Monday, January 26, 2015

blue dragonfly that highlights changes in our life

We are a family that likes to shop at Menards. There I said it. Sometimes we go in just to browse. There is a giddy amount stuff available and purpose-driven trips also spark ideas for future home improvement projects. We get everything from screen tents to drill bits to holiday decorations from Menards and we like it.

The store has an astonishing variety of outdoor solar lights and when they go on sale for $1, we buy lots. Last time we bought so many that the little one renamed our trailer retreat "happy lights." Poor girl hasn't had much time to enjoy the lights because she's either in bed or it is simply too cold. We, the parents, enjoy them immensely. We've lined some of the paths that lead deep into the woods with these lights and the forgotten ones become known again when the sun goes down and lights brighten up the paths. To say they are functional would be a total lie. They exist simply for delight.

I, of course, had to take the time to photograph some at twilight.

The background in these photos is snow. I love the way the blue light took over and made everything around it blue. There are no dragonflies flying around right now (though we did spot a few mosquitoes over the firepit) so it is nice to have these scattered around the property.

There are so many decisions I never would have made before I had a child. The solar lights are a good example. We had left most of the property pristine in that we hadn't developed it much. But now that she is in our life, we make paths and enlarge our outdoor living areas. We make benches and plant a bunch of solar lights in the woods. We haven't gone over board and are still using only about 3/4 acre of our 4 acre woods but this winter I've been feeling this shift in how we use the land. And it feels good.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

heat waves and a January thaw

The snow was wet and packed because the temps warmed to above freezing causing snow melt. The paths between the trailer and the Jeep, between the wood pile and the firepit melted and got icy as the sun rose high in the sky and went down into night. I was overheated from all the wood chopping, from all the layers of fleece and wool. I drank loads of tea which warmed me from the inside. I was in my big snow boots for most of the weekend.

We heard wolves off in the distance, far enough away that I just kept chopping wood. I'm getting better with chopping. Sometimes it feels like I'm slicing through butter. That resounding crack as a big log splits is something I've come to yearn for on the drive to the woodland retreat. The smooth slide of the axe as it cuts through the grain of the wood is something I crave to feel through my fingers.

I had to ask myself why I was so into chopping wood. It is a weight loss plan. I chop until my muscles are soar and my back is aching, then I take a break, drink some tea, after which I return to my task. This weekend I chopped enough wood for two weekends. Dave's plotting to get another load for me to split.

I find myself talking to a lot of people about chopping wood. Do I hope to impress them? Maybe. Am I seeking a kindred spirit? Certainly I get excited when I encounter another woman who knows a bit about chopping. I think of that ongoing debate raging between working moms and stay-at-home moms. I don't know where I fit it. I am neither and both. And, I offer an example to my daughter of a woman who chops woods, something I've wanted to do ever since I watched Caroline Ingalls on television.

Not being able to easily chop wood was a hurdle for me. I've never spent much time out there without Dave. In the few instances where I went with a friend, I had Dave shop wood for me in advance, then was burdened with rationing out the wood so as not to run out. The situation is all different right now and now I can picture weekends out there with the little lotus bud and just myself, for a few hours or a day until daddy joins us. I'm getting a better sense of how life will be when the little one starts school. We'll need to make the most of her time away from school and that is going to require that I take some matters into my own hands.

How did this post become all about chopping wood? The weekend also had sparklers, chemicals that lit the fire in blue and green (the result of a stop at a fireworks store - Wisconsinites sure love their fireworks), hot pink yarn for knitting and snow castles. There was also lots of cuddles and smooching, hugs and getting cozy under the blankets. All the best of a January thaw!

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Flowers in the Snow

Bright colors are such a stark contrast to the neutral shades of winter. If anything, this is what she adds to our life. Vivacious, brilliant, and bright (and camera-fatigued) are good words to describe this little bud of ours.

Taking photographs in the snow is such a challenge. I was looking forward to uploading all the photos off my dslr, photos from the weekend. I felt a twinge of frustration as I realized each and every photo captures different light. Some are blown out, some are too dark, the variation comes even when I hadn't moved but simply kept my finger down for the continuous shutter. Yet each photo of the Bud is full from the color of her coat and gloves.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

STILL inspired

Last year I discovered Mary Jo Hoffman's STILL blog and was blown away with her images and her commitment to posting a photo every day. She is local to my region and many of the photos are from places that we live and visit. Hoffman offers such a wonderfully unique view of things that are so familiar to me. It is truly inspirational.

Taking a cue from her blog to try it out myself, I fussed and floundered around the idea in 2014. Getting that pristine white background is a challenge, shadows are total frustration. While taking a walk in the Wisconsin woods in the winter in the middle of the day with the sun shining high in the sky, I was finally able to do something similar.

I've been thinking so much about what it is to be an artist. In the most recent Lean In meeting we discussed creativity and art. While I raised my hand high when identifying that I am a creative person, my hand creeped down when I was asked if I thought of myself as an artist.

I believe that artists bring meaning to their creativity. Meaning loaded with social commentary about anything and everything. And that is the very thing that I struggle with. To me, art is not just about creating beautiful images, but gathering those images into a series that says something. To me, art is about the daily practice that evolves into meaning. I have lots of daily practices but they never seem to evolve and maybe that has to do with being a gemini - always dabbling, rarely mastering. But also as a gemini, I keep gaining inspiration by the people and the world around me.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

snow girl

She told me to bring five carrots for all the snow girls but only one ended up being used. We had planned to bring grape vines from the city but like so many other things, stuff from the city never comes with us to the woods. Which is probably a good thing as we don't want grape vine to invade the area.

The snow girl got one of our bright orange scarves that we wear around hunting season and some curly foliage popping up here and there in the snow. I think this little lady sweet!

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

winter in the wisconsin woods

When will we be there? The little one always asks as we approach the Minnesota/Wisconsin border. My response is look for the river, as soon as we cross the St. Croix river we'll be in Wisconsin. Over the river and into the woods, to the woodland retreat we go.

The wood chopping has picked up and I think I'm well on my way to a cord. My stance is better and my technique is improving. Dave tells me to release the anger while the axe makes the long swing from behind my shoulders to the log standing in front of me. It helps. Even with high temps in the thirties during the day, we had the fire going most of the time we were outside which means most of the time we were at the trailer retreat.

In the woods there is lots of snow. We wandered around in our snow pants and big boots. There were deer and bunny trails to follow, and the size of the poo indicated that the one we chose was that of a white-tail deer. We saw a few dart past, not a one decided to linger.

Snow pants and snow girls and snow forts and snow angels. Snow snow snow. The weekend was all about the snow. How to dress properly for the snow, how to wash dishes in the snow, how to make use of the snow, how to stay warm in the snow. The amount of gloves and hats that need to be rotated in when others are wet is ridiculous but necessary.

Warm gloves, warm hats, warm tea, warm hearts, warm words, warm love.

Yeah, I'd say it was a wonderful weekend and one that I didn't want to end.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

hydrate: updates

After I printed out this photo, I realized it is a selfie. Look closely.   :)

hydrate update: Well, I got sick, really sick. Stay in bed all day sort of sick. Yuck. Often I think about having a day in bed or a day on the couch knitting, both of which are virtually impossible since kiddo joined the family. Funny how the Universe gave me exactly what I wanted. I have to be more careful about my wishes. It's nice to be feeling a little better and eating. Illness is not a weight loss plan that I can recommend.

It was hard to stay hydrated while things were violently coming out of my body. I may never eat swedish meatballs again. Having tea on hand got me hydrated really quick when I was finally able to keep something in my tummy.

And my resolution to not buy more tea until I finished my stash? Well that flew out the window the moment I had a little time to wander into TeaSource. Gah. How to resist all those jars of aromatic tea? But then I brought them home and realized that I don't much care for loose tea anymore. I want the convenience of tea in tiny little bags.

So I'm floating around 2015 getting lots of things done and feeling like I'm getting nothing done. I got a gentle nudge from Deonne about resuming a 365 project which I might well do since I never stopped taking photos, maybe it's the posting that I need to ease up on.

skating update: today was the little one's second skating class. After Dave and I got her ready, he walked her to the ice annnnnd....the teacher came right over and grabbed the little one's hand to lead her out to the group. I don't know. I can't say if that's because of Dave or just because. I know that last week I was on the verge of major illness so I may be have been overly sensitive. I also know for certain that I'm glad we went back. She's improved so much already. And she had fun today.

blog update: It seems every few years I come back to questioning what it is I do on this blog. The last time I'm sure was right before I started the 365 projects. Now I just don't know. I don't have a focus and I tend to use the blog as a journal.

Thanks to those of you who keep reading. It helps me to envision your encouraging faces as I spew out words here and there!

Go forth and hydrate, my friends!

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Her Daddy. My Love.

Happy Birthday, Dave! You are the best Daddy ever!

I'm sorry that I was sick over the weekend and that you had to cook dinner. I'm sorry that I have meeting tonight, on the night of your actual birthday. Now you have to cook dinner again.

You are amazing and warm and wonderful and caring and considerate and sexy. We are both so lucky to have in our lives.

This is your year. 2015 is going to be so very good for you. And for all of us. I just know it.

Happy Birthday, my Love.

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Friday, January 9, 2015

brave little lotus bud

I'm crying right now as I upload these photos. I had this utterly heartbreaking experience at ice skating lessons.

She was so brave. She kept falling on her bum but she would get right up. She kept going even when the instructor left her behind on the ice. She just kept going and I kept trying to keep a smile on my face, my thumbs up as I kept trying to motion that she was doing a great job. But inside I was weeping and wailing. The tears finally came flowing out last night while trying to tell the tale to her Daddy. And this morning as I'm trying to write this post.

She is the youngest in the class, just one month from 5 years of age. The class is for 5 year olds and older. This was her first time without a walker and while she was getting the hang of it, I felt she needed more attention from the instructor. I understand that the instructor needs to give equal time to all the kids (there were five) but I can't believe the woman left my little lotus bud out on the ice when the class was over. You can see from the photos that she is totally alone out there.

She tried so hard to get to the part where she could get off the ice, but she kept falling and falling. Finally she spotted me, smiled, and scooted on her bum to me. My heart broke into a million tiny little pieces.

Falling is part of skating, learning how to fall is essential to learning how to skate. I get that. But I can't understand why the instructor left her behind on the ice. Dave is going to come to skating lessons next week to see what the heck is up with that instructor. We want the lotus bud to enjoy skating and instructors make all the difference in enjoying it and dreading the ice.

So, let me be frank and vulnerable here. These skating lessons are in a very white part of the city's suburbs. We were the only people of color in the ice arena. I always, always, have to consider this factor when things go awry. Was the instructor negligent because of me and my brown skin? I don't think so but the possibility is always there.

And that takes the million broken pieces of my heart and shatters them further across the universe.

This is the very reason why I didn't want to have kids. While I wouldn't want a life without the little lotus bud, I can't bear the idea that she would suffer because of discrimination towards me. Race discrimination is a tricky, slippery thing and harder to spot when it happens in small, mundane ways. I saw it with the other moms at the ice arena, the ones who refused to include me when they talked about preschools and home-schooling. I saw it at the high-end grocery store where we shopped after the skating class. When it happens to me, I can toughen up and deflect it, stop it from tearing me up. But when it happens to my daughter? I become a weeping pile of mush with no defenses, no guards, no nothing to help me sort through the emotions, and less than nothing in terms of helping my sweet little girl understand.

OK. I'm done for today. I'm going to find some glitter glue and see if that can help put the pieces of heart back together....not really. I'll just keep doing laundry and wait for the emotions to work their way through my body. Excuse me while I go have another good cry.

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Monday, January 5, 2015


I had a hard time pinning down a word for the year. I spun around a dozen different options. None of them seemed exactly right. Over the weekend, I was reviewing my goals/resolutions for 2015 and realized that many of them had to with hydration. So I've finally settled on "hydrate."

So much of what I want to do in 2015 have to do with fluids. I want to drink more tea, coffee, bloody marys. I want to sweat at the gym and spend time in the steam room. I want the little one to have swimming lessons. On the more frozen side, I want to ice skate more, get out snow-shoeing and cross country skiing. I want to spend more time on our boat and bathing in the river. I want be better at washing and cleaning my house, the trailer, the Jeeps. I need to take care of myself better in order to do all those things to help my family and my community.

I will hydrate in 2015. I like that I've settled on a word that relates to my own body as well those things I can do with my body. And to be honest, I've always had hydration problems that come from a childhood of limiting liquid intake. I don't know where exactly that comes from but it has to do with not trusting the drinking water, not getting soft drinks at restaurants until the dinner arrived because my parents were afraid I would fill up, not taking care of myself properly while working out and hiking, not drinking enough water for fear of having to pee in inconvenient moments. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? But that's me and my hang-ups which I hope to work through in this new year.

One of the resolutions is to drink more tea, specifically, finish all the tea that's been sitting around in my kitchen cupboards. Although after I gathered them all I realized that I didn't have nearly as much as I thought I had. Here's my tea stash:

That doesn't include my sickness tea which I always have around because they make we feel better.

Five days in and all is going well in 2015. All expect the below zero temps outside but that's to be expected in the first week of January. There's lots of great excuses available because of the cold: can't shovel the little bits of snow, can't go work out because it's too cold for wet hair. Actually that last one is not such a good one but I'm going with it today. Getting to the gym is a resolution I'll start on Wednesday.

Now that I'm not doing a 365 project, I realize that this blog is going to have to change. I don't even know what labels to use yet and there is a whole new filing system for processed photos. It's exciting to have new ways to think about the same old, same old.

Finally, here are some sleeves I would like to knit up for myself. Don't they look lovely and warm and stylish?

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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Two princesses in a pod

How do you teach someone to be a good friend? There are so many factors: likability, common interests, circumstance. Sometimes it happens by chance, other times it's cultivated. Some friendships are short and serve a purpose. Some are life-long and foundational. Many can be just for fun and joy. In this situation the friendship is strengthened by the love of Elsa and her fabulous wardrobe!

I think about the fact that I know how to make friends. I just don't know how to keep them around. But then I remember that I married my best friend and through all the various phases of love and romance, anger and frustration, we've still managed to remain good friends.

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!!

Oh, what a good start to the new year! We attended a New Year's Day party and we were instructed to bring our hangovers and hunger. It was an adult party with kids present, meaning the kids were expected to herd together and entertain themselves. I really can't think of any better way to start the new year. The kids got a pinata and the adults had coffee and booze.

One of my resolutions was to drink more coffee so I stuck to the coffee. I've shocked my husband and my friends and myself, to be frank. I left the party totally buzzed on coffee. If only there were some bloody marys then I would have been making huge progress on my goals.

I thought I had picked my word of the year: flourish. But I don't like saying it nor do I particularly like how it feels as it passes through my lips, although I do love the various definitions. Now I'm considering magic, splendour, bloom and discover. Maybe, infuse? I'll give myself a few more days to pin it down.

so here I am on the first day of the new year and I'm posting a photo taken from today. Perhaps the habit that drove me nuts in 2014 is going to be a habit that sticks around a little longer. And that's not such a bad thing, is it?

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