Monday, January 31, 2011

My Mi

I have a kittrs named Milo.  Milo is an orange marmalade tiger stripe with leopard spots kitty.  He is thirteen years old.  As anyone, when they get up in years does, Milo has his good days and his bad days.  He is thin. When I got him I named him Milo after the Milo and Otis cat.  Plus, Milo is a talking cat.  He and I talk to one another all the time.  Uh-oh, I think I sound like a crazy cat lady now.  If you have a cat that talks to you, you know what I mean.
Now I lay me down to sleep...
I had a dream last night that Milo was talking to me with a human voice.  He was dying and telling me that he didn't want to die and I was telling him that it was o.k.  (WHAT has been my fascination and fixation with death as of late?)
Milo is soft as a bunny and I love to cuddle him.  He kind of took a back seat to Chelsea when she came along.  Chelsea is in your me, Pet ME, PET ME! And Milo doesn't have the patience for that.  Milo looks at Chelsea with this pissed look on his face and then ever so often he will just haul off and slap Chelsea with his paw.  When Chelsea meets other dogs out in public, she is always timid and holds back.  I always explain "she lives with cats that slap her."  (Doug's cat Tree joins in the slap-fest, too.)
Milo has a barfy tummy and acts like his teeth hurt him sometimes.  I know he could live another three years or so or he may be nearing the end.  He is a wonderful kittrs.  Even when he slaps Chelsea.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hike on

In 1997 I joined the Indianapolis Hiking Club.   The first time I ever hiked with the club I looked around me and thought man, these people are old.  But I thought I would give it a go.  The people that I judged by the way they looked and their age could hike me into the ground.  I took a long time before I could keep up.  I grew to admire them for the tenacity they displayed.  I was inspired as different ones battled cancer but hiked as they were able. 
For many years the hikes and trips that we took together kept me busy and happy on weekends when my children went with their dad.  I made some very good friends in the hiking club and we enjoyed camping together.  Then I met Doug and he started going with me.  Doug is a very strong hiker.  I don't think I've ever heard him complain on a hike.

Spring Mill State Park, IN  Me, Doug far right.  (Doug in blue hat.)

March '07 Me in red jacket, front and left beside my dear friend Kathy.
 Doug behind me in blue hat.  Spring Mill State Park, IN.

Smokey Mountains,  TN. April '07 me, front and center in green jacket.
 Doug in rear in bandanna.
Hocking Hills, OH '07 me (heavy) and Doug front right.
 This morning, Doug and I drove to Indianapolis and attended the funeral of a man who was basically the father of the hiking club.  Since I moved to Bloomington with Doug and since we adopted Chelsea, we haven't been as active with the club as we were in the past.  We take Chelsea out and hike ourselves.  It was good to see some of our friends.  It was good to honor the life of a man who had given so much to so many.  It was good to pay my respects to his wife.  I got to sit with my friend Kathy.  I met Kathy in the club.  We were both going to camp on a club trip and didn't know one another.  Someone suggested that we might enjoy camping together.  We both eyed one another, not too certain about that idea.  It didn't take long before we were fast friends and camped and roomed together on many trips.  This was before Doug and Tim came along (Kathy's husband).

During the service this morning a man sang the hymn How Great Thou Art and it struck me today how appropriate the words of the second verse are for those of us who love nature- especially those of us who love to hike:
When through the woods
And forest glades I wander
I hear the birds
Sing sweetly in the trees
When I look down
From lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook
And feel the gentle breeze

I leaned over to Doug and whispered "pretty appropriate."  Our friend that was laid to rest today had served our country in the military.  Two soldiers, perfectly pressed and polished took the flag from the casket and folded it to present it to our friend's widow.  How perfectly they folded that flag.  My friend Kathy and I sobbed as the ceremony drew to a close. 
I think as I get older, funerals become more difficult.  I think of those who have gone on (such as my Grandma in '06,) I think of those I love.  I think about how precious life is. 

I had allowed my membership in the club to lapse and the loss of our friend caused me to think about the good times and the friendships that I (then Doug and I) had made.  I told the membership secretary "send me a membership form, I can't stand not being a member!"  I love hiking.  To me, it is such an enjoyable form of exercise.  With the club there is laughter and conversation and adventure.  It is camaraderie and friendship. 

When my son was nine or ten or so, he hiked with the club for a few years.  He wanted to be a member but it wasn't allowed.  You had to be eighteen years old to join the club.  The man whose funeral we attended today cared enough for my son to make him an honorary member.  It thrilled my son.  There was a small ceremony on a day we gathered to hike at a camp in Southern Indiana.  For this reason and so many more, the man whose funeral we attended touched my life.  We like to think of those we admire and love being in Heaven and doing what they love without pain or effort.  Our friend was ninety three years old.  Someone had a blanket embroidered with the club emblem and beneath it  the words read "Hiking in Heaven."  I'm sure he is continuing to hike on.

Friday, January 28, 2011

To boldly go where no man (or woman or Asian American or African American) has gone before.

Photo credit:  1986, Bruce Weaver, AP
 Driving to work this morning, listening to NPR, I heard a story on Ron McNair, one of the crew members lost in the 1986 Challenger explosion.  McNair, born in 1950, grew up in South Carolina, attending segregated public schools.  Challenger was his second Shuttle flight.  Ron was the second African American in space.  NPR spoke with his brother and his brother told how he and Ron grew up watching Star Trek.  He said that the real science fiction for them was trying to imagine blacks and whites and working side-by-side.  We have Gene Rodenberry to thank for that.  Star Trek started running in 1966.  I was eight  years old.  I grew up watching Star Trek, too. 

The Challenger crew included Mission Specialist Ellison S. Onizuka, (second Shuttle mission) the first Asian American in space.  Mission Specialist McNair  and two women, New Hampshire high-school teacher Pay Load Specialist Christa McAuliffe and biomedical engineer, Mission Specialist Judith A. Resnik,  second woman in space in 1984.  (The first woman in space was Sally Ride in 1983.) Commander Francis R. Dick Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, who was an experienced pilot, but Challenger was his first space flight.  McAuliffe beat out 11,000 other teachers to be the first teacher in space.  Payload Specialist Gregory B. Jarvis beat out 600 other Hughes Airforce Corp employees for the opportunity to fly with Challenger. 

A space launch is an event that  school teachers take advantage of.  It is a huge opportunity to teach science in a real, factual, exciting, fun manner.  Teachers would have their students watch the launch on t.v.  Because a teacher was on board in 1986-  the first teacher to ever take part in a space program, nearly all teachers across the United States were focusing curriculum around the watch and tuned in with their students to watch on that day. 
All of us watching were shocked.  Stunned.  NASA had launched shuttles twenty-four times successfully prior to this launch.  The concept of failure was unimaginable.  We were all watching live- in real time.  The explosion took place after one minute and thirteen seconds.  A mere blink of an eye.  Normally, you watch a launch and you feel the exhileration and then the camera follows, follows, follows as the aircraft climbs higher into the sky.  With this broadcast, as the explosion took place before our eyes, we were stunned.  The horror of the explosion continues to cause me to feel sick to my stomach.

"The crew compartment shot out of the fireball, intact, and continued upward another three miles before plummeting. The free fall lasted more than two minutes. There was no parachute to slow the descent, no escape system whatsoever; NASA had skipped all that in shuttle development. Space travel was considered so ordinary, in fact, that the Challenger seven wore little more than blue coveralls and skimpy motorcycle-type helmets for takeoff.
In a horrific flash, the most diverse space crew ever — including one black, one Japanese-American and two women, one of them a Jew — was gone."  Full story found here.

A couple of gal friends and I were headed to Florida for Spring Break.  We were all married, in mid-twenties.  I was the only one of us that had a child.  We went to Cocoa Beach and on every motel and restaurant marquee the messages read
our hearts go out to the families of the Challenger crew.

The launch and subsequent explosion took place on January 28, 1986 and we were down at the beach for spring break - April.  The bars were crawling with sailors from ships, all in from Virginia Beach.  They referred to it as "VA beach."  They were on a mission- to clean up the debris from the explosion.  It was everywhere.  Pieces of tile littered the beach.  Did I think about picking one up and taking it home with me?  I suppose.  But it would be something akin to taking a piece from a car wreck when someone dies as a result of that wreck.  It was too macabre.  The sailors had a name for the debris - "space trash." 
The reminders were all around us, even three months after the explosion, that something terrible had happened.  And now, twenty-five years later, we remember.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Don't tell anyone

Don't tell anyone where I like to hide...o.k., Mom?
Wait- did you just take my picture?  You aren't going to show it to anyone...are you?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

BlackSalt Restaurant - Washington D.C.

Last Monday, my daughter took me to lunch at BlackSalt Restaurant.  The front of the restaurant is a fish market and the first thing that struck me is it doesn't smell like fish. 

BlackSalt Restaurant
  BlackSalt is one of those east coast restaurant that looks small from the front, but it goes on forever- before you reach the back of the restaurant.  Much larger than it first appears.  We were lead to our seats.  Because it was lunch hour, they had lunch hour cocktails.  For five dollars, I had a champagne with Creme de Cassis.  First time I had ever had that and it was delich.  I'll pay five dollars for any cocktail.
here's lookin' at you, kid
 We had three courses.  For my first course, I chose the Rhode Island Calamari with Chipotle Remoulade.  It was very good.
 My daughter had the Organic Virginia Squash Bisque Spice Mascarpone, Pepitas, Vincotto.  Thick.  Creamy.  Tasty.  Delicious.  Just as it should be.  There was a touch of cinnamon- which was a nice touch.
squash bisque
 For my entree I had the Wood Grilled Atlantic Mahi-Mahi with Smoked Bacon, White Beans, English Peas and Charred Greens.  Excellent combination.  The mahi-mahi was flaky and light and perfect.
 My daughter had the Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia Sandwich with Avocado, Baby Greens and Pickled Red Onions.  I'm sorry to say I did not get a pic of her meal.  The tilapia was cooked with some sort of breading which was tasty.  If I had not ordered the mahi-mahi, I would have ordered the tilapia.
For dessert, my daughter ordered key lime pie with blueberry compote and whipped cream.
key lime pie
 I ordered the chocolate chambord truffle cake with raspberry compote and whipped cream.  It was so good that it left me longing for more.  Isn't that how it should be?  I wanted to lick my plate clean.  First of all, I would never do such a thing.  Second of all, I would never embarrass my daughter like that.  Even if I did, she would look at the other diners and explain:  she is from Indiana.
truffle cake
I am a member of the clean plate club.  I once wrote a column about it when I was a columnist for my home town paper.  It is my mother's fault. 
There was a couple beside us.  An older couple.  Classic east coast.  She wore her hair dark and despite the fact that he was probably late seventies or so, his hair was touched with red.  I suspect he colored his hair, too.  When I ate all of my mahi-mahi, she looked over and made fun saying to him "clean your plate, Stan, clean your plate," and nodded towards me.  I know when I'm being made fun of.  Whatever.  I was with my daughter in a wonderful restaurant.  Her treat.  Of course I cleaned my plate.  I don't think my daughter was aware of what they said, that I was the butt of their folly. 
I'm at the point in my life if you want to make fun of me, have at it. 
BlackSalt restaurant was so good.  Such fresh seafood.  Of course I cleaned my plate!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Brunch at Woodberry Kitchen

Last Sunday while in MD, my daughter took me to brunch at Woodberry Kitchen.  Woodberry Kitchen is located in the Hampden Historic District of NW Baltimore.  Woodberry Kitchen is currently ranked number one as the place to eat in the Hampden district.  The restaurant is known for serving seasonal foods grown by local growers of the Chesapeake region. 

 For the first time in my life I had French Pressed coffee.  She took the little timer away before I got to take a picture of it.  My daughter ordered Beignets with chocolate sauce.  I had never had beignets, either.  They were something akin to donut holes, but ever so much lighter.
Direct Trade Press Coffee
 My daughter's wife had a breakfast pizza of sorts.  We all sampled it and it was very good. 
 My daughter had an open faced tenderloin sandwich.  It was nothing like the tenderloin sandwich one might have in the midwest.  Midwestern tenderloins are huge- often bigger than the bun they are served on and sometimes bigger than the plate they are served on.  This tenderloin was light and tender and healthful.  It was topped with an egg and had cheddar, ramp mayo, trencher, slaw and fries with it.  She also had a strawberry soda which we decided would be a refreshing summertime drink.
Open Faced Smoked Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
 I chose the Small Valley Spelt Crepes which had smoked pork loin, ricotta, rocket, and mustard cream.  Delicious.  Perfect in every way.
Small Valley Spelt Crepes

End of meal
 We were in an old warehouse building with wooden floors and high windows. 
 Excellent lighting.   Warm, welcoming feeling.

Boxwood wreath

 I went to the restroom- but don't usually take photos of the restroom.  It was so charming that I stopped to shoot before we left.
Quaint bathroom

dry your hands with dish-clothes and leave them in an old wire milk crate
 The Hampden district was originally settled as a residential community for mill workers.  Residents came from Kentucky, West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania.

 Note the message on the car in the foreground.

All the pretty ladies
I hope to return eat at the Woodberry Kitchen another time.  My only negative comment at all is that I'm not certain the mimosa was worth eleven dollars.  I suppose it that is determined by how bad one wants to have a Mimosa with one's brunch.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Preparing for our little one

Because I had a long weekend last weekend, I headed east to see my daughter and her wife.  I was welcomed to their home in style with a Georgetown Cupcake.  We had Georgetown cupcakes at the wedding reception.  They are my daughter's favorite.
 I'm going to be a grandma in March.  While I was back east, we had a baby shower.  Our hostess is so clever.  Seems to me she thought of everything.  And this is a woman who has an extremely busy career and is mom to two daughters.  She is amazing.

diaper name tags


lots of gifts
 My daughter's wife is carrying the baby.  Her sister hosted the shower and had these banners for the moms to be to wear...this is my daughter, below. 
a banner event

notes from guests

Grandma Cheryl
 Grandma Cheryl is a new title for me.  A new role.  I am more excited than I can possibly express.  When I visited in the fall, I got to hear the baby's heart beat.  That rates up there with one of the most miraculous, marvelous moments of my life.  My eyes filled with tears.
When we said our good-byes at the airport I said "the next time I see you the baby will be here!"  This new prospect has turned me into a marshmallow.  I previously thought that I was a tough old broad.  I'm happy to know I still have a tender heart.  It just took this new little life to remind me.  

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The red coats are coming!

We have had a lot of snow the past couple of days here in Southern Indiana.  Belly high on my Corgi girl.  I love to watch her bouncing through the snow, looking like a bunny cousin.  She shoves her nose down deep and sniffs and brings it back up - all covered in snow. 
Chelsea et moi, Christmas Day 2010
I heard that there is snow in 49 of the 50 states.  Can you guess which state does not have snow?  FLORIDA!  When we were in Hawaii last February, we didn't have snow, but we were at the observatories on Mauna Kea was freezing! 
Do you like our mother-daughter coats?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Too many thoughts to sleep

Late the other night my daughter popped up on Skype and said "I thought old people went to bed early."  Sometimes.  Other times I'm up late playing stupid games on facebook or writing to you or reading what you've written.  Other nights we go to bed early because we couldn't sleep the night before.
This past weekend was emotionally draining.  I've had a medical issue for many years and it has gotten worse.  I went to my doctor and learned she was going to send me to a specialist, who will hopefully resolve the issue.  It is something I've lived with for many years, so not to worry, but annoying and worrisome all the same.
That led to a phone call which led to my heart overflowing and bubbling out of my mouth- some issues that have been very troubling, but I've not mentioned.  This led to an upsetting exchange of words.  I had to pull my car over and sit in a parking lot and finish crying before I could return to work.
On Saturday there was another upsetting phone  conversation which led to more tears.
On Sunday I decided I needed to visit, in person.
I thought I was o.k., which I often do, but once again, the tears overflowed.  Tears are soothing and healing but hours of conversation, filled with misunderstandings, hurtful memories dredged up, more hurtful words, working for resolution, trying to make one another understand how we felt was exhausting.  Certain words and phrases pierced my heart.  I called Doug on my way home and he said "well, you sound good."  I said "I think I've just cried all I can cry." 
I had a two hour drive back home.  The darkness was kind and comforting, soothing.  I fell into bed when I got home and curled into a ball, wanting to crawl into a hole. 
Yesterday at work, due to lack of sleep, my brain was on fire.  Sometimes being at work, it is nice.  People are cordial, detached, professional.  I threw myself into my tasks, focusing.  Jennifer and I went to lunch and just being with her cheered me. 
Last night, I asked Doug to go to the barn with me to haul out containers.  Containers I've saved filled with wonderful, precious memories.  As I pulled items from the containers, over and over I exclaimed "oh. my. gosh."  I sorted and laughed and told Doug stories of when each piece was worn or who had made it or bought it.
He leaned over and put his mouth close to my ear...
"this is just what you needed."

comfort brew for the wee hours
back in the day this was a legal pad and pen

my girl, Chelsea, beside me

what is this?

this box holds so many sweet memories
This morning, I turn to look at the alarm clock- after being awake for quite some time.  It reads 3:10 a.m.  I groan and get up, slipping my bare feet into my crocs.  I pull a hooded sweatshirt on over my nightgown and head out into the house.  I light a candle and put on some water for tea.  I turn up the heat, take dry clothes out of the dryer and put wet clothes into the dryer.  I start another load of laundry.  I let Chelsea out of her kennel, put my glasses on, zip up my sweatshirt and pull the hood up.  We head out into the frigid darkness.  The snow hasn't yet started to fall. 
I was supposed to see the specialist today, but called yesterday to reschedule.  You know you are getting old when you reschedule a medical appointment because of the threat of snow.  The appointment was set for 8:45 a.m. and I couldn't see us getting out and driving an hour north on bad roads.  Especially when I've let this thing go on for years. 
This past year has been one of growth and learning.  More so than other years.  For me, growth and learning doesn't come without a certain amount of pain.  As the gardener tells us, without pruning there is no fruit.  (I loved it in The Shack when Jesus was the gardener in overalls.)
Jennifer said something the other day about my blog being sweet or happy.  I thought "is it?"  Sometimes I joke that my blog is the life I wished I lived.  First of all, I am usually happy and positive.  Secondly, I can't stand negative, complaining people.  Who wants to hear that?  But this past year carried a certain amount of pain.  And now the new year is getting started with a certain amount of pain. 
But this new year holds the promise of a new chapter.  A new life.  A new member of the family.  A new role for me.  It is my turn to be wise sage and listening ear.  Fun.  Wonder.  Kisses.  Sweet smells and warm little body held in my arms.  Sleepy eyes that will gaze into mine and capture my heart. 
I have to write.  I have to express my thoughts and feelings. I have to write for me.  I love the blogging community, and the interaction we share, but I have to write for me.  The first two years I blogged (on another website) my blog was just a place to put my writing.  I wonder if I were imprisoned and they wouldn't allow me any pen or paper (or keyboard)...would I become as desperate as the Marquis de Sade did, writing with his blood and an improvised crude writing instrument?  I am constantly writing in my head and when I'm gone, my belongings will be littered with scaps and sheets of paper with thoughts I've written down.
I was told during the conversations this past weekend I was told that I am melodramatic.  When I look up this word it means exaggerated, sensationalized, over emotional, sentimental.  I am sentimental.  I hope I never lose that trait. I am thoughtful, feeling deeply.
It has become apparent in the past few years that during winter months I struggle with SADD which is the sunshine deficit disorder which causes depression.  For the past few years, I've taken a couple of different anti-depressants off and on.  Around mid-November, I felt the sadness creeping back in and started back on one of them.  This Christmas Eve was the first time in twenty-eight years, I wasn't with either of my children.  I got through it.  And once Christmas was over, I felt better.  Almost as soon as I had started taking the anti-depressant, I stopped taking it.  (Side-bar note:  if you've never taken anti-depressants, it is best to slowly wean yourself off of them.)
When on an anti-depressant, I feel muted and as if I don't experience life fully.  There are times that this isn't a bad thing.  But this next part of my life that I am about to enter into, I don't want to miss a thing.  I want to be fully aware and experience every moment completely. 
I want to tell you how much you mean to me.  This community of bloggers, those who comment and email.  I have met some of you.  I know some of you.  Some of you have become facebook friends.  Some of you I know I will meet in the future.  Thank you for telling me what you think, for caring, for encouraging, for being positive about what I write.  It means more than you know. And when I find that sleep evades me, it is good to have someone to talk to.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

You're welcome!

My daughter buys me the best gifts.  I think not only because she is thoughtful, but she knows me.  She listens to me.  I love calling this place where we live "the farm."  My daughter says it isn't a farm because we don't have animals.  We have a dog and two cats.  We have a barn and an outbuilding.  I want to get chickens in the spring.  I asked my daughter if we get chickens if it would be a farm.  She said "maybe."  I think I would like a duck, too.  I wonder how Chelsea would do with chickens and ducks? 
Anyway, my daughter bought this "welcome to the farm" sign for me for Christmas. 
For me, living on a farm is a lovely notion.  We are in the country, have a garden, I plant flowers.  Maybe when we have chickens I can have a little road-side stand and sell eggs. 
In my mind, I even have a name for the farm.  "Dragonfly Farm."

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