of bonsai and roller derby

August 20, 2013

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photos:
1) my neglected bonsai gingko
2) roller derby sign of support
3) vicious and jax check out the competition
4) shutting out the jammer, kamikaze
5) low fives all around, rochella de ville
6) my, formerly pristine, roller skates from middle school. (yes i had my own. be jealous.)

When I told my mother that my daughter and I had attended a roller derby event last Saturday she was bemused. “Tell me again why you were interested in seeing roller derby?”

This is a woman who had called me to encourage me to enter the bonsai gingko tree that she gave me several years ago in a bonsai show taking place in Ann Arbor this weekend. I laughed, but could have easily replied, “Tell me again why you are interested in bonsai, Mom?”

I’m kidding. I do appreciate bonsai and I admire her interest in it. I love the little gingko tree she gave me, thriving despite my neglect. But the practice of bonsai is not my thing; it’s hers.

All of the reasons I don’t share her interest in bonsai are probably the reasons I enjoyed watching roller derby for the first time— bonsai requires patience, roller derby doesn’t; bonsai is elegant, roller derby is scrappy; bonsai is individual, roller derby is team-based, bonsai is serious, roller derby is full of good humor.

I’m not sure roller derby is “my thing.” I’m not much of a spectator of anything. I did find it fascinating. The names/personas are my favorite part: Vicious, Upzette, Justice Fast, Missy May Knock You Out, Czarcasm, Kimikaze. The faux tough names are as much a part of the show as the ripped tights and tattoos. I have never seen a burlesque show (which, by the way, like roller derby, seems to be moving toward mainstream around here), but I imagine roller derby and burlesque share much of the same campy showmanship.

The big surprise of the night: my 19-year-old daughter loved it and wants to learn to play. She does have skills. She had to learn to roller skate for a play a few years ago, using my nearly pristine white roller skates from middle school. She decided her derby name would be: Princess Slay-ya (a name used in Drew Barrymore’s roller derby movie, Whip it!, filmed right here in Ann Arbor and Detroit).

Why not yoga? Running? Soccer? All of the things I am interested in? I know the answer is…bonsai.

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08.03.13 whats making me happy this week

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photos:
1. first tomatoes
2. photo my daughter used for a screen saver…on my unsuspecting husband’s laptop.
3. finnegan cuddling up with our smelly shoes
4. my sister’s handwritten (love) recipe and the last of her bean and rice salad
5. cornflake marshmallow cookies
6. hibiscus
7. mid century library staircase
8. dr. who phonebox cake

What a week! Home from a trip to visit my brother’s family in Virginia, my son’s 16th birthday and too short visit from my dear friend Cathy. In addition to all of that BIG happiness, here are some little things that are making me happy thing week:

1. Our first tomatoes from our garden make me happy!

2. My daughter, who makes me laugh a lot, makes me happy. (Also we fight a lot.) You can see (above) the kind of desktop photos she puts on any unattended laptops when she has the chance. She was recently sitting across from me as we both “worked” on our laptops. She laughed aloud and said ‘This meme reminds me of you.‘I tried to login to my iPad, turns out it was an etch a sketch and I don’t even own an iPad, also, I’m out of wine.’”
Do you think I’m a good role model?

3. My puppy. He likes to sleep among shoes. I think because they smell like us. Lucky for him, my family provides ample opportunity for him to sleep among smelly shoes!

4. Summer salads. I love them for their use of produce, freshness and mix of flavors. Three of our staples include my sister’s bean and rice salad pictured above, Giada De Laurentiis’ Mediterranean Farro Salad and this panzenlla salad.

I also tried this tomato and watermelon salad from shutterbean.com and it was like eating a big bowl of summer!

5. Speaking of shutterban recipes…tracy’s Cornflake Marshmallow Cookies are pretty amazing. In fact they are too amazing. It will be awhile before I can make these again because they are so darn good, both baked and raw! I made one batch one night and then immediately had to make another the next day and then I had to make myself stop. So, so yummy.

6.The hibiscus are finally blooming in this part of the world.

7. Libraries make me happy, particularly this mid-century modern one pictured above, where I spend my time when my son volunteers at a zoo about an hour away from our house.

8. Comedian Jim Gaffigan. We just saw him at Meadowbrook Theater, near my mother’s house. He has two stand up specials on Nextflix and just published a book called, “Dad is Fat.”

9. The Dr. Who phone box cake above that my daughter made for her friend who loves Dr. Who.

When my daughter delivered it, her friend’s 11 year old brother, who loves my daughter, asked her, “Wanna look at baby animal pictures with me?” Yep. That’s how we grow our men in Ann Arbor. Love.

10. And speaking of growing men. I am excited by this new project by Jennifer Siebel The Mask You Live In, about the very restrictive and destructive models of manhood that our society presents to our sons. If you haven’t seen Jen Siebel’s Miss Representation, about girls in the media, please see it. It’s not just for women, or parents of daughters. We showed this on our campus last year to a large crowd of male and female students and there was clapping and cheering at the end by all genders. See it. Please. It has a hopeful ending!

11. These capri yoga/active wear pants my sister sent to me. At first I thought they were Lulu Lemon, because my sis is all about Lulu Lemon and because they were so quality…but no, they are from Old Navy! = affordable! I love them. She says they are her favs.

12. Something about the song Royales by Lordes makes me happy…it’s a great workout jam. Turn it up…even louder. I know I will be sick of it in a month…

13. Also this song, We Are Flowers sung by Eef Barzelay from the band Clem Snide).

14. It makes me happy when a story stops me in my tracks, transports me, and then haunts me for days after, as happened when I heard Ron Rush read his short story, “Something Rich and Strange,” from his collection of short stories Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Happy week to you! Watch Jim Gaffigan on Netflix, he will make you laugh!

discordant and antsy

July 21, 2013

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photos:
1) size 11 watershoes left on the patio
2) the cottage, looking in from the front porch
3) the cottage, inside looking out onto the porch where the men are playing a game over breakfast
4) the cottage, doggy doorstop
5) a stealth photo of my son cuddling finny as we watch television in the basement
6) too many days of this weather
7) finnegan finally gets a properly-sized pool

This summer has felt…discordant…just off in some ways. Parenting teenagers has been tricky. Schedules are feeling like tectonic plates grinding against each other. My expectations for everything I will get done in the summer are always too high and unrealistic. In fact, it feels like I am able to get less done during the summer because schedules and needs are unpredictable. And I am antsy for a new direction, one that involves creativity.

Today I am home alone. My husband and daughter are up north at my husband’s family cottage. My son is working all day. So I will try to make progress on a long list of tasks.

Hope your summer is feeling more settled than mine and that you are not, like me, feeling a little panicky about August lurking around the corner…

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photos:
1. mangos
2. blik eames decal
3. charles and ray eames © 2011 eames office, llc
charles and ray Eames “pinned” by chair bases, 1947, as seen in american masters charles & ray eames: the architect and the painter.
4. converse sneaker made with lucienne day textiles
5. nigella lawson’s old fashioned chocolate cake

My son finished his exams Thursday and christened the beginning of summer by having friends over for a fire in the backyard to burn homework, and to roast hot dogs and marshmallows. (Though earlier in the day he said, “I miss school already.”)

The Ann Arbor Summer Festival started last night. Three weeks of free outdoor concerts, food stalls, late night outdoor movies and many other amusements. I noticed they added some free outdoor yoga classes starting at 5pm on the lawn adjacent to my office. Maybe…

There are also free noontime concerts on Thursdays a few blocks away from my office, Sonic Lunches, sponsored by a local radio station. UM graduate Darren Criss was the star of the most recent one. I wanted to go, but didn’t want to wait hours to get in the door of the Michigan Theater. Most concerts are outdoors and not so well attended. But Darren Criss is now a superstar, having conquered Broadway and now starring in Glee. He also wrote and starred in “A Very Potter Musical” which he created while a student here. Such a talented guy. He has quite a fan base here in AA.

In addition to a free-for-summer child who loves school, the start of summer and the anticipation of the AA Summer Festival, also making me happy this week include:

1. Mangos. I didn’t like mangos for a long time due to my experience with some with stringy texture years ago. My brother had me try one a few months ago and it was amazing. Love them. But still need to learn how to properly cut one…as it is now, my hand turns into a sticky, slimy mess and much of the fruit is left on the stone.

2. I have some Blik decals on my office walls, but I may have to replace them with these decals based on Ray Eames textiles. I’ve been thinking about the Eames lately as they are featured in a current exhibit on modern design at the Cranbrook Institute where they met. I plan to attend at the end of the month.

3. Converse sneakers made with Lucienne Day textiles make me happy. But it makes me unhappy that I discovered these years after they were produced.

4. Nigella Lawson’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake that may daughter I made this week. I was in the mood for cake. She was in the mood for chocolate. It was better the next day after having been refrigerated.

5. Have you seen these Openculture videos on the Bauhaus, Modernism and American Design?

6. Six Words You Should Say Today, from the Hands Free Momma blog. I love simple suggestions for better parenting. As my sister said, filing this one away with the other important scripts! (One of the best scripts was given to me by my friend, Suzanne, who told me to practice saying over and over again, “I’m sorry, but that would be just impossible.” The period at the end was the most important part.)

7. Libby Callaway’s home featured in the Selby. I probably couldn’t live here, too much going on. But I love looking at it. I love that she’s taken a pretty modest house and really turned it into a spectacular and unexpected space. So much to love here, the chevron rug, the closet, the clothes…though, I’m no fan of antlers, bones or dental casts…

8. Convos with My 2 year Old: Episode 3
Not as good as the first one, but it did make me laugh

Happy weekend to you!

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someone left this line of pretty rocks for us

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sleeping bear dune in the furthest distance, and south manitou island the dark line to the left of it

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see the fuzzy black dots? not dirt on my lens. flying black insects…with no breeze to blow them away. at least they weren’t biting, just annoying.

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large prints and wee prints

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welcomed color on a gray day
(my parents were canadian and i still spell gray, “grey” first)

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a big bouncy dog found my daughter, i love the long shadows

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she has seen many sunsets at pt. betsie

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pt. betsie lighthouse with the lamp just lit

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reading “the autobiograpy of red” on crystal, recommended by my daughter, the sun finally shining

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wild turkeys bigger than my pug. i later noticed the christmas lights on the house. a newer kind. did someone live here so recently? or did they just decorate to draw attention to the antiques store next door?

weekend escape to the big lake

“i won again mom. did you see i used the word “idiosyncratic”? shall I put my can of whup*** away now?”

My daughter and I escaped this weekend to northern Michigan, to the big lake, Lake Michigan, and to Crystal Lake. My husband’s parents have a cottage on Crystal Lake, very close to Lake Michigan, which we have spent time at every summer since before our children were born. As a child my husband spent most of his summers there. He spent so many hours combing the beach for Petoskey stones, he would fall asleep with the pattern of Petoskey stones on his eyelids. I love that image.

It is not always easy for me to spend time at that cottage. Clutter, clutter clutter everywhere…I wish I was wired differently and that such unimportant things didn’t bother me, but I’m not and they do. I haven’t even mentioned the dog toys, crates, hair…gah. And I love dogs.

But it is in the midst of paradise and I am grateful for time there, especially since it is a place my children and husband love. (They don’t mind clutter…believe me and don’t get me started.)

It was a quiet weekend, almost too quiet for us. It was grey and cool. No waves on either lake. I have never seen Lake Michigan with no waves. No breeze in the woods surrounding the cottage. And very few people– that will all change at the end of this week when school is out for the summer.

Still, it was nice to get away together. We walked along Lake Michigan at Empire Beach, sat on the beach at Crystal wrapped up in towels and read and napped, bought coffee and giant soft chewy butter pretzels at the Crescent Bakery, watched the sun set at Pt. Betsie, ate at the Coho Café where our up north neighbor from Virginia was being trained to be a waiter (his family stays up at the lake all summer), and played Bananagrams, which I enjoy less and less every time I play with my daughter.

We plan to go back up north with the rest of the family in July, after my daughter’s job working at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival ends. Hoping the lakes and the air will be a little warmer!

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060513spideroutsidea few photos from the past week

It has been an intense week, as they all will be in June. I run a few summer programs and this year many of my trusted instructors have left this transient college town to pursue graduate degrees or for real jobs.

So there have been many evening and weekend meetings and trainings, and more responsibilities that others used to take on. I can’t sleep because I keep running through my head everything I have to do the next day. So, so, so, so many balls in the air. So many moving pieces. I have an excel spreadsheet of everything that needs to be done and for everything that I cross off the list, 3 more things are added.

Some days I feel tired of being at work, and just plain tired, and I want a different job. Some days I feel really excited and proud of what I’m doing.

Here are a few random photos from the few random hours I have been home:

1) Finnegan lying in the sun where he likes to lie.

2) I made this lemon buttermilk bundt cake from shutterbean.com. I don’t have a bundt pan, but I do have a rose cake pan. Delish! This was gone in 24 hours. My family of 4 did not share it with anyone. It was dessert, breakfast, snack and gone.

3) Can you see the spider on the edge of the glass? He was in our dining room. We don’t like to kill spiders in our house. It could have something, or everything, to do with E.B. White’s, “Charlotte’s Web”.

4) A long overdue thank you note to my friend Cathy for the Catherineholm fondu pot and vintage red purse she sent me for my birthday.

My daughter and I may go “up north” this weekend to my husband’s family’s cottage. Sandy beaches, no internet, blue water for as far as you can see, woods…I am both looking forward to it, and also feeling a stomach-churning anxiety about not being here to get more work done. I am trying to ignore my anxiety because my daughter really wants to go. She may not have another opportunity to go for awhile as her summer job starts a week from this Friday and she is taking a stats class. My son’s final exams are next week, so he and my husband are staying home. They will have more opportunities to go up north after this weekend.

I hope that if you also are experiencing stress in your life, that you are able to set aside some time for yourself and your family and that you are also feeling proud of the good work you are doing.

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a day in my life: torturing the pets

photos:
1. Dandelion, trying to escape from the pool
2. Escape attempt 2
3. A rescue? Can you hear him yelling, “hellllllp me!”
4. Finnegan gets upset when I pay attention to Dandelion
5. Finnegan gets upset when he is carried away toward the humiliating new pool
6. Dandelion’s usual pose: A prickly ball.

It was a beautiful Saturday here in Ann Arbor. My husband is staying with his parents this weekend to help care for his mother with Alzheimer’s disease. We will be spending some time there this weekend and sometime at my mother’s house. We are indeed the sandwich generation, but how lucky we are to live close enough to our parents to help if and when they need it.

My son was gone all day at his new job, mowing lawns. He is 15, too young to work most places. Part of me feels like he will have his whole life to work, maybe this is too soon, but I see how proud he is of himself. He seemed pretty happy when he came home, so I guess…

This morning I went for what I call a run, most others would call a trudge. Afterward, I met some friends for lunch at No Thai! (the owner’s name is No). Not my favorite restaurant, but it’s a tradition with this particular group. No Thai! is in Kerrytown, the busiest place in Ann Arbor on Saturday mornings Spring – Fall. It seems as if all of Ann Arbor is at the farmer’s market, and/or Zingerman’s Deli. It felt good sit outside in the sunshine, with friends, in the midst of it all. After that it was home to plant basil, tomatoes and nasturtiums while the pet torturing took place.

I am not the pet torturer. Usually, I am the one being tortured by the pets. My dear doggie, Finnegan, will sit outside the bathroom door and cry as if his heart is broken, never to heal, so full of grief is he at having a closed door between us. You say sweet. I say annoying.

My daughter was the pet torturer today. I recently tried to replace Finnegan’s cracked Tubtrug pool (no, I don’t get reimbursed or sponsored by this or any other product, but I LOVE these Tubtrugs). They only had smaller-sized Tubtrugs at the store, but I was certain Finny would fit. My daughter was dubious. She was right. He sat in it once today and water spilled out along with rolls of his flarb. He looked humiliated, hopped out and would not go near it again….until forced later, by my daughter.

My daughter was cleaning her hedgehog’s cage and thought Dandelion might like a swim. Dandelion does swim, but he did not seem to enjoy it. He doesn’t enjoy much. It was nice to see his face for a change. And his wee little legs and feet!

Dandi’s swimming adventure only lasted a minute. My daughter will stick to bathing him in the sink in warmer water, which he still hates.

Next she decided to try Finny in his new pool again. Do you see the look he was giving me over her shoulder as she carried him to the too-small pool? The same one Dandi was giving me when he was being lifted out of the cold water, “Help me!”

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I’m not sure where this week went. You know exactly what I’m talking about. It was just Friday and here is Friday again, and a holiday weekend.

“Boo” to time going so fast; “Hooray” for the holiday weekend.

Some things, in addition to a holiday weekend, that are making me happy this week:

1. Hats by Pooka Queen, to rival any worn by princesses at royal weddings.
This California based artist is an Ann Arbor girl making a name for herself in the west coast fashion world, and soon the rest of the world. It is hard to say which is more beautiful, the art or the artist.
Visit her web site and etsy site for more exquisite pieces including hats, jewelry and accessories.
http://www.etsy.com/shop/pookaqueen
http://www.pookaqueen.com

2. I hate shopping for pants. I even hate the word, “pants”. That whiny short “a” sound. It’s grating.
It’s difficult for me to get a good fit and one that doesn’t emphasize features that I would like to de-emphasize. BUT, this is the happy part, these Banana Republic Sloan Fit slim ankle pants work for me. I ordered them in a long so they are just slightly longer than those in the image above (I’m 5’9″). I wondered about returning them for ankle length, but my daughter says no, the longs make my legs look very long, so I’m keeping them.

3. I don’t have a lot of time for watching television, but, Arrested Development – SUNDAY! I am nearly giddy about it. (If you don’t watch, this where to find the never nude)

4. I had dinner with my former mother’s of daughter’s group this week. The group was put together by a clinical social worker, who led the monthly discussion of parenting daughter issues and eventually grew into parenting of daughters and sons and marriage therapy and personal therapy…whatever we need to talk about. This group, these women, made me a much calmer (I didn’t say “calm” I said “calmER”), better parent and helped me through some very difficult situations. I started attending when my, now 19 year old, daughter was 5. We stopped meeting a few years ago when most of the daughters had graduated from high school. Oh how I miss this group!

5. Convos With My 2 year Old video on youtube. I’m looking forward to more. Funny…and creepy.

Happy weekend to you!

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I was looking at photos for a quick post and found these. Puppies. Cheap shot. I know.

The first two were taken in Wisconsin when I was visiting my daughter. We were leaving a Target and my daughter saw signs that said “Puppy Sale” in a pet store window. She asked, “Do you think they have actual puppies?” I said, “Likely just puppy supplies, but no harm in looking.” I was right, and I was wrong. They had puppies, but you know what she is saying with her eyes, “I NEED him Mom. Please?!”

The last one is my handsome Finny modeling what my son calls, “shameware.”

Can you see Finny’s wonky smile? So few teeth. So many directions, rows and angles. My neighbor Maddie was sitting outside on the grass petting him the other day, staring into his mouth. I said, “Are you enjoying Finny’s teeth Maddie?” She replied with a little wonder and dismay, “There’s just so much going on in there!”

Back to the shameware. The morning of our trip to visit my daughter for her birthday I left a large bag of gifts on the floor by the kitchen door so I wouldn’t forget to pack them. Then I left for work. I came home two hours later to drop my son off and he motioned me to come into the house— the bag of gifts was empty and ripped and the gifts were all over the kitchen floor. Only one was ripped apart. Decimated.

There was no food among the gifts so I had no idea why he got into the packages. I realized the one he ripped apart was a gift from another Ann Arbor mom to her daughter, Sarah, who attends the same school as my daughter. She had asked me to deliver it to Sarah and had included another identical looking gift box for my daughter. I knew the one for my daughter contained a t-shirt, so I assumed the identical package for Sarah was also a t-shirt.

As we searched for the t-shirt from the torn apart package, my son noticed something like black dirt on my dog’s cushion—TEA! There hadn’t been a t-shirt in Sarah’s package. It was tea. Which my dog had consumed. Yum.

Since my old dog is now deaf, he cannot be shamed by the disappointed quality of my voice when I try to scold him. He just stands and happily wobbles his donut tail. My son decided to make shameware out of the bag Finny had torn apart. When that fell off too easily, my son fashioned shameware out of a smaller bag. Perfect fit.

Does Finny look shamed to you? Not to me either. More like plotting to make a dash for his cushion so he could lick up the rest of that tea.

Later I emailed Sarah’s mom to apologize and she said no problem, but in addition to the tea, there had been chocolate covered espresso beans in the package. Yes, he ate those too.

It would likely have killed a lesser dog, with better teeth, but Finny has survived eating a pound bag of m&ms (nearly killed my husband though, I was out of town) and a bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups, foil wrapping and all. I didn’t even take him to the vet for this one. I had to leave town after all…

(Don’t worry! He seemed pretty normal when we left at 5pm, and we had a dog sitter who I checked with several times over the weekend. Finny is alive and well and overweight according to last week’s visit with the vet. And yes, I do realize that if anyone should be wearing shameware…)

back in the hammock

May 15, 2013

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We have had a hammock in our backyard forever. I think it started as a first father’s day gift to my husband, which is a mean joke since he is the person in our family who uses it least.

We usually have to buy a new hammock each year, as the squirrels have a great fondness for chewing the rope to bits. Our current hammock is up for the season and is going on its third summer. Haha squirrels! One point for the humans! (Though it’s likely the squirrels may be avoiding it because it’s made from some unknown toxic substance so maybe, Haha humans!)

I cannot stand to just lie in a hammock, and say, nap, or read. I am not wired that way. I used to give my kids terror rides in it when they were little, which they have loved. (I am wired that way.)

Every now and then, over the years, someone says to another, “Want to go lie in the hammock?” And on warm summer night at midnight, they lie in the hammock, side by side holding hands, or head to foot, always complaining of the foot, listening to far off sirens and dogs barking and doors closing in our little town, trying to see stars through the heavy canopy of the giant maple that hold one end of the hammock.

Usually the two in the hammock would be my daughter and me.

Last August, on a very emotional morning when she said goodbye to her little bedroom, house, backyard, town and family for her first year away from home, the last thing we did before she left was to lie together in the hammock, side by side, holding hands.
That was hard. She was so sad and so uncertain.

And look at her now. She conquered her freshman year and all of the challenges it threw at her, which were many. She made the dean’s list both semesters. She sang, studied science, made new friends and learned what it’s like to attend a very small college (1,200) in a very small town.

And now she is home.

And we are back in the hammock. Side by side.