The Longest Night

295But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31.

Wednesday, December 21, is the Winter Solstice-the longest night of the year. My church celebrates the longest night to acknowledge and sooth some of the pain, sorrow; grief and darkness many of us have suffered or are currently suffering during this holiday season.

For some this grief is raw, a death of someone young or in their prime, a shocking loss with no good-byes. This grief is a vise on the heart, the pain sometimes so severe breathing is difficult.  There are softer but still lingering losses for others. The pain of putting down a dog who took you on walks every day and won’t be there tomorrow to greet you. The cat who slipped through your legs one night and never returned home. Some loss is hard to explain to others but still bittersweet for you; the death of the beloved ancient oak tree whose shade made your west facing backyard bearable in summer. You know you won’t live long enough to have the same shade at your house again. Or maybe the pain is just beginning because you have learned you or a loved one has some condition that will keep them from spending another Christmas with you. You celebrate shared joy today but dread the year ahead and feel the small kernel of coming loss beginning to grow deep within.

My mother died 30 years ago, a week after Christmas. She suffered from a rare liver condition which both my sister and I have genetically inherited. As her liver failed her, she turned an odd sinister yellow, her face and feet bloated, her skin stretched like a balloon with too much air. When some small part of her liver was working, she knew us and except for her distorted appearance, she could joke with us and share memories of better times. But over the course of her 18 month decline, these moments of lucidity became less frequent. The poisons seeping from her non-functioning liver gave her dementia. She would think I was her mother, that my father was her daddy. Just when I would get used to the new reality of my lost mother, she would reclaim a piece of herself and know me again. On her last day, she knew everyone and told us how much she loved me. I went to a basketball game planning on moving her home in the next few days. This was before cell phones and by the time I got back to her room from the game, her bed was empty and new people were moving in.

Because we are blessed (or possibly my mother would have said cursed) with financial resources, my dad and I took mom to Denver to specialists and then to Omaha to see if she was a candidate for a liver transplant. These were early days in the transplant world. We had to put up $100,000 just to be seen in Omaha. We got the funds back because she didn’t qualify. But it was a lesson to me about the differences in treatment in this country based on income. As we waited to see if mom physically qualified for the surgeries; other younger  qualified liver candidates with young children waited to see if they could raise enough money in their communities through bake sales and other events, carefully orchestrated by the hospital to pay for the operation.

Mom didn’t want to do anything to extend her life. She would ramble on about “wanting to go where the angels sing and the flowers bloom.” During this period she would have us read Isaiah 40:31 to her two or three times a day. We flew her home from Omaha on a private plane a few days after Christmas and she died soon after.

I carry a piece of her around in my heart but her soul has flown free. In her illness, she knew more about God and spirituality than my sister, father and I combined. Sometimes, it is a gift to let go of the person you love. Extraordinary measures to keep a loved one alive are often for the family not for the one who is suffering. Thirty years ago she was lifted on the wings of eagles, soaring joyfully to sing with her beloved angels. She was just about my age.

Now when I pray for those in need, I visualize them being lifted up on eagles’ wings by the Lord’s enduring spirit. As I age, my Christmas card list shrinks as friends and family pass. My father died 10 years ago, my step mother last Christmas. I grieve their passings but take joy in their memories.

Weeping lasts through the night but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5-6

sunrise

 

Best Things to do on the Big Island in Winter

20161126_161724Volcano National Park: Plan an entire day including the round-trip drive from Kona or stay in the park at Volcano House.  The active lava lake spewing red fire creates fine strands of golden fiberglass, called Pele’s Hair, after the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes. They’re formed when lava is ejected into the air and small droplets are caught by the wind, which then cools and stretches them into very thin strands.  This melted gold is breathtaking to see and touch but be careful it can cut your hand.  Touring an active volcano is a good reminder that earth is always changing by forces outside human control.  Be sure to take a tour with a ranger to have a better understanding of man’s relationship to nature.  Before man brought predators to the islands, large birds and flora were the only inhabitants.  Our ranger described how the birds became large and flightless because of the lush vegetation.  Imagine a five foot tall owl greeting you as you walked the rainforest.

Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Gardens (near Hilo): The flora in this garden is absolutely stunning.  The pathway winds through a rain forest, past water falls to the ocean.  If you are lucky, you will be caught in a rain storm providing a sense of why everything stays so green. This garden reminded me of Mother Nature gone wild with her paint brush.  The number of exotic flowers and colors was astounding.

When you go to the Gardens, make a quick stop by Rainbow Falls in Hilo. This is a state park, no fee and the falls are right by the parking area.20161125_160808

Honokohau Settlement and Kaloko-Honelieh National Historical Park: This is a national park and takes either your Golden Eagle pass for entrance or $5.00 a car.  Once a thriving Hawaii settlement (1200 A.D.) the park provides remnants of the past including a massive wall surrounding a long ago demolished palace, a place of worship, wood carvings of Gods and individuals re-enacting activities from the period.  We saw a man in a loincloth making rock tools.  We also saw live sea turtles on the beach.

A short walk away is Honokohau Boat Harbor. There is only lava to sit on but the area provided the clearest blue waters and most variety of fish for snorkeling of all the places we stopped to snorkel.

20161122_163454Akaka Falls State Park:  There is a short loop walk to see amazing falls in a tropical rainforest setting. Cost of entry is $5 per car to park in the lot at Akaka Falls State Park or $1 for walk-ins (if you park on the side of the road outside of the park boundary). The 0.4-mile loop trail to the waterfalls is paved, although there are some stairs. Plummeting 442 feet, it’s easy to see why Akaka Falls is one of Hawaii’s most famous waterfalls. A viewing area includes protective railings so that you don’t fall over the edge while capturing the waterfall’s slender but powerful plunge into a gorge created by years of erosion. My kids had fun doing pictures for snap chat of the falls going into their open mouths.

Waipi’o Valley Lookout: On the way to Akaka Falls stop at the Waipi’o Lookout. Take the time to view “The Valley of the Kings”  at the end of the Hamakua Heritage Corridor. Once an important site for Hawaiian history and culture, it’s also a place of dramatic tropical beauty. I could feel a sacred spirit surrounding me when I viewed the gorgeous valley.20161122_142250

Beaches: We spent three days visiting various beaches up and down the Big Island Coast line. As my son remarked, “The best beach is relative.” At one beach, there were shady trees, gentle water lapping on the shore and children building sand castles. At another we had to drive over lava in a four wheel drive vehicle and hike to a length of white sand with life guards because the surf was rough.  Guide books can describe the various attributes of the beaches to you but the ones you like best will depend on what you like to do sun, surf, snorkel.  The water at all of the ones we visited were glorious variations of blue and  the temperature of the water warm.  All Hawaiian beaches are open to the public.  The government of Hawaii has done a good job of providing clean rest rooms and showers where ever practical.

Kona Coffee: Kona is known for coffee and there are many places to take free coffee tours.  The purpose of the tours is to sell local coffee.  I found the opportunity to learn about how coffee is made very engaging.

Local Restaurants worth trying:

  • Merriman’s at Waimen pioneered Hawaii’s farm to table cuisine. Plan on eating luscious local dishes in an elegant environment. This is a high end restaurant but worth the price.
  • Kona Pub and Brewing: A fun outside restaurant which provides good food while allowing the beer connoisseurs in your group to try out different flavors. Examples of beers are Big Wave Golden Ale, Lemongrass Luau, and Lavaman Red Ale. Prices are comparable to brew pubs on the main land.
  • Lucy’s Taqueria, Hilo. We ate here twice because it was inexpensive, had lots of options for vegetarians (we have one in our crowd), food was served quickly and it was scrumptious.

Most of all take the time to enjoy your surroundings and the people you are with.  The Big Island is big, beautiful and tranquil. Don’t plan so much that all you are doing is rushing hither and yon.

20161122_131346

A Week of Adventure on the Big Island

The Big Island, Hawaii is a land of white, black and green sand beaches, flowing lava, gorgeous flowers and rainforests. If you want to go to fancy restaurants or walk long stretches of sandy beaches with small waves choose a different Hawaiian Island. I say this from experience.  We have been to Hawaii five times and visited three different islands.  If you are like us and like to  set  out each day to explore a new locale, the Big Island is for you.

My family of four(my husband and I, my 17 year-old-daughter and my college-age son) spent  Thanksgiving week  in Kona at a Vacation by Owner condo near the water. Exploring the island requires a rental car.  Since some of the so-called roads  are like traveling the moon in a rover, I would recommend an SUV.  We would be giggling as bounced we bounced along in our jeep and see some cars turning around because they were too low to navigate the terrain.  I likened it  to the jostling  on the airplane (our flight in was really rough and we were at the back of the bus).  My son, Scott, said, “Yeah and we’re on the ground.”

We carried snorkeling gear, beach chairs and towels and boogie board with us every day. No telling when that special black rock road will lead to great snorkeling.  Flip-flops are a failure on lava.  Bring a good pair of hiking sandals.  When headed towards the rainforest have rain gear with you.  You will need it.  Buckets of rain can pour down on you without warning and then disappear in a few minutes.  The rain is warm but you’re still wet. The scenery is so breathtaking it’s hard to know when to stop taking pictures and just sit and soak in the view.

I had clothes for a week and I spent most of my time in a two piece swim suit, long-sleeved sunbrella shirt and sun visor. I burn badly so sun screen and lots of it was a must.

The nights were mild. We never needed long pants except at the high elevations when we went to the Volcano National Park. The temperature dropped to the low sixties causing me to pull on my lightweight workout  jacket.  At the volcanoes, we wore our hiking shoes not our sandals.

 

When looking for places to eat, we would ask our trusty friend Siri for local restaurants and then make our decision based on reviews and dollar signs. We found many unlikely places to dine off the beaten track with great local food distinct from the usual tourist fare. Of course, Kona coffee is world renown for its dark color, thick texture and strong body flavor.  A daily cup helps keep the group going.20161123_115528.jpg

Our adventure was appropriate for teenagers, young adults and active seniors. Young children would have a terrible time driving so much and many of the beaches were too rough for children to just play in the sand.  For people seeking active adventure, the Big Island has so many choices the hardest thing you will do each day is decide where to go next.

Home

I have been taking a memoir class that focuses on writing short bursts of memory about your life.  This week’s assignment was:  Develop a list of things that seem trivial or small but upon reflection are vital.  Since it is Thanksgiving week, my list is about my home and family.

20160620_151530
Pete and I on vacation in Wyoming

Peter: 

Around 6 a.m. each morning my husband noisily scuttles around the end of the bed and kisses me briefly on the mouth, occasionally missing and hitting my cheek in the dark. He rotely says, “Have a nice day!” I’m still dozing, catching the last misty grays of dreams, gauzy thoughts I can’t return to. Sometimes he forgets the first time out the door; then he comes back.

Cats:

White cat, called Angel but a stinker in a slinky fur coat is carefully washing Satchel, the grey Tom cat’s face. He is preening on her behalf, neck extended, eyes closed in ecstasy, macho man for sure. Angel lunges. Satch takes a surprise bite to the neck.   They simultaneously link legs, lego-like, replicating a gyrating hair pillow of intertwined grey and white, rolling off the bed and chasing each other into the floor length curtains, fluttering now like animated ghosts in a fun house.  All goes still.  Each cat marches out a different side, tails twitching, parallel metronomes, heads held high—a draw.

20160420_160028
Violet in repose

Violet:

The rat terrier, bolts through my legs out the front door, across the street, over the berm, hair on her neck raised, resembling an enraged porcupine’s quills, tail pointed rigidly out, barking in a loud, sharp, rat-a-tat-tat, a sergeant leading a non-extent platoon into battle.  I am the bugler shouting repeatedly, “Violet Come!” Out of sight, the barking is interrupted by a guttural, primeval, wolverine growl.  High pitched screaming and screeching echoes over the hill in response to my call.  Head down, whimpering, tail between her legs, all body parts intact; Violet limps home, a vanquished warrior.

Shani:

20160819_143909
Shani, a mini-me Lassie

 

Shani,is my giant miniature collie, a mini-me lassie look a-alike with an absurdly fluffy coat resembling  caramel-colored pom-poms. Today, she, keeps gently nudging my hand with her long pointed nose, her head is all olfactory lobe.  I finally realize I have put her food  where Violet’s bowl goes. Shani is either too polite or timid to touch it.  I move Shani’s bowl to its proper place and she chows down.

20160728_203312
Kayla this summer

Kayla:

My 17 year-old daughter texts from school:

  • Can I go to a concert? My homework is done, I have my own money, I’m taking my car.
  • Mom?????

 

At the concert she texts:

  • Here now.
  • Can I stay until 10:30?
  • Leaving now. Taking Emma home.

10:50 p.m. I hear the garage door open.

20160604_175847
Scott, home this summer using his room.

Scott:

When we moved into our home 11 years ago, Scott controlled a third of the upstairs; his bedroom, attached bath, a playroom usually filled with teenaged boys playing video games and the best view in the house off his balcony. The balcony has been used for tossing a five foot stuffed Mr. Simpson off regularly, testing rope ladders, a cat escape hatch to the roof and a feline wrangling corral for said cats, but hardly ever for contemplation and viewing.  Since Scott has been largely absent for the last four and half years, his sister has stealthy slunk in and helped herself to his sweaters and shirts  much to his chagrin. Now, I pass a closed door with a plastic sign reading, Scott Kozisek, Keep Closed.

Me:

The night owl. I crate the dogs, walk through the house, turn off the lights, check the dishwasher is set to wash, flip the gas logs off leaving only the blue glow of the pilot light where a warming flame just resided, test the locks on the outside doors. I snuggle under the heated blanked wrapping myself around my husband like a clam shell protecting a pearl. The pesky cats are nesting on my side of the bed, entangling my feet.

20160702_214247
Pete and I on our 27th wedding anniversary this summer.

 I hope each of you has a wonderful Thanksgiving!  My family has much to be thankful for.

Another Criminal Act

We have experienced another misdemeanor at Ashtree Way. This time the delicious, carefully wrapped, warmed corn bread from Whole Foods was stolen from my daughter’s desk, an off limits area  for dogs, even in our permissive home.  No crumbs have been found and the criminal would have gotten away without a trace, had I not found Violet, our rat terrier, trotting out of the office with plastic wrap in her jaws.  She looked extremely pleased with herself until I told her to “Drop it!” Then she mimicked the guilty, down-cast-eyed looked that seems to be genetically inbred into dogs so owners rather than the dog feel terrible.  I believe the plastic wrap in jaws condemns Violet.

20161029_143044
Evidence pulled from jaws of criminal

The problem with this theory is that the crime was more consistent with our other potential perpetrator, Shani, who was also in the house at the time.  Shani, our Sheltie, is the dog who gets on unattended tables.  I’ve seen her basking in the sun on the glass patio table outside on numerous occasions.  I know Shani is capable of an unthinkable theft of this nature despite her sweet demeanor, snatch and grab from high places is her specialty.

20160925_130519
Behind this sweet face is a snatch and grab artist.
When caught with hard evidence in her jaws, Violet was banished outside to reflect upon her crime while mindlessly chasing squirrels from tree to tree and barking aggressively. The crime of barking led to my husband tossing her back in the house where she smugly took up residence on my blanket while visions of corn bread made her fat and drowsy.

Dogs, even misbehaving dogs, have a way of wheedling their way into your life and ultimately drilling a direct pipeline to your heart. When we got Violet from the Humane Society, she came with a hand-written note that said Violet was not capable of love and was not a lovable animal. Saturday, as Violet dragged her little butt outside, head down, tail between her legs (she is quite the drama queen), I thought about her previous two homes where she had faced complete rejection.  Violet is not an easy dog to live with but the same could be said for me, I am not always an easy person to live with.

Over the years, Violet and I have spent many hours curled up together on couches, scrunched under soft blankets watching TV or in bed taking naps.   Sometimes, the cats join us, sort of a muti-species event, everyone welcome. Violet acts as a small little heating pad; quiet, soft and warm  resting while the house is at peace.  The wildl barking, jump-up-on-you-no-matter-what, crazed terrorist  vanishes into thin air replaced by the beloved companion. Sunday with the gas fireplace humming, the Denver Broncos playing, and a slight drizzle spewing from gray clouds marking the arrival of fall, Violet had her head nuzzled on my leg while I rested with strep throat (Apparently strep isn’t just for kids).   As I stoked her velvety-soft little head,  I asked myself how could anyone think this dog was unlovable?

Extravagant Tiny Houses on Tour

Last weekend, the Boise High Music Department hosted a tour of 10 tiny homes in Boise’s Historic North End as a fundraiser.  Homes ranged in size from 240 square feet for a new home on wheels, to 380 square feet for a historic house (possibly a Sears and Roebuck catalogue house), to 1000 square foot home (500 square feet on the main floor with a basement). Most of the homes were built around the turn of the century, average about 800 square feet and while small were extravagant reflecting their owners eclectic taste. Many features embodied the homes’ heritage.  For example, most had fireplaces even if they no longer were functional, many had quirky additions, and one had two front doors.  Originally, one door led to the harness shop and the other door led to the family home.  Because Boise North end is designated a district, the double doors will stay and owners need permission for remodeling. Most of the garages were stables for horses in early days.

20161015_212428
Double doors for shop and family entrances

 

Owners of these homes are a diverse bunch; a retired couple , a single woman, a young couple, a mother and teenage daughter. All impress their unique style on their homes. Since owners have to pare down to what they love to fit in their tiny abodes, tour participants learned the owner’s passion. One house made room for a four-foot baby grand, in one house there was no TV, one house had a sunny sitting room opening to a glorious garden. In another home,the owners had lovingly crafted the furniture to fit the space and the kitchen tiles were hand-made reflecting the park view out the window.

Outdoors is the biggest room in the tiny house. We saw fabulous decks, seating areas with fire pits, handcrafted  cement and glorious yards. The tiniest foundation built home (350 feet) had a wrap around porch, a yard composed  entirely of zany stepping stones, perennials and a fountain. This house had one chair inside, a recliner for it’s owner to watch TV and a single bed. The owner told us she had lived in the house 13 years and regularly entertained large groups outside in good weather. Boise has 8 months of the year when we can be outside easily. The other four are iffy. These homeowners focus outwardly.

Kitchens are made roomier by opening walls to dining and putting regular size refrigerators around the corner. We had to ask several places where the refrigerator was and found it on the porch or in a hallway.

Most houses have regulation size appliances but the two diminutive homes under 350 square feet both had regular appliances in a smaller scale.

Doors are in short supply. Closets were open or covered with  curtains. Creative storage is found in every nook and cranny.

Small does not equate with cheap. We saw exquisite chandeliers, top of the line gas ranges, handsome vanities, Bosch dishwashers, and  a gas fire place imported from England.

Everyone had laundry, sometimes popped in on a porch or in a closet or bathroom. Most were high end stackable units, some were small in size.

20161015_211330
Stackable laundry was tucked into closets, bathrooms

 

Since most houses had only one bathroom, bathrooms did double duty. Many had two doors so you could access from hall or bedroom making an en suite, some also served as laundry rooms. There were many full-sized tubs including claw foot tubs but no double sinks. Sharing brushing your teeth must be a tiny house morning ritual.

While small, these houses were not inexpensive. The North end with its walkable restaurants and shops and strong sense of historic preservation sports some the highest prices per square foot in Boise ranging from $200 a square foot up. The sample new tiny house model at 250 square feet without a parking place was $68,000.  One of the one bedroom houses was available for rent starting in April 2017 for $1400 a month.20161015_154626

20161015_130921
250 sf house on wheels for sale

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repeat Offender

shanti
Shani, second offense, misdeameanor for destruction of personal property

Over Labor Day, my Sheltie, Shani carried out a successful panty raid on my daughter’s slumber party (greatly angering my daughter).  Shani’s most recent offense was much closer to home. I have been working on paper mache hands for Ms. Bewitchingly Boo-tiful  described in last week’s blog.  I placed the hands outside on the three-feet-high fire pit to dry in the sun.  The height of the pit provides a convincing alibi for Violet, the rat terrior, nicknamed the Terrorist for her ability to shred anything in a matter of minutes.

When I came home to check on the drying progress, the hands were missing. I was mystified. At first, I thought the wind had blown the hands off the granite ledge. Afterall, what could be appealing to a dog about something made of flour, water, and paper, surely this combination does not emit a wafting odor tantalizing a dog’s olfactory lobes. But alas, the wind was not the culprit.  I wasn’t going to be given the gift of finding intact phalanges. My search through the yard  uncovered a few small remnants

20160919_163325
Remnants of paper mache hands found in yard.

I was very surprised that both hands were gone. I mean one good chew and yuck! But this is where the accomplice comes in. My rat terrier, Violet, gets great joy in tearing up anything. Shani has been very discriminating in her destructive tendencies,  limiting her tastes to extremely expensive Victoria  Secret panties. Violet will grab whatever is handy and shake it violently while growling and then shred the with her teeth. I vision the hand dismemberment as a two dog crime. The dog with superior height and  extremely long snout identified and retrieved the hands. The terrior gleefully shredded them as the sheltie ran in circles joyfully barking and egging Violet on.

violet_mugshot
Violet, accomplice to crime. Armed with sharp teeth to annihilate  almost anything.

 

The crime set back the paper mache project three days:

  • One to recreate both hands.  I start with pipe cleaners and cardboard.
  • Two days for drying.
  • Two more days for painting and decorating.
  • Three days for Marine varnish to paint and dry
  • Final three days for varnish to cure.

 

All this has led me to develop the Pinocchio Theorem:

If you have a long nose, be careful it doesn’t lead you astray.

.

How Barbie became Bewitchingly Boo-tiful

While innocently reading my email, I opened a challenge from the Idaho Botanical Gardens to create scarecrows for their annual scarecrow crawl the first weekend in October.   Since retiring last year, I have been expanding my craft activities.  This email literally shouted at me, “Do it! Make a paper mache scarecrow!”  The Botanical Garden Theme was Idaho history and I immediately thought to make Sara Palin.  Ms. Palin attended the University of Idaho so met the Idaho history criteria.  But farther down in the rules, it stated scarecrows would not be allowed that had any political theme or were derogatory.  I don’t have an expansive enough imagination to link scare crow, Palin and paper mache into any type of positive image. I immediately rejected the Palin concept and moved on to a scarecrow witch.  I thought I could handle dressing some type of large doll and making a paper mache face and hands.  The real challenge was getting the doll to stand up on a pole. The entry materials warned that the scarecrows would have to last seven weeks through potentially vile weather including rain, wind and hail.  The apparatus to support the doll had to be substantial.  Fortunately, I have a friend who does wood working and agreed to help me suspend the doll once decorated.  So my entry went in as “Bewitching”.  As the project grew in scope and scariness, I later added Boo-tiful. My final entry was the Bewitching Ms. Boo-tiful!

I researched online “big dolls”. I discovered there are many variations of inappropriate life-sized sex toys.  I also discovered much to my delight that Mattel makes a My Size Barbie which stands over 3 feet tall, the perfect form to make a paper mache witch. I ordered my used Barbie princess on EBay. The big doll came in a golf clubs box. The shipping cost more than the doll.   My daughter, Kayla, informed me she didn’t like large dolls and didn’t want the doll in the house.  So when Barbie arrived, I invited her to sit with us for dinner a few nights in my son’s seat (he’s away at college).

20160910_165003

Kayla was incensed to have Barbie sitting across the table at meal (this just proves that I am fundamentally a wicked mother).

I had planned on dressing Barbie in a black plastic garbage bag because of the weather concerns. I had years of 4-H many moons ago so I felt I would be able to sew a credible dress from a plastic bag.  However, I discovered at Wal-Mart that My Size Barbie fits perfectly into size 2 toddler clothes.  I bought her black hot pants, silver Lycra leggings, little tiny, black leather boots and a black lace shirt.  A black cape, red wig, Halloween socks, black children’s mittens all came from the Dollar Store; as did glittery orange and black spiders and a flying bat.  I ordered online a child’s witch’s broom for the cross bar of the scarecrow along with child’s witch’s hat.  The broom arrived all bent up with the straw broken but it was too much bother to return so I taped on the little pieces of straw with black masking tape.  I learned on this project that masking tape is a cure all for all sorts of production problems.  When we had a week of rain as the project was coming together, I cut an orange cape out of an old plastic table cloth to keep downpours off Ms. Boo-tiful’s back (only the best for my witchy fiend).

20160912_152152
Barbie dressed for Halloween

 

Ms. Boo-tiful’s face and hands were the reason I started this wacky project to begin with. I wanted another venue for my paper mache crafting. The big concern was how to keep paper mache from dissolving when it has to be outside for seven weeks.  Of course, the internet is full of advice on how to sustain paper mache.  My favorite video was a research project conducted in England by a man who made paper mache creatures out of balloons, coated them with different varnishes  and placed them outside to see which if any of the balloon people could survived England’s’ notorious wet climate. Regular varnish vanished into a caved in puddle of cardboard within a week but the balloon man coated with marine varnish (used on boats and quite expensive) made it through England’s winter looking largely the same only a little more yellow with age.  Ms. Boo-tiful’s face and hands were coated four times with marine varnish and left to cure 4 days.  Hopefully, this keeps her together through October.

The most enjoyable part of the project was assembly. My friend, Henry Reents, mounted Ms. Boo-tiful on a 4 foot pvc pipe using a large toggle bolt in the back.  Her broom stick was also screwed into the CVP pipe.  Her paper mache hands were screwed into the broom.  She is wired at the waist to the PVC pipe.  Her wig is screwed on and her hat is held in place with push pins Henry pounded into place with a hammer.  We spent two delightful afternoons assembling Ms. Boo-itful.  We found ourselves giggling evilly together as Henry continued to put screws and wires into the transformed Barbie.  Who knew creating the perfect witch could be such devilish fun.

Ms. Boo-tiful went out to the Idaho Botanical Gardens on Thursday, September 29th.  The Garden provided a rebar pipe in the ground and I just popped Ms. Boo-tiful on it.   Sue and Henry Reents and my husband and I went out to see her at the Botanical Harvest Festival on Sunday.  It was a beautiful fall day. There was music, arts and crafts booths, food vendors, and a beer garden. The place was packed with little children, running wildly about.  A couple accidently tumbled into us as we strolled.  There were 16 scarecrows entered in the Scarecrow Crawl. They were eclectic group and ranging from objects made by kindergarteners to gorgeous displays from Boise’s largest family-owned garden shop. After viewing Ms. Boo-itful who truly is a fantastical, scary, scarecrow, we spent time sitting in the shade watching all the activities.  The Harvest festival is a “must do” for families in Boise the fall.

Ms. Boo-itful has to be removed between November 1 and 3. At that time, I’ll get to see up close how the marine varnish worked.  I will hazard a guess now that she will be frightening indeed after being out in the Idaho fall weather for six weeks.

julie-and-boo
Ms. Bewitchingly Boo-tiful and me

Are we having fun yet?

“Happiness is there for the taking–and making “ Oprah

When was the last time you did something just because it was fun?   I was out to dinner last weekend with my husband, long-term friends and a new couple (guests of our friends).  The female newcomer was also recently retired. She shared with us that she was giving  up bocce ball because she was too competitive. She couldn’t sleep worrying about matches. Her angst over games  had started interfering with her marriage. The bocce team she and her husband participated on won the city championship this year.  They brought home a gold medal to join a room of gold medals from previous years.  In other words,  bocce was a shared activity at which both she and her husband excelled but her competitive spirit had taken away the fun. Unable to harness her competitive ways, she chose to quit the sport.

Also, this week I  received an email from a disgruntled parent about my daughter’s coed soccer team. The parent didn’t feel our volunteer coach was providing adequate guidance and we weren’t winning enough games.  To be accurate, I don’t think the team has won any games.  I was astonished to receive this email because I feel fortunate to have a “volunteer” coach. The team can’t play without a regular coach and the rest of us are either too old, too unschooled at soccer, or too busy with work to volunteer. Independent of the notion of complaining about a volunteer when the rest of us hid in corners when asked to help out, co-ed soccer is to be played for “fun”.  Unlike club or school soccer, co-ed is intended to provide an opportunity for young men and women to interact on the field and learn to play nicely together.  My daughter has been attending practices regularly, even though she can’t play because of a major injury last spring.  She goes because she has fun.

Many years ago on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, my husband and I were driving from Disney Land to Sacramento for a traditional family celebration.  We had driven for four hours with two little kids in the backseat whining all the way and we hadn’t even inched half-way across Los Angeles because of the holiday traffic.  My husband, Pete, looked at me and said, “Are we having fun yet?” The answer was a clear, “No!” But we were certainly trying hard to get to “Yes!”

We all have the human capacity to pursue fun for the pure joy of emotional escape. We know the heady feeling of spontaneous laughter and the calming quiet of rest after an exhilarating day. But we seldom ask ourselves are we having fun?     We execute our careers successfully moving towards clear goals.  We strategize about which people to meet and  network with to get ahead.  We  watch and play games to win.  We make bucket lists of what we want to accomplish before we die.  We carefully plot out expensive trips to foriegn locales. But we infrequently say to each other let’s just be silly.  Let’s have fun.

My son, Scott, excels at having a good time.  This summer he entered a pinewood derby race at a local pub “just for fun”.  He brought home the small cardboard  box with a chunk of wood and four wheels the night before the race and transformed it into the “Weenie Wagon” with a few hours effort.

img_0260
Scott and the Weenie Wagon

My husband, Scott’s friends, and I all went downtown to see the big event.  When we got there, I learned I could buy a pre-made red car, “Robin Red” for $10.  Scott’s best friend from grade school, Daniel, piloted my vehicle.  Both cars won one heat and then we were up against each other.  The “Weenie Wagon” with it’s outrageous design beat out my more traditionally styled racer (no wonder it was so cheap). The Weenie Wagon went down to defeat in the next heat.  But spending a glorious night in Boise outside racing cars with young men was FUN!  Later, Scott won the award for most creative vehicle name and a $100 gift card much to our delight (Good Karma runs on the male side of our family).

20160805_205605
Robin Red goes against Weenie Wagon on a beautiful night in downtown Boise.

Also, this week I received a picture of Scott’s new hair do.  He moved from a man bun described in a blog this summer to a bird’s nest.  He texted that several freshman have opted for similar hair cuts.  You know the old saying “Birds of a feather flock together.”  When I opened the my son’s text it made me LOL.

In retirement, I am trying out new activities and undertaking lots of silly ventures.  I get asked a lot “Why are you doing THAT?”  My answer is, “For fun”.

I am finding out where my joy resides.  I am taking Robert Louis Stevenson’s advice and giving joy “a voice”. This week I might soak in the sun, smell the coffee, listen to the rain, read a good book, play with pets, visit friends or go to a movie. My one promise to myself is to have fun.

20160903_134217
Balloons rising over Boise at the Boise Balloon Festival. A great way to greet the day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dead Ends

Recently, my sister encouraged me to start streaming a series on Acorn TV entitled “800 Words”. The star of the show, George Turner (played by Erik Turner) is a writer who turns out weekly columns of exactly 800 words. He originally lived in Sydney, Australia.  On a whim, George sells his house, buys a new home sight-unseen in Weld, New Zealand, and moves he and his two teenage children overseas. The rationale behind the move is that in a place he cherished as a child on family vacations maybe he and his children can find solace and eventually heal from the sudden accidental death of his wife.

The show is a human interest comedy so not surprisingly in the first episode his decision, which everyone including himself questions, is fraught with humorous accidental encounters, snarky real estate deals, natural disasters and extreme bullying of his teens  as they try to get acclimated to a new school.  George has unwittingly bought the wrong house in  need of massive repairs without the promised view. The rental car is destroyed by a random piece of art, resulting in a major community event.  George insults the entire village by writing about how Weld is a “dead end”.  George rescues himself only by attending a community gathering and stumbling through a message about his dead wife and how a dead end can serve as a new beginning.

The theme of dead ends providing new directions reminded me of a stickie note, I keep posted on my computer.  “The farthest road to take is the road back to yesterday.” Our antecedents no matter how accomplished, guilt riddenaumatic and/or regretful are behind us never to be recovered.

In this week’s Bible Study, the irretrievably of the past reached out from the Old Testament story of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Lot’s wife is ordered not to look back at Sodom as she and Lot escape destruction.  Yet even with a stern warning from God, she can’t comply. Because of her backward glance, Lot’s wife is turned to stone, symbolic retribution, a rock stuck in the proverbial “hard place” unable to choose the future. Part of the human condition  is to cling to traditional patterns and past habits.

Rationally, we know we can’t recreate or return to “Happy Days.” But emotionally, moving forward when faced with life’s challenges may be the hardest calling each of us faces.  Alcoholics are asked to give up drinking and this may mean giving up friends and changing life patterns, such as transitioning from socializing in bars to extreme sports and regular meetings.Women in violent relationships may need to flee their homes in the dark of night with their children and nothing else to a shelter and uncertain future hoping to find safety.  Refugees cram into small boats sailing to  unknown places that promise a better future. The boat may capsize. Too many foreigners may have come before.  The welcoming vision may transform into  a nightmare of fences with barb wire surrounding camps.  Life’s journey is thwart with the possibility of dead ends and the siren call to return to what one knows, no matter how intolerable.

Human progress can be traced to those who are able to see what appears to be a dead end as a culdesac, a bend in the road, an opportunity to move in new untried directions.The miracle of human creativity is our ability to seek new directions when all seems hopeless. We have created a term for this ability, “resiliency”, the ability to overcome adversity and move on. We do not have to remain rooted in one place  emotionally like a stone or spin wildly out of control as if we were clinging to a rubber raft launched on white water without any  oars or life jacket. We can make choices even bad ones and recover. We can’t go back but we can stride forward in an uncertain world with a hopeful heart.