Category Archives: Egg Tooth

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.”


In the eye of the hurricane

Okay, so that’s a bit dramatic. But I was going to call this post “Brains for Shit”* so, whatever. “Whatever” is apt; I am whipped and tomorrow the moving van comes. The house is as good as it’s going to get before chaos ensues and there is a punch list from here to China but it will all be okay. Although, if the moving van got derailed in West Virginia it would be okay with me; it’s surprising how well you can do without all your “stuff” and I am liking the clean stark look of things this evening.(the cellophane is still on the table light shade, blue masking tape tags everywhere where things need touch up, no glass in the cabinets yet. Still, I love it.)

*Let me digress for a moment to Friday’s meltdown. Keep in mind that I haven’t had anyone to yell at for 7 weeks. And not to put too fine a point on it, I haven’t had anyone for 7 weeks. This has been a long haul. And it’s been one white haired woman amidst lots and lots of testosterone. So, Friday was the day the propane tank that fuels the gas range and backs up the electric heat was scheduled to come. Weeks ago, the builder had said he had a good non-visible place for it and with everything else going on, the details of that got put on the back burner. Friday he wasn’t at the house when this all happened. The drama came about because they had trenched and run the lines to the huge shrubbery patch a short way down the yard and they were ready to forklift the tank. And then, incidentally, I asked, “Does anyone know where the septic tank is located?” (This is a totally new remodel/house/project/concept in heating and plumbing for us.) Six guys went silent and then the site leader turned to me and demanded, “Well, where is it?” I said, “I don’t know. We just bought the place and we’ve never lived here. Shouldn’t you guys know?” Apparently that was the wrong question. The site leader and I simultaneously started dialing- kind of like a spaghetti western draw with cell phones- to see who could get hold of the contractor first. My contractor, who I normally adore and feel has done an incredibly good job,  said to me, “Well, there was no record of where it is when I looked at the county…” At which point I started getting sarcastic with comments like, “Still, people have been emptying their bowels around here for the past 60 years and it’s been going somewhere!” and “Huh! I wonder if it might be HERE in this strategically planted patch of shrubbery near the house and above the leach field?” Anyway, probing found it right there, where they had cleared more than I already wanted in the way of greenery. At that point they had a tank poised to be placed and got pretty bossy about ” well, hurry up and decide and if we have to move the line it’s going to cost you plenty…” and the rudeness escalated. I wanted more than two minutes to think about this view of a literal white elephant and I was also irked that we-no, they– barely avoided stacking 250 gallons of propane directly on top of heaven knows how many gallons of methane. It is not my responsibility to have brains for shit. End of the day, it’s in, it’s currently an eyesore (mostly for Rich, from the window in his purple office) but it’s where it can be adequately screened with evergreens and in a few months, with some paint and plantings it will disappear. It was just one of those things where everyone was up against the wall on the final day of construction before the van arrives. I felt angry and upset that it was me against all those eye-rolling guys. Onward.

Today, I cleaned again…and again. There’s mud everywhere, and the dirt from the road bond they spread on the vast circular drive on Friday sticks like velcro to everything. Then a big storm rolled in and I took a break to make a dozen jars of wineberry preserves and a dozen jars of blackberry. I know, I know- but ripe berries wait for no one and at the end of this summer I want the feeling of benefiting from my lush surrounds- something I’ve been missing for a number of years. Besides, I needed to shift my focus for a bit.(A sink fit for a chef- or berry mistress- with all the trimmings. The articulating faucet goes wherever I please and folds up out of the way, too.)

And then I tended to a few minor details that seem important. Making a place for the kitties to dine.(I’ve also been making sure they have a comfy screen porch with views of  bird feeders and houses, a carpeted climbing tree, wide sills for perching. With copperheads and coyotes, they are now officially indoor cats.)

Making a place for wrens to nest.(This tiny ceramic wren house with twig perch is high up under the eave of the screen porch and it is also in a clear line of sight from the giant bathtub in our bathroom. I’m smiling now, but angling out to hang it above a two story drop was a little dicey.)

Putting shelf liner in all the cabinets.(There’s a second prep sink, a place for Rich’s morning coffee ritual, enough counter space for the food processor. Light rails to hide cords still to come.)

Admiring the view from my kitchen windows.(Lots of bird feeders. The feeding station is actually taller than it appears; it’s set into the side of a steep slope. It has a cement footing and aluminum dryer vent sleeve to foil or maybe challenge squirrels. I doubt it could stand up to the black bear sow and three cubs currently roaming Sugar Hollow.)

Counting my blessings.

(Better bird photos to come. This was just a zoom through the window.)

The movers come tomorrow, unload into Tuesday. Rich and the kitties arrive on Friday. I’ll be around…

Anniversaries and milestones

First off, Wacky Ken’s charitable adventures across America continue. He’s gone ’round the bend in Mississippi and checked into a B&B with little toilet paper roses on the roll and he’s considering DeSalvo’s pickled pork lips for dinner.  Go visit his blog: it’s a comic mess over there but he’s managed to raise enough money to pay for two children to attend school for a year- tuition, books, uniforms- and I thank all my friends who have had a hand in that. Thank you.


Towards the end of the time that I was practicing as a psychotherapist in Ann Arbor, I had two exceedingly painful and difficult situations arise. The first was a referral from one of the county judges I had worked with over the years in various custody cases. He seemed to respect me and called upon me as an expert from time to time. He sent me three teenagers whose father had killed their mother and then himself while they hid in another bedroom. The father and mother were separated and there was a restraining order in place because the father’s hurt was coming out as that miserable stalking anger that sometimes happens. The father had recently been released from the hospital following major open heart surgery and he was a physical and emotional tsunami. No one at the hospital inquired about his family situation and no one monitored his psychological state despite all the things that contribute to depression around such a procedure- anesthesia, pain meds, etc. Because they lived in a sort of rural area where hunting and guns were routine he had a lot of hardware. Two weeks earlier he had walked into the small local police station and asked them to keep his shotguns and handguns and ammunition because he was afraid of what he might do. Then, on this day, he went in and asked for his guns and ammo back, announcing somewhat manically that he “had some hunting to do.”  They gave him all his weapons and he went to the house, broke through a window, shot his wife and then shot himself. The oldest child huddled with the two younger ones during the yelling and screaming and shots and then ran barefoot through the snow to the neighbor’s house for help. For some reason the local police had to wait for the county sheriff’s department as the first responders and it took them close to 40 minutes to get through bad weather to the house. All of this was in the local newspapers. What the children went through for the next years was not.

I had been working with those youngsters about 8 months when I met Rich. I had been single for over a dozen years, happy working in my practice, raising the kids as a single parent (with their dad doing the same not too far away) and taking care of home and garden and pets. In my spare moments I got together with the women of BCMA (Book Club My Ass) and went out to Wit’s End, my little vinyl clad shack of a cottage. I was very happy but I was also very tired.

I didn’t realize how tired I was until I began working with a young bright professional woman with a new baby and a history of binge drinking alcoholism. She came to me because she had had several episodes of binge drinking during her pregnancy and she wanted someone to help monitor her baby’s growth and development and support her sobriety. I liked her a lot and I looked forward to my sessions with her and her beautiful baby. Sadly, she was in a really abusive and addictive relationship; her husband was one of those people who send shivers up the spines of therapists, a true well-spoken white color sociopath. I won’t go into all the convoluted details of that situation but they were separated and it ended with the baby being smothered to death during a visit with the father. Everybody knew it, there was a coroner’s inquest, but in the end there was just not quite enough evidence. I testified, along with the pediatrician, that the baby was healthy and strong and beyond any of the parameters of sudden infant death. Alcohol, cocaine and another woman were involved. The county prosecutor, with many misgivings, decided not to press charges.

Rich and I had been together for just a few months but we were each at that point in our lives and our love that we knew we were serious about one another. I asked him if he would go with me to the baby’s funeral and he did. That night he stayed over but he slept and I didn’t. I went down to my office and ended up all curled up in that totally regressed and miserable ball of hopelessness and wept. After 30 years I believed I could not continue for another hour doing what I had been doing.

I won’t go so far as to say that Rich was my lifeboat but he was certainly a port in the storm and I was truly floundering and we got married. I continued to see that sad childless mother until she moved away to live in another state with her parents (and she has gone on to lead a better, healthier life). Dan graduated from U-M School of Music and has gone on to become a successful and gifted musician. Abby stopped smoking pot, did a bit of jello wrestling and is now a married young woman starting on her PhD. All of our children make the world a better place for lots of people.

Although we have traveled a lot, where I have joined Rich on nicer business trips we have never officially gone on a “honeymoon.” He is not big on holidays and what started with a proclamation that Valentine’s Day was something trumped up by Hallmark and I’m not HIS mother on Mother’s Day has now spread to birthdays, Christmas and anniversaries. This incredibly kind and generous man is holiday challenged and one friend even offered to send him to gift-giving camp.

Where were we? Oh, yes, at the Fourth Street Shrimp Store for lunch today. Rich has been busy, busy, busy with work as he most always is and he had been away for his Myrtle Beach guy golf come-to-Jesus thing he does each year. I was in Asheville the week before that. We’ve barely seen each other and at night, when we’re together, I consider hitting him with a fat book because he snores loudly from a deviated septum. Instead I recorded it on my Blackberry so at least he can’t keep denying it. So, we went to lunch. And I said, “Listen, I know you said something all vague about me not making any plans the last week of October this year (I will turn 60) but we need to talk about that. That is the week of the WNC Animal Fiber Fair and this is a big deal in my life. I have several fiber artist friends who would like to come to the new house then and I would like to sign up to teach and take workshops and so forth and so on. What’s up?”

Rich said that he had originally been thinking of inviting all my friends to come for my birthday. He believes that he is a romantic and I am not but be that as it may and I’ll get back to that in a moment, I planned on inviting them all myself in any case. He went on to say that he had rethought that and he now has another plan which is probably best not delivered as a last minute surprise. He said that he was thinking we could take a private tour through rural Italy, through wine and cheese country and would I like that? I cried in my flounder sandwich.

Rich doesn’t like to travel that much since he has to on business and the one time I talked him into going to Mexico he had diarrhea for a month. I used to travel a lot but now, between airports, cattle-class and more persnickety sleep patterns, I’ve lost a bit of my enthusiasm. Plus, it’s not so much fun if you have to bully and manipulate your partner into going. Back at lunch, Rich handed me a napkin and shared some of what he had been thinking about since his week at the beach, where he and the guys sit around and, presumably, grouse about their wives and then count their blessings, the way women often do. He said he had been thinking that in the beginning he was afraid of how openly emotionally expressive I was. He had never met anyone who just opened her mouth and let it rip, the way I do. (Instead he comes from people who are all bottled up and nicey-nice and then misbehave badly at times.) And he’s right. I do tend to say, for better and often worse, how I feel. I’ve called him terrible, vile names and said many mean and awful and sometimes true things that lots of people wouldn’t say. I’ve tried to get that under control, incidentally, and have quite successfully now that we’re getting to be old hat with each other and I’ve made safe passage through menopause, the death of my mother, and various and sundry other inevitable losses that come with age. So, in the beginning, Rich was afraid of me and it was my good fortune that he was more in love with me. He said now he is not and he has come to value my outbursts. He started to say more and then he teared up so we just went silent and he paid the bill. In the car he said he values my emotional charge because it has opened him up to his own feelings. He said that any and all negative energy that I put into words is not only balanced but far outweighed by the positive energy that I live. He said other nice things. He said he has never ever ever known me to hold on to anger for more than the minutes when I am expressing it and I never hold a grudge, ever. That is true. I forgive everybody everything because God knows, I need forgiveness and it’s only fair. And I’m fair. I say mean things about his children and I say mean things about my children and I love them all insanely. (Really, it probably is a little crazy how much I love them. Bordering on disturbed.) And he said that when I am sneaky, like hiding money or manipulative, rearranging the furniture of life in secret, it is only because I am a little bit insecure and also it is always for the good of us, rather than just the good of me. (Except for the internet wool purchases. We’re not talking about those here.) And that’s true. I’d rather secretly break the budget on a lovely artisanal cheese to share than something for me. Oh, and then he said he thinks he’s very romantic but I’m not and I believe he was suggesting that I’ve squelched his romantic nature. This is probably true because although I rant and rave in the privacy of our own home I am extremely self-conscious and uncomfortable with displays. Anything that calls attention such as him singing to me out in public, which he did once and I shushed him. That was really unkind and one of those things I still wish, 7 years later, that I could take back. On further reflection, I’m sobered by how I sometimes behave.

So, I don’t know where I was going with this except to say that it seems as though Rich has squirreled away some funds of his own and he’s going to take me to Tuscany this fall but not during the fiber fair, either just before or just after and who knows? He might try singing to me again. And all of my attributes were articulated at lunch and in the car and this day has left me sort of speechless, which should be obvious from this little journal entry. Soon it will be our anniversary and then we move to Asheville until it gets uncomfortably cold and then we can come back here whenever we want. My life is so much richer than I deserve. Don’t think I don’t know that it can all change in a second, but for now-well, I know where I stand.

(Oh! Oh- NOW I remember where this started. Today, waiting until the eleventh hour, I went online, filled out the form, paid my fee and it is now, officially, my 35th year as a licensed certified psychotherapist.)

Blue Moon, You saw me standing alone…*

I just made our HUGE unadjusted cobra payment for health insurance. Grrrr. It’s all mucked up because the company that manages our cobra hasn’t put the most recent stimulus extension into effect yet and, on top of that the former employer changed insurance companies at the end of the year and our mail didn’t get forwarded fast enough so that change isn’t in the system yet either. Although, under the law signed Dec. 21, we can’t be discontinued for an additional 60 days I’m so afraid of the automated system telling me our coverage was due to lapse at midnight tonight that I went ahead and paid it. Cuz if I didn’t tomorrow would be the day one of us falls in the bay or gets poisoning from the extra-large fresh stone crab claws, with which we will ring in the New Year. Then they would turn us away at the hospital ER and all would be lost. Now, we will relish the claws, be healthy and happy and prosperous, at least in February when we will be overpaid on our health insurance.

Tonight, at least here in the western hemisphere, it’s once in a blue moon. It’s been 19 years since one fell on New Years Eve here; in the eastern hemisphere, they will have their blue moon on New Years Day, in the year 2010. Abby is perched somewhere on the edge between the two- I hope she sees it where she’s at, even though it’s not really blue. The expression was probably originally from old English “belewe”, meaning betrayer. Some religious historians believe the notion is tied to the fact that the date for Easter was calculated according to the full moon and an extra moon during Lent  would have been the “Belewe Moon.” Anyway, most recently, it’s a great old song, especially as sung by Ella Fitzgerald. (* click HERE )

I, for one, am happy to see the end of this decade because, by and large, it sucked. From 9/11 through Katrina and killer tsunamis, war and disgraceful politics and the economy, Hoss died…a lot was just plain wrong. On a personal level, I began the decade standing alone and now I have Rich. That is ever so fortunate for me because parents have died, houses have come and gone and likewise employment, and children have fled the nest and I can’t imagine going through all of that without a friend, lover and helpmate. All of that was too much commotion for me, but the stars appear to be aligned well as we enter 2010. The children are successfully launched. Abby is the sprinter and she may very well produce both a PhD and grandchildren during this next decade. Daniel is a solidly accomplished musician. Melissa and Anna lead varied and full lives. Rich’s professional life has evolved in a way that feels good not only in terms of bringing home the bacon. He is now doing work that feels like a reflection of strong and important values for us and our community. He’s starting some significant initiatives as the marketing industry downscales conspicuous advertising displays and focuses instead on being an active part of your community life, in schools, sports and media. (You can find him here at and read about his book, his community work with NCAA and AARP, among others and read his blog. Today, I notice, he’s urging you to write a little snail mail letter to someone.) Rich wrote the note that went in with our Christmas card this year and it read:

Christmas, 2009

This year’s card is literally a work of art.

{This is Rich writing the note.} Vicki has blossomed as a fiber artist and we have wool all over our lives to prove it. We wanted to be a bit more personal in our approach to wishing you the best this year so this card was hand-made by Vicki.

The felt on the cover started as a clump of farm-smelling wool in the den.  After being combined with all kinds of wonderful fabrics & dyes, and combining with hand-made papers we have the joy of going retro and making the cards and most of our presents this year.

In part, we recognize this has been a very hard year for many families and most of us have been pushed to be more cautious in our spending. On another side, this card is an appreciation for giving of our (well…Vicki’s) time rather than our money. These hard times are causing most of us to do more things personally, and both Vicki and I see that as a great gift.

Frankly, it’s a gift Vicki has lived out her entire life.  I like to think I get closer every year – yes, I appreciate the irony of this computer generated note extolling a personal message, but at least the typeface is more friendly!  And the fact is, I, like many others, have had to work much harder this year to make ends meet. So I have the heart for it, if not the time.

From both of us, we hope this has been a year that, while perhaps more difficult, has also brought the personal parts of life more to the light. And it’s our hope 2010 is lighter in every way.


If I had written it, it would have been more kid slobber so this was a wonderful change of pace.

This next decade will likely be the last one I stay licensed as a psychotherapist. My license comes up for renewal in April of 2010 and after careful reflection, I think I’m not ready to give up my professional affiliations, organizations and ability to practice just yet. Even though I no longer actively have a practice and even though, hopefully, I’ll retain some of those skills garnered for the rest of my life I think I want the piece of paper at least until I’m seventy.  Now I am focused on making a life for us in what will hopefully be our last home. I am focused on growing good food, cooking good food, living a more sustainable lifestyle, leaving a smaller footprint and honing my craft. I don’t really see myself yet as a fiber artist, but then I didn’t see myself as a skilled clinician until at least ten years after my degrees and certifications and licenses said I was. So, maybe it will come. At the very least, I’ve begun and the next decade will hopefully be a time to focus on “the touch, the feel, the fabric of our lives.”  I love working with wool and silk and cotton and bamboo and seacell in large part because it’s one more way to get that good earthy feeling and to experience the beauty of our natural world. I’m hoping to continue on with raptor rehab and more generally,  natural science education in the community. I’m going to look at the WNC red wolf re-introduction program once I get to Asheville, especially since some of our Lincoln Park Zoo babies are in that program.

And, so. Now that I bit the bullet and made the cobra payment, as Ella would sing, I have a dream in my heart…it’s the usual treacle but with feeling: I wish for us all a happy and healthy New Year and a great new decade.(2009? Let’s bag it, shall we? )

If you missed the post/tutorial on the making of this felted piece, it’s the one below, titled “How I felt.”