Long Distance Hugs

She made a journey to deliver some to him today in celebration of his 22nd trip around the sun. Because that's what Big Sisters do. And the rest of us have big hugs on reserve for when we see him next:

Happy Birthday to You, Son, and some of my wishes for you were already written (by Mary Schmich) in the best parts of the "Wear Sunscreen" speech:

"Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't....

"Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.

"Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own....

"Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

"Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

"Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

"Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders....

"Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

"But trust me on the sunscreen."


Oh, You Want More?

Here you go:
And just for fun, let's remember when
NumberOne Son was about the same age:
Awww! He turned out OK, I think. And he's teaching GrandGril everything he knows about how to smile pretty for the camera.

Were You Needing a Little of This Today?

Yeah, I thought so. Me, too.


All Things Being Equal...

...I'd rather this was the Vernal Equinox.  That's the day in Spring when the sun shines for 12 hours and then it's dark for 12 hours and thereafter we enjoy increasingly more minutes of daylight in each 24 hour period.

However, today is the Autumnal Equinox when it goes the opposite way altogether. Starting tomorrow there will be more minutes of darkness than light. But the moon is trying her best to help us out right now. Big and bright and rising just as it's getting good and dark. Thank you, Moon.

This mama bear is fighting the annual urge to fatten herself and prepare for hibernation. Soup and stew and hot beverages sound just right. As does curling up with a blanket and a book.

The White Dog asked me to post this happy photo of Autumn Past:

Happy Equinox!


Project: Simplified Closet

I have more shoes and clothing than I need. I've occasionally been overwhelmed by too many choices. This is an old problem for me. I've been dealing with the tug-of-war between acquisition and simplification for years and it's been difficult to overcome my (not always irrational) fear that a need might arise in the future and I would somehow be unable to get what I need. 

I have been inspired lately by Minimalist Knitter, and two weeks ago I started my own experiment based on her post about Project 333. I am not following the project strictly, but I am tickled pink with the benefits I have enjoyed after just two weeks of wardrobe simplification.

First, I need to thank Firstborn Daughter for long ago suggesting hanging shoe holders when I complained about the shoe pile on the closet floor.

Second, wardrobe simplification has had the unexpected benefit of simplifying "clothes I'll hang up later -- I'm too tired after work" piles, as well as "soooo much clean laundry to fold and hang -- I'll do it later" piles. I hang stuff up right away.

Third, I need to tell you I have not worn the same outfit twice in two weeks even though I removed all but 35 coordinated pieces from my closet.

And I have not once done that thing where I create a pile of clothing before I even leave the house in the morning because I had to try on 4 different outfits before I liked the final combination.

A while back people were doing "What I Wore Today" posts so I was going to track it by taking a photo every morning, but that started slowing my morning momentum, so I switched to writing down a description of my ensemble in my planner later in the morning.

Eventually, I would like to get back to sewing my own clothes which was something I very much enjoyed in another life. It is a little known fact that my first declared major in college was Apparel Design.

Anyhoo, here' s picture of the First Day of Simplified Closet:

The Strength of Ancient Inca Warriors

Quinoa is a little bitty seed. It looks like birdseed or millet, but it is cooked in the same way you would cook rice. Proportions 2:1. Two cups of cold water to which you add 1 cup of dry quinoa. Bring it to a boil. Cover. Turn off the heat and let sit for 20 minutes. The little circular spiral germ will separate from the slightly swollen seed.

I love quinoa as hot cereal for breakfast. Add a splash of maple syrup and raisins. Yum Yum!

Next day I mix cold leftovers with blueberry yogurt. Delicious!

A great alternative to steel-cut oats, which I still enjoy, but I do not love as much as love quinoa.

Mr. Last brought my new love into my life a year or so ago, but neither of us can remember exactly the genesis of the introduction. No worries.

The best part of quinoa for breakfast is I feel I have the strength of an ancient Inca warrior all morning long.

Yesterday I was attracted to the beautiful cover of a discarded Americas magazine at the public library:

It is a publication full of beautiful photographs and I was delighted to find a fabulous article on quinoa. Unfortunately, their website does not link to the article and I cannot republish here without permission or violation of copyright, but I will retain my hard copy of the article, if not the entire magazine. So if you are interested, let me know and I will lend you my copy.

Or, look for quinoa on the shelf at the grocery store (Winco sells it in bulk). And you too can experience having the strength of an ancient Inca warrior.


So Much Goodness Together in One Place

Mine. All mine. Makes my heart swell with happiness.


And Now For Something Completely Frivolous!

Some material possessions that are making me very happy just now.Not just because they are beautiful. Great bargains -- every one!
  1. Stabilo German rollerball pens $4.75 (75% off Aaron Bros. Art Mart)
  2. Re:cycle:use:duse Owl-Birdie scribble book $4-$6                           (can't remember exactly, but definitely a bargain 3-pack @ Tar-Jey)
  3. Fabulous Boho-hippie-zippy-psychodelic shoulder bag $16          (again, from Tar-Jey, where bargains abound!)
  4. Fabulous brown corduroy blazer with butterfly lining. I wear it with everything as the season is shifting toward Fall. Free-ninety-free gift from friend Mush (Thanks, Mush!)
OK, maybe some things are priceless. But clearly I have no problem finding thirty bucks' worth of happiness without much effort or pain.

On A Lighter Note...

Is this not the most beautiful Friday Night Fish plate ever?

Very little conversation at dinner.
Lots of Mmmmm.Hmmmm.

I just emptied the contents of our CSA box onto the counter for a preview of what we'll be building meals around this week.

It's lookin' good:

How My World Changed 9 Years Ago

Taking a moment today to remember the utter disbelief and the terrible fear of 9/11/01.

I was a law clerk at a private firm in the next county. We had a television set in the conference room. I don't remember the very first news I heard of the World Trade Center disaster, but I distinctly recall wandering in and out of the conference room as we tried to concentrate on work that day. Every time I walked in it seemed NBC was just replaying the loop of the plane exploding into the tower. We stared. We couldn't say anything. What we were watching was incomprehensible even as the news reporters were trying to give us information. Everyone was in a daze.

I vaguely wondered if Los Angeles or San Francisco was the next target.

I was divorced, a single mother with one child attending the local community college, one at the high school, one at the junior high school, and the youngest at the elementary school. All of us were separated from one another as we absorbed the news. I had an overwhelming urge to gather my children and to run. Or maybe just to hide.

Where? I didn't know then. I don't know now.

Until that moment I had resisted having a cell phone. I accomplished only two things on 9/12/01. First I obtained a cell phone so my children could reach me anytime, anywhere. And I donated blood. There was a long line at the blood bank. I waited over two hours for my turn. Neither of those acts were much, but they were significant on a personal level.

Five years later 9/11/06 found me with Mr. Last on the top of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states. It was a great personal event for me, but we also reflected on 9/11/01and how our personal lives and the world had shifted since then.

It's a different world now. I did not lose a loved one in the disaster, but I have nevertheless experienced loss and grief because of it. More and more I believe that whatever hurts one, hurts us all. And the inverse, too. Any single act of goodness or kindness ripples beyond the immediate actor to spread indefinitely. I am more conscious of whether my actions, small though they may seem, add to the good in the world or if they cause injury. Connectedness and permeable boundaries are things I think about often.

I'm practicing being the best human I can be. It's practice because I'm far from mastering perfect goodness. I fail and try again, over and over. But it is change in the right direction. It's not entirely attributable to my reaction to 9/11, but something about that day nine years ago did shake me awake.

Did your world change 9 years ago? If not, why? If so, how? 


Crisis Workers

There are lots of paid professionals who are at the ready to care for victims of accident, injury, crime, fire, disaster, emergency needs of every stripe. The unsung heroes are the volunteer workers who trade their "free time" (what is "free time", really? that's a thought I will pick apart another day) evenings and weekends for training and working as unpaid members of ready team that will show up whenever a crisis alert is called.

I have some inside understanding of what is involved because many years ago I volunteered as a rape crisis counselor. I regularly answered hotline calls and attended sexual assault survivors during evidence exams at the hospital, almost invariably in the middle of the night. It is very difficult for an individual to report sexual assault and then to undergo the thorough medical examination that follows. Specially trained medical professionals conduct the examination as gently and compassionately as possible, but they nevertheless are on an evidence collection mission, the primary "scene of the crime" being the body of the individual reporting sexual assault. As in all stressful situations, it helps to have a caring support person standing by to answer questions or provide comfort and assistance as needed.

But this is not about my experience as a volunteer crisis worker.

This is about my experience this weekend as a firsthand witness and bystander at an emergency response scene on the Kern River.

Mr. Last has been a swift-water rescue volunteer with the Kern County Sheriff's Department as long as I have known him. I am accustomed to the time commitment required, the constant readiness for rapid response, the patient waiting for Mr. Last to return and report. I delight in the natural bonds that occur among volunteers, and among families of volunteers who share in the experience from the periphery.

A few family members this weekend were enroute to a gentle training "ride-along" when an emergency came over the radio and we found ourselves observers along Highway 178 above the Kern River as an actual rescue unfolded.

I watched as multiple agencies in the area arrived at the scene simultaneously. Coordination was swiftly established to develop and execute a plan to retrieve the young man who was clinging to a rock along a small waterfall in swift water. It was remarkable how quickly everyone took on a particular task: some controlled traffic, others scrambled down the canyon, some relayed communication, and others managed equipment and resources such as ropes and floats and even getting a boat down along the rocky rim into canyon and launched into the water.

Although the rescuers moved into place quickly, the rescue was not accomplished immediately. It was slow and careful. Several times during the course of the rescue I used water from a bottle to wet a bandana and cool myself. When my shins began to feel sunburnt I moved for a time into the shade cast by a fire engine.  

Mr. Last and another rescuer ended up on a relatively flat boulder right next to the victim and several times I thought perhaps the rescuers were going to pull the young man up on the rock. It was clear the boat could not get close enough to the victim and also avoid the waterfall, but it looked like they might have been able to retrieve him and the rescuers from the rock with the boat. 

It was harrowing to watch. My anxiety was high for the lives in peril: not only the young man, but also the brave volunteers. The rescuers had the advantage of equipment and training, but they had to go into the same peril that threatened the well-being of the young man they were rescuing.

At some point it occurred to me that I was experiencing something similar to the helplessness a father might experience attending the birth of his child. I've given birth exactly four times. And I have prayed anxiously for the well-being of everyone connected with the births of my three grandchildren. Curiously, I now found myself watching and praying for the safe deliverance of a young man from swift water, and with equal earnestness praying for the life of my beloved. I also prayed that they would all have an extra measure of strength and clarity.

I rejoiced and thanked God when the helicopter hoist at last drew the young man up to safety; it was a beautiful and dramatic rescue.

But I did not exhale entirely until Mr. Last and our friends were out of harm's way. It took a while but everything and everyone was eventually packed up and the River continued on its course. In fact, the River always continues on its course. Which is a good enough reason to hug one another close and to seek out and thank any volunteer we can find. Swift-water rescue or otherwise.



A la Peanut Butter Sandwiches!

The master suite back in January....and today!

Some of the details I love:
  • guitar in the corner
  • map over the dresser
  • touch globe ($15 Big Lots)
  • pink piggy 

Also, furniture from a box -- his & hers
teak towers (from World Market), with matching silver clip lights:

And...the softness of this thrifted art
($10 @ Goodwill). A soft graphite drawing
of a soft, smiling lambkin matted
and framed in a soft pink hue.
It says to me: Hug. More. Now.

Surrounding yourself with details that are pleasing adds to making a house a home. But we all know the material comforts are secondary to the love of the people with whom you share space.

For always.
And no matter what.
(that's what the art says over the bed where it used to say "the divine quotidian")