May 13, 2017

Animal House


A new baby is about to join our extended family. She will get this for her wall when she does.
I adapted it from a pattern by Kimberly Rado that I found in a magazine that had slipped behind the bookshelf. When I say adapted, I really mean "I cut the number of dogs in half, threw out the centers, got rid of the bones, and eliminated the sashing and borders."
 Hers is lots of fun--and a whole lot of work. Mine is Essence of Dog.
My favorite part of the project? Picking the fabrics ONLY from the those already on my shelves. (I don't use the word "stash" except when referring to the candy I hide from Himself, hoping against hope that I will remember where I put it.) I love having a boundary that forces my color and pattern choices and I really love using this stuff up!


In other animal news, Yusra continues to follow her primal maternal instincts...
...although the primate in question does seem rather unresponsive. Perhaps he is in shock because she put him in a diaper?

March 10, 2017

Skittles

If you keep checking back here to find another uproarious installment of "Two-Dumbass-Easterners-Travel-Arizona-in-the-Snow/Mud-in-a Broken-Down-Airstream, you probably will want to hit that red "Close" arrow right now.

That's because I'm onto something far more rewarding.
Skittles are my lingua franca with my two new friends. I'm reluctant to show you their pictures because Yusra is only 3 1/2 and her sister Rasha is just 15 months. I can't ask their mom for permission because she is just learning to speak English and I have no faith in my ability to translate "for my blog" into Arabic.

Yes, Arabic. "Mom" is Amal. She and her husband Moustafa are from Aleppo, Syria.  A local woman who was determined to heed an inner voice calling her to sponsor Syrian refuges spread her wings and damn,  a small group of self-described "mostly old ladies" made it happen! This young family arrived in our community last fall (and another mom with two young boys slid in under the wire after the election).  The core group quickly ballooned to a county-wide coalition of people grateful, just so grateful, to be able to translate paralyzing sorrow about Syria and raw grief about immigration bans into positive action. You can read the facts here.

Every other week, I babysit for the girls while a volunteer ESL tutor works with Amal at the dining room table. I bring a package of Skittles.If you are more than broken-hearted by the vitriolic voices from Washington, I offer this conversation in its place.  


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January 26, 2017

Airstreaming

I found this book on our Xmas trip to Arizona and plan on stealing the title for the filmed version of my life. 
The purpose of this trip (aside from neatly sidestepping the Christmas Craziness) was to see how our yearning to be Airstream nomads actually feels in the field.  In this case, the field was in the Tonto National Forest of central Arizona.

We waited for our rented 16-foot Bambi and truck to be delivered to the parking lot behind our hotel in Scottsdale. There, in the dark, the guy who drove it down from San Francisco would show us RV neophytes how everything works.  The guy, who made The Dude from The Big Lebowski look hyperactive, ambled out and showed us how to put the key in the lock of the door. (Pretty much how every key goes in every door, by the way.)  The information flow went downhill from there:

"What is this panel of indicators for?"
"Wow. Yeah. I've never seen one like that."
"Where's the switch for the hot water heater?"
"Yeah. It is supposed to be over here.  Not sure why it isn't."

"Well, is there a set of docs we can look at?"
"Yeah, well...um..there should be."
Fortunately, I opened a whole lot of drawers and pulled out this manual:
 Unfortunately, this was a manual for a 2007 Safari. We were in a 2005 Bambi.

We called the Dude's boss, who enlightened us.

"So what is this panel of indicators for?"
Each light gives you important status info: how much water is left in your tank, how close you are to sewage overflow, how much charge is left in your battery.
"So how do we know which light goes with which function?"
 "Don't worry about it."
"How do we empty the sewage tank?"
"Open the valve on the outside pipe after you've connected the hose to the dump station."
"But there doesn't seem to be anything to pull. Everything is covered in electrical tape."
"Don't worry about it."
 The Dude headed off into the sunset with Big Gulp in hand. We headed back to the room, where we debated the wisdom of actually driving off in this mess in the morning. It was a spirited and informative exchange:
"This is NOT what we signed up for. Maybe we should just pull out now and rent a car."
"Is that what you want to do?"
"I don't know. What do you think?"
"I don't know. What do you think?"
"I don't know. What do you think?"
 Things were different in daylight. That's when we could see that both propane tanks were empty and that the truck had two bald tires.

We headed out and by the time we arrived at Lost Dutchman State Park in the Superstition Wilderness, we were back in our saddles. Who could worry about anything in a campsite like this:
I made our nest cozy...
And we set off to bed, snug inside our little home while the temperatures outside plummeted to freezing.

Which is when we discovered that the heater didn't work.

I jumped out of bed, threw on my Iceland gear, and renewed my love affair with French press coffee while Himself went to the showers. When he returned, he looked grim.

We have big problems.
Don't worry, I'll call Bill about the heater.
We are sitting in a puddle of sewage.
Huh?
Everything that's gone down the sink or down the toilet is now dripping on to the ground. On to the campground. The one that everyone else around us can see just by walking by.
I ran outside. Remember being 16 and discovering a surprise menstrual period while wearing a white skirt?  On a field trip?  That's roughly what I experienced seeing our mess in this neighborhood of shiny RVs that probably started at $500,000.

Did I mention it was a Saturday? Did I mention it was the day before Christmas?

I called Bill and suggested it was time to start worrying. He found a solution.
Yes, Mobile RV Repair! On a Saturday, on the day before Christmas! Himself went out to assume the hands-in-pockets-man-posturing-position once the truck pulled up and I was startled when I finally crept outside (in my Iceland gear) to see a rather large gentleman in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt stretched out on the ground.
He quickly discerned that the reason we couldn't close off the waste valve was because...there was no valve. Just a whole lot of electrical tape.  Miracle of miracles, he had a replacement in that truck and we were back in business. He came inside, stretched out on the floor (activating the gas alarm with his rather large body), and rewired the furnace.

It was Santa Claus and nobody can tell me otherwise. So our little home was in its right way from then on. And we were ready to soak in the delights of the southwesten desert that we so love.

Like the sunsets...

The saguaros talking to each other...
The footprints of another culture echoing everywhere... 
The dusty brown mountain roads...
The adventure ain't over yet. Stick around.





December 14, 2016

Collections


I hate stuff.  I zealously prune bookshelves, clothes closets, kitchen cabinets, piles of fabric, the attic, the garage, and the parts of the basement that don't have fungus. Stuff actually affects me physically: accumulation constricts my throat and curls my shoulder bones into tight little balls. Naked space gives me oxygen and makes me more tolerant of my husband.
How could this be? Perhaps it is nature: my mother is a heavy pruner.  Undeterred by the fact that she has already given away most of her own things, she is now well into my father's side of the closet.  Perhaps the cause is nurture (using the term loosely): I often came home from school to furniture void of any of the objects I had seen on them that morning. The  large misshapen lump bulging beneath the neatly folded covers on my bed, however, was hard to miss.

And yet, on the other hand, I adore collections.
 Of just about anything.

My relationship to collections is also physical: I am yanked toward multiples as if in the grip of an Acme magnet from a Roadrunner cartoon.In the right hands,a collection is more than just a thing, pluralized...
In the right hands,a collection is an entirely new construct, just begging for exploration.  
The Bread and Puppet Theater Museum in Glover, Vermont overflows with 50 years of puppets from their uniquely radical political theater. In this world, "puppet" has nothing to do with Bert or Ernie:


 Other collections are less charged.
Collections seem to start small...multiples of two grow into four, four into 10, shoeboxes into glass cases...display cases into rooms of a house.
 Eventually, some collections take over entire buildings. That's when you get to call it a museum.
Museums like this one dot the backroads of America. We've seen them filled with the ordinary...
...and with the paranormal.
Hell, we've even stumbled onto museums that are collections of the buildings themselves.
My favorite collection is gently brewing in an enchanting little studio off a lovely lowland road in The Netherlands.
This is The Birdhut. It is home to a collection that maker/curator/appliance repair scheduler Saskia van Herwaarden calls "The Project." She chronicles its activity on her blog "Tales of the Birdhut." Here's the big picture...
...but you really need to look closer.. .
...and closer still.
Each inhabitant of The Birdhut has a name, a personality, and favorite sport.
They come together in community to share household chores...


And important events, like choir practice...
...and holiday meals.


Like us, they live their lives across a panorama of events. From praying for new baby born in New Mexico...
 
...to honoring the arrival of cable TV!
Saskia shares their philosophical musings and breaks up their fights. She dresses them in Easter bonnets and gets them in the mood for Halloween.
I adore The Birdhut because it is a collection, yes. But especially because it is a three-dimensional collection brought to life by a fourth dimension: the place where Saskia's imagination meets real life. 
Like I said, my affinity for collections is physical. And this one, in an enchanting Dutch studio, brings me to my knees.

Go see it.






November 27, 2016

Being Hot Glue

About that "Be Peace" thing?

Its really hard to do. I would find it so much less stressful to "Be Sarcastic."  Or "Be Belligerent."  Or, in the best of all possible worlds, "Be Really Honest and Just Say the Thing That Is On Your Mind."

But that wouldn't fit on a button. So I continue to bumble my way through Being Peace and find that it is driving me back to two different activities. The first is meditation. That soothes me and also serves the world by having me otherwise engaged in activities that don't involve me speaking my mind.

The second, of course, is hot glueing. Yesterday, I plugged in the hot glue gun, entered a trance, and when I came out of it, found that I had created a whole new community.



They are currently living together atop my Cabinet of Wonder, which I wrote about here but have since curated and refined. 
Like me, they are getting ready for The Unknown. In a recent lecture, Tara Brach explained it best for me.  She notes that before the election, so many of us had a story about how the world--the United States--worked. "Now," she points out, "that Story is over. But we do not yet know how the New Story will unfold. We are in that uncomfortable space between stories." Paraphrasing, she points out  that the discomfort makes us want to act (because discomfort is so intolerable).  Instead, she suggests we simply pause and deepen our awareness. There will be a time when it is appropriate to act. 

Me? I suggest hot glue.

November 10, 2016

So A Rabbi, A Buddhist Priest, and an Episcopal Priest Walk into a Bar...

Actually, they walked into a tiny, one-room stone Episcopal church in our Delaware River community. And they sheparded this community..well, let me back up a bit.

Yesterday, I took to my bed. Australian red licorice for breakfast. Soft caramels for lunch. You get the picture.  And I was ruminating about whether to make a run for potato chips for dinner but the idea of getting dressed was more than I could handle.  And then I received an email from my beloved Rabbi Diana:

"We wake up this morning to the aftermath of an incredibly polarizing and difficult campaign season. What we see is a country divided. Half of voters are celebrating a surprising victory for their candidate. Half of voters are mourning a shocking loss for theirs. While there is optimism and joy in some quarters, in others there is real pain, despair, fear, and foreboding about what the outcome of this election means for the country we share.”

No matter who we voted for, we all know that we and our country are in dire need of healing. To begin that process, there will be a post-election Community Conversation at St. Phillips Church at 7:00 p.m. We will listen to each other and care for each other.

Tears flowed and even though I am the opposite of a "community type," I got dressed and quasifunctional. At the church, we heard teachings from three faiths.
Many folks stood up in a room full of strangers and shared feelings of being Other...or of demonizing Others.
Community supervisors and volunteers from many social action groups spoke about where to volunteer locally, because service connects us...
And is a start to healing division.
It doesn't change anything Out There. But it changed everything in me.

And I didn't stop for potato chips on my way home.