Category Archives: Cast of Characters

It was a long tunnel. I was going to the light.

And the jack-hammers banging. Where were we? Oh, yes. I had just had an MRI on my brain and was waiting for the results. I guess it doesn’t take a therapist to interpret how it was that I lost my cell phone that I had been carefully clutching all day right when the doctor was due to call to discuss the results.

I had the MRI early in the morning just before leaving Florida for the mountain house where we are now until the end of the year. I had it because I’ve had some unilateral hearing loss in one ear that, upon further investigation, made the neurologist (a whiney little guy who mumbled into his left shoulder words like “tumor”  and “brain scan” while I kept saying, “what? huh? WHAT?”) think that he would like to see what was going on in the far reaches of my brain. MRIs of your brain are miserable hour-long affairs that don’t hurt at all, beyond the needle prick of dye being injected but they surely are uncomfortable. Don’t move, don’t move, don’t move, don’t blink, don’t lick your lips, don’t move and oh, btw, don’t mind the claustrophobia. I wasn’t even going to get the test because I like living in complete and total denial when it comes to things like the possibility of a brain tumor, but then we got notice that our insurance deductible for 2011 is 5000.00 per year. Per person. I was apoplectic.

Eventually I found my phone and sure enough, had missed the call, but finally my doc and I connected. The MRI gives not a single hint as to why my hearing has gone caflooey on the right side- no tumor there, nothing on the cranial nerve that had the neurologist concerned, sinuses are clear. However. About those two areas of demyelination in the left cerebral hemisphere…WHAT? HUH? Apparently those need explaining. There are several sort of semi-alarming possibilities so I have another appointment in January. Maybe. Actually, I don’t need to go to the doctor because I know exactly what they are. One is the spot that keeps me from finishing sentences and the other is the spot that makes it so I can’t remember which movie I saw last week. Frankly, this is not new news and I’ve been living in this slightly adulpated state forever, just ask my children and there is no other symptomatology whatsoever. Except for the punctuation problem. This is again a reminder of why my father’s advice was good: If you get sick, make yourself well again (preferably by working harder). If you think you might be sick, avoid doctors at all cost.

So now, as it stands, I’m partially deaf and totally blind on the right side. I was considering calling one of those social security disability claim lawyers on afternoon television but instead I ordered Oliver Sacks new book, The Mind’s Eye. He writes about the resilient brain and the process of compensation, how people make up for what they have lost. He’s written several other interesting books that I’ve read, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat but this one he wrote after, fairly recently, losing his vision in one eye. I wonder if he’s noticed yet that no matter how well his brain finds ways to compensate for no depth perception or peripheral vision, he will never be able to appreciate those dot pictures they sell at the mall. If he wants, I can give him a tip on how to cheat the peripheral vision part of the driver’s license test. I can also tell him that, should his spouse snore inordinately loud, diminished hearing in one ear has its benefits. Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading the book with my one good eye.

I have some other news to share. Our grandbaby is here to visit. Kellan is our first; he is Rich’s Anna’s 3 month old. This I will share in pictures. And you’ll be either jealous or really happy for us or both.

I tidied up the house, baked the cookies and put up the tree so there would be lights and shiny things to look at…

I made up the guest room, including the crib that is now holding a fifth generation.

And Rich went to the airport to pick them up and this is how happy he is. (This photo makes me all teary happy. Both eyes, incidentally, cry.)

And it’s a whole new world with so many amazing and wonderful things to see.

Word for the day: Enlightenment

Verb. Def: The act of stuffing random strings of cheap Christmas lights into the belly and down the limbs of defective, tacky, holiday animals in an effort to resurrect them.

If I could have shot this moose, ala Palin, I would have. But we don’t have guns.

I barely deserve your attention, given my total lack of attention to either my blog or yours. Sorry about that. I’m busy with the holidays just like you, traveling back and forth between snowy mountain house and Florida, getting ready for a visit from our first grandchild, teaching felt classes, getting out holiday orders and trying to launch my website. (If the “webmaster” finds out I’m doing this post instead of uploading descriptions, blog posts related to felt and inventory photos, I’m in trouble…). On top of all of that, I have something on my mind. (Ha! A Pun. Fill you in later.)

Anyway, I’m in Florida this weekend but the whole reason I chose to stay in Asheville for this season was so I could see a beautiful fresh snow all the way to Tennessee. Rich is down here, working and playing ball with his “Boys of Winter” league and I’ve been missing some perfectly good nooky companionship in order to watch the seasons change. No sooner did I get on the plane on Friday than did it start snowing. Now, my neighbors report they are snowed in on the mountain with a beautiful blanket of fresh wet white stuff. They are all good people and have been busy checking in on the Sophie Cat and watering the tree. It looks as though I’ll have trouble flying home tomorrow afternoon and if I do get into Asheville I’ll have to play find-ur-car among the other snow-covered vehicles in the long-term parking lot. Then, because the temps are dropping I’ll have to scrape forever, in inadequate clothing and then I won’t be able to make it up to the house. Ah, me.

So, several things on the agenda for this weekend. Misha graduated. Amazing. Abby marries this Russian immigrant, much to my shock and horror and he turns out to be the world’s most admirable fellow and they continue to be madly (I mean giggly, laughing, supportively, affectionately, hotly, madly) in love. He’s studied hard, with English as his second language and worked 40 plus hours a week outside of school and finished his degree in business. We’ve grown to love him, too and we are very proud of him. Today-Sunday-is the day he would have attended graduation ceremonies but instead they packed up the car and headed back to Durham where Abby has finished her first semester as a doctoral student at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. They were very excited to get back under one roof, with their Chicago rescue cat, Grey. 

(Abby and Misha, literally on top of the world on Mt. Elbrus in Russia one year ago. They continue on so.)

I also wanted to get the token tacky holiday yard art up for the season, because this is, after all, Florida. Damn those Chinese! Not only are they plotting to be  the smartest people on the planet; they also wreak havoc with this nation’s emotional stability by fuckin’ up the cheap Christmas lights we buy by the bazillions. And you know, there are two types of people: those who, when confronted with half a dead string of lights, throw them out and run to Walmart and those who sit on the ground poking and pulling at every single damned light bulb trying to fix the fuckin’ mess. And then move on to the effin fuses. Guess which group I fall into? I also do poorly on standardized tests. Dammit. Okay, enough profanity about the lights and I kept it all in one paragraph.

So the moose was a mess and the polar bears need to be in rehab as paraplegics and the penguin keeps blowing over, but the menagerie is up. This involved, as noted above, a lot of cursing, two people and a furious stuffing of surplus lights into various body cavities that had necrosis from previous years. One moose, two polar bears, 3 geese, a penguin, a frog, an alligator, and a partridge in a palm tree. And a couple of random Charlie Brown strings of lights never pulled off the Norfolk Pine for the past three years, blown every which way. Looks positively festive and bright. If I win the lottery before Dec. 26 I’m going to buy every wonderful 3-D holiday light creature on sale anywhere, the day after Christmas. Then I’ll be ready for next year.

(Everything looks better in the morning. Rich took this with his cell phone, no less. My camera is acting up. I want Julie Zickefoose’s camera for Christmas.)

Last night Rich and I went to the movies so we could spend some time holding hands in the dark. We watched Unstoppable. What stupid fun. I loved it. Afterward, we were walking across the Baywalk shopping area and came upon two of St. Petersburg’s finest. Splendid, splendid gorgeous black Percheron horses who came from the Boston police department, we were most impressed with their uniforms. They get their own special detailing including reflective gear, shiny badges in the middle of their broad chests and special protective shoes that allow them to walk on crushed glass without harm. I pet one and I’m telling you, his coat was SO soft. The officer riding him said he had his “winter coat” and I believed that because so does Sophie and they feel equally luxurious. All about the animal fiber, you know.

(Ridiculous, I know. But I just had my cell phone and I was trying to capture how incredibly black they were with bright shiny regalia. Shoes! They wear shoes that come up to their shins!)

What else? Oh! I needed to visit Boyd Hill and say hello to our new juvenile Bald Eagle, Abiaka. What a handsome fellow! He was born late 2009 and fell out of his nest as a baby last March. Sadly, he was injured to the point that he can’t live free so he will live with out this life with us, educating others and getting a great daily diet, alway a whole red snapper on Fridays (bet you didn’t know Eagles were Catholic.). Rumor has it that Abi has the spunky disposition of a teenager and he loves nothing more than to pull the plug on his bathing pool. Which, of course, leaves him high and dry until someone checks in on him some hours later. Fine now, while it’s cool but he might want to leave well enough alone once things heat up here next Spring. Eagles do love their water. As soon as I got to the park there was a fierce down-pouring of rain and Abi seemed positively delighted, prancing about with wings spread and calling out.

(Abi, enjoying the rain. He has a partial bamboo screen so he can decide how much time he wants to spend in the public eye as he gets acclimated to life as a program raptor.)

Anyway, with all this traveling back and forth, I ought to have my head examined. Guess I’ll tell you about that next time. Also, it IS the Third Sunday of Advent and yes, Bonnie, I have my purple candles, this year beeswax from our local farm market, and that means it’s about time for Buckminster Fuller to put in an appearance. I’m working on a second chapter. Cheers!

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life…

... It turns what we have into enough, and more.

(The day started with mist hanging over the mountain but became bright and sunny by 10 am)

This Thanksgiving was the first time we were all together at the mountain house. I had those urchins here for the long weekend- Dan and his Sarah came from Ann Arbor. Abby came over from Duke and Misha flew up from Florida where he is finishing his final few weeks of a business degree before he too moves to Durham. I hadn’t seen Rich for a couple weeks as he’s been in Florida and Melissa also came from Michigan. Lots of snuggling! Added to that our best friends from Chicago, Donna and Larry, flew in especially to join us so, all in all, it was one very grand reunion. And if your Thanksgiving was half as wild, fun and high calorie as ours, you’ll be recovering for days. Nine bodies, three meals a day for four days gave the new kitchen a real workout. Plus, all five starter people graze. Constantly. Always. Never on a schedule. Endlessly seeking food (the goopier or crumblier the better) and drink (the stickier the better). Never ending. And then they slept at odd hours and went out at odd hours.  Just to mix things up they dragged out five giant rubbermaid tubs of family photos and spread them absolutely everywhere, screaming with laughter at each other’s bare-naked toddler antics, weeping over dead cats and chinchillas and whining about who had the best baby book (Dan. Abby’s consisted of a calendar with four stickers: Baby Arrives! Baby Comes Home! Baby’s First Smile! Baby sleeps through the night! Poor Abby. I told her she was the better for the second child neglect.) And then they played euchre, played the piano and watched comedy central on TV and then they got restless and went out to listen to Blue Grass music. And came home at 3am to eat more.

(Making cheddar dill scones for, oh, about a hundred.)

Melissa has typically spent Thanksgiving with her mother and family in Missouri. We lucked out having her here with us this year. She works so hard in her life that it was wonderful to watch her relax, sleep, knit, play with McCloud (who is the cat of her teen years) and enjoy the commotion on this side of the family. I still remember her first family meal with us years ago; I think she was sort of shell-shocked with the rambunctious nature of her soon-to-be step sibs. Donna and Larry were our front condo neighbors in Chicago and we miss them constantly. Donna thinks that they may be about all I miss of Chicago. I enjoyed seeing how much they marveled at the peace and quiet and views from here, in contrast to big city life. On the other hand, sans children, they don’t typically have so much indoor noise…(The lot of us, taken with the camera precariously balanced on a mountain of boxes of old photos.)

Everybody went home again Sunday and Rich drove back to Florida with McCloud. (We re-unite in a week when I go down to teach another workshop and then he comes here for half of December  and Christmas and then we return to Florida for the winter, where I will teach at the Morean and get back to those rascally raptors I’ve been missing.) Yesterday I tackled the laundry. Lots of sheets, towels, tablecloths, napkins. I really didn’t mind at all; I used the time folding laundry to reflect on my family and all the life that was in this house over the past few days. This year was a real treat because, although they are all now adults in their own right, they still came together with the energy I loved in them as children. I hope they never flip completely over into the dark side of too-serious adulthood.

(Dan and Sarah. She is so wonderfully calm and a perfect balance for Dan, who sometimes is not. It’s probably because she’s a teacher of children, don’t you know, as well as being a gifted artist. Dan makes her laugh. He makes us all laugh.)

Several things were striking about the weekend, not the least being that my two children are night and day different and yet curiously similar. We say that Dan is completely right brained and Abby left and isn’t it too bad that they each got just half a brain but that is just a joke. They are, of course, well- rounded and delightfully full of personality. Also, intensity. Have I ever mentioned that these two are quite intense? Yes, well, together they almost spontaneously combust as they feed off each other’s humor and wisdom and talents.

(Abby and Misha have spent a semester apart as they continue their educational pursuits and they miss each other a lot. Just a couple more weeks to go and Misha, with English as a second language, 40 hours a week of outside work and credits mangled in transition from Russia, will graduate from USF.)

When Dan first chose the saxophone as his instrument of choice in 5th grade I would often suggest that, really, there was no need for him to practice and if he had to, could he please do it in the garage. I was such a nurturing and supportive mother. I missed this entire episode until I was downloading photos; I must have been down in the garage bringing up more food and drink. When I realized there was a little video on the camera I watched it and laughed and cringed and laughed and cringed. This was so much our life when we all lived under the same roof. With Abby on piano and trumpet and Dan on sax plus anything that he could use to generate sound, there was always a lot of music bordering on noise or vice-versa and I was always on the edge of squealing, “Enough! Stop! Go on! Get!” Actually, not so much on the edge. And yet, despite my efforts to suppress their energy and enthusiasm they appear to have grown up unfazed. And right when I realized they were leaving and Rich fortuitously dropped into my life, that energy and enthusiasm came back. Now, when children and husband unite, it’s a virtual overdose.

The other thing that really hit home was that they have all successfully, happily and responsibly made it into adulthood. They all contribute to making the world a better place as they create music and art, teach children, protect the earth, care for themselves, each other and those in their circles of life. Amazing.

Today it’s raining and gray, the two of us cozy and quiet. Sophie has been sleeping off the commotion and I’ve begun to turn my attention back to my big project of the moment: getting my fiber arts website up and running. I do believe I’m really going to do it within the next few days. Since last we visited, I’ve been to St. Petersburg for a weekend, completed my holiday inventory for the Florida Craftsmen Gallery and turned that over to them. I planted close to a thousand Spring bulbs here in the woods and on the hill. The bears haven’t hunkered down for the winter yet, the birds are lined up endlessly at the feeder and I’m excited to go get a fine North Carolina Fraser fir later this week. Even though I’m not always around here at this haphazard blog (thank you for the nudge, Bonnie dear), life is full and I am too, with gratitude.

Silverlocks and the three bears…

A few minutes into the wee hours of my birthday, the three bears came calling and Cathy managed to take this picture of one of the youngsters snacking on the box of gourds left on the deck. Rich had met with the local wildlife officer  two days ago about our resident family of bears and he commented that we were quite fortunate to have them around the place and to just be careful not to leave food out. He said they are basically quite timid and any noise or light from us will startle them off and in the meantime we can enjoy their busy industry of eradicating nuisance insects like ground hornets, which we certainly do. I guess I didn’t consider that  they would find ornamental gourds a tasty antipasto. Rich also didn’t consider asking the game warden if he would come by a couple of times a week to clean up after mama and her two children but, in any case, we are leaving them be and we like the idea that they, too, find this a welcoming place.

(After a weepy start, the day was glorious and I celebrated in style, including filling the feeders.)

I woke up way too early, all weepy and what have you. Sixty seems like a turning point where now it is a race to try to fit in everything you want to do before it’s too late. I remember being 24 and feeling as though there was a whole world in front of me, with endless possibilities. I don’t usually pay birthdays much mind; today started out as a tough one. Rich rolled over and wished me a happy birthday and handed me a gift he must have held in his hand all night just waiting to give. This was big since he shows his love consistently but not especially so on holidays. It was also significant because I’m not one for jewelry all that much (e.g. I don’t wear, or have and never wanted any ring beyond my simple plain gold band.) And, Italy was more than enough gift for anyone. This morning, before daylight, he gave me a beautiful amber and pearl necklace, the stones wrapped irregularly as in nature in delicate silver. It’s a fine piece of amber, prehistoric (I guess that’s fitting), the solitary mother of  pearl is pristine and I love it so much that I began weeping all the more. We have house guests so it was too early to get up and rattle around; instead I had 2 ounces of white wine and a chocolate chip cookie, sniffled a bit more and curled up for one more sweet nap with Rich and the kitties.

Once we were all up, Rich took me and Kristen and Cathy to brunch and then he headed off to Florida with McCloud. That was bittersweet in more ways than one. His baseball season with the “Boys of Winter” and the Half Century League has their season opener tomorrow and he was as excited as an eight year old and eager to get on the field with his teammates. The decision to split up the cats and for him to take McCloud was tough but Cloudy has been having a rough go of it and in the end it was the sensible thing to do. He has that elderly feline renal failure syndrome and twice in the past month he’s chosen the corner of the bedroom carpet rather than the litter box. He loves Florida, especially sleeping on the covered outdoor porch sofa and it’s a quiet safe place for him to spend a lot of time outside but barely so. It also seems like an important time for Rich and his cat to be together so off they went. I’ll see Rich for four intervals in November and December- twice I go down for 4 days to teach and twice he’ll be back for weeklong holidays; still, it’s back to a fair amount of time apart. We each need to tend to our own work and he definitely needs the outlet of his baseball season while I need to actually have a season- in this case, a glorious autumn into winter here on the mountain. 

Today was the most perfect example of glorious autumn. Through the afternoon, Cathy and Kristen and I sat in the warmth of the sun on the deck, spinning and knitting and putzing about the garden. Sophie was happy to join me for a couple of hours, alternately leading and following.

(Knitting and spinning, with Cathy taking beautiful photos.)

Late afternoon, we finally gathered up all the wool and fiber that had been gathering about the place and tidied up and then those two put together a lovely birthday supper for us and three friends from here in Sugar Hollow. We had a fire outside and started with parmesan reggiano brought back from Italy, sweet roasted baby orange peppers from the garden and fine Italian olive oil.

We had killer shrimp and an Asian slaw salad and a hearty loaf of bread and finished up with a dessert tray of tiramisu, pot de creme chocolate, pumpkin creme brulee and orange flavored dark chocolate cake.

In the past, I’ve marked the passage of each decade by taking a photo of myself au naturale. Well, one year I wore a crown of autumn leaves made by BCMA friend, Marcy. Today with all the frisky female camaraderie I was tempted to take and post another bold self-portrait but I guess there’s an age limit on that kind of thing, yes? So this year, I took the photo; I just won’t post it. I might send it to my friend. Mary who is spunky enough in her own right and gets great vicarious pleasure out of acting out behavior of others.  (In a recent post Cathy had a bit that said “I think part of a best friend’s job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.” Sounds right.)

Today, I counted my blessings once again and at some point I said “I certainly did nothing in this lifetime to deserve all this” meaning the gifts of love and family and friendship (and a Cheese of the Month membership from Abby- ha!) and Cathy said, “that’s called Grace.”