SCRUMBLES

I really love fabric art, especially crochet. And I am possibly addicted to gorgeous fibers. However, if a project depends on fit or square corners, I’m not your person, So I satisfy myself with copying and creating a variety of crochet motifs, improvising, adding, playing — it’s a great way to handle mistakes! Some are little gems that I love, some are whimsical and some are fun experiments to learn from.

I accidentally found out online that there is a name for these — Scrumbles — and that they are used as clothing and accessory embellishment, jewelry, and even made into whole fabrics. They kind of remind me of the way paisley fabric goes together. And paisley makes sense — right? So if you have the kind of pragmatic and wildly imaginative brain that I have, you can see that they are the perfect analogy for the creative life.

Hence the title of my blog — Scrumbles — describes a collection of not-necessarily-related- but- maybe-vaguely-connected thoughts viewed from the perspective of my seventh decade. It’s not too bad a place to be.

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Ah! A Senior Moment I Can Relish!

Yesterday was Colton’s tenth birthday party. Colton is Andrew’s oldest son, my great-grandson. His other great-grandmother, Nana Rose, hosted the party. She lives in a lovely, high end, private development with a great party area and an adjacent indoor pool. The kids cannot, however, be in there without at least one adult.

Andrew has four kids, 10, 6, 3, and 18 months. I am a sucker for swimming with kids, I must admit. I remember taking a sizeable group of my sibs swimming, and being the “adult”, and they survived somehow. So I changed my clothes in Nana Rose’s apartment, just one floor above the celebration. She graciously gave me a burgundy robe to cover my lovely self with in transit — she and I come from a modest generation. And besides, I don’t have quite the confidence I used to in a bathing suit.

Got in with the oldest three of the four, and Selah, Number Four, saw us and tried to tear the gate down to get in and join the fun. This is a solid, determined and amazing baby. So, swim diaper on, we played.

We had quite a good time, as expected. Colton and Gavin roughhoused, Nola showed off in her floaties in the deep end, and Selah and I splashed and kicked and blew bubbles. Until she decided she didn’t want to be in the flotation device and proceeded to climb out. Andrew entered the water to save me, and we monitored the fun together.

Long story short, pizza was served, presents were opened, cake was served, and I was cold and wet. Time to change clothes. So I threw on Rose’s lovely, shiny burgundy robe over my swim suit and headed upstairs to change.

Out the exit, up the stairs, down the hall, first door on the right. Opened the double door and made a grand entrance, robe flowing.

Who was that man staring at me from the other end of the apartment?

In my head, up the stairs, down the OTHER hall. Okay. First door on the right. Damn! Okay again. Why was his door unlocked anyway, for Pete’s sake!

I quickly said, “Sorry, wrong apartment”, and got my surprised body out of there very fast. The best part was that, before I reached the end of that wrong hall and turned, he was out his door checking me out. It was pretty clear that , even though I am still cute for an old diva, a close up  assured him that this was not a missed opportunity after all.

I did wake up laughing about this several times.

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Digression and Disappointment on the DACA Day

This is the DACA day, and I am feeling very sad and conflicted.

I wish I were an expert on economics, law, sociological impact, etc. Maybe this would give my view some more weight. I am tired of the rhetoric, blather, politicization and cover-up. I am tired of the confusion of supposed facts.

My view is simplistic, obviously!

Indeed, I do not have the benefit of having lived in various countries, studied broad and wide, exchanged ideas with famous minds, with the view that may give me. Nonetheless, I ask, can I do better right here and now?

Morally, ethically, I cannot understand how I, as an American, can set myself up as the judge of who creates benefit to a nation, immigrant or otherwise. I simply can’t disqualify illegal immigrants hoping to find a worthwhile life and contribute to their families and their adoptive countries as valuable citizens. I can’t NOT embrace them because we are all immigrants. And our country definitely benefits. If I consider myself capable of the kind of judgment that is fair/humble enough to decide who gets to live here, then I must support sensible immigration policy – bilaterally and soberly decided. If it were up to me, I’d take anyone who wants to make a home and a life.

I have personally benefitted from food and service prices kept low on the backs of illegal immigrants. Didn’t realize it for years .Didn’t we go through this with slavery and cotton? Can I be honest about what this is really about and converse about it openly but respectfully? I hate the obfuscation, so I don’t know about reasonable dialogue on my end.

I have also personally benefitted from low prices from underpaid foreign workers for clothing, accessories, household goods — enriching the WalMarts and the Ivanka/Donald Trumps of the world and encouraging the low wages they pay, while I stayed ignorant of the extent of the damage. I am not happy that they and their stockholders pulled the reins and benefitted. Am I willing to be more aware of what/where/ how much I buy and from whom? Or am I too greedy and comfortable?

I have observed the ethical abyss of the United States allowing the drug traders to prosper, and the blame was put only on drug dealers. Supply and demand! Our country is heading to moral bankruptcy, in many areas. No discipline, no deferral of want – just instant gratification. Can I hope to begin to check my own impulses to acquire? Can I delay my wants? Tough to discipline oneself, really!

The addiction to excess in this privileged country has also prevented our necessary humility in the face of global warming and what our incredible consumption is doing to the world. Bigger, more – we require more space, energy, food, water, goods than the rest of the world. And we are not stronger for it. I am not – just more distracted from what is real and more numb to what is important.

I do not understand how we can turn away people seeking refuge when we sought refuge here from religious persecution. Our fortunate ancestors got here and started deciding who was “in” and who was “out” from early on. . . . after taking the land that didn’t belong to them/us in the first place. And I am a benefactor. We were great at whitewashing genocide and cultural obliteration in the face of our imagined superiority. After all, we weren’t the barbarians! (Christians and the Crusades – did we learn from history?) Being open is such a good idea, but I have to check that I am not actually a cultural snob, just talking a good line.

I am flummoxed that we can spend so much of life guarding our right to as much space, money, success, property, stuff, etc. as we want when we literally stole this country and its resources and attempted to destroy a culture that treasured and protected the earth. And will we continue to allow the earth to be overused for our immediate pleasure? I am becoming very aware of my use of ordinary things – especially water. Can I recycle more? Probably, but it is a lot of work. Am I buying/eating more than I need? Am I creating more noise than necessary? Likely, I am.

I am outraged that we hide behind legal, political, economic statements that skirt the moral issues facing us. They have become so complex as to mess with sanity. Politics aside, we need to compromise our political extremes and consider the common good. We don’t have to agree. But I have to ask – do I have others’ backs, whether I agree or no? Maybe not as much as I should. Do I understand the need to serve?

I am dumbfounded that, in the face of life and death issues facing the world, we make numerous excuses for a leader who is not capable of leading. I do not mean this as an issue of Democratic/Republican power – just ability to lead effectively. Am I using even my limited leadership? Or am I afraid of disagreement? Can I talk and listen reasonably? Do I find it necessary to win every scrap? If not, what will ever change?

I am frightened that we can allow someone who is not in charge of himself at all to put our country and world in nuclear jeopardy. Someone needs to have the courage to stop his mouth from inciting what will be a holocaust, if it’s not too late. Do I recognize the difference between difference of opinion and dangerous ideas? Could I speak up if in a position to? Do I have the moral courage I demand of people I elect? Do I have the self control to allow disagreement not to become war? It starts, I think, on a personal level.

My children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren will have to live with our decisions. I often feel helpless as one person– in the face of electoral maneuvering– to believe my one vote counts. Can I find a way, even a bunch of small ways, to make my actions count?

I still feel that it is up to each individual to examine his or her core beliefs, make them known  to those in our circles of influence. We need the company of those of similar beliefs and those of opposing beliefs, and the chance for the compromises that make us all friends and allies in a somewhat scary world. The concept of  for-real networking has never had more gravitas in my mind. The values of service, respect and empathy suddenly shine brighter and more urgently than ever before. Can I reach across divides? What is my role in peace making? How can I – prompted by my disappointment in the DACA debacle, be part of the solution?

In view of all of the above, the devastation of Harvey has brought to light all differences can be ignored when humans care about their neighbors. May the lessons last.

 

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The Duchess of Camp

 

 

 

sugar-baby-1-7-2011-3-18-40-am-2592x1944-11-014HE DUCHESS OF CAMP AVENUE

She was a presence with a capital “P”, a force of benevolent nature, one of those astounding creatures that made you stop and take an admiring gulp of air. At 130+ pounds (170 before her diet) she was a commanding figure as she lumbered or galloped down Camp Avenue watching for her audience. Sugar was The Duchess.

A Newfoundland is something to look at, rather like a young bear if you view her from the rear. She even toed inward like a grizzly. What a sight! Combine that with The Queen of Hearts, only benevolent, and you have the picture. She loved any person, and most animals, and was delighted to be out and about, greeting her public.

At eleven years old, though, the walks were now getting short and sweet. Just chain her on the front porch, and spare her poor knees all that bother! The people would come to her, drool and all.

It’s been more than two months since Sugar died. My constant kitchen companion – responsible for some of the dog hair in my meals – elicited questionable language from me daily as she majestically blocked the refrigerator door, or made me straddle her hairy regal mass to use the sink.

I still miss her affectionate and grateful eyes as I risked slobber daily to snuggle her.

Her petulent insistence that she had a right to all vegetable scraps was tough to resist. Not that she refused meat, but she just loved raw vegetables.

Or maybe it was just being hand fed, by her loyal subject.

Indoors she was mostly a quiet lady, and her gait was hulking and rolling, slogging from one favorite spot to another, then plopping down for a few hours. The older she got, the less Her Majesty was inclined to move at anyone’s request. Nature, arthritis and knee dysplasia were to blame.

A miracle happened, though, if a squirrel crossed her line of vision as she sunned herself on the deck in back. Fleet of foot, like you never saw – poor squirrel!

She could also gallop toward any audience on the street. Her sociability was a joy. She held court and inspires smiles! The babies loved to lay down on her huge back and snuggle on all that fur.

I sometimes think about the dying moments of our other dogs, especially since Sugar died. I can say that there is always a memory of the sad satisfaction of being able to shield them, at least from fear.

Now that the reality is well past I can admit that Sugar did not “go gently into that good night.” I wish she had been at home in her own realm, or at least comfortably on the floor in the vet’s office. I wish she had been calm. I wish we could have offered her a choice. I wish she had not been afraid! It was not in keeping with her true dignity.

The stainless steel table was terrifying, and lifting her onto it was worse. She actively “raged against the dying of the light” as Dylan Thomas said, struggling and thrashing, and would not be comforted, no matter how we hugged her and spoke softly. She did not want to go! Such spirit!  It was heart- rending.

The memory still troubles me, though the decision was right. I can still cry!

We adopted her when she was 4, since her human parents had divorced, and she was very much alone – not any Newfoundland’s idea of fun, and especially painful for a dignified spirit who needed to reign over and revel in loving people.

For 7 years, she was a funny, affectionate, warm, self-assured animal who brought us such good spirit. We did give her our companionship, other dogs to boss around, the run of the house (which included great tolerance for dog hair and spit), and the chance to socialize with whomever she came in contact with. The pure joy of her life comforts me, and I would say she was a happy lady.

I expect her to meet me gleefully when I cross that Rainbow Bridge. I love you, Sugar. You were a blessing. Thanks for letting me hang out with you!

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Happy New Year!

 

RainbowlotusWow! Another year  beginning. At 72+, I’ve broken so many resolutions before February 1 that I don’t want to contemplate them. It’s amazing that the idea of a fresh start still appeals to me.

Thinking of a whole year is daunting. I’ve done medical scheduling for many years, and wrestled with calendars and deadlines, never defeated, just wearied! And I can tell you that a year seems to power along on its own speedy track of weeks, months, seasons, events, important dates, lists — pushing, pushing, pushing until it’s December 31 again, and there’s no stopping the progression toward some unmarked, unknown date that will be my last. I can’t even remember my resolutions.

I don’t particularly obsess about the fact that I’m on the short end of life; but most older people will insist that time goes awfully fast.

So how about: “HAPPY NEW DAY”?

What I would love to resolve is that I would try to greet every day with the anticipation I save for the new calendar year. I think about it. Really! Imagine approaching the day with thoughts of awaiting hope, surprise, promise, resolve, excitement, a sense of powerful purpose, and the belief in my success.

I can manage a day. I can actually plan a day, and almost stick to my plan, allowing room for serendipitous events and lovely coincidences — and the occasional impulse. Okay. The impulses usually rule. But a day at a time, I can deal with them.

How wonderful it would be to go to sleep at night knowing I had loved the grace of every single moment, gotten done what was important, and not missed an opportunity to laugh and love, to avoid negativity, to share,  to breathe in and out the joy of the present, and to bask in the Divine Beauty for a few precious seconds in thanks! It’s the simple yet very complex process of being present to life.

How wonderful, then, to awake in gratitude each day for the opportunity to do it all again!

 

 

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Some Thoughts on the Life and Death of an Unusual Woman

Momma

“We do not grieve without first loving. We do not love without gaining more than we could ever lose”

We just completed the commemoration of a phenomenal life with our Mother’s burial on September 8, 2015.

The person we remember — our beloved Mother — was far more complex than she allowed us to know. Her most famous persona was the happy optimist — someone who took on whatever life sent her way with humor, incredible resourcefulness, grit, gratitude and joy. One of my cousins, with whom Mom corresponded over the years, said he remembered that she “lit up the room” when she entered. . .that she was the most sincerely joyful person he knew. Last time he visited we snuck a bottle of wine into her assisted living room, and we all had a party.

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Two weeks ago, before and during Hospice, we worked hard to help her understand her situation and be in charge of whatever choices she had to make. She understood and she chose.

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Typical for Mom, she looked this situation in the face and told us all not to be afraid – this was an adventure. The same lady struggled her way out of the comfort of the medicines that helped her sleep, breathe and not panic so that she could entertain her family and not miss anything.

Her last week was nothing less than a display of humor, courage, appreciation for everyone and everything, and the sheer joy that she was capable of. She took a selfie with a great-granddaughter, remembered the bracelet made by another, joked with grandkids and inlaws. When a daughter-in-law left to feed her dogs Tuesday, she told her to come back soon — prophetically.

She spent the day doing Facetime, phone calls, visits. Tuesday was the day to do it all, and she seemed to know, and many of our very large family were able to come Monday or Tuesday, some from considerable distance. She inspired that kind of love.

She wanted to be sure she talked to everyone, even though it quickly became difficult, requiring a great deal of energy and focus. The last huge smile and response was prompted by a grandson and his baby boy, who visited Tuesday night. Right after that one of her sweet granddaughters, who lost her precious 2 ½ son to cancer, talked to her for an hour, though she was no longer able to respond.She and Mom had talked many times before, and this was just a continuation of their shared loves.

My brother Dennis and I got to spend the last few hours of her consciousness with her, and comfort her through breathing difficulties – a very great privilege.The last voice she heard and responded to was Dennis, who had promised our Dad when he was dying 30 years ago that he would take care of Mom.

in-the-garden-being mom

She had some tough times as a child. I only found out about some of them because I asked for details. Otherwise, she seldom mentioned anything sad.

She never saw her father after he left, when she was five. He moved to Los Angeles and died in 1961. Her grief was a quiet thing. She simply said it made her sad that he never showed an interest in his two children and their lives.

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She had a brother who died before she was born – Jack – probably about 15 months old, and probably from Scarlet fever. I never knew about him until I asked her about his baby picture in an old album. There was little discussion of such things. She eventually surmised that her folks seemed to be disappointed that she was a girl. They were hoping for another boy, who didn’t come until several years later.

Her Mom, our Nonnie, regularly introduced her children by saying, “And this is Jeannie. She’s not too pretty, but she’s a really sweet girl.” I am still forgiving my her for that!

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After Non divorced and brought Mom and Terry to Chicago, she was not allowed to stay at her Cousin Nell’s boarding house for gentlemen. (Non was too pretty, and it would have caused scandal.) So they were in the city alone, a divorced Mom and her two children, scrambling for places to stay, and Non, with only two years of high school, scrambled for a job, then for babysitters. Mom and Terry ended up staying during the week at an orphanage since daycare did not exist. Mom said it was really hard on Terry.

During the depression, after Non and Papa Tomaso were married,she remembered Pop putting newspaper in his shoes to cover the holes, and walking downtown Chicago to look for a job. Nothing panned out in time, they were evicted and homeless. She remembers leaving in the middle of the night. The family had to split up just to survive. Uncle Terry lived with Non and Pop, sharing a home with Pop’s brother, Joe, in a not-so-good area of Chicago. Mom lived with Papa’s family, Anthony and Rose Tomaso and their daughters. This is where she quickly caught on to the joys and mechanics of big family life, and learned to sew from Rose. She was a part of the family for many years. When Rose was dying, and the family was all in with her, even though they loved her dearly she perceived herself as less than a daughter.

Many of these tough things influenced later decisions.

She spoke always of the good memories — girlfriends who walked from Rogers Park to Evanston and pooled their change to buy cigarettes to practice smoking, sororities; boyfriends, and how she had standing dates with different boys on different nights of the week and weekend; and of course she talked about sewing and cooking. She said when she had been dating our Dad for a year he unceremoniously announced that they had never kissed, and she said they would have to do something about that.

Voila! Here we all are!

Her children and grandchildren remember that she had incredibly soft hands. This was a gift from God, to be sure, because those hands worked harder than most — upholstering, making drapes, suit coats and dresses, hundreds of loaves of bread and coffee cake, gardens, canning and freezing– the immeasurable chores of raising eleven children. She even butchered and dressed out a lamb, and then cooked part of it for a great dinner. But that’s another story.

Our Mother’s life was created as it unfolded – on the fly – as the perfect role models have never been available. So her spontaneous response to the needs around her was an expression of her truest self.

She wanted us to be able to take care of ourselves, for sure; but she wanted very much for us to be kind. Her heart was open, and she always saw the good. She was ready for the unexpected.

dragonfly

 

Each of our private celebrations of our Mother and friend will be influenced by our personal beliefs on life and death.

Death is a mystery, and I have heard from my dear siblings a variety of thoughts on it.

For some of us, death is the end of suffering, disappointment, disease, and the physical enjoyment and richness that has been our life. And for all who believe this, our spirit is something that remains in the memories of those we have touched to be further passed on – their legacy to us and ours to them.

And for some of us, our spirit is the living part of us that can never die, even though our bodies, with which we have changed this earth and many people, will finally rest.

I wish our brother, Phil, or little Braden, would sneak back and share some particulars!

But for Mom, there was life after death.

The immeasurable Love that brought us all into being has just got to be a sight to behold!

We hear about Judgment! What would it be for my Mom?

I hope for my sweet Mother what I would hope for any child facing a loving parent. And that is that what we call judgment is that moment when we see and understand what we might have done better.

And then that immense beauty, that indescribable love says, “Look at all the amazing things you have done with what I gave you. Now, my beautiful child, let me hold you because I love you so much!”

Her greatest adventure has started.

 

 

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THE UNIQUE JOY OF BEING MOM

in-the-garden-being mom

For those of us blest with the privilege of giving birth, it is almost an unspeakable pleasure, actually a miracle, for us as  Mom and Dad to look into the face of a newborn and realize that we were somehow such a tremendous element in this wondrous process.  Having given birth before the age of 3-D ultrasound — or any ultrasound — while  I was aware there was a real person in me,  it was somewhat more removed from my everyday reality. I had the notion of being a safe shelter for my developing  baby. It was comforting because I know the world is an adventure.

I do remember the sense of mystery and surprise when my own Mother brought a baby home from the hospital, and we could actually see, hold, and kiss this amazing new person. Babies are still so incredible, and their faces hold the past and future, if you look for long enough. Holding  my siblings, I can imagine the overflowing joy of an adoptive Mother looking into the eyes of this child with all the love of her whole heart and the assurance of safety and nurture and acceptance, and the promise that he or she is loved just as if she has labored to bring that child into the world. The heart just overflows. It can’t be helped!

Rocking my own little ones was an immense pleasure, and when they fell asleep, I should have put them in the crib. Sometimes I did, and sometimes I didn’t. Maybe I was just dodging chores. I don’t know.  They were so great to watch and so beautiful when they slept! I should have kept them each home another year –Kindergarten would have waited! The world encroaches too soon! ‘Nuff said.

Every little act of letting go is always harder than planned, from birth right on. But I feel so much pride in their own strengths and accomplishments. Even to this day.  A bit like watching a garden mature. They are all amazing, each in a unique way.

And then there is the phenomenon of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. So much love! Having done a bit of searching in my Mom’s box of old pictures and discovering way-back relatives, I am taken aback at the repeating of historic family features I see looking at me in new, fresh faces. Life is truly a delight, and I am so glad I got to be a Mom!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A HOLY SATURDAY MOMENT

dragonflyThere are those brief times of inevitable sadness when it sinks in that our fondest wishes may not come true in our lifetime. And that pain will precede healing. Resurrection comes after death — real dying, or the many losses of everyday living. Someone else may pick the fruit of the tree I planted.

It’s all good in the long run. As an old hymn said, “We are a people born to rise and rise again”. Daily.

When I am feeling that I will be overwhelmed by such blue thoughts, my antidote is a CD of Strauss waltzes. Just put on the headsets and be in the moment. Rock that Blue Danube and clean a closet or make a bed! Blast the Third Man’s Theme and bake some corn muffins, or clean the silverware drawer. Or sit on the porch. Or take a walk. Maybe weed a patch of garden. I will always have to resist the urge to dance! That is so good! Music has always been my best antidepressant. Thank you, God, for such an extravagant pleasure. Maybe Abba will make my feet move, and my spirit will follow. I must confess that I have danced and cried at the same time, and the dancing always won.

A favorite poet, Catherine DeVinck, ends a gorgeous piece with these  lines:

“Yes, Lord. Invent my life. Light a passionate fire, a thing of blazing gold.

And let me laugh in your joy, my laughing God,

And leap in your rising, My Dancer!”

Jean

April 4, 2015

 

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MUSINGS ON A POT OF IRISH MOSS

Irish moss

Feathery, frothy green topknot!

Picture a face that would go with such fluffy green hair

On a chubby curmudgeon.

Fierce little face, wrinkled and lively

With crackling, peeking sharp eyes!

Whoo!

That pot of moss sits so still . . .

I wait for a hop or small stirring to ruffle its hair.

For the creature that surely lies ‘neath the fronds

Seems more given to lurking and leaping

Than laying so still in one spot.

JK 1979

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Chin up! It’s March. . . . 

Such a study, muddy March.

Wet wind and grim gray skies.

Slush and sleet confound a season’s shot at change.

And yet . . .

Energetic Snowdrops, brave bright crocuses–

Improbable challengers of chill–

Chide us to try a stretch in the air,

To uncurl, unfurl, unwrap.

To win the struggle and bloom!

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MOST JANUARIES

Backyard snowI have been thinking how we in the lower Midwest have lucked out this winter. It’s gray and damp, but mostly tolerable. I am making an effort not to grumble, though the gloom pushes my gripe button. But the whole east coast of the country is laboring and suffering under unrelenting dangerous weather.

In my office, we often brag about how hardy we are in the Midwest, since we have gotten all extremes of heat and cold, rain and flood,  drought, humidity, ice and wind. Keeps us aware of our vulnerability in the face of climate. But some years are memorable.

I came across a sort of ode I wrote to January, 1978, which was only topped by January, 1979, and the entire winter of 2014-15 for seemingly endless ice, wind and snow.

JANUARY 1978

Uncaring Arctic breath, from boreal beast,

Blasts down gray days

Erasing faint footholds with agonizing ice.

Wild winds shake shelter, pierce,

Stabbing at life. No safe escape.

Sterile silence sifts and drifts,

And granite ground locks life-to-come.

Surely not now a womb, the earth in frozen shroud.

Ah,  Resurrection! Trust the thought.

Slow weeks will gather, like angels at the tomb

To open hope,

Life from death. . . Yearly.

And now to come again. Believe it!

 

It’s a good time for seed catalogs! I’m planning a straw bale herb garden this year. I’ll keep that thought.

 

 

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