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Happy Birthday Nel!

Nel is Canyon’s cousin and we celebrated her third birthday last Sunday.

They have a great house with a fantastic yard in Lake Zurich. Canyon loved playing with his cousins and all the fun toys!


More Lessons, This Time From Mary Oliver

Trying to do yard work and entertain Canyon is tricky business. Just when you think he is safely occupied you turn around and see him rocking dangerously on the chair, about to topple on to the patio pavers. Or you think he is secure in the playhouse but when you run in to get a glass of water you find out that he has figured out how to open the door and has crawled into the garage. So you give up on what you thought was important. You force yourself to just relax and enjoy the outdoors with two of your favorite beings…

You read poems by Mary Oliver out loud.

This one makes you cry.

Such Singing in the Wild Branches (2003)
It was spring
and finally I heard him
among the first leaves—
then I saw him clutching the limb

in an island of shade
with his red-brown feathers
all trim and neat for the new year.
First, I stood still

and thought of nothing.
Then I began to listen.
Then I was filled with gladness—
and that’s when it happened,

when I seemed to float,
to be, myself, a wing or a tree—
and I began to understand
what the bird was saying,

and the sands in the glass
for a pure white moment
while gravity sprinkled upward

like rain, rising,
and in fact
it became difficult to tell just what it was that was singing—
it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed

not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers,
and also the trees around them,
as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds
in the perfectly blue sky— all, all of them

were singing.
And, of course, yes, so it seemed,
so was I.
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn’t last

for more than a few moments.
It’s one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,

is that, once you’ve been there,
you’re there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?

Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then— open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

— Mary Oliver, “Such Singing in the Wild Branches”
Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays,
Beacon Press, Boston, 2003, pp. 8-9

“Yes there are trees near me! Yes my soul does need comforting!”

And the robins and chickadees serenade as you blow bubbles.

How blessed you are to have this life.

How blessed you are that you can stay home and enjoy it.


Lesson Learned From Lake Superior Rocks

Canyon likes toys. John and I like to buy him toys. We usually buy everything used from rummage sales or thrift stores, but it still adds up in cost and space. But we love to make him happy.

Canyon likes his giant climbing toy bought on Craigslist.

Canyon likes his sand and water table bought at a rummage sale.

Canyon likes his bag of Lake Superior rocks we bagged up for free on Stoney Point.

Lesson-Canyon doesn’t care how much the toy cost, or how fancy. Canyon just likes to play.

Simple works.


An Offering Or A Warning?

Saturday morning we headed out the front door to hit some rummage sales. As we went down the front steps we saw this at the foot of the stairs.

A message from the neighborhood feral cat colony.

Now there are two ways to take this. An offering or a warning.

Now here’s a little history on our feral cat situation. Things calmed down a bit last summer but then this winter they were back with a urine spraying vengence, destroying our light up holiday decorations, numerous welcome mats and pillows. Not satisfied with peeing on our front door they started climbing the yew and peed on our second floor windows! I can’t leave the windows open unsupervised for fear they will spray through the screen and hit the furniture! Some nights I will be here at my desk and Nemesis will have climbed the tree and is sitting at the window looking at me, like he expects me to let him in.

The cats used to live in a semi-abandoned house a few doors down but in late winter they started renovating and evicted he cats from the garage. They were looking for a new headquarters and seemed to think our house was available. Since our house is surrounded by trees and bushes it provides cover and the bird feeder is a potential meal source, making it a cat haven.

In March I hit the breaking point when no less than FIVE feral cats were on my front porch fighting. I chased them out and then Nemesis was the only one left. I felt sorry for him since they seemed to be all after him. My animal loving heart got the best of me and I went to get him something to eat but when I came out to give it to him I caught him peeing on the porch! I posted on Yelp Talk, looking for advice. Numerous people responded that cats don’t like citrus so I rummaged through my cupboards and found some orange scented floor cleaner. The cats came back 15 minutes later and I ran screaming out of the house in my pajamas, barefoot and squirting them with cleaning products. It was one in the morning. I looked insane. And at that point I was.

On morning walks I learned that a house one block over feeds the cats. I see the bowls and the animals waiting for their meal. The old tom cat who has been around at least as long as I have glares at me. I hiss and bare my teeth.

So now we are back to the dead rat and bird. Most sources say things like “She is giving you a gift by doing that. She thinks she is helping with feeding you by bringing her kill home, you must have done something right in her book. lol keep up the good work.
Your cat just considers you a part of her pride. She’s just doing her best to provide for you. You’re not going to get her to stop so just try and be pleased that your cat loves you. And watch where you step. They like you and want to share their find with you.”

So does this make me their goddess? Are they making me an offering of dead prey? Is it a sign of respect? A peace offering?

I personally think it is more of a warning. A cat’s way of saying, “You’re Next.”


Canyon at 15 Months

Yeah, he is awesome.


Finally, Some Company Around Here!

I always have moments where I wish I could go back in time and freak out my past self with some crazy future self knowledge. This week I would have gone back to circa 1994/95 to visit Jen Jones and me at some random house party in Duluth. I would pop in and say, “you know how you don’t really know each other now? Well in like 16 years you’ll be hanging out with your babies in Chicago talking about your husbands and stuff!”

Yeah. Jen and I have known each other through mutual friends for a long, long time but this week was the third time we actually talked! The first being the above house party, the second last week at Homegrown and the third was here! When she and her husband moved to the Chicagoland area and we reconnected through a mutual friend on Facebook. Still took us a year to get together but we finally did-complete with babies!

And of course I offered to dress Ethan up in costumes and take pictures…

It was a great afternoon and when they left Canyon and I took a mini nap. When we woke up he played in his room for a bit and I was on the computer when someone rang the bell. I was annoyed, assuming it was people trying to convert me or sell me fake utilities. I ignored it. Rang again. Lilo is barking like crazy. Then my cell phone rings. It’s McDrama. I answer and he’s all like, “whatcha doin?” and I’m like “nothin”, then I hear Lilo in the background of his call-“Are you outside my house?”

They were! Since I have to get a babysitter to go out so he and Dawn brought the party to me! Wine and snacks! I rewarded them with Top The Tater and Old Dutch chips. Know what we learned? Top the Tater combined with hummus is AWESOME. Double dipping was totally encouraged. We were going to take a picture to mock the Kantowicz’s but never did. This will have to do. “You might have fancy schmancy Vancouver with all your great friends but we have Top the Tater! ” Stupid Canada.

Three bottles of wine later and the great day was over. Thanks to everyone for coming over!

The next day I combined the leftovers from my lunch with Jen and the snacks from Joe and Dawn and made chicken soup. It was like happiness soup!


A Bumper Sticker, A Book and a Sheep Puppet

On the final night of my studio lighting class we were learning how to set up for High Key Lighting. Now I knew this would be fun because some of the folks from my advanced class had learned it and we played with it one night. I liked the way those photos turned out so I had come prepared with props. A bumper sticker, a book and a sheep puppet.

When it came time to take the photos nobody wanted to! Everyone just wanted to go home early! But I still wanted my pictures so thanks classmate and teacher who took these for me!


And So Mother’s Day Ends

We had delicious steaks off the grill at Dad & Mary’s. After dinner Lilo and I took a walk out into the wilderness.

I decided I wanted to go further and was a bit nervous about not having a leash for Lilo so I called John and had him call Lilo back to the house so I could continue on my own.

I took self-indulgent self portraits of me with my new necklace.

I went further into the woods. I was bending down to take a picture of some tree stump when I heard something crash in the woods about 15ft behind me. “Here we go” I thought as I whirled around to face the attacking bear. “This is it.” Whenever something scary or potentially life threatening happens my first thought is “Here we go.” My mind raced with the Animal Planet movie version of the last moments of my life. They would find my camera and those self indulgent self portraits would be the last photos of me. They would find my beautiful new necklace in some bear poop. They would find the rest of me partially buried under some leaves.

This is the way my mind works.

I never did see what was out there. When you are alone in the woods at near dark a squirrel a deer and a bear all sound the same. Later I saw something black in the fading twilight and kept moving closer to see if it was a bear or a tree stump. My vision isn’t so great and as I moved even closer I had that moment of clarity “if you seriously can’t tell if it is a bear or a stump you should probably be moving away, not to.”

I never actually saw a bear this trip. Around 1:30am John and I were out on the deck admiring the stars when the fox walked by. That was cool. Of course the day we left the bear came out in the daylight and tried to take down the bird feeders. Of course.