it’s starting to sink in for me that camp boss is still refusing to write her own blog. i think i’ve heard her tell me enough times now that she wants me to include parts of her story here in my story, and since our stories do overlap quite a lot, i’m finally convinced this is a good idea. i think i will have to wait until another day to chronicle the superstar sister who is camp boss herself, but today a certain birthday party for two of her offspring needed to be documented. although she has assured me she is not only cool with, but encourages me to post photos of faces (i normally avoid posting faces of other peoples’ children, even my nieces and nephews, which is what her kids are to me) i am giving them all pseudonyms to protect the innocent. (camp boss is not actually her real name, either, in case you were wondering, although it is very much who she is.)
the birthday party was for offspring numbers 3 and 6 of sister camp boss. kitty is the third sibling, but the oldest of the dauntless trio of small blond females. kitty is always the one to sneak off with the oreos to the tent when we’re on a camping trip. this birthday girl is now 7, and she is rocking a new red violet helmet cover (which when i got finished sewing it, reminded me a bit of the pink panther) and a new stunt bike, in matching red violet, which couldn’t have been a more perfect match if we had planned it. she is full of spunk and sass and exuberance, and is the embodiment of my fashion goals, in equal parts rainbow brite and layered grunge. when you’re looking for her, she is either off watching movies on a clandestine kindle, or she is tearing down the driveway at top speed on a plasma car, probably head first or backwards. she hibernates and stores up energy and then lets it rip, full blast, holding nothing back. yet she is the person most likely to be able to walk up to any chicken and pick it up, and i remember her needing to be reprimanded about picking up each of her infant siblings before she was ready to be doing so without supervision; there’s a deep well of nurture beneath her adrenalin-seeking surface. i enjoyed watching her waltz into the kitchen after the cupcakes had been eaten, the presents opened, and throw back the 2-liter of orange soda to take herself a big swig right out of the bottle.
kitty holds a special place in my heart because her lifespan marks the duration of my friendship with her camp boss mama, in whose womb she was being knit in all her dauntless rainbow stripes when we first met. she is also responsible for koala’s nickname, due to her proclamation when he was a newborn that he was “cuter than a baby koala bear!” this birthday party was also meant to celebrate this little man, who is turning one!
the dauntless sister next younger than kitty, also known as butterfly, often sports black and sparkly outfits, or sometimes tries to argue that a slip is plenty of clothing. she also speaks her truth, like her mom, of the candor faction, and i sometimes wonder when i look at her, if i am looking at a future camp boss. “i do not like spicy meatballs,” she announces to everyone, and no one in particular. she instigates mischief and has the smile to match. her statement about baby brother koala when he came along was that he is cuter than a candy cane! her age of 5 is memorable to me because she was a newborn when i was first telling stories to my sister of a handsome guy at yoga and plotting whether i should move my yoga mat closer to his. (she heartily endorsed this, and i did move my yoga mat. and we are now 5 years old, too, just like butterfly.)
fish, dauntless age 3, always inadvertently steals the show with her strawberry blond pigtails and huge cheeky smile. i caught her licking the chocolate ice cream out of her bowl on camera, but failed to snap the next two moments, the one where she walked away, pulling a fistful of fluffy tutu across her chocolatey cheeks to clean them, and the other one where she continued around the corner and snatched the decorative sugar bowtie off the last cupcake on the tray.
it is such a joy to watch quinn light up as he sits by koala’s high chair and delights in his baby eating cuteness. quinn never does accomplish much eating in a household filled with so many surrogate cousins, even when he spends his summer days there among them, so this bonding time with his favorite baby is time well spent. we have been around for a greater proportion of this baby’s babyhood, now that we are nearby neighbors of the family camp boss. although i was across the room from the two of them during dinner, koala would steal a glance my way periodically and i elicited a few sideways squeezy baby fist waves. koala’s first birthday was the sound of grandparent hands clapping for a newly walking boy traversing the living room carpet, the smell of cupcake-smeared boy skin, the sight of wide eyes, in astonishment at the whole room singing in his direction, in wonder at the candles and balloons and new toys, in concentration on his winnie the pooh board book. he will never be able to escape being the sixth sibling, and somehow, he strikes me as a cerebral guy with a serious thought-life; as much as he likes to kick around a whiffle ball, it seemed like he might be thinking, “i’m just going to block out everything going on around me, so i can really focus on reading this book.”
second in the birth order, filly is an amazing big sister to koala, and is clearly one of his favorite people in the world. sister filly is of the amity faction, if anyone is: a little bit dreamy, a loyal friend, sister and cousin, and always with a sweet smile to share (we won’t talk about when it’s her turn to wash dishes). her hair is somehow the blondest of all the blonds and she is a graceful dancer. she strikes me as an artist, but whatever she ends up pursuing in life, i see her diving in with her whole, anomalously large heart, and lots of enthusiasm.
before the birthday shindig, oldest brother bear panda, who is quinn’s closest friend, came to hang out with us at the dragon house and the dojo for the afternoon. he seems to cherish his moments of being singled out and having some time to play without four younger sisters and baby brother around. he is a dutiful and caring big brother, don’t get me wrong, but i notice he lets down his caretaker role a little bit and enters the magical pretend mindscape of quinn with relish, like he’s on vacation. the two of them ended up playing a game of chess while i finished my karate class (quinn was feeling too tired to continue, sapped by a cold he is getting over, and was sitting out the end of class and keeping panda company). they are kindred spirits when it comes to pokemon, games of world domination, audio books, and legos, so it is equally beneficial to quinn to be joined by a peer, as it is to panda to spend a few hours as one of “only” two kids.
we took a vote by secret ballot (accomplished by show of hands) and a good time was had by all party-goers!
President Barack Obama boards Air Force One at Norman Manley International Airport prior to departure from Kingston, Jamaica en route to Panama City, Panama, April 9, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
this image caught my eye and seemed like an appropriate way to bid farewell to the president. bye, potus. also, i’d like to be photographed as i leave on my honeymoon like this. #2017goals
oh, that reminds me, there’s someone else i want to make sure to say farewell to this week… yeah he’s always gonna be a fave, i don’t care what anyone says.
also, a happy birthday to dr. martin luther king, jr. this week in rainbows is high on the prominent public servants!
rainbow jars: modge podge, food coloring.
night rainbow! nyah nyah, we still have our christmas tree!
red: in this corner of the shell table… some strawberry top shells i picked up in tonga, and some teepee canyon agate picked up by rich’s mom and dad in south dakota, if memory serves.
orange (burnt sienna?): get a load of this healthy guy!
orange (salmon?): heavy on the public servants and sunrises. yup!
orange: that black sand under the shells in the upper left is from rialto beach, washington. i love that beach. my favorite beach here in oregon is the one that reminds me most of that beach.
orange: but the north jetty beach will do in a pinch, if i just got done with work and the sun is about to melt into the freezing cold water.
yellow: sun kissed surf zone
yellow: cassette tape case survivor
yellow: glowing leaf in the frosty grass
yellow: the moon startled me when i turned around from photographing sunset on wednesday.
yellow: opposite horizon from that moon.
yellow: sunrise this very morning!
green: sparkly twinkles
green: freezing rain created this beauty
green: we worked with what we had
green: the sea glass really makes the green section of the table pop
blue: hard to find many blue seashells, but blue sea glass and jay feathers i do have
blue and gold: one more sunrise, what the heck.
purple: cowries from tonga, sea urchins from here, abalone shell from all over the west coast, purple sea glass from all over the world
purple: finally feeling a little more homey! i put up some curtains, some on the window and some to hide the boxes under that sewing counter. some hemming required, luckily i can sit down at my sewing machine now! (deep sigh of contentment.)
purple: one of those after-work sunset shells
purple: sunset-illuminated gelatinous mass looking ethereal. may all your walks on the beach lead you to what you were looking for!
my word for 2017 seems to be ephemeral. it’s a little bit different, as words-of-the-year go, but it keeps popping up in my mind, and going away again, only to pop up again later. most of my thoughts are… ephemeral like that. they ebb and flow. i have a running joke about my memory with my coworker, that i intend to visit lumosity.com and play brain games to improve my memory, but that i keep forgetting.
having an ephemeral memory is arguably a good thing for a writer. rebecca mcclanahan, in her book, word painting, says, “…a bad memory can be an asset to a writer. if you have a mind like a sieve, be grateful. a sieve filters, strains and selects; though much falls through the meshwork, some remains. memory is an act of meaning-making. it collects the disparate pieces of our lives and distills them. for writers, what we forget is as important as what we recall.”
(rich wants you to know he offered to help vacuum the sand out of my table for me! what a guy! always trying to vacuum me off my feet.)
how’s that for a positive spin on memory loss, a trait that is usually considered negative? you know how i like to intentionally look at life, and even myself, through a heart-shaped lens. meaning-making! actively, the memories and thoughts we choose to emphasize and reflect upon are the ones that become infused with meaning, and the act of choosing how we construct life meaning empowers us. i suspect that those active choices influence how we passively sieve through the moments as well, perhaps by training the sieve on what to retain and what to let slip through.
(snow in our town is ephemeral: here for a very short time!)
so far this year i’ve settled on “be the rainbow” as my mantra. and what better word to describe a rainbow than ephemeral? it suggests beauty that cannot be held onto. we cannot cling to it or grasp it, or in the case of a rainbow, even reach it or touch it, but at the same time, we must let it stop us in our tracks, we must absorb all we can of the beauty of the present moment, acknowledging the fleeting gift we are receiving. the same can be said of a desert flower, a childhood, the way a tidepool is arranged on a given tide.
(flat bride would like this mojave desert five-spot; taken in 2002 or so)
it’s not just that the rainbow goes away, it was that it appeared at all in the first place. “nothing gold can stay,” and it makes the gold even more precious. it’s about holding on… it’s about letting go… it’s about showing up to create the sand painting, knowing its impermanence going into it. it’s about cherishing every night time wake-up from your nine year old, knowing each one may be the last. it’s about gasping for joy at the sunrises, sunsets, and rainbows, in spite of the way they mark the inexorable march of time.
(velociraptor, april, 2012)
the wikipedia entry for ephemerality mentions brine shrimp, the meticulous culture of which i spent a season perfecting at my day job. and, and! it mentions the ephemeral organ of gestation, the placenta. dare i admit that i still have one of those lurking in my chest freezer, living in its 6th residence to date. (time to let it go, you think? maybe we’ll plant a tree for his 10th birthday, here at the dragon house… with a little freezer-burned placenta fertilizer.)
this will be a year of celebration, and although those singular rainbow celebration days will so swiftly flutter past on fragile wings, i plan to do all i can to be present for them, as well as pin bits of them to the scrapbook of life, maybe store some bits in film canisters and cassette cases, and preserve my favorite moments in the canning jars of time with my camera and words and store them on the shelves of my blog. all the while celebrating a love that is built to outlast it all.
quinn and i collaborated once again to create a fun halloween costume: bulbasaur the pokemon.
we took quinn’s fourth grader free state park pass on the road and hung out at the yaquina head lighthouse one afternoon to watch waves and marvel at their enormity.
quinn’s fourth grade class took a hike and toured the community college.
reading… too many books to make an exhaustive list! he has been reading the red wall series at his dad’s, so we listened to the audio book and he borrowed the book from the library to finish when the last cd was scratched, then ended up re-reading the entire novel; he spent more time with calvin and hobbes, and i could tell even if i hadn’t seen him reading it, because he mused one day, “i wonder if anyone on mars is looking out and saying i wonder if there’s anyone on that planet with all the blue on it.” he read all 8 greek gods graphic novels owned by our library; he could be found spread out on the floor with newspaper comics on several occasions; he read an article in national geographic about a dinosaur fossil found trapped in amber with complete feathers (!) that a friend had shared on facebook. all of this in addition to listening to the last of the heroes of olympus, then switching to harry potter on audio while reading a variety of other books (the latest diary of a wimpy kid, trials of apollo, and a few other graphic novels.)
quinn attended another seminar with mr. sepulveda at aurora martial arts in corvallis. he had a good time, and learned a lot once again.
he became a certified bed making technician
games a-plenty these days! pictured are a fraction of those played and created: a pirate card game called loot, a pokemon role-play-game of his own invention (here he is drawing up a character attribute sheet), pokemon go, scrabble, thanksgiving scattergories, numerous computer games (lots of knights, forging of armor, settlements, that type of thing going on in recent games), we learned to play settlers of catan at long last, and then got to play it again, and quinn drew up his own set of catan hexagon cards, and played quite a few games with his buddy luke, including risk (thank you, luke, for one less game of risk i have to play!) there were numerous other games not pictured!
the recent book fair, as always, was a big deal for quinn, and he bought himself a book about coding games in scratch (a kid-friendly programming platform). he was telling me about a game he is going to code in scratch about pirates, and the pirates start at the lowest rank and work up to becoming first mate. but then the only way they can become captain is “if the captain is slain, or the captain resigns.” others might say “is killed/leaves” but quinn’s vocabulary strikes again. my pirate name for the game is barnacle beth the brave, on board the ship the blue bottlenose. so far we are still playing it all in quinn’s mind, but he has big ideas!
in fact, he made a list of “jobs to have when i grow up,” and game designer is on the list.
a famous kenpo teacher (karate)
a game designer (it came up in conversation when he formulated an idea to play pokemon go as a d&d style role play game, with character sheets for the trainers; we can hide pokemon in imaginary maps (not realistic ones like our back yard, so this is a different game but similar to what he originally invented) and roll dice for how many pokeballs, etc. i told him he always had such great ideas for coming up with new games, and he thought being a game designer seemed like something he could do.)
in his journal list by the above title, he wrote numbers 1-23 all the way down the page. i am looking forward to seeing what other “jobs to have” he comes up with!
number one on the list: musician. time to get him some music lessons!
enjoying green eggs and ham, sam i am.
enjoying time with family at thanksgiving.
baking sugar cookies to share with friends! he got creative with the cookie cutters, and generously sprinkled his star tree with “snow” powdered sugar.
when i searched “cookie” in my media files to see whether i had already uploaded the recent cookie photos, this is the one that came up. my cookie helper, in his mini form. i can’t believe his whole legs, including feet, fit on top of the counter…
outside time, stolen bits of fresh air on sunny days when we could get them. including a day spent at the lab with mama (school conference days). he also got in some cursive handwriting practice that day.
i attended his student-led conference, and there were writing samples, creative projects (3-D self-portrait, map of his special place), goal-setting plan for the school year, and the last item on the conference agenda was, “ask your family to take you out for ice cream to celebrate!” i did. he ordered cookies and cream and vanilla.
another school field trip, this time to the aquarium and for a tour of the noaa vessel rainier. the ship tour was fascinating, and the kids asked some really great questions about the use of sonar to map the sea floor. we came up with an analogy of the “layers” created by the sonar, that if you made a fort with chairs and blankets, then lifted the blanket off of the chair legs, keeping all the dips and peaks in place, the blanket would act like a layer of sonar data.
science projects at school: kinetic and potential energy using string, straws and balloons, and then mechanical rollers made from cups, rubber bands, and straws, trying to roll a certain distance and stop in the “sweet spot”, both of which i got to help out with in the classroom. i liked how she had the kids write up their results, but modeled for them how to do that on the overhead projector, and i liked how she sat down with individual kids who were having trouble getting started. that included quinn, but when she sat down and asked him about his potential/kinetic energy string/straw/balloon experiment, he had brilliant insights to share about how “the air wanted to come out of the balloon”, and then after he’d gotten to tell them to her, he was able to go forward with putting them on paper. i also got to sit in on a presentation of why a class award, if won, should be spent on obtaining a bearded dragon. quinn is a natural at public speaking; he does not inherit that from me. also in school learning: essay publishing, and of course, the dab.
one of my favorite features of quinn’s classroom is the mood meter. each day (and at various times throughout the day) his teacher asks them to write on a sticky note something that is on their mind and place it on the mood meter, which has four quadrants. the kids choose where they are feeling along the continua of energy, from high to low, and pleasantness, from happy to sad. where they intersect along these two axes (bet they don’t realize they are working their coordinate plane skills… sneaky) is where they place their sticky note. i walked in one afternoon and found quinn’s in the far happy quadrant, reading, “i feel happy because i am going to my mom’s house after school.” insert all the rainbow heart emojis.
when you walk up to the school building, quinn’s classroom is the one with all the shades open (fluorescent lights off, sunlight pouring in) and a peace sign in the window. that’s how i can tell i asked for the right teacher.
while i’m singing her praises, i will also share that she builds a yoga flow into the start of each school day. quinn demonstrated one morning’s “flow” that they did, and as a yogi myself i can see that they have learned quite a lot in their daily practice. it was fun to watch, because he is such a gangly, bouncy, and angular string bean that he just springs into position and names the pose, then springs into the next one, with all of his bones sticking out every which way. he knows most of the poses by their traditional names, tree, triangle, mountain, but a few have obviously been made more kid-friendly. low lunge is “dragon” and then becomes twisting dragon when he plants his shoulder behind his knee like no adult could ever do at the rate he does it. i like the “wash away” pose they do at the beginning, crossing their mid-line, always good for brains. the way he gets into triangle pose… priceless… had to be captured on video.
also in reading, i assigned quinn some advent reading. a little background on the “you are brave” affirmation…
one night recently, quinn got up to use the bathroom at 3am, and came and got me to re-tuck him in. rich mentioned it to him in the morning, to point out logically that he is brave enough to walk around at night with no lights on (downstairs to our room, back up to the bathroom because it was actually an emergency, then back down again to retrieve me), so he shouldn’t feel scared to go in the bathroom during the day with lights on throughout the house. rich also put in that one day he’ll be able to get back into bed without even waking anyone up. after rich went off to shower, i translated for quinn that rich wanted quinn to know that he is very brave! that seemed to unfurrow his brow, the look that sometimes follows in the aftermath of a “talk” with rich. i then reassured him that i will miss it in a few years when he no longer comes and gets me to help him back to bed, adding that i’m glad it’s not something that happens every night anymore. we chatted about when he was a baby/toddler and woke me up multiple times every night, and he thought that was funny and wanted to know all about it. then he was finished eating breakfast. into the bathroom he marched, hands covering his ears, and then i heard, “i’m brave!” and the sound of peeing… with the light still turned off.
back at the vacation house quinn would ask me to accompany him to the bathroom to help him turn on the light. it was around a corner and through a dark small hallway which had a light switch which the rest of us didn’t turn on to get to the bathroom but he did. he would turn on all the switches on the way to the bathroom, but the switch for the bathroom light required you to go inside and reach behind the door for it (poor design, granted) and so he never liked it and always felt scared to go in and pee no matter how many conversations he had with rich on the subject.
since we’ve been at dragon house 2.0, he has been fine with bathroom use and turning on the light himself, it’s not down a dark hallway, the light switch isn’t hidden behind door, and it’s on the same floor as our living room/his bedroom/kitchen. he does, however, often cover his ears (inexplicably, unless you consider it a form of sight-sound synesthesia) while he walks into the bathroom until he gets the light on (which i think he must do with his elbow!)
after i explained to quinn that rich was trying to point out that quinn is obviously brave enough to walk around in the dark, because he has seen him do it, quinn seemed to grasp it with that positive spin. leaving the light turned off wasn’t exactly the intended result, and indeed i told him he needed to turn it on when it came to face washing, so he could see his grubby face in the mirror to get it clean, but i was happy that the internalized message was affirmative.
courage and indomitable spirit… yes, he has them. he is brave. he endured a particularly grueling belt test and promoted to his green belt just before christmas.
still bringing the smiles.
elfing. relaxing in the happy spot on christmas eve, just back from his dad’s for two whole weeks! i picked him up the afternoon of the 23rd, stuffed him full of food, had him take his first bath in two weeks, and then he slept for 15 hours, so it’s no wonder he looks so refreshed on the morning of christmas eve. i was just remembering that we called my rocking chair “the happy spot” back in the day, when he fit in it on my lap just a little bit better than he does now. we’ve shared some quality snuggle time in it this week, in spite of his gangliness. he also helped me elf together some friend presents, and wrapped the gift he chose for luke himself.
christmas morning! a glorious sunny day, spent with family.
after explaining (with hand gestures) how one would make a robotic bb-8 and what his motion is like, quinn pulled out his birthday present piper and showed off having built his own computer. that brief detour enabled me to show him that scratch is already loaded onto his piper… so i imagine there will be some game programming updates in future lifelong learning posts. after a while he continued opening presents, including lots of pokemon cards, some legos, and a few books.
an epic pokemon battle occurred, during which the rest of us sat around shaking our heads in awe of the way he could backtrack several steps of the battle and change the outcome, seeing it all in his mind like a chess game. he also built k2so, a droid we all recently grew fond of watching star wars: rogue one.
sun and kitties.
pokemon and wrist warmers.
he’s holding the dungeons and dragons player’s handbook, his 300+ page present from grammy and grampy, which he obviously loves! he has spent lots of time reading it and designing new characters with it since. he also got to meet the artist who did the cover art (and a few of the pieces on the pages, as well as many magic cards, one of which quinn was in possession of…) because he’s my former boss’s nephew. he got these items autographed, but the best part was listening to these 20-something guys talking with quinn about d and d adventures, and beyond that, relating things like, “yeah i was always being told i needed to pay attention, and instead i was drawing.” others who don’t fit all the molds. they exist, and they’re okay. your people are out there in the world, quinn. i love that in answer to my question, “how big was the original painting,” tyler answered, “i painted it digitally, so it’s actually of infinite size,” and quinn just kind of nodded like, yeah, i get that. kids these days.
for quinn, it’s not always drawing that steals his attention, but he is often “out there” in his brain, creating in some other realm. i think it’s great for him to meet people who took their creative talents and made a living. i also love that he came home and was inspired to actually draw his new character (a wizard) and the character’s pet owl.
we got in some play time with buddies over the holiday break.
we’re transitioning right now to a new karate dojo and instructor, and so far that has all been going very smoothly. we got to go to extra classes over the break, and although quinn may backtrack a little bit on belt rank to catch up on some curriculum, he seems very game to make this overall positive change, and his belt rank will now be considered adult instead of junior, so in many ways, he will come out ahead. he will also get to practice teaching karate, himself, which is one of his stated goals. his new teacher mentioned that karate students naturally start out as tigers, fierce and impulsive, but as they mature and progress in their practice, become dragons, with more tenacity and wisdom. i like the metaphor, of course, and though i have nothing against tigers, i do have a special place in my heart for dragons. i see the maturity of which he speaks starting to develop in this young lad, who has become reinvigorated for karate in the past two weeks. while i was anticipating some resistance to this fairly substantial change, he has shown an amazing amount of resilience and perspective and has gone with the flow. just another aspect of amazing lifelong learning to look forward to in 2017!
i am finally setting up my shell table, the one i mentioned in previous new york posts, which was an ordeal to ship out to oregon, but finally made it out here this year. the week off after christmas always allows for random nebulous projects to progress, and i finally dove in and unpacked some of the treasures that have been boxed up for the past decade, awaiting their chance to be displayed.
you’ll be surprised to know i’ve chosen a rainbow theme for the table, shown here in work-in-progress form, and also selfie form. after the tears it brought, it’s about time it is bringing me smiles again. the table itself is really a great big selfie, full of so much history, the story of my travels and adventures, laying inside a family heirloom (my great uncle was a printer, and it is an actual drawer from his printing business). i opened up the film canisters of sand i had carefully labeled from far-flung geographic locations, and emptied them into the spaces to serve as the backdrop. the purple sand in the bottom right corner is from the far east end of long island, montauk, my favorite color sand of all. yes, film canisters. back when i still used those….
red: i think hummingbirds embody “being the rainbow.” always in the magical present moment.
red: soldier lichens at the base of our redwood tree, adding new layers of texture and color to the already groovy bark.
peachy-orange-salmon: december sunset blur
orange: if you think film canisters date my dusty collection of “treasures,” try the cassette tape cases holding butterfly wings and dragonflies. a wonderful opportunity to downsize and consolidate my nature collection at long last. some, like this one, downsized to a digital image and released for good.
yellow: or silver and gold, as in, “it’s better than silver and gold,” a photo about my sweet fiance. “we got something that’ll never grow old.”
green: i love this smile bringer. rich and i had ventured outside to check on a woodpecker who had run into the window, and quinn came to check on us. the bird survived and flew off, and the boy also fluttered away to do his thing.
green: angels in the trees
blue: i remember collecting this particular dragonfly off the deck of a schooner on which i was working, where it had landed to die. those tape cases really enabled some serious nature collecting, even in conditions that should have been impossible for such ephemeral things to survive.
purple: sea urchin and bird skull. i have been wondering what it is about the delicate ephemera that has always captivated me, and made me want to defy the elements in order to preserve? i think it’s a bit like the paradox of being the rainbow – being in the moment while also documenting and reliving and sharing the moment. i think the lesson in the tiny, breakable, fleeting artifacts is the impermanence of all of this. the butterfly wings and sea urchin shells, the printing industry and cassette tapes, all pass away. i’ll never stop trying to hold onto my favorite moments and treasures, if only to keep teaching myself how to let go of it all. to continue the neil young song, “i used to have a treasure chest, it got so heavy that i had to rest, i let it slip away from me, didn’t need it anyway, so i let it slip away…” the true treasures can’t be held onto, and yet, they can’t be taken away.
2017 is a going to be a big year for us, no two ways about it. i don’t feel the same usual timid anticipation of the unknown to come, because there are already some big plans laid out for this year. standing here on the threshold, it’s more like a certainty cutting through the fog of my winter brain, that this is just bound to be a big one.
i was having trouble articulating actual intentions for the year, but then i realized that in 2017 i will watch my son turn 10 (!); turn 39 myself; and get married!!! and then i cut myself some slack, because that is enough for one year! if i can pull off those three feats with some small measure of grace, it will be an accomplishment.
throughout the transition to the new year, i have been contemplating spiral symbolism (wearing spirals, as i always do, sorting through seashells and fossils in spiral formation, etc.) and reaffirming that every day (not just january first) is an opportunity to begin again. and every hour, every minute within each day, can be a new beginning. the choice to start fresh at any time is so freeing, and empowers me to make life what i want it to be.
last year my intentions were minimal, and i checked most of the items off of that modest list (live music, a doctor visit, new glasses, consistent self care practices) and this year i am just going to reaffirm that self care remains high on my agenda, which enables me to care for my guys in the best way i can.
i watched a clip of maya angelou singing and sharing a spiritual about the rainbow, and encouraging people to be a rainbow in somebody’s cloud. i think i’m adopting that as part of my intention for this year. it’s just vague enough to exert low pressure but be highly inspiring, especially since i tend to be a rainbow (my current theme song when driving alone in my car is “she’s a rainbow” by the rolling stones) every chance i get by default anyway.
in an effort to gain some clarity or insight or inspiration on 2017 intentions, i drew some nature cards from my two inspirational decks (i’ve written about these cards before here, here ,here and here where you can also find links to the artists.) the cards all made me chuckle and nod, for each of the three of us, as usual. but none so much as the very first one. “just think about the rainbow” it said, encouraging me to recognize the magic in each moment, each day.
rainbow dragon costumes for pancake granddaughters. this shipment hasn’t been made yet, because grandpa found out some little girl stats about favorite colors and animals, and went on a mission to find a blue bunny and a white mouse for his girls.
solstice beach sunshine rainbow
rainbow christmas lights! which will probably be featured in rainbow monday photos through valentine’s day, since we finally put up the tree on christmas eve. rich’s daughter fits in perfectly with the nerdy glasses family theme.
rainbow lights and sunlight! the sun made a brilliant appearance on christmas day, much to my delight. finally enough light to make indoor natural-light photos less blurry! what a lighthearted day!
red: i forgot to buy the boy new socks, but i did thrift him some bright red sweatpants just in time to pajama his way through christmas pokemon battles. of his hand-knit auntie wrist-warmers, quinn said, “i’ve always wanted a pair of these!” and hasn’t taken them off since, unless prompted.
red: handsome fiance with fairy lights on his nerdy glasses, sitting in his red chair on christmas eve.
orange: that sun!!! setting charizard on fire during an epic pokemon battle.
orange: solstice sunset. i left work early on the shortest day and was richly rewarded with more sun-drenched goodness.
orange: the very vibrant end of the shortest day.
yellow: sun through beach grass on solstice.
yellow: more solstice sparkles and sand.
green: mr. wrist-warmer loves that one of his baby mittens that i knit for him is still around, adorning our christmas tree. we are also so very pleased to have our ornaments and stockings out of the back corner of the storage garage this christmas!
cutie blast from the past. you’re welcome.
green: we probably missed darth vader the most… when you plug in the lights, he says, “the force is with you young skywalker. but you are not a jedi, yet.” happy to have him back. i also love our collection of animal ornaments. and when i say ours, what’s rich’s is mine, okay?
green: christmas eve green sparkle magic making the walls shimmer. tree-topper mouse is another friend we were happy to be reunited with.
blue: solstice sky with bridge in background and driftwood frame in foreground.
blue: foamy waves looking vaguely like snow on solstice.
purple: i hope your christmas was merry and bright like ours!
for the two weeks that quinn was gone leading up to yesterday (and the start of our two weeks together! yay!) i sent him some advent notes to open each day… and i’m going to store them here for him to be able to look back on someday.
December 10: One thing I love about you, Quinn, is your laugh. It makes me proud that one of the things your karate teachers said about you early on is that you are the resident “smile-bringer” of the dojo. I love hearing your musical laughter when you hear, read, or see something that tickles you. Laughter is such a gift, because even as it helps the person laughing feel good, it is helping the people around him feel good as well. Here is a joke for today:
p.s. 10 is a great number! Can you believe you will turn 10 years old in just a few short months?!
December 11: Dear Quinn, I admire your confidence. I think it was so cool to watch you stand up in front of your class and give a presentation about bearded dragons, and seem natural, like you were just having a conversation. You seem very confident when you do your blue belt forms out on the karate mat. One of my wishes for you is that you maintain that confidence in all you do throughout your life. You told me recently that you have at least four jobs you want to have as a grown up: 1. a musician 2. a famous kenpo teacher 3. a paleontologist and 4. a game designer. I have no doubt you will do so many amazing things! Glad I get to watch you soar.
drawing by Quinn, 2014
December 12: Dear Quinn, I value your kindness. This world needs more people like you. It is so nice to watch you being friends with other people, regardless of their age, abilities, gender, or anything else about them. It’s obvious to me that all the people you come into contact with end up liking you, because you act with kindness towards them, and accept them for who they are. It makes a mama heart happy to see this in you. You are an example to people much older than you, including me. I did not always feel like I wanted to be friends with everyone in my school, the way you do. It has taken me a long time to realize that everyone has something to offer in friendship, even if they don’t seem like it at first. You are teaching me that lesson! You are a wonderfully kind human being, and I’m proud to be around you.
I love that you are in tune with your animal spirit helpers. You’re a guy who is in touch with the natural world, and I think that is so important. You’re one of the people who cares about the Earth strongly enough to make a difference. I think your owl spirit helper is a good friend. I’m sure you have your own things you know about owl, but to me, owl is stealth, flying on silent wings, going silently and subtly. Without a fuss, without reactiveness. Owl is watchful, with those big eyes. And of course, wise! Owl is like a ninja! Owl is also a bringer of healing and renewal. I see all these wonderful traits in you! (If only you could fly!)
You are brave! Like a Gryffindor. Like a rebel Jedi knight. I think you could do anything you set your mind to doing. I see a lot of courage in your character! I admire your bravery and courage. It’s just one more thing that is great about you!
Dear Quinn, I wish for you this winter to have some snow! I have not always appreciated snow, but watching you play in the snow gives me great joy. I can deal with my face feeling like it wants to fall off and my fingers turn into icicles, if I get to watch you having fun.
I do not, however, wish for you to experience sleet. (Whatever sleet is!) Love, mama
I think you have the quality of Indomitable spirit in great measure. You are not a mean or imposing or intimidating person, and I think it can be misunderstood that indomitable (unbeatable) means you have to be a super tough guy. I don’t think so. I think it means you are resilient, and that you have a spirit that never gives up. And these are things I see in you in all different areas of your life. You are a positive person, you bounce back from disappointments with amazing resilience, and you are determined in a way that I think exemplifies indomitable spirit. In case you were wondering, I think you’re great!
Dear Quinn, If there isn’t going to be snow, at least we have Calvin and Hobbes so we can experience it vicariously. Love, mama
When I look at you, I see a guy who has integrity, and a well-calibrated moral compass. That means you know what is right, and what is wrong, and you point yourself in the right direction. This is something I’ve noticed about you all your life. One thing I’ve observed is that you align yourself with characters in stories you love who are the “good guys.” You’ve been a fan of guys like Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker all along. You’re like a sunflower… they always turn their faces towards the sun (they’re heliotropes!) and you are like that when it comes to the goodness in the world. Integrity has a lot to do with that. Our choices have meaning. Harry’s aim to disarm even when his opponents are dueling to kill illustrates his commitment to keeping his own soul intact and aligned with the light. That is a way he has strong integrity. When you first started to do good guys and bad guys in your playing, it was easy to find the hero, and easy to put characters into one box or the other: good guy or villain. As you’ve grown, you’ve started realizing there is a lot of gray area and people aren’t always as easy to put in an either/or category. I am watching you absorb these subtle shades of gray in the stories you enjoy. One theme is that there is always a path back to the light, another choice to be made, no matter how far a “villain” has crossed over to the dark side. The dark side may tempt someone, but it is always possible to turn back towards the light. Sometimes, one who has turned dark comes back to be the most valiant of the good guys. But it is something I hold dear about you, that you have always identified through and through with the most light-bringing and life-affirming of characters. The ones who have always been on the light side, and never wavered. You are and, I trust, will always remain steadfastly one of the good guys.
I like your vocabulary. I think you are amazing at choosing the absolute best word for the sentence. You’re not one to take the easy route when it comes to finding a way to tell about something. You speak of captains “slain” and crew “perishing” when your stories of pirates come out. Then you’re onto paleontology, using words like “excavate” and “reconstruct.” You talk about pain that “sears”, and “loopholes” in a plan. Planes “taxiing,” “squadrons” battling, healers in an “infirmary,” a “dubious” character, a “pelagic” emergency, an instance of feeling “dumbfounded” or “rambunctious”. It’s also the way you weave words together that I love, because you’re very poetic. Last year you told me, “when you yawn, it puts electric needles in your balloon and pops it.” When you were 6 and learning to read silently, you told me, “I can just read it to myself in unhearable talking!” When you were 5 and we watched the Alice in Wonderland dance performance, you told me, “I liked it so much! it was like hundreds of toys, being painted out of a box!” When you were 3, you described the weather by saying, “the trees are making it wind and the wind is waving goodbye…” and you told me, “the rain comes out of the moon’s tummy!” And one of my favorites, the first time you went to the old dragon house (age 4) you said, “it feels good to me in here! I feel like I might explode with excitement, like I’m inside a box that’s full of pomegranates! With two mice!” I love you and all your words. Love, mama
You are a courteous dude. I think that you really embody all of the black belt principles, and courtesy is no exception. When I think of courtesy, I sometimes think of the Why behind people’s courteous actions. When some people display what are known as “good manners”, I think they sometimes do it more out of a sense of doing what they were told to do or to not get into trouble, instead of doing out of their own moral compass of integrity telling them to do it for the right reasons. When it comes to you, I see you treating others with courtesy out of a real sense of wanting to do the right thing, because you’ve internalized the golden rule and have put thought into what it means to treat others how you want to be treated. This is a much more deep and meaningful way to be courteous in the world, and it is a blessing to see you acting in this way towards your fellow human beings. You’ve talked about one of your strengths of “Being A Good Friend” and I couldn’t agree more. I think you’re terrific at being a friend! And you’re a friend a person can really count on, who won’t abandon them when the going gets tough, who cares about who the person really is and accepts them in all their uniqueness. You’re a really quull dude, I hope you know. I love you!
December 21: Happy Solstice!
“somewhere out there, beneath the pale moonlight, someone’s thinking of me and loving me tonight…” -Fievel Mouskowitz
a story from 8-4-2009 (Quinn age 2):
At bedtime, Quinn asked if I would call Dada on the phone… so I did and he told Dada “yeah” to whatever question he was asking Quinn, and then said, “I’m having milk” and then to me said, “I’m handing it back to you.” (ha!) Then I said do you want to say night night to Dada? Quinn said, “yeah.” He told Dada “night night” and handed it back again. Then we laid down again for more milk, but soon he said, “I know, let’s go to the beach!” I said, honey I think it would be fun to go to the beach tomorrow, but right now the sun has already gone night night….” and he was bummed. But then I said, “how about we talk to the ocean and tell it night night and we’ll see it tomorrow?”
Quinn asked, “can you call the ocean on the phone mama?”
Today I want to remind you that no matter where you are, you can always look up at the sky and it will always be the same sky that I can look up and see above me. when I look up at the sky tonight on solstice, I will send hugs and kisses on the moon and stars for you. that is one of the reasons I love our saying… “I love you as big as the sky! as big as the ocean! all the way to the moon and back again! 9 quintillion times!” because… it’s so big! and it’s there, no matter how far apart we are. I miss you and I look forward to seeing you soon! I love you! (you know how big!)
we’re never far apart, you’re always in my heart!
When you were 3, you made this observation of the moon, sometime around winter solstice: “the moon is pulling its cloud blankets up over itself.” I hope you are snuggly and warm when you pull your blankets over yourself tonight, under the moon that is shining down on both of us.
You make this season of magic and wonder so… magical and wonderful! I don’t know a lot of people who are so fervently excited about advent. It has been a joy to watch you take delight in the small daily rituals that we have invented (advented?) and adopted and evolved over the years of your life. You are SO much FUN! I have many memories of you at younger ages, positively impatient with how slowly the days were going by until Christmas or Solstice. You have mellowed out as you’ve gotten older and learned to enjoy the present moment more and more. But you’ve still retained your sense of magic and wonder, and it’s a wonderful thing! I love hanging out with you around this time of year, and catching some of the joy that bubbles up from you. I can’t help but join in the excitement! I love adventing with you. Love, mama
I’m overflowing with joy that you will be at my house again tonight! Here’s a boat load of “Quinn loves boats” stories to celebrate!
When you were almost four, you looked into the woodstove and said,“the orange is like the sea. There is dark orange below and light orange on top. The log is the boat, floating on the sea. The sparkles are the cleats on the boat. The steam is the lines on the boat.” One time when you were 5, you wrote a song that went like this:
“and so i set three crab traps
and went to another place
and set three more
and set three more in another place
and set three more in another place
and then there was only three crab traps left
so i went to another place
and set them…….”
Also at age 5, you used boat terminology to remember that “the letter E has 3 crossbars and 2 canoe cracks!” Also, “look at all the O’s on this page. They look like buoys marching in a line!” (of course you loved Q’s even better- they have a little bit of rope tied on, so they can be crab traps!)
When you were 3 and practicing drawing, you found it important to connect things- when you drew the eyes on people, you “attached” them with string to the skull. Or if the lines we use to draw the boat don’t meet up perfectly, you’d lash them together with some rope and then advise me to “keep your sure on you to never ever untie that line, ever!” You also liked to draw arrows so things knew which way they were going. “And here is an arrow pointing which way the little green boat is going. It’s going to the orange house with just mama because quinn is at the shop with dada.”
I asked, “did mama take quinn to the shop in the boat?”
You replied, “yeah. That’s the way some people do it. You poke a lot of holes in the road, and it makes water. Then you don’t drive your cars, you drive your boats and canoes.”
Love you boat boy! Love, mama
December 24: story of eagle boy and the baby bear by Quinn (12-24-2010, age 3)
“one day there was a boy who flapped his hands with his arms out wide as he was pretending he was an eagle, and FLEW off! one day when the eagle boy was playing in the forest he heared a voice saying HELP HELP HELP! and flew out of the forest- he stopped playing and flew out of the forest and ALL the way and landed on a beach and walked to the edge and saw a little bear on an isl- washing up on an island. and then he saw that the baby bear was safe and washed up on the island. he had to find the mama and dada for th bear. i was walking and i saw him in the water as he floated to the island. ‘that won’t do,’ said the boy. alright. and if that happened, i would have to build a boat for y- a canoe for you. and you can sail. so the eagle boy made uh a kind of sort of canoe raft and threw it right in SPLASH in the water. the baby bear pulled the island aboard… the baby bear jumped off the island onto the raft canoe and pulled the island on board. and the um eagle boy THREW a paddle down. the baby bear caught it, and paddled his way back to his mama and dada bear. and the eagle boy flew back to his mama and dada gir-l- his mama was a girl, his dada was a boy. ’cause it was time for lunch- ’cause it was time for eating- ’cause it was lunchtime. how’s THAT story?”
me: that’s WONDERFUL!!!
“yeah! for dessert. THAT story was good for eating for dessert. yeah. i could put lots of the story ice cream in a bowl, and put lots of dessert in there.”
Today I celebrate the stories in your heart, and I hope to enjoy lots more story ice cream in a bowl with you in years to come! Merry Christmas Eve!
December 25: Merry Christmas Quinn!!!
You are the biggest gift I have ever received in my life. You are a wonderful person, and I am glad I’ve had a chance to tell you that I think so, in detail. You are an inspiring, creative, caring, kind, courteous, courageous, fun-loving, joyful, wonderful guy. I am happy I get to be a part of your life, and so glad you chose me for a mama! I hope you have a very merry day today and look forward to a nice holiday week with you! And hanging out with you on the light side of the force.
I love you as big as the sky, as big as the ocean, all the way to the moon and back again infinite times! Love, mama