Friday, May 1, 2020

This is the Day....

When the alarm on my iPod rings each morning, I have it programmed with the message, "This is the day the Lord has made."  (Or actually, it reads as "This is the day th... now slide to view")

Lately, I've been getting up just as the sun rises because it's such a glorious concert and it's different every single day and each person experiences their own unique perspective of it.

During this time I've been able to connect with family members and friends that I don't usually have time to see or talk to.

I'm grateful for the healthcare and emergency workers who are risking their lives to help others during this pandemic.  I pray for them and those who are in sheltered-at-home situations that are far from home or that are abusive or dangerous. I pray also for those who are dealing with grief and the loss of loved ones.

I found something that I wrote in a blog from 3/7/2017.  The subject matter was different, but it applies for today:
"The slice I can offer you today is to focus on what you still have and what you hold dear. Hang onto it, be grateful for it, but be willing to let go of it if you need to because, really, nothing belongs to us in the first place.  Take nothing for granted - your relationships, your time, resources, the air you breathe, privacy, safety, the health you have that earns your living - because one day, it may no longer be available to you."
Take a moment to turn your volume way up as you watch this video so you can catch all the sounds included in this particular display.  (Taking back the corona.)

"This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Please, Lord, please save us. Please Lord, please give us success."  Ps. 118:24-25

I am thankful for YOU.  Be blessed, stay safe and happy May Day.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Slices of Toilet Paper

Our own toilet paper saga:

Several weeks ago, just before the toilet paper shelves became vacant, we were at the Target right at the time when they were bringing a pallet of a few remaining packages into the aisle. There were about five families waiting to take the last of it. We took one of them, an 18-roll pack, and figured we'd be set for a while.

About a week later we were looking around for that package.

"Do you know where it is?"

"Did we leave it in the car?"

"Is it in the basement?"

We checked the sales slip and concluded that we truly had purchased that pack of TP, but probably left it on the cart. Oh, golly, someone got lucky that day when they found our TP!

My next mission became very clear, and I spent a rainy afternoon traveling to three Targets and a Menards in search of the precious stuff.  I finally found some at the Midway Target, and at that time there were a few 6-packs left, but they were rationing them.

(I stalked a guy at Menards who had a tall 12-pack in his cart and finally asked him where he found this precious commodity.  "Upstairs in the middle aisle, but this was the last one."  The only reason he had it was because it was restocked by one of the clerks who confiscated it from a customer trying to buy one too many rolls.)

So, I went home with my 6-pack but knew that it wouldn't be long before I was out on the hunt again.

It would be nice if the story ended there, but it didn't.  One morning I came into the bathroom and found claw marks on one of our precious rolls. My three-year-old, 17-pound, Maine Coon tabby had decided to become kittenish!  I've had this cat for 2 1/2 years and he's never gone after the TP before.  Why now?  What's up with that?

"You are an adult cat," I reminded him. "You have a nice scratching post and plenty of toys to play with.  You don't go need to use the toilet paper!"

Reluctantly I extracted and discarded a few layers from the roll and then stored the roll with the rest in a metal canister.

(sigh) You just can't reason with a cat.

At home, on the throne

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Slices of Life and Covid-19

I thought I'd add my voice to the song-and-dance mashup of all that's happening in the world, but honestly, I've tried many times to write this blog, and there's not much more I can say about the Corona virus and its impact on daily life that hasn't already been said.

Or maybe there's too much to say, too many tangled threads, scattered thoughts, so that it's hard to grasp, focus, make sense of it all. There's also the risk that anything I write about my personal experiences could be taken the wrong way or sound insincere to people who are in different, possibly more vulnerable situations. But I need to share something of my disjointed thoughts, so here goes...

For me, life hasn't been all that much different. And yet, it is.

I was surprised how quickly I kicked into survival mode. I grew up in a large family, raised by Depression-era parents whose main concerns were about gathering supplies, staying close to home, using what you have on hand, staying healthy and making sure you get enough to eat. So, when my spouse and I went to Target a few weeks ago and saw that the bananas, frozen food and toilet paper were gone, (It shifts every week - now it's the spices and the frozen treats) I didn't panic. After all, there are still plenty of options in this big city. I know many of them because of how much time I spend hunting for allergy-free options each week.  If we need bananas, somebody will have them or we'll eat something else.

Hyperawareness. Also from large family experiences. In a small house with fourteen people if someone gets sick, you all are exposed.  Eventually, you get used to each other's germs, but then you go out in public and encounter new germs, so you deal with this. Doesn't everybody wash their hands thoroughly, push through public restroom doors without touching the handles, keep their distance from others who are coughing or sneezing?

Hyperawareness and being in survival mode is a creative yet exhausting way to live, but what's different now is that I don't feel like I'm the only one.

I work from home among household distractions. The lines blur between life and work, entertainment and "research." Now, everyone else knows what this is like.

Tutoring has been the easiest transition.  I've been meeting with my regular students on FaceTime or Zoom and in some ways the opportunities have increased.

I was excited to see some of my favorite dance classes go online - ballet, jazz and modern. I've also been adding other things such as yoga, hip hop, Gyrokinesis and African Dance. I can take dance from instructors in New York, LA or Chicago.  I dance in my den with my computer hooked up to our larger TV screen. I was not excited by how hard it is to avoid kicking over the wastebasket, to pirouette or sutenu on carpet. You have to pretend you have more space than you do, stretch your limbs, but don't hurt yourself.  It's also an interesting challenge because you can't sneak a look at your fellow dancers if you get lost, and you constantly feel like you're doing a solo a few feet from your instructor's face. (!!)

I truly believe God is in control. I look forward to seeing what comes of all of this, how it is part of his plan, but I don't always enjoy every step of the journey.

I had this fantasy that God would take the world, like a marble or even a tiny piece of gravel in the cradle of his hand and make it new and clean, shining it up, polishing it or dipping it into a gentle disinfecting solution, either with a drenching rain or a day of intense heat to burn off the disease and make everything new.
"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." Heb. 16:9
I've asked myself what can I offer during this time. I've seen a lot of creativity--people talk about making masks, gratitude, self care tips, nature walks, online video offerings. I've had some grandiose ideas about expanding my skills virtually in writing, dance and tutoring; however, trying to make this happen can be exhausting as well.

For right now I'm going to offer something less tangible. Perspective. And this reminds me of a scene from the movie Ratatouille where Anton Ego, the hard-nosed food critic comes to dine at the French restaurant. The waiter asks what he'd like, and Anton closes his menu and says,
"You know what I'm craving?  A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well-seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that?"
Spoiler alert ahead (although, hopefully most people have seen the movie):

So Remy, who is a rat and a talented chef, gives Anton an artistic, plated version of ratatouille, a classic comfort food, something to remind him of his mother, his childhood home, love and security.

Take some time to enjoy this scene.

Thanks for reading. Happy Spring!  Be well and stay safe.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Embracing Winter Part 3 - Snowshoeing

What a wonderfully tolerable February (so far)!  I've been able to have several opportunities to embrace winter without freezing my face, toes or fingers and I hope I can continue my excursions for a few more weeks until mid-March.

I've been wanting to try snowshoeing for a few years now and when my neighbor friend found an event at Mississippi Gateway Regional Park, we decided to go. You can't beat the price - $5.00 per person.

There were about 25 of us, and half had not snowshoed before.  At first the shoes were a little tricky to get on. You had to get them around the toes and heels of your boots and then yank on the straps to tighten them and lock in the clasps. Even in 20 degree weather, the fingers got numb. 

 The views were great. We traipsed across the marsh, found footprints from mice and otter and other small animals, and disrupted several ripe cattails. (I love squeezing them so they spread out like a fleece blanket on your glove and then scatter beige fluff into the air.  It annoys those nearby, but it's so hard to resist!)

We also had some nice views along the river.  I've been a river rat my whole life (my family owned a houseboat for 30 years) and it was very satisfying to be able to visit the Mississippi in a different part of the city at this time of the year.

Would I do it again?  Yes.  It's a nice alternative to walking, but also gives you a way to travel over deep snow without sinking in.  For a first time trek, this location was ideal, but there are several places that offer snowshoeing rentals. Check here for some of the larger parks and facilities.  

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Embracing Winter Part 2 - Luminary Loppet and Miracles

Continuing my challenge to embrace winter, I decided to join some friends in their annual tradition of participating in the Luminary Loppet.

What in the world is a loppet?  To me the word sounds like a floppy-eared rabbit.  In reality, it's a winter event on Lake of the Isles where you ski, walk, or snowshoe, and the course is marked by candle-lit ice sculptures called luminaries.  It was pretty crowded this year, and a bit of challenge in the semi-darkness with people crossing your ski path, but it was also a very magical experience.  People wore glow sticks around their necks and we moved along seeing ice pyramids, floating triangles, stately towers, penguins, fire dancers, bon fires and an enchanted forest with glass-like vessels made of ice.

Similar to my Art Shanties experience on Lake Harriet, there were a few times when I stopped and looked out over the lake, and it all felt very surreal as I thought about the concept of walking on frozen water with all these strangers. I also thought about all the times in the summer when I'd walked around the outer edge of this same lake and now I was walking on the very surface of it.

At the check-in point it was like a big party with food booths, activities, and music.

For me the thing that I will most remember is that when I first got to the check-in point I realized I had lost both my car keys and my phone.  I told my friends, but I also said that I wasn't going to worry about it. (Although, you can be sure I stuck to them like glue on that dark lake so I wouldn't get stranded at the end of the night!)  

After we finished the Loppet we retraced my steps -- back down the path, trying to remember landmarks and houses still adorned with Christmas, to the place where I was pretty sure I had lost everything, the place where I had fallen as I was trying to climb up the snowbank from the lake to the path and I had thrashed around trying to get my skis off.  We tried three times to find the location.  My friend, like a bloodhound, searched for fresh ski tracks and imprints in the snow that were shaped like my fallen body!  Others held flashlights and cellphones to see in the dark.  

"What's that?"  A black corner of something was embedded in the snow.

"There's the phone!"  I pulled out my little flip phone in its black leather case.  And then, another piece of black protruded from the snow.  "And here's my keys!"  All of them - both sets of car keys, house, mailbox, and bike, still strung together, undisturbed.  (!! 😄 !!)  The God of the impossible strikes again!  All night I was truly believing that God was looking out for me, and the He proved to me that He was!  

Special thanks to my team of friends who stuck by me to help me find my personal stuff!  You guys are gems!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Embracing Winter, Part 1 - Art Shanties

For as long as I can remember, winter has been my least favorite season — snow and ice, boots and winter coats, hats, mittens, scarves with head and body bent to face below zero temperatures.

Without going into too much nostalgia or angst, let's just say that in my youth I was a scrawny kid who could never seem to keep warm.  Add to that - drafty old houses with minimal insulation, leaky hand-me-down boots, and thin parochial school uniforms (like plaid tissue paper).  Plus all the gear you had to schlep, not just winter outerwear, but the backpack with books and homework, the shoe bag (if you forgot your shoes, you ran around in stocking feet all day), and bag lunch (by noon it became a "scrunch").  In those days frost and freeze warnings did not exist and school was rarely ever cancelled.  Later as an adult I developed "winter headaches" and dry skin, not to mention the blues and blahs.

Last year I was in deep denial about winter.  Autumn was non-existent, and as the temps and windchill repeatedly dropped below zero, I entertained my dance colleagues by declaring, "It's June!" during the months of January through early April.  I tried to incorporate summer things like mangoes, indoor tomatoes, tank tops, vitamin D and bright colors into my daily routines.

But I live in Minnesota!  And I was born in January!  Something is wrong here.

So this year I decided to embrace winter and when my friend Janet Skidmore asked me to do some choreography for the Art Shanty Project I said yes.  The Art Shanty Project started in 2004 as a way to have art in public spaces. Artists create unique ice fishing houses which are set up in a village on a frozen lake and the ice houses provide a display venue for art installations.

After I said yes, I took a moment to declare myself nuts, because after all, I hate winter and now I was going to do a dance out in the middle of the frozen Lake Harriet/Bde Unma in January on the ice and in the variable winds.  If the wind changes, the dance changes; if the weather gets warmer, we dance on land.  Why can't I ever do a normal dance on a typical stage?  This is impossible!

But I have been known to worship a God who usually challenges me to trust Him with impossible things.

So, then I got to work.

I planned to do a flag dance because it would be a colorful thing among all that white.  My friend Jenifer made hand-painted silk flags that were red, orange and yellow.  Jenifer prays over the flags as she makes them, and therefore this dance would be about spreading those blessings and releasing them out over the lake.  If I had to, I was willing to do a solo, but it would be oh so much nicer to have company during this crazy endeavor.

I asked 50 people before I had my final group - a strong group of movers with backgrounds in ballet, yoga, pilates, modern, biking, hiking, running, weights, aerial and Scottish dance - all willing to brave the elements.

Our group was Fire and Ice and we actually did three dances.  The Fire dance was not about destruction but rather, flames of purification that burn off impurities to make room for new growth.  The Snowflake dance was about seeing color within the whiteness of winter and also about community — how one crystal never exists alone but is surrounded by other crystals to form the larger snowflake structure.  For me, this was a personal challenge, since I have the tendency to be independent and try to do things by myself.  

photo by Janet Skidmore
photo by Crystle Pospeck
It was a glorious experience!  We had mild temperatures, cloudy, but very little wind.  We all dressed in our winter gear, some wearing yak tracks, and schlepped our music and flags out to the Shanty of People Who Know Things:  Artists Aged 55 and Older, Janet's vintage trailer featuring Mail Art by Jill Waterhouse and the Brass Messengers among others.  The kite festival was going on at the same time and provided a cool backdrop for us.  For third dance we asked the audience to join us, grabbing ribbons or extra snowflakes.  Great participation from all age groups!

Embracing Winter - a new concept for me, and it's been pretty tame so far so I hope I can continue this idea as the temps drop further.  Don't get me wrong, winter can be cruel and dangerous. But after years of acknowledging a healthy respect for the dangers, it's nice to be able to bust out and find ways to enjoy Minnesota.  More later...

You still have one week to make it to the Art Shanty Projects.

Saturdays and Sundays, 10 am - 4 pm
January 18 - February 9
at Lake Harriet/Bde Unma
Suggested donation:  $10-20
No one is turned away.

photo by Eugene Nichols

photo by Eugene Nichols

photo by Eugene Nichols
photo by Eugene Nichols

photo by Crystle Pospeck
photo by Crystle Pospeck
photo by Eugene Nichols
photo by Crystle Pospeck

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Late Bloomers - Deck Garden Update

It was a wet summer, and as we enter the next season, it's still very rainy.  My potted plants did not do as well as they have in previous years.  Even at the Farmer's Market, where, in early to mid-July we usually get corn-on-the-cob, this year the vendors said, "Nothing yet.  Check back in August."

Like other years, I planted fennel, mustard and garlic.


The mint and borage usually hold their own:

I had two tomato plants that didn't do very well.  So far I've had maybe three tomatoes from the Celebrity plant and a bunch of yellow cherries from the other. 

I planted okra again, and it grew like a weed.  I like the blooms.  I picked three pods and roasted them for dinner, but that was a disaster.  They were too large and too tough to be edible.  I guess I need to pick them sooner!

My September basil is looking good.  This one is a reboot.  I planted the first pot in June and it grew well enough that I made a batch of pesto.  Then I decided it needed a bigger pot so I moved it, and it fizzled. Around the early part of August I started over from seed, and now, a month later, it's doing very well.


Sweet peppers are slowly coming along:


 I also found some catnip along the road.  I presented it to the friendly neighborhood cats, two small fire-point white females, and they weren't all that interested.  I took it home and Skitters, my Maine Coon tabby mix, almost tore it out of my hand! 

I give him a treat every so often, and so far he hasn't found the mother load.  (Fingers crossed.)

Early August

I usually leave one pot of dirt empty to see what happens, and I'm often surprised by what comes up that I never planted.  One year I got red petunias, another year, nasty nightshade.  This year I got these purple flowers that could be related to chives.  I saw a patch of them growing about a block away near the bus stop. 


One of the best features of my deck garden this year are the flowers.  Back in May, I went to my nephew's wedding (May the 4th - a Star Wars themed wedding).  One of the gifts that the couple gave to each guest was a bee bomb - a clay ball rolled with flower seeds that attract bees and butterflies.  The bee bombs are created by Plantables, a company in Hudson, WI that employs special needs personnel.  (They also make bookmarks and seed cards.)  I ended up with three of these bombs and put them in pots of dirt on my deck.  It didn't take very long before they "exploded" with sunflowers, yellow cone flowers and some very attractive daisies.  I took new pictures often because they changed almost every day.