Corner View: Imagination

{taken... years ago}

Imagination... right away I think of the song as sung by Harry Connick Jr. because I had that cassette playing throughout the spring of 1991. It was not my favorite rendition but is now the one most associated with being in Austin for the first time and going to school, being on my own. So much was going on at the time, so much felt and so much to see. I had no idea what was coming. How very long ago. I'd walk parts of this city imagining that I was back in Mexico, inspired by a scent coming to me in the breeze. I was reading a lot of Nin at the time and would imagine I was in Paris, inspired by the architecture of an old building. Rimbaud, Kerouac and Sarte filled my book bag.

I wouldn't recognize myself. I straightened my hair every morning, something I'd never do now. I think it's so abusive. I wore it down, another rarity these days, never just down. It was so long, down to the small of my back. It was never that long again. I walked around in short denim cut-offs and brown leather Mary Janes every where without a care in the world. Getting dressed was easy. Paired with the shorts were scooped necked tees, in every color to choose from. There were less than ten vintage dresses, a pair of clogs and a new pair of Doc Martin combat boots in my closet. I didn't own much of anything. The most expensive things I owned were my art supplies, camel hair brushes, a large leather portfolio and pricey paper. So it was quite an expense to belong to the Harry Connick Jr. Fan Club. I was an official and registered member who would mail in my dues to somewhere in Massachusetts... for  a year.

So concerned with my own life, dreams, goals, interests and friends, I never could of imagined then, that within ten years I'd have a computer and a cell phone and that I'd be living a daily life so completely different because of them. And in 2001, I never imagined the guy at my favorite coffee shop, the one who stared and stared at me but never really said a word, would become the love of my life in the spring of 2011. Re-connecting through blogs of all things and if not for that invention... The things we imagine and the things we can't.

Imagination: The Quotations {August's fave rendition}

Our Spring Break

August and I had a wonderful day spent visiting friends and going to the museum. She had not been to an art museum and the day was so beautiful, the campus area cleared because of spring break and it happened to be the day the museum was open to the public for free. The idea came to me early enough in the day so we went with it. When we got there she appreciated the wide open space that was the lobby, then the many stairs leading to the permanent collection.

She pulled me from room to room, she was so excited. We ended up back in the room with the Modern and Contemporary Art in front of Alfred Gottlieb's Cadmium Red Above Black several times. August kept saying it was so beautiful. She said so many of the pieces there were " beautiful, Mommy". She sat in front of Peter Dean's Dallas Chaos II for quite awhile. Of all paintings for a toddler to pick to sit in front of. It had a "piggy" in it and "clowns". I think the bright and bold colors are what drew her in. I have often thought the painting felt like a hostile circus or parade and liked it for that reason.

I had to visit my favorites: Jerry Bywaters' Oilfield Girls, William Glackens' Lena and Imp and Yasou Kuniyoshi's Waitresses from the Sparhawk. Mr Gage studied under Kuniyoshi in Woodstock. I have always recognized his influence on Mr Gage's work. There was a framed black and white photo of Kuniyoshi that hung over Mr Gage's bedroom door. I thought of how talented Mr Gage was and how his artwork reflected the era that surrounded me in that museum room. I so miss Mr Gage, the older man in my life. He'd laugh at that when we'd joke about such things. I can say that I am genuinely left with a void in my life now that he is gone. Never again a conversation about old British actors, no talk about Mistinguett, no one will ever sing me Good-Bye Broadway, Hello France or How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm.

After, we headed for the cafe and lunched on cheesecake. August loves cheesecake but not when it is served at home. She didn't even really notice it was cheesecake the one time I gave her a slice at home. But when we are out, cheesecake a special treat. On the way to the truck we stopped in what looked like a little spring haven with blooming trees and yellow flowers. We picked flowers and for awhile I did forget we were actually near a parking lot.

Next on the list was grocery shopping, something we both love to do but August said she wanted to go shopping with her Papi. Once at the grocery store I could see she was indeed exhausted so we left and returned home. She changed out of her clothes and put herself in bed for nap...all on her own. It was a special day. The grocery shopping didn't get done. Dinner was okay at best. I put together a meal with what I had on hand from a near empty fridge and pantry. Sausage and green beans with almonds. As we ate we spoke of the day and I asked her what she liked. Seeing her Madrina and paintings and cheesecake were the list. I looked at the two paintings I had of Mr Gage's and sent him a few thoughts.

Not everyone is in agreement with priorities but when it comes between filling the fridge and pantry or taking advantage of a beautiful day... It isn't often that I am spontaneous. What I had planned was a trip to the grocery store then back for household chores and dinner. But when we woke up that morning, it was such a beautiful day, the kind that would take me to visit my old friend. Instead I introduced August to The Blanton. The decision to forgo all responsibilities was irresistible. August is on the brink of her third year on earth and so in love with paintings. Just the other night, before bed, she dragged out the watercolors and wanted to paint. She loves the paintings that hang in our home. It was an amazing afternoon for me. No regrets. A messy house and bare cupboards just aren't as urgent as sharing art with my little girl on a pretty day. This is how it should be.

Mr Gage

Corner View: Something Difficult

The switch to Daylight's Saving Time is always a difficult one for me. I feel behind and sluggish until May or so. There have been a few years where I just don't feel the change and the transition is seamless. But when the days have been wet and gray, and the chill lingers on, more than usual for this time of year in Texas, the change in time is too early.  

This week has been profound so far. There has been much good and bad that has filled the short time between Monday and Wednesday. It's a growth spurt for me. Those can be difficult as well.

Corner View: Cuddly

I miss Artie, he was my bunny. He would give kisses when he was happy and thump his foot when he was unhappy. I really got to know a lot about bunnies with Artie. I prefer them to dogs or cats now. Every morning, before work, I would put his breakfast together: banana, some papaya, his pellets, his vitamin and changed his water. For dinner I made him a little salad, gave him the other half of his pellets and changed his water. When I got home from work, we'd sit outside together and watch "the girls",  my  chickens. He was the best company, so calm and made me calm and present. Buying him a treat or giving him some cardboard to play with was always fun. I loved how he'd rearrange his cage and then keep it that way for a few weeks, become bored with it and rearrange it again.  Artie was so dignified and especially cuddly.

My memorable minutiae

I have just a few memories that go as far back as 18 months old. I have many more starting at two years old. I wonder what will stay with August.  There have been times when I have told her," I hope this becomes a memory for you".

I remember waking from a nap or  walking out of my room in the morning and hearing my mother exclaim with a gasp,"You grew!" At the time I had no idea that would ever come to an end.

My baby brother lying in the back seat of the car on a blanket, no car seat, no carrier. Those Ford Galaxy's were a smooth ride but.. It was either a drive to my grandmother's house or out of the town and on the highway. I was in the front seat on my mother's lap and looked back. The sun was shining on his crocheted layette.

All those car rides on my mother's lap or my grandmother's lap and their arms tightly around me.

Pretending to be baby at a birthday party. It was a serious regression at two years old that annoyed my mother.

Playing at my toy kitchen and serving my mother tea and telling her my husband was at work. When she asked what he did I pictured a policeman directing traffic and holding a stop sign. I told her he was police man. It was dark outside.

I remember being sick and crying unable to get comfortable and the lighting in the living room changing. My mother tells me I was around 18 months old and had watched The Yellow Submarine. It disturbed me she said and she thinks that is what caused a sleepless night for everyone.

The look on my father's face when he realized my finger was about to be hurt when he closed the door and how it felt when it did. I remember seeing my finger disappear and the hinges of that door. The ride to the doctor's office and getting it bandaged up but I don't remember the pain.

Dreaming that a grackle flew into the house and I chased it through the rooms. I asked my mother what happened to the bird and she didn't know what I was speaking of and said I must have dreamed it. Not my first dream I am sure, only the one that made me aware of them. I was two or so.

I had a genuine fear of being eaten by a dinosaur a bear or bigfoot and thought if I stepped out of bed at night a skunk or raccoon would bite me...

I had no concept of when my birthday was or what it was until around age 4. It was making more sense by then. At that point I still couldn't remember the date...I kept thinking it was April 1st for the longest time. I remember standing behind  school mate and saying it was birthday and she said,"Today on April Fool's Day?" I said yes and wondered why no one at home had said anything.

I also remember it was before I started kindergarten and more than likely when I was four that I placed my hand on the wall near my bed and looked at it well and said out loud"One day my hand will be big." Then thought of how everything would be different. That realization of change and growing up. I remember the wall, my bed, that it was dark outside and the room was lit with the light from the hallway.

For some reason I thought when my mom was a little girl dinosaurs roamed the world more frequently and I'd always ask her if she saw one or saw big giant birds. I think Land of the Lost was behind all this. I didn't quite grasp the time line at age 3 and 4 and grouped cowboys and Indians, dinosaurs, old black and white films and my mom as a little girl in one age and thought they were all on earth at the same time.

I hated cow meat, unless it was tongue, liver, tripe in menudo or sausage and would be the last one at the table. The food would get colder and harder to look at. My mother would become frustrated with me and finally leave the table. When she wasn't looking I'd plop the pieces of cow meat into my milk, or place it on a napkin and go to the restroom to flush it down the toilet. Nothing was ever said so I figured I was getting away with it. I loved pork chops. I haven't had a pork chop in years and years.

I didn't think anyone could see me when I decided I was invisible.

I had an imaginary friend that I swore I could see and I can still remember what she looked like.

Everything had a personality and feelings, all inanimate objects. Everything and anything would talk in their own way, all inanimate objects. That idea still has a grip on me.

Everything was so exciting. Going to the little local bakery in my hometown, Seeger's Bakery, was especially joyous. It was always a treat and right across the street from the toy store. To be able to visit both, one after the other was a happy day. The cream puffs and donuts were so delicious. The toy store closed down when I was still a kid but the bakery lasted awhile. I thought all cream puffs and donuts tasted just like they did at that bakery. I have yet to find a cream puff or donut that catapults me back to those days.

My memories are so random. I have always treasured these tidbits. Now that I have August they serve to remind me of what childhood was like when in the middle of it. How it felt to be a toddler and the ideas that come into the head of an almost three year old. I understand completely when August says she wants to go back home when we are still out and about after sunset and it starts getting darker. I remember how that felt.

Corner View: Warmth

We thought spring had arrived because our rose bush started to get new leaves and produced a bud that's growing everyday. The community garden plant sale is this Sunday and I already had lavender and basil in mind. The fragrant mountain laurels are showing off their purple blossoms. Everything all around seemed to indicate that our Texas winter was over. Two weeks ago, when Jacob said that was it for the cold weather, I said no, there's going to be snap, maybe even ice. I could feel it despite all my own readiness for spring.

It happened, one of the coldest days this winter, ice, some sleet, a wind that slaps your face. The sun is out today and has me wishing for the days we had just two weeks ago, the one with blue, optimistic skies and a warmth that puts lovely ideas about lovely things in my head. Days of being in love with the days.

The Iron Giant

August watched The Iron Giant and fell in love with robots and once again with the idea of giants.  She first heard of giants when we read Jack and the Beanstalk. Last night she told me she saw a giant man. This was her first creative story. She saw him she said and he was nice. I was tickled to death when I heard this. She also said the word, b-o-m-b.

The movie is mine, I loved it when it came out in 1999 so I bought the DVD. I haven't seen it in awhile, probably ten years or so. August had been wanting me to play it for weeks. I had forgotten all about the story. I forgot the entire storyline about guns and bombs and war. So here we were watching The Iron Giant. "What's a bomb?" I thought of how I grew up knowing about bombs because WWII  was only 30 years or so and then Vietnam on the news and Mash with re-runs during the day and new episodes in the evening, later, Red Dawn. I forgot that I grew up very much aware and being quite afraid that at some point someone would hit a red button that would end humanity. I started to remember sitting in class and thinking where would I go, who would I miss, how long would I live post A-Bomb. Seeing photos of Hiroshima in school books for the first time I realized my "daymares" weren't so far off. I attended a Catholic school so...praying that a bomb would never go off was just about the only thing I prayed for at mass. Once "the wall" came down, I relaxed and that was that but by then my entire childhood had a bomb in it. How could I forget all that?

So I told August that a bomb was a large, destructive thing. It hurts people and everything people love and it's bad. There was no follow up question and so it ended there.

While at the library this past weekend August said she wanted a book on Hogarth. I looked it up and sure enough, our library had The Iron Man by Ted Hughes available. I was happy to find that it contained enough pictures to keep August interested. I couldn't wait to read it to her.  On the way home she looked at the book, turning the pages with so much excitement, searching the illustrations for Hogarth. Once we got home she fell into her book, unfolding the pull-out pages and talking on and on about Hogarth and the giant robot.

Years from now what I will remember most from this whole Iron Giant phase is that it came along just as August was being weaned. That she fell asleep for the first time without nursing while I read to her from The Iron Man and she continued to night after night... The beautiful and poetic words of Ted Hughes soothing my little heartache and transitioning us both.

Corner View-Homemade

I just finished crocheting a shawl for August. It was not a planned project, I just picked up a scrap ball of yarn and came up with the idea as I chained along. It's made using a cotton yarn and created with the idea of cool mornings. Spring time in Texas means cool mornings that warm up all too quickly and you wind up with an afternoon more suited for mid-June. Oddly, I have also crocheted a toilet paper cozy. I just like how things like toilet paper cozies and dresses for dish detergent bottles all scream out a home made to me. I wanted to start on a cotton shawl for myself, using thread instead of yarn. All this crocheting...not using fancy stitches or going for intricate designs. It occurred to me that maybe all the sudden projects were because my Abuelita passed away. I do feel so much closer to her crocheting.

Her house was filled with her crocheted and knitted creations. She loved to use the white and ecru, fine gauged cotton thread. She had a house filled with delicate tablecloths, lacy bedspreads, and so many doilies. I have a white dress she crocheted for me, a lacy shift.  I wore it a few times but reserve it for special occassions only, these days.  I also have booties she knitted for me. The last ones she made for me with pom-pom ties.

What makes a home for me is to fill it with things made by my own two hands or fill it  with things made by those I know. I realize one is quite fortunate to have that happen. For my birthday and Christmas when asked what I'd like, I always reply with the same answer, "Make me something!" Homemade makes a home.

St. Valentine's Day

In high school and college and even into my late twenties, on Valentine's Day, there have always been people around me cursing the day. I have know men and women who become bitter, depressed or just sulk on that day. I've always loved spending it doing something a little special for myself or sharing a treat with a friend. I enjoy making Valentines and passing them out on the day as well. For some reason I have thought the day more for friendship than romantic love. That is how it was introduced to me at five years old in school and for some reason never changed.

When I was single and dating I didn't want to go out for dinner, the long waits and loud, crowded restaurants just ruined it for me. One of the first Valentine dinners I ever had was also the worst dinner ever. It was at a restaurant called Al Capone's and I remember the food was yummy, but my date...a real stinker who ate off my plate. I became distracted and did some people watching the whole time completely uninterested in the boring guy who spoke at me. One of the best memories was when I bought the largest box of candy I could afford. It was in a beautiful, pink satin, heart shaped box with a lacy bow and plastic flowers on top. I shared it with my friends and we had so much fun eating pink and berry filled chocolates that afternoon.

I love making Valentine's to send out and have always mailed out cards to family. This year August and I spent two weeks making Valentine cards, reading stories about the holiday and we watched Be My Valentine Charlie Brown. I would like it if August to had a healthy attitude towards the holiday when she is an adult and not be someone who is unhappy, bothered or annoyed by the holiday.  

What makes the day special, at least for me, is being able to make it silly, frilly and fun for someone else. Before August was born I'd make Mr Gage the silliest and frilliest card. He'd keep them up on his table year round. When I would visit on Valentine's Day I'd bring chocolate and made sure to give him the longest most substantial hug when I arrived and when I left. He lived alone and though had many friends I always wondered how often he was hugged. It's important. We'd watch a movie or a tv show or look at a book and just chat on and on.

Since August was born, I have made a Valentine Pavlova every year and we have passed out Valentine cards. This year we had an early celebration. I made us corsages. August wore a beautiful chiffon vintage dress I found in a bag of doll clothes last year. I wore a long, flowery gown I bought years ago. As I was looking for my spring wardrobe August found the dress and insisted I wear it. She thought I was simply the most beautiful I have ever been in the most beautiful dress she had ever seen. We had her Madrinas over, exchanged Valentine's and ate a raspberry Pavlova while listening to Charles Trenet. We took kitschy, silly photos and had silly, frilly fun.

On Valentine's Day Jacob joined us and made us dinner, a very delicious tamale pie.  August pulled out yet another old dress of mine she wanted me to wear and we exchanged Valentine's.

Valentine's Day: Happiness is found within, the joy is in giving and always be thankful for those around you who you love and love you. Nothing else is really necessary. 

Corner View: Love in my corner

My two and a half year old is painting. She is using my old watercolors from a palette and paining on real watercolor paper while Mozart plays softly on the radio. There is a beautiful morning sunshine coming through the slide door, such perfection. Her tiny hand, grasping a camel hair paint brush, travels from left to right as she says, "Water, paint, paper", it's the steps I taught her to paint. She taps off the excess water on the old yogurt container before creating a wonderfully voluptuous shape on the paper. It's a bright green, followed by streaks of black, royal blue... I sip my tea. Watching her paint brings such joy. I feel like such a wonderful mother. She had two eggs for breakfast, she even said,"Mozart, Mommy!" when the strings from A Little Night Music began. How easy it is to be in love with my corner during moments like this.

What a contrast to the several moments last week when I didn't feel like such a wonderful mother. The day she ate only snack foods because I was one step out of time with her meals and she was always too full to eat the substantial whole foods. Instead she had fig newtons, apple slices, rice cakes, animal crackers, regular crackers... I wasn't so in love with my corner of the world then. Nor was I on that day August just wanted to keep watching movies and videos and the hours passed without our reading time, numbers, alphabet, games, songs, playing house or doing anything I'd call constructive. When I'd turn off a video she would just roam the house, not interested in anything except bringing me more DVDs. I felt like such a failure having ignored the warnings and maybe introduced her to screen time too early in her life. 

This theme of love in my corner conjures an image of a boxing ring where I sit in the corner with Love mostly, then the bell sounds... I leave Love to dance about, throwing punches wearing myself out only to fall and stay down a bit before making my way back to Love. I can always see that corner.  I love being in it, I feel I spend most of my days there. Even when I am in the throws of some battle, discouragement or obstacle, I don't lose sight. The goal is to put Love in all the corners, not just one.

I don't buy bad snacks. We don't own a television and she goes days without a video, clip or movie on the computer. The steps back to the Love in my corner.

Corner View: Poem

Fifteen years ago I threw away a journal  that contained several attempts at poetry. In it were poems that to this day still make me cringe. Horrid. In high school I wrote a sonnet, it was a homework project. I was so pleased with my sonnet. I was proud. I wrote it on a piece of paper with burned edges, we got extra credit for presentation. I read it in front of the class, we got extra credit for that too. All I remember was: baptized in fire [or fear] with a love for calamity... I wish I had it just to throw it away again.

My mother's college yearbooks had several poems in it that I have always loved.  When I have visited I seek out those year books just to read those poems. It was 1968 or 1969 and the poet used wordsthatranintoeachother {much use of these braces} and lots of 


I still remain impressed with those poems. They had a speed, a poem within a poem, they were clever and very much of their time.

Te quiero mucho, Abuelita xoxo

I'm on the second hour of living without my Abuelita on earth. I came into the world and she had been here decades already. She was there when I was born. My earliest memory of her is looking down the street, the winery on my right, her holding my right hand tightly as we walked down the street. The street looked so huge, the trees so tall, it must have been morning because I remember the sun to my left lighting the trees in the distance and feeling a coolness. She spoke to me the whole time. I'll never forget her voice or the way she combed her hair, or wore a "prendedor".

Abuelita is gone. The orphan, the widow, the last of her siblings. I'd like to think she is now being welcomed by the souls she had been loving and missing. Do they recognize each other by hearts, by thoughts, memories, maybe? Because in my mind there isn't a place, it's a... It's personal and doesn't matter. We all have our ideas.

I feel an irritation, my nerves are exposed. I sit bothered. Perhaps it is because all my life I have wanted her by my side the way my Granmo has been but she was in another country and our visits were never long enough. When I was a child I wanted everyone I loved with me, I didn't like having to say good bye to anyone. Letters I wrote took forever to reach her, phone calls never resulted in conversations, the connection...we always had to yell. I saved all her letters to me, I can recall the sound of her voice, I have videos of our last conversations face to face.  I don't feel like viewing them now.  I feel her gone. When August held my face in her hands tonight to give me a kiss...she would do that. 

I am lucky, very lucky to have had her this long in my life. The image that keeps coming to me is her reading in bed. She was a reader, she knitted, she crocheted. I took a picture of her undies drying on the clothesline the last time I visited her. When I was five or so I remember peeking in the bathroom after she showered and seeing her put on her bra and thinking how large it was, how old she was, how pale she looked. When she came out of the bathroom a warm humidity followed along with the scent of her powder and soap. I saved some of the powder and a bar of the soap she would use. They are in a cigar box I covered with stickers. I was a kid that would save everything. I have that box in a closet in the next room. I can recall the combination of those scents. 

Last night I was reading French poems and thought of her. Today at the library I found a book that had a recipe for salpicon and I always remember the one time she made it when we visited and how delicious it was. I checked it out and thought of her. At the grocery store this afternoon August picked up an Archie comic book. I took it from her because I couldn't believe it looked just like the ones my Abuelita would buy and read to me before bedtime. I had not seen one in years. I handed it back to August and said,"My Abuelita would read those to me when I was a little girl." Tonight we watched a Busby Berkeley film and I thought of her shoes. I think of her all the time. She taught me to crochet and to knit. 

Last week I visited a friend and she showed me a blanket she is crocheting. I taught her how to crochet the way my Abuelita showed me. I told her, "You know, it's sort of neat the way I showed you something I only learned from my Abuelita, not from books or a class or anyone else. It's like you have a part of her somehow, like you met. It is something special" My friend agreed. Abuelita wanted me to have a baby for so long, "Una creatura que puedes bañar y vestir como una muñeca." I loved the way she never carried a purse but wore her wallet under her arm. Maybe I will watch the videos tonight. I feel so irritable. I feel her gone.

Corner View: Experience

I often think of the time I raised baby chicks and had a backyard flock. That experience made me see humans in a very different way, perhaps forever. They prepared me for motherhood more than any other pet I ever had. They gave me so much to think about, that even now, I can still meditate to the lessons of the chicken.

All six of them required food and warmth making me a bit anxious in trying to meet their needs the way their mother would. The heating lamp didn't seem natural. All baby chicks sit under their mother for warmth and here was this harsh lamp on them 24 hours a day. It bothered me. I woke up once at 2am and there they were, so tired, but still awake in a daze under the lamp. I dragged out a heating pad instead and hung it on the side of their cage. I covered the cage with a blanket and placed the heating lamp outside the cage at a distance where it would still provide extra warmth. I then got online and looked up alternative heating elements. Before I went to bed I peeked in on them and they were sound asleep one on top the other letting out tiny sighs and faint snores.

I wanted always to wake up to six chicks, to come home to six chicks.  For two weeks I felt they kept me worried. I downloaded software that would allow me to check in on them from my work desk by logging into a private website. It didn't always work and would freeze up. All I could think about were those six chicks and keeping them alive. When I was younger, my grandparents kept chickens and I remembered when they'd start a flock they would lose a few. I had never had an animal die on me and I didn't want that experience. 

When one fell ill at the end of the two weeks after I got them,  I struggled to keep the others healthy and nurse the sick one back to health. I couldn't stand the idea of waking up to her cold body in the morning. I held this baby chick up to my neck  all night to keep her warm, fed her garlic and onion soup, kept her away from yogurt because she had a terrible cold, and fed her a probiotic capsule.  It all worked to keep her alive but it didn't kill the cold. I resisted the use on antibiotics, but A&M assured me that she was so young, by the time she'd start laying, the medicine would be long gone from her body. So finally, I bought an antibiotic, mixed it with her water and within a week she was healthy again.  Gone was the coughing, sneezing and runny nose. I had no idea chicks would even get colds like humans do until then. A cold will usually bring down a baby chick, usually the whole flock.  

Once the chicks got their feathers in, they moved outdoors to their coop. To keep them safe, at night they were basically in a wooden box. I checked in on them and would find a fluffy, feathery pile of quietly snoring chicks that would melt my heart. Chickens do snore. I developed an ear for them. I wouldn't wake up during a thunderstorm but I found myself waking up with any noise that came from the coop.  

I raised Silkies, the sweetest breed of chicken there is. I miss the eggs we created together.  Bananas and oats created a rich and buttery Silkie egg. Garlic, watermelon, yogurt, it all worked to change the flavor of the eggs and I had fun experimenting, they enjoyed all the good eats.  They always had tons of oyster shell for a good, strong shell. So strong were these shells that I once forgot I had an egg in the pocket of my hoodie and it went through the wash unbroken. That's pretty legendary. A hard boiled egg is no problem to peel if your hen  gets enough calcium.  When they had fresh greens the yolks were as orange as the sun!

Keeping my flock happy and comfortable brought me such a sense of accomplishment. They gave me eggs year round because the coop was kept cool during a triple digit summer using a table fan and ice.  During a rare, icy Texas winter they were kept cozy and warm with hay, cardboard insulation and a heating element installed to keep their water from freezing. 

I did finally lose a hen. It was Ducky, the little chick I had nursed back to health. She ended up a little tubbier than the others and had gone through 63 days or so of triple digit temperatures. It was on a cool morning in September that I felt an urgency to get to the coop. I arrived only minutes after she passed, her limp body was still warm.  Her sisters were at the corner cooing sadly. I buried her  in a corner of the yard and planted flowers.  Her death bothered me for several days and can still make me sad. She was the best mother when I gave her fertile eggs to sit on. She had been depressed for weeks when she went broody so I had to do something about it. She was so happy to sit on eggs and even happier to be a mother.  I don't care how silly or crazy it sounds, Ducky will always be my feathered, two footed little hero. I contacted A&M and they wanted to run an autopsy but I told them she was already buried. They said she probably had a weak heart which is why she fell ill to the cold as a chick and probably had a weak immune system all along.

I had to give away my backyard flock when I left Austin and started traveling with my husband. For months I had dreams about the chickens and their coop. In many dreams I'd be walking along and find them in their coop with water needing to be changed and their feeders empty with several weeks worth of eggs in their nests. That was a nightmare. I missed them. I wondered if they were missing me. Eventually the nightmares stopped, they are still alive and living in San Antonio. At least they were last I asked. I don't ask anymore. The lifespan of a Silkie can be 9-13 years. I had to give them up at four years old. One day I will raise Silkies again.

Just before we left the hospital with August, a woman came in to give us a book on child rearing and a quick run down of do's and don'ts and newborn safety. On the way home I sat in the back seat watching August stretch and move, yawn and make cute little sighs before falling asleep in her car seat. I got up close, feeling her baby breath on my nose, I could hear the sweetest little snore. I wasn't at all nervous or anxious, I already had experience caring for the teeny-tiniest of lives.  

Corner View: Favorite Plate

I thought all day about a favorite plate. I was thinking of dish patterns and chuckled to myself of how "dish" referred to a great looking girl in several Happy Day's episodes. Time ran me over and it is no longer Wednesday, but at midnight, as I warmed up the leftover chicken soup I made Tuesday afternoon, there it was... Royal China Blue Heaven! The set has the optimistic turquoise of my own Grandmo's kitchen. How many stories are contained in each piece? If only they could tell me, the decades, the tables, the people.  I discovered the set when I found a single plate at a thrift store. It made me happy, I filled my head with promises inspired by Blue Heaven. I decided I wanted my future table to be a complete set of Royal China Blue Heaven.

The future is here and I didn't notice?

The coffee cups are tiny and dainty compared to mugs I see in most homes. Someone had to keep getting up to fill a cup, just like a 78 record on a Victrola, someone had to keep the music going. It seems one song on a 78 is about the time it would take to drink a cup of coffee in my Royal China Blue Heaven. On your toes, or perhaps just a treat, one cup, one tune to break up the day.

The dinner plates are large and beautiful, the dessert bowl, onescoopofsherbert sized. Priorities.

I completed this set of dishes long ago but it is only since April of 2014 that I actually utilize them. Everyday use. Mr Gage always said," see, if you have to use it everyday it needs to be pretty".
This set fits my life right now and I enjoy washing them by hand and placing them in their neat, little stacks of four in the cupboard. All except for the bowls, they sit in a stack of three because August broke one reaching for grapes one afternoon. This created the hunt for a fourth bowl and another reason to frequent estate sales, flea markets, thrift stores... Who knows what else I'll find along the way, because I once saw a plate at an antique store in Pennsylvania that had me swooning enough to snap this photo and covet this set. One day. Maybe.

New Moon Wishing

Texas winters can produce the most perfect spring evenings.  Tonight, the second day of Christmas, we sit with the door open. August says the new moon is smiling like a Cheshire cat. While we wait on laundry, August does a puzzle and we listen to Sinatra sing to Dorsey.

August and I  did some walking about under the new moon, both of us looking up at one point and tripping over each other. It's time for some moon wishing. I have never wished on a new moon, only the giant full ones. So up we looked and I wished away...
solutions to problems that don't seem to have resolution
wishing for future happiness and wholeness
wishing to be forgetful
wishing to find those rose colored glasses that have been misplaced too long
wishing away hurts
wishing away complications
wishing for simple, love song narratives
wishing for timing

The new moon's immediate reply was to open doors and to listen to Sinatra before his heartbreak, when he was just a starry eyed, boy singer in love with his Nancy from his old neighborhood. The songs are so perfect for him at this time in his life. I wonder if he knew what was in store for him: Ava, Mia, hitting rock bottom, Rat Packs and Presidents...and he is singing, at this moment:

Have a little faith and trust in what tomorrow brings
You'll reach a star because there are such things

The sad story of August's gingerbread man...

Early Friday morning, before the moon went to bed and the rooster crowed, a little gingerbread man was born along with dozens and dozens of others. They would all taste the same because they were made out of the same ingredients but each one looked slightly different from the other. As they were placed in their new temporary homes behind glass in the bakery, these little brothers, all from the same bowl of sweet, gingery batter were about to embark on the only adventure they'd have in their short lives. This is the story of August's gingerbread man.

August and her family went to the bakery on Friday afternoon looking for a pastry to eat the next morning. There in the display case were dozens of beautifully decorated Christmas cookies. Mommy thought August would love to have a gingerbread man since she never had one before. The man behind the counter picked him out. Only one. The little gingerbread man said goodbye to his friends and wondered if he'd become a Christmas decoration, hanging on a ribbon well past the new year, becoming too hard and stale to eat and thrown away. This was what most gingerbread men had hoped for, to harden and have a life beyond Christmas where they'd get thrown away and could have more than one adventure in heir short lives.

August fell in love with her gingerbread man as soon as she took him out of the it's little brown wax bag. Mommy smelled him and suddenly all the Christmas gingerbread men she knew were dancing in her head and reminding her of all her childhood Christmases. She said he even looked like the gingerbread she use to know with five little raisin: two for his eyes and three lil buttons. 

August smelled her little gingerbread man and then gave him a kiss, then another and another. August was falling in love with him and the gingerbread man began to imagine a life past Christmas filled with adventures, becoming too hard to ever be eaten. He settled into August's soft, little hand and looked into her eyes making her fall more and more in love. Papi asked August how her gingerbread man tasted but she only kissed him. Mommy asked if the gingerbread man was yummy but August only kissed him some more.

August sang to her gingerbread man Christmas songs she knew and made him dance on her lap. She smiled at him, held him tightly and kissed him. But she held him too tightly, suddenly her gingerbread man lost part of his arm. August picked it up and looked at Mommy sadly. Mommy said it was okay he was a cookie not a broken doll. When the gingerbread man heard this he knew he would never live past Christmas now and prepared to become a future Christmas memory. He thought of the hot oven where he'd been only a few hours ago and that was the last thought this little gingerbread man ever had and he quickly became a Christmas memory.

Corner View: Bathroom and Shower

I remember August's first ever bath. That bath is so vivid and clear in my mind. I remember her Papi's giant hands holding her and delicately placing her into the warm water. Her eyes got so huge and she looked at us and trusted us. Her eyes, my heart, his hands. I can still be there, and I hope that I will always have this memory swimming in me for as long as I live. Only a few weeks before, the hours I spent laboring in that bathroom. While taking one hot shower after another and wondering what would happen next and next and the second after that, and would I be holding her by nightfall or the next day or suddenly now, now, now? The footprints left on the floor of my wet feet coming out of the shower still there when I returned again and again.

The bathroom now has two tiny pieces of "furniture":  a wooden potty chair and wooden stool. In the tub sits a smaller tub that will soon be just too small. Then there are the toys and growing collection of plastic containers that miss the recycling bin and instead become tub toys.

It was this bathroom in Indiana that I first discovered I was pregnant. The road from this bathroom in room 19 to the current bathroom is quite a tale. If I only went from bathroom to bathroom...

This bathroom in an old surplus store in the oldest part of Baltimore. The building had many lives but the one that still lingered was when it was a bowling alley where GI's would dance and relax. I was almost four months pregnant and really had to use a bathroom and this was all I had available.

This was the bathroom at a cute motor lodge in Pennsylvania on our way back to Texas. It was December and I was going back and forth with the idea of a baby not born in Texas. It just didn't sit right with me.

The bathroom at a motel somewhere near Ohio where I spent my grouchiest and only uncomfortable night of my first trimester. It was cold. I never warmed up and was wearing my heaviest wool sweater under the covers.

August was supposed to be born at home. In the end my true feelings for my midwife exploded and I didn't trust her enough to birth at home so I asked to be taken to a hospital. I missed that part of the planned birth story where mother and child rest in a herbal bath together as they bond. That special bath happened months later in the shiny tub at a travel lodge in Del Rio. August was three months old when I made the special mother and baby tea soak.  It was summer and I held her in this warm bath taking in the lavender and rose scents. I used the other half in a bath taken at the duplex we rented in Oklahoma just before her first birthday.

I truly had no idea I had so much to say about bathrooms nor did I realize I had quite a collection of photos of bathrooms from my past.

Jane's corner view, Francesca hosting, thank you, Nadine, for suggesting this theme.

Calling Cards

August and I strolled to the park in our neighborhood. I was reminded that there is still a need for calling cards even in this well connected age. There are plenty of places to get them made. Perhaps it is time to consider some. Then again, had I just remembered to use my cell phone...

I remember Mr Gage showing me an old calling card of his. He told me how he'd drop by a friend's house for a visit and if no one was home, he'd leave his card at the door. Slower days, smaller towns, and friends that you feel comfortable enough with to just drop by unannounced.

While at the park I noticed how, over the months, August has become even more confident and dexterous on that playscape. I pushed her a bit on the swing and saw her drowsy face appear. It was time to go. She didn't protest leaving the playscape for grapes and a ride home. On the way back, the breeze through the still green trees caught my eye. They made me present. The walk was one of those moments that will be a future memory because it was so vivid and bright. August singing her favorite song over and over.

We came back to a lit Christmas tree. I sat down to look at my phone and realized no photos were taken at the park, we had no time for photos. It was a beautiful day, much fun was had. I looked at our Christmas tree and the green made me feel present again. There is something in the green around me. While the landscape goes brown, what is left green will stand out. A calling card of sorts,  for me.

Poetry in food

My friend Nadia is a gifted cook. She effortlessly throws together simple, hearty meals full of flavors. She loves to cook and I often remark it is that love that really puts her dishes over the top. Entering her home on a bitterly cold afternoon last week left me with long lasting memories.

Every burner on her stove was going and heating up the room. She had lentil soup just about finished, beef bouillon cooking for dinner, pasta for the children and was frying green bananas. At the same time she had been chopping up lemons, onions and peppers to make chary, a condiment made of fermented lemons. So many warm scents filled the air. It was not the first time. At her house I have enjoyed sambusas made of tuna, tilapia in a simple but exquisitely spiced tomato sauce and a Divine mung bean soup. I asked her if she ever watched the movie or read the book Like Water for Chocolate, I asked her if she was familiar with MFK Fischer, if she ever watched that movie Julie and Julia, watched Chopped, ever wanted to be on Chopped... Instead she just put in front of me a bowl of everything to try.

There have been only a handful of people in my life who have been able to create a memorable dish from the simplest of ingredients: My Grandmother, my Abuelita, my Oma-in-law, my Abuelita's cousin and Nadia, who is also the most precocious cook I have ever known.

I started to think of how I have known too many who do not know how to cook, and sometimes, don't want to learn because they don't like it. I find it extremely important to learn to put together a meal for oneself, to be able to feed friends and family. In college everyone could make brownies, Rice Krispie treats and maybe spaghetti but no one was putting together stew in a crock pot, or knew how to make a chicken soup from scratch. All animals teach their babies how to hunt and feed themselves. Learning to feed oneself should be high on the priority list. When my child leaves home I hope her skills will include: balancing a check book, knowledge of a trade or craft that she enjoys and can turn into cash when needed, and the ability to create several meals with complete confidence.

One evening Nadia visited me and became hungry. She looked through my refrigerator. That night she taught me how to create capers du oeuf and now it's the only way I want to eat a fried egg.

The Heart Will Remember

We would usually find Granmommy at her kitchen table when we'd stop in for a visit. August would ask for Nilla Wafers and eat one after another until she fell into a slight stupor on the big comfy chair or her couch. She'd enjoy watching August go through her kitchen cabinets and take out the same colorful Tupperware pieces to play with. There was always a pitcher of sweet tea in the fridge, candy in the candy dish and something stamped and ready to be mailed sitting on the table. I'd sit next to her at the kitchen table and the conversation would quickly go to old recipes, sewing, stories of motherhood and her children when they were little or how she loved dolls so much but never really had any growing up. I always wanted to keep on talking.

Her name was Evelyn. She had eyes that were big and round, her face well worn in such a beautiful way and I thought she looked pretty in blue. In many ways she reminded me of my great-aunt Christina and maybe because of that I felt so comfortable around her. She always sent birthday and holiday cards to family, made the birthday cakes, took whatever she had in her wallet and discreetly placed it in the hand of her child or grandchild in need of a small miracle. Filling her shelves and accent table were photographs of her children and grandchildren. Evelyn loved.

The last conversation we had was last week and she mentioned there was a  Halloween card in the mail for August. She said she ordered her some books for Christmas too. I was hoping there would be a few more years of Nilla Wafers for August, more time spent on her couch watching a Dean Martin special or Shirley Temple film, more stories at her kitchen table. I only knew her three years. When she signed the card on a Christmas gift to me : To Tera, Love Granmommy, I felt fortunate and saved it.

I hope August remembers something of Granmommy. I have memories that were created when I was even younger than she is. I hope she feels something warm and tender, I hope her little heart remembers.

Caterpillar, caterpillar...

Today, August came running inside shouting the alarm of "Mommy come, come!" She wanted me to come see a caterpillar on the ground.  She knows not to touch them and I was so happy she understood that lecture I gave her about not touching bugs and asking Mommy to first come look at bugs before touching them. We had been walking along when she suddenly jerked her hand from the wooden railing, there, along it's merry way, was a Puss Caterpillar. It was so odd to catch sight of this creature because I only became familiar with it a few days before and thought it was only found in Florida. One thing I knew, it was highly toxic. However, once it becomes a moth, as most toxic caterpillars do, it is no longer a danger.

We stepped away from it and since it was in a location that August frequented and I never wanted to see that caterpillar again, I killed it with a rock. I felt terrible. I just kept this poor Puss Caterpillar from achieving it's lifetime goal because our paths just didn't cross well. It was a sad moment but also a very scary one for me. This tiny creature managed to make my heart skip a beat and my stomach tighten up.

I wondered if children instinctively knew what to touch or not touch. I wondered what I would had done had I not read that article that came my way (via Facebook, of all places). Would I have stopped and just looked or actually try to touch and handle it? Had I not been there would August have become curious and brave and tried to touch it? It was a pale brown, velvety, almost cute looking thing but at the same time, something about it did register as creepy. The incident was too scary to continue to dwell on. I began my lecture to both of us about the dangers of touching bugs we know nothing about it. I then went home and studied up on toxic plants and insects.

The caterpillar August found on the ground today was dead, the ants were moving it. It was actually a caterpillar that would have become a butterfly and I mourned it. We had just spent time among the Monarchs yesterday at the park. It was a magical experience and I did feel quite blessed by it.  I had not been among so many butterflies since I was a little girl in Del Rio. They really made me feel like everything I wanted to work out, would.

Who doesn't want to become a butterfly? All the suffering and sacrifices, the tough lessons... We all want the ugly to lead to something more beautiful than we could have ever imagined. Reward and respite. Freedom. To fly and not crawl anymore.  Hopefully all hard work will result in a pleasant and comfortable payoff and not get squished along the way, never becoming a butterfly or a moth. When I think of it that way, it's really tragic to see dead caterpillars.

I'm no timekeeper.

Recently I was served a hard pill to swallow. I am no longer punctual. If invited to a dinner party, have a job interview or a doctor's appointment, I try my best to get started as early as possible. I have even succeeded in arriving early. However, if I am invited to a friend's house and given a window of time say 10am-10:45am, more than likely I will arrive squarely between 10am-10:45am and appreciate a having a nice open window of time. This is why:

1. I live with a person who has no concept of time and works at her own speed. August wakes up at 10am. She use to wake up at 11am. Sure, I can put her to bed early, wake her up at 8am or 9:30am and claim she had a full 10 hours sleep or more, but she will still be a cranky toddler. Cranky toddlers make getting ready to leave the house, more difficult. They won't eat breakfast, they follow you around crying and unhappy because their schedule is completely off. However, if August wakes up at 10am, she'll happily eat a breakfast, dress and we can be out the door in ten minutes. Nap time poses a similar problem. Skipping nap time or cutting it short creates a situation that is harder to work with.

2. In my culture, you always arrive a bit later than the designated time because it is polite to allow the host or hostess time to prepare. Things happen, believe me, you appreciate that grace period when hosting.

3. I am not a person who enjoys hurrying anymore. To hurry means to rush things and I am at a point in my life where I do not like to rush things. I like to take things easy. Little hands don't move fast and it's important to let those little hands do all they feel they can do. I anticipate this as much as I can. A noon appointment means I have prepared as much as I can the night before, this way, in the morning, we don't have to rush off.

When I can set an appointment or meeting time, I usually set it for noon. If we take a day trip, we won't be getting out of the house before noon, it will be noon, if all goes well. I explain to friends that we'll be arriving to play dates as soon as we can and I am always relieved when play dates don't start until 10:30am or so.

Eventually, soon enough, August will be on a strict schedule for school and activities. Gone will be the days of our own, loose schedule. Therefore, when I do have to make a date, rest assured it is with someone I trust to be understanding and flexible, a friend, someone who won't get all out of sorts if I arrive a few minutes past the designated time, someone who will add "ish" to the agreed time. I appreciate my group of true friends who empathize because they have children themselves, had children or just prefer to not sweat the small stuff and are open hearted to just seeing me when they see me.

This is a actually a big change for me. I was always out the door and where I was supposed to be on time. It took awhile to adjust, it felt impolite but some things just can't be helped. I let people know if I am running behind. I no longer expect anyone to be on time. I can always fill time and don't mind a wait. In fact, I can say that pretty cool things have happened while waiting. 

I visited a friend today

I visited with a friend today and she showed me how the women in her country protect their skin from the sun, because I asked what it was that some of them were wearing on their faces in her family photos. She brought out a a round piece of wood that looked like a small, well worn tree stump. She then brought out another piece of wood that looked like part of a tree limb with bark on it. She then added water to both pieces of wood and started grinding them together. It produced a fragrant, yellow paste. I put this on my face and there was an instant coolness. As it dried it felt so soothing and refreshing, not at all like a clay mask or any other facial mask I have ever used. The scent became more floral and familiar as it dried and I suddenly realized it was sandalwood. I was wearing a sandalwood paste. I wore it for the rest of my visit and then brushed it off before I left. My skin felt so smooth and I had the lovely scent of sandalwood all around me the rest of the day. I want to make this beauty treatment my own.

She made us a lunch. We had the most flavorful spring rolls filled with curried chicken breast, vegetables and spices of cumin and turmeric. She made a simple salad and an omelette that we shared. We chatted while her three boys and August ran around, tumbled and played. They were filled with energy after their lunches. I told her she must share her recipe for the spring rolls with me. I need something new and delicious on my plates.

Our late morning visit had now turned into an early evening tea and it was time for goodbyes. August dislikes goodbyes to the point of becoming rude and cranky rather than saying goodbye. She pouted and whined a little before crying and throwing a tiny tantrum. Just as we opened the door she reached for her new friends with arms open and gave each of them a tight hug. As we walked away August had a smile on her face and I was happily inspired. We were invited to come back next week. 

Mommy Eyes

Today I opened up my art supply bin, dragged out the watercolor paper, the only four water colors that had not dried out, it's a five year old box of 12, and all my old brushes. I thought if August saw me painting, she would start painting. She hasn't been fond of finger painting.

August enjoyed dipping the brushes into the water and into the paints. She mixed the colors together, and was painting. I was thrilled when I saw what she was creating. So much in fact, I couldn't concentrate on my own project. Before she was even done I already decided I was framing this one. She seemed to love painting with brushes and it will make it easier for me to get back into it. First, we need more paint.