An Artful New Year

We are getting along quite nicely over here. Jay is in good health following his bout with pneumonia, the hiccups haven’t returned, and we are focused on preparing for an end-of-January special occasion requiring travel.  I’ll happily share all about that later.

My to-do list feels long, but I’ve noticed the December adrenaline spike drained my battery a bit. I could plug back into high-gear if I wanted to, but I don’t think I will. Not yet anyway.

There’s no need to push, but I have many interests and some new family requests I’ll attend to–just slowly.

Sophia would like me to teach her to knit. My grandmother taught me, and at one time knitting was a creative expression I really enjoyed. I’ve been pulling out all my needles and bits of yarn and patterns and even some of the notes left behind by my grandmother. I’ve read them over and over with her handwriting bringing back warm memories. Teaching Sophia feels important to me.

And Karina has been asking me to teach her to play the piano. I taught piano and worked with children’s music for years. I play well–or I did at one time. I don’t practice any more. Why? There’s a discipline to it, I suppose. It takes time and I’ve moved away from this being a priority. I think this is the year to reinvest in my personal practice, but I’m probably mostly motivated to teach a five-year old who loves music like I do.

I can’t do it all,whatever “it” happens to be, but these are some slow-me-down interests that have reawakened.

I think if we pay attention we recognize an artistic spark that we either encourage or extinguish. I was thinking about that while at the Natural History Museum last week. I slowly ambled through a special exhibit of Iberoamerican Folk Art, enthralled with  the beautiful colors, patterns and features in over 800 works by artists from 22 Latin American countries.

It was an exhilarating experience. I enjoyed studying the extraordinarily detailed pieces of clay, wood, silver, natural fibers and textiles. Some were quite simple and reminded me of the art projects I introduced to my preschoolers. Most, however, were intricate and complex. Each represented creative expression.

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I’m not capable of anything too exciting in papier-mâché , straw weaving, woodworking or clay, but I don’t waste any time envying others’ talents. I just want to get my own fingers busy.

How about you? Do you think you’ll be making some time to let your creativity out to play a little more often in 2015? What would you like to do to get your fingers busy?


“Creativity is contagious, pass it on” – Albert Einstein

About the day before the night before Christmas…and the perils of hiccups!

I had a post half-written (in my head) and was feeling cheery and ready to host a small Christmas Eve gathering in our home the next day. Add to that eager anticipation of a full family Christmas with the shared excitement of young children–the ones who say things like, “Santa is such a nice man. I wonder if he gets the toys free from stores?” Sophia and Karina do believe in Santa, but I’ve been told they aren’t as sure about the reindeer and apparently a workshop with elves is also a bit hard to swallow.

We can’t look back and say exactly when it was clear that Jay was sick. He had a little cough and felt miserable. He was running a low-grade fever. But it was the three days of almost non-stop hiccups that became the focus. Do you go to the doctor when you have hiccups 18 out of 24 hours?

And wouldn’t you feel sick and little flushed if you hadn’t slept a full night in three days?

With much encouragement from our nurse daughter, Jay did see his doctor on Tuesday the 23rd,  and although the hiccups were a mystery to him, too, antibiotics were prescribed for a mild case of pneumonia, with simple instructions to just rest. And then the day just didn’t improve. By evening the fever was climbing, and I probably wouldn’t have encouraged a trip to the emergency room, but Aimee was beginning to get nervous about her dad’s appearance. Something wasn’t right.

And off we went…

As it turned midnight and the 23rd became the 24th, I had a flashback. December 24, 1973 I walked into a similar hospital emergency entrance to give birth to our first child. The attendant greeting me at the entrance took note of the date and said, “There’s a manger down the hall.” That was the first of many Christmas references, with Aimee born later that day and placed in a little Christmas stocking

Present day, and aren’t we glad for antibiotics? Jay was released early this morning and home in time to see his granddaughters open their presents. And sometime late yesterday afternoon those crazy hiccups finally stopped. Fingers crossed!

In all the excitement I missed the round of Christmas greetings I’d intended to share, but I have one left to give.

Earlier this week Sophia noticed one of my Spotify playlists and asked me to explain “Contemporary Christmas.” Sophia doesn’t just ask questions; she loves discussion. So that’s what we did.

The playlist included songs from current entertainment artists, but at seven, she still doesn’t know many of them by name. In an attempt to tell her what was NOT particularly contemporary, I mentioned Bing Crosby. She said she knew who he was–and by the way, he was dead. Hmmmm. Well, that would mean he wasn’t on the contemporary list. But he would have been on MY contemporary list at one time.

So we took our time talking about how the word contemporary has multiple meanings. We could be talking about “belonging to or occurring in the present” or referring to “a person or thing living or existing at the same time as another.”

At the end of an invigorating discussion Sophia turned to me with a knowing expression and summed it up. “Yeah. I understand. It’s not contemporary if the song goes all the way back to the old times, like the 70’s.”

I hope she will always love our discussions, and not be too thrown off by how hard I laugh.

Well, I go all the way back to the 70’s–at least! And I have a favorite from that era I pull out every year at this time. The artists blur the lines of contemporary. Bing Crosby wasn’t exactly my contemporary, but he’s timeless. Pairing his voice with a very 1970’s contemporary artist, David Bowie–sheer genius.

To read an interesting back story on the awkward meeting of the pair, read HERE.   And if you would enjoy going “all the way back to the 70’s” you might enjoy recalling Bing meeting Bowie at the door. Like I said, an unlikely pairing.

It’s never too late to wish peace and joy in the new year. And that’s my personal wish for each one of you. The world is made up of all sorts of unique and unlikely pairings. I’m hopeful that maybe we’ll take a bigger step towards all getting along. Peace.




Marauding backyard bird–caught in the act!

All day long I looked forward to a quiet evening and was just sure I’d have enough time and energy to sit down and enjoy some blog reading.

I have a blog post in the making–which means I’m thinking about it–but tonight, I thought I’d just be quiet and do some reading. About 7:30 pm I went out on our deck and I was just getting settled when Karina came out to sit with me.

“Nan. Did you get Darwin in Africa?”

I spent the next three or four minutes explaining that although Darwin is an African Sulcata tortoise he was born in captivity. And no, I’ve never been to Africa.

She shifted the conversation to talk about our deceased Cockatiel, Kramer. Kramer died on Valentine’s Day two years ago when she was only three, but she loves to talk about her. Tonight’s conversation revolved around why I didn’t “let” her have babies. Karina remembers the many eggs Kramer produced, and I skirt the additional questions about why there weren’t any baby birds to be born.

I wasn’t expecting the next non sequitur. “Look Nan! There’s a swan.” I didn’t even shift my eyes towards the pond. We don’t have local swans. She’s a very imaginative child and I thought we were headed into a story. She repeated with more emphasis, “Look! A swan–or something!”

We are definitely city people.


This Black-crowned Night-Heron was almost two-feet long from tip of beak to tail feathers.

DSC_1135 Was he just going to walk the rails?

Not very likely. There are a few remaining goldfish in the pond.

Do I want to watch this? What will Karina think?

He was so intent on the water I had time to get my camera.

After watching the water for a few minutes he took flight, grabbing a handy perch in the oak tree, sitting for a good ten minutes just staring into the water. He did not care one whit about our conversation below or my photo snapping.

And then, all of a sudden, down he came, marching towards the water’s edge. “I know where this is going!”

Swift and brutal!

I’m wondering if Karina is going to be upset. I put my camera down and turn to her, expecting at least a look of revulsion.

“Nan, it looks like Papa is going to have to buy new fish!”