Happy New You

The first New Year's Eve that Allison was a little person who walked and talked, she misunderstood what we were saying to each other all through the evening. She would walk up to a new arrival and say "Happy new you!" with her big smile. Everyone loved it. Of course. It was actually closer to the sensibility of the moment than happy new year. The idea of new year's resolutions certainly has everything to do with making yourself over, doesn't it? On the eve of a new year, we can re-invent ourselves, become whatever we can imagine.

So Allison and Carl and me and Kim wish all of you a very HAPPY NEW YOU!


Best emails: What is love?

I found some old emails and discovered why they hadn't been deleted. Some of them are funny and some are touchy-feely good stuff.

Some 8 year olds were asked about the nature of love. Here are the responses:

When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.

Love is what makes you smile when you're tired.

When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather did it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love.

Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.

Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.

If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.

When you tell someone something bad about yourself and you're scared they won't love you anymore. But then you get surprised because they love you even more.

Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.

Love is when mommy sees daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.

Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other for a really long time.

During my piano recital, I was on a stage and scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore.

My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.

Love is when mommy gives daddy the best piece of chicken.

Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.

I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.

Love cards like Valentine's cards say stuff on them that we'd like to say ourselves, but we wouldn't be caught dead saying.

When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.

Love is when mommy sees daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross.

You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.


Problem solved

This room was a problem for us. Clearly, it's too skinny and to make matters worse, it's a main thoroughfare. A long time ago this was the patio of the original house and when it was turned into a room, they didn't make it any bigger, which was something it needed. We measured carefully (several times) and picked this lovely leather sofa and chair. There's not enough space between them for a "normal" coffee table. Kim and I scratched our heads and pondered what we could do for a table. We sketched out a couple of ideas. I truly admire how Kim solves a problem. He brings such creativity and playfulness to it. Then he competently executes it.

To solve the problem of the too skinny room, the table had to be very very thin at one end, so it would fit between the sofa and the chair. There was a little bit more room on the other end. His design is so elegant, so simple, and solves the problem so exactly rightly.

He wanted it to resemble a musical instrument. I think he succeeded, don't you?


Happy happy Christmas and joy to you all

This is the first video I've put on my blog -- I just learned how today. I'm thrilled to present for your enjoyment this incredible a cappella group Straight No Chaser.

P.S. This is for Lois and Cousin Waxx.


What a cute computer!

Isn't it precious? It just got delivered today -- it's Kim's new baby. He does love his computers. Oh, I don't blame him, they're fun and useful and ... and ... and ... and helpful. Yes, that's right. Computers can be helpful, that is to say, buying this computer can be helpful. It's a program called One Laptop Per Child and it's wonderful. If you want to participate, hurry, do it right now, time is running out. They have extended the program through December.


A Reminder

This is a reminder. In case I ever take myself seriously again, all I need to do is have a look at this photo.

I vacuum my backyard.

Yes. I do. While listening to tunes and sometimes dancing. Yup. That's me.


Stories told by flowers: Lorelei

These are Lorelei's orchids. Lorelei doesn't garden particularly, but she's always liked having some greenery in her house. Some friends gave her this beautiful orchid plant as a house-warming gift when she and Roland moved into their place in Dublin. She told me she was worried about taking care of it and did I know what it needed. Ooo sorry, orchids don't tell me anything about what they want. So she did her best. And would you please just look at this incredible, fantastic display of gorgeous, outrageous blooms!?

I've known Lorelei since she was in high school -- that would make it about 14 years. She was one of my students and what a joy! Every teacher's dream -- a fun, excited, laughing out loud, full of life-type person. I don't think I've ever met anyone quite so out-going. She makes friends easy as pie and stays with that friend forever. I can't believe how many people she knows and how long she's known them.

This is Marsood and he is her godson. He's the child of one of Lorelei's very, very good friends. Marsood's parents are amazing people. They have six kids -- some are his from an earlier relationship, some are hers, some are theirs that they've adopted. And these guys were willing to take crack babies and give them love and a home and an education. They truly are remarkable.

Earlier this year, Lorelei decided to make one of her life-long dreams come true: she was moving to Ireland. She'd talked about it for years. And then, out of nowhere, she met this lovely Irish man. And Lorelei doesn't fall easily in love. In fact, in all the years I've known her, I don't think she ever had a boyfriend. She liked guys okay, but maybe there wasn't a lot of trust there. Her friends must have given her about a dozen different going away parties.

Probably the hardest person to say good-bye to was Marsood.

Roland is the lovely Irish man that Lorelei met, fell in love with, and moved to Ireland to live with. I haven't met him yet but from everything she's said, he's a sweetheart. I'm really, really, really happy for both of them. They go about Ireland pretty regularly, finding interesting hikes, walks, farms, pubs and....

That was quite a hike that day. They climbed Croagh Patrick Mountain. I think Croagh means Saint. Nice view, eh?

People make pilgrimages to Saint Patrick Church at the top of the mountain.

It makes me very happy to think of Lorelei dancing through the woods with her young man. That's the thing about caring for someone: you really want them to be happy in their life. I think she looks happy, don't you?

Lovely spot. I'll ask Lorelei where they were that day. When you go to Ireland, you can take this walk too and see this view.

Recently, Lorelei and Roland traveled to Belgium, where Lorelei's mom was born and where her maternal grandmother lives. As long as I've known Lorelei, she's told me wonderful stories about her bonnemammy. And of course she wanted Roland to meet her.

Naturally you don't travel all that way and skip seeing the sights. When Allison and I went to Europe after she graduated high school, we visited Mont St. Michel too.

I need to ask her about this one. What the hell is an anchor doing in the front yard of a castle, for crying out loud? Oh well.

So that brings us up to the present -- okay, this is a few weeks ago. Roland cooked Thanksgiving dinner while Lorelei

trimmed their tree. Isn't it beautiful?

It's kind of hard for me to really "get" that Lorelei lives in Dublin, in Ireland. That's weird, you know? It'll be more understandable when I go visit her. I do miss her, a lot.


Florida stories: Inspired

A few weekends ago we went to the American Craft Show in Sarasota. These amazing shows are part of the work done by the American Craft Council. We saw such incredible things, such beautiful things, things you could easily and happily design an entire house around. Let me show you...

This lovely chair was made by T. Bayley Wharton who owns Furniture x DESIGN in Mount Airy, North Carolina. What we saw at the Sarasota show that isn't on his website, was a truly unique and exquisite platform bed. Absolutely gorgeous. And yes, I'd be thrilled to build a house around such a piece of furniture.

Then there were phenomenal pieces of glasswork, like this bowl with what might be little worlds resting in it. It would be like having your own universe sitting on your table, to be inspected any time you wanted. This was made by Geoff Beetem of Athens, Ohio. There were about 2 dozen glass artists and all the work was extraordinary. It was hard not to buy everything we loved.

Our house is full of ceramics. Kim's whole family -- his mom, brother Jeff, sister Susan, himself, and his daughter Slayde -- contributed graceful and handsome pieces. My brother Doug is also a potter and we have some of his work as well. I also collected pieces made by students when I worked at a high school. There were at least 30 ceramics booths at the show. We were awed, to say the least. This graceful piece was made by Gayle Pritchard of Social Circle, Georgia. I was sorely tempted to add this to our collection.

I really wanted to spend money on the elegant clothes. They were genuinely, unbelievably stunning. But I know that I don't wear clothes like that, I just admire the hell out of them and want to own them. Here's a divine jacket by Lynn Yarrington of New Haven, Vermont.

I typically don't spend any time looking at the jewelry booths since I don't wear any, other than my wedding band. I also wasn't drawn to the leather work. Normally, I wouldn't stop at musical instruments, but the booth called StrumSticks was amazing. Bob McNally of Rockaway, New Jersey has come up with a marvelous musical instrument that he claims anyone can play -- and never a wrong note. Check it out and decide for yourself.

I could go on and on. There were about 120 booths, an incredible array of handmade works of art. We talked about furnishing a house from an event like this, as opposed to Pier One or Target. What a different environment you'd create that way. Actually, our goal is to learn about making these kinds of things ourselves. We truly were deeply inspired.

All photos in this post came from the artists' websites. They are used without permission and will be removed at the artist's request.

In dreams

I've been dreaming about smoking. It's so real -- it feels like I AM smoking. When I wake up, I feel guilty, but I also feel like I've satisfied any craving I had for a cigarette. It's weird. I expect to smell smoke in the room. I worry that I've actually started smoking again without knowing it. Can that happen? It's so X-files.


Confessions of a sanctimonious know-it-all self-righteous asshole

I really am awful. I'm a holier-than-thou bitch. I know more about what you should and shouldn't do than you do. And I'll be happy to tell you all about it. It doesn't matter what the subject is, I have the answer, you don't. Here's an example: When I was part of the Cof$ (Church of $cientology), I thought anyone who wasn't part of it was an imbecile, too stupid to be bothered with. Now that the bubble has burst and I am free to see the scam, I think anyone still "in" is a stupid, brainwashed, numbnuts who deserves what they get (being scammed by a cunning, money-grubbing cult). I was aware of those feelings, each in their turn. I knew when I was "in" that other $cientologists felt the same way -- it was common to put down "wogs" (the word used by $cnists for unenlightened commoners) and pity them for their ignorance. I was especially good at it. Now that I'm "out," I feel no compunction about my distaste for people who still practice $cn. In my defense, I will say that I feel sorry for the people I knew well and had friendships with. I'm sorry they haven't seen the light and are still giving their hard-earned money (and it's not like they have lots of it) to those thieves.

I'm pretty much always on my soap-box. And my realization today was that it's getting really old. Who do I think I am? I act like I'm the only concerned, intelligent, informed human being on the planet, the only one who's trying to save everyone else. What makes it so much worse is that I smoked for nearly 50 years. sigh. And there wasn't one sanctimonious holier-than-thou asshole telling me to quit. It's an epiphany. I can relax. The world will do whatever it's going to do. sigh. This will take some getting used to.

What do other people do who feel strongly about something? Like the environment, or government interference, or Catholic priests buggering little boys? What do they do? Sit quietly chewing their fingernails? Try to effect change? And if they're trying to effect change, don't they need to get on a soap-box at least a little bit? Hmm. sigh. I obviously need to do some research. I welcome your advice.



November 30th, 1952, these babies were born. They are Leslie and Gilbert -- the twins, as they came to be known in our family. I think Leslie is the one on the right. Have you heard those stories about twins, how they have some sort of creepy connection, always know where the other one is? Yeah, they had that.

They were wonderful, scrappy kids, loved to be outside, played hard, and were pretty much inseparable. See how Les looks tan and Gil looks kind of pasty? He had red hair and very fair skin. She was brunette and olive-skinned.

Ah, adolescence. She was smart and really good in school; he was rebellious and dropped out. He joined the Navy; she went to college. He smoked and drank; she abstained from alcohol and cigarettes.

None of those differences mattered. They were always close. No matter where in the world they were, they were together in that way twins are. Gil grew up still rebellious; Les was one of the first women graduated from the Border Patrol Academy. It's odd how they seemed to be two sides of one coin.

After our mother died, I lost touch with both of them. We were just too separate by that time. Our family had never fostered closeness and what little there was came from my mom insisting we get together at her house for the holidays.

The years flew by, Les and Gil remained close, helping each other with whatever came along. This is Gil's wedding day. Les and her son traveled from South Carolina to Arizona to be with him on his special day.

Gil was an accomplished explorer, hunter, and all around frontiersman. He knew about the animals, the plants, the soil, the wind and the water. He lived in Arizona his whole life (except for his brief stint in the Navy -- I don't know where he was besides San Diego). His marriage didn't last a very long time and he didn't re-marry.

Les worked for the government her whole working life -- Border Patrol, Bureau of Land Management, US Attorney's office in the District of South Carolina and other such outfits. A few years ago, she volunteered to go to Baghdad to help with accounting. She was there about nine months. While she was there, she got to go "out" several times (she was civilian, not part of the military presence). Here she is with her husband Tim in Germany.

Her stories of her time in Iraq are hair-raising to say the least. We worried. She was good about sending emails regularly. Imagine, 110 degrees and wearing body armor. Like I said, her stories are incredible -- that's for a different blog.

Les and Tim recently went to Africa. They went on safari (the photography kind, no guns) and visited some Masai villages as part of their work for their church. The Masai children were fascinated with her white hair and couldn't resist touching it.

A year ago Gil called Les for help one last time. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer and would be undergoing chemotherapy. Leslie went to Phoenix so she could care for him through the ordeal. On November 20 he died in her arms. Gil lived in Phoenix, but he had this house in Crown King for getting away from the city. Les and Tim will finish the work that needs to be done on it.

I've been thinking about what she lost when Gil died.

I can't imagine my sister's pain.


Florida stories: 4, 3, 2, 1......

Wow. Kennedy Space Center. Wow.

We've lived in Florida more than two years and hadn't been to visit this incredible place. I guess that's always the way. The things that tourists come to see, the residents never go to see. We don't like touristy kinds of things, so that was part of it. But we're both big fans of extreme technology, so we really had to visit it before we book out of Florida. (You might have noticed a few disparaging remarks about Florida in the blog. Don't get me started. I could rant for days.)

This is the tourist Kim visiting the Kennedy Space Center. We stayed away from the super touristy things, like the IMAX theatre. We wanted to see the history of the space program, the old rocket ships, stuff like that.

We were hoping we'd get to go into the Vehicle Assembly Building. It's a truly amazing building. It's 23 stories high and covers 8 acres. This is where the orbiter gets mated to the massive fuel tank (plus the two booster rockets). All four pieces are the shuttle, not just the one piece that looks like a plane. But, no. There might have been a time when ordinary visitors were allowed in there, but not now. I think there's a scene in Apollo 13 where tourists are in that building.

There are launches coming up. That's very exciting and we would really really really like to see one. Maybe we'll make the two hour drive and take our chances on getting a spot from which to watch. This is the orbiter Atlantis (the white part that looks like a plane). It's sitting on the pad waiting. The launch is scheduled for December 6th. This will be the Atlantis' eighth visit to the International Space Station. The mission is called STS-122 and you can find out about it and the crew here. This photo is from the NASA site, we did NOT get that close.

As I said, we didn't get very close to the launch pad, but this shows a bit of the layout. Way over there is the shuttle on launch pad 39A. See the lighter square in the bottom left of the photo? That's to call attention to the crawlerway. What incredible technology. Looks like a gravel road, right? Well, that 'road' is 7' deep. It has to support the weight of the crawler-transporter plus the shuttle.

This is another unbelievable invention. This is the crawler-transporter. It weighs 6 million pounds. Yup, 6 million. And the shuttle on top of it weighs another 4.5 million pounds. Do the math. The crawlerway has to stay put while this behemoth rolls from the VAB to the launch pad. It takes about 8 hours. This is also one of NASA's photos.

It's always been a bit hard for me to understand that when NASA throws something up into space, there are two very different places where it's happening. There's all the stuff that happens to get the shuttle put together, taken out to the pad and then actually launched into space. That's the part that Kennedy Space Center is all about. Then there's Mission Control, as in "Houston, we have a problem." So there's this huge crowd of people in Florida and this other huge crowd in Texas and somehow (you can look it up on the NASA site, I've given you the links) they get the rocket or shuttle or mission or whatever it is up and back. Amazing. This is a re-creation, using the original consoles, of the control room at Kennedy Space Center that was used for the Apollo missions.

Here's tourist Kim again, happy and excited to be standing under the massive engines of the Saturn V rocket, the same rocket that was used in the Apollo missions.

Rocket engine. Umm. What can I say? It's really huge and incredibly powerful and more than that you'll have to investigate on your own.

We looked around the International Space Station Processing Facility. There actually were things in this place waiting to go out to the Space Station. Remarkable. This is the famous Canada Arm. Meet the Canadian who manages the Canada Space Station Program. He knows a lot about the Arm.

There were work and habitat modules that you could walk through. Very cool. You have to be a total organization freak to even think about spending time in one of those things. And you obviously better not be claustrophobic. This is a wardroom. That means bedroom on a ship. The zipper bag is the bed. Gnarly.

Here's more of the equipment awaiting transport to the ISS. JAXA is Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. So the deal is, countries that have stuff that needs to go to the ISS bring that stuff here and then it gets scheduled and goes up. This is like visiting another planet. Know what I mean? So alien. So not everyday.

This is the Rocket Garden. It was fun standing next to real rocket ships. This is no attraction by the highway on your way across the country. No sirree. This is the real deal. And extremely awe inspiring.

By the end of the day, tourist Kim had really seen enough and read enough little explanation signs. A cup of coffee was needed before the long drive home. It was a lovely day.