to play the saxophone: I want to ski, hike uphill, and sit cross-legged on the floor. After years of inactivity and too much good food, I'm on a diet, trying to learn a new way to eat and exercise.

I love reading, writing, conversation, going to the theater, and drawing. I find these activities deeply engaging, recreational in the best sense of the word, and I hate the word sedentary---where would the world be if Jane Austen had been into extreme sports? I know that other people find physical activity satisfying in ways I don't understand. My partner Garden Girl builds stone walls and digs ponds for fun, then returns to the house sweaty, muddy and triumphant. I don't get it, but I want to. (Well, maybe not dirt part.)

I love to share a meal with my family and friends. Everything from planning the menu to the last candlelit moments lingering at the table is a pleasure to me. Even the clean-up is a chance to continue the conversation or reflect on the evening. I love to go to the market and find a great new cheese or splurge on wild king salmon. I love to see my children make old family recipes. I love fine dining and beautiful cookbooks.

I want to join my skiing, bike-riding, soccer-playing family, but to get there I must put aside the familiar and beloved habits I've acquired, at least for a little while, and learn a new way of being. It's not a matter of just eating moderately and exercising a little, I have to change the way I view myself in the world. I've got to put down the duckie so I can learn to play the saxophone.