Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Patsy's Final Picture

Thanks Mom for doing the August Break picture a day with me.  It was really fun.

Last August Sunset

My friend from Idaho is visiting for work this week and we snuck out on the lake tonight.  Mid Week is great, not much traffic, quiet and it was very calm tonight.  Perfect. Again.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Red Shoes

Over the Bay

And through the the first day of school we go!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Katrina Anniversary

This is my mother's home six years ago (top) and today.

Silver Lining

The silver lining on the marsh this morning took my breath away.........

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Seems quite strange to see our calm lake waters when Irene is causing so much havoc - from my mother in Louisiana.


Our cars were broken into as we slept 15 feet from them last night. A family down the street slept as burglars stole jewelry, silver, phones and computers from their home. Other families cars were burglarized. We are all a little uneasy heading into the night.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

House Raising in Hurricane Country is Serious Business

The front plate says "Praise the Lord", which is why it says serious business.  This is a friend's house and  it is the biggest disaster you can imagine.  The truck belongs to Swamp Boy so called by my mother and her friends because his relatives in real life are in the show Swamp People. He is fond of saying, "Anythang to make you happy, little lady."

Another Birthday

My father in law turned 80 this month so we all gathered at the Lake House to celebrate.  We had cocktails, dinner, played badminton, and read him a list we all made that had 80 things we loved about him. Another perfect August day.

Friday, August 26, 2011

New Orleans Horse and Buggy Tour


This birthday seems to be the one that never ends.  Today, we had a party with her friends. It was 85, humid and sunny on the Lake. Could not have been more perfect. She had so much fun.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tribute to Steve Jobs

Father and Son

I was driving to pick up my son from a fishing camp at a county park.  We passed this father and son going to fish.  He had his canoe rigged up so that they could bike it to the river.  It was so delicious watching them. The picture is grainy because it is a camera phone and then I had to crop my head and car mirror out of the picture and enlarge it to get this. I couldn't get any closer or I'm sure they would have thought I was a stalker.

Balance, in Art Terms

Taking Back My Family could have many subtitles - Take Back My Life, Take Back Myself, Take Back My Husband, Take Back My Time. 
Symmetrical balance can be described as having equal weight on equal sides of a centrally placed fulcrum.
I think this can only be done with two sides and only certain things. Is there an instrument that has a fulcrum in the middle but with five extensions? And then each extension has to be balanced with multiple arms of everything that person has to balance? So, our family is the central fulcrum. Each one of us is an extension. Each extension must learn to balance friends, school, work, sports, relationships. And so on. 
It’s all very complicated and unstable, and I doubt if it will ever be totally and completely balanced at any one time. 
With August allowing more unscheduled time, we are beginning to untangle some of our mess. We are talking about values, and what each of us really wants to do.  I knew I had to do write my update, and usually I have it ready a few days early. I was having a rough day yesterday and started to write then. It would have gone something like this:
Taking Back My Family really sort of stinks. And its not really possible. We cut out most activities and they are home a lot. They mess up the house. They bicker. And they are hungry all the time. 
And it might have continued like this: 
I don’t want to cook dinner every night at home. I don’t want to have to clean up after them all the time. I don’t want to fight their learning disabilities all the time.  I don’t actually want more time because I’ve created more time and in that space, I clean, I am a referee, a tutor, a short order cook. 
So, I texted a sitter down the street to see if she was available to help out today. I didn’t want anyone else around in August and I have been full throttle trying to make good memories and enjoy the summer with my kids. And I have done that. We have done so much this month - lots of activities and plenty of down time for the kids at home. Down time for the kids at home translates into me busting my butt to organize more, cook more, ...etc.  So, I was grumpy and mad at them for being spoiled kids that get so much. 
Hold on. Wait a Second. Those aren’t very loving feelings for a mother to have toward her kids about experiences that she has choreographed. 
Yep, I did it again.  Why do I keep doing it again and again? I forgot to make time for me.  I became anxious that school was starting and we hadn’t done enough. I was forcing family and fun. I was lamenting the passage of time and wanted to enjoy every minute I could with them. 
But it made me crabby.  Chloe’s birthday party is tomorrow and I haven’t done much for it.  I figured I would spend today doing that.  And that made me crabby.  OK. What mother gets crabby about planning a birthday celebration for her daughter? 
So, the sitter came and I have spent the morning reading, writing, and rejuvenating. They went to Michaels and are “researching” ideas for her party, and thrilled to be doing it. They are happy.  I am happy. 
Asymmetrical balance is more complex and difficult to envisage.  It involves placement of objects in a way that will allow objects of varying visual weight to balance one another around a fulcrum point. 
In our family life, this could be translated in several ways. Chloe may need more interaction and activity than the rest of us. I may need more quiet and alone than the rest. One season could be more heavily weighted on one child or Steve’s work. We are all different and have different needs. One season could be more weighted with all kids activities. Maybe this is OK if we have part of the year that is down. 
I think I am going to shoot for asymmetrical balance. It seems much more attainable. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Yacht Club


The degree to which I love this makes me ever so fragile.


She Makes Art Wherever She Goes

This is Chloe's best friend's foot. Such as life as Chloe's best friend.

Ashes to Ashes

My daughter, the artist

My daughter brought me this gift.  She was so excited for me to open it right away, although I didn't want to.  I took this quick snapshot to return to later.  In the box, were (was? where are those grammar police?)  a beautiful pair of earrings that she had made at camp.  She took a piece of wire or copper and twisted it around a pencil, then removed the pencil to make a beautiful spiral. They were beautiful.

But I just love the box and the care she took in wrapping it.  I don't do this.  She is going to be one of those people who makes getting gifts so much fun simply by the way she packages things.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Abbey Road

I'm not sure that I realized the extent of my mother's humor before this joint project.

She's Home!

Two weeks away is way too long.  She looks older. Really.

Red Right Return

Another Saturday Night Sunset

I almost made the mistake of thinking that these Lake Sunsets are getting old. Then I remembered January.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mood Swings

Great Drive

Today, I golfed with my son for his first time on a real course away from the comfort of our home course. You would think I would post a picture of him.  But I decided this great drive deserved the spot light.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


A family friend self published her new book in Amazon's Create Space. Her child calls the sun "Hot Moon". My Mom bought a copy and is mailing it to us.  I can't wait to read it. The author, Jennifer Bogart, has recently started Under the NOLA Moon, a blog about her new life in New Orleans.

Waiting on Lunch

When I was a kid, we played  house or restaurant. My kids like to play spa and say things like, "Charge it to account number 200." I'm worried.

Kid's Rooms

Monday was my daughter’s eleventh birthday. She is at camp and she sent me an email asking me to clean her room so she will be happy when she gets home.  I was expecting more of a long letter filled with gratitude for the mere fact of giving her life. 
I have to think about what to post here about our changes.  For one, I don’t want to scare anyone. And I am sensitive about some things, and feel too vulnerable to post or think about even. And I don’t want to bore anyone by describing every tear or every nod to the gods about a particular moment. And many things are so darn complicated that I don’t even know where to start. 
So when my daughter sends an email asking us to clean her room, there is more to the story.  Although I like telling just certain parts like that because then I can just laugh.  And laughing is fun. 
So, yes, her email.  We told the kids that part of taking back our family included cleaning out our house and putting more TLC into it than we have in the last couple of years.  What she heard was that we were redecorating the entire house and buying all new furniture...and can we change everything into ultra modern because thats what she really likes. We were thinking more along the lines of putting pictures in frames and throwing out two year old Halloween candy we hid from them.  
Now, thankfully, we are not candidates for that hoarders show.  I don’t watch it because it is a scary possibility.  Me watching that show would be akin to a person who drinks a whole lot watching a show about alcoholism and recovery.  Too close for comfort. But people have described those houses and I know we aren’t there. Yet.
My kids rooms are driving me nuts.  They have accumulated more stuff and their rooms are popping at the seams. Their rooms used to be so lovely, and we played in them all the time. One of my pressure points about changes needing to be made was the fact that I break out in hives when I enter their rooms now. So, we spent time in my son’s room this weekend and, although we are not finished, it is so much better. I conveniently forgot to take a before picture, but  the after picture starts this post. (That black thing is not a vacuum cleaner.  It is my oldest daughter's ultra modern fan that the little kids stole from her room the minute we returned home from dropping her off.)  Here is a picture of my youngest daughter's room if you want an idea of the before picture. 

And while I am at it, this is my oldest daughter's room, the one who wants me to clean her room. This is the messiest it gets - she was just in a rush to catch the bus to camp

I am happy to report that all of these changes that we want to tackle in the fall MAY not be as hard as we expected. The kids were across the street and my husband and I WORKED ON THIS TOGETHER. I capitalized that because our approach to this is so different that we should have a mediator in the room with us while we do it. I want to start by organizing all the toys and pieces, basically inside out.  He wants to just throw stuff away or push it in a closet or under the bed so it feels good to walk in.  Starting this project together was akin to having a Jew and a Christian start by needing to come to an agreement on Jesus’ relevance to the world. 
We didn’t finish, but we were both so happy with the results.  I would probably do a better job than Steve if I had about 10 years to do each room.  I start things, and pile things, and sort things.  And then I get hungry and distracted and the piles stay there and nothing gets finished. He shoves everything and it lasts until you want to get one toy out and the entire closet falls out, just like in the movies.  Or maybe the hoarder show.  But I don’t watch that so I wouldn’t know. 
So we pulled things out and started working together.  Until I freaked out when he went to throw away a piece of the LiteBrite and I had a stack for those little pieces. Or maybe it was when he tried to mix Legos and Play Mobile. We eventually found a rhythm and he gave me a timeline and made me something to eat when I got hungry.  I wasn’t near finished but he said we had an hour left and we needed to start finding containers for the different stacks so we could go out on our date night.  That last part gets a little hard for me and boy, do I get distracted.  He stayed right there and we finished together.  
Everyone was elated.  The kids wanted to play in there right away.  My son wanted to build lego forts and didn’t want his sister on the Nilo Table.  She was easily appeased with a set of blocks that had been buried and spread apart for a year.  They played happily for an hour while we got ready to go out. 
The afternoon not only included us working together, therefore strengthening our marriage. We enjoyed it.  The results made the kids play together happily, and created incredibly good energy. 
We had a sitter and no plans.  It is part of this project - spending time together, building our marriage, having fun together again. This, obviously, will take some time to re-enter the groove and remember what it is like to relax together. 
Because the only thing we wanted to do was have cocktails in our son’s new clean room. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Where Everybody Knows Your Name


We went to a mini golf course that doubles as a sculpture garden.  Everywhere you looked, there was art.  Her right foot seems so very real to me.

Day's End

This is my mother's picture from yesterday, Aug 16. Pass Christian Harbor, Mississippi.  I can just hear the halyards.

Stillwater Bridge

Yesterday we spent the day tubing on the Apple River in Wisconsin.  I didn't want to tempt fate by bringing my phone on the river.  I took this picture crossing the Stillwater Bridge going from Minnesota into Wisconsin.

About August

Many bloggers are taking part in the August Break. While I understand, appreciate, admire, and respect this decision, I really miss them!  I just discovered many of them this spring and I was not ready for them to take a break. At least it gives me something to look forward to in September. 
Her idea was to simply post one picture a day.  But  she made a point of saying there were no rules, no right way to do it.  It reminded me of something I tried a couple of years ago. I found the idea as I was surfing the net.  A mom of four young children wanted to work on her photography with her limited time and made a goal of posting a picture a day for a year.  I followed it for a while, the while that I was copying it. She has since closed it to the public and I have no way of getting back in. Bummer.  
I love putzing with my camera and enjoyed the project, although it took up way more time than I expected.  I had rules.  I had to post one, and only one,  picture a day.  Some days I took many pictures and it was painful to pick just one.  Other days I was dead tired and it was 10 pm and I had to take a picture of my coffee pot. I loved what became of this project.  It was a day in the life.  Some times I had great pictures and some days I didn’t.  I learned to look at different elements of my photography, and had to hone some skills when forced to choose one picture. I created a blog for this (that, of course, was only for me) and it was fun to watch it grow. 
I came down with H1N1 that spring and that was the end of it.  I was seriously sick for over two weeks and the habit was broken.  
My mother has always asked me how I take the pictures I take.  I have never known how to answer her.  I pick up the camera and press the button. Period.  I rarely turn the dial off of automatic.  She kept badgering me for more instruction.  She wanted the technical stuff that she thought I was keeping a secret. 
In her retirement, she has gone crazy with her camera and can out talk me in photography technicalities all day long. I asked her to do this August thing with me.  With the rules, because that’s how I am. One picture per day.  Early on, she said she didn’t like it because it felt forced.  I explained how the parameters could be viewed as a teaching and growing challenge.  She still doesn’t really like it, but I told her to start her own blog if she didn’t want to do it my way. 
I also am not liking it as much as I did before.  One of the reasons is that I haven’t used my Canon - I’ve just been using my phone.  It isn't developing photography skills.  But it is a day in the life, so I am appreciating that. And it is really fun to do this with my mother.  Her pictures are all labeled Patsy’s Pics and mine aren’t labeled yet. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Two Roads Diverged - and I Took the One Less Traveled by


Washing Dishes in the Northwoods

Last Monday, I drove my son to catch a van that would take him away to summer camp for the first time.  The six nights were longer than the days, but soon enough I picked up a dirty little boy who wanted to go next year for a month. 

One of his lessons learned was how to wash dishes on the trail in the Northwoods.  Dump what food is leftover and then put in pebbles and rocks and dirt and water.  You clean it with the dirt.  You swish it around and scrub it and that’s how all the germs get washed away.  It’s funny that you need all the stuff that looks dirty to actually clean the germs you can’t see.  He nodded his head quickly and I could read so much in the smile that is always there, as he said, “I know its hard to believe. But it’s true.”  If he were older, a wink would be included to seal the knowledge. 
Yesterday, even though it was overcast, I put on my sunglasses as I drove my 10 year old daughter to catch the bus for two weeks away at camp. It gives me a terrible headache to work so hard to hold back tears, so I figured I could let loose (quietly) for a few minutes on the way -- all the kids gabbing in the back.  There was no bickering, of course.  That would have helped me, perhaps thinking there would be less of it for the next couple of weeks. They were having a normal conversation, as normal as we can get these days.  Each of them was engaged with some screen, but talking about each other’s camps or apps or whatever.  Archery or Riflery or Tap Zoo or iCarly or styles of sunglasses. 
My tears were not simple tears.  I wish they were simply tears of joy.  Or the pure raw pain of sending my daughter away for more days than I have ever been away from her. Or even the slightly more evolved pain of excitement and happiness at her new adventure mixed with the pangs of letting her go. 
To be sure, I had those tears. However, my tears were also way more complicated and exponential. I cried because I was sad that our lives had been busy, busy, busy and I hadn’t made the time to enjoy more good things with her.  And now she was leaving.  I was sad that our family life when we are home seems so chaotic. Not only chaotic in the busyness, but emotionally chaotic. The bickering and nagging and general unsettledness that has set in and doesn’t seem to move out.
 The tears expressed my guilt at being somewhat relieved that my husband and oldest daughter were both leaving for a few days. When the two extreme extroverts are gone, the tenor in our home changes dramatically. Our pace is in sync and everything seems to roll along more smoothly. But there is a hole, and we are not complete. The tears were shed both for the incompleteness and the enjoyment of it. 
My tears were shed at the looming gray silence headed my way.  Chloe is pure raw energy and lives in extremes.  I find myself living, but bracing to keep up with daily life that includes her. Bracing against silence is daunting, so I know I have to ease into my rhythm without her. 
The tears hailed the passage of time. When she returns, she will be eleven.  I will not see her being ten years old ever again. Others will see her being eleven before I do.  The Minnesota sweet corn harvest just began, her favorite time of year. Sweet corn and August Birthdays herald the end of summer, and the last first day of lower school; the last year they will all be in school together.  Ever. 
So I am taking all these tears and mixing them together. The ones made of dirt and pebbles and stones and mud and the pure ones made of fresh clean water.  I am swishing them around and scrubbing. 
Because it’s funny that you actually need to see all the stuff that looks dirty to wash the germs away.