Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hello world

I'm out here, sort of. Trying to keep in touch with folks as I've plunged into this new job has been a challenge. Doing any sort of artwork has been a huge challenge. I embroider for a few minutes when I'm waiting to pick up Ross from school, but that's been about it.

And now, poor Ross is sick. I think it's swine flu. He's trying to nap at the moment, if his fever and stuffy nose will let him. My busyness may have to halt.

If I get sick, I wonder if I can crochet while lying down . . .

Friday, September 18, 2009

Newness, part two

Lots of newness around here. Our new cats are getting used to their new surroundings.

Gus and Bubba at the door

Ross and Chris are settling into their new school years. And I have opened the floodgates to new in my life. Exhibit A: a new job! I've been teaching classes for the city's park & rec. department for a couple years, but I haven't had a steady job since a couple of years before Ross was born. Out of the blue, I was asked if I would become the communications coordinator for my church. It's a part-time affair; the largest responsibility is creating the weekly bulletins and the monthly newsletter. It didn't take me long to say yes.

Exhibit B: I have begun to play a new instrument: the shakuhachi.

Picking up the shakuhachi

The shakuhachi is a traditional bamboo flute, invented by the Chinese and perfected by the Japanese. It is used as a Zen meditation instrument, and is often featured in traditional Japanese music. You've heard it in nontraditional places, as well -- the flute heard in Peter Gabriel's song "Sledgehammer" is a synethesized shakuhachi.

I stumbled upon a local group of shakuhachi students, and they have very kindly allowed me to join their group. One has lent me a shakuhachi to play.

Shakuhachi under the Japanese maple

This is a notoriously difficult instrument. It takes a long time to learn to get a sound out of it! I played clarinet and saxophone as a kid; I find it very humbling to pick up a woodwind and not be able to get a note from it. Frustrating, too. It takes me back to when I was learning clarinet when I was eleven, and it seemed as if everything I played sounded awful.

Shakuhachi mouthpiece

But the frustration gives way to laughter. I can laugh at my lofty expectations, and smile at the way the shakuhachi puts me back to square one. I can eke out a few notes, and they sound terribly flat. But I'm thrilled to get any sound out of it at all. I have to be conscious of posture, breath, mouth position, everything, in order to make a lovely note. It is good practice in staying in the moment, being in the Now. No wonder the Zen monks used it for meditation.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Lots going on these days -- lots of newness that I've plunged into. It's been a shock to the system, like jumping into the North Atlantic on Memorial Day. Gasping at the icy water as it hits my body, I will be catching my breath for a while. I feel excited, yet part of me wonders what I've gone and done. Fear makes me want to look back, maybe turn around, yet I know there is no taking things back. I'm keepin' on, keepin' on.

Some news I can't share just yet, but it will arrive soon.

For tonight, I'd like to salute you, wherever you are:



Sunday, September 6, 2009

Gus and Bubba

Ross had been bringing the subject up for weeks. "When are we going to get a cat?"

We'd said that we'd get one after we came back from vacation. Or maybe two -- I'd started to think that one cat in our house might feel lonely when we weren't there, so two could be better. But one thing after another came up, and Chris and I felt we had too much going on. Not enough time to find a cat and give it a proper welcome. But when Ross started to get tears in his eyes every time he brought up the subject, I knew it was time to put aside our busyness and find a new pet.

We didn't plan to get two cats on Saturday. We slept in, then decided to go out for breakfast, which is something we almost never do. As we enjoyed eggs and pancakes, I realized that this might be a good time to bring home a cat. Ross was immediately enthusiastic, and Chris easily agreed. He said he'd been missing a cat to greet him when he got home from long work days. Chaplin had always been a source of comfort for him.

We thought we'd start with a trip to Petsmart to pick up supplies (a new litter box, food, toys, etc.) When we got to the food aisle, we started to pull down Chaplin's favorite varieties of Little Friskies. Chris and I both started to cry. One more wave of grief rolled through our lives, but it left as quickly as it had come. Ross hugged Chris every time he sniffled.

We looked at the cats in the store's adoption center. We went from cage to cage, saying hello to each cat, reading the name tags and adoption information. One adult tabby was very friendly, meowing and pawing at his cage bars. His name was Bubba -- perfect for such a big, affable guy. He made an impression on all of us. After some more shopping and discussion, we asked to visit with Bubba out of the cage.

What a heavy cat! I thought as I picked him up. Chaplin had lost a lot of weight in the last few years, so I wasn't used to the bulk of Bubba. He was calm and alert, didn't hide under the cages, and let us pick hold him without squirming. We noticed one of the kittens was very interested in Bubba. One of the employees had told us that Gus' litter mate had been adopted a couple weeks before, and Gus was clearly lonely and looking for a playmate. When Bubba went back in his cage, we asked to visit with Gus. Such a cute kitten, full of life! He let us pick him up, and he purred for me -- which surprised the woman who was supervising us, because she'd never heard him purr. Ross had been talking about getting a kitten ever since Chaplin died, so he was quickly smitten with Gus.

The adoption information for both cats said that they got along with other cats. I wondered if we should trust that. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me. Bubba was big enough and old enough to hold his own with Gus, and Gus could learn from Bubba. Gus would have the companionship he was looking for. Ross would get a kitten, and Chris would get a lap cat. Perfect.

Chris and I did the paperwork; Gus was from the city shelter, and Bubba was from the humane society. Then it was off to find two collars, a second litter box, and so on. As I went through the checkout, Chris and Ross brought the boys to the car, and off we went.

Gus was immediately comfortable, exploring and playing, playing and exploring.

Gus under chair

Gus and Ross with feather wand

Gus and Chris in living room

Bubba was much shyer at home than he had been at Petsmart. After a little exploring, he hid under our bed, and later, he went down to the basement and hid under the futon frame in the family/computer room. We gave him lots of space. Today, he got more comfortable, and he's been upstairs with us for a good part of the day.

Here's Bubba!

So far the two guys have gotten along pretty well. Gus follows Bubba almost everywhere he goes, and Bubba has been pretty tolerant of Gus' bad manners. I think they're going to be great together. The start of a wonderful friendship.