Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Sweet Summertime


Summer seems to rush by in such a blur. It seems like I spent all winter just waiting for these warm days and then I blink and they are gone, yet  I am thoroughly enjoying the days as they crawl by. One of the things I am enjoying most is watching the Bumper play. Now that the days are warm and the evenings linger until the sun makes its way to bed sometime around eight or nine, the Bumper can stay outside longer.

She can go to the park more. She can run around under the sprinkler while Nana waters the garden. This year she discovered fireflies and she takes great delight in looking for them as soon as it starts to get dark. I love watching her excitement and usually end up running races with her as we chase them down. We take a trip to our local zoo at least once or twice a week. The Bumper likes looking at the animals and I like the walk. The beach is not very far away either so there are days when we just get in the car and go in the early evening after the crowds have left.

My favorite activity so far this summer was the day we spent down at Jane's Island Campground. Two of our good friends, Ray and Jenny Gable,  were camping down there and invited us to come and join them. It was a place just down the road from us and one we didn't even know existed. I for one am glad we discovered it. The Bumper was enchanted from the start. She loved being next to the water, and taking nature hike with Nana. Along the way we found pine cones, listened to the birds, looked for turtles, and climbed a tower which allowed to see almost to the Chesapeake Bay. My favorite part of the day came at night. Ray became Master of the Fire Pit as we all waited until he told us that the flame was just the right height for---- drum roll please -- toasting marshmallows! That weekend I inducted the Bumper into the time honored camping tradition of s'more making. I will confess that the combination of graham cracker, chocolate, and hot marshmallow was much more appealing when I was seven, as an adult I find s'mores far too sweet, but who am I to nay say tradition? The Bumper adored the processes of toasting marshmallows-- especially seeing the the marshmallows become little fireballs!
View of the Canal

Hi Mom!

Sunset- almost time!

Watching the Master

Not too close
 The s'mores were kind of take them or leave them, but she took delight in her homemade torches. At the end of the evening we took home a thoroughly worn out and sticky Bumper. I could not have asked for a better way to spend the day. Next year we hope to take the Bumper camping overnight. I am looking forward to sharing that experience with her. In the meantime we will be enjoying picking tomatoes, chasing fireflies and blowing bubbles. Summer is sweet.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Green Grows the Garden

Sprinkler Fun
As much as I wanted too, I really haven't been out in the garden much at all this summer. I had high hopes, dreams, and aspirations, but then reality snuck up and bit me. In theory organic gardening is an environmentally friendly way to give my family wholesome, unprocessed food. Images of strolling out into the back yard and having plump ripe tomatoes fall off into my waiting hands came into my mind, bright heads of lettuce practically jumped into my bowl and the sweet peas practically shelled themselves.

In real life not so much. In real life gardening is a lot of hard work. There is the planting, the weeding, and the watering; all of it must be done fairly consistently or the garden will not grow. While my spirit may have been willing, my hands, back and feet were not as enthusiastic. If the Bumper had her way we would be outside everyday, all day, but while she enjoys 'helping' most of the time her efforts have been destructive rather than productive a fact which has frustrated her Nana no end.

When the Bumper is with me she is well behaved. When the Bumper is with her Nana she is well behaved. When the Bumper is with the two of us, however, she turns into a running, screaming, refusing to listen, little terror. (I love my daughter dearly, but I would be struck down where I stand if I proclaimed she was a perfect angel). The point being Nana has banished us from the garden until harvest time.  On the upside my herb pots are bursting at the seams and I have made daily use of fresh parsley, basil and mint.

In a completely different vein I am unable to participate in Yarndale this year. I finished my mandala, but it was far too big! By the time I realized that it was too late for me to make another since I was in the middle of my College Algebra class. Nana is very happy with this development because now she has a lovely new table decoration. I have been steadliy working on the bumpers blanket and it is growing, just not as fast as she is. The Bumper is quite pleased with the  progress because now it covers her from chest to toes. I have been bitten by the knitted sock bug and am currently trying to make my first pair, and like the Bumper's blanket progress is slow but steady. Lucy at Attic 24 has also finally posted her Bower bird pattern and I can't wait to try it! Combine all that with writing a short story, working on my novel, getting my Graduate School application package ready, and I am one busy lady. Of course my life would not be complete without the daily, wonderful, exhilerating, exasperating challenging task of raising the Bumper. I am still finding my rythm and my niche, but I am definately enjoying the journey.
Bumper and Hangus

P.S. Pulled some luscious
Kale out of the garden and will be having that with supper. Life is good.


Friday, July 4, 2014

A Fourth of July Grattitude List

Wow! It has been two whole months since I last posted anything. My only excuse is that College Algebra took over my life. I had not had that kind of intense study in years. While I took the course I spent twelve hour days working on nothing but math problems. I have to give credit to the Bumper's Nana. If she had not been willing to watch the Bumper while I was in class and did the homework, then I would not have been able to complete the course. I am very grateful for her help and support. Speaking of gratitude, today is July 4th and I am grateful to be living in the United States of America. Here is why:

1. Freedom of Religion-- here in this country I am free to practice, or not, my faith so long as it does not infringe on the rights of others to practice theirs. Right now I am a practicing Christian of the Roman Catholic denomination. I am considering changing denominations. I am free to follow where the Lord leads, but in other countries the mere thought of changing religions can get a person killed. Here's looking at you Saudi Arabia --ahem! I am free to wear the symbols of said religion with out persecution. Here's looking at you France-- ahem the banning of Muslim women's headscarves! I am grateful.

2. Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press-- without which I would not have this blog. I can say or write critical things about our government with out fear of getting dragged off in the middle of the night and being beaten, raped, or killed. I send a moment of silence and prayer for journalists, writers, poets, artists, and musicians who are even now being jailed, harassed, and murdered for speaking and writing against their governments and corruption.

3. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly- I can meet with a group of like minded friends for a cup of coffee and crochet or I can meet with a group of like minded friends to protest an "Ag-Gag" bill in the state legislature. I can do so knowing I will not lose my family, or job prospects, or be tear-gassed for doing so.

I used to take all of these things for granted. Then I did what I urge every American to do, I traveled outside of our country's borders. I went to Zimbabwe as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer. When we arrived we were told in no uncertain terms that once we left Peace Corps Headquarters, if we said anything against the ruling party ZANUPF, or President Robert Mugabe, regardless of the abuses of power we may witness, the only thing the Peace Corps could do if we were lucky enough to be jailed, was send us a cake with a file in it. Peace Corps Volunteers, unlike the military or foreign service do NOT have diplomatic immunity. It was a sobering moment.  No less sobering was the moment I had a soldier point an AK-47 at my chest telling me not to move while the presidential motorcade drove by.

Happy Birthday America -- I am grateful!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Mission Mandala: Complete!

Last year it was Granny Triangle Madness and this year it was Mandala Mania courtesy of Lucy at Attic 24.  Just like last year I was only too happy to participate in this bit of hooky happiness. This year darling Lucy threw her fans a bit of a curve ball. She gave us a deadline of early June. I panicked.  I am still new to crochet, and I am very slow at it. I am also taking a College Algebra course this summer, add in taking care of the Bumper and I had some serious doubts as to my ability to finish this little project on time.  Nevertheless, drum roll please, I did it I finished my Mandala.

My mandala is far from perfect, in fact it is little lopsided. About with two rounds  left to go I suddenly realized I was using US terms and the pattern is written in UK terms. ARIGHT! I contemplated ripping everything out and starting over, but it had taken me three weeks to complete ten rounds. Then I stopped and looked at the emerging wheel and I decided  I liked the way it looked and I had had fun making it, so I went ahead finished using the correct terms. In the grand scheme of things it only matters that this is the best I have to offer and I enjoyed creating the mandala.

The question begs to be asked: Why bother? Well I bother not because it is for charity, or a noble cause, although that would be nice, but because sometimes amidst all the hatred and violence in the world it is good to put something in the world that is solely for the purpose of adding beauty. The world needs beauty. The human soul years for it. In Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian spirituality the Mandala form is a way to connect with the divine center and reach outward. I like that. When I make something with my hands I do it with love so I am sending love and beauty out into the world and what is more divine than love and beauty? By participating in Lucy's Yarn-dale, even though I will probably never visit the Yorkshire Dales in far away England, I feel connected to other crafters. We have all sent her our separate items and by doings so we have all become connected. Lucy may not ever meet every one the people who participate, but she holds a piece of us in her hands. How cool is that? Pretty nifty if you ask me.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Into the Garden (Part 2)

Planting flowers is serious!
It time for an update on our family's organic gardening venture, and folks we are off to a shaky start. Thanks to a lingering winter, I'm looking at you Mister Groundhog, we have been late getting the plants into the ground. In fact we only finished prepping some of the beds this past weekend! Right now I am very thankful that I am not living on the frontier back in the 19th century when all the pioneers had to eat they either grew themselves, hunted, or did without! Nana is waiting on the loan of a rotor-tiller to prep the main garden. We plan to grow the usual suspects: tomatoes, peppers, onions, lettuce, carrots, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, and peppers. We are also trying to grow cucumbers, eggplant and pumpkins (last year the pumpkins were a dismal failure).

One bed down, the rest of the yard to go!

Fresh herbs!

This curry smells so good!

So far we have only managed to get the herbs going, nothing else is in the ground yet.

More herbs-- the Bumper planted these!
Our biggest obstacle, aside from the weather, is the Bumper. She is a willing little helper, but sometimes her idea of help is more of a hindrance-- yesterday evening every time Nana planted something, the Bumper pulled it up! It was really hard not to laugh, so finally I had to take the Bumper inside with me in order for Nana to get anything done. The Bumper was very disappointed, and pressed her face to the screen door and pouted... until she saw the kittens.

When the Bumper discovered that one of the outside cats (Mama Patches) had birthed her kittens, she ran outside and embarked on a quest to find where the kittens had been hidden. It turns out that Mama Patches got quite creative this year for the kittens have been tucked away under the eaves.  We hope she will move them down under the back porch soon.

So now we have kittens as well as a vegetable garden to tend to and the Bumper couldn't be happier!


p.s. I am also involved in some crochet mandala mania and hope to have pictures to share soon!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Saying Good-Bye

View from the front porch

I wanted nothing more than to put my fingers in my ears and hum ( I can't hear you ), when my father in law called me to tell me he would be going up to the house in Northern VA last Saturday.
I had not been all the way in that house since I left to visit my mom in January of 2012. Part of me knew that I needed to go, and try and retrieve some of the Bumper's dad 's things so I can share our story withe her when she gets older. Part of me just wanted to hide under the covers. The part that knows what is best for the Bumper won.

The Bumper's Dad
I went back not really knowing what to expect, but hoping to retrieve our wedding album and a few other personal mementos. My brother-in -law tried to warn me: the house was a mess, and I would most likely be torn between wanting to set a match to everything and wanting to keep it all. He was right.

The Bumper and her Daddy
By the time I arrived, my father-in-law, and my husband's uncle had already been there for two hours. They had packed up the kitchen and most of the living room, and put it on a moving truck to be put in storage and sorted through later.

Taking a dip on our Honeymoon
At first I just sort of wandered about, picking things up reminiscing -- "Oh hey, there is the conch from our vacation in Key West or look there is the travel guide to Hawaii from our honeymoon!", and putting them down "Oh yuck! That is vacuum cleaner we had our last argument over." I actually gave that a kick as I went out the door for the last time, childish I know, but it still felt good. Then I started moving through the rooms with purpose trying to find the items I wanted to keep and later share with the Bumper.  I was unable to find our wedding album, but some of the things I did find surprised me. I did not expect to find the St. Francis of Assisi medal I gave him our second year of "Work Camp" for the diocese of Arlington -- we spent a week guiding teenagers as they made repairs to homes in the area-- that was also the year he proposed, I did not expect to find not only his wedding ring, but also the ring I had got engraved for our 1st wedding anniversary, I had meant for it to be blessed on our 10th anniversary. He sent me mine, while I was staying with the Bumper's Nana the first year we were apart, but he kept his.

Everywhere I turned I was confronted by memories of our life together, good and bad. It was so hard, so very very hard and then I saw the bathroom in the master bedroom. He had scrawled a message of such despair that I dropped to my knees as the sobs tore through me. I cried the way I have been wanting to cry since last November. I cried for the good times we shared, I cried for love lost, I cried for who he was and who he became. It was the first time I broke down that day, but it was not the last. When the emotion finally got too much for me to bear I left, taking the champagne glass from our wedding and with tears streaming down my face. From the house I took his wedding ring, the kilt he wore when we went to Renaissance Festivals, the mortar and pestle we used to grind the cloves for the first pumpkin pie we made together, and his five year sobriety chip from AA. These are the things I want to share with the Bumper for these carry a story of love, joy and triumph.

Toes in the water
As sad as I felt, then and still feel, I was able to close a chapter in my life that day. I said good bye in a way I could not at his bedside in the hospital. On that day it was about forgiveness, and peace. Saturday was about saying goodbye to the life we shared together.

In  time I will tell the Bumper of her Dad and his life. First I will tell her the good things, and when she is old enough and ready to hear, I will tell her the rest. Above all I will make sure to tell her that her Dad loved her and wanted her. For at the heart of this is a story of love and an illness that tried to destroy that love, but in the end did not. 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Day in Pictures

Flowers brighten the walkway

So pretty

Next year there will be even more blossoms

Where are the puddles?

Hyacinths smell wonderful

When I finish raking can I jump in them?
A tasty treat

Some days I do not have enough words to express my thankfulness for all of the joyful little moments in my life.