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Archive for the ‘Family/Friends’ Category

Our annual holiday celebrations center around family and friends. Over the last several years, we have met up in smaller groups, but the tradition remains the same.

There was one year at the beginning of the Global Pandemic where only two of us, my husband and I, were available for the celebration. This was during the winter period where indoor socializing had largely stopped. However, we still celebrated.

We often begin the night before a celebration by taking a walk in the late evening. It is a slow stroll, enjoying the bright stars and the moon.  The weather is part of the celebration.  In the winter, we may walk in heavy snow.  In warmer weather, we might be walking under the stars, a cool breeze gently blowing.  We take evening walks during short days and long nights, sometimes in the rain.

In the morning of our declared celebration, we wake up to a great cup of coffee. We may just sit and watch the sunrise, often while looking out the window from our beds.  Children are handed hot cups of cocoa while they sit up in bed, propped on their pillows, enjoying the slow morning.  Inevitably, one of the kids spills a little chocolate on their sheets.  But rarely the whole cup.

One important aspect of celebrating is a special family breakfast.  In our case it is usually home-made waffles and strawberries, topped with maple syrup, with a side of coffee and some orange juice.  We sit at the table together and chat.  It is usually a slow, social morning.

Family members may begin preparing the big meal of the day, planned for later in the afternoon.  The rest of us dress appropriately for the weather of the day and head out the door for a four or five mile hike, or a run. If we are in the city, we might watch a local parade or go to a nearby park.

We return home for another cup of coffee or a glass of hot water with fresh lemon and enjoy a small lunch of bread and cheese, some fruit.  

Relax.  Breathe.

Enjoy.

Appreciate.

When the big dinner is almost ready, we open a bottle of wine and watch the sunset.

We sit at the table, sometimes we pause to say something appreciative about the day before we enjoy a big meal together.

After dinner, we take time out in the evening to tell old jokes and stories. It is not unusual if we have a larger group, to take time out for a jam session where we may play music on a variety of instruments, a sort of small family concert.

It is a “Festivus for the Restovus” of which there are many more to follow, and many ways to celebrate.

Photo taken by the author on the Springwater Corridor in Portland, Oregon.

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Me TOO!

Personal Drawing and Story of my Grand Daughter

Me TOO!

I went to the Park
And a little boy was at the park
When I did something
All he said was “Me too”.
“Me too.” And that’s what
I do to my brother.

This is a poem and a drawing of my grand daughter, inspired by the idea that we should save stories of our childhood that have great meaning to us so that we will have stories to tell to our future children so that they may laugh and learn from them.  She had just experienced, for the first time, what it is like to have a younger child around who wants to do all the things that the older child is doing, while the littler one incessantly shouts  out,  “Me too!”  She whispered to me, “I can’t go up the big slide because if I do, that little boy tries to follow me and I don’t want him to get hurt.”  

She smiled and then added, “I do that to my brother, too. “It had never occurred to her before, to consider how her bigger brother felt about being trailed by a frustrated smaller child who wants to do everything that he does.

We both laughed at the discovery.  I hugged her and said, “Why don’t you write a story about it?”

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Home is by definition the place of our hearth and shelter. It may be as simple as a tent, or as complicated as a 20 story building, but it is still home when it offers hearth and shelter.

Since the pandemic was declared, home is a larger place than just where we stock our supplies and conduct our activities of daily living. We also go to work, to play, or to school while at home, express our joys, share our sorrows and declare our dreams at home.

Home is our atmosphere, our existence, our nook for survival. It is our island of safety and hope.

Home is where we express our despair and agonize over the future. Home is all that we have, if we are lucky, until the world learns how to manage the global pandemic.

May we never lose our homes. For those who have, my heartfelt sympathies. We must work to get them back for you.

I express my appreciation for home by painting a variety of perspectives on our little bungalow to which we recently moved, while depicting the change that we have gone through as we increasingly realize that home is the center of our universe.

We are world travelers and for us to circumlocate to such a small area as home and consider it our major place of stay, is quite a change. But adapt we must, and adapt we are. One way that I am adapting to this smaller area, is through art.

Festival House, acrylic

Perhaps it appears silly to see a tiny home drawn with Roman Columns constructed out of colorful marble, looking garish and far removed from reality. But this painting reflects for me, the home as the holiday, the celebration, the festive tradition.

Home as Safe Haven, acrylic

Home is where we hide when it is dangerous outside. It is the cool blue in the chaos of reds and yellows.

Looking through a microscope changes ones perspective on what one sees in a cell. Focusing on one’s home does something similar. It was always there for us to discover and the pandemic is increasing our attention to it.

I plan to paint many more pictures of home in these upcoming months, while looking at it anew, as through a microscope.

Evening Perspective, acrylic

Thank you home, for offering such a safe haven for so many of us during a time of panic and dread.

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We had an afternoon to share, my granddaughter and I. She said, “Grandma, how about art?” I said, “Sure.”

We gathered up some watercolor paper that is cut for making cards, brought out our brushes, inks and acrylics. We covered my kitchen table with an old plastic shower curtain that I use to protect my good table. We grabbed an empty and cleaned up peanut butter jar to use for water, and started to work.

She used some shells and a sand dollar we had picked up at the ocean for her inspiration. I looked out our kitchen window at all the angles. She decided to play with the starfish and then shifted the shapes and began to ink them in. I played with lines and angles, thinking about some of the wonderful drawings my artistic neighbors did when in the Abacos as they drew lovely, simple, angular paintings of island homes.

At some point, we spilled the water and also knocked over the blue ink. But it mopped up easily, given the plastic shower curtain we had used as protection. We cleaned up the mess and kept right on painting.

Several hours later, we took turns walking into in the other room and holding up the other person’s painting for them to see, more objectively.

We got hungry, ate lunch together and talked.

It was a perfect day.

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Manhattan, Central Park, New York City. 


Waters off the coast of the Abacos, Bahamas.


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Bridge over the Willamette River, Portland Oregon.

Wishing you all a very festive, joyous,
springtime, wherever you are.  

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Springtime

Grasses yellow-green bright, leaves are just buds, blooms appear unexpectedly, and the result is spectacular. I react with raw emotion, reminded of happy times past, hopeful of things to come.

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The aisles are large, the fruit is fresh and on a beautiful sunny autumn day, the mood is glorious.

It’s time to pick some apples.

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Writing with Children

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Sketch drawn on-line by my grandson.

Just this last week, my grandson asked me to help him with an article he wanted to write.  He had discovered a pretty colored single-cell plant called Micrasterias in a Smithsonian picture book for children and wanted to learn more about it.

How hard could it be to write up the life of a single-celled plant?

It sounded like fun, so I helped him out by posting articles to him about Micrasterias Denticulata (the name of the cell).

As a joke, I said he was writing an article on “Mike Rasterias and his friend Den Ticulata.”  Mike and Den.

He spent a week writing the article, and asked a number of questions as he went along.  What was its shape, its size, how did it move?  What color was it, and  where did it live? Did it have skin?  How did it eat? We had a great time exchanging ideas on where to find out more information on this little one-celled plant.  I googled and found scientific articles, photos and videos that he earnestly reviewed and summarized his ideas, placing them carefully into his essay.

He discovered some interesting things.  It comes in colors of bright blue and green, turning ponds bright green when it grows in them.  It lives like a plant by collecting sunlight and turning it into energy.   He was amused that it moves via excretion of slime (what a perfect story for an eight year old boy). He also found out how to locate it in ponds and streams and how to make a slide of pond water with micrasterias in it for use in a microscope.

“I want everything on one page,” he told me.  He worked to condense his ideas until they all fit.  He typed it up on his own, learned how to use spell check in the process, and successfully got it all on one page.

After that, I asked him to present it to me first by reading it aloud and then again, by looking me straight in the eye and  summarizing his ideas to me.  I used my I-phone to video him presenting both ways, and then we discussed how his voice and presentation changed according to these two types of visual presentations.  It surprised him to see how his voice and pronunciation changed when he went from reading it aloud, to orally presenting it without any notes.

What started as a simple exploration of a one-celled wonder, became a fun process of learning for us both.  I like what he said in his last paragraph the best.  He said,

“From doing this I have learned how to use a computer better and I even learned that such a little thing can be so complicated and interesting to learn.”

There we have it again, simply complicated.

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I know that in order to survive, we do require time, activity and materials.  However, it requires even more foresight, planning,  imagination, creativity, and just plain mulishness to learn to live simply.

We are attracted to the colorful maze of materialism.  Material items we acquire accumulate in piles, get lost in storage boxes, spill out of desk drawers, clog dressers, jam closets, teeter in uneasy stacks on counter-tops and drift about in drips and drabs.  They ultimately end up in a land fill  further eroding our planet.

Similarly, we also are dazzled with many daily activities which add little to the quality of our lives and result in addled brains, hyperactivity and shortened attention spans. They include, for example, watching several television screens while simultaneously intensively roaming  a multitude of social media internet sites, commuting in heavy traffic while talking on the phone and texting,  exercising at a gym while listening to or watching the news and the like.  Under such conditions, our abilities to listen and learn are badly hampered.

Finding out who we are after we strip ourselves of unnecessary material items, obligations and useless hyper-activities, takes time, energy and planning.  It can result in some wonderful surprises.

I no longer expect to arrive at a place called “full simplicity” especially since I am not even certain what that would mean.  But I intend to continue on this most interesting journey aimed at simple living while still locating myself smack dab in the middle of our complicated, demanding  world.

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Abstract Art by Jordan
Children watch everything that we do and are involved whether we know it or not.  
Yesterday, while the children and  I were doing art together, I wrote a short poem and did a brief a sketch showing them how I blog.  The result is here.
This morning, my grandson brought me a picture that he drew and asked me whether I thought it was abstract.

On the back was a poem.  His smile indicated that he had enjoyed the moment, as did I.

He is always teaching me new things.

His abstract art is above.  Here is his poem.
On his own, he is busy writing a long story, and I am looking forward to reading it.  

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