Friday, December 31, 2010

Out with the Old: Replacement Year Coming Up

All those Waterford crystal panels on the Times Square ball - is there a replacement part truck parked nearby? What happens if your crystal ball goes out? Pro sports teams have rebuilding years when the age of the starters signals replacements. America needs a couple of rebuilding years, and some replacement parts as well. I need replacement parts. My car needs replacement parts. And some stuff just needs to go. I cleaned up my workroom today and while I still don't have the nerve to toss some items, I was ruthless. Picture frames waiting for me to repaint or fix - out. I'm glad I threw all my old Daytimers out. I thought all those years would contain grist for the writers' mill. Looking at the cancer years recently to find what I was feeling, I was shocked to find nothing. Just appointments and dates. It's been a year of striking contrasts, extreme lows, sharp pain, higher joy, richer peace. I expect the replacement year will offer much the same, and I'm glad to have it. Wishing everyone a pain-free new year. We live in hope.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Beauty Wisdom from My Sister

My youngest sister, the wildest kid in our crew, grew into the adult with most of the common sense. There's a big dose of yin:yang in this dichotomy, which is true for all of us I suppose, but it's black/white for Carol, and taupe/slate for the rest. Carol is a professional cosmetologist, working for a famous intergalacticly huge beauty company. She has eerie color sense, can pick a lipstick shade for you that will be your favorite forever, until you see her again and she recommends another. Mine is MAC Lipglass Viva Glam VI, which I carry in my handbag and paddling survival kit right next to matches. She can match towels to shower curtains without taking the entire bathroom with her to the store. I am incapable of that. (On her instructions I am not allowed to shop without supervision to match anything; or to Cabbage Patch in public either.) We could talk for hours about Carol's many skills and attributes, but this is about sharing her beauty rules and tips. Rule Number One: don't pull, push, scrub - or in any way whatsoever - maul your face. I didn't listen and well, here I am. Rule Number Two: soap is for washing clothes and dishes and small children, not skin. Rule Number Three: petrolatum is a petroleum byproduct and is designed to get you addicted to reapplying. Gee, petroleum companies and addictions? Who knew? Petrolatum is NOT moisturizing, is in fact, drying, and also is noncosmodecious, or some such big word which means it clogs your pores. Rule #4: if alcohol is the second ingredient in anything you're about to pour on your body, it's going to dry your skin. Alcohol is drying. Alcohol + petrolatum is desert. If you're buying products with these two in close proximity on the ingredient list, you're dehydrating yourself into prunedom. These cover the basics. I'm adding stay out of the sun - even if you get through a few decades without evidence of skin damage, overexposure will show up with a vengeance some day. Did you notice Carol has one green eye and one blue eye? Another example of her fabulous color sense.

Sweetgrass Writers 2010

Another year together and apart. Deb is applying blissmonger thought coaching in the further north of Minnesota. We had one last dinner together at Comeback Inn outside in the warmer breezes. We miss seeing Rondi and hearing her latest writing. Today we'll gather at Nancy's house for a welcome sojourn. Geri will bring cake (it's all about the cake!) Pat's bringing turkey stew; unknown whether he bagged the turkey himself yet, and I'm bringing Sweet Retreats dark chocolate. We'll laugh, hug, catch up on the month's reading and writing, and contemplate the coming year. September in Sedona? A spring writers' retreat?

Saturday, December 25, 2010


I'm thinking of a young family, a new mother and father and their infant, and the life that will unfold for them without knowing the awesome impact of the boy's birth, and the blessings, the meaningfulness of his life to millions of people the world over.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Who's Our Mama?

Two interesting anthropology stories this week. An article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences introduces us to 12 members of a Neandertal family who lived in Spain and met a nasty end. And in Nature, DNA study of a little girl's 30,000 year old pinkie bone found in Denisova Cave in Siberia may have discovered a new sister ancestor in our archaic hominin closet. Our family gets more interesting all the time.

Caregiver Christmas

Special holiday wishes and warmth to the caregivers who do magic every day of the year. Caring for seniors, spouses, siblings; performing acts of legerdemain, illusion and zippity do dah mood wrangling, while wondering where the heck you developed this split personality and eye twitch is no small feat. Bless you all, and I wish you a place of sanctuary and comfort and the magical ability to restore yourself on demand. Candles help.

Christmas Eve Eve

December 23 is my favorite date. It's a celebration day I adopted years ago when the holiday was about children, toys, visiting, obligations, shopping, exhaustion. Eve Eve was a night for me - to light a fire and candles, play holiday music, and reflect on the blessings of the year in quiet contemplation. For the decade I hosted a Winter Solstice party (I miss those!) it was a day to clean house literally and figuratively. Today I am grateful for good work I was fortunate to have this year, friends who warm every day, and family. I miss the loved ones who have gone on, but feel the bright light of love and shared memories. Christmas Eve Eve is a day of living now, fully present and blessed.

Diminishing Returns of Apple Love

npr is offering a free download of best new music of 2010 using iTunes. I love npr. I used to love Apple. Since my first IIC I've spent more money on Apple products than clothes. Apple used to be the Madame Curie of innovation. Now Apple is the Marie Antoinette of technology. Apple was creative, elegant and I felt terrific being a user. Since I bought my G5 in 2004, I have spent more money on Apple than clothes and food. Apple stops supporting its own stuff in order to make you buy its new stuff. I bought the G5 with Tiger, and now, several cats down the road, my latest OS purchase at $150 decided it doesn't recognize my $2,000 printer. Forums report that the issue was fixed one cat up the road, and then lost again the next cat. One cat forward, two cats back; the dreaded Microsoft zoo. I downloaded the free music from npr yesterday and had to sign not one, but two iTunes agreements. One reminded me that I only rent from Apple. So does Apple, but Apple owns the turf and the rental is fixed, except to us. It's all about money. It used to be about something else. A business associate tells me that to put an app on iTunes, Apple must first approve it, then take a significant chunk of the sales. Fine. That's a cost of doing business. But Apple also will not share the list of people who downloaded the app with the app creator. That is egregious - beyond the costly upgrades, the abandoned legacy support, the expensive tech support, and the intellectual property usurpation, this surpasses greed. There is a sliding scale of Apple love and now all of it involves money. I wonder what that makes Apple?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Just a Little Off the Top

1973 found me divorced in a new apartment. I didn't have a Christmas tree, and Dad said he was going to top the big pine in the front anyway, so if I'd help, I could have the cut-off piece. I stood on the ground and measured. "How's this?" Dad asked. "Fine!" I hollered back. He chain-sawed it and when the top fell to the ground it was 12 feet tall. "Oops," I said. We laughed until I fell over, sawed off another 8 feet, roped it on top of my car and it went home with me for Christmas. The girth took up most of my apartment, and when I hauled it out after the holiday, I scraped off fragrant needles 3 inches deep. It was grand.

Dad's Homemade Bread

Dad used to make English muffin bread that almost caused a family feud when my sister found some in my refrigerator and she had none. It is hard for Dad to knead dough so he stopped making bread. He bought himself a breadmaker for Christmas. The same guy who won't buy Fritos if they're not on sale, bought 5 flour flavors. He asked me yesterday as he was reading the cookbook that came with the machine "what's glutton?" "Me and cheezy poofs. Why do you want to know?" "This recipe asks for it." Gluten. I was being awfully good up until last week. There are few more appetizing smells than fresh bread, right out of the oven.

The Best Christmas Tree

The best tree is what you imagine it to be. Even a Christmas tree 6.5 inches tall bears all the good wishes for prosperity, joy and blessedness imaginable. Merry Christmas wishes for good will, peace on earth for everyone!

1986: Christmas Tree + Unexpected Guests

Enjoying the tree, music, candlelight and a glass of wine on Christmas Eve Eve, I thought I was losing my eyesight. Blinked and blinked but a moving black cloud got bigger and blacker. I went in the bathroom to look in the mirror - no black cloud. Came back into the family room and the cloud was worse. I could feel the blackness crawling on me. Spooked, I flipped on the light and met the unexpected guests. Flying ants. The beasties had been dormant in the tree and the warmth brought them out to play. I unplugged the lights, held my breath, picked up the tree, ornaments et al, and threw it all in the backyard. aaaiiiieeee!

1964: To Chop A Christmas Tree

I just asked Dad what year the station wagon was the fateful Christmas we tried to chop down our own tree. 1961 Chevy wagon. Scott was a baby in his car bassinet. Susan came along, too. We drove to Milford which was a kajillion miles away then. Dad drove into the hilly farm; heading for the perfect tree we spun out on a ravine edge and had one tire hanging on air. The owner brought his tractor out to pull us out. The tractor broke down. The tree farmer went back for another tractor, pulled the first out, and then us. It was not a lovely ride home. We bought a tree on the way back 4 miles from the house. Dad was still mad when I asked him what year the station wagon was this morning. I can remember trying not to laugh that day long ago, and once more all these Christmases later.

Drop the Knife, A Memoir-in-Song Videos

Missed Jeanne Mackey's debut performance of Drop the Knife, A-Memoir-in-Song on Sunday, November 21 in Ann Arbor. Ms. Mackey celebrated her 60th birthday by composing a musical reflection on turning 60. It was a promise she'd made to herself and I'm glad she kept. Jeanne has several videos of the evening on youtube which is linked here. Don't miss Different by Now, and No Time to Hesitate - but I like Doomed and Land of the Sidhe, too. Musical meditation is good for this holiday week, and reflecting on a life well-lived in music is restorative. Thanks to Ms. Mackey for sharing the musical journey!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Blaze's White Feather Christmas Tree

Lucia (Blaze Fury) had a white feather Christmas tree she decorated more than once. The year in memory now was just after Tommy passed. Blaze had his tap shoes mounted for the funeral, and the shoes were under the tree. The rotating light flashed green, blue, red creating the stage lighting they both enjoyed.

Winter Solstice + Total Lunar Eclipse

1554 was the last year for this auspicious event. What a night to be at Stonehenge or Ephesus, Glastonbury Tor, Chichen Itza, Old Sarum, Cahokia Mounds or Pittsburgh, or any place with special juju. Tonight 2:41 am ET, the moon will be visible as a burnished copper disk. For those of us Orthodox Pagans who adore copper, and celebrate the Winter Solstice, this is a once in several lifetimes event. I will be out in the parking lot in my Buzz Lightyear pjs, alpaca kneehis, Sorel boots. I'll be smiling if it's not cloudy, and cranky if it is. For anyone curious what was on TV in 1554, the French were at war, Lady Jane Grey and her consort were beheaded, Sao Paulo, Brazil was founded, Valerius Cordus and Francisco Vasquez de Coronado died. Sir Walter Raleigh and Sakuma Morimasa were born. And there was the previous total lunar eclipse, on December 10 because the Julian Calendar wasn't in common use yet. Enjoy the view, companion earthlings!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What I Love About Being Older

1) I am comfortable lifting ideas and I am happy giving credit - the subject of getting older came up in the comments on Lynne Morgan Spreen's Any Shiny Thing blog.

2) Senior discounts. Restaurants, movies, park passes - none of which I can afford to frequent, but it's still nice to have the potential extra clink in my coin purse.

3) I no longer have to touch up my hair every six minutes. It was a tough job to keep Scandalous Sienna from not playing nice with white roots.

4) Black looks good on me, and red lipstick does, too. I don't have to line my lips any more. This took for-ev-er. And then I worried all day about whether the lipstick had leaked into my lip cracks all the way up to my nostrils.

5) While I have always talked to myself, now everyone just expects it.

6) If somebody honks at me, it's because they know me. That's nice.

7) My family finally believes that my bizarre free spirit is slightly more charming than annoying.

8) No pressure to keep up with my favorite brands, which have all been discontinued anyway by the time I remember what these are, and where to shop for them.

9) The endless search for the perfect lash-lengthening mascara is over. My saggy eyelids droop over my eyelashes, so if my lashes are too long, the black/brown ends up on my forehead. I used to rent a storage locker for all my make-up; now it fits in one little desk drawer. I kept the storage locker for my supplements and meds. I discovered the advantage of jowls, too. There had to be a reason for those, otherwise it's just mean. Jowls are to keep the water out of your eyes when you're shaving your legs in the shower.

Shower Thoughts

1) "Gloucester Wassail" wishes Master all sorts of stuff, and hopes what's left over will pass along to the wassailers. A medieval carol about trickle-down economics.

2) Art needs to be simple. Humans respond to symbols, and symbols are powerful in their simplicity.

3) Is there such a thing as learned incompetence?

4) A hammer doesn't swing itself. Tools are just tools.

5) Society's not a good place to keep humans.

6) Freedom is intimidating.

7) We may be the train but the tracks don't belong to us.

8) Welcome to the decade of the gifted amateur.


I do the most creative thinking in the shower. Yesterday I wondered why and figured out that it's because I'm still. I have nowhere to go, no errands to run, no space to roam around. Plus there's water. Water promotes creativity. Eliminate the option to stand at the bottom of the Huron River for a long time to quietly think, the shower will do. Leaning my head against the shower stall yesterday, trying to get unmad about political hooha, I realized everybody lies. Not just politicians, store clerks, parents and me. It's a human thing. My mom was a crazy person about lying and I have that trait too. It's a dumb trait, doesn't make me happy, rich or alien. I lie. Congresspeople lie. Why make it hard on myself? Unrealistic expectations may lead to success, but it's a damn spikier road. I like this drawing. It will remind me that being human is as good as it gets for humans, and the more breaks we give ourselves, the smoother the journey.

Laura's Door

A winter barn door reveals dreams of summer ponds. Author Laura J. W. Ryan's photograph; and the dream behind the door.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Women Who Weren't Born Yesterday

This morning's internet tunneling took me back to Lear's Magazine - The Magazine For Women Who Weren't Born Yesterday. The Golden Globe nomination news led to The Hollywood Reporter, to Third Age website's story about Helen Mirren receiving the Sherry Lansing Award. Third Age subheads itself as "for the woman who wasn't born yesterday and makes the most of today." Which reminded me of Lear's where the tagline originated. Baby boomer women news and the pictures across the top are Gwyneth Paltrow, some young studly guy, a sidebar picture to support "Today's Hottest Red Heads," and the teaser photo for the Helen Mirren story has been cropped to show her chest and waist. She's decapitated. I loved Lear's Magazine. More clicking this morning led to a 1994 NY Times story about Lear's demise. The writer opined "because there is no other magazine quite like Lear's, it is unclear whether a publication aimed at women over 35 and carrying little or no fashion coverage can be successful." Frances Lear created Lear's Magazine for a particular reader: herself. There are now millions of "herselfs" but there's still no magazine like Lear's. One or two claim to be for the woman over 35, but most of the ads and bits are pointed at women who may not be 35, but will spend a bunch of hundred dollars to look as though. I still miss Lear's Magazine.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Snow Holds Up Tax Cut Vote

Senate is holding the vote on the tax + more pork + weirdness like legalized internet gambling bill open so members can return to the Capitol. The entire #@%^$ planet knew this vote was coming on Friday, along with the snow. If you or I weren't at our job, snowy asses in seats for this, we'd be looking for work. And we can't fire these birds why???

Turning 10, Turning 60

What do ages 9 and 59 have in common? Bad haircuts. Glasses. That jutty front tooth (even though it was corrected with braces; multiple face surgeries put it right back where it started.) But that's all appearances. I feel like I did when I was 9. I loved to read, ride my bike, run, play with my brothers, swing, draw, build stuff, create and laugh. I still do. I was confident, exuberant, happy to be me. I am again. I slept great then and now. The 50 years in between added wrinkles, mass and experience, but the girl who was 9 is the woman who is 59. I was excited to turn 10. And I'm excited to be 60.


Each December Earth passes through the remains of 3200 Phaeton, an iceless comet. The Geminids meteor shower should be visible falling through the constellation Gemini on Tuesday between midnight and sunrise, from December 12 to 16th. And we get the best view in the Northern Hemisphere with optimum celestial show viewing on Tuesday, December 13. If you can't stay awake that late, check the sky after sunset tonight, or any night until Thursday. This is the warm-up act for the total lunar eclipse coming December 20-21, just in time for the Winter Solstice.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tell My Doctor

"Tell your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms: headache, nausea, muscle weakness, weight gain, sleeplessness, diarrhea, tongue swelling, heart palpitations, anxiety, tremors, fatigue, stomach pain, heart attack, death."

What's Gonna Get Me

If anybody asks "what was it that finally did her in?" nod sagely, and say, "it was twist ties, chewed toothpicks and the ripped-off tops of artificial sweetener all over the house." Yes, ma'am, that's what will get me. And the dog probably, too, for different reasons. I'm not eating the stuff. Yet.

Narcissism, 3rd Chakra and The Fitzgeralds

Read Nancy Milford's "Zelda" last night. Professor Milford wrote this biography of Zelda Fitzgerald as her master's thesis. Published in 1970, it was considered for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. I watched "Tender Is The Night" on TCM, and Robert Osborne discussed the dynamics of the Fitzgeralds' relationship, and mentioned the book as the single account that shed some light on Zelda's creativity and squashed potential, rather than Zelda as merely mentally ill, and poor F. Scott, struggling to maintain. Nancy Milford is a Michigan native and attended University of Michigan, so I got the book from the library. Milford's research is phenomenally well-structured, with plenty of anecdotal accounts of the history and life of the couple. The searing trajectory of F. Scott Fitzgerald + Zelda Sayre is too bright for mortal eyes, like a nova. Destined for greatness with mutual admission, the Fitzgeralds were interchangeably committed to implosion. I can't draw their sad fate, but I drew what I feel is the effect of an overperforming 3rd Chakra. Manipura, "Lustrous Gem" - its issues are personal power, self-esteem, willfullness and energy. Overshadowed is 2nd Chakra with its manifestation of creativity, emotion and relationships. Dimmed as well is 4th Chakra - acceptance, trust, compassion and love. Doubting, jealous, self-absorbed and deeply willful and energetic, the Fitzgeralds careened through the 20s and 30s, clutching for the keys to the kingdom they had imagined, and I wonder how different each life would have been without their fateful connection. Double helix of malfunctioning emotional DNA. Brilliant, creative and doomed.

Narcissism Undisordered

The American Psychiatric Association is considering dropping narcissism from its roster of personality disorders in DSM V, out in 2013. NPR's story reminds us what we read in the gossip columns is not really narcissism. NY Times article explains the rationale behind dropping 5 of 10 listed personality disorders. PsychCentral tells us that clinicians will still do the heavy therapeutic lifting for clinical cases. I believe the American Psychiatric Association will remove the 5 from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders because no one in their crowd can write a prescription to abate, cure, or influence any of the soon-to-be removed. Clinical cynical. Evidence the removal of "homosexuality" as a disorder in 1986. DSM's validity is marginal except to insurance companies, Big Pharma, and government pharmaceutical regulators (Phantom Pharma). Perhaps we'll see fewer prescriptions written off-script to "lessen the symptoms" of borderline personality disorder, narcissism, and the other 3. Remains to be seen how difficult getting a referral and medication assistance will be in 2013 and beyond. Meanwhile Kanye West, Snooki and their professional sports avatars can continue along the yellow brick road of self-acknowledged fabulousness.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Art and Not Art

Reading trails this morning on the internet. There must be a name for this activity, digging behind stories to other stories. Checked 13.7 Cosmos and Culture and found a new post by Stuart Hoffman and followed the thread "Poised Realm," a lovely phrase. Schrodinger's cat makes an appearance, possibly dead, possibly alive, but certainly not dead AND alive as previously supposed. Schrodinger's cat needs a therapist if alive, and a funeral if not. But I love this stuff. Measurement, quantifying, bridging the gap between classical/quantum, science/magic. Aristotle's A and Not A, biocentrism, Global Unified Theory, poor Schrodinger's cat. What is in between dead and not dead? If we had a big enough yardstick and my Dad's enormous calculating wristwatch (how many times a day do you use a cosine function?) we'd all be...more content? Science causes me to feel happy. So does magic. So does a good argument for the existence of [your favorite deity here]. And science is good art, too. Just look at the wave pattern on the other side of the slit experiment. If that isn't art, then it must be science. I'm going to ask Schrodinger's cat.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Walking Diary with Buddha Tree

I've walked and bicycled past this tree often. The group of three trees each has a knot or a wound or a branch-ectomy that pained me to see until I noticed the smiling Buddha face in the northward facing tree. Its sibling trees have the knots facing south. The north face Buddha is the only one smiling. Whether I walk or bike north:south or south:north I always smile at this tree, and remember that smiles are contagious, and no matter what life tosses into existence, it's good to be alive.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Prana, Qi and Biocentrism

Read Biocentrism last night by Dr. Robert Lanza, MD and Bob Berman, astronomer. I don't remember the direct route that led me to this book (I find reading science/cosmology/metaphysical in combination makes me forget my name and all my passwords.) I zipped right through the book which leads me to believe that I am already on the path, or I totally don't get it. Maybe a little of both. The book quotes a Zen saying, "Name the color, blind the eye," and perhaps putting a label to consciousness does the same to awareness. But the book addresses the questions I have right now. What was there before the Big Bang? What is the universe expanding into? Quantum physics doesn't answer. The answer cannot be nothing, because nothing is not model-based reality. Even Einstein was perplexed by the concept that physics works on a galactic scale, but not on the atomic level or below. Waves act like waves until someone spots one and then it holds its breath and becomes a particle. Oops! Spotted. Quantum physics can measure what we collectively agree, in our model-based reality of mathematics, on a large scale but it is contradictory to what occurs on a small scale. But physicists are absolutely certain that sometime in the very near future, a Grand Unified Theory (GUT) will wrap it all nicely together. In waves or strings, or M-theory, or vintage jacquard ribbon? Superposition experiments now underway might reveal something. But what if, just what if, as the authors of Biocentrism query, what if consciousness is what created it all? This gets right to the art of Einstein's "spooky action at a distance." Suppose that in the beginning there were waves of probability, and then there was awareness. Suppose that external and internal are just language distinctions. Suppose there is entanglement on an unimaginable scale, from subatomic to multi-universal? Suppose EPR correlation is behind our eyeballs, encased in bone? We're trained to accept science as it is from early on. We flavor it with a little traditional religion. Then we start asking questions that aren't answered by sources we used to trust. Saying, "Because I said so" only works for parents, quantum physicists and religious leaders for a while. What then? We look elsewhere. We look within. We meditate and see stuff we cannot believe we see. I'm a lousy meditator. I have cartoons I've drawn about how bad I am at it. But I'm getting better, not with practice, but with letting go of model-based reality. I saw something this year in meditation. Two spheres approaching each other from opposite horizontal directions, within the spheres infinite other spheres together. When and where the spheres touched, energy exploded in every scale of color from the place the spheres touched. We were called out of meditation, and I told what I had seen. Reverend Lorna Brown nodded, and said what I had seen was prana. I had to look it up. It was powerful, mesmerizing, comforting and electric to see this unfold behind my eyes. I came straight home and made a gif animation so I would remember. Perhaps one day soon, rather than let physics handle the heavy lifting, we will combine studies. I want to shake the hand of the first biophysicosmobotanicalmetaphysicalist. I will, until I learn her true name, call her Reverend Mother Doctor Wow.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Day Traditions

Lions and the Packers. Grandpa, Dad, Uncle Bill, Uncle Ken taking a walk after dinner in their topcoats and fedoras. Women in the kitchen with aprons and pearls. Aunt Leota's pfeffernüsse. Auntie Mabel's trifle and blue hair. Singing "Happy Wanderer" with Grandpa playing his melodeon. An interesting piece on npr this morning about the first Thanksgiving. This year I'll remember family and loved people who are enjoying the bounty of the universe elsewhere, hug the family that will be at my sister's house, and be grateful for the memories past and those still to be experienced.

Monday, November 22, 2010

HVCA Arts&Greens Holiday Market

Huron Valley Council for the Arts put on their Arts&Greens Holiday market at Bogie Lake Greenhouse this past weekend. This event is always beautiful, well attended, and festive. We were there with Lazar, The Good Deed Dog, and my novel Chantepleure. After our book signing time, Geri and I walked the show, visited with artisans and enjoyed the company. Geri found some holiday gifts at Linda Locher's L3 Art Dolls booth. Wonderful happy art! We talked with Cindy Cillick Geist before the show. I remembered her from last year and enthused "the purse lady!" she said Mary Bajcz was there also, and she was thus only 1/2 the purse lady. Cindy wore a stunning watercolor jacket she found at Salvation Army, and recognizing the good bones bought it for $1.25 and dyed the silk. Priceless! She showed Geri and I the shawls she makes and how the fabric is a mobius (wrong side stitched at the underarm seam to right side.) She finds worthy fabric, and dyes the silk. Machine washable! I remarked. She said "you think all those folks in Asia are dry cleaning their clothes?" I'll be washing my silk henceforth. We spoke with Lynne McLean, fiber artist about her wool felted sculptures. Perched high atop her booth set-up was a handsome Wine Dragon - she is known as "The Dragon Lady" although her animals, wizards and Santas are just as stunning. A large sun with a wry expression and a single pierced ray made us laugh. She explained felting with a barbed needle, as well as soap and water wet rolling techniques. The wings on The Wine Dragon are rolled with metallic fiber, using the wet method. Fantastic sculptures, so lifelike I expected the dragon to breath fire. You'll be seeing more of her work here. I love her art and asked if she would be willing to be interviewed. She said she would, and she has a photo of The Wine Dragon to share! You may see and buy these artists' work at the Black Sheep Weavers Fiber Guild holiday show December 3rd-4th in Hartland, Michigan.

No More msnbc For Me

Tonight I turned on the television after dinner for Dad and the first words I heard on Hardball were Sarah Palin. If I wanted to find Sarah Palin, I'd go look for her. I don't. And I have no interest in Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, FoxNews either. But if we composed a tag/ or word/cloud from msnbc's shows beginning at 5 and ending at 11, I can guarantee that the top words would be these. msnbc struggles to match Fox shows' ratings, doesn't come close, and can't seem to find a clue why. Here's a clue: I'm done watching msnbc. No more watching shows that cover the competition subject matter more than any other newsworthy interest. I'll watch Rachel Maddow only. When I can stay up that late.

Lazar Is A Star!

Lazar, The Good Deed Dog was the best selling book at the 59th annual JCC Metropolitan Detroit Book Fair, held November 1 through 14, 2010 in West Bloomfield, Michigan. With 65 authors represented with premiering books, Myrna Gelman Shanker's first published children's book found an appreciative audience. Lazar himself was in attendance for the reading on November 14th and greeted many friends and relatives of residents at the Fleischman Residence/Blumberg Plaza. Mazel tov! to Lazar, Myrna Gelman Shanker, and all the wonderful people who know and love Lazar's story. A portion of the proceeds from each book sold benefits the quality of life for Jewish Senior Life of Metropolitan Life.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Introducing the New Boot

Not same as the old boot. Two boots for added impact. I like these boots and the blog will enjoy wearing them. Classy, womanly with strong character. A touch vintage, a dash kinky. Lola would like. There's enough fussiness here with all those laces and grommets that I assume the wearer is fabulously well-to-do enough to hire someone to lace the things up. On The Boots first outing: Dove Men+Care commercials for foaming shower gel for cleaning - man hide. If I was a giggler, I'd be doing that. Skin must be too girly for men with hides to have. And what's body hair, I wonder? Man fur?

Walking Diary with Sumac

I experimented with seeing things a different way today. The world without my glasses is soft-edged, mysterious. Model-based reality is subject to lots of fun - sometimes eerie - distortion. Today I tried walking looking over the tops of my glasses. This is not a recommended experiment at speed. Requires a professional walker on a closed course, but I did enjoy seeing things differently. When I wised up and steered sighted, sites I see every day appeared anew. The sumac in the distance looked like quotation marks suspended in the branch web. What was nature quoting? Was the sumac reciting? Was Mother Nature showing off her Shinto shrine? Within the sumac quotation marks was the wind strumming the grasses and reeds, nature's string section. The oak leaves applauded, the last trees with foliage to rustle. The rain drummed the tarmac and played percussion on the bleachers in the empty football stadium. The sumac presented the quotation marks, not as a request to see, but a call to listen. Perhaps I can hear better without my glasses.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Wordless Words

Words to lose from the cultural conversation. Overused to the point of meaninglessness, or zeitgeist-ed into the opposite of the word's etymology. Add to this list of phrases to ditch: family values, moral authority, New Age. Transparency is now the synonym of obfuscation. Distraction has been coopted to mean that someone has done something nefarious, controversial, or just plain dumb and is now going home to "spend more time with the family" because everyone can't stop talking about how nefarious, controversial or dumb the behavior was. We hear countless times a day how bipartisan something is, while showing no evidence of compromise. We transition through various degrees of war. If anyone else reaches across the aisle while not compromising in any way from the rigid ideology of whatever stance they're taking, I'm going to throw up. And, please come up with some other timeframe than at the end of the day. When is that exactly?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Happy 18th Birthday, Bianca!

Biancalanapatookamunchkidoo is 18 years old today. Her birth name is Bianca Mariah Elizabeth Lawson, but when she was the tiny preemie bunnyheart we first saw, she attracted as many nicknames as leads monitoring her in the incubator where she spent her first days. She rushed to be born a Scorpio, when she was scheduled to be a Capricorn. She wore a Cabbage Patch doll outfit for her family debut at Thanksgiving dinner. She fit in the palm of her daddy's hand. Just weeks before her birth, while her mother was cutting my hair, our sister was encouraging Carol to get daycare now. Carol thought she had time to arrange that. I said if I was available when the baby was born, I'd watch it. And here she was two months early! I grabbed all the baby books I could carry home. This precious little girl never napped in a bed while I was on watch. I wanted to make sure she was breathing. What a joyful experience to see her grow and develop! One day I was washing dishes. Bianca was laying on her back on the floor with her overhead Sesame Street "batting cage" above her. I put a dish in the rack, turned and she was gone! I freaked. Two steps into the room, there was Bianca on her stomach. She looked at me, shocked at what she'd just done and then grinned. Once she remembered how, she flipped until she fell asleep, happily exhausted. She started daycare at 2.5 years old, and knew all her colors, shapes and had a sparkling confident personality. Today, the anniversary of the amazing day Bianca joined us, she's a beautiful, tall, smart, wonderful high school graduate with even more fantastic accomplishments ahead of her. Happy birthday, dearest Bianca. You've been a joy since the moment you came into our world.

Tax Cut Color By Number

This is what extending the Bush tax cuts will look like by annual income. The numbers get very sweet and red for those earning more than $500,000 per year, and absolutely juicy for those earning more than $1,000,000 a year. The tax cuts for the wealthy will take $700 billion in revenue from the operating income of the United States. That looks like this: $700,000,000,000.00. Shouting DEFICIT REDUCTION while demanding the tax cuts be extended is like shouting FIRE! in a crowded building while pouring kerosene on the flames.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I bought this gum at the Rocket in Ypsilanti, MI. The store is fun, the owners great and the products will cheer you no matter what your malady. The store is moving across the street on Michigan Avenue into larger quarters. Terrific to hear in this economy! Go Localmotive!

Yielded to Existence

Reading with relish "The Sacred Depths of Nature" by Ursula Goodenough, a woman who writes on the 13.7 Cosmos and Culture blog on NPR's site. She teaches biology at Washington University, and has been President of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science. The book is constructed to give us the science accessibly, beginning at the origins of the universe, Earth, then chemistry, cells to organisms, biology and biodiversity, awareness, multicellularity, death and speciation. As we read the steps from the inartfully named Big Bang to us, each new study is connected to the awe that is the building block of religion. What Stuart Kauffman called in a recent post "enabling constraints" flows in this book. We are here by science, by experimentation in nature that allows life and then, if a good result is achieved, hopes it remembers how so life can do it again. I am happy reading Ursula Goodenough's book. I sit here typing because a long time ago, our universe was pinhead size and unimaginably hot and then expanded. In the first 3 minutes physics went ziggity boom and yielded subatomic particles. Protons and neurons looked for company, found some and the whole thing kept expanding and forming alliances (except helium, that decided to go it alone), emanations necessary for all life in our universe and countless others. And now here I am. When I was diagnosed with cancer in 1996, Jenni Chipman got me two gifts: a book called "Cells and the Biology of Cancer," and the movie "Toy Story." She knew I needed to understand what had happened to my body, and then I'd have to refocus on what still was fun about life. Like Goodenough's book: in the beginning there was physics, then chemistry, biology, then...Toy Story. I feel thought kinship, an easing of spirit she gifts me because I know I cannot possibly have answers where none exist, that the unknown remains the unknown - a great Mystery that is the Big Bang of awareness, and the physics of religion. Looking at my photographs recently, I noticed an angle that appeals to me quite often. A curve, either upstream or down, so that the viewer does not see the beginning or the end. I must like this view, and I am aware that when I take the picture, I feel happy and enjoy the little piece of water I can see. I know the river begins somewhere high, flows from a source to a sink just as energy flows. I know the river ends at a larger body of water that I also do not see, and I am comfortable with this reality. I am yielded to existence, and thus to experience, and I am awe-fully glad.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Border's Books: Magazine Sections

Today I'm trying to catch up on my behindedness during National Novel Writing Month. Rather than duct tape my hands to the keyboard, like I should, I cleaned the bathroom, made lunch, tea, a mess, and several self-corrected dashes for distraction. I gathered all my journals for inspiration. I'm finding cool stuff, some fatuous nonsense, and Thoughts for Later. One observation I wrote on a piece of paper while wandering unsupervised through a Border's Books. A magazine aisle was titled "Men's Interests." This perhaps includes everything from cigars to blue dresses, but as many times as I circled the magazine aisles, never appeared its corresponding section "Women's Interests." Well. I circled again. What I found is a section called "Fashion & Health" in which rests Border's interpretation of the female range from cigars to blue dresses. Bizarre. I thought you'd think so, too. And then I went looking in my own aisles for the magazine I wanted to start - a magazine that covers real women/real interests. "All the muse says fit to print." No fashion. No anti-age creams, manage your portfolio articles, or getting The Big O. Note to reader: The Big O for Sister Ann meant that when she was gowned for her PhD in theology, and all the boys got ordained, she didn't. There you have it. Health & Fashion; bah, my blue dress.

Monday, November 8, 2010

England Driving

It's one thing to know you'll drive on the wrong side of the road in the UK, and quite another to get in a car and do it. We had landed at Heathrow, needed to pick up a rental car, then Brian at Gatwick. We got lost first turn out of the car agency. Dad insisted on driving and my control freakdom went ziggity boom as we circled around trying to get on the M25. Every travel piece I'd read warned against doing that, but we had to get to Gatwick posthaste. I collected Brian, and we flagged Dad down as he zipped around the roundabouts, hugging the line closest to his neighbor. We drove back roads to Christchurch, since I had map custody and wanted no more adventures on major roads. Narrow roads, huge trees inches away, buildings smack at the tarmac; if someone had opened the front door in some of these villages, we'd have ripped it off. As it was, we lost two hubcaps, one on a roundabout adventure in which Dad zipped around, shot off onto the side road we needed, right in the path of an oncoming Jaguar. Dad smiled, waved his hand apologetically and mumbled "American! Sorry!" We had to replace the hubcaps and turned it into a black market shopping fantasy. Here are Dad and cousin Charles giggling like schoolboys at their find. Charles later sent Dad a "UK Award For Painless Decapitation," making him an honorary member of the "Dorset Roads Association, Righthand Drive, 85% Clean Removal."

Old Sarum

The eeriest site we visited, older than Stonehenge, with layers of history and a countywide view that is daunting. The wind was fierce, and has been for centuries. The cathedral built here before Salisbury had its roof blown off 5 days after it was consecrated. I was afraid to climb any higher on the Royal Palace remains, and took this picture of the interior with my cousin Brian holding onto my coat, the camera strap whipping in and out of frame. You can feel the history shrouding you among the stones; dark clouds raced in, scowled and moved quickly away. Neolithic hunters roamed the bailey and slept here, Roman soldiers quartered in its walls, and Henry II kept Eleanor of Aquitaine prisoner in the cold rooms. Peter of Blois (Latin secretary to Eleanor after Henry's death) wrote "It is a place exposed to the winds, barren, dry, and solitary: a tower is there as in Siloam, by which the inhabitants have been for a long time enslaved." The top of the windy hill became too crowded and the local nobles too contentious, and the whole place moved to Salisbury (New Sarum) over the next couple centuries. Old Sarum became one of the rotten boroughs, in the 1800s electing two members to the House of Commons, despite the fact that the eleven landowners all lived elsewhere. One of these was William Pitt the Elder, whose home you'll see soon.

St. Michael and All Angels, Steeple + George Washington

The American connection: Agnes, heiress of the Washington family married Edmund Lawrence. In 1540 the Lawrences moved to Steeple, as John Washington moved to Virginia and became the great-grandfather of George Washington. Our Stars and Stripes were derived from the quartering of the arms of the Lawrences of Steeple and the Washingtons. There is a letter in the church, and a Washington flag presented by the Mayor of Washington (1970s?) acknowledging the Steeple connection to the American flag. The page with this artwork reproduction of the stone tablet pleasantly offers a "very special and warm welcome to our American cousins and hope they will be interested by Steeple's historic connection with their first President."

Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Steeple

The brochure describes The Parish of Steeple's first mention in Domesday Book (1087) when the manor of Glole, Stiple and Criz (Church Knowle, Steeple and Creech) was held by Roger de Belmont. In 1540 it was bought by Sir Oliver Lawrence of Creech Grange, sold in 1691 to Nathaniel Bond, present owner family, who still live in the parishes of Church Knowle and Corfe Castle. Baptism, marriage and burial records are complete from 1548. If you'd like to see older information, kindly visit County Record Office, Dorchester. The lower parts of the walls in The Nave are 12th century Norman, as is the font. The chalice is an Elizabethan communion cup with a Dorchester silversmith hallmark, and a 1574 date. I would have roamed for a day in this beautiful little church and setting, wandering in daydreams from century to century.

Ye Olde George Inn, Christchurch, Dorset

Downtown Christchurch, a short walk from the ruins of Christchurch Castle is this charming carriage pub. There's an archway over the courtyard carved "Duck Yer Nut." Anyone on a horse would get konked in the forehead without obeying. To the right at ground level is a small barred window. The plaque above tells that prisoners deported to Australia had this last glance of Merry Ol' and free folks headed into the pub for an ale. We were at Stonehenge when my cousin said, "we need to get back, I want to buy you a beer." I asked him, "why?" He said, "because it's your birthday!" When we got back to town and walked from The Druid House to the Inn, it was closed. 10:00 p.m. We went back another night. It's a tiny place, awesome in its antiquity. The ceiling behind the bar was so low, the bartender had to duck her nut to serve the patrons. I had my first Stella Artois there. We talked with our neighbor at the bar, a retired pilot who flew Margaret Thatcher around. His daughter lived in the U.S. near Sigourney Weaver. King George came up in conversation again that week as we were driving past an enormous chalk hill drawing of a man on a horse. I asked cousin Charles "who's that?" He said, "that's the bloke that lost us the States."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Admirable Women: Mary Hawtrey/Lady Bankes

Scanned my England pictures today. The binder broke, and so has my memory of some of the stories. Before the stories are lost, I'll write them here. My father's family is English, and live in Dorset, from Lyme Regis to Weymouth, Bournemouth and Christchurch. Cousin Charles has passed on, and the stories are shared in his memory. A marvelous host, we saw places we would not have without his gracious guidance. This picture is of Corfe Castle, which was the backdrop to the murder of Edward the Martyr in 978. His stepmother had him killed and his body tossed in a well. In 1643 Cromwell's Parliamentarians laid siege to Corfe Castle for 13 weeks. Lady Bankes resisted this attack, and more through 1644, 1645. On February 27, 1646, the castle fell to the treachery of Lieutenant Colonel Pittman, who let Cromwell's troops into the castle in the dead of night. In March 1646, the House of Commons raised a levy for mining and gunpowder to "slight" the Castle, reducing it to the ruinous state we see today. Cromwell features prominently in much of the destruction we saw in Dorset. I laughed out loud picturing Lady Bankes thumbing her nose at the Parliamentary troops. Good on 'ya, Mary! Cousin June told a story of taking visiting relatives to the Castle for a visit. There was a dense fog as the car slowly approached the high street in the only gap in the Purbeck Hills. Out of the fog emerged a company of Roundheads. It was a National Heritage reenactment the group had wandered into, but June said it established the time/space enough that all were swept back to the 17th century for a day.