Monday, March 27, 2017

Team Rachel

Robert, Rachel and I loaded up the dogs yesterday and took off on a chilly, squishy hike.  Due to recent rains we slid more than we walked, but we soaked up the early spring air and watched the dogs bound manically through the woods.  

Shortly after Rachel received her driver's license she broke one of the rules that Robert and I established, and rather than talking about it with us she clammed up.  We told her that she would lose her driving alone privileges until she was ready to talk about why she had broken one of the rules. A week went by and we wondered why she hadn't said anything.  Robert and I started dropping hints.

Another week went by and Robert's mom, Audrey, who is an important member of Team Rachel, dropped a few big hints, even directly asking her about it.  Rachel still wasn't ready to talk.  At this point Robert and I reached out to friends who are parents, and asked if we were doing the right thing by leaving this in Rachel's court, and they concurred. So we waited.  And waited.  And happily drove Rachel everywhere with these tiny thought bubbles above our smiling faces that implored, what the heck.   

Finally after almost two months, Rachel tentatively brought up the topic of driving while we were on our hike yesterday.  It took everything I had not to do a little dance.  She was initiating communication with us about something huge!  All on her own! And it was such a productive conversation!

This isn't going to be the last of tough conversations we'll have, and Rachel's probably going to break rules again, but hopefully this is a step in the right direction.  Hopefully Rachel is figuring out that Robert and I are only marginally scary, in the sense that we are boring adults with high expectations.  Hopefully she's closer to understanding that talking to us equates to more support for Team Rachel. 

Here's a bit of magic from our hike:

One of my favorite trees, Redbud, which I used in pancakes and salads growing up

A bit of bloodroot lighting up leftover winter like a candle


As usual, the dogs greatly enjoyed the mud.  Ella is giving me the 'stop that paparazzi nonsense' look.

Friday, March 24, 2017

the strange connection between grout and hope

I have never been this excited to see grout in my life.

Yes, the tile in our master bathroom is being grouted.  That's the good news.  Unfortunately our tile whisperer is in Europe for the next month so our master bathroom progress is on hold.

But we're sooo close to having a bathroom on the first floor.  Sooo close to getting our clothes out of their cardboard closets and putting them in real closets.

Looks like the only thing to do is sit back and admire this grout and wait some more.  We're getting to be experts at this patience stuff.  

It does appear that my office will be done soon. We're just waiting for some touch-up work.  


Almost After : ) 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Baltimore and D.C.

Robert, his mom, Audrey, Rachel and I have been on the East Coast this past week for Rachel's spring break.  We originally set out for Boston to stay with some of Robert's family while we looked at a couple colleges that Rachel's interested in.  But just hours into our trip Robert's family warned us to stay away because a nor'easter was expected.  So we skipped Boston and went straight to Baltimore/D.C. for our vacation.  Thankfully we were still able to see two of the four schools Rachel wanted to look at, and the upside of the winter storm was that we had extra time to hang out with Robert's sister, Jennifer. 

We visited so many awesome/inspiring/magical/fun places, I was scrambling to write everything down so we wouldn't forget anything.  I will spare you our exact itinerary and give you the highlights with pictures instead. 

Because of the impending snow storm we went to Great Falls first and did the Billy Goat section A hike.  It's paradise.  

Look how the green is sweeping through the dead grass like wildfire.

Robert and his silly hat did some silly dance hiking.

Robert snapped this shot of Rachel and I coming down the giant hill.

We strolled through the zoo, where the only life to be found included a couple of sleeping pandas and a bit of spring splendor.  Sparse for a zoo, yes, but perfect.  

I held a very friendly hissing cockroach at the National Museum of Natural History.

We took a handful of jumping pictures.  Robert and I started a tradition many years ago of jumping in front of "Welcome to such and such state" signs. We probably did a dozen or so over the years. Now, we're starting over with Rachel.  And our very first one was a total success.  

I also found a stack of exciting poetry books, mostly at Second Story Books, which always has incredibly unfriendly staff each time I've been there, but because it's packed with gobs of poetry it's worth it.

We ate lots of seafood, including a wonderful evening spent at L.P. Steamers with Jennifer and her beau, Evan.  

And speaking of food, we ate so many wonderful things, starting in Indianapolis with the feta and greek salads at Santorini Greek Kitchen.  The margarita at Fish Taco was just as amazing as I remembered, even after a chilly hike at Great Falls.

In D.C. we ate some wonderful salads at Chopt, Thai rolled ice cream at Icy Code (because strolling through D.C. in blustery 30 degree weather wasn't cold enough for us), and visited Dangerously Delicious Pies for that unbeatable chocolate pecan pie. 

In Baltimore we tried Isabella's pizza and ate some bibimbap at Brown Rice that was set up chipotle-style where you pick which rice, meat, and veggies you like.  Both were fantastic.  

While we were in Philadelphia touring a college, Robert received a very special phone call informing him that he won the Elmer "Carp" Carpenter award, which is awarded to an individual who has been a leader in the area of athletics and/or education in Kansas.  In addition to his technology business, Robert is currently involved with a handful of school districts in our area, working on their timing/scoreboard/electronics systems.  But he does so much more than that. While he waits for electronics to misbehave, as they like to do, he fills in wherever is needed, everything from managing to keeping score to mopping up sweat.  He's been working for multiple school districts for over ten years with tireless dedication, and I'm so proud of him.  He most certainly deserves this award.  

After the phone call we were all pretty fired up, but Robert needed to put his vacation on hold to work for a couple hours.  While he worked, Rachel and I explored South Street, which was wildly interesting, but not a street I would recommend for anyone with small children.  It's mostly one humorously-named sex shop after another.  In the midst of all the sex shops we saw The Sweet Life, and understandably, we were very uncertain about going in, but it smelled too delicious not to.

Turns out they sell baked goods shaped like ordinary baked goods.  We got a mini cupcake sampler to celebrate Robert's award and surprised him with it.  And the cupcakes were amazing.  We definitely don't have plans to go back to South Street or Philadelphia for that matter, but for anyone else who needs to go there, you must try the cupcakes at The Sweet Life.      

Possibly the best thing we ate was Yucatán chicken, which is a Peruvian rotisserie chicken, at Taco-Ma in Takoma, DC.  As much as I love rotisserie chicken, it's going to be tough to eat a normal one after eating one with such unique and tasty seasonings. 

As with previous D.C. trips (2015 & 2016), there was so much good food.  And it was such a fun, relaxing and marvelous trip.  Hopefully next time we go to Boston there won't be a surprise nor'easter, but if there is, we'll make the best of it.  I've been to D.C. and Baltimore three times now and I still have a very long list of places to visit and revisit.  We always have an awesome time.   

Monday, March 13, 2017

Showtime at the Ministry of Lost Causes by Cheryl Dumesnil

The title of Cheryl Dumesnil's latest collection, Showtime at the Ministry of Lost Causes, is like an irresistible flashing light, letting readers know that there's dark humor to be found inside.  And yes, her poems twinkle with dark humor, but they are also candidly soulful, colorful and even sweetly sexy at times.  Her poem, The Gospel According to Sky, explores cloud shapes, and how "the immutable blue holds those changing shapes, like a lover who's finally learned how to love her right."  My heart soars at the idea of the sky holding the clouds like they are all the pieces of its cherished lover.  But the line also feels a little bittersweet, and the reader wonders why the clouds were ever held the wrong way to begin with.   

Cheryl Dumesnil’s poems are dense with multiple layers, leaving the reader with many questions, questions that invite much contemplation.  But don't be misled by these multiple layers.  She's not trying to keep anyone out with her poetry.  Instead, most of her poetry is very accessible, and she uses the multiple layers like mind taffy, to draw you in and invite you to stay awhile.  I enjoyed reading each poem a few times, chewing on meanings both subtle and neon obvious.
My favorite poem, Tampons: A Memoir, is powerful and touching.  Spanning a whopping four pages, it's a long poem broken up into memories of Cheryl's journey and passage into womanhood and motherhood.  What makes this mini memoir unique is the common theme and topic of tampons connecting the stanzas. Whether you blush madly at the utterance of that taboo word, or you have an open love/hate relationship with it and proudly unfurl "its white flag in the sky," there's a stanza in this poem you will connect with and unabashedly relate to.  

She begins the poem with her first tampon encounter where she smokes it like a cigar in front her horrified mother.  In the next stanza she identifies it as "the most underused craft supply in Martha Stewart's repertoire" and throws out a few hilarious ideas.  She then puts the same wonderfully humorous and inappropriate spin on the mysteriousness of toxic shock syndrome before the poem takes a very serious turn with a stanza about her miscarriage.  The ending of the poem still gives me chills, even after several readings, when she writes about her two-year-old, who stumbles upon a box of tampons and "sticks the tube between his lips:  Look it's a smoke." 
Show Time at the Ministry of Lost Causes is for anyone who appreciates dark and occasionally inappropriate humor, for those of us who applaud poetry that illuminates the ordinary and transforms it into magic.  If you like Cheryl Dumesnil’s poetry you should check out Ellen BassDenise Duhamel, Tony Hoagland and Sharon Olds

Friday, March 10, 2017

another day, another bathroom

As I'm sure you know, we have two working bathrooms out of four. We are slowly working on finishing details in those two bathrooms, but we've discovered (and accepted) it will be a long journey with all the bathrooms.  Who knew they could be so tough to do?

Thankfully, this week, the tiling in our master bath/closet/mudroom combo has officially started.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

my sappy ipe desk

Lookee!  My desk is made from leftover floor pieces!

Friday, March 3, 2017

bike bike bike

Lately, I've been a little grumbly about bicycling.  It feels like the last thing my body wants to do, and interestingly enough, at times it even seems difficult. While dragging myself up a hill recently an elderly gentleman felt the need to shout, "you're almost there.  You can do it!"

I'm actually more excited about jogging than biking right now, which is absurd. I've been rolling my eyes at my silly self, but I'm also a little proud too.  Though I've been grumbly, I haven't quit.  No siree.  When the weather's right (20 degrees and up, no rain), out comes the bike, and I make every effort to give the ride my full attention and respect.

We all get burned out on our favorite things. Eventually the passion comes back and lights our world on fire again with its magic.

Tonight, while riding my bike home from work, a small boy bolted from his yard and took out after me, running alongside me on the sidewalk shouting, "bike, mom, bike bike bike."

I slowed to a crawl, not only to give the mom a chance to catch up with him, but I also wanted to make the moment last.

As soon as I turned the corner I squealed and fist pumped the air.  That little future track star sure made my day and had my heart shouting bike bike bike.  Tomorrow I ride with nothing but enthusiasm.  

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

mostly journeys of all kinds

February was an extraordinary month of reading.  The best I can ask for, really, with such a variety of wonderful books that never stopped.  In fact I'm still listening to one that is really good so far, and will maybe end up on my March list.  

I read Bastards, which I've already reviewed and highly recommend.  In case it's on your list and you have piles to read before it gets to the top I'll give you another quote to hold you over: "There was an overgrown field behind the apartment complex. No one knew whom the field belonged to, it was fenced in, but the gate was never locked. The packed earth path down the center of the field was the best shortcut to get to Mr. Ed's corner Mart to stock up on Push Pops. This shortcut had been handed down from the older kids, and it was our job to tread it regularly to keep it clear for the ones who would come after us. It was the only heirloom we had, and this simple act made us part of something large, something important."

Here are the rest of my fabulous February reads:

The Creative Cottage by Steve Gross and Susan Daley

Eclectic, comfy, colorful and whimsical are four of my favorite words when it comes to interior design, and this book is all of those words! I love when interior design books use unique and lived-in spaces, sometimes cramped and oddly-shaped spaces at that, and show off all their homey splendor. I adored the sleigh sofas, beat-up floors, wooden beams galore (especially page 57), mismatched furniture and serene outdoor spaces. If I could take my coffee and stack of books and fall into this book to live for awhile I would happily do so.

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

I adored this book.  The writing is very fresh and young.  The characters stand out from each other, have a lot of depth and personality and are quite lovable.  And the story just gobbled me up.  I was shocked that Lina wasn't instantly in love with the idea of living in a cemetery in Italy with a stranger that she only recently found out was her father.  I mean talk about adventure.  But she had just lost her mom so maybe a cemetery was too much of a reminder of that.  And the whole father thing was just a tad on the scary side, so I get it.  I loved how Lina was given her mom's journal of her time spent in Italy (thus, Lina's existence), and how that gave Lina a way to get to know Italy and fall in love with it.  It helped that Lina was shown around by a cute and sincere boy, who happily took her to the places her mom wrote about in her journal.  I also really liked the relationships that slowly grew and strengthened - Lina and dad, Lina and cute sincere boy, Lina and new friends.  I admit that I was completely unprepared for the twist that happens about two-thirds of the way through the book.  I was shocked by it, but my feathers didn't stay ruffled for too long.  It was an incredibly delightful book about embracing life and those who want to share it with you. 

Show Time at the Ministry of Lost Causes by Cheryl Dumesnil

Full review coming soon!  Let's just say that Cheryl Dumesnil will punch you in the gut with her poetry and leave you asking questions that your dreams will answer.     

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate Dicamillo and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

Though I had some hang-ups about this book - its predictable ending, the creepy recurrence of grandma Pellegrina (who really was a hateful witch and flat character) and the strange and unnecessary dream, its strengths were too profound to dismiss. I thought both the storytelling and illustrations were dynamite. With the exception of Pellegrina, the characters were varied and multifaceted. And lastly, what really sticks with me is the long list of messages this book beautifully and sneakily gives, such as opening yourself up to all kinds of love, letting go of things out of your control but also hanging on to hope, dealing with a broken heart, loving again after loss, and putting the kibosh on bitterness. So, even though I roll my eyes at a few elements of Edward's story, I admit that I must be under some kind of spell because I am in love with this china rabbit.

A Perfect Day by Lane Smith

Lane Smith also wrote and illustrated It's a Book, which is one of my most favorite children's books. Just like It's a Book, A Perfect Day has that twist of humor that's a little tart and mean.  The ending made me guffaw loudly.  And its message - someone's bad day is another's good day, is really a brilliant message.  When my dress got caught in my bike recently and a child unabashedly laughed at me I was mortified, especially when his mother loudly scolded him.  But later I thought, how funny I must have looked, and I giggled too and thought about how it was worth it if I made that little boy laugh.  This book really embraces that message.  I also loved the easy-to-read text and repetition of lines.  

A Cat Named Swan by Holly Hobbie

This is one of those rare books where the writing and illustrations are equally beautiful. I loved how the family talked to Swan - "Who's going to get fat... Who's getting a big belly?" I love the journey of Swan and his family - "he learned that the people were his people and he was theirs," and how the illustrations reached out to me and made me feel like Swan's journey was a little bit mine too.