Tuesday, November 28, 2006

February 3 on November 28

Through a series of linked blogs far too complicated to list, I've come across The Birthday Meme. What fun! Of course, I've never been one who was good about following The Rules, so you'll note some deviations from what is asked for.
. . . .

The Rules:

1) Go to Wikipedia
2) In the search box, type your birth month and day but not the year.
3) List three events that happened on your birthday
4) List two important birthdays and one death
5) One holiday or observance (if any)
. . . .
Okay, here goes:

February 3
Three events that happened on my birthday (This is such an important event that I prefer not to dilute it by listing additional events):
  • 1870: The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, grants voting rights regardless of race.

Two important birthdays (Oh, how can one stop with two important birthdays! Especially when there are such splendid people!):

  • Gertrude Stein, American Writer and Patron of the Arts

  • Felix Mendelssohn, German Composter

  • Henry Heimlich, American Physician (Yes, THAT Heimlich!)

  • Alvar Aalto, Finnish Architect

  • Pretty Boy Floyd, American Gangster!

One Death:

  • Well, actually THREE, since this was "The Day The Music Died": Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens
One holiday or observance:
  • St. Ansgar, Patron Saint of Denmark!


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Late November Reading


I've done a lot of reading this month, most of which titles came from my recommendations at Amazon.com. I don't buy the books from them for the most part, mind you, but rather I get on the waiting list at the library and go to pick them up. Getting on the waiting list is done through the computer from home or work. One of the women who calls to tell me my book is in leaves a voice mail that says, "This is the Abington Liberry calling." She sounds so proud to be working at a real liberry. I've become fond of her and of her messages..
. . . .
Digging to America by Anne Tyler was mildly disappointing. It is one of that currently popular genre of a Middle Eastern person trying to settle in to American culture. In addition to the Middle Easterners, there are a couple of Korean adoptees. The one American woman is so overbearing and opinionated and always right; you just want to walk away from her. I'm not totally sure why I finished reading it. There wasn't one really likeable character in the book, and the turns of the plot were relatively predictable. I'd give it a C+.
. . . .
Halfway House by Katherine Noel was better. It's a story about how the various members of a family cope -- independent of each other -- when the daughter has a mental breakdown. I didn't like the mother one bit and the father only a little bit. The best part of the book for me was the insight into what it might be like to have a child dealing with serious mental illness, which is the case for one of my good friends right now. Halfway House gets a B.
. . . .
Lisa Tucker's Once Upon a Day was downright insulting in its lack of credibility. The gist of it is that a very wealthy and famous man kidnaps his two children and raises them in isolation on a vast ranch in the southwest, keeping them away from their mother and everyone else. Eventually the boy makes a break and when the father becomes ill, the girl, now in her 20s, heads on out to St. Louis to find her brother. Dressed in 50's style clothing and with plenty of money she's taken from the rich father, she takes up with a taxi driver who has just lost his beloved. Together they heal, blah blah blah. Give me a break. I'd give it a C-.
. . . .
You're Not You by Michelle Wildgen is excellent. Certainly worth an A- and maybe even an A. A young woman, ambivalent about her college courses, and otherwise normal and relatively healthy emotionally take s a job as a caregiver for a woman with Lou Gehrig disease. Bec is likeable and credible; Kate, the beautiful, tasteful, and rich patient is less credible but also likeable. It was fascinating to read how as Bec's caregiving, of necessity, becomes more and more intimate, the line between her self and Kate's self becomes fuzzy. Beautifully written and engrossing. Give it a try!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving Day (Observed), 2006

The house is beginning to smell of turkey and there are other good smells, too, including the punkin pie that Amy made last night. She and Andrew are out running errands; Sherry, Sam, and Chris will be here in another hour or so. And this year we have a bonus guest! Joe's sister Janice, who lives in Lovelady, Texas, is in town. I can't think of anything that would take me away from my family on Thanksgiving (Observed), but Janice has always had a deep connection with her high school class, and they chose to have their 50th reunion this weekend. And, as it turns out, far from being away from family, she's double-dipped, having spent yesterday with Joe's brother, et al., and is on here way here now.
. . . .

Finally we have a pretty day, after many days of rain here Near Philadelphia. And so DH was good enough to string the line up on the deck a little while ago so we could photograph some quilts. This first one, Woolly Garden, took a long time to make. It was a BOM set that I worked on for more than a year, bonding and then buttonholing one block at a time. Some were done at home in front of the television; others were completed in the summer, at the Chautauqua Amphitheatre. It is all wool except the green lattice and the rose binding. I used a nice black wool for the background, and the BOM kits provided all of the other fabrics. I thoroughly enjoyed making this quilt and was excited when the designer advertised that it was the first in a series of three. But the other two just haven't caught my eye (or my checkbook). Kat did the quilting on this one. I don't make a lot of wall hangings, but this quilt really isn't large enough to do anything other than hang on the wall. So we're thinking of making a place in the living room where we can hang this quilt this winter, and then at the change of season, put something else up there.
. . . .

My friend Cessie bought a home at the seashore a couple of summers ago and I wanted to make a new house gift for her. In our crowd of coffee drinkers, Cessie has always opted for tea. And in her family, there is a wonderful tradition of a teacup shower for prospective brides, so this tea-drinking must be a family trait. I looked around for a tea party quilt pattern that I liked and nothing really spoke to me. Turns out my sister was also thinking of making a tea theme quilt for her British friend. So we started a swap. I was just tickled with the blocks that came in for that swap, and had a good time putting them together. I tried a couple of settings before I found the one I liked. I'm still not utterly convinced that the border fabric is the right thing, but when I saw it, I knew I had to buy it. You know how that goes. Branky did the quilting -- isn't it nice? The gang will be getting together next week, and I think I'll give it to Cessie then. After all, we know how chilly those nights at the shore can be, and we don't want her getting cold!
. . . .
The Autumn Mosaic quilt was finished a couple of days before Thanksgiving, and it has been lying along the back of the loveseat in the living room. Today we finally had the opportunity to photograph it. Dawn's pumpkin, featured above, is the one in the center of the quilt. Ooops, gotta go now: It's time to set the table. After all, it's Thanksgiving (Observed).


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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Day, 2006

Most people are celebrating Thanksgiving today. I'm not. We celebrate tomorrow, Friday, so that the kids who have in-laws in the area can go have dinner with them, and not have to make choices about where to be. It's more important to have everyone possible together than it is to have the meal on a specific day. So we have Thanksgiving Observed at our house the day everyone else is dealing with their left-overs.
. . . .
I have so much that I'm thankful for this year. Chief among those things this year are people, in particular. I'm thankful this year for Amy, Anastasia, and Chris; I realized that Joe and I are blessed in that the people each of our children chose to marry are absolutely wonderful, and we are growing to love them more and more each time we get together. I have friends whose children have married or partnered with people that my friends don't respect, admire, or even like very much. That must be so, so difficult.
. . . .

I'm thankful this year especially for the ministry and friendship afforded me by Skip. We received word this week that our pastor, who has served our church for 31 years, is leaving to accept a call to another church. There have been phone calls galore since the news broke. Joe and I have been members of St. Paul's for probably twenty-five years. During that time we've grown from a relationship of being parishioners to friends. This change is, of course, a loss for our congregation. At the same time, I have to think it is an opportunity, as well, for us to take a good, hard, close luck at our congregation, and assess the particular gifts, skills and interests that we will be looking for as we select a new spiritual leader. Meanwhile, we have two scant months remaining to benefit from Skip's gifts for preaching, teaching, and listening.
. . .

And of course, I'm thankful for the new generation in our family. Sam burst on the scene nearly ten months ago, bringing the most splendid grin seen this year. Our lives are all so much richer for his presence. I'm loving the role of Nana, and Joe is the most enthusiastic Grandpop I've ever run across.
. . . .
Oh, yes, a note about the pictures. In a quilt shop earlier this month I discovered some skinny little wool scarves for sale. I picked some up and bonded some designs and have been buttonhole stitching them as I sit visiting or watching television. I'm having wonderful time with them. They are fun to do, and they finish relatively quickly!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Around Here, We Call it KAW-fee

Aunt Jenny who can be found and read at http://auntjennysworld.blogspot.com/ had this quiz on her blog and, of course, I had to stop everything and take it. Results are below. I wasn't surprised, but I was amused.
. . . .
People From and Near Philadelphia tawk about accents that people from other regions have. But we don't believe we have an accent, really; rather, we tawk the way people should. Some Near Philadelphia people make a point of reminding people that they, personally, don't say wooder when reach for a bottle of Poland Spring to carry around with them.
. . . .
But almost all of us say kawfee. And we all go downtheshore in the summer. Which is priddy many months away from now.
. . . .


What American accent do you have?
Your Result: Philadelphia

Your accent is as Philadelphian as a cheesesteak! If you're not from Philadelphia, then you're from someplace Near there like south Jersey, Baltimore, or Wilmington. if you've ever journeyed to some far off place where people don't know that Philly has an accent, someone may have thought you talked a little weird even though they didn't have a clue what accent it was they heard.

The Northeast
The Midland
The Inland North
The South
Boston
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Autumn Mosaic: A Preview

More years back than I am comfortable counting, I participated in a block swap where we made autumn leaves using batik fabric on pale creamy backgrounds. I received many beautiful blocks: oak, maple, sassafras leaves, among others. I was thrilled with them when they arrived and made a few more so that there would be enough for whole quilt of leaves.
. . . .
My sister Bonnie, whose high school nickname was "Miss Efficiency Plus" (talk about a hard act to follow) participated in the swap, too, and she had her blocks together in no time, making a really creative wall hanging that featured a pile of leaves and a rake. I admired it profusely that autumn and several subsequent autumns, actually, and my own blocks stayed in their squishie bag in the cupboard with several similar bags.
. . . .
A year or so later, when fall was again approaching, I organized another autumn themed swap; this time we made pumpkin blocks on creamy backgrounds. Such wonderful pumpkins arrived, some with Halloween faces, and others just plain pumpkins. Dawn's pumpkin was particularly magnificent, with a trailing green vine. Oh, what a great quilt they would make!
. . . .
Once again Miss Efficiency Plus got hers together, although I've forgotten exactly how. Maybe that is subconsciously intentional, because my collection of pumpkins languished in the cupboard with the now-forgotten leaves and all of the other sets of blocks from all kinds of swaps.
. . . .
This past summer while looking at my infamous list of UFOs, I came across the leaves, but no inspiration was forthcoming. I set them aside and considered the pumpkins. Again, no good ideas. But I was determined to get one of them together before autumn was over.
. . . .


One day during a deadly-dull meeting, I started to sketch something that might work. It dawned on me while some co-worker was making some pointless presentation that the leaves and the pumpkins blocks were the same size, and they could go together in an autumn quilt. I had a November 1 date reserved with the machine quilter, and worked very hard to turn my project into a reality. My plan meant setting aside the three blocks that were jack o'lanterns, but they will at some point turn into a table runner, I think. My project was finished on time and went off to the machine quilter.
. . . .

Kat is an absolute genius at machine quilting. She always asks me what I would like her to do with my projects, and I always tell her, "You know better than I do what will be right." So I'm always surprised. And delighted!
. . . .
My quilt came home on Friday, and as of this morning half of the binding is done. I'm so smitten with this quilt and the beautiful work that Kat did to make it something very special. And it will be finished and on the couch back before Thanksgiving! Kat was kind enough also to send me some close-up photos she'd taken of my quilt. So here they are as a preview of my Autumn Mosaic quilt. Stay tuned to this blog for a final picture. Before Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Pendle Hill


I've been away for a couple of days. As you may recall, I work as the Assistant to the Head of a Quaker School Near Philadelphia. We fall under the umbrella of the Friends Council on Education, and one of the things that the FCE does is try to organize peer networking groups. Last summer came a call for a possible new group: Heads' Assistants. Interest was shown and two Assistants offered to coordinate the first event. I left home yesterday morning and returned this afternoon. Pendle Hill is only about a 40 minute drive from my part of Near Philadelphia, and this was where I spent a period of about twenty-four hours. The photograph to the left shows Brinton House, the building where we slept, ate, and held our meetings.
. . . .
Pendle Hill was founded as a Quaker Center for arts, education, and spiritual growth. http://www.pendlehill.org/ One needn't be a Quaker to spend time there. They have conferences of varying lengths on various subjects. Ten years ago I spent three days there attending a biomedical ethics workshop that focused on spirituality and elderly people. It was a very powerful event for me.
. . . .
So I was pleased when Kathy and Linda decided that our first peer network event would be at Pendle Hill. There are 81 schools under the FCE umbrella; 20 or so are stand-alone preschools and of the remaining 60, there were about 15 Assistants present. We were SO glad to see each other! We got acquainted very quickly, and were delighted to have 14 other people within arm's reach who understood the joys -- and frustrations -- of our day-to-day existence. Shira, the Assistant from a school in New York, is also a licensed massage therapist and she gave complimentary chair massages to anyone who was interested. I was interested.
. . . .
We gathered in three separate sessions, we had a speaker, we networked, we shared questions and ideas. We attended Meeting for Worship on the grounds with all of the other Pendle Hill residents, sojourners, and participants. We ate healthy, organic, and mostly vegetarian food. We laughed, we interrupted, we brainstormed. We experienced Silence in the Quaker way (but not a whole lot of it!). A high point for everyone was finally getting to meet April, of the soft voice on the other end of the phone, who has rescued each and every one of us when we have had to call the FCE with some problem or another. I came home with many ideas, and some answers as well. I also came home without that tension in my shoulders, thanks to Shira of the magic fingers.
. . . .
We meet again in December of 2007, this time down at the Friends Center in center city Philadelphia. Each of us is going to personally call the Assistant at another school in the network and personally invite her to attend and badger her until she agrees.
. . . .
I came home rested and energized and spiritually renewed, also knowing I now have fourteen new wonderful resources to call on in my often rather isolated job. What a gift these two days have been!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Quilts for and by the Pre-K


I've written much earlier in my blogging career about my special relationship with the Pre-K class here at school. These kiddies start school at 4-going-on-5; they aren't ready for Kindergarten yet, but are a little too grown up to be in the Preschool. Jenny, the Pre-K teacher, brought them to visit the Head of School one day years ago when it was raining and they couldn't go outside. The Head was out that day, so they visited me and a wonderful relationship began.

. . . .

The school holds a fund-raising auction each year, and when Jenny found out I was a quilter, she invited me to be part of their project. They do self-portraits in crayon in October. In November, as part of a fund-raiser for the fifth grade, these portraits are somehow magically transferred to muslin fabric. In December they come to me to be made into a quilt that goes to the auction. And some Pre-K parent buys it.

. . . .

The picture at the top is the first one I made, back in 2004-05. I found Jan Mullen (sp?) fabric on sale at Hancock's of Paducah and it was just perfect for that quilt.
. . . .
The class size varies from year to year. Last year there were only ten. I was greatly concerned about the lay-out. And then fate intervened: One boy withdrew! And so a nine-block lay-out became possible and was so much easier. The background fabric is wonderful stuff -- it is mothers and children in international costumes. And those great big buttons were hanging around for some reason that I no longer recall, and they seemed like a fine addition to this quilt. Oh, and quite amazingly, just after the auction another child joined the class! I can't wait to see this year's self-portraits!

Monday, November 13, 2006

By Popular Demand


A couple of people have pointed out that the "click to enlarge" feature didn't work on Caeli's quilt. So here it is again, in all of its bigness.

Blogger and I are Buddies


After another consultation with Jan, I changed the template to get a wider area for the posts. This post is to test out this new template. I'm much more comfortable with Blogger at this point, and am pretty skilled and moving things around. I like being able to customize the colors of things, and it really is very easy to add things to the infamous sidebar.
. . . .
Still not totally sure about eliminating the ellipses between paragraphs. Might do it, might not. Guess it isn't a big deal either way.
. . . .
The quilt in the photo is one I made for Caeli when she bought her condo. I'd been in a birthday block swap where I asked for 9" blocks using 30s repro fabrics in red, yellow, and blue and no other colors, on a white-on-white background. The swap yielded nearly enough for a quilt top. I made a couple more to have an even number and then made square-in-a-square blocks to use for cornerstones on the WOW lattice. I was very happy with how this quilt turned out. The combination of the gentleness of the 30s fabrics and the sunny brightness of the colors are just perfect for Caeli who is brilliant, sensitive, and funny.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

November 11, 2006

My friend Frank has written a poem which I believe I must publish today. For more of Frank's wonderful poetry, please see the link "Frank's Poems" in the sidebar.


POPPIES

THE POPPIES THAT LITTERED THE BATTLEFIELD
WERE BROUGHT ON BY THE LITTER OF WAR
FOR POPPIES ONLY GROW ON BROKEN SOIL
WHETHER BY PLOW OR BOMBARDMENT
THE POPPY DOESN'T CARE
IT GROWS IN BROKEN SOIL

AND THE POPPIES STILL GROW IN BROKEN SOIL

BECAUSE OUR PROMISES
MADE TO THESE OUR DEAD
OUR HONORED DEAD
HAVE NOT BEEN KEPT
WE SAID THE WORLD WOULD BE BETTER
BECAUSE OF THEIR DEATH
THEIR SACRIFICE

BUT UNLIKE CHRIST
THEIR DEATH DID NOT BRING RESURRECTION

SO TO THESE DEAD
THESE HONORED DEAD
WE RECOMMIT OURSELVES
THAT THE WORLD AND COUNTRY
THEY DIED FOR
WOULD BE A BETTER PLACE
THAT PEACE AND LOVE
WOULD HAVE NO NATIONAL BOUNDARIES
THAT FOOD AND HAPPINESS
WOULD NOT BE FOR THE FEW
BUT THE MANY
THAT THE DREAMS THEY DIED FOR
WOULD COME TRUE
THAT MEN WOULD TURN SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES
AND SPEARS INTO PRUNING HOOKS
THAT THE LAMB AND THE LION WOULD LIE DOWN TOGETHER
THAT THERE WOULD BE A NEW RESURRECTION
THAT HEARTS WOULD BE BROKEN OPEN BY LOVE
AND GROWING IN THAT BROKEN-NESS
POPPIES WOULD LITTER THE LANDSCAPE

SLEEP WELL HONORED DEAD
WE WILL REMEMBER OUR PROMISES

FRANK A VOLLMER

Friday, November 10, 2006

Testing 1-2-3 Testing


Blogger and I spent some time together last night. We became a little better acquainted and a little more comfortable with each other. Jan was helpful. The sidebar is now under control and I had fun changing the colors. Have also decided to try having the post text just at the left margin and not completely justified.
. . . .
I'm thinking of trying my paragraphs without the intervening . . . . even though I've become fond of those little buggers. All part of my new look. Even the photograph came out this time! I wonder if the Democrats' take-over extended to Blogger. . . .
. . . .
The quilt? It's one I made for Woody and Katherine when Henry Binh was born. The fabrics are all William Morris. And the block is that same Louisiana that I'm so fond of. You might want to click on the photo to see the fabrics up close. I just love 'em.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Took the Plunge!


Last night, with even more trepidation than usual, I made the move to Beta Blogger. I was fully forewarned that I'd lose my template customizations, so I made a copy of my html for the sidebar. It took longer than I'd hoped for the switch-over to be complete. But it did finally roll over, and true to Blogger's word, the sidebar was pretty much gone.
. . . .
I was able to edit the template a bit to make interesting colors. I thought I was off to a good start so I decided to tackle the sidebar next (Suddenly aware that "tackle" is football and "plunge" is diving so I'm mixing my metaphors. But I've always had a good time annoying Debbie by telling her I want to get to the basketball game early so I can get a seat on the fifty-yard line).
. . . .
I'd saved a copy of the html to the sidebar and thought it would be relatively easy to cut and paste what I wanted where I wanted it. Alas . . . .
. . . .
First of all, the language in the html for the new Beta doesn't seem to be the same as the old (remember, I do not understand html other than the code for inserting a line that Desertsky taught me). So I'm struggling. I'm particularly peeved that my profile is down below the previous posts. And I'm irked that when I try to add a "new element" like the links, they show up at the bottom of the blog rather than the sidebar. Guess the Republicans at Blogger are a bit cranky after Tuesday. . . .
. . . .
I'd like to say I'm confident that it will all work out. After all, this switch-over was a one-way street; there is no going back. But I'm not confident. I am, however, hopeful.
. . . .
And my final complaint (for the moment) is that I've tried and tried to add a photo in the usual place on this post. It was of a very attractive woman on a diving board. And I was going to end by saying "PS: The woman at the top really isn't me." But when I add the photo, I get a confirmation that it is there, and what is really there is a nice little gray box. And that little gray box really isn't me either.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

An Oldie But Goodie


My posts recently haven't been very quilty. That isn't to say I haven't been sewing, though. I have! The thing is, you see, some of the projects I'm working on are gifts for people who may (or may not) read my blog. So I'm not posting about them. Just in case. The holiday season is nearly upon us, and I'm going to photograph my projects as they are completed, so that I can post the pictures as soon as they have been given.
. . . .
Meanwhile, this is a picture of one of my favorite quilts. For several months I'd subscribed to equilter.com's batik of the month FQ packet. One rainy Sunday afternoon I pulled some batiks that seemed to go well together and started making Louisiana blocks, one of my all-time favorites. Sixteen blocks later I was ready for a nice scrappy border. I loved this little quilt, and hand-quilted it in a variegated thread. It was a gift for our former neighbor, Cameron, when he was born.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Weekend in Chestertown


We had such a nice weekend with such nice friends! Chestertown is in Maryland, on the Chester River. We became acquainted with the town about five or six years ago when our friend Peggy moved there and bought the local coffee shop, Play It Again Sam. Herb and Elaine took a little trip down to check on her, fell in love with the town, and bought a little getaway house there. We've gone down about once a year, sometimes staying with Herb and Elaine and sometimes staying at a B&B. This year we stayed at The Widow's Walk, a very nice place within walking distance of everything. Our room was spacious and our host genial.
. . . .
This is the third consecutive year that we've gone to Chestertown for Downrigging Weekend. The town is home to the Sultana, a reproduction vintage schooner, that is used for environmental education purposes up and down the Chester River. The first weekend of November is when the ship is officially put to rest for the winter and a festival is held. Other tall ships from the East Coast are invited to come into port for the weekend. They are illuminated at night and on the weekend are open for tour one day for for two-hour cruises the other day. Each year we've ridden a different boat. This year it was the "When and If" a boat originally owned by General Patton. It is a beautiful vessel. It was supposed to hold 17 passengers for the cruise; when we showed up we learned that there had been an error in filing papers and the Coast Guard wouldn't allow more than six passengers and they were US! So we had this private yacht manned by a delightful crew. Joe had a good time helping with the sails, and the rest of us just enjoyed ourselves.
. . . .
Joe and I had dinner alone together on Friday night and I had rockfish for the first time. It was just wonderful! After dinner we met Elaine and Herb who had picked up tickets for a concert at the Prince Theatre, right in the heart of downtown. The concert was a fundraiser for Sultana and featured a fellow from the education department of Sultana who writes and performs songs about the area. Mosts of them were very funny and he was quite entertaining. The second act was a blue grass band. They were a little loud for our taste and so we didn't stay for very much of their performance.
. . . .
Herb and Elaine were wonderful, opening their home to us for a hot soup lunch after the sail. On Saturday night we all went out to dinner to a terrific place in Kennedyville, about a fifteen minute drive from C'town. I had rockfish for the second time! Yesterday afternoon and this morning we wandered in and out of the shops and I picked up a couple of Christmas gifts and oohed and aahed over some adorable but expensive baby clothes, size eighteen months, for a certain someone. There is a fair amount of money in Chestertown, and we visited a lot of art galleries with high prices. It occurred to me that if I were to ever want to make quilts to sell, C'town would be a good place to try to market them, since no one else seems to be doing it.
. . . .
On the way down we stopped at the L'il Country Shoppe, a darling quilt shop in Middletown, Delaware, that one of the quilt ring bloggers had mentioned http://www.lilcountryshoppe.com/ They have a whole room that is just about wool, and it was terrific. Their regular quilting fabrics room was lovely, too. Of course I felt compelled to support he Middletown economy, and bought a few things, including some adorable little wool scarves that they had planned for needle felting, but I intend to applique with wool scraps.
. . . .
So we're home again, home again, happy and relaxed. Of course each time we go, we walk around looking at the homes for sale, fantasizing about buying one. Joe would love to have a vacation place on the water. I've sort of resisted the idea (not that it is something we could afford at this point anyway) but this trip it dawned on me that with the L'il Country Shoppe about 20-30 minutes to the north and Cottonseed Glory (which I've pronounced the second best quilt shop I've ever been in) about 30 or 45 minutes away, Chestertown might be just the place!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Not the Object, but the Source


Among my recommendations from Amazon recently was Jane Hamilton's newest novel, When Madeline Was Young. I finished reading it last night, and I'm going to give it an A- or a B+.
. . . .
Soon after Aaron and Madeline marry, she is involved in a freak accident that leaves her physically intact and whole, but with the mind and emotions of a 7-year-old. She's the girl who never grows up. Aaron divorces Madeline, remarries, and he and Julia go on to have a son and daughter of their own. Madeline remains a part of the family, a part of the household as a third child.
. . . .
Much has been written in the reviews about the liberal values of Julia who appears to be almost sickening-sweet but rules the household with an iron glove. The story is told in the voice of Julia's and Aaron's son Mac, now middle-aged, as he looks back on his life and tries to make sense of who and what his parents were and represented. I'm not going to enter into the conversation about whether the characters are credible or even discuss the times when Julia's bleeding-heart impulses may have backfired. Instead I want to talk about Mac.
. . . .
It has been perhaps ten years since I attended a conference on bioethics at a Quaker retreat center. One of the sessions featured a physician whose practice is located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He spoke about a genetic illness that strikes the Amish community. It seems that some of the children progress normally in their development until they are about two or three years old, and then they begin to regress until they return to a mental age of about six months. The Amish people, of course, do not send these "special children" off to institutions. They keep them at home and care for them, dressing them in traditional garb and transporting them in adult-sized strollers. The physician spoke about these special children as being part of the foundation of Amish values, saying, "These children are not the objects of our love and compassion; they are the source of it." I pondered this statement for a long time, eventually understanding it as evidenced by a family in my neighborhood, a family that had twelve children and also was the home of the father's sister, a woman with serious intellectual limitations. Far from being regarded as an annoyance, Aunt Theresa was included in every gathering and gently escorted to and from the car when the family went out. The night that she choked on a piece of meat and nearly died, the by-then-adult children of the family were distraught and the possibility of losing her. I began to understand something that I could not really articulate then or even now.
. . . .
In Madeline, Mac becomes a wonderful loving husband, an excellent father, and a fine physician. In one place he unconsciously reveals how central Madeline had been to his development: He tells how he is so often behind schedule in his office appointments because he can't not listen to the hypochondriac women who come in a need to talk and talk and talk, and go out somehow miraculously healed of whatever had brought them in. And, of course, part of what is behind this excellent physician is his special sister, the source of his love and compassion.
. . . .
It's a good read. Actually, it's a very good read. You won't agree with everything in it, and you may become angry with some of the characters. But perhaps it will make you think. It certainly did me.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Have You Seen This Newt?


Readers who have been with me for more than a couple of months are familiar with the saga of Fig, the newt from the Lower School Science Department who spent his summer in the office with Rich and me. You'll remember (see August Archives) that initially he was on the dull side, but as the weeks went by, it turned out he was a far more complex individual than we'd given him credit for. He exhibited enigmatic personality variations and even had a "near death experience." We decided that we'd like to entertain him again next summer.
. . . .
When school reopened, we rather reluctantly sent Fig home to the care of the Lower School Science Teacher. A couple of times I went to visit him; his next-cage-neighbor was a rather intimidating sort of a guy who I learned was a Bearded Dragon. His name, it seems, was Sally, or Linda, or some such. Being a daughter of the '60s, in my mind I renamed him Puff, and moved on. Despite his fearsome appearance, Rosanne assured me he was gentle and pleasant. I decided to take her word for it, and declined her offer to become more well acquainted. I'd come to visit Fig, after all.
. . . .
School is well underway at this point and I've been busy with all kinds of things. Too busy to go call on my buddy to see how he is doing, back in Lower School and all, and getting to know his new colleague Puff/Sally/Whoever. I'd been thinking about it this week though. And then this morning brought this email from Rosanne:
. . . .
Are you ...sitting down? Fig is missing! I came in this morning and he was gone... I don't know if he escaped or there is a more sinister reason for this sad turn of events.....
Sadly,
Rosanne
. . . .
Any information leading to the return of this beloved newt will be generously rewarded, most likely in the form of lollipops, stickers or -- gasp -- animal crackers.