Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Groundhog Day

Photo: A groundhog sitting in the grass
image via National Geographic

You just have to love the month of February.  No other month do we anxiously await the appearance of a rather rotund rodent,  shower our sweethearts with sugar,  party with dead presidents and sometimes end the month with a carnival named "Fat Tuesday" before we dive into forty days of contemplation and meditation.

Last night I reminded Roger Thursday is Groundhog Day.  He look at me with a blank stare.  He said, "I honestly never think of Groundhog Day until you say something about it".  Seriously?  Groundhog Day is one of my favorite holidays.  It is the day I await all winter.  I wake up early just to find out if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow.  Will we have six more weeks of winter or an early spring?  Never mind my man Phil lives in Pennsylvania, and I am here in the south.  I depend on him each year to forecast Spring's arrival.  I need someone more reliable than the local meteorologist. 

Tomorrow, in my classroom, we will be cutting and gluing, constructing our own groundhogs.  We will talk a little about the animal and how shadows are made.  Thursday morning we will take our little fellows outside to check out our own shadows.  We will work a little on fine motor skills and  maybe, learn a little science.  For certain we will use our imagination and have fun, rain or shine.  .

Phil...Please see your shadow.  We've really have not had much of a winter, and  I would really love to have a snow day.  I'm not greedy.  Just one.  Think of children laughing and having a great time playing in the snow.  A day to curl up by the fire with a book and not feel guilty.   I'm giving you a day to think about it.  I'll share my valentine treats with you; you don't seem to be too concerned with your waistline.  I promise I will keep Groundhog Day in my heart throughout the year (oops, wrong holiday).  Phil, seriously, you really are my favorite.  I'm counting on you big guy!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Learning Curve

Yesterday Roger decided to update the Mac with Lion.  I was a little suspicious.  I've been feeling quite comfortable with Mac.  So much so Dell seldom comes out to play.  Dell just can't keep up. 

As I said I have been feeling confident about manuevering around with Mac.  Okay, sometimes I might need a little help from my personal apple tech...she knows who she is.   She has assured me I really can't destroy anything.  So I've become a bit of a hacker; I have a tendency to just start playing around hoping to figure things out as I go.  

I must admit I am a bit intimidated with this new update.  It is faster, more efficient and everything is accessible with a touch of a finger,  two or three, on the touch pad.  Here is my problem.  My fingers and the pad are not compatible.  I think they are too cold.  Roger thinks they are too smooth and my touch is too soft. 

Last night after trying numerous times to scroll down my page I  became frustrated and just shut Mac down and put him away.  I had thoughts of quietly disappearing from the cyber world.

Today the sun was shining through the window and I was beginning to feel a little more open minded and maybe confident about the changes.  I've listened to the tutorial multiple times and have begun playing around a little bit.  My sense of adventure and experimentation is returning.

This lion and I might learn to get along after all.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

China, Dragons and...Big Bird?

Today is the third day of the Chinese New Year.  It is the year of the Dragon.  I have always been fascinated  by the Chinese New Year.  I really have no reason for this interest other than I love celebrations and I am naturally curious about traditions other than my own.  Which, if you think of it, fits in with the sign I was born under....the horse.

In recognition of this Chinese New Year,  Spring Festival,  I thought I might highlight three of my favorite books related to China.

The Painted VeilWomen of the Silk: A NovelShanghai Girls

Monday, after talking to my children about the Chinese New Year, I went in search for a book to share with them.  I couldn't immediately find anything on Chinese New Year, but I found a fabulous book about dragons.

Where Did All the Dragons Go - Pbk

This beautiful poem written by Fay Robinson and illustrated by Victor Lee tells the story of the dragons.  The dragon was feared by adults, "but children always understood that dragons in their hearts were good".

One night the leader's voice is heard to say, "Now's the time".  The dragons fly away.

"Where did all the dragons go?
The smartest scholars still don't know.
But the next time there's a thunderstorm,
watch the smoky gray clouds form,
watch the lightning flash its light,
hear the thunder in the night."

Are they lurking just beyond?

If you haven't picked up a children's book lately, check this one out.  The story is lyrical and the illustrations are beautiful.

When my daughter was a pre-schooler we loved Sesame Street and anything having to do with Big Bird.  I'm not for sure who enjoyed the show more.  One of our favorite movies was "Big Bird goes to China".   There was a song from the movie that has stuck with me through the years.  I've been singing it all week.  (I hope I have all the spellings correct, and I'm sorry I am not able to show all the accent marks above the letters.  I am sure they are in my computer somewhere.)

Ni Hao, Ni Hao that means hello, and
Good bye, Zai jian, Zai jain I have to go.
And if you want to say I love you
Say Wa ai ni,
Wa ai ni, I love you Zai jian.

And so tonight,

Wa ai ni, I love you Zai jian.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Here's to the Kindness of Strangers

Several of you have mentioned you were having trouble commenting on my posts.  I think the mystery is solved.  I am not for sure how they knew (I've only mentioned it on.....oh I won't tell you how many sites) about my issue with your not being able to comment here at Living Life.  It seems the problem is with Internet Explorer and Blogger.  Two wonderful strangers emailed the simple suggested of changing a setting from embedded to popup.  I think it might have been the answer.  They both tested by leaving lovely comments and it is working.

Thank you so much Marsha at Marsha's Creekside Creations and Poppy at Poppyjuice.  I hope one day I might be able to return the favor.

The Tale of the Traveling Sweater

Knitting baby gifts for special  families in my life is something I do with great joy.  I know I have talked about this before.  This last creation was for the first grandson of my dear friends in New Hampshire.   We once lived in the same neighborhood many many years ago.  Their daughter was my daughter's first baby sitter.  Our family left the area moving to Boston only to return to find out they actually were moving to the Boston area and we were moving to Nashville.  Through twenty three years we  have continued to keep up, at first with Christmas cards, pictures and letters, now through the internet.    

This past summer we had the chance to spend a day with them while visiting Boston.  How wonderful it was to catch up on all the news, face to face.  We had a great time at lunch.  Afterwards we walked around stopping to chat only to begin walking again and chatting more.  Twenty three years vanished with a blink.   We shared pictures of our children and grandchildren.  We stopped for cannolis and talked more.  Much too soon the day passed and they needed to head back to New Hampshire.  During one of our conversations they shared the good news their son and daughter-in-law were expecting a baby boy.  Before our visit was over I was already thinking color combinations and designs for a his sweater. 

I think I shared the beginning of this project, oh maybe, sometime in August.   I love cables, but have never knitted a complete sweater in those tricky little curves.  I was so excited to begin.  There might have been a few complications.  I am not for sure if this was the first or the third time I took it back to the beginning.   If I am not happy, it always goes back to the beginning.

Knowing I had a few trips planned I knitted on and off feeling secure with my timetable.  I took it with me on a trip to St. Louis and finished the back.  I had great plans of knitting on the way to Sweden, but in my careful planning and packing I picked up the wrong needles.  It stayed folded neatly packed in a ziploc bag. 

The holidays put me a little further behind than I would have liked, but I was able to work on it little by little still confident I would have the sweater on its way before the baby was a month old (I always try to knit 6 or 9 month size).  Christmas afternoon, after all the excitement was cleared away and I was packed to leave for the beach, I once again had a block of time to knit.   I almost finished one sleeve before putting it down for the night.   I gathered all my supplies, being especially careful to pack all the tools I would need to finish.    I double and triple checked to make sure I had my pattern, measuring tape and a sewing needle packed.   Yes, I was confident this sweater would be finished before my feet ever touched the sand in Florida.  Ha!

December 26th would be the day to finish.  Not yet across the state line I finished the right sleeve.   I pulled out the smaller needles, checked the size, perfect.  Feeling sure of myself I  pulled out my yarn bag to take out the pretty aqua wool.   All I could say was, "You have got to be kidding me!".  Well, I probably thought a few other things as well, but I didn't say them out loud (I hope)  and I am not going to type them here either.  Yes, I had been so careful, I left the contrasting yarn back in my knitting basket by my chair (you remember, the chair the snake might have been sleeping under once upon a time).

 Yes, it took me a little longer than I would have liked.  The sweater was sent a few weeks later than planned,  but each stitch was knitted with pleasure and love.  (With all my lack of organization, I did have quite a bit of reading time.)  The sweater that traveled far and wide was finally completed, washed and blocked and sent on it's final journey last week just as I once again left for St. Louis with yarn and the correct size needles packed for the next special baby sweater.  You can be sure I had a check list.

Saturday evening I received an email from my friend.   The package had arrived and delivered to the babies parents.  I received another email just a few minutes later with an attached picture of the baby wearing his sweater.  I was very close to jumping up and down....

It fits!

(I can't wait to share with you the next project)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Art of Receiving

Pinned Image

I love to give gifts, especially random gifts.  I am energized by the search; and, delighted with the discovery of the perfect gift for a special person.  I am thrilled when I am successful. 

I equally enjoy receiving gifts, although I do not always find it as easy as giving.   I am always touched when someone thinks of me and takes the time to pick out something just for me.  I have never been one to want to peek or hurriedly open presents.  I am perfectly happy just looking at or holding a package knowing someone thought about me.  For me, it truly is the thought.  

I am of the old school where saying thank you is important.   I enjoy the act of composing a thank you note.  I want the giver to know how much I appreciate the gift and most of all the thought.  With that said, I am embarrassed to say I have been negligent.  Sometimes we forget words of praise or acknowledgement are equally wonderful gifts even though they do not come wrapped in pretty paper and bows.

Several weeks ago Jill at Chillin With Jill and  just this past week Rosemary at  Share My Garden  honored me with the gift of passing an award my way.

I have thanked both individually, but have been negligent in doing so on my blog.  As I told both, I am both honored and humbled by being mentioned on their sites.  I know there are many who do not accept awards.  I think I am in the undecided category.  The best way I know to say thank you is to pass on this award (I will call it an acknowledgement) and hopefully  introduce you to a few of the wonderful blogs I enjoy.   As I have mentioned before I have a difficult time choosing whom to forward awards.   You are all my favorites.


I have many reasons for selecting and following a blog.  I want to be enlightened, taught and entertained.  I enjoy beauty, creativity  and an ongoing conversation.  I admire strength and commitment.  I look for words that will make me a better me.  I don't ask for much, do I?

Here is only a sampling of those answering my call.

1.  Gretchan at The Jennings Boys.  She is the one responsible for making me believe I had something worth saying.  She was my first follower.  She journals for her boys, and I adore keeping up with this sweet and committed family.
2.  Lana at Life at Wild Berry Cottage.  She delights my heart.  She takes and shares her joy in the simple pleasures in living.  I am almost certain she always has a smile on her face.
3. Faisal at Gardener in the Distance.  He introduces me to fascinating people, extraordinary places and things I have never seen before.  He also writes thought provoking poetry.
4.  Helen at Helen Tilston Painter.  Helen and I only recently became acquainted.  Her paintings are a feast for the eyes.  I look forward to spending more time with her.
5.  My last selection is for Charlotte at Nightbook.   Charlotte and I were in high school together.  I was a year or two ahead of her and I suppose we ran in different circles.  We became reacquainted a few years ago on another site, and found each other's blogs shortly thereafter.  She is an accomplished author and a professor.  She has not posted in several months and I miss her posts.  She always gives me something to think about.  I hope she returns soon.

 Well there you are.  There are so many more to mention.  Please check out my blogroll.

Jill...thank you!  You are a strong woman; I admire and applaud your choosing to adopt two special needs children and your commitment to raising them as strong and capable young adults.

Rosemary...thank you!  I feel as if we are kindred spirits.  If a cottage becomes available near you, please let me know.  I can be packed within the week.  I would love to be your neighbor.  We most certainly need a nice long visit.

Blogger Business

A few have emailed me they are unable to comment on my posts.  I've been told it is the new reply threads.  I have reported it and have fiddled a bit with my settings.  Please do not stop trying.  I love hearing from you.  Your words and encouragement are important to me; you lift me up.  Thank you!  Bonnie

Friday, January 20, 2012

Live Out Loud

"If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I as an artist will answer you:  I am here to live out loud."
Emile Zola

Paul Cezanne, Paul Alexis reading to Emile Zola
Sao Paulo Museum of Art
When I read the above quotation this morning it struck a chord with me.  I have no clue as to the context of the sentence, but it seems to me just taking it at face value is the way I want to live...out loud.  I am too often quietly nothing...about what is important.

I chewed on those words while in the shower, while dressing and on my drive into school.  You might say those letters formed into those words, and the words grouped together in such a way made an impact.   I wanted, no I needed to do something with it.

All week this quiet friendly lion has adorned the chalkboard in my classroom reminding the children we are working on the letter "L".  When I got to school this morning, after putting away my things, plugging in the coffee pot and grabbing the early morning notebook, I stood for a moment and looked at this sweet face.   I took out my eraser and with but little hesitation erased the genial guy.  I found a brand new piece of chalk and replaced him with a rather noisy looking fellow.

As my children arrived I instructed them to take out puzzles and books...no toys today.   I told them I had a surprise, but we would wait until the last child arrived.  They were excited and kept asking me to whisper the surprise.  I told them we would wait, but it had something to do with the new lion visiting our room.

When everyone was accounted for we had our usual circle time.  I ask them to look around the room and tell me its size.  I ask,  "is it little or big."  Most answered little.  I agreed.  I continued, "Do I usually allow you to yell or do I ask you talk quietly?"  There were several answers, my favorite being, "Miss Bonnie you say use your inside voice".  (Oh my they do listen to me! )Yes those are almost my exact words.  Our room is small.  When everyone starts yelling it escalates, the noise bounces around the room until no one can hear anything.

I told them we were taking a field trip.  We were traveling into the jungle.  "We are going to take the morning and live loudly.  We are going to be heard".  We lined up and headed out to the empty playground.  We ran and we roared (yes I ran and roared as well), then we roared some more and we laughed until I thought we might fall down.  No one stood still.  The children chased me and I chased them.  I roared until my throat was stinging.  Finally one child said, "Miss Bonnie I'm runned and roared out."  So we lined up for one last run, and roared down the length of the playground and back inside.

Once inside I told them it was now time to use our inside voices again, but to remember even the quietest whisper could be as loud as a lions roar when you have something that needs to be said.


Now, I know Mr. Zola's words were not meant to be taken quite so literally, but it was a grand place to begin.  And, I know this morning was nothing more than a fun time outside running and screaming, and watching their teacher be silly,  for the children.   Yet, it is in play that we first find our voice.

Use your talents...find your medium...take out a paint brush, pen and paper, dance or sing to make your voice heard, stir things up and live loudly.  When you make noise you are sure to be judged.  Don't let it stop you, make no excuses;  you will know you are being heard.  Even silence can sometimes make the loudest impact.

Nothing is just that.....nothing.

Have a wonderfully loud weekend.....even if in a whisper.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Stranger in Lund

My last full day in Lund begin at MorMor's Bageri with my croissant and a cup of coffee.  I sat at what had become "my" window and spent time watching the locals on their way to work, to shop, to the train.   I knew the direction I would head, but had not even the inkling of the day awaiting me.

I walked several blocks getting the lay of the town and finding landmarks to use to help me find my way.   While exploring I happened upon the University.  I ran into a couple of young mothers whom I had watched the morning before in the Bageri.  They seemed to recognize me as well, making me feel a little less out of place.

Walking through the University I happened upon the Botaniska  Tradqarden.   The gate was open and the sign indicated it was free and open to the public.  I had found a spot to spend time and roam before heading back for lunch.  I had no idea what awaited me or that my next meal would in fact be supper.

I entered the gate and was immediately welcomed by the most playful set of red squirrels.

One would throw pinecones at me, while the other would scamper down the pine tree to gather and return the ammunition for further attacks.  We began a game of hide and seek.  Them hiding and my seeking to take a good picture of my assailants.  They pretty much won, and I happily continued my journey down the garden path.

There was much to see.  There was still a lot that was green, but as one might expect in December, the garden was in the process of putting itself to sleep for the winter.   The trees had shed leaves along the paths leaving a natural alarm of anyone coming near.

 I began making my way toward what I suspected was a greenhouse, finding amazing things around each turn.  As I made what I thought to be my last turn I thought I saw a tree in bloom.  How could a tree bloom when the days are so short and where the weather so damp and cold?  Amazing!

The tree was among others just like it, but appeared to be the only one blooming.  Trying to stay on the path, just as the sign at the gate had instructed, I began contorting to try to get a fabulous picture.

I took several before looking up to find a woman silently standing quite near me.  Her arms crossed at her chest and staring at me with what I can only describe as an angry scowl.  I smiled and went back to trying to capture the perfect photograph of this beautiful winter bloom.  I glanced back in her direction...she had not moved.  Instinctively I glanced down to see where I was standing...on the path...I'm good.    I wasn't touching the tree, just innocently trying to take a picture.

I lowered my camera and looked at her.  She began speaking to me in a harsh voice.  I smiled, held up my hands and shrugging said, "I'm so sorry, I speak English".
(I will continue this story mostly in dialogue, no matter how poorly)

Without changing positions she ask, "You do not work here?"

"No, ma'am, I do not.  I am just visiting the lovely gardens and enjoying looking at all the plants resting.  Do you work here?"

No longer with crossed arms, but using her hands to help her talk and shaking her head, "Oh, that is difficult question.  No, no, no.  I do not work here.  I worked for fifteen years here and now I come everyday to watch over the garden.  People, people bring dogs and let them....they let them, they let them"

"They let them go to the bathroom and they don't pick up after them?"  nodding to show I understood.

"Yes!  And, and they bring children and do not watch them.  They allow them to pick the flowers."

"I know, I am so sorry.  I really was not going to pick a flower.  I just find it odd to find a tree in bloom now.  I really just wanted to take a picture."

"I work here fifteen years.  I take care of this garden",  pointing the orchard with the arbors of dying vines, leafless trees and one bloom laden tree, "they call this Anna's garden".

I felt myself relax and take in a deep breath, "Oh my, and you are Anna, aren't you?"

Standing up straight and lifting her chin and still speaking suspiciously, "Yes, I am Anna.  What is your name?"

I told her my name and that I was visiting from the United States.  As we talked the sun moved.  She never allowed the sun to touch her.  She physically moved me several times to be between her and the sun.  (It is the time of year when the sun pretty much moves just around the horizon).

My feet cold and becoming numb in my boots, and looking for a way to end my encounter I ask,  "Anna may I take your picture in your garden?"

"NO, No, No, Anna ugly.  Anna too ugly to take picture of.  NO, no, no!"

I am not looking at an ugly woman.  She is dressed nicely.  She wears a full length leather coat with shearling lining, black hat and black boots.  She looks almost distinguished to me.

I hold up my hand to stop her protesting.  "I understand.  I will not ask again, but, Anna, you are not ugly."

"A am ugly.  Everyone say, Anna, you are dumb and ugly.  You are nobody."

"Anna, are you from Sweden?"

"No, No, No.  I am, I am what you know of, as, from White Russia?"

Nodding and no longer worrying over cold toes, I knew I wanted to stay planted right in that spot.

"How long have you been here?"

"I came as a small child.  My parents were what you call.." motioning with her hand, "what you call aristocracy.  We had to escape and I was lost. I was raised in a convent by a Monk and Nuns.  They tell me I am stupid and possessed by the devil."

"Oh Anna,  I am sorry.  People can be so cruel in God's name".

"They tell me, Anna you are stupid and cannot learn.  They did not feed me much.  All I knew to do was to study.  I studied more and more and more.  They tell me I can not learn and I study more.  Then I come here to teach."

Anna and I talked for several hours.  She told me so much of her life.   So many things we agreed upon.  Unknowingly, I suppose, she answered questions I have been battling lately.   We talked of where we find God and hopes of heaven.  We talked of education.  We talked of gardening.   She told me some of the horrors she endured growing up in a convent.  The sun moved as we talked and she continued to reposition me.

She told me she works hard to do good things.  She wants to go to heaven.  She was taking care of a dying friend when she told the woman's Priest going to church made her stressful.  He told her to plant a garden.

"Anna?  Have you ever thought of putting your story on paper?"

"Oh,h,h,h everyone wants Anna to put her story on paper.  It is too, too sad.  No one want to read sad, sad story of Anna."

"Anna, it is getting late and I need to find my way back to the hotel"

"When do you leave?"

Now feeling sad, "Oh, Anna, I leave tomorrow afternoon."

"Oh, this is bad, bad, bad.  Will you come back to see Anna?  Will you come when garden in is beautiful again?"

Knowing, I will probably never have the opportunity to visit Lund again, "Anna, I would love to see your garden in full bloom, but gardens are beautiful in a different way in the winter.  God doesn't make ugly.  And I have so enjoyed visiting your garden today".

"You must come back!  Anna has things to tell you.  Things both personal and more things you need to know.  You must come back to see Anna."

"Anna, I only hope I can.  I do have to leave now though.  Thank you so much talking with me.  I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed our time together."

Anna grabbed me in what I can only describe as a bear hug and began kissing my right cheek.  Instinctively I hugged back with equal fervor and kissed her cheek.  I whispered in her ear..."Anna you are not ugly, you are beautiful".  She released me and I felt a loss.

We walked to the end of the path and turned in opposite directions.  I immediately turned to take a picture of her walking away.  She had vanished as quickly and quietly as she had appeared.  I walked around the area trying to catch a glimpse of her.  She was no where to be seen.  I felt like the breath had been knocked out of me.  It was then I realized my face was wet with tears.

While finding my way back to the hotel I made the decision I would wake up early the next morning, run over to MorMor's to buy rolls or sandwiches and head back to Anna's garden and wait to see if she would come back.

I awoke my last morning to an even colder and windier day and pouring rain.   I did not return.

I have tried to tell as much as possible without embellishing of my encounter.  Immediately upon returning to my hotel, I wrote down everything that passed between Anna and I.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lund, Sweden

Lund, Sweden has never been on my "must visit" list.  In fact, until this past summer I had never heard of Lund.  You mention Sweden...I think Stockholm.  You ask, "Do you want to go to Sweden?  I will say, "Sure, let's go this next summer".  Opportunities do not always allow one to be so selective.  The first week in December we left our home headed for the charming village of Lund, Sweden.

Lund is about a 45 minute train ride from Copenhagen, Denmark.  Taken by the Swedes in the 17th Century it was founded by the Danes around 1000.  Much of medieval Lund remains including the  beautiful cobblestone streets.

The days were windy, cold, and short.  The sun traveled along the horizon, giving me only about four and a half hours to explore.  You know I never have a plan.  I simply start walking in a general direction and find the most amazing things.

The Domkyrkan, the Lutheran cathedral, built in the 12th century in the Romanesque style making Lund the seat of the largest archbishopric in Europe.

Walking through the cathedral you can't miss this beautiful astronomical clock.   It strikes twice a day during the week and on Sunday.

The three kings emerge  to begin their travels in search of the baby Jesus.

I couldn't leave without taking the stairs down into the crypt.  It was damp and dark.  (I benefitted from strategically placed lights.)

The main alter near the tomb of Archbishop Birger Gunnersen designed in 1510.

The crypt was consecrated in 1123 and has remained mostly untouched Those buried under Domkyrkan include the Archbishop Asser and Anders Sunesen It is said to be the burial site of Fionn mac Cumhaill an Irish hero appearing in Joyce's "Finnigan's Wake" and in Irish and Scottish mythology.

All of the historic information came from various sources found through the tourist offices in Lund.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

An Ocean at Rest

I've been away.  I spent the week after Christmas at the beach.  I watched  the sun set on another year of my life and another year on the calendar.  I like spending both of these events at the water's edge.  It is a wonderful spot to contemplate what has been as the past slips silently off the edge of the world...

or what can be as a new day rises gently out of the ocean.

I no longer make New Year's resolutions.  It is not that I do not have a lot to improve upon or things I want to accomplish.   I choose to look at changes on a daily basis; it is a daily workout.

One afternoon while sitting near the water I noticed the water was almost perfectly still.  There were no white caps.  The water was neither moving inland or away from the shore.  I suppose I've never thought about it, but there is a time between the ebb and flow when the ocean is at rest.

As I sat looking out over the water I realized I was holding my breath waiting for movement.  I think there is a lesson to be learned.  We try to move through different life stages seamlessly.  We even wear our flexibility like a badge of honor.    I like the idea that nature has built in a period of rest... time to heal, repair, accept change...find our footing again before sending us rushing in a different direction.

Yes, I am another year older, and after a time of enjoying the time between ebb and flow,  I can't wait to see what surprises await.

Happy 2012!