Wednesday, May 27, 2009


This morning:
"It took me two seconds to brush it!"
"It doesn't get pulled when I put on my backpack!"
Lidia decided to donate her long hair to Locks of Love. The photos don't really show how cute the new do is on her. It has so much movement--very bouncy and swingy.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

why i go back

[Kensington Chapel. Literally around the corner from my friend's house.]

There's a lot going on around here (mega amounts of end-of-school-year stuff), but maybe another reason I didn't get back to writing about what I think keeps people coming back to church is that I didn't feel I could add much to your great comments on the topic.

I was not very quiet about my particular church annoyance, at least in my home. My husband and my kids heard quite a bit about it. Georgie and Lidia are now at an age where they get it. And they agreed with me. (At least after hearing just my side of it. ;-)) Later I felt guilty. In our church we talk a lot about supporting our leaders by not "murmuring." After all, it's not like they went out campaigning for their jobs! It's not like they're getting paid. They are just doing their best to serve the Lord like everyone else, as Gabriela and others suggested in the comments. If I were in a leadership position (as I have been and will be again some day), I sure would appreciate support and understanding. I hope that my family understood that I was criticizing a way of thinking rather than a person. Maybe it doesn't matter. I felt guilty because I had demonstrated bad behavior to my children.

But then I thought, perhaps it wasn't such a bad thing to be open with them about this annoyance. They saw me get up this morning and get everyone ready for church. Georgie saw me teach her Sunday school class. They recently saw me accept a new calling for which I am very unqualified (Cub Scouts committee chair). I do want them to learn that in spite of our grievances and annoyances, we go to church. That's where we serve the Lord. That's where we make friends (not exclusively by any means, but it's a great place to do so). That's where we partake of the sacrament and renew our covenants. That's where we do our part to form a community that is faithful, hopeful, and charitable. And we are blessed for it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

live free or die

(Please don't let this distract you from commenting on the previous post if you haven't yet!)

“I have heard, and I understand, the very real feelings of same-sex couples that a separate system is not an equal system. That a civil law that differentiates between their committed relationships and those of heterosexual couples undermines both their dignity and the legitimacy of their families.
“I have also heard, and I understand, the concerns of our citizens who have equally deep feelings and genuine religious beliefs about marriage. They fear that this legislation would interfere with the ability of religious groups to freely practice their faiths.
“Throughout history, our society’s views of civil rights have constantly evolved and expanded. New Hampshire’s great tradition has always been to come down on the side of individual liberties and protections.
“That is what I believe we must do today. "

~Governor John Lynch of New Hampshire

Governor Lynch proposed language in the same-sex marriage legislation that would protect religious liberty. He says he will veto any legislation that does not contain such language. Thank you, Governor Lynch, for your efforts to protect religious rights.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

the gentle, thoughtful rant

I recently encountered a mind set in our church that disturbed me. This is not a mentality that is exclusive to Mormons, and certainly not all or even most Mormons have this mind set. But I seem to run into it now and then and it bothers me wherever I find it, within or without the Church. I'm not going into the specifics of this situation because that wouldn't be appropriate. Anyway, the specifics do not bug me so much. It's the mind set behind this decision that was made, at whatever level it may have been made, that unsettles me.

It's all about safety. It's all about not offending people. It's about avoiding the potential to offend a few people at the cost of something that builds and strengthens many. It's about not trusting people to make good decisions and get along together.

It is eliminating all the risks and the benefits too.

It is the mind set behind the horribly dull playground equipment on school grounds across America.

Am I just a cantankerous New Englander lady? (I must admit another word came to mind in place of 'lady'?)

This is not something that makes me consider leaving the Church or anything, or even being "offended." But every now and then when something like this happens, I step back a little and take stock of my Church experience. It's a good time to recommit, but maybe with a little less emotional investment? Some lower expectations?

For some reason, close friends and family members have confided to me lately about trials they've gone through (I'm talking about big things at a completely different level from what I mention above) that have made them question either their testimony of the Church or their willingness to continue participating in it. I've listened to these stories and wondered if I could have made it through some of these trials without leaving the Church. It seems that everyone in our church has at least one time in their lives that they wonder, Is this the right place for me? Wonderful things happen and that's what I've always talked about on this blog. But a lot of other stuff does too, ranging from annoying to devastating. We are far from being a perfect people. We make mistakes, some of them BIG. And yet many of us persevere. We keep coming back for more. Is it that the great things always make up for the not-so-great? I suppose.

I have ideas about what makes people come back. But first, what do you think?

Monday, May 18, 2009

museums, continued

I haven't written yet about seeing Oxford, but I will. After we saw Oxford we returned to London on the train. I called my friend who moved to London last summer (more on her later). She invited me to a private tour of the Picasso exhibit at the National Gallery that evening. Her friend's husband is a bigwig at the bank that sponsored the exhibit, so this lady organized a tour for her women's club. Since it was for a women's group, J couldn't go. However, he had some work to do that evening anyway. I was completely exhausted from running around Oxford all day and the blisters on my feet were causing me all kinds of trouble. But like I was going to pass this up!

It was not a large exhibit, but I loved how it was organized: thematically by room and then chronologically within each room. Some of the themes of the rooms were the traditional Spanish male, the female nude, still life, and the pensive woman. I had seen a few of the works at Barcelona's Picasso museum two years ago, like Picasso's take on Las Meninas. (It was so great to have just seen Las Meninas at the Prado!) My favorite of this exhibit was "Seated Musketeer with a Sword." Isn't it so ALivE? This one is part of a private collection. I learned something valuable from the lady who gave us the tour. She said that at any exhibit, look for the paintings that are part of a private collection because it is less likely you'll be able to see them again any time soon. Our guide was very passionate, knowledgeable, and engaging.
I was struck by the contrast between the nude women and the pensive women. Evidently, for Picasso, there were the women he slept with and then those he didn't. Nude vs. pensive, end of story.

It was SO awesome to be able to stroll around the exhibit without hordes of people! I totally felt like a VIP, or at the very least, the friend of a friend of the wife of a VIP.

My feet did ache and I could barely keep awake at restaurant we went to after the seeing the exhibit, but oh, how incredibly worth it!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

the museums, part one

I had some wonderful museum experiences in Madrid and London last month. I don't know a lot about art, but I know I love to look at it. My mom was an art major in college, and I always loved looking through her books. I didn't usually like to read the text that explained the works. I always preferred creating my own stories about them.

The weather was awful in Madrid for strolling around El Retiro park, so while J had a meeting one afternoon I spent four hours in the Prado. The museum has 9000 paintings in their permanent collection, and they can only display about 1/7 of them at any one time. One of my favorites, Portrait of Dona Amalia de Llano y Dotres, Countess of Vilches, is not out right now.

But here are a few other favs that I think I will never tire of:

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Boshch. It boggles my mind that he painted this around 1500. It is so weirdly wonderful!

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico. I love the colors, the starry ceiling of the portico, and the connecting of the two scenes, man's fall and redemption, with that beam of light. I only wish Mary looked a bit more joyful.

Las Meninas by Diego Velazquez. It's the best-known work in the museum, and some say the greatest painting ever. It struck me as enormous the first time I saw it. This time I gave my brain a work out puzzling over its complexity.

This is my second visit to the Prado. The first visit was all about, "Oh my gosh--there is THAT!" My mom had books on Goya and Velazquez, so it was like seeing old friends from my childhood, only much-improved versions. This time the awe was not so dumbifying, and I could actually form some ideas about the psychology of the portraits, for example. And since I'd already been there I knew where my favorites were and could give them more time.

In London J and I went together to the National Gallery. When Georgie was a baby I bought her a children's book about paintings, and we loved to look at it together. Now I know that they were all works from the National Gallery. What a wonderful surprise! There were probably twenty or so that I recognized from that children's book. Here are a few favorites:

A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal by Johannes Vermeer. Athena, I thought of you and your camera oscura.

The Adoration of the Kings by Jan Gossaert. The clothes. Especially, the red tights.

Belshazzar's Feast by Rembrandt.

The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger. I think this is my very favorite. I don't even know where to start. That curtain is my favorite color green. That fur-lined coat is to die for. I love the expression and attitude of these guys. They're like, "We are pretty much the most handsome, intelligent, and well-attired gents you'll come across any time soon. So just deal." I love the magic symbols on the floor. I love all their rich, smart dude paraphernalia. And most of all, I love that distorted skull in the foreground. Because everyone should have one of those in their portrait, right?

I have a good deal more to tell about London museums, including an amazing, exclusive opportunity I had there. But I will have to save it for another post.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

the offender

Monday, May 11, 2009

feeling better

Thank you for your supportive comments on the last post. Thank you for saying that we are a great family and worth knowing. Because of how various neighbors react to us, I admit to having done the mental equivalent of sniffing at my armpit and breathing into my hand to smell my breath.

I think I was vulnerable to feeling bad about that stupid note because of other stressful things happening in my life right now. It is absolutely nothing to worry about--everyone is healthy and fine. I don't want to go into details about it because I don't think hashing it all out here will make me feel better. What I know will make me feel better is to follow the example of my great friend, June Russell, and count my blessings.

Here are a few in no particular order:

1. I just returned from a violin lesson with an awesome teacher. She is absolutely wonderful and I would drive miles to take lessons from her. However, we happen to have her living right here in our neighborhood! See, our neighbors are not all bad.

2. We were privileged to have my parents visiting for the past week and a half or so. It was a rare treat to take grandparents to see Bernie's dance recital and Georgie's school's production of Oliver! Georgie played in the pit orchestra--the string bass. (She was going to play cello, but there were already 2 other cellos and she thought they could use her better as a bassist, albeit a tiny one. She totally rocked it. She sounded almost as good as she looked. ;-))

3. My family is enjoying good health right now, both physically and spiritually. All of the kids are doing well in school.

4. The weather has been rather fine and will only get better.
5. I went to England and Spain! Including a few hours in the British Museum pictured above. (Maybe imperialism wasn't so bad?)

6. I read a book recently that was so beautifully written, and so incredibly funny. Has anyone read My Family and Other Animals? Oh my gosh. It's about this eccentric English family that moves to the Greek island of Corfu in the 60s. It's a memoir by naturalist George Durrell, part travelogue, part coming-of-age, part detailed description of the fauna of the island, all hilarious. My mom read it while she was here and loved it too. I'm passing it on to Georgie next. Just thinking about that book is making me happier.

7. I'm working on a writing project that I'm really excited about.

8. In my closet I have some bars of Amano chocolate.

9. My husband loves me.
10. He just came home for lunch.

taped to my door saturday morning

To: The _______ Family
From: Nifty Neighbor [not her real name]

May 9, 2009

At 5:35 this morning [your dog] was outside barking for almost a minute straight. That may not seem long but for a non-dog owner, it is. I was woken up by the barking could not fall back asleep and missed out on 2 hours of sleep before having to get ready and be at work this morning.

The City of ____ does have a barking ordinance ("specifically, dogs are not allowed to bark more than 30 times in a 10 minute time period") but it does not offer a specific time bracket.

[Your dog's] barking early in the a.m. has disturbed our sleep on a number of occasions in the past. It is just now that I kindly request and suggest that maybe before 8:00 a.m. and after 10:00 p.m. either keep [your dog] inside or put a muzzle on him if he goes outside.

I do not feel this request is unreasonable as I make it on behalf of a few other neighbors, who have commented to me as well. Nor, do I intend this request as mean-spirited.

Thank you for your consideration.

I sent a note back apologizing and explained that our dog got let out early because Bernie was excited about her birthday, woke up early, and let him out of her room. I felt terrible when he ran down the street barking and resolved to only take him out on the leash from now on. I expressed surprise that they had been woken by our dog "on a number of occasions." Normally he's very good about going in and out quickly. He is an indoor dog. There are many dogs in our neighborhood, some of which are outdoor quite a bit and bark when anyone goes by. I have been woken up by dogs barking in the night or early morning, but I would never think to write a note about it.

Just for some background, these are the neighbors who asked us to cut down a tree on our property that was hanging over their driveway. We did so. The very next day they asked us if they could park their boat on our property as they had no room on theirs. Guess what was keeping them from putting the boat there? The tree they asked us to cut down. We said no.

These are also the neighbors who've had a couple kid birthday parties with kids outside screaming and playing until close to midnight. It would never have occurred to me to write a note.

They are the ones who park their car in front of our house in the summer because there's a shade tree there.

I know, I know. I shouldn't let it bug me. But something like this seems to happen about every six months. If not with these neighbors, with someone else. One family told our kids they could come skate in their ice rink. My girls went over one night when there were neighborhood kids skating, and the dad told them they couldn't skate because they weren't good enough skaters to play hockey. Once my kids went out to our backyard about 10 minutes to 7 on a summer morning. They had some project they wanted to check on. (I told them they could only go out if they were silent.) A neighbor's dog started barking at them. The neighbor told my kids to go inside because their presence was making her dog bark. There have been many other incidents.

Our Chinese neighbors right next door are wonderful. We help each other out. We admire each other. But they seem to be the only ones we get along with. I have to wonder if we're the problem, since everyone else seems to get along famously.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

"A" you're adorable

"B" you're so beautiful,
"C" you're a cutie full of charm.

"D" you're a darling,
and "E" you're exciting,

"F" you're a feather in my arms.
"G" you look good to me,
"H" you're so heavenly,
"I" you're the one I idolize.
"J" we're like Jack and Jill,
"K" you're so kissable,"
"L" is the love light in your eyes.
"M," "N," "O," "P," I could go on all day.
"Q," "R," "S," "T," alphabetically speaking, you're ok.
"U" make my life complete,
"V" means you're very sweet,
"W," "X," "Y," "Z."
It's fun to wander through
The alphabet with you,
To tell you what you mean to me.
Bernie turns seven today. Last night we went to her dance recital, and this is the song her class sang and danced to. It sure was adorable!
In the last photo you can see on her forehead evidence of her recent bicycle wipe-out.

Friday, May 08, 2009

sayonara, 80s mauve

I obviously should have started the "before" shots earlier. Anyway, imagine an enormous mirror, with a large crack on the left side, taking up all of that space over the vanity. And those light sockets in the wall? Yes, there were two strips of light bulbs IN the mirror. The top of the vanity is mauve and the second photo shows my fil removing the matchy-poo border, which was brighter than it appears in this photo. This was one hip-to-be-square master bath in 1986!

And now for the after...

Thursday, May 07, 2009

for all the mothers

I stole this from Dave. Too funny to resist.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

wise words from the gov

"Just as the Maine Constitution demands that all people are treated equally under the law, it also guarantees that the ultimate political power in the state belongs to the people."

~Governor John Baldacci


Carlos V liked the Alhambra so much he plunked a big old Renaissance palace right down in the middle of it. Evidently the Palacio Nazaries wasn't good enough as a summer retreat. The elevated courtyard of Carlos V's palace is one of the most beautiful constructions of the Renaissance, but it's so at odds with the rest of the Alhambra, I'm sure it's under appreciated. Carlos's little summer place is on the right, and the Palacio Nazaries on the left. The Moors liked subtle, unassuming exteriors on their buildings to contain the inner sumptuousness. There are over 2 million visitors per year to the Palacio Nazaries. There are many more who would like to enter, but are turned away because tickets sell out.
view of Granada from the Alcazaba, a fort. The Alhambra was originally built for military purposes.

Tranquil waters inside the Palacio Nazaries.

Don't you want to run your fingers over this?

hall of two sisters

Door to Irv's rooms.

pleasant courtyard

Spirited, laughing water at Generalife gardens.

Sunday, May 03, 2009


On our way to Ronda, looking back at the coast.Ronda has the oldest bullfighting ring still used. This city was a favorite hang out of Earnest Hemingway and Orson Welles. After Welles died, his ashes were scattered in a bullring in Ronda.
Ronda is an ancient mountain city with stunning views.

The "new" bridge was started in 1751, finished in 1793. There are two other famous bridges: the Roman bridge and Old bridge.
Walking down to the Arab baths, dating from the 13th and 14 centuries.

Approaching Ronda, the landscape reminded me so much of the illustrations from one of my favorite children's book, "Ferdinand" by Munro Leaf. Lots of beautiful cork trees. But the trees don't have little corks hanging down in bunches like in the book. ;-) It turns out the illustrator, Robert Lawson, used a view of the city of Ronda in the illustration of Ferdinand being brought into Madrid on a cart! The Disney short based on the book has even more Ronda scenes.