Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Artwork by Bianca

The flu struck the week before Thanksgiving and never really went away.  'Am still sick but can almost say I've managed to pull off another Christmas.  This is niece Bianca's Saturday depiction of the two of us beside the Christmas tree.  (My hair!  Our eyes!)  Rarely have I been more charmed by something (or someone).  :)    Happy holidays to you all, and catch you in the new year. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

In a Glass Pie Plate

When last featured, the squash was smiling at me.   

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Home Today

A cleansing and beautifying project seemed the way to go this weekend, and it's a rare weekend off, so I've been painting the orange wall a soft white as the start of redoing the wall in white, pink, and green.  A couple months ago, I ordered a wallpaper sample of this print--
--but since I'm not allowed to wallpaper here, I'm using the sample more as an idea for a hand-painted design.  
The red gingham curtains will be (moved into the bedroom possibly and) replaced with green gingham ones.  I have green gingham fabric I've ordered, green gingham fabric my grandmother's passed along, and a ready-made green gingham valance found at a thrift shop on one of my last visits home, so I'm thinking some combination of those pieces to make the new curtains.  I don't enjoy sewing, the curtain rods' brackets are rickety and like to fall out of the wall/window-frame whenever I so much as stare at them too long, and the wall and widow-frames themselves are as unyielding as bricks, so nothing about the curtain-making or curtain-hanging sounds like anything but a hassle except finishing it, so as soon as all the white-painting and rose-painting are done, I will need to buckle down and just do it. 
The white wall, green gingham, mostly gray pots/pans, probably-black frames for the samplers, and the pink roses all sound comforting and fresh and "me" to me and are the coziness I need right now, so I'm happy to see the change taking place finally, after having collected various pieces of the project for the past few months.  The safe haven of home is going to be that much sweeter and prettier, and the goal is to finish this part of it by Christmas.  Painting the swirls and stems of a few roses a day will be therapeutic this next month, and in the meantime, the soft white is soothing too.  
Thank you all for your kind words and prayers the past couple weeks.    I haven't had any nightmares the past two nights, which is huge.  And after working late the night before and racing around the morning of to finish making a sign to take with me, I did attend the peace rally in the park yesterday.  Security took away my sign before I could enter, telling me signs were not allowed, so I had arrived late for nothing after having made it.  Ah well, I made the effort, I attended, and now I will enjoy home and time off for another day.  Life is going on, and I remain determined to make it as sweet and good as I can, using cardboard signs, cans of paint, prayers, piles of books, hazelnut candles, wallpaper samples, and whatever else it takes. The back of my sign had simply read "Hang in there, Pittsburgh," and I will take my own advice. 
♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Photo-Heavy, Heart-Heavy

Nightmares plague me in my sleep, one after the other, and despite the walks, the vitamins, the distraction of work, the talks with Mike, the donations made, the healthy meals, the frosting-covered treats, the focus on kindness and beauty, the books read, the magazines curled up with, and the visit home to family, the days continue to be hard too.  In many dreams since the 27th, I am being chased and am running for my life.  In one, I was hiding with Stuffed in a closet from a violent man who had just cut someone's hand off in front of me before I had escaped, and Stuffed and I were waiting it out until I thought he had given up on hunting us and we could climb out a window and run farther from him.  In another, I handed a small gift-box to a friend at work, and it was only when she hesitated to take it from me that I realized that she was Jewish and was afraid I was tricking her by handing her a box that contained a bomb.  Then the dream changed and I knew there was, indeed, a bomb inside and that we were in danger.  In one dream I didn't remember more of upon waking, Mike had told me that we would be okay but would need to stick together and be careful.  In one last night, I was standing on the boardwalk in my beloved Ocean City when I suddenly knew that the stranger beside me had it in for me and I needed to leave, and to leave quickly. . . .Knowing there are so many out there who have lived actual nightmares and mourned real losses of friends and family these past two weeks only makes me sadder.  
The day I caught the bus home to visit my parents and brothers, I walked out of the apartment only to find a news crew filming an interview a few steps from my front door:  One of the victims' funerals was being held across the street that afternoon.  (I had known that but hadn't expected to see news cameras in my front yard.)  The first time I visited the synagogue to leave my flowers, a newswoman who said she was from Denmark asked me how I was doing and a few other questions, and I awkwardly made my way for home soon after, uncomfortable talking at all, let alone while her partner filmed.  Maybe in awhile, when the news is paying less attention to this little part of the world--and being realistic, that will be when the next big gun violence story "steals" the spotlight--that will help some, I don't know.  A peace rally to honor the victims will be held this Friday, and I plan to attend, and maybe that will help some too, and again, I don't know.  It sounds like something that might feel like a step forward.  I have a growing list of letters to write--the mayor is on that list--and gestures of gratitude and recognition to pass along--the local police and the nearest funeral home are two on that list--and maybe getting those things done will help some, as well.  I want to give, give, give but feel fairly depleted these days.  
This is my favorite season, but the juxtaposition of the memorials and police tape with the stunning foliage and (all the flowers and) fall light has made the past two weeks even more jarring.   Relatedly, it has been mentioned over and over again that the site of the shooting was also quite literally the real "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," since Fred Rogers lived just three blocks away.  On the afternoon of September 11th, 2011, a fellow teacher and I were driving home together since our classes had been dismissed early, and while we listened to the news on the car radio and talked some along the way, all I remember of the commute home was how brilliantly blue the sky was.   And now when I remember the shooting and these weeks that followed it, I will remember how the morning I took my roses to the synagogue was the prettiest morning I'd seen yet that fall and how striking the fall colors were that year.  This is just life, of course.  And it goes on, as the saying goes. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

And End of October

Six hours after beginning to write this, I remain stymied by it.  Mike's mom called Saturday morning to ask if we were okay.  Mike was still in bed when she called so had no idea what she meant.  Had we both been up and ready to go out to breakfast an hour sooner, we would have been on the street of the synagogue shooting while it was happening.  This is our Saturday routine.  The synagogue's street is one I regularly do my long walks on so has been pictured in many of my "out on my walks" posts here over the years.  It is where I take almost all of my fall leaves photos.  It intersects with my beloved cobblestone hill, aka The City Street We'd Love to Live on Someday.  Our Dunkin' Donuts is two blocks away from the synagogue.  The theater where we just watched A Star Is Born is also nearby.  (A surreal sight is the movie theater, drugstore, public library, and ice cream place in the background of news coverage of a neighborhood vigil.)  The yard of the little stone ranch house across from it is planted every summer by what seems like a million dollars' worth of rainbow-hued flowers.  (Another surreal sight has been that of a CNN anchor reporting in front of it.)  The survivors of the shooting were taken to the same hospital where Mike's dad died a few years ago.  Some of the victims' funerals were held across the street from our apartment.  Coworkers and neighbors have more direct connections to the synagogue and are suffering more significant losses than these this week, of course.  For us all, this hits home.  I took my little gingham ribbon-wrapped bouquet of orange roses to the synagogue this morning, to honor this neighborhood, its first responders, the lives changed in it, and the lives lost in it. 
One coworker took her kindergartner twins shopping Saturday afternoon and was asked by one if someone would shoot at them while they were out.  Another coworker reported that her own synagogue was protected by officers in two strategically-parked police cars Saturday. . . .How many other cities have been through all this before, of course--the sidewalk memorials, the news coverage, the outrage, the questioning, the seeing-one's-own-town-in-and-on-the-news, the traffic detours, the funeral-after-funeral-after-funeral, the "victims identified" horror, the "victims' stories" sadness, the President's visit, the calls for donations, the announcements of blood drives, the defiant t-shirt slogans and signs, the city-wide vow to come back from it even better. . . .We are far from the first to go through this.  I lived in Baltimore, an hour from D.C., during the September 11th attacks and had lived in New York City the September before, and the heaviness felt here this week brings back the memories of that time.  It is our turn here now.  I don't understand hatred.  And I see this week that I don't understand it any better now than I did seventeen autumns ago. 
Meanwhile, it was a perfect fall morning here, with all the sunshine making the trees glow.  
The leaves are beginning to change color, and the sidewalks are every day taking on more of that scattered-jewels look I love. 
My sweet cobblestone hill is coming into its fall glory-- 
--even though police tape and memorial stars now line one end of it. 
This beauty and these signs of solidarity have to be my focus this week, though.  Forget the police tape, Val.  All the kindnesses will carry us.  A Boston hospital had a huge pastry order delivered to a local hospital this weekend with a note that read "We stand with you. . .Stay strong."  A neighborhood collection was taken up to have a bunch of pizzas delivered to the local police and fire stations located three blocks from the synagogue.  Local museums and attractions have offered free admission for families this past week.  "Need a friend or a shoulder?" our breakfast spot's sidewalk placard read by Saturday afternoon, I later learned.  "Coffee is on us today."  May I collect goodness and do my own part to spread it, all my days. 

God, make me brave for life: oh, braver than this.
Let me straighten after pain, as a tree straightens after the rain,
Shining and lovely again. . .

God, make me brave, life brings such blinding things.
Help me to keep my sight; help me to see aright
That out of doubt comes light.

-Author unknown, from Prayers for Healing, edited by Maggie Oman