Thursday, May 31, 2007

Into the Woods

Since I'm on a nostalgia kick, I thought I'd mention some fun times from the late 1970s.

My parents bought some acreage near Berkley Springs, WV thinking they might build their retirement home there. It was in its natural state -- LOTS of scrubby little trees, kudzu, poison ivy, rocks and other natural attributes that had to be dealt with.

To even get to the property meant fording a good sized stream - only possible certain times of the year and under certain weather conditions. I took this pic one day my Dad and I went up to cut fire wood and gingerly made our way across the ford. If it hadn't been for his big ole Dodge van with its big ole wheels, we probably would have had to turn around and drive back home.

After the ford it was another 3-4 miles on a rough, uphill, twisting, dirt road to the lot. It was always an interesting ride because we'd spot deer, a wild turkey or two, and other, furry critters. Turkey Buzzards lazily circled overhead while we cooked bacon and pancakes in an iron skillet over a wood fire. Funny how much better food tastes cooked outdoors. Coffee in that setting never tasted better.

Anyway, we'd then get out the chainsaw to cut up fallen trees and to clear some of the scrub. I kept my distance from the chainsaw and was the official branch holder and hauler while Dad wielded the screeching, stinky gas powered monster. It was always nice when he'd cut it off and the ringing in my ears faded enough to again hear the sounds of birds and wind through the trees. Sooner or later, we'd load the logs into the Dodge and head back down to Maryland.

Those day trips are the closest I've ever gotten to and ever will get to camping. I'm not into hardship. Nevertheless and hypothermia aside, I cherished those days with my Dad and sorta wish we could return to them. We're both older and wiser and they sold the property years ago, but those were the days. . . .

In MY day. . . .

. . . . domestic chores started early in life!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Where Art Comes to Life

Ramses Wissa Wassef School grounds and examples of art pieces made there. . .

Note: Sorry I keep forgetting that blogs run with the latest posting first, so this one is out of order.

Arts in Egypt

Several posts ago I mentioned my trip to Egypt in 1981. The Ramses Wissa Wassef School is in Harrania, Cairo. It was founded by a man who believed that everyone has artistic talents if just given the tools and materials to create art.

My first impression of the school included charming local children who were among the students. The photos are poor quality partly because they were taken a long time ago, and because it was hard to get them to stand still!

The little girls were modest and shy; totally lovely and natural.

The little boys were like boys everywhere -- rambunctious and curious.

The work that local farmers and their families created was charming in its simplicity and impressively executed. They make sculptures, paintings and extraordinary wool and cotten weavings. When we were there in 1981, we were told nothing was for sale, that all the work was a part of their heritage and would remain in the school. Now, visiting their website I'ved learned that some things are for sale. Their work is often made without a pattern and is simply spectacular.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Nature vs. Pharmaceutical Manufacturers

Even the title of this post indicates the simplicity nature offers as opposed to the complex chemical compounds created and heavily marketed by pharmaceutical manufacturers (PMs). Now the PMs are offering women the opportunity to avoid their menstrual cycles completely. My double-take on this one was out of genuine disbelief and horrified shock. Could this be another ploy by the male-dominated PMs to control women and make men's lives easier by eliminating a perceived excuse for women to avoid sex with them?! Why should women use such artificial means to avoid the inconvenience and yes, pain of a natural process. Once ibuprofen came onto the market, the pain part was virtually eliminated for many of us. Why aren't the PMs working on new and improved male contraceptives? Think they're afraid of mood swings, weight gain and maybe cancer? Can't have that -- they wouldn't know how to cope! All the contraceptive and male enhancing drugs we are swallowing in increasing quantities make their way into our rivers and lakes through urine. Fish with both male and female sex organs and amphibians with odd mutations should be warning signs that something we humans are doing is out of kilter, to say the least. Unless the PMs take this message to heart their profit margins will continue to dictate how they want us to live our lives. Enough already!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day Weekend '07

With the thousands of Harley's in town for the annual Memorial Day Rolling Thunder event, I thought about friends I'd lost during the war in Vietnam. That was just too sad, so I moved on to those who had survived.
This picture was shot during the summer of 1969 in Dupont Circle, here in DC. As soon as my friend Barry graduated from college, he was drafted. Before he went overseas, he dropped in to see me. I'm glad there were photographers cruising the city looking for just such opportunities.

Barry and I went to a small college in Iowa and during his senior year (my sophomore year), he took me to his fraternity's formal dance. He was a member of Phi Kappa Tau, a true gentlemen's fraternity -- at least at that time and place. We corresponded for several years, then I guess we both moved on to other people. I heard he married a girl from his Massachusetts hometown and I started dating a local guy.

I'll take time later today to remember those who didn't make it back from Vietnam and all the other places we've sent our young men and women to fight and die.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Current Reading

One of my parents recommended Pat Conroy's book Beach Music and I started reading it recently. It first came out in 1995 and I can now see why it was a best seller. I'm totally entranced with his delicious style of writing. Just had to share an example:

"In the den, I looked over the library and felt that slight pleasure I always felt when I realized my parents were so widely read. I moved my hands along the worn set of Tolstoy and thought again about the irony of a father who loved Tolstoy but could not quite bring himself to love his own family.

I smelled the books and in so smelling realized that I was breathing the smell of myself, the familiar incense of the past coming to me in an envelope of aromas: wood smoke, law books, floor wax, sea air and a thousand other lesser scents that went into the making of this strange wine of air and memory."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Legacy

This oxalis plant is descended from a larger one my grandfather tended for many years. When he died in 1972, his oldest daughter, my mother, divided his large plant into four separate ones which went to her and her three siblings. When Mom's plant was large enough, she divided it into six plants; one for her to keep and five more; one for each of her children.

Over the years mine has had periods of absolutely glorious growth and others when I thought for sure I'd killed it. After recent death throws, it's now coming back!

This little piece of my grandfather's life so represents his passion for living things and gives me hope for the future as well as an ethereal reminder of him.

More Flower Power

Here's another shot from our balcony garden. The koleus and petunias blend together nicely.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Taking a Chance Can Be Good

When we bought flowers for the balcony, I picked up one plant that was punier than the others and had no blossoms on it. I knew it was a petunia, but had no idea what color it would be. It took a little longer to blossom, but now we know what we got -- a real beauty!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Happy Birthday, Alex!

My godson/nephew Alex turns 7 years old today and his Uncle Bobby and I will be hosting a family picnic by the river to celebrate.
This is one of my favorite pics of him, at the age of two. As soon as he noticed the camera flash, he scooted around and had a big grin on his face! The star stacker was his favorite thing for months because it lit up and made music. It was so fun to watch one, chubby little finger push the button to start the lights and music, often in rapid succession with lots of chuckles.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Only in Texas

My cousin's daughter sent me this pic. She said it was taken somewhere near Weatherford, TX by a guy who works in a hangar there. It reminded me of an earlier post of mine of Bull Run Park's bluebell flowers. This shot is really pretty refreshed by snow!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Happy Birthday, Tucker!

Patty just sent me this picture of Tucker taken during his first birthday party a few months ago.
He's just too cute!!

Simple Justice

Official flag of the District of Columbia

John Kelly is one of my favorite columnists in the Washington Post. Today he wrote about a song written about 20 years ago by a member of the D.C. League of Women Voters in support of voting rights for the District.

It's not one that will win any awards -- as a matter of fact, it's kinda pitiful, but the effort shouldn't go unrecognized. You decide for yourself.

A Raffle of WHAT?!

The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) is conducting a "Bloomberg Gun Giveaway" in protest of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's effort to crack down on illegal gun sales in Virginia. Like Texans, Virginians love their guns and will shoot anyone who tries to take 'em away! Uh, just kidding, guys . . . ..don't shoot!

Anyway, Mayor Bloomberg believes that guns bought in Virginia are used in New York city crimes. He is suing six Virginia gun shops he says illegally sold guns to his undercover agents.

The president of the VCDL says that more than 2,500 people were awarded raffle tickets after they spent at least $100 at three different gun and sports shops in the Richmond area. The drawing is this Thursday and winners will receive weapons and ammunition.

WOW -- just what we need -- more guns and ammo out there. . . .....

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Godmothers count, too. . . .

My first godchild is now a grown woman whose talents continue to blossom. She was born while I was in college, so I wasn't much of a godmother for her first few years. I'd never had godparents, so I really didn't know what was expected of me.

Thankfully, Nan has forgiven my shortcomings and is now not only my first niece and godchild, but a friend and mentor. She encouraged me to start a blog and to try drawing. The blog has been fun, but my artistic skills still leave much to be desired. Perhaps photography is more my forte. Anyway, I'll keep trying.

Thank you for the Mothers' Day card, Nan. You will always own a piece of my heart.

Janet is mother of two boys. She took to mothering so naturally, just like our sister Patty.

Zach is now a handsome, smart teenager and a marvelous big brother to Alex. I took this picture of Janet and Zach on the day he was baptised.

He and Janet spent many days with me here, in DC. Our favorite thing was hanging out in a park on the Potomac River, across from the airport. We also hit the Capital Children's Museum a few times. The giant "cootie bug" was irresistible to kids and Zach was no exception.
Both of my sisters are mothers to a total of six fantastic children.

I caught this when Patty's first child, Chris was baptised. It was a formal, Ukranian Catholic service in which only the godparents partook. I sat in a pew behind my sister and could almost feel her anguish at having to hold herself back from her wailing son. When the priest laid Chris on the cold marble floor in front of the alter, he stopped crying. I think we were all a little nervous wondering if he was OK. When Patty was finally handed her son, exhausted, he burrowed as far as he could into her shoulder and we all sighed in relief.

Chris is now a working man in Chicago, having graduated from the University of Illinois a couple of years ago.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Happy Mothers' Day, Mom!

It's a wonder how Mom has survived nearly 62 years of marriage, 5 children, 4 dogs, various rescued wild animals and all the illnesses, weirdness and pain in the butt attitude of hormonal teenagers. Somehow she managed to hang on to sanity and a wry sense of humor.

Her considerable mothering skills smoothly transitioned into grandmothering.

In middle age I've finally come to realize that she was right most of the time. I wish I'd followed her example and taken her advice more often. Three cheers, Mom!!

Friday, May 11, 2007

When I first saw this blot, I was reminded of a family crest -- you know, the kind with two, rearing lions on either side. Only my lions look more like two svelte greyhounds. The center sorta reminds me of a frog ready to be dissected in high school biology -- eeuuuww!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Happy Anniversary!

May 10, 1980

Patty and Tom were married in Potomac, Maryland. The day was perhaps a little more eventful than we would have liked but, in the end, vows were made and everyone had a good time. Many of us shed happy tears for a couple so obviously in love with each other.

Four children, one dog, hermit crabs, and a pet rat notwithstanding, they remain best friends and lovers.

A Path Taken

Cape Henlopen, Delaware has a spectacular beach. It is largely untouched by man so it's a more natural ocean experience than elsewhere up or down the coast.

Hard as it is for younger generations to imagine, during WWII manned defensive observation towers and gun turrets lined the dunes here and all along the Eastern seaboard. Some have been left in place at Henlopen as a reminder of what could have been.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Funky Flowers

We loaded our balcony planters with flowers yesterday and I simply had to mess with a pic of some. Can you tell what they are?

Friday, May 4, 2007


My first childhood pet was a mixed breed, abandoned puppy who wandered into our backyard and started pulling freshly laundered sheets off the line -- not a good way to win over our Mom. Nevertheless, after much pleading and whining by my older brother and me and a notice in the local paper that was never answered, we got to keep him.

He was a free spirit in every sense of the word. He'd wander off for days at a time and return with a smug look on his face. We figured he'd sullied the reputation of a pure-bred dog somewhere in town. Other times, he'd come home with injuries, clearly from fighting another dog or two and once from being hit by a car.

Laddy was our protector and accomplice in our many excursions to the "wild side" -- on the bluff between two sets of commuter railroad tracks, the beach and through the territory of a nasty, standard poodle that liked to bite. If Laddy had wandered ahead or behind us, once he heard our yelps, he'd come like a barking streak of white and brown lightning to drive away the predator.

One of his favorite pastimes was finding the most disgusting smelling matter and then rolling in it. Several times it was dead fish on the beach. An unusual event left mounds of Budweiser Clydesdales' poop in our intersection. He looked positively ecstatic coating himself with the nasty, but warm glop. Of course Mom had to deal with these "unpleasantnesses." She'd throw on an apron, grab him in whatever fashion she could and dump him into a wash tub filled with warm water and Tide detergent. If it wasn't for Mom's naturally loving nature, Laddy probably would not have survived as long as he did. Of course my brother and I also had to pay a price for Laddy's indiscretions.

Memories of Laddy started flooding my mind when I started watching The Dog Whisperer on the Animal Planet channel. To my utter horror and ever-lasting shame, I came to realize that we'd done everything wrong with him! Rather than willingly coming to our sides or into the house, he'd dance around just out of reach. When he finally relented he'd get a smack. No wonder he didn't want to come to us!!

I just hope God has a special place for pets and that Laddy is spending eternity rolling in whatever he wishes to. I also hope he knows how much we loved him and how fondly his human family remembers him.

"There are many paths to enlightenment. Be sure to take one with a heart." --Lao Tzu, "Tao Te Ching"

Thursday, May 3, 2007

World Press Freedom Day

In 1993, the United Nations passed a resolution declaring May 3rd World Press Freedom Day. No, I'd never heard of it, either. The more I thought about it the more I like the idea. Wouldn't it be something if journalists everywhere were free to report the news honestly and unfettered? -- North Koreans might finally learn that humans have been on the moon. -- The Burmese, whose country has been brutalized and renamed Myanmar by a military junta might learn that the world has not forgotten them. But then news from Darfur, Sudan might lead them to think differently. Nevertheless, as much as the American press gets wrong, it gets far more right; often embarrassing us by reporting our own foibles and gaffes. However, without a free press, corruption would be far greater and we might settle into a complacency that would allow unscrupulous types to grab control. Happy World Press Freedom Day!

Blot #22

For those new to my blog, I create blots with dimensional paints -- similar to the old ink blots.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Bullet Proof

Just got off the phone with a friend who lives in San Antonio, Texas. Seems a 20-year old company there is reaching out to new clientele. It's speciality has been retrofitting limos and other top of the line autos with armor and bullet proof glass. We're probably both thinking that's a good idea for government and diplomatic types, right?

Well, now anyone with $90,000 can own an armored vehicle, fitted with systems that spew tacks and smoke {Agent 007 style} to slow down or stop pursuers. The windows and exterior are armor-piercing-bullet-proof. They get some pretty big hail down in the Lone Star State, but armor-piercing-bullets?!

Bet law enforcement is really excited about this new development. . .

Counting the Days to Meet Tucker

This picture was taken by my niece, Bethany, on Tucker's trip to his new home. He's half poodle and half golden retriever and ALL about family.

When I first saw this picture, one of dozens I enjoy looking at regularly, I fell in love with the furry guy. [If we didn't live in an apartment, my husband and I would probably have several dogs.]

Tucker was supposed to grow into a medium sized dog, but genetics decided differently. He had big feet as a puppy and has now grown into them. Nevertheless, he's a gentle, loving pet and I can hardly wait to meet him this summer.

First in 2007

We are both devotees of water melon and when we saw some in the grocery last Saturday, we decided to chance an early one.

If you know anything about water melons, you know we were not disappointed. YUM!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Happy Birthday, Key!!

Yesterday was this young lady's 20th birthday.

I took this picture of my niece/goddaughter when she was four or five.

She's still an independent, ebullient and loving young woman and a sophomore at the College of William and Mary. She plays bassoon, was high school home coming queen, runs, rows, plays basketball, does yoga, and so much more that it wears me out just thinking about it all!

I'm blessed with three godchildren -- Nan, Key and Alex. I enjoy a special connection with each unique individual that enriches my life immeasurably. I thank their parents for sharing them with me!