Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ah, Arizona

Looking through my Flickr site recently, I found a stream-of-conscious piece about Arizona, and thought I'd repost it here interspersed with a few images from that time.

Early Morning Sky in Late July
Early Morning Sky in late July

Organ Pipe Morning Bloom
Organ Pipe Morning Bloom

Garden Entrance in Morning Light
The entrance to the Desert Botanical Garden
always looks magical in early morning light.
Members are allowed in at 6 a.m. twice a
week. The light is so gorgeous, I don't mind
the heat so much, although it's already
starting to bake.

Ah, Arizona. Can't live there. Can visit.

Unfortunately, I can't include the full sensory experience here.

The heavy blanket of heat, the smell of creosote bushes, the pale feathery palo verde trees swaying in the hot breeze,
the sounds of native birds cooing, rattling or buzzing, the subtle change in humidity when the seasons shift, the sight of saguaro cacti in the pouring rain when the monsoon rains finally hit and the sudden burst of growth,
Leafy Ocotillo /o ko TEE yo/
Ocotillo Leafing Out /o ko TEE yo/
the public art on every highway ramp and overpass, the taste of prickley pear candy, the tinkle of seed pods on the ground, and cookies made from them,
the fellowship of people, the native crafts that astound one everywhere, the sight of a tarantula spider running across the road on a reservation, the thrill (and terror) of having to pass someone on a two-lane highway at 100 mph, while seeing oncoming traffic two miles away,
BRYCE 169-120
the sheer grandure and scale of the landscape, trying to capture it all,
AZ Echo Cliffs
The Echo Cliffs between Flagstaff and Page.
staying inside all day because of the heat waiting for the temps to drop below 100F and the humidity to rise above 4%, then going out in the late evening to eat and check out the gallery scene,
Sugar Bowl Window Night
spilled water drying on the floor in minutes, no cold water in Summer,
PHX Camelback Morning
waiting and waiting for rainclouds to drop some moisture, arroyos or "rivers" of dry gravel, gravel desert yards,
Parry's Agave Imprints
the people in Scottsdale who insist on wasting water to grow green grass, the canals of water, the flavour of PHX water, the isolation and poverty of the reservations,
Painted Desert 01
the vibrant creativity and skill of artisans featured at the Heard Museum, my lusting after turquoise I can't afford,
AZ-PHX_HeardM_jewelry-Monogya 90
Contemporary work by Jesse Monogya at the Heard Museum
climbing up South Mountain trying to get there before dusk and my husband freaked out about the steep drop, avoiding heatstroke, sad histories, dry desert shifting colors at sunset...

Lights of Phoenix from South Mt. at Dusk
Looking North, Phoenix is spread out at our feet. People of all cultures and ages, families and young people, come to South Mountain to enjoy the view and the warm evening breezes, a welcome respite from the relentless heat of the day. At dusk, the temperatures are dropping below 100F for the night.

It's hard to leave Arizona. Can't live there. Can't forget it.

Cactus Bud Crown_CU

Monday, April 27, 2009

Grace in Small Things 19:365

1. Gingersnaps.

2. The start of strawberry-picking season!

3. Thrift-store stroller that has even better suspension than my car!

4. Being reminded to sort paper for ART: Action, Reference or Trash.

5. The crisp-heavy rumple-y sound of a comforter encased in good sheets being adjusted.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Distributing a Life of "Stuff"

A friend recently posted a note about having to clear out her mother-in-law's meager possessions after she'd passed away. Her MIL had been living in an assisted living facility, so it's not that she had many possessions in that space.

Although the pile of stuff was relatively small, my friend still had a hard time letting go of these things. Thank goodness some things could be passed on or used by other members of the family - a frying pan or robe. Other possessions were baffling to find a new home for them. They must be of use to someone! Yet why did her care-givers keep buying her yet more nightgowns, more hair "product"? And what about old wedding announcements and letters from her sister? They all became things to get rid of eventually.

It seems my friend's difficulty in getting rid of any little thing comes partly from her poverty-stricken past (as she freely admits) and partly from maybe not wanting to shuffle her MIL's memory off so quickly. But more of her disquiet seems to come from just, stuff. You know, *stuff*. The stuff that we accumulate in our lives to some little, big, or no purpose. And what the heck to do with it, now that it has entered our lives demanding time and energy.

Yup, when we pass on, our stuff becomes other people's stuff to deal with. Is it any easier to deal with other people's stuff than one's own?

On one hand, I like to have a say in what happens to my own stuff. On the other hand, it's sometimes easier to deal with other people's stuff more dispassionately. ... Or not.

The one time that my sister and brother-in-law had to leave to go overseas for a year (in a hurry - plane to catch, lease to fulfill, etc), they left (at the last minute, because who has times to tie up all the loose ends when the semester is about to start?) an apartment full of stuff to sort, to throw out or to move to a designated storage unit for a year. My mom and I and my sister's in-laws made a heroic effort to clear the space of their remaining possessions before the lease ran out.

Some things were easy -- that half-used jar of mayo in the fridge or nearly empty bottle of nasal spray under the bathroom sink. Other things were harder - crafts that might have been artwork and possibly useful herbal supplements in the kitchen cabinets. I can't even remember (don't want to remember) how many bags of stuff I threw out or how many bags and boxes of stuff I packed and moved in the back of my truck across the county. It was daunting. And one sometimes ran across things that were a little personal. Nothing bad, but just a little awkward to find. Oh, I didn't really need to know about THAT. (If my sister is reading, Don't worry, I've wiped my memory on purpose - I don't need to have any of that knowledge in permanent storage!)

It was an interesting exercise in cleaning up someone else's stuff in a hurry. Cleaning and sorting someone else's stuff, period!

I start to understand why some perfectly useful things end up in landfills. I can see that one might throw up ones hands and say "Trash it! Just get it out of my sight!" I have that impulse about my own stuff sometimes, and that's a whole 'nother post I hope to write someday.

So my friend talks about clearing out a room or two and how hard it is to distribute everything appropriately. I start to think (again) about what I am going to do when it comes time for me, as executor, to distribute my parent's property. (I'll let that thought sink in for a moment...)

Okay, yes, my parents have a moderately sized house. Four bedrooms plus a family room, plus various closets and an attic too. It is all filled with stuff. My mother has been fighting The Stuff for years. She's laid down a few grounds rules because my father, he of the Great Depression childhood, is always rescuing stuff and bringing it home.

This salvaging tendency has its upsides and downsides. The upside being that lots of perfectly useful things are not just tossed into the landfill to molder. (Helloooo, baby clothes.) The downside being that one (especially my Dad) can end up with a LOT of stuff that you will fix or use someday.

I know, I know. I have written about this before. It's one of the themes of my life: What to do with stuff. Especially stuff that is not quite right and not quite used, but might be useful or used someday. Some people cannot leave an abandoned animal alone and bring them home. I can't stand to see something being neglected.... poor little wingback chair! Let me take you home and fix you up pretty again. No, I am not kidding.

But the things we leave other people... that is a task. And yes, my parents will be leaving me a large task.

I did mention this to my mother about a decade ago, about how I was trepidacious about distributing their mass of household stuff when that time came. I think she said, "Oooh..." with some recognition. I think that's when she enacted some new ground rules to slow the flow of stuff coming in.

And this post of my friend's brings this back to my attention. Part of me is paniced, resigned, dreading this eventuality. Part of me is plotting strategies to do it! Supposedly it is easier with another person's stuff. But that's not taking into account the extra layer of nostalgia and competition. My sisters and I will have to find a way to be equitable.

So my mind is thinking, what, database? A spreadsheet! Okay, so we each pick a room and document what is there so we can figure out what we want to save for outselves and what to distribute.

After my grandfather died and we had to clean out the farmhouse, my eldest uncle (as executor) had what I thought was a great strategy.

Everything in the house and property was documented and listed. Then it was mostly laid out for the family to come through and see. *Then* each person and each family made a ranked list of what items they wanted. Starting in order of birth, each child and each family got to pick thier number one thing on their list... if someone higher than them hadn't already gotten it. So first, it was my uncle, then my aunt, then my other uncle, and finally my father, the youngest child of the family. Then it went to spouses... my aunt, my uncle, my other aunt, my mother. Then it went to eldest grandchild in each family, and so on through the lists... If the next thing on the list had already been chosen, you got to pick the next thing available on your list. It seems like a beautiful, elegant system, other than a few things on our lists that did not appear to exist any more. That old mirror my mother wanted, the crystal goblets on my list that turned out to have been loaned by my aunt.

Some of my cousins pooped out early. No, no, we couldn't take another thing! They said. And they were smart. But when it came down to old screwdrivers and pottery crocks, I was still there. That's why I have a fair number of mundane odds and ends that I'm very sentimental about. That's also why I have all of my grandfather's mismatched flatware, depressionware glass plates and a couple of old quilts. (One sister and one cousin to this day complain bitterly that they did not get a quilt. I have to wonder where were they when they were choosing items. I didn't go for the silver; I went for mundane but nostalgic stuff.)

So I have this as a good model for how to distribute a whole household and farm worth of stuff. I think this would work on my parent's house. But first, we'd have to clean and sort... and then negotiate with my sisters about how fast to get rid of things (since they have equally bad tendencies to hang on to stuff). But I'm thinking one of those rent-a-dumpsters for cleaning, sort, document, distribute, then estate sale for anything left over! I may have to pry extra duplicates out of my sister's hands out of mercy. Then to fix up and sell the house... do I even have time to do this for my own stuff?!

There could be complications. Nostalgia and competitions, conflicting ideas of how to undertake this task.

If I'm lucky, my parents will pare down on their own and even sell the house before we get to that point. But I'm not counting on it. I know I shouldn't worry about things ahead of time. I'm trying to NOT spend time energy worrying about it. But I do think it's worth thinking about ways to approach it. Because one way or another, I'll have to deal with their stuff someday, just as someone will have to deal with *my* stuff someday. Now that's a scary thought!

On that note, I'm going to start bagging some stuff for the thriftstore.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Grace in Small Things 18:365

1. Mexican-Chocolate Locopop. (creamy chocolate Mexican palete with cinnamon)

2. The breeze that cools and refreshes the sweaty hair at the back of ones neck.

3. Almost everybody loves seeing a baby. At least, when they are not crying. The baby, I mean.

4. Dental floss picks.

5. The time of year when the yellow iris blooms again.

Bonus visual from almost exactly one year ago:
Yellow Petal Lines

Thursday, April 23, 2009

8 Things Thursday - Mondo Beyondo

I'm playing along with Magpie Girl today and whipping up a list of 8 Things. This week, it's our list of "big dreams" or "Mondo Beyondo." As she says:
It’s time once again for a Mondo Beyond list, that lovely list of big dreams named by the clear-thinking brilliance of Andrea Scher of Superhero Designs. I’ve been making these lists roughly once a year... What are your Mondo Beyond dreams? Breathe them into existence in the comments, or grab a button and play along.

Now, if you read my post on Bucket Lists and Everyday Goals, you'll remember that I don't get too enthused about these so-called Big Dreams. But let me take a shot at it anyway!

1. To raise my child to be an emotionally intelligent human being, reasonably happy and well-adjusted.

2. To be my best self in my marriage.

3. To get back to teaching and performing in my preferred subjects, and to take on even more challenging projects.

4. To maintain a good level of fitness so I can remain active the rest of my life.

5. To hike out West again.

6. To write and publish a book and/or column. Or an art and inspiration book or some amalgam of my expressive creativity.

7. To declutter my life and my house to not quite within an inch of their lives.

8. To live in a solar house with gardens - not too fancy, but small enough to be manageable.

Okay, so these are more lifetime goals than big dreams. Not bad, though. I'm inspired already! Thanks to Magpie Girl for nudging us.

Grace in Small Things 17:365

1. Blustery sunny weather.

2. Grocery stores that stay open 24 hours a day.

3. Good memories of people who are passed and gone.

4. Pretty green-purple sweet potato leaves.

5. Colorful, washable cloth napkins for any occasion.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Small Accomplishments

These days, I count my successes on one hand. If I get to the second hand, great! If I resort to my toes, my cup runneth over.

Eat breakfast. Oatmeal, banana, walnuts, toast, juice. I need fuel to keep myself going when I might not be able to eat for hours afterward.

Cook green vegetables. That broccoli has been calling my name.

Go for a walk in the neighborhood. All the azaleas are blooming in shades of pink, red, purple, peach and white. Pollen is floating in the air. Breezes blow both cool refreshing and warm sweaty. I work my way up and down the hills with an eleven pound baby strapped on. Slow and steady does it.

Post a blip or two. Listen a little, find a few tunes to post or "blip" on this radio station we make for ourselves. I veer wildly in what I want to find or listen to. I don't have enough time to lurk or post or even listen as much as I'd like. A little listen is nicer than nothing.

Take a bath. Give the baby a bath! She occasionally needs a good scrub down beyond the daily wiping. Oh, she doesn't like getting her hair wet at all. I, however, relish getting dunked properly.

Put the baby down at a reasonable hour. We are finding it takes some finesse to run that final feeding and settle. It's a fine feeling of accomplishment to coax her to slide into sleep.

Write a post or two. This may take me a few minutes or a few days. What I'm finding is that I will stay up later forsaking sleep for the sake of writing a little. As with many things, a little it better than nothing. This doesn't include all the writing I do in my head!

Go to bed at a reasonable hour. What time is it again? Time to stock up on sleep. Sweet sleep!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

SWDB First Postpartum

The Simple Woman's Daybook

I find that I miss this format for writing. These days, I don't quite get through an entire post, though. So this covers a few days!

For Today...April 14 - 19, 2009

Outside my Window...bright green haze against dark bark as the trees start to leaf out. Pollen raining down from the pin oak tree like a fine yellow drizzle.

Towards a daily rhythm...nursing, feeding, burping, changing, napping, snuggling...repeat

I am thinking...about different styles of leave-taking behavior.

I am thankful for...friends who will meet me for lunch so we can eat and talk and laugh and share. I am thankful for a baby who goes to sleep when she's ready to and for a husband who gets up in the middle of the night as necessary.

From the kitchen...ready-made falafel (chickpea and parsley balls), nutella on wheat bread, whole wheat capellini with cheese. Of course, there's always cheese!

I am wearing...white Tshirt with an art hurricane design from 12 years ago, grey pregnancy pants, socks, comfy yellow clogs. Half daytime wear and half nighttime wear! At other times: black fleece pants, leather house slippers.

I am reading... The #1 Ladies Detective Agency! by __. First book in the series. I want more! Also part of a sci fi trilogy by Julie Czerneda.

I am creating...a personal image out of colorful ovenbake clay. Image isn't the right word. It's like a personal icon or totem representing something important in one's life. This is currently an image that I created as part of a mandala design a few years ago representing selfless love. It's taken from elements of a character in a novel that impacted me. Now I'm experimenting with creating a version in 3-D, starting with preparing different components of the image. This is rather slow going as many other projects in my life are these days, but I keep at it. It'll be interesting, no doubt!

I am hoping...for a nap! More sleep! More time!

I am hearing...the baby fussing, breathing and sucking on her fist. The cats turning around or snoring. And now it's all quiet as we all go... to... sleep...

I am going to breathe deeply...and put the computer to sleep too!

Around the house...piles of used baby clothes being sorted into the laundry basket for washing and then into drawers and boxes for storage.

Bringing beauty to my home...noticing grace in small things.

One of my favorite things...soft soft baby hands with delicate fingers and a dimple on each knuckle.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...getting in more walking, making pizza for dinner.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Grace in Small Things 16:365

1. Exuberant and poignant Cyndi Lauper songs. "All Through the Night" "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" "I Drove All Night" "She Bop!" Big bop! Big bop a-loop she bop!

2. Faceted crystal that at certain hours of sunshine, send splashes of rainbow in all directions. (60+ in my kitchen this morning)

3. Ways of spreading appreciation. Blips and stars and favs and likes, nudges, kirtsys, and stumbles and diggs and...

4. Letters and cards of condolence. Being sad with you.

5. Well worn flannel.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Grace in Small Things 15:365

1. Freezer falafel.

2. Pink and white apple blossoms.

3. Half rosette fan windows.

4. Smacking baby lips.

5. Schmutzie, for inviting a community into her own project and turning it into GIST.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Grace in Small Things 14:365

1. Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Chipotle Hazelnuts.

2. Trees fluffy with spring blossoms and buds.

3. Not raining all day while I am out and about.

4. "If you're happy and you know it..."

5. Stealing kisses in pockets of available time.

Bonus Small Thing: Catching an hour of time with friends from a 10 hours flight away after a year of distance.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Heard From the Other Room

With commentary

Do need your diaper changed, little girl? Let's see what you've got for Daddy. It's another poopy diaper! Let's get you cleaned up.

Bright orange.

(Me, incredulous) Orange?

Well, it's yellow.

Oop! She put her foot in it.

Oh dear.

And now... Ah, it's a fountain of pee. ... It missed the diaper.

Oo, that's too bad. That's why I don't take away the old diaper until I am ready to whisk the new one into place.

Yeah. (talking to baby) I think you picked just that moment to pee on purpose. You said, "Oh, I'll help Daddy out."

There's a lot going on in here...

I'll say!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What is This M0mmy Bl0g Business You Speak Of?

Saw a post recently on the m0m bl0ggers club the four "must haves" that m0mmy bl0ggers should have on their website.

Briefly: Contact information, domain name, a link to Twitter, and a review & disclosure policy.

I'm a trifle confused by this list, but maybe it's because I don't consider myself primarily a "m0mmy bl0gger."

First, contact information. Well, you can always leave a comment. I like comments. Nice ones, anyway. If you can't stand to comment (some people apparently feel this way) yet feel that you must communicate with me, you can find other ways to contact me through Twitter or Flickr or whatever. There are numerous messaging capabilities. In any case, I don't give out my primary email very often, so don't feel feel offended. (It's my ultimate anti-spam strategy.) Most of those messages go straight to my inbox anyway.

Second, domain name. Hmmm. I suppose, if you do want to present yourself as "serious" to the marketers and PR people out there. I am most succinctly doing this for myself, so I'm not really sure what a PR person would want to do with me. I once had a business and I had my own domain (hehe, I almost wrote damnain). This is not a business, so no domain.

Third, a link to Twitter. Well, finally something I can get behind! I love me some Twitter. I love little linky buttons too, which is why I will share a Twitter button-badge-and-widget link from the article.

[linkie things here]

Fourth, a review & disclosure policy. Whaa? The article specifies:
The disclosure helps inform your readers what they can expect from you as a blogger and product reviewer. ...And your review policy will inform PR reps what they can expect from you when they send you a product or if they are inquiring about sending you a product for review.
Well, if you look over on the right, see that little box there under profile information? See that? Something about about part journal, part list, part creative outlet, part brain-dump? Yeah. That's all I can really tell anyone what to expect. I AM DISCLOSING IT TO YOU NOW. I guess I should add the part about how sometimes I channel dooce, mimi smartypants or CecilyK, but you probably figure that out if you read for long.

As for review policy, I will offer my opinion for free if I feel strongly about something (just try to stop me!), unless you hope to make money off of me. Then we gotta tawk. Make me an offer or something. Is that clear enough? If for some reason you want my advice, I usually say that I can certainly share my opinion if I have one, meaning that I'm well aware that people may not want to take action based on my opinion.

On a slightly different note, the so-called m0mmy bl0g community is so huge and disparet that it's hard to characterize or target the entire group without annoying someone. It's almost fashionable to grouse about anyone talking about part of the group as if they were the whole.

And so it is with this article. I know lots of bloggers want to make money from their blogging. But in addition to the bloggers who happen to be moms (or dads) and parents who happen to write blogs, there are bloggers who happen to blog for compensation, and those of us who do not aspire to do so. This article steps its foot right into that particular hole. Hey! Not all Mommys who blog care about damn domain names!

There. I feel so much better now having given my opinion.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Favorite Escapist Routes

To occasionally mentally detach from everyday drudgery, I revert to some semi-obsessive activities. Love it. Need it.

Here's a list in no particular order:

FaceBook - What are my peeps up to?

Blogging - There are always things to write about or at least to think about writing about.

Thinking about potential blog posts - Writing posts in my head, most of which never make it.

Reading Blogs - I have a huge list. I have a short list of favorites that I read in sequence. An A list, a B list, a list of blogs I'd like to read if I have time and want to explore...

Reading the Comics - Either paper or online. Again, I have my list of about five favorites, and they update either daily or a few times per week.

Blip - My new find. Create your own radio! Listen to other's broadcast picks! Waste hours of time tracking down that obscure song you remember from college!

Twitter - Good for a few seconds at a time.

Working word puzzles. - I'm especially fond of the word scramble where you have to break the code. Feeds my high-verbal brain.

Read - This is so common, I almost forgot it! I read alla the time. Newspaper and novels, mostly. Some internet essays of course.

Photography & Photoshop - These really need to be separate. I can indulge in finding unusual compositions with just a camera in hand and a few minutes. Photoshop is a huge time suck! But satisfyingly mind-numbing if necessary.

What I'd like to do more of. These all require a little more planning and preparation, but still worthy of some escapism.

Sewing - I have a couple quilting projects in progress, a few curtains to make and some clothes to mend.

Painting/Drawing - Images in mind. I need to get them down before they go away.

Modeling clay - Love this oven bake sculpty stuff. Oh, the possibilities. Of course, I can't just use it straight out of the box; have to alter it create something closer to my vision, sometimes.

Dancing - I have been missing dancing. We've just started going back regularly.

Now maybe I'll.... mmm check twitter again, yeah, before doing something productive.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Reposting on Those Teeny Tiny Bottles

I been indulging in a bad habit recently, that of writing half a post in the guise of a comment on someone else's blog. After several occasions of this, it occurred to me that I should just write for my blog, already! I guess it doesn't cross my mind that I could write about this or that. So often I sit down to write and can only think about the boring drudgery in front of me. I need writing prompts so as to avoid endless poop reports. I am pretty sure that noone wants to read about that, tho I could be wrong.

On Twitter, one can retweet or RT an especially pithy tweet. So I'm thinking I need to RC? RP? i.e. repost and expand my verbose comments. Ya with me?

So here's one recent comment expanded into a whole post. I was responding to Mama Non Grata offering pointed suggestions on how to improve the sucky packaging of children's medications, especially small bottles, small type, and inadequate and unhygenic retrieval systems (i.e. the eyedropper that gets used over and over but can't manage to suck up the last bit of the very expensive medication).

Oh hell yeah I am with you, sister! I have been through those teeny tiny bottles with the Mylic0n (anti-gas), which my daughter goes through at a good clip. Who needs only 1/2 an ounce bottle? Insane! And for an even more outrageous price per ounce. Bottles for wealthy elves with magical sucking powers to retrieve every last little drop that clings to the bottom.

I am especially worked up about the size/price difference depending on where you find it. At some drugstores, only the 1/2 ounce bottle is available. If there is a larger, more economical size, they often seem to hide it. At a certain grocery store I frequent, the section of children's products has ONLY the expensive 1/2 ounce bottle. But if you go to the regular aisle where the children's meds lurk amongst the adults', lo and behold, there is a (slightly) less expensive 1 ounce bottle available. Not only that, but they give you an option of a dye-free med. Ya think maybe they are trying to take in more money from the less-observant consumer?

A related lesson might be that anything marketed for a specific demographic is sometimes marked up since it is "special" when in fact one can obtain the same or similar product for less if it's packaged for a different or general demographic. I'm guessing that anything targeted to a narrow demographic is overpriced. But still I get the stuff specifically for baby. I am very impressed with the Baby Aval0n Organics products, for instance. Yes, I bought the wee tiny package of wee tiny emory boards instead of finding the big ones somewhere in my cabinet. And the rather overpriced photo album that coordinates with the baby book, oh geez, I stepped into that one.

But maybe they could be less blatant about taking advantage of the new mother who is so sleep deprived that she barely has the time to blow her own nose, much less search for the more reasonably priced item. I could use a pint of the Mylic0n at a time, thank you very much.

And speaking of sleep deprived, one of my goals is to get to bed earlier. Like before midnight. I just hope I dream of something other than my baby crying or those ridiculously teeny tiny bottles. wuzzat?! ow, my breasts.