Uncle Yeeti

Yesterday, our son’s girlfriend introduced us to Uncle Yeeti. He accompanied her to our house and stayed for the evening. We have known her for years as she is a part of the family, but we had never met Uncle Yeeti before. We liked him right away. He was rather quiet through dinner and didn’t interact much; she let us know that sometimes he gets a little tired and has to recharge a bit. She was right. Once he got a second wind, he was more energized and good to go until late in the evening.

I was captivated.

Our dog, was not as impressed, however. He took a bit longer to warm up to him, and eventually settled down in agreement once Uncle Yeeti offered him a treat. They even enjoyed a game of chase together later that night, after Ollie felt more at ease.

Sure, I had heard about him for ages, but had never really given those opinions much weight. However, once I saw him in action, I realized that everything I had heard about him was true; I should have paid more attention years ago. I glad we were finally introduced after all these years – just having him in the room made me feel lighter and happier. I began to see things more clearly, as if a hazy, dusty lens had been peeled away from my eyes.

We asked if he could stay longer, and she agreed! Who knows, if all goes well, he may stay on indefinitely. I think his happy humming and knack for pushing through detritus toward clarity will be of lasting benefit to our home. Even this morning, his residual sparkle still makes the place shine.

I’m so happy to have finally met you, Uncle Yeeti!

Where have you been all my life?

A Waltz? Seriously?

I have the notion that my life is a musical.

Kind of nice, right?

It is my experience that music makes almost any situation better. I listen a lot, and have a collection of playlists for varied moods and occasions. When something is happening, I am inclined to add tunes to the event. Though not the best at preparing food, I’ll happily contribute melodic ambiance at a moment’s notice.

Friday night charcuterie? Got it.

BBQ on the patio with friends? Done.

Summer solstice celebration? Why, certainly!

Jazz brunch on the front porch? Word.

Robbie Burns night mid-January? Say no more.

Awesome road trip? Of course!

Beach weekend? Dude.

Autumn Equinox assemblage? Not a problem.

Morning yoga at dawn? I’m there.

With all of these compilations, I notice that the tunes that catch my attention immediatley are the ones with a 3/4 tempo.

The waltzes.

Waltzes? Are you kidding me?

Well now, wait just a minute there!

Here are a few songs I am thinking about when I hear that 1,2,3, 1,2,3, 1,2,3, rhythm.

Do you recognize a few?

Open Arms – Journey

Can’t Help Falling in Love – Elvis

Norwegian Wood – The Beatles

When Irish Eyes are Smiling – The Irish Tenors

Piano Man – Billy Joel

Can I Have This Dance? – Anne Murray

Look at Us – Vince Gill

That’s Amore – Dean Martin

Morning Has Broken – Cat Stevens

Annie’s Song – John Denver

Que Sera Sera – Doris Day

The Rainbow Connection – Kermit the Frog

Moon River – Andy Williams

Hallelujah — Leonard Cohen

and

What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

There are tons more to add to this list including tunes by Metallica, Queen, Goo Goo Dolls, Seal, and Nickelback. So, you can see that waltzes come in all genres. Just listen for that 1,2,3, 1, 2, 3… beat and you’ll know you’ve got one.

I bet you didn’t know you love a good waltz, yourself!

Here is one of my favorites that you may not be as familiar with…

Soul Flower

When my mom was dying, a friend suggested that I ask her how I will know she is still with me after she is gone. As nice as that sounded at the time, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Real life is not like the movies. On film, everyone seems to know how near the end is and how much time is left: weeks, days, hours, moments. I don’t think it’s like that in real life – it certainly wasn’t that way for us. Maybe because my mom’s death was our first one. Even though we are a big family – eight in all – it was all horribly novel for us. On top of that, I didn’t know if she understood how little time was left, and I didn’t want to be the one to tell her, if she didn’t. So, I never asked.

In retrospect, it didn’t really matter that we never had that conversation because I think I knew the answer as soon as my friend posed the suggestion. My mom’s connection to me would be sunflowers. For several reasons, I knew that she would reach out to me with sunflowers.

She died on July 2, 2013.

It seems like ages ago and also just yesterday. Is that funny? On one hand, it seems like she has missed so much time with us – things that she should have been here for and wasn’t. On the other hand, it’s as if she was here just yesterday, and I expect her to walk through the door with a blueberry pie or her famous broccoli-raisin salad in hand.

The weeks following her death were strange – an existence in an altered state. Everything seemed flat and lifeless. I got by in a fog, faking it through the motions of everyday life as time crept forward through summer days and nights.

On one of those balmy nights I found myself cleaning up after a backyard BBQ. Friends had left and the house was asleep. The kitchen was finally put away and I went outside to take out the trash and cover the grill.

On my way in, I checked my sunflower patch.

This is how all of the buds looked that day.

I was in the habit of counting my sunflowers daily because hungry critters often enjoyed them for snacks. These were my 22 survivors, and I knew them all. I had sown them as seeds and watched them grow from sprout to stalk. At about five feet high, they were now beginning to sprout nubs that would bloom in a month or so. The buds were still small – walnut-sized and spikey.

All except one.

I noticed it only then. For as many times as I checked those plants, I had never seen it before. There – floating above the patch – was one open-faced, enormous sunflower – blooming in all its glory. I won’t stop here to say how I felt. You can imagine. I stared up at its shadowy orb swaying silent against the night sky and pushed my way into the surrounding stems until I found that one stalk to grab on to.

I held on with both hands and cried in the moonlight.

The date was August 2nd – one month to the day that she left.

Years later, I was showing the photo of the lone sunflower to a friend. I had taken it the morning after as proof to myself that the whole thing hadn’t been a dream. Once again, I noticed something that I had not seen before. On the face of the flower was a single, large bee.

This would not seem significant to most, but to me, it was, because of my name.

Deborah – the queen bee.

No kidding.

The queen bee finds the sunflower.

So, there you go.

Call it crazy, call it what you will. For me, the whole thing was Mom.

She was sending me sunflowers already.

Ablaze!

I swung the schoolyard door open at arrival time and children clamored into the building with a swirl of cold air and flurry of voices – snippets of conversation. They dispersed to their classrooms and the remaining stragglers passed through, heading to class. I recognized one of my own second graders in the mix.

“Good morning!” she beamed, flashing me a dazzling smile as she swept by.

“Good morning, A–” I did a double take.

Her cherub face was”enhanced” by a brazen smear of fire-engine red lipstick, mostly on the lips, likely done en-route to school on the bus from the look of it.

She cheered once more from the hallway,

“See you later!”

“Oh, my – so……glamorous!” I blurted, regaining my countenance.

Later that afternoon, my second grade writers assembled to give their culminating presentations as “experts” on a non-fiction topic of their choice. Her report was on “How to Sing for an Audience,” and it was doubly captivating for the ruby red lips and her flair for drama. She fleshed out her theme with chapters on microphones, voice, and confidence, and in the Q and A session afterward, she let us know that her current favorite number is “Girl is on Fire,” by Alicia Keys.

I have to admit, she kind of was.

Her charisma and, well – her accessorizing were perfectly mesmerizing. She had this audience in the palm of her hand from the start.

I have no idea if the lipstick has been under her mask for all these months, or whether it was a special prop for today. Either way, she was just what she was hoping to be.

She was on fire.

I Left and No One Ever Knew

I spied on neighbors with Harriet.

I tapped false walls with Nancy.

I tended hidden flora with Mary.

I bumped up against life with Ramona.

I picked pennies from the fountain with Claudia and Jamie.

I sobbed tears of anguish with Travis and Arliss.

I trembled in fear with Meg and Charles Wallace.

I quibbled on a riverbank with Ratty and Mole.

I traipsed through treetops with Fritz and Ernest.

I questioned ridiculous rules with Scout.

I spared small lives because of Charlotte.

I fell in love because of Pony Boy.

I championed the underdog because of Boo.

In books

I lived a thousand lives without ever leaving the room.

Did you?

Inside Out

I’ve noticed that in winter, pieces of outside come in –

willing contraband in mourning arms.

There are rocks on the kitchen windowsill,

fossils in the bookcase,

a bulky basket of cord wood hunkered at the hearth,

and a tall twig standing sentinel in a corner of the dining room.

There is a piece of bark tucked behind the weft in my weaving

and a clam shell full of translucent sea discs on the dresser shelf.

Nearly every jacket in the closet has a rock in its pocket.

A fist full of craggy eucalyptus – remnant from a fall arrangement – stretches from a vase on the kitchen table,

and seedy thistle stalks poke from a jug on the wood box.

Winter is not a favored season but

it’s not so much the weather,

it’s that walls are so necessary then.

Come spring and summer – when confines disappear and outside floats in again

on its own breezy merit

through open windows and doors

to soothe the eyes as a vase of flowers

or drift toward ears as cicada choruses

or tease the nose as fresh cut grass,

well then

there is no want for outside in.

We’ll be inside out.

The Flinging of the Mask

Should we not have a bonfire today to haul back and fling them all in?

A WHOOP!

A HOLLAR!

A HIP, HIP, HOORAY!

With a gulp of fresh air to breath in.

Aaaaaahhhhhhh…..

They kept us quite safe for so many a month

and grateful I am for that fact.

But foggied up glasses and muffled up voices

I’m totally fine to give back.

We shouted our way through each eight hour day

breathing exhales that left us quite tired.

Over the ears and across the nose bridge

those darn masks just left us expired.

So can we not have a BIG BONFIRE today

to slingshot them into the heat?

‘Cause today we will see all the smiles that will be

on the uncovered faces.

SO sweet.

WOOHOO!!!

It’s All in the Name?

Yoga and my husband have both given me many things for which I am grateful, and on this occasion the two of them combined to give me a good laugh. Two years ago, my asana practice moved from the studio to an-at-home practice for obvious reasons. At the time, I was lucky enough to find a terrific yoga app that continues to enhance my practice. With each use, the app generates a unique session based on the user’s specifications. Among other things, I can choose the level of difficulty, background music, cueing intensity, the voice of the instructor, and the duration. And after shavasana – if I really like the practice – I can opt to save it to my “Favorites” list for future use.

Once a practice is “Saved to Favorites,” I can rename it – which I always love to do. I love to rename the practices that I love. I try to make each new name as appealing as possible and reflective of it’s unique sequence of poses. If I’m lucky, I’m able to come up with a moniker that hints at what is in store during the session. That way, I have an idea of what to expect when I choose that exercise again. For instance, the name “Sole Sundial” tells me that this one has a “sundial” stretch in it as well as padahastasana pose, which is one of my favorites. Padahastasana is when the yogi slides the entire palm of each hand under the sole of the corresponding foot while in a forward fold position (hence the “sole” part of the name).

Makes sense, right?

So one day, I was telling my husband how much I love this app and that this was evidenced by the long list of “Favorite” practices I had accumulated and redubbed.

“Would you like to hear some of the names?” I asked.

“Sure,” he replied.

“Okay, great. Here’s one –

Heart Flow,” I said.

“Hmmmm….”

“Here are a few more….Airy Asana, Humble Warrior, Plentiful Portion, and Bliss Balance.”

“Pretty good,” he responded. “Mind if I try a few titles?” he asked.

“Oh, sure!” I squealed in excitement (maybe he is finally seeing the real benefits of a consistent yoga practice, I thought to myself).

“Okay,” he said, “toss out a name.”

Me: Soul Swirl

Him: Call an Ambulance

Me: Wistful Willow Wander

Him: Jaws of Life

Me: Luxurious Immersion

Him: O.M.G.

Through tears of laughter I had to admit; though he may not take to the mat, he does have a way with words.

Winter Sowing

What do empty gallon jugs, popsicle sticks, and a roll of duct tape have in common?

If you guessed winter sowing – you are correct.

Winter Sowing is pretty much what the name implies – sowing seeds in the heart of winter. It is faith in the future, a nod to Mother Nature, and therapy for those up north who just can’t wait for gardening season to come around again. In addition, winter sowing reaps benefits for many more than just the sower. If all goes well, your newly planted flora will abound through spring, summer, and early fall to brighten your habitat and provide new sustenance and shelter for birds, bees, and other happy critters that share the planet with you.

Here is what you need for winter sowing:

empty rinsed out gallon jugs

kitchen shears or a box cutter

a drill

duct tape

popsicle sticks

a permanent and/or paint marker

potting soil

and native seeds of your choosing.

Gallon jugs
Seed Packets

Once you have these simple supplies, the fun begins. First, drill 4-8 drainage holes in the bottom of each empty jug. Then, use kitchen shears or a box cutter to cut 3/4 of the way around the middle, from under one side of the handle to the other. The top half of the container should hinge at the base of the handle but still be attached. Next, fill the bottom of the vessel with several inches of potting soil. Rough up the surface and plant your seeds there, covering them lightly with soil and a sprinkling of water. After that, use your marker to write the seed type on a popsicle stick, and push that into the soil as well. Close it up, seal the seam around the middle with your duct tape, and label the outside of the jug also. Leave your cozy terrarium outside all winter (for native seeds) with the cap off and let Mother Nature do the rest.

Going at it!

That’s it!

While your plantings are happily wintering away in their little jugs, you can pass the frosty months thinking about where you will put your seedlings once they have sprouted.

Wintering Away

And who knows? You may even be motivated to prep a few new garden beds in late winter/early spring – just for kicks.

Hmmmmm…

Maybe a cluster of daisies for over there.

How about patch of zinnias there?

Some Ironweed? Columbine? Butterfly Milkweed?

See what I mean?

Another season’s promise in the ground.

If You Have to Like Numbers, Here Are Some Tips

Numbers are utterly annoying in their chronic demand for precision.

One would think that with googolplex possibilities, there would be a loosening of the ridiculous accuracy required of math. Does it not seem a bit unrealistic to demand such exactitude for every single answer when the possibilities are literally infinite?

Am I missing something here?

A little gray area, a smidgen of latitude, or a range of acceptability certainly seems reasonable.

Who knows? It might even result in more people liking math.

Since numbers are basically so irritating, I thought that I would provide some tips for trying to like them a bit more. This is not easy to do, because half of them are odd, which is in-and-of- itself a problem. Odd numbers are cliquey, exclusionary, and snobbish. They leave others out and always have – that’s just the way they are. Prime numbers are even worse. They are completely anti-social and actually downright rude. Don’t even try – they snub even the most gracious efforts and are completely un-accomodating.

Even numbers – although unceasingly rigid (not surprising) – tend to be a bit more welcoming and inclusive. Take your basic 8, for example. Even looking at it, you know it’s a jolly dude.

As for specific numbers? Well, they are relegated to personal preference; you’ll have to decide how you feel about them on your own. If you try hard enough, you can often find something good about most of them, believe it or not. The trick is to associate them with something you love. You’d be surprised at how much less intimidating they are when you look at them that way.

Here are my “Helpful Positive Number Associations” from one to ten:

1 is our dog Ollie.

2 is my husband and me.

3 is our children – two boys and a girl.

4 is our fruit trees – two apples and two plums.

5 is our family, all under this one roof.

6 is my five siblings and me.

7 times around the sun for my second graders.

8 is my family growing up – two parents and six kids.

9 steps up to the bedrooms

10 months in a school year.

See?

Not so bad, right?

Sure, numbers will always be inflexible and set in their ways. They will continue to be uber-demanding and super picky about

“There is only ONE right answer! Blah. Blah. Blah,”

and

“Close enough only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Yadda, yadda, yadda.”

But if you try really hard, well – who knows?

You might just find a number to love.