Take a breath

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Today there was rain, sweet amazing rain that did not prevent Helen, Amos and I from going grocery shopping. We ran to the store entrance holding our reusable bags over our head.

And with the gift of rain come breaths of cooler air, just enough to let you relax and really breathe deep yourself. I breathed in, and did the food shopping. I breathed out, and took the kids to the library in the afternoon. I breathed in, and watched Helen play barefoot outside after her nap, the tiny leftover wind pushing her long bangs away from her face. I breathed out, and ate dinner and welcomed some friends who are staying with us for a couple days.

I recently read an article written by an Afghanistan Peace Corp volunteer who used these words to help her with clinical depression: “Can I stand this for one more breath? Can I do this for one more breath?”

Can you? Can I? – Katie

Wage Peace

Wage peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings
and flocks of redwing blackbirds.
Breathe in terrorists and breathe out sleeping children
and freshly mown fields.
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen
and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.
Wage peace with your listening:
hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools:
flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.
Make soup.
Play music, learn the word for thank you in three languages.
Learn to knit, and make a hat.
Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
imagine grief as the outbreath of beauty
or the gesture of fish.
Swim for the other side.
Wage peace.
Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious.
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Don’t wait another minute.

Mary Oliver

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Sewing

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While we vacationed in Kansas City this year, my aunt let us go through her stash of quilters’ cottons and sew. Surprisingly, all the kids were really excited about this. For the younger ones, my aunt let them pick fabrics and cut pieces which she assembled into little dollquilts for them. Abbey and Robby actually chose, cut, and assembled patterns of their own. (In between puzzles).  I was particularly impressed with Robby’s exactitude. IMG_2077

I put together one of my own, and sewed the pieces while we adults plowed through an entire season of MadMen after the kids went to bed in the evening. One week, one season! It took determination, and there may have been some quiet snoring between the three of us a couple nights.

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I took this one home to finish.

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With my able assistants. These two understand the “relax and let go” side of creativity.

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Reader, I finished it. Sometimes projects take me a long time because – let’s be honest – I make a lot of mistakes. Big ones like sewing whole long strips of fabric to the wrong side of the thing. Or realizing I cut an entire batch of pieces too small, too big, whatever. And I react two different ways to mistakes: either I sigh and eye-roll with frustration and then take out my anger on whichever being happens to be nearest, or I take a deep breath, clean up the work space, and put the project away. Often for a very long time, like maybe a year or two.

If I choose the second path, then the project occasionally withers on the vine and may or may not end up at Goodwill. Is this perfectionism? I would prefer to think not, because I don’t like thinking of myself as that kind of person. There are always small mistakes incorporated into the finished project. Nothing is perfect, and I’m very much OK with that.

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But the other half of the time, I return to my project months or years later, initiate the process of art and creation by undoing, by picking out stiches and re-cutting pieces, and then slowly begin again.IMG_2687

I don’t always like the things I make when I finish them. The shapes seem different, the colors altered. Often I like them better after I’ve used them for a while, when the critical eye with which I look at a new thing wears off and I just accept it as a familiar part of my life and nest.

These are beautiful, vibrant, zingy colors, and it reminds me of my aunt to have them on my bed, and I love her. So that is a good feeling. – Katie

Have you heard of …

I worked on a quilting project all day yesterday (yay, family, for staying out of the way!) and I felt a little wonky in the way that you feel if you focus on something intensely for more than 5 hours.

Yet I am compelled to mention this – have you heard of the these little video blogs made by a two brothers named John and Hank Green? They are called CrashCourse videos, and they are like an information sugar high for people with intellectual pretensions. (Sadly, like me, who refuses to admit that the process of childbearing has killed off most of my functioning brain cells.) They are crazy interesting. And addictive.

My favorites are the literature ones. Gatsby, Emily Dickenson on death, Jane Eyre as a *gentle* blow for women’s rights in the world of Victorian social mores, Holden Caulfield: it’s the kind of stuff you found fascinating in high school english class, and then couldn’t figure out a SINGLE PLACE to discuss in the world of post-college low paying jobs. I’m not good at subtext but if someone tells me something about a story I think, “Oh, yeah. That makes it so much more interesting!”

The internet is a black hole for time (I’m always the last to find out these sort of things because I’m terrified of technology) and the last time I wandered onto that site I blinked and two hours had disappeared. Aaugh. – Katie

Rain and figs

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There is usually a point in our summer at which our entire yard heaves a mighty sigh, gasps out whatever moisture still remains in the parched ground, and turns brown. Every last blade and leaf. Between the summer activities of the kids here and the watering restrictions imposed on me by the city, I have long since abandoned the quest for green by that point. IMG_2577

But this year has had surprising and sporadic rain – enough to cause actual grass growth in mid-July in the middle of Texas. Beautiful, isn’t it? And our little fig tree has suddenly developed aspirations of yard domination. So Abbey, with the early-morning fervor of a teenager sensing food, went out to pick the fruit.IMG_2579

Those grew in our yard! We are as astounded as you are. – Katie

In which I take a selfie

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On Wednesday I was hanging out with my nephew and became so charmed by his cheeks I had to take a selfie. I am not a selfie-taking kind of person, but…

Look at that guy! Can you blame me? He is so adorable…

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And then I got home and showed my husband the pictures on the camera and he said: “Oh! He looks just like ME when I was a baby! Isn’t he cute?”

Well, yes. – Katie

More corn

After my post about corn a friend sent me this:

“I read your post tonight about shucking corn and it made me recall the many hours I spent as a kid shucking corn.  We lived in areas of the country where the farmers grew corn and would give some of it to us.  We would often have bushels and bushels to shuck.  We would then blanch it, cut it off the cobs with an electric knife, and freeze it so we had a whole winter’s worth of corn.  In looking at your pictures, it reminded me that we never did the shucking indoors.  Mom would not allow the mess of the silk and the shucks inside.   You had to be outside where it was HOT and the bugs were bothering you as the sweat dripped down your back.  Also, that cute little worm you found was a baby compared to the many huge ones I remember finding as a kid.  There was also something that we called “smut” on some of the cobs.  This was a kind of a fungus that appeared as a gray blob on the kernels.  We always hated to find “smut.”  What a fitting name for it!”

I am not sure if this is “smut” or not, but I am officially repulsed. That, and curious to see what would happen if you poked that thing.

Possibly more the size of the creature my friend faced? As a city kid who is raising city kids, these are deep waters for me! – Katie

Crocodiles and alligators

Katie: because of my confusion over the reptiles during our Zoo visit (ahem), Robby has helpfully written a post to clarify the difference.

Robby: This is a picture of a Crocodile and an Alligator:

If you haven’t already read which is which see if you can tell them apart. Are you stumped? I’ll give you some hints: Alligators have wide U shaped snouts and their bottom teeth don’t show up. They usually have dark gray to gray skin.

Crocodiles have thin pointy snouts and there bottom teeth show up. They have olive green skin sometimes darker.

Now see if you can tell the difference?

-Robby