Friday, April 25, 2008

A Polka Dot Tennis Skirt, A Cookie and A Horse

When Maria was about 3 weeks old, so tiny and new, Geoff called me from his perch in the kitchen, where he used to read his laptop: "What size is Maria?"

In my postpartum haze, his question was fuzzy. He never asked about sizes and measurements, unless we were in a lumberyard. At first I thought he was concerned about her petite height and her less than average weight. He worried about things like this, and I replied, "She's fine sweetheart. She's just a lot smaller than her brothers were."

"No." He answered, still talking to me through the walls. "I mean what size clothes does she wear. Would she be a 2?"

I was nursing Maria, stuck in that tired old chair we stuck between our bed and the crib, otherwise I would have gone to him, to see his face, to discern if what I was hearing was possible. Could Geoff actually be thinking about clothing, about fashion and sizes, and what people wear? It seemed improbable. "What are you doing?" I asked.

"Shopping." He does not elaborate, not willingly.
"Shopping for what?"
"Shopping for Maria." He does not elaborate, not willingly.
"What are you doing?" I try not to wake the dozing baby.

Geoff appears in our bedroom, and says, "I'm on Ebay trying to get Maria a tennis outfit. Is she a size 2?" He looks excited and agitated. The clock must be ticking on an auction. The bidding must be fast and furious. I cannot believe what I am hearing, the giddy look in his eyes. He has never bought a stitch of clothing, voluntarily, ever. Not for me or for William, not for Alex and not for Max. He buys his shorts 3 at a time every 4 years and his T-shirts are from conferences. He looks at me impatiently, "Would a 2 be big enough?"

"A size 2 or 2T is for toddlers. You need to look for sizes by month, like 3 months or 6 months." And he's already gone, back to the kitchen and the auction. For about half an hour he asked me about sizes and ages, and he ran stuff by me, about styles and colors. I was laughing. He was determined to get this child a tennis outfit before she was big enough to rollover or hold her head up. He was so preciously obsessed with his mission, that it was endearing and sweet and I will never forget the happy realization of his love for his daughter. It's not that there was any doubt, or that shopping is an indicator of love. It was his willingness to venture forth into uncharted territory, to envision the future, when she would be big enough to play tennis, to run and jump and catch. He saw all of the possibilities and he wanted to embrace them, to make way for them, and that is a very dear sign of love.

A week later the skirt arrived. A size 3T.

She wore it for the first time last summer, and it kept sliding down her slender waist. Our tennis pro. Our girl, healthy and happy, and loved.

This morning she went into our shared closet and shut the door, first turning to me saying, "Please, go away. I am getting dressed." Honestly, I can't say where she learned this. I don't have the sense to expect privacy, and never bother asking for it.

She came out in her apple shirt and tennis skirt, which still slips a bit.

She skinned her knee a few days ago. She walks with a limp and insists on a fresh band-aid every morning. Her friend Jack lives behind the suitcase. The suitcase is sometimes Jack's shop, and sometimes a horse.

Today the horse is taking to her Grandma's house, and she is bringing her "homework."

By the way, in yesterday's post, the photograph was of a very small section of a property Geoff had been hoping to buy. I was less certain about its potential, and I regret to say its too late anyway. Someone else made the first move. Geoff is very sad about the missed opportunity. As we look for a home we keep reminding each other that we must remain detached. We cannot let our emotions get the best of us, and yet... it's when we let our hearts decide, when we feel inspired... when we see all of the possibilities and embrace them, then we make way for good things to happen. So, perhaps we should allow ourselves to become attached and emotional, to be hopeful. We must venture forth with knowledge, and optimism and love.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

So Many Deep Thoughts

I am all about the deep thoughts. Unfortunately they are so deep and unwieldy they defy articulation, expression, reason. In other words if I bother to post today, I risk being obtuse, dull, random and simply confusing. Ah, but I am going to post anyway. (insert maniacal laugh) To counter the effects of my unformed philosophies, I will include snapshots of beautiful flowers, which were a gift from my visiting Virginia friend, Carol L..

Carol was in town for just 2 days, so I was delighted she found time to spend a few hours with us. The children were disappointed that Tamsyn could not come, and by all accounts Tamsyn was very disappointed as well. I know I should say all supportive things about them living in Virginia and making the best and most of their circumstances, but it sure would be nice if the world would adjust and shift and make it possible for them to return to California. The children miss their best friend. I miss our friends too.

My pants smell bad. I suppose I should own more than one pair of pants, which get washed once a week, whether they need it or not and clearly, they do need it. Now that was a fine example of why I should be doing anything else beside writing my thoughts at this moment. Just be relieved I am not writing down all of my thoughts. The solution is obvious at least. I will put on my skirt, the other half of my wardrobe, and throw these jeans in the wash. I wish all of our other issues had solutions as simple and obvious as this.

I am tempted to list all of the issues we grapple with and post them here for your review. You could tell me whether they smell bad and offer solutions... the solutions I am not seeing, don't recognize, refuse to accept or am too disoriented to appreciate. I am tempted, but I am not compelled. One thing I have finally learned is that for every issue there are many solutions and even more opinions about which is the best solution.

Have you ever noticed you agree with whoever most closely expresses what you already believed in the first place? On the other hand, I am always a little alarmed at how easily I can be persuaded of one idea or another, and then switch back when I hear a new angle. The net result is that there is little or no point in soliciting the free advice and earnest opinions of concerned citizens. You can breath a sigh of relief now.

Geoff came home, late (is it really necessary for me include "late?" It goes without saying.)... he came home and said he did some investigating and confirmed that we can have chickens, as backyard pets, in our community. 10 chickens in fact. 10 is a lot of chickens. He added, for further emphasis, that in some neighborhoods we could have 25 chickens.
And what should I make of this?
So, I asked whether I could go to the country right now and bring home an actual chicken, and he said,
"Sure, if it will turn everything around for you, I will deal with the landlord."
Hmmm. I wonder.
Would a chicken, a plucky hen, turn everything around?
That seems like a tall order for a chicken. It's been almost 5 years since I had chickens and in that time I have probably romanticized the whole idea of chickens... but only just a little. And while my heart and soul pine for chickens, I think I know better what it all really means. I want the liberty of creating our own space, of settling in, like a hen on her nest, in her yard, and feel like I am home. I do not want to placate a landlord, deal with a landlord or beg permission from a landlord. It's too soon. I've waited this long and in all likelihood I will have to wait at least 1 more year, or maybe 2. So, even though the sound of a chick peeping and the sight of a hen dancing across the lawn would cheer and amuse me, I am, unfortunately, too smart to open that door just yet.

Today is take your son/daughter to work day. People at Geoff's office still ask, "How many kids do you have?" I've suggested he offer a different number every time. Keep 'em guessing. Today he will have 3 children, when I drop the boys off this afternoon. Then Maria and I will have the rest of the day alone, together.

I know I said I would not solicit opinions, but I have this 1 question: When is a property a fixer-upper in need of TLC and when is it simply a disaster?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day

With the new garage screen hanging up, we worked and played in our Creativity Room. The cats and Maria can't wander to the busy street, but the fresh breeze can blow in. With most everything as organized and comfortable as it ever will be, we found ourselves enjoying the new space. And in the spirit of Earth Day, I sit a little taller knowing that we re-thought, re-used and recycled to make the best of our world.

I am beginning work on a very special quilt. Max and Alex helped me think about how I want to use the fabric we are repurposing. There was some design debate about whether to use the bright side or the backside of aloha prints and it was decided that both sides would be appropriate and pretty. Maria sat at the cutting table and made bits of the scraps I let her cut. Benjamin sat with his nose to the screen and watched birds and cars.

So, today is Earth Day. I think that it is unfortunate that when I can do very little I sometimes do nothing at all. I am conscientious about the environment. I have been conscientious since about the first grade, when I was also a devoted seatbelt advocate. I recycle and I turn out lights, we cut back, we eat less of that and more of those... the usual stuff. Looking around here I can see where we need improvement, and I know what I would love to do to make a difference, like gardening. I don't have time to explain why we should bother, so I offer you: This. Please read it, if you need reason to bother.

This barrel is my garden. There are a lot of tropical plants and quite a bit of lawn in the front and even more concrete all around the house, and unfortunately none of these fall under my jurisdiction and even my attempts to enhance and modify these have been met with a landlord's weed-whacker. Sigh.

Last year when my sweetpeas were pulled up and my violas were raked over, I cried and I felt helpless and degraded, and I did not want to ever bother again. Not here. Not at Garage Mahal. By summer I regained some of my composure and the call of the garden beckoned me to try again. Geoff brought me wine barrels, and I planted tomatoes. Unfortunately, the walled garden and area trees don't let a lot of sunlight into the yard and the tomatoes failed to heat up. They grew green and leggy, but the fruit never came.

I think gardeners cannot help themselves. I cannot keep from slowly turning the pages of seed catalogs and making wishful gardens in my mind. I cannot help bringing home green bean seeds. I want fresh cut flowers and summer salsa from hot, plump sweet garden tomatoes. Gardeners have a calling, a need that cannot be denied and so when the season changes and the signs of spring awaken our senses, we try again.

Alex and I strapped the barrel to a handtruck and moved it to the backyard, where I am hoping we will have more sun, better luck. And so, maybe this little blossom will become a tomato.

Or, maybe not. There is a lot of shade in this irrigated suburban paradise.

Is it the shade that these blackberry canes need? Between palm trees, bird of paradise and concrete walls, these spiny berry plants force their way and seem to manage quite nicely. It was June of last year when we were sampling backyard berries... only 1 or 2 at a time, but much appreciated. I am noticing more flowers this year and hopefully our dedicated picking has prompted the plant to produce more to meet demand.

I often wonder how much or how little it would take to be self-sufficient, to sustain our family. For many years I have followed the progress of the the Dervaes family in Pasadena. They are amazing. Seriously, what can any of us do with 1/5 of an acre? They have taken a "Path to Freedom" that is extraordinary and an example to us all. I cannot say that I will ever achieve that level of self-reliance, but I deeply appreciate that they are showing me what is possible. They raise my thoughts.

Our tadpoles are marvelous. We are so pleased to see them thriving and growing. We brought in a fresh supply of creek water and an additional plant. The wild celery smells so good... potent, the way wild things do. Everyone enjoys sitting beside the aquarium and meditating. Gazing at the pebbles and sand, watching the tadpoles dart and feed, observing tiny air bubbles rise and roots spread. We look forward to returning healthy frogs to the creek.

Every day is Earth Day. Every day I care about the environment and our role in improving life on this planet. I should care more and do more or in some instance less. So, I keep trying. I keep thinking and feeling and learning. These are some bloggers that care a great deal, and make a point of keeping Earth Day a daily issue:

Garden Punks

Mom, What's For Dinner?

Mrs. Crunchy

Slowly She Turned

I Heart Farms

Mama's Village

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wrapping Up the Friday Wrap-Up

One nice aspect of blogging is hearing from readers... they can really help me keep things in perspective... a positive perspective. So, while I am bluesy and glum about our housing lot, and moving my sewing room into the garage, I hear from blogging friends that I am lucky to have a cutting table... so true! and "ooohhh, the family creativity room (garage) sounds inspiring!" from my ever supportive friend Tarie, and I begin to see my circumstances in a much kinder light. Yesterday I got a taste of how cold it can get in the garage... brrrr, but as it comes together and I enjoy the pleasure of having room to spread out, I find myself feeling very, very happy about the "Creativity Room."

I am not taking a picture of my fabric stash. Tee Hee. I need a wide angle lens. LOL. OKay, seriously, I have a fabric addiction, which can come as no surprise to my fellow quilters and sewing sisters. But I have resisted any new purchases in recent days months weeks. My fabric is here and there and oh, also over here... in other words all over the place. The solution is a big melamine cabinet with deep, wide shelves.

With Geoff's help, which makes it sound like I contributed, which I didn't, not significantly, a new closet was assembled yesterday.

Geoff is an engineer. I love it when he's an engineer. I'm so lucky.

Actually Maria may have been as much or more help than I was. She illustrated the back of the closet.

Surely good fortune and bright days will be ours, now that we have a closet cat. Look at his toes!

Now, in addition to a cutting table, a sewing table, a robot table and shelves of notions, glue and tools, I now have a fabric closet. I started filling it. And I will continue filing it later today, and then look out! I can envision such creations and projects and successes.

Inspiration? Oh, there is so much inspiration!

Just this morning the very talented Mamaspark sent me to meet Lynette Anderson, and I am totally smitten by her designs, her blog, Fatcat and Hugo. It's a quilting, stitching treasure trove.

And by all means let's make "Much Ado About Something." This blog, discovered thanks to Nikkipolani, is brimming with good news, beautiful photography and thoughtful reflection, and then she has 2 more blogs to unleash her passions and talents. For more of Sara's photography stop by "Come Away With Me." Chango and Benjamin recommend you visit Miss Kitty. She's a Norwegian Forest cat. Meow.

Then there's Lululollylegs, in Melbourne, stitching beautiful things. And can you hear "The Sound of One Hand Knitting?" The fun and beauty just goes on and on.

I am off to hammer some grommets into the security screen I designed for the garage door. What's inspiring you?