Monday, May 25, 2009

Five Things I Can See

from where I'm sitting in our family room:

  • Muddy handprints on the door to the backyard.
  • A dining room table covered with Lego creations.
  • A coffee table covered with folded paper boats made from blue, pink and yellow scratch paper full of long division problems from fourth grade math class.
  • A toy chest overflowing with light sabers, foam swords, Jedi robes and Indiana Jones hats.
  • A ten-year-old boy at the computer desk in the kitchen. Can you believe he's ten?! We're sure glad he's part of our family. Happy (belated) birthday, Jack!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Five Things I Can See

from where I'm sitting in our living room:

  • The red leather couch that Roger and I bought on a whim one Valentine's Day from one of our favorite furniture stores, Copenhagen West. It was marked several hundred dollars off, which made the whim much easier to rationalize.
  • A small beautiful quilt that my friend Linda made in commemoration of a trip we took to San Francisco to see an exhibit of Gees Bend quilts. We keep it slung over the back of the rocking chair we used to feed Jack in the middle of the night when he was a baby. Linda put so much thought into the fabric selection and design, trying to capture her sense of who I am in pattern and color. It's a treasure on many levels.
  • Glass jars of rocks and shells gathered during various family trips, the most recent a collection of smooth speckled rocks from our trip to Carlsbad and the beach last weekend. (Disclaimer: we stole this idea from our good friends Brad and Virlie.)
  • A shelf full of books written by friends and family including a limited edition book written, illustrated, letterpress printed and hand bound by my friend Sally called True Turkey and Cat Stories. Warning: Some of the stories might turn your stomach. But the presentation is excellent.
  • A series of three black and white photographs taken by Roger, our resident and fabulous photographer, at Lake Geneva: Dad sailing the MC, Jack climbing up on the raft, and Dad's cousins Jean and Jody--two of the matriarchs of the family--chatting on the pier.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Five Fun Things about Our Neighborhood

Here's a list of five fun things to celebrate a beautiful day in the neighborhood. All of these are within easy walking distance of our house.
  • Diamond's Green House - a nursery two blocks away. Sometimes we walk there with our red wagon and fill it up with fun things to plant in pots on our front porch.
  • Otis and his friends - Otis is an ornery donkey who lives in a pasture by the greenhouse with a bunch of mules. The other day Jack and I biked over to feed Otis and his friends five pounds of carrots. Sometimes Otis brays loud and long in the middle of the night. We sit up in bed thinking someone might be getting murdered, and then we remember Otis.
  • Cul-de-sac of Fire - we live just next to a cul-de-sac where for many years neighbors gathered on the Fourth of July to pool fireworks. The past few years city ordinances haven't allowed us to set off fireworks in our neighborhood (drought). But we're hopeful we can do it again one day. In the meantime, we drag our lawn chairs down to the cul-de-sac for a perfect view of the firework display the city puts on every June for Art City Days.
  • The Arts Park - just down the hill from us there is a city park with an open air stage. The city hosts all sorts of events there throughout the summer. Our favorite so far? A They Might Be Giants concert. How cool is that! A Little Birdhouse in Your Soul and Particle Man practically in our yard!
  • A couple of blocks away we can pick up the bike trail that heads up Hobble Creek Canyon (which is just over a mile away). After church last Sunday, we drove up to see how fast the river is flowing with spring run-off (fast!) and how full the catch basin is (full!). I ended up walking home. Perfect.
In honor of Mother's Day, here's a They Might Be Giants video from last Mother's Day. It includes one of my favorite songs, The Alphabet of Nations. Because, really, I like to think the whole world is my neighborhood!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

A Different Time

I've starting reading parts of my grandmother's memoir to Jack at night before bed. Grandma Jan had a most unusual childhood as the daughter of a Presbyterian missionary and his wife in Mexico.  

The memoir starts out with the story of how her parents met. Her father Will spent a month as a visiting minister at her mother Mary's congregation in Minnesota before leaving for Mexico. Mary had long dreamed of being a missionary herself. Will went off to Mexico, and Mary prepared for her missionary work in China. She got all the way to San Francisco and was ready to get on the boat to China when she got a telegram from Will asking her to come to Mexico and marry her instead.

I love the stories that made Jack laugh out loud. Like the story of Will and Mary's first breakfast together. Mary put bread in to toast while Will said grace, and Will thanked the Lord for so many things that the toast caught fire. Years later Will, dressed as Santa, leaned too close to the Christmas tree and his beard caught fire on a candle. My Grandma Jan, five years old at the time, remembers her mother shrieking, "Will! Your Beard!" as she yanked it off, revealing her father, not Santa. Grandma was sick with disappointment. 

(Apparently stories that end with things catching on fire are especially funny to a nine-year-old boy.)

We also laughed at the story of Mary waking up really early one morning while she and Will were traveling to take a bath in the lake before anyone else was awake. "How lovely to slip in the water stark naked, soap thoroughly, and then float on her back watching the sun come up over the hills! When she turned to swim ashore, there, in silent rows, were all of the people of the village watching her with intense curiosity."

Will actually followed in the footsteps of his father, who was a missionary in Colombia. When Will was in Minnesota, he shared Sunday dinners with Mary's family, and while they ate he shared stories about his family's adventures. Here's one of our favorites, which is, despite reflecting a conflict we continue to struggle with in our world today, definitely from a different time!

"Once, when we were resting overnight at the coffee plantation of a Colombian, the foreman came in to tell us that guerrillas were in the neighborhood and might try to steal some horses and food."

"What were they fighting about?" asked Mary's mother, who had steeped herself in the stories of the clan fights of her Scottish forebears, but knew nothing of South America's guerrillas.

"Oh, the same thing they've been fighting about for over the last forty years. The government and the Catholic Church are conservative, rich, and powerful and against any political reform movements that might upset the status quo. The Liberal Party is trying to get control in order to reform the whole system in the interest of the voiceless poor, to spread the wealth and power more evenly amongst all Colombians. No one ever wants to give up his privileges or wealth voluntarily, so the fighting grows fiercer and fiercer. Thousands have been killed over the years."

"Did the guerrillas attack you?" asked Sid [Mary's brother], not really interested in the politics of it all.

"Yes. At one of our plantation stops, they swept in on horseback, stole horses from the stable and food from the kitchen, but strangely returned our horses and baggage, very courteously begging our pardon, saying they had not known we were extranjeros (foreigners). We were not their political enemies. We were guests in their country, to be treated with customary hospitality."

Go figure! A civil war that was actually conducted with some measure of civility!