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Monday, June 30, 2014

Staring Contest

My friend Chris brought this nazar to me all the way from Iraq. In many parts of the Middle East and the Subcontinent, glass charms with this design are prevalent, as they are thought to ward off any curse or evil eye cast at the bearer.

Sadly this bobble does not shield the bearer from the Universe at large. Thus I suspect my lifetime of ridiculous calamities will continue unabated.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Operation Honeybee

George's garden is a bustling metropolis for pollinators, due in large part to a profusion of these spiky, purple flower-stalk thingies*.

*scientific name

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Breakfast is served

Is there anything finer than waking up to leftovers boxes from Milner's? I think not.

Friday, June 27, 2014


Behold the fierce part-lion-part-clown George made this week at Sawtooth! Because today is Friday and the last day of camp, the children set up a little art show in their classroom.

On his Christmas list this year, George included "camp", and when I guessed history camp (Old Salem), he said he would like that one, too, but actually he was really thinking of anthropology camp (Wake Forest).

Good news for George, because both are coming up in a few weeks, and the theme for anthropology camp this year is very exciting: Navajo, Hopi, Zuni: Who Are They?

That, my friends, is a harbinger of handmade kachina goodness if ever there was one.


Digits, Thruway

I don't do this often enough. And I don't mean that in a luxuriant, pampering way. I mean that I forget I've applied color and that color needs to be maintained. And then one day I look down to see that three toenails no longer have any polish whatsoever and the remaining seven have an incredibly unattractive patchwork effect, and I think, "Blergh."

SPOLIER: That day is today.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

UNCSA, 8:57 PM

I think these are feats of athleticism? Or maybe not -- the one on the left is obviously a pole vaulter, but the one on the right looks a lot like the Pope walking up stairs. The middle one is definitely a man using a really heavy muff.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Muscle Memory

Winston Park

I knew my little cove in Maine as intimately as I knew my own backyard in DC. I knew which rocks disappeared at high tide and which ones were likely to be slick with green when the tide was far out. I knew which ones harbored tidal pools and hid crabs and which ones had crevices where I might find beach glass. Surefooted I leapt from rock to rock at dizzying speed. I never fell, even when blinded by sun or salt or my own hair.

Sometimes I think if I could just get back there I'd be able to run on them still.

Flashback, because locally awesome

Most of the writing I did over the last two years was of the boring sort: lesson plans, reflections of lesson plans, etc. But one piece I want to migrate here, because it illustrates in multiple ways why I love living here. In short, it fits.


Please help me thank Ms. Josephine McDonald

The Dixie Classic is one of George's favorite things ever. He loves the unabashed garishness of the attractions, the fare that makes no pretense of healthiness, the showmanship of the performers -- all of it.

And yet nothing ramps up his OCD quite like the fair. Confronted by rides that whirl, speed, bobble, whip, spin, and flip, George inevitably begins to panic. There's just too much risk-taking going on, even if the risk isn't his.

Today his first defense was to tell me that he would only go on the kiddie swings, the carousel, and the giant slide. Then, still tense, he set personal rules for each ride as we approached it in turn --- only the lone yellow swing among the reds and blues, only the one brown horse with purple on the saddle, only the purple track on the slide. He's pretty good about sharing these seemingly arbitrary restrictions so I'm aware of them, but he is never able to specify the why of them, only that they are and he would very much prefer them to remain inviolate.

Unfortunately the general populace is aware of neither George's OCD nor the very specific rules that he has because of it. And so when George reached the top of the giant slide today and was told by the young lady up there that he was to go down the yellow track, he said, "But I need to go down purple," in his strangly, panicky voice that he uses when he is sure the world is going to end because something is not going how he believes it must. And then because she was slow to respond, he promptly dissolved into tears and fled back down the stairs as quickly as he could, bursting out the entrance into my arms, his cries full of frustration and sorrow.

I hugged him and held him while he buried his face in my shirt, and all the while, the woman at the entrance to the slide, whom I now know to be one Ms. Josephine McDonald, called out to me with a face full of concern, "What happened? What happened?" When George began to cry, "That's it, we're going," (fight or flight, he will always pick flight) I sort of sway-walked over to her, still holding George, and told her he would be fine, nothing awful had happened, nobody's fault, but that George had OCD and unfortunately felt like the purple slidepath was the only way to go. She looked devastated as I moved toward the barns, taking George away, which is the first step in getting him calm enough to talk it out.

The second step is to say OK, the third is to change the subject entirely, the fourth is to be agreeable when he reintroduces the subject, the fifth is to distract him again, and then the sixth is to slowly introduce an alternative. In this case there was a grape snowcone involved in Step Three and a trip to the German-themed funhouse in Step Five.

After George had run through said funhouse so many times so that his forehead felt sweaty under my kiss, I casually remarked, "You know, you could say, 'I really need to wait for the purple slide. I hope that's OK.'" And George tilted his head to think about it, then casually replied, "I kind of want to try that firetruck ride."

For those not in the know, the firetruck ride is quite close to the giant slide.

So we moseyed on over and rode the firetruck. When we got off, we casually moseyed even nearer the giant slide. And here is where something amazing and wonderful happened: Ms. Josephine McDonald saw us.

And she gave the biggest smile ever and called to George, "Come! I'm going to make sure you get that purple!" I felt George's hand in mine tense for half a second, and then it was gone as he galloped those last four steps to Ms. Josephine McDonald. As I stepped up behind him, she reached past him and gave me a quick, fierce hug. "I'm so glad you came back! So glad."

And she followed George up the stairs herself to tell the worker at the top that this young man was George and he needed purple.

I went to the Strates office onsite to tell them what a wonderful employee they had. They told me she is an onsite worker, not one who travels with them. That means she's from here, y'all!

She didn't look behind her when she walked George up those stairs, but if she had, she would have seen that I had tears in my eyes.

 I want her to know what a blessing I think she is. Will you please help me by passing this along in whatever way you can? I feel like eventually it will reach her.

Thank you, Lucy :)
 written October 2013

When this was originally posted, all manner of lovely local peeps shared it, and indeed it did reach her.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tin Anniversary

Willie did his best to scoot out of sight at the vet's office this morning, but alas, he was found and treated. Last month marked ten years we've been taking our animals to Reynolda Vet, a decade of fine veterinary care repaid in canine faithlessness and sub-par hiding skills.

Monday, June 23, 2014


The oldest is in Summer Arts Immersion at Sawtooth. Over the next four weeks he'll take roughly 20 hours apiece of wheelthrowing, woodworking, metalsmithing and enameling, glass fusion, color theory, and figure drawing.

I'm mildly jealous. And by mildly I mean my envy knows no bounds.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Proud Love

You see a boy riding a bicycle.

I see four years of finding parking at CompRehab. I see a special chair in the lunchroom because he collapsed on little, round stools. I see a child laying on his belly over a giant ball and being gently rolled to learn balance. I see therapeutic pencil grips and modified desks. I see the little room where casts were made of his feet. I see IEPs and testing modifications. I see stair exercises with someone behind him for safety. I see adaptive technology.

I see strength and ferocity and determination.

I see a boy at long last riding a bicycle.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Charlie Brown Teacher Noise

Hanes Mall Boulevard

The oldest will be eligible to get his license this fall. He already has his permit, has had it since the day he was eligible. To him driving represents freedom and the start of his real life, and I've had a devil of a time this past year trying to convince him that NOW, what he's doing NOW is his real life and matters greatly. And I am simultaneously frustrated beyond measure and highly amused, for I was the same way.

(I suspect somewhere in heaven, my mother is laughing.)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

On Happy Announcements from Esbette

George's response was immediate.

"They should name him Crusader."

"Wait, why?"

"Because it's a great name of power. The middle name could be whatever, but the first name should be Crusader."

"OK... Hey, George?"


"What if it's a baby girl?"

"OK, then the first name doesn't matter."

"It doesn't?"

"No, but her middle name should be Of Arc"


Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Here is one memory I do not have: my mother in a movie theater. And yet I know she was in one at some point in her life, because when Seven Brides for Seven Brothers came on TV, she whipped up salties and sweets and insisted I sit down to watch with her because she remembered seeing it when it came out.

But the profile I remember next to me in the dark of a theater is my father's. He took me to see Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan at a cinema on Connecticut Avenue with an enormous curved screen. In my memory when I turned to look at my dad I could see the edge of the jungle behind him, but I'm not sure that isn't just a trick of my mind, impressed by the size and curve of the screen.

The Year of Living Dangerously we saw at the MacArthur. When it was over my father took me to the old deli with all the wine bottles that was near our house. He sat me down with a Fanta and then matter of factly stated, "I shouldn't have taken you to that." I was stunned by what I'd seen; having no familiarity with Indonesian politics all I took in were the chilling images of a dead child and a man falling to his death.

We alternated his movie, my movie, his movie, my movie, and so in turn I also subjected him to horrors of a different sort: films like Tomboy, which was so astoundingly bad that we choked on our laughter to the point of coughing fits several times. When my father dropped me back at the house, my mother asked how it was, and my father looked into the middle distance and exhaled, "Breathtaking!" which set us laughing again.

The last movie I saw with my father was Hoot. The oldest explained that he had read the book, and it was about owls, and he knew Grandpa loved owls, so he wanted the three of us to go. My normally enthusiastic father hemmed and hawed as I watched my nine year old's face register surprise, then confusion, then hurt. Finally I set the child in front of the TV and took my father into the kitchen to ask what exactly the problem was. Looking at the floor, he said he didn't want to let the boy down, but he also didn't want to ruin it for us, that his "dark vision" was awful, and the only place he thought he might could see from was those first few rows where nobody ever sat.

And so my very last memory of my father in a theater is this: his profile just beyond my son's, both of them beaming and seat-dancing to Jimmy Buffett, the unmitigated joy on their faces illuminated by the light of the giant screen just a few steps away.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

In my Mind I've Gone

We lived for James Taylor at summer camp. "Fire and Rain", "Carolina in my Mind" and "You've Got a Friend" were all we listened to the last three days of the four week session. Tears poured down faces as we clung to each other, swearing eternal friendship, that we'd write letters every day, that we'd never be as close to anyone ever again.

And then on the fourth Saturday I'd get on a Piedmont plane unaccompanied back to DC. I'd land at National, and my mom would be right there at the gate, with a smile as big as Christmas. While she drove, she'd hold my hand tightly, only moving it to shift gears. I'd look out at the river and talk almost nonstop about my cabin and what levels I earned, and she would listen the whole way home. When we pulled up I'd finally look over at her to see tears in her eyes. I'd say, "What? What is it?" And she'd say, "I just missed you."

When we got to the house my trunk and duffle went downstairs to the laundry room even if I swore everything inside was clean, because "camp clean is not my clean", and I went upstairs to the bath for the same reason, While I held my hand under the tap, waiting for the water to get warm before I stoppered the tub, I'd hear my mother on the phone with her own mother. "She made it. She's home and filthy." And she'd laugh with relief, like she'd been holding her breath for twenty-eight days.

Monday, June 16, 2014


I was looking back through some of the posts here, thinking about what I want to do now, and so many odd, little changes have happened over the last two years. Listed below are just a few.

  1. Goodbye, DirecTV. Hello, Amazon Fire and Hulu. This has led to Daily Burn, old Survivor series, and an obsession with BBC programming, most notably "London Hospital", the non-continuance of which I cannot fathom.
  2. Goodbye, sweet maple in the backyard. It budded out but never grew leaves last spring. We finally had it taken down this past winter. We left a high stump on which we've set a wide dish of water and another of seed, and I'm delighted to say it is a very popular destination for the feathered set.
  3. Goodbye, Comp Rehab! My boy worked very hard and after four years finally achieved world domination both his occupational and his physical therapy goals. I am beyond proud of him.
  4. Hello, Willie/Steamboat Willie/William! Joining us from the Rockingham County shelter came this fine beast, whose entire world is taken up with being a pesky younger brother to Pep and Salsa. He's terrified of thunder, clapping, and the cat.
  5. Goodbye, homeschooling. Hello, private school. We were ready to go one more year, a year past our original plan, when George suddenly announced he was ready. Woohoo! Huge! Awesome! However, while he is bright as a whip and a marvelous fun fellow, he is pretty "tic heavy" right now. There is not a regular middle school in the world where he would not feel the weight of stares and imitations, but cognitively he belongs in an academically sound environment. Thankfully we found a very small private school almost tailor made for him. He gets the school environment he craves with the classmates he needs. We feel good about this. No, we feel great.
  6. Goodbye, Stay-At-Home Lucy. Hello, working world. Private schools cost money. (Ha! Who knew?) We will enjoy this last summer as is, and come fall, I will attempt to reenter the formal workforce after a 16 year absence. Y'all still use typewriters and mimeographs, right?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ridiculously Awesome, Locally Available

Residence of Rocky Balboa
Brandi Roberts
Signed and dated by the artist
@ Frame It, Sherwood Plaza

Y'all. Someone go get this stat. It is beyond cool. (1)The details are hilarious, and (2) Rocky. Rocky.

(Forgive the reflections and overall jiggliness of the photo. I overcompensated for last night's terrible sleep by drinking coffee all day. Whee!)

Pro, Con

Last night's storm brought out this daylily. This particular blossom is my favorite flower in the whole yard by virtue of being in the pot George made for me in his clay class at Sawtooth.

Unfortunately last night's storm also brought out the bags under my eyes. Today will not be a cute day.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

On mornings long ago

Mornings like this, when the air is redolent of verdant mountains and droplets of moisture cling to every leaf, remind me of camp more than almost anything.

One of my jobs there was to bring the horses in from pasture. Before the sun had a chance to get started, I would rise, don jeans and muck boots, and do my best to noiselessly slip out of the cabin. Even though I held the screen door as it closed, the springs would reverberate softly among the morning bird calls.

In the fading darkness I'd approach the horses. Like baby ducks they'd begin to follow as I headed through each pasture toward the gates, which unlike the screen door opened and closed in silence. As we reached the barn the horses would begin to show their personalities, this one heading straight into its stall, that one having to be coaxed, this third one trying to go in the stall of a friend.

Once they were all put away neatly I'd leave them to the barn girls to feed, my job being only one of retrieval, and head back into the cool, moist air, arriving on the green just in time for the wakeup bell.