Thursday, January 31, 2013

It's Cold.

It is cold. It is. 7 degrees, according to my phone.
To be honest, I don't have to go outdoors today.
I know it's easy enough to sit inside and talk about how
it's not so bad outside. A little snow? So what?
A little bit of wind? So what.
 I know, I know.
It's not so bad ...from the inside looking out.
In a room where the heat is cranked.
And the chocolate is hot.
And I'm under a blanket.
With a fat cat snuggled up to keep my belly warm.
Really, now. This weather isn't so bad.
If, however, anyone in the neighborhood is in the mood to whine,
take a wander around and see what it's like elsewhere.
Denali National Park in Alaska  7F degrees
  Winnipeg Manitoba  -17F degrees
Yakutsk Sibera  -24F degrees
Ulaanbaatar Mongolia  -15F degrees
Nuuk Greenland  23F (Balmy!!!)
Reykjavik Iceland  30F (!!??)
It's colder here than Greenland? Than Iceland?
Ok, neighbors. Go ahead and whine.
Pull up those socks, wrap a scarf around your neck,
coax an unsuspecting cat onto your lap and snuggle in.
If you live in Florida or Maui or Grand Cayman and
you want to momentarily share our winter magic, stuff your shirt full of
ice cubes and stare at this for a bit:
 (Do you feel like sledding yet?)
Speaking of Siberia (were we???) for which I have a lingering fascination and curiosity, this morning I came across a great article published in The Independent (UK) a few years back.
Here is an excerpt from a nice piece written by the young author's mini-vacation in Siberia. It's great! See the link following this exceprt for the full text of his experience.
Very interesting, well worth a few minutes read.
 by Shaun Walker, Moscow Correspondent for +The Independent (UK)
So, before venturing outdoors in Yakutsk for the first time, I have decided to don a suitcase's worth of clothes to protect me against the cold. Starting from the feet and working up, I'm wearing: a pair of cotton socks, with a pair of thermal socks over them; a pair of ankle-high Gore-Tex boots; a set of thermal long-johns; a pair of jeans; a thermal undershirt (a present from a worried family member); a long-sleeved T-shirt; a tight-fitting cashmere jumper; a fleece; a padded winter coat with hood; a thin pair of woollen gloves (so that when I take the outer pair off to take photographs I won't expose naked flesh); a pair of gloves made of wool and Thinsulate; a wool scarf; and a woolly football hat.

Lumbering from my hotel room like the Michelin Man, and already breaking into a sweat due to the hotel's industrial heating system, I decide that I'm ready to face everything Yakutsk has to throw at me. I stride purposefully out of the hotel door and... well... it really isn't that bad. The small oblong of my face that is naked to the elements definitely registers the cold air, but on the whole, it feels fine; pleasant, even. As long as you're dressed right, I think, this isn't too bad.

Within a few minutes, however, the icy weather begins to assert itself forcefully. The first place to suffer is the exposed skin on my face, which begins to sting, and then experience shooting pains, before going numb, which is apparently dangerous, because it means blood flow to the skin has stopped. Then the cold penetrates the double layer of gloves and sets to work on chilling my fingers.

The woolly hat and padded hood are no match for minus 43C (-45F) either, and my ears begin to sting. Next to succumb are the legs. Finally, I find myself with severe pain all across my body and have to return indoors. I look at my watch. I have been outside for 13 minutes.
Time for another cup of hot chocolate.
And perhaps another pair of socks.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Morning Drive

Lines of the season.
Stark and strong against the backdrop of winter.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Foggy Winter Morning

With only the slightest traces of snow from our pre-Christmas storm remaining, yesterdays landscape was wrapped in a shroud of fog and warm temperatures.
It could have been spring.
The weatherman warns us, ".....don't put your winter coat away just yet. Tomorrow is coming....and have I got a surprise for you."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

It's a Group Project

This weeks home improvement project began with a trip to the
when it comes to aisles and aisles of can't-live-without goodies at prices that make the little
DIY hamster in my gut start scrambling furiously, I love the way the inventory is constantly changing.
It only makes sense to stop in twice a week.
Three times, maybe.
I mean, what if we missed something on Tuesday that'll be gone by Thursday?
Carpet squares? Boxes of Tile? Bricks! Landscape timbers! Beveled-edge mirrors!
So off we go. And not alone.
Ever hopeful, the supreme optimist ~ someone waits patiently in the car in
hopes that Habitat also carries doggie treats.
They do not.
He forgives and supervises Project O' The Day.
Which includes slapping around a whole bunch of paint.
And wearing just about as much.
Some of us paint. Some of us supervise. Some of us (of the feline persuasion) run around outside
chasing mice in the yard. Tough work, if you're called to it.
Eventually, collectively ~ we rest.
Dairy break! Our favorite kind.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


I don't need a thermostat.
The math is simple.
Fat cat on register + cold bathroom floor = icy winter morning.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Studio Saturday

Saturday afternoon with a couple of guitars, a few microphones, a friend or three and some sweet, sweet harmony. All this in a little recording studio tucked nicely into a basement.
Thus.....The Spacement 
Just in case someone got a sore throat....
Layer upon layer up layer, it just kept getting better.
Can't wait to hear the final mix.
Meanwhile, it's fun to watch their first videos from months back when they first started writing and performing together.

Momentary Return to Elegance

Some of us remember the days.

Ladies wore white gloves and carried embroidered handkerchiefs to church on Sunday.
I never much cared for dress-up myself; all my dresses were itchy.
But my memories of elegant and properly dressed church ladies are sweet.
+NPR 's Linda Holmes writes in grand perspective of the 2013 Inaugural Ball she attended as a journalist. Oh the elegance of it all! Check out her excellent I-was-there accounting of the event ~ and be SURE sure to click on the photo in the article that shows her glamorous view of the evening.

Read her wonderful essay here:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Big Wheel

Flip me a vowel, Vanna-girl.

Keeping Down the Weeds

My mom and dad went to college in Florida. Bible college.
It was the early 1950's.
Mom told me the story of how my father ~ then a young seminary student ~ chastised her in the back aisle of a small-town drug store when she leaned over a fountain to get a drink of water. "Stop! That's the colored's water fountain!!" he had hissed at her, grabbing her arm.
She said it was the first time she ever saw hatred in his eyes.

I grew up surrounded by people who disliked other races.
They also disliked Catholics and gypsies and lawyers.
But mostly they hated negroes.
It sounds funny to even use that word but to put their feelings into proper context it's the closest I care to use instead of the real "N" word I heard all my life.
Seeds of hate. Seeds of fear. Seeds of distrust.
I was surrounded by people who tossed those seeds into the young and fertile ground of my friends and my siblings and my cousins minds just like a farm wife scatters tiny lettuce seeds into the dirt every spring.
Lucky for me, my mom knew something about gardens.
She knew those were weed seeds and she believed in the power of the hoe.
And hoe she did. Hoe, hoe, hoe.
For every hateful seed sewn into my little mind's garden she relentlessly hacked away at that fertile ground with her hoe. Where hate was pressed into my mind to grow, she loosened the soil and buried even the remote possibility of it's growth with ideas of love and stories of trust.
Faithful to what she believed in, wanting to pass on something better to her children, she tended my garden and love grew.
Thanks mom.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Long Distance Collaboration

My creative partner lives in Virgina. She's a writer and an artist, just like me and her Auntie Sara who lives back here in Iowa. Thanks to technology, the miles between us really don't matter all that much. We just coordinate by text message and when we're both a "go" ~ I flip open my laptop, she props up her IPad, we each grab a handful of markers and some paper and we are ready to go.
This week we are writing stories. We decide on a subject, we toss about dialogue and ideas and since I write faster than she does ~ I take copious notes and she draws the illustrations. You'd be surprised how fast the stories come together.
Once we get the story mapped out, I type it up and send it off to her so the next time we chat we can continue with both of us reading what we've done so far from the printed copies. We resort to the ancient and yet highly reliable mode of correspondence ~ snail mail ~ because she likes to get letters. And I like to send them. In a couple of weeks we'll do face-time on the Internet again and let our imaginations chart the  continuing course of our story.
I love sending her mail.
And I love our online chats....

....which always, always, always include a visit with Auntie Sara the Hamster, not to be mistaken for the taller human-being type person in Iowa in whose honor she was named. Just like my little creative partner, my granddaughter ~ both Auntie Sara's are cute. 

But I do think the one with whiskers that lives in Virginia wiggles her nose faster.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Legacy of Love

Something just doesn't sound quite right.
A sweetheart gave me a handwritten love letter once.
I slept with it under my pillow until it disintegrated. Come to think of it, someone hand-stitched a beautiful, colorful quilt for me once. I slept under it, wrapped my babies in it and generally dragged it everywhere until....ohhh. Yep.  It disintegrated. Hmmm. I think maybe there's a lesson in there somewhere???? Ahh well. For another day.
Today's lesson is this:
At just under half a buck, still the best bargain in town.
And they make it so easy at  +USPS Stamps 
It's really easy to get started. Pick up a pen, grab a sheet of paper, send a handwritten letter to someone and make them feel all squishy-good and happy today. You don't even have to lick the
stamps anymore. (But the mailman still likes cookies.)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Afternoons with Oprah

I surely do miss my afternoons with Oprah.
Back in the way-back-when it was just me, the cooking and the cleaning and the ironing.
And my girl Oprah telling me to be all that I could be.
(Or was that the Army? Or my mom?)
Even as I watched her last show, I knew we'd both be fine.
We'd move on to new things.
Lifeclass on her O Network is one of her amazing new things.
This series with Pastor Rick Warren was great.
Their message here is right-on, the real stuff and downright life-changing.
Ten quick minutes.
Do yourself a favor and watch.
Click below to view:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Little Neighborhood Library

It's on a tiny little island created by the random meanderings of old, old neighborhood
streets. Grassy in the summer, shaded by a few ancient trees the grass stays
neatly mowed; the park bench freshly painted.
It looks like the neighborhood threw out it's arms and opened up a
B & B for elves. Or gnomes. Complete with tiny little flower boxes, it's the
cutest thing and clearly a focal point of neighborhood pride.
I don't know who built it, who paints it or who mows the grass around it.
I don't know what kind of books are collected behind the glass window of the front
door, nor do I know what the neighborhood rules are for borrowing.
I just like it.
And I think it's a great idea.
After falling in love with the little neighborhood library I found out NPR did a
report and apparently these little havens of literature and neighborhood know-how
are scattered across the country now. You can order one online if you
don't want to build your own. They call the librarians "stewards".
And I guess you can set your own rules.
Magic. Just so, so much neighborhood magic.
And by the's winter here.
In case you hadn't noticed.
In the summer the grass is green the sky is blue and the flowers bloom.
For now it's cold and visitors to the little neighborhood library have to wear mittens and boots.
But isn't that just the perfect time to wrap up in a blanket, throw another log on the family fire
and snuggle in with a good book?
Here's the link to Kirsten Durst's excellent report on All Things Considered
Give it a listen.....

Breaking Glass

If I'm not mistaken, the deafening sound I hear this morning is that
of a glass house shattering into fragments.
Whew. Lucky for all the rest of us we don't live in one of those. 
May I lift up, lest I learn what it's like to be down so low.
May I forgive without condition, lest I be reminded of my own failures.
May I encourage, lest I walk through my own valley alone.
May I point at the wear in my own shoes and not the tattered soles of those in which I have never walked. May I choose the footpath even when the bandwagon seems such an easy ride.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Peddler in Me

Not sure what page.
Don't know when he was born or where he lived.
But I'm sure he's back there somewhere ~ tucked into the crumbling pages of my distant heritage where I wish he'd taken time out from his busy round of stops to make note of his life as a peddler.
He's my great-great-great-great. Maybe greater than that.
Maybe an uncle. Heck, maybe he was "that" traveling salesman and my
great-great-great-great...etc. Grandma was a farmer's daughter.
Oh my.
All I know is, he was there. And he's with me today and every day.
I wake up just like he did, probably. Early, because mornings are the best time to get stuff done.
And our first thought is:
Let's sell something today!!!
 Yep. He's in my blood.
He'd likely be happy to know after a few months of job-searching I think I'm real close
to finding my next employment home. (Because ancestors worry about stuff like that) So while crusing websites, sending out apps and interviewing here and there,  I also spent the holiday season selling some cool stuff I really, really love. I'll continue as time allows because it's fun and....well, like I said: I love it.
Here's what I'm posting in the Etsy shop this week: 
Valentines Day. Must it be chocolate??? I think not.
Rusted steel art and some fabulously bright and glassy magnets are more fun, methinks.
Loving these bent-frame steel signs too.
A lovely bit of rusted patina on each one. Very. Cool.
Slightly industrial. Contemporary.
Tell you what ~ they look WICKED cool with all the granite and steel and slate floors.
Good accents, whatever you want to call the decor.
And...ever-the-mother I continue to love opportunities
to share good thoughts with anyone who will listen.
Like this one:
And this one.
Because............well because......
Seriously, it is!!!!!
I mean, haven't you said it a bazillion times?
And that sign makes a great bulletin board for an office too.
No pins, no tacks.....just use magnets.
Ohhh now how awesome is that.
Talk amongst yourselves.
Meanwhile, I'll tell you what my roommate thinks......
"The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts."
Marcus Aurelius said that. He was a Roman emporer. Kinda a big deal.
And my Binks............yeah, it's a four-paws up from the big fur ball.
He likes.
You can check all of these pieces and lots more here:
And I do thank you, thank you very much.

Home Sweet Home

Forbes? Was it Forbes that said this is a great place to live?
And USA Today? I think they said it too.
Tell you what. They're right.
 I grew up here. Skinned my knees, learned to ride my bike and played Worky-Up in the street with the neighbor kids wearing their old hand-me-down sweatshirts and sneakers. I rode horses with my cousins here, got my first kiss on New Years Eve under the mirror ball at the skating rink here and waited tables for tips at the airport just up the street. I learned to drive a stick here, moved into a cheap little upstairs apartment with friends here and reported for my first grown-up job in a smoke-filled little office on Hickman Road here.
Raised my family here. Cheered at ballgames, danced in the streets and threw candy from parade floats here. I buried my Dad here.
Happy. Sad. Loved. Lonely. Busy. Bored. Employed and notsomuch.
Young, older and older yet. Mourning. Celebrating. Cheering. Sobbing. Winking. Wishing.
Creating. Erasing. Building. Tearing Down.
I've done it all here.
And I've only just begun.
Indeed, these are the colors of my home sweet home.

It's a Wrap

Christmas traditions. Some old. Some new. It's good to be back home in Iowa where I belong where I can enjoy flour-covered afternoons with my kids.
Sara and I love the whole frosting-thing.
We sort of lean toward non-traditional colors and designs.....

We STRONGLY lean towards a very traditional style of eating......

....I fondly refer to as "The Four Bite Christmas Cookie"

And just in time for Christmas weekend...............

Yep. The ol' man still knows how to make
the little girl in me smile.
Meanwhile, hours away my granddaughter had Christmas fun with
her Dad who flew to the coast for a couple of days....
Maybe next year, Victoria. But I love the good time you and Dad had together. And thanks for the pictures you two sent Grandma Debbie. Best Christmas present ever.

Meanwhile, back in the snowy Midwest......your Iowa family is preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse.......seriously, I don't know much about the whole thing but I am warned by them that ignorance is no excuse and I best get my Zombie-defense act together, lest I lose a hand or a foot or something in the first round.....I tend to get my bad-guys mixed up but just in case, I think I'm supposed to wear garlic around my neck to be safe...???
Or not.
Aunt Missy ruthlessly wiped us all off the map.
She looks all innocent and stuff but watch your back.
Ho.Ho. Now let's melt all that snow....
get on with the new year!