Archive for the 'Photography' Category


Putting things into perspective

At 3:40 in the morning on Tuesday, January 19, I was awoken by my husband calling to me from the floor. As I sat up and leaned over to respond, he got to his hands and knees and crawled over to the bed and put his head on the mattress, but seemed to be completely unable to come any further.

As he kept saying “I need to tell Sheri” (I’m Sheri) “that I fell on the floor,” over and over again, I worried that he had had a stroke.

Repeated attempts to get him to come up on to the bed failed, so I went out into the hall and called to some friends who had come in from out of town the night before to see if they could come help me. We managed to get him up on the bed, and he was able to look at me and talk and squeeze both of my hands, so I thought maybe it wasn’t a stroke after all. Then he told me that he needed to tell Sheri that he had had chest pains and while trying to take his pulse he had apparently fainted. There was blood on his lip and a split in the skin over his eyebrow, so it seemed clear that he had hit the floor pretty hard.

I called 911, gave him an aspirin per instructions, unlocked the door and turned on the porch light, and went back to sit with him and wait for the EMTs, during which time I made repeated calls (unanswered) to his cardiologist who is also a good friend.

Four people arrived — first, two firemen, who asked him some questions, had him smile and stick out his tongue (no stroke); then two EMTs with an ambulance who took a pulse, and ran a quick EKG which showed a mild arrhythmia but not enough to “require” a trip to the ER, although the EMT recommended it.

Our friends and I thought that would be a good idea, and he agreed, which kind of convinced me this was pretty serious, as he would generally resist such an idea, so off he went in the ambulance, and I followed with one of the friends in our car. The other stayed home with Second Son, StepSon, and Only Daughter.

We spent almost 6 hours in the ER while they monitored his heart rate, and took periodic blood tests for Troponin (sp?), the enzyme thrown off by the heart if there is a heart attack (all negative). He was then sent to the cardiac observation unit, so that they could do one more Troponin test and monitor things for the day.

He was allowed to move around, so we walked up and down the halls for a while, him walking his IV pole. His manner of speaking still seemed different from usual — not as different as in the first few minutes, when he didn’t seem to realize to whom he was talking, but still different — more monotone, at a slightly higher pitch. We observed people of many ages in beds, a young man in what seemed to be a 50% body cast walking (?) down the hall with crutches and family flanking him on all sides. We nodded to the resident who had come and asked him some questions already, heard rumors of the cardiologist’s impending arrival.

Six hours later (now 4:30 p.m.) the attending cardiologist, the resident, two students and nurse appeared in his room, where the doctor reported many lengthy conversations with Husband’s cardiologist friend and between the doctors at the (very excellent) hospital.

Many theories presented themselves, none with clearly obvious affirmative answers. Husband had an abnormal stress test in the fall, but only at the highest pulse rate they were willing to push him to. Perhaps a plaque had broken loose and blocked an artery, but there were no indications of heart attack and he had no physical symptoms of blockage — his pulse was good, his color was good, he wasn’t short of breath, the pain had been in his chest only, not radiating to chin, arms, shoulders, etc. Perhaps the pain had caused a vaso-vagal response, but there had been no moments of dizziness or nausea — he was conscious taking his pulse, then he was coming to on the floor. The attending’s theory was that there had been an arrhythmia, which might have caused fainting. The arrhythmia might be caused by some partial blockages, and the only way to know that for sure was to go to heart catheterization, so that was where we were going. Now.

So we went.

Thirty minutes later he’s in the cath lab, shaved and mildly sedated, and I’m in the waiting room.

For two hours.

And for one of them basically alone, as the routine procedures were over for the day, so the status board was shut off, then the woman at the desk went home. So I sat. And knitted. And texted people back who were checking in. And tried to decide if I had time to go get something to eat (had four bites of breakfast 8 hours earlier or so). And waited.

Granted, midway I did get a report from the nurse that they had placed one stent and were “trying” (?!?) to place another.

Finally he was on his way back. I went back into the pre-procedure room and waited; I could hear him talking to the nurse as they came down the hall, and he actually sounded much more like himself. When he saw me, though, there were a few tears in his eyes, and he reported on the surreal nature of undergoing a procedure on your heart while you can hear them talking about what they’re doing and what they’re going to do next and shouting orders to assistants and you can feel twinges deep within your chest as they run wires and place stents. Four were placed — one in one artery that had a 90% occlusion; three in a very complicated and zig-zaggy artery that had an 80% occlusion. There were pictures, of the before-and-after persuasion, which were fascinating; and a third artery with 70% occlusion that they left as is — he had already been in the procedure for two hours, and many doctors don’t seem to feel that stenting a 70% occlusion is a good idea.

Of course he was then admitted. As the procedure requires them to employ blood thinners, the cuts on his lip and eyebrow reopened and bled, and bled, and bled; the small contusion on his eyebrow swelled to golf-ball size proportions, and the lovely purple eye-shadow on his upper lid became a full-blown black eye. I sat by his bedside and dabbed blood from his lip for hours, and he tried valiantly to keep an ice pack on his very painfully swollen brow.

We slept, eventually, I on a marginally comfortable couch-like structure that “opens” up into a “bed.” By 6:45 a.m. the room was full of nurses changing over their shifts, and then the cardiologist and a couple different students appeared, with news that he would need a stress test, and if he “failed” they would have to go in and stent the one vessel they didn’t get to and if he passed he could go home.

And then the stress test was delayed until the next day because he had already taken his meds.

And then, a few hours later, the stress test was reinstated, because the meds don’t matter, but what? He’s eaten some of his lunch? Stop eating! Fine, a few bites don’t matter.

Stress test, wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait you can go home.

No, we don’t have results, but we have discharge orders.

So he’s home.

And then nobody sleeps. You think sleeping in a hospital is hard, but then you go home and realize that now nobody’s monitoring your heart, and there aren’t nurses a call-button away — just your wife, who slept through the whole thing in the first place until you called for her from the floor.

Not very reassuring.

And now for the point of this whole post.

Some questions.

Why do we get to live where access to this kind of medical care is available to us, just minutes from our house?

What happens to people who don’t live in such an area?

We were in the emergency room for 6 hours, and he was being treated the entire time. The friend who had come with me is from New York city, and pointed out that in NY we might not even have been seen yet.

He had state-of-the art care, within minutes of when it was needed. He needed a heart cath — there’s a doctor there ready to do the procedure within minutes. He needs a stress test, the woman with the wheel chair was in his room before I could even text his family. He needs blood thinners and a lifetime of anti-coagulants that cost $387 a month and will cost us $20 with our prescription insurance and THEY DID THIS PROCEDURE THROUGH HIS WRIST WITHOUT ANESTHESIA — he won’t even have a scar.

How can we maintain our normal work loads to continue to meet our financial obligations without losing sight of the fact that nobody gets out of this alive? That time is our most precious commodity and every single one of us might have a hell of a lot less of it than we think? That yes, life is full of frustrations and disappointments but joy and meaning and relationships are priceless so that we can should must try to overlook/let go of the former and treasure the latter?

Our friends were visiting at what might have been a most inopportune time — in the middle of a work week, while Husband suffers a cardiac “event.” But a snowstorm on the east coast meant that they were “stranded” here for a couple of days at the end of the visit as well, and we enjoyed delicious meals and great bottles of wine together, and laughed so hard last night that our stomachs hurt.

Yesterday I took our friends to a garden center with indoor greenhouses and sculptures and art installations. We walked around and took pictures of tulips and daffodils and cacti, with steamed-up windows and snow visible through them in an interesting seasonal juxtaposition. I watched a half-frozen waterfall through a window that flows to a Japanese garden and studied pieces by Rodin and Degas and Calder. I felt as I do when listening to Mozart — happiness and sadness at exactly the same time.

It all goes so much faster than most of us expect, maybe even than we would want. (I always say that the only way to slow time down is to just be really bored all the time; remember how long Sundays were when you were a child?)

We still don’t even know if the treatment resolved the cause of the problem. We might not ever know. So we live now with a lot of gratitude, and a little more apprehension, a little more care, a little more joy.

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Sorry the pictures aren’t better – I took them with my phone. Loved the colors though.



this morning’s sunrise

Caught a glimpse of this out my back window as the sun rose this morning, so rushed out in bare feet and pj’s (it was a crisp 32˚) to snap a picture.

Reminds me of life — darkness and light, sometimes at the same time. Always trying to keep my eye on the light.


In a not-really-related story, decided to impose my own fairness on the debate tonight by, when the speaker’s time was up but they continued to talk, going “Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah. . ” as loud as I could. It really helped.

Have a happy day!




waiting for mom to die

Husband and I were on our way to a lakefront cottage for a week*. We had rented it the year before, and peopled it with family and friends until we were literally bursting at the seams. We took turns cooking, and drank margaritas and copious amounts of wine, and had a fabulous time. But this year it was just the two of us, a conscious decision that we would alternate this week on a yearly basis, one year with as many people as we could squeeze in, the other just the two of us.

Saturday, our first day, was also the first day of a three-day gig for me at a nearby music camp, accompanying for an international brass competition. Husband loitered in the parking lot while I rehearsed, and then we headed the rest of the way at around 5 p.m. We stopped and shopped on the way, filling our cart with food we would both enjoy, and that we would enjoy even more because it wouldn’t be accompanied by the groans of picky children complaining about our choices: arugula, lots of seafood, sharp cheeses, local berries and corn and tomatoes; lots of good wine, loaves of sourdough. We tucked the grocery bags around and between the duffels and pillows and bedding and board games in the back of my Prius.

The first few days of the trip were quite cool and cloudy, but the sky would always clear faithfully right at sunset, so I ended up taking dozens of pictures as the view changed dramatically (well, it seemed so at the time) every few seconds. On the second night, Sunday, the clouds and water seemed to be competing to see which could display the most and most varied shades of purple, and one bird in particular seemed to be posing for his portrait by zipping back and forth in front of my camera and across the gleaming path laid down by the sun across the water.

On Monday morning, very early, the taptaptap of the coming rain woke us, and Husband dashed out to the deck, naked, to rescue chair cushions and towels. Monday night we made a fire in the hanging fireplace, using wood we had bought for $3/bin from a stand alongside the road. While we were loading the wood into the back of the car the neighbor’s mutt had dashed across the road to greet us, sniffing at our ankles and then the car door. I thought he might get in the car and go off with us, but his owner called him back, and he trotted across the road, no one seemingly concerned about the possibility of any oncoming traffic (there wasn’t any). We then drove to the nearest town, buying food at an excellent Mexican restaurant and beer at the Mexican grocery to bring “home” to eat. At the grocery the owner’s two children played in the store window, their black eyes shining as the younger one peeked out from the cardboard cutout he was hiding behind.

Tuesday was to be our first full day at the beach, as the brass competition had kept me traveling back and forth the previous three days. Monday night Husband had asked me about my “ambitions” for Tuesday, so I had listed them: sleep until I woke up, drink lots of coffee with breakfast, read on the beach, take a nap, swim if it were warm enough, a long walk on the beach before dinner, a good meal and a good bottle of wine with dinner, and then losing at Scrabble by the fireplace after sunset (I only win Scrabble in Pisa). I had managed the first two things, and had just settled down in my beach chair with “Ulysses” (I’m trying, but am mostly just puzzled), when Husband appeared at the bottom of the stairs with my phone in his hand and a concerned look on his face. One of my sisters had called the landline at the cottage, and told him to have me check my voicemail.

It was my oldest sister telling me that mom had taken a sudden and dramatic turn for the worse, was in what the medical professionals called a stage of terminal restlessness, and was about to be sedated. The goal was for her to sleep, and, once sedated, it was doubtful that she would ever wake up. If we wanted even the possibility of one more conversation, or at least her awareness of our presence, we needed to come. Now.

The most recent development had been five days earlier, when, out of frustration with continuing digestive problems, mom had informed this same sister that she wasn’t going to eat anymore. We all figured that, once she had taken a day or two off from eating, her digestive system would “calm down” and she would resume eating at least jello and broth and the other few things that hadn’t been aggravating her stomach.

But all of these problems were actually a result of the fact that she had been diagnosed with a glioblastoma over five years ago, a couple of years after having one mastectomy, and a couple of years before having another. (These two cancers, the brain tumor and the breast cancers, were completely unrelated.) In hindsight, the digestive problems were probably a sign of her system shutting down.

She had outlived the prognosis for people with glioblastomas by around four years. She had long exceeded the protocol for chemo, and had discontinued it more than year earlier, merely because it wasn’t known what being on that type of chemo for that long would ultimately do to/for her. When the brain cancer began to show progression again she resumed the regimen that had been previously effective, but was immediately so tired and felt so generally unwell that she decided it wasn’t worth it and discontinued it shortly thereafter.

(It would seem that, with all of this history, this call wouldn’t have been a surprise. But it was. As one of my sisters put it at one point, we had been sprinting a marathon since May, with no view of where or idea of when we would reach the finish line.)

We decided to drive up, about 100 miles from where we were, so we filled up a water bottle and threw a couple of peaches and a can of almonds into a bag, and headed out. It seemed that our drive was destined to be thwarted by “life is a journey” drivers, and people turning left against a lot of traffic. What we calculated would take an hour and forty minutes or so took well over two, and mom was deeply asleep by the time we arrived.

I sat by her side in her hospice room for over three hours as friends came and went, giving quick hugs and kisses on a cheek or forehead, and ducking quickly out blinking away tears and patting us sympathetically on our shoulders. When we would tell mom that someone had arrived she would move one foot, which we took to mean that she heard and understood, although nobody could tell us for sure. When I was alone with her I sat, wishing I was one of those people who just knew what to say, convinced that she could hear us and would want us to talk to her and around her, but not knowing what to say. When I did speak, I would look at her feet. Neither moved.

When we left that night we drove to a nearby newly-opened, highly-acclaimed restaurant, and Husband and I ate a delicious meal — baked sunflower served on a tomato puree and topped with goat cheese and puff pastry, broccoli raab with lemon, caramelized scallops on creamy polenta with eggplant and tomato chutney, grouper on parmesan risotto so creamy and cheesy I’ve sworn off “healthful” risotto for the rest of my life as a waste if not a betrayal to the spirit of risotto itself. We accompanied the meal with a Sonoma Valley Chardonnay and finished with dark chocolate cake over a raspberry reduction. I felt this topped off the surreality of the day, and we toasted my mom and her life while I savored every bite and felt pathologically guilty for doing so (the story of my life; I’m nothing if not conflicted).

The expectation was that, once sedated, my mom would probably continue in this sleeping state for anywhere from a couple of days to a week or more. Our plan was to drive back to our cottage, spend Wednesday there, and return to her hospice room on Thursday.

I sat on the steps leading down to the water that night and listened to the endless ssssswwsssshh of the water against the shore. The moon was markedly absent, so the stars shone in stark relief against the night sky, and a plane at one point flew directly across the Big Dipper.

Wednesday was a beautiful day. We felt like we were stealing it. We slept in, puttered around, walked a good ways along the beach, picked up a plastic bag full of dead balloons and ribbon and plastic water bottles and other detritus on the way back; then I sat in “my” chair and watched the water. I checked my phone every ten minutes. We cooked a delicious meal, and had just settled in to a game of Scrabble when my sister called. Mom’s breathing had changed markedly a couple of hours before, and became slower and slower, until they — two of my sisters and my youngest brother — realized that it had stopped.

Mom had died.

We actually had gone through many weeks in May quite sure it was just around the corner as she recovered from a brain bleed after she fell in her apartment. It had been discovered early in May that she actually had two large blood clots: one in her leg from ankle to thigh, which had caused severe swelling and pain, and one in the airway between her lungs. We had rallied, and set up a schedule to have someone staying with her until she became more steady on her feet as she started a regimen of blood thinners and breathed oxygen from a portable tank. Blood clots, or what is technically referred to as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVTs), are common side effects of some cancers, as apparently the presence of certain cancers in the body alter the chemistry of the blood and make it more likely to clot. She was moved into hospice after the brain bleed and resulting paralysis on her left side left her unable to get up by herself and required the use of a catheter. Early in August she had regained strength and mobility, was able to walk with a walker, was deemed a hospice “failure,” and moved to an assisted living facility. This move was short-lived, and her return to hospice had just been completed on Monday.

And on Wednesday she died.

We drove back up on Thursday and stocked coolers for visitors and went through dozens of her photo albums to assemble a collage of pictures of her and her friends and family and travels. Back to the cottage Thursday night, up for the visitation and funeral on Saturday and Sunday. The services were evangelical, and disappointing to me as they seemed to focus on the pastor’s vision of what awaited her after her death, (a vision I don’t necessarily share, and certainly without all of his certainty,) rather than a celebration of her life and family. Maybe it’s just me, and my state of mind at the time, and my fate as the sixth of eight children, and my pervasive sense for most of my life that the afterlife mattered more to my mom than I did. I know there were conversations I had wanted to have with her, but chose not to, realizing that they would only try to serve what I needed, probably fail, and probably make things worse between us than they already were. I’m sure this is not only my story, but that of many. I also know there were conversations she had with my sisters about these very things, but she never had them with me.

I know she did her best; we all do. Knowing this, I am still sad that I will always feel that her best left me feeling that something was lacking. I worry that my children will feel the same.

At the burial we released balloons into a gorgeous blue sky, and I remembered all of the balloons we had picked up along the beach.

We drove back to our cottage the day after the funeral, Only Daughter in tow. The owner of the cottage had graciously offered to extend our stay for a few days, as our week had ended up so fragmented and difficult. We drove more than a thousand miles that week, and hadn’t spent more than 36 hours in any one place. We were very grateful.

We spent Monday afternoon, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning at the beach. It was warmer, and lovely, and surreal. Only Daughter practiced her balance beam routine on the deck’s benches; the water warmed enough for us to swim; the sunsets were beautiful.

On Wednesday morning, our last day there, we took one more long walk on the beach. A short way into the walk we encountered a gull, apparently sleeping, but as we neared he turned his head weakly towards us, and then tried to drag himself sideways away from us with a wing. He was clearly severely injured, and we know enough about seagulls to know not to try to get close to help. We walked our “usual” long path, and watched for him upon our return. He was still there, caught in the edges of the tide, waiting to die.

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*This all happened in mid-August. I have just found time, and the frame of mind, to write it now.


this week, a.k.a., this is water?

So, a few weeks ago I was asked if I was interested in being Music Director at the church where I have been, merely, Pianist.

I accepted.

There are various reasons for this, the most obvious of which is that with this job I will, for the first time, get to be In Charge of Something That is Mine, and I only had to wait 47 years for it.

I also get to learn how to (actually) sing and how to conduct a bell choir, and get to put together a chamber concert series to raise money for social-justice causes in Our Fair City.

All good things. I’m really looking forward to all of it.

But all of this is happening in May, which is usually my month to Recuperate From the Academic Year. Instead this month has been a scramble while I try to Get My Act Together in preparation for our upcoming trip to visit Husband’s family on the western boundaries of Canadia (as I like to call it, and which strikes fear into his heart that I will Actually Say This in Front of His Family)(I have, btw, since they read this blog), and then six weeks of teaching at a summer camp, while presumably being organized enough to justify my salary as Music Director while being mostly conspicuously physically absent.

Meanwhile, as you probably know, my mom is in hospice with a glioblastoma in its fifth-and-a-half year along with DVTs in her leg and lungs.

Oh, and Husband’s Father had a heart attack on Wednesday night.

It’s really, really, in case anyone is Keeping Track of These Things, a bit Too Much to Take.

I got home today in between 3 hours at the church trying to make sense of 10 years of Bad Filing Practices and an oil-change and tire-rotation $37 trip to the service department that became a $300 60,000-mile maintenance tune-up and 3 hours of group lessons to a bag of raspberry and strawberry plants that Needed To Be Planted Today or They Will Die.

30 seconds after I planted the last raspberry plant Dexter the cute-but-stupid Dog had pulled one up and chewed it to bits.

Meanwhile Husband is off rescuing Stepdaughter from her now-defunct Chrysler Town and Country that was about to transport all of her earthly belongings from school to home, while I get ready to go visit my mom in hospice for 48 hours.

Needless to say, I’m Not Having a Very Good Day.

I’m feeling like I’m caught up in this vortex of Trials and Tribulations (call me Job, just don’t call me late for dinner), and I’m vibrating. Only Daughter gave me a very nice hug tonight and asked me if I was okay — she said that she doesn’t really hear Mommy laugh very much lately.


No kidding.

Last night First Son and I sat on the couch reading commencement speeches — notably David Foster Wallace’s last, which was okay, but not actually as profound as I’d expected. I have a DFW quote on Facebook:

That the cliché ‘I don’t know who I am’ unfortunately turns out to be more than a cliché. That if enough people in a silent room are drinking coffee it is possible to make out the sound of steam coming off the coffee. That sometimes human beings have to just sit in one place, and, like, hurt. That you will become less concerned with what other people think about you when you realize how seldom they do. That there is such a thing as raw, unalloyed, agenda-less kindness. That other people can often see things about you that you yourself cannot see, even if those people are stupid.

First Son thought it might be from Infinite Jest – a book we both hope to read, but each (independently) got far enough into that we knew needed more Time to Think and Process if we were going to do so successfully, so not yet, not yet.

Anyway, the commencement speech we found included a little anecdote, about two young fish swimming along, and encountering an older (presumably wiser) fish, who asks nonchalantly, as they pass each other “How’s the water?”  Wait a few beats, and one of the younger fish asks the other, “What the hell is water?”

DFW points out: This is water. This is water.

I’m trying to remember that.

If you can all send pillows of comfort and strength in Whatever Form With Which You Are Comfortable, that would be great, and greatly appreciated.

There was a really bad storm the other night, that went on literally for hours and hours and hours. At one point, around 2 a.m. or so, I opened up the app on my phone and saw that there was a front of stormage extending from Arkansas to the northern peninsula of Michigan, and the storm was just tracking along it, and the line seemed to pass right over our house. We live in the forest, (a forest which has had at least four trees fall in in the last 6 months), so bad storms kind of stress me out. Plus we’ve had Serious Water in our basement twice, and the lightning was striking trees and transformers in our backyard and it was raining so hard it sounded like it was hailing, and after a few hours of this I said to Husband, “This could stop now. Really. I’ve had Just About Enough.”

It’s how I feel about the vortex around me right now. I’ve had Just About Enough.

This is water. This is water.

I need to go sit on the beach. With Husband, an amusing Chardonnay, and a couple trays of sushi.



February 11, 2012

Started snowing at 9 a.m. yesterday and was still snowing when I went to bed.

Here is what greeted us when we awoke this morning.


So the heart is hiding the kiss, and the star is hiding. . .? Is it possible that no one in editing noticed that this was a little strange?


Reporting on the primary in Nevada included a photo from a “Pimping for (Ron) Paul” event. Seems like maybe Mr. Paul would ask them to please, maybe, come up with a different name? Or is he being ironic? I guess it’s possible that some politicians recognize that they are, basically, ahem, selling themselves to the highest bidder sotospeak. Maybe we should congratulate him on his honesty.

Speaking of honesty, do you trust this face?

Meh. Me, neither.



a winter’s walk

The poem/observations is/are from a couple weeks ago. The pictures from today.

Hannah strides in front of me in her cupcake fleece pajama pants
and purple parka;
the puppy bounces springily through the snow
as indifferent clouds drift,

and a single tear glitters frozen
on my cheek,
not felt but seen,


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Just managed to “score” an “invitation” to join Pinterest.

I’m not really sure what this process is supposed to represent. Being the mildly cynical sort, I can’t help but feel that the manufactured experience of petitioning for an “invitation” is supposed to make you feel like you’ve gained access to some kind of exclusive club.

And at the risk of sounding paranoid, if I link my pinterest board to my twitter or facebook accounts, is there any way of knowing whether pinterest is pillaging all of my personal information for some nefarious reason?

(You know, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean the world isn’t out to get you.)

I do often feel that much of our time is spent shouting and waving our arms, like the chronic middle child: “Me! Me! Pay attention to me!” We write on facebook about what we’re doing today or what we’re eating or what we’re thinking; we write on blogs to rant or rave or muse. We spend a lot of time talking, but not a lot of time listening.

I’ve often wished my posts would trigger even more conversation, although I’m wondering if maybe it has something to do with how/what I write, and whether I could invite more discussion somehow. Without a trace of irony, I ask, any suggestions?

I do spend a lot of time reading, fiction, New Yorker/Sunday New York Times. I also spend a fair bit of time talking, primarily to my students, but also to my husband, daughter. I don’t think I spend enough time talking to my friends. Or my sons.

I’ll have to do something about that.

Meanwhile, if you have a pinterest account and are willing to share it, please post it in the comments.

You can find my board at







I can’t remember how

it ever made sense

to get up in the morning

of a day

that didn’t have

you in it.


spring break adventures

Yesterday was Only Daughter’s first day of spring break, but I had college classes to teach, so today is “our” first day of spring break together.

We started by getting up “early” (8:00) and heading off to Frederick Meijer Gardens to see the butterflies.

Here are some of the pictures.

If you look closely you should be able to see lots of butterflies. The air was just aflutter.

These are feeding on little balls of nectar.

Wonder if this one is wearing enough SPF.

“Does this flower make my wings look bluer?” “Yes! Now hold still!!!”

Ready for takeoff!!!

This next butterfly is quite large, and the inside of its wings are a beautiful powder blue. One of these types kept flying around and around us, and we were hoping it would land on one of us, but it didn’t. It was a bit disconcerting, though, because it liked to circle our legs, which made us afraid to take a step in case we stepped on it. If you look at the first picture, you can see a hint of the blue as a bright streak between the two wings. The second shot, taken more from the side, better shows its striking eye-markings. I stood and waited and waited and waited for it to fly so I could try to capture it with the wings open (he would NOT hold still). As you can tell by the 3rd shot, it didn’t work out so well.

The funnest part is when you leave, you exit through a vestibule of sorts so they can check for hitchikers.

I tried not to let it bother me when oblivious people would push into view between the scene and my camera and stand there, or when one woman stood and watched for many minutes while her daughter tried repeatedly to catch one of the butterflies, inches from the sign that says “Please Do Not Touch the Butterflies.”

We decided to make the most of our visit, so walked through the sculpture gallery, currently featuring works by Jim Dine. Only Daughter summed it up as such: tools, women (he has a fascination with Venus di Milo), hearts, and Pinocchio. My cynical self wonders if taking four completely unrelated ideas and juxtaposing them qualifies one as an “artist.” Most of it I don’t get, including this:

Now that’s one heck of a tool belt!

It is interesting in that all of his sculptures are in bronze, but treated in such a way as to look like wood, or bone, or even rubber. The security guard pointed out that, after 8 hours a day 5 days a week patrolling the sculpture hall, he was noticing more and more details, such as wondering if the tread on the two tractor tires (connecting an axle which bore more farm implements, a “metal” pig, and a rather large skull) was going in two different directions on purpose — was it implying some kind of circle? Hmmmm, good question, but not good enough to balance out the general state of perplexity and lack of emotional connection I had with most of the work.

There was a “bouquet” of Venus di Milos which I kind of liked, but after I took the picture above Only Daughter pointed out the “No Photography” sign, so I decided I better not take another.

The following are part of the permanent installation:

“Seven Saints and Sinners” by Marshall Fredericks

(Daughter liked that the baby has a halo, too.)


“Hagar” by Jacques Lipchitz

Some of you may know Hagar from the story of Genesis: originally the handmaiden of Sarai (Sarah), Abram’s (Abraham) wife, who was offered to Abram by Sarai when she became concerned over her barrenness and believed that she should do this in order to fulfill God’s promise. As you can imagine, Hagar became pregnant before Sarai did, and resentment brewed. Hagar gave birth to Ishmael, who became the leader of the Ishmaelites. Hagar is also mentioned in the Koran, although not by name, as it is believed that through her son comes the Prophet Muhammed.

I like this sculpture very much. Its twistings, intertwinings, seem to well represent the complexities of Hagar’s actual and emotional circumstances.

You can see a bit of the Chihuly chandelier in the background.


Phase 2 of Day 1 involves the making of Monkey Bread. Careful consideration of the ingredients (2 sticks of butter, 3 eggs + 2 egg yolks) implies that I will not, however, be eating very much of the monkey bread.

And I think I might have agreed to take her to see a potentially cinematic monstrosity known as “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules” this afternoon. It must have been a weak moment.


2010: a better view

Thanks to everyone who sent or offered pictures.

I can always add, if more come in, so please keep sending if you’d like.

Hope you enjoy.

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The Year in Pictures

New York Times has a provocative “year in pictures” series. Click here if you’d like to see it.

I didn’t do an official count, or anything, but it seems to be made of 3 categories:

1.  Horrible things mankind does to each other and the planet.

2.  Natural disasters and the havoc they wreak.

3.  Sporting events.

Unfortunately, it is only pictures from category 3, Sporting events, and those of the rescued Chilean miners and of Aung San Suu Kyi finally, and probably temporarily, released from house arrest, that seem to reflect anything positive.

I wonder if we could come up with a year in pictures of more uplifting things. Second son vacuuming the basement (as we speak), for example, or my daughter’s beautiful face.

Would anyone want to see that, do you suppose?


from this to that, by Eamon Grennan

I get goose bumps every single time I read this. The imagery, both through the word-painting (flap-flee, blackwhitewhiteblack) and the descriptions (the lime-green toupees of weed the near rocks wear, the surprised cormorant) is absolutely stunning.

From This to That

Stepping overboard from the dream-laden vessel of sleep–
its cargo of foreign tongues, sunsplit stones of Italy, one
colored bundle of kindlewood, and the music of God knows who
played on the French horn by the poet’s only daughter–

you walk awhile by the actual tide-line, the ocean drawn back
to expose sea rocks colonized by purple-painted tribes
of young mussels, where three oystercatchers grown hysterical
at the frightful sight of you leave their lethal business

among the molluscs and flap-flee over the waves in baffling
blackwhitewhiteblack Escher flashes. You attend, then,
to the lime-green toupees of weed the near rocks wear, take in
the shoreline glint of scabious and coltsfoot, the quick ignitions

of a few leftover leaves of pink thrift, see one short-masted
black trawler riding the waves, and spot the head
and periscoped neck of a cormorant as it vanishes
between breaths, reappears, and looks about as if surprised

to find the world as is–sky, sea, the rugged bulk of Mweelrea
keeping one from the other–as you yourself look about, minding
the seabird’s amphibian gift to live underwater and in air,
to stand on its isolate perch in the wingspread very image

of a black phoenix rising. So stumble on to true wakefulness,
all dreams dissipated, and stop silenced on a seal-smooth rock
half-buried in sand, knowing nothing but the burden of
what you’ve seen, weighing the simple specific gravity of it,

the jag-line heading from this to that, before you turn for home.


Merry Christmas!


Fall 2010

It’s beautiful here this fall. Wish I had more time to enjoy it.

Hope you enjoy these! (Click on each one to see it “full size.”)


beautiful, beautiful me

Ran across this photo-project through a link on another blog today.

And the awards go to:

Most upsetting: 9- and 11- and 13- year old girls made up like dolls or losing weight they don’t need to lose at weight-loss camps.

Most stupid: a woman who has 3 toes shortened so she can wear the Jimmy Choo shoes she likes with the pointy toes.

Most frightening: people having painful surgery done to help them grow taller, even though it includes the risk that they will end up deformed.

Most ridiculous: Mr. Olympia, whose muscles boisterously bulge but who needs to be administered oxygen because the process has weakened him so considerably.

Most Machiavellian: the plastic surgeon married to Barbie so he can “play” with her. I would put her boobs* in either the most frightening or most ridiculous category. Maybe she doesn’t care that everyone can tell that they’re fake?

And the You’re-Not-Fooling-Anyone Award goes to the woman whose hands still look 80.

Is it really that difficult to be happy with ourselves? To eat well, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and look in the mirror and see beautiful?

Must be.

*My apologies for the word “boobs.” I usually insist that they be called breasts, but have now decided to reserve that distinction for those that fall into the “occur naturally” category. These are definitely boobs.


Jessica Hiltout, and “Authentic” soccer

Discovered this amazing photographer and her collection of photos of soccer at the grassroots level in Africa from an article in the NY Times.

The photos in her collection are beautiful, spare, haunting. I especially liked the pictures of the fences, and found myself wondering if the feet in the authentic soccer shoes were the envy of the village.

The ingenuity involved in the home-made soccer balls was also quite impressive.

What is lost when one is freely given everything one needs?


Grace II

Was going to blog tonight about feeding ungrateful picky children, who turn up their noses at anything interesting, and the cumulatively demoralizing effect this has.

But went to the beach first, and saw this over a 30-minute span (or so).

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It calls to mind this line from Rilke:

Silent earth of many distances, feel how your breath enlarges all of space. Let your presence ring out like a bell in the night.

Had coffee ice cream on the way home, then a shower and a glass of cognac.

Life is good. Wonder what we’re going to make for dinner tomorrow. Maybe Pad Thai. . .


Is it finally here?

Apparently, if I want some space in between my photos, I have to write something, or wordpress just bumps them all together.

I love how the sun peeks into the corner of this picture; I don’t love how it made that weird circle in the middle of it though.

I was striving in this one for the focus to be on a deeper branch, with the branches in the foreground and the rail in the back blurry.

I was hoping that the people who lived in the house that belonged to this tree didn’t mind that I was practically lying down in their yard to get this shot.

I won’t tell you how long I stood on the other side of this line of trees trying to figure out how to get a closeup without trespassing; I finally decided it was hopeless, took 7 steps, and then realized that there was a little alley-street on the other side of it. Duh.

I did lay on the sidewalk for this one. Nobody was looking (I checked).


Spring, Closer?

I seem to have developed an affinity for fencelines. . .

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