spring break part II

Miss L’s Spring Break was mostly rained out but hopefully between a Painting with a Twist activity, roller skating, and a couple of movies at the downtown second-run theater (Rogue One and Lego Batman), she wasn’t too bored.

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We kicked things off with Mexican.

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We love board games. And by “we” I mean all of us.

There was, however, a LOT of time spent in pajamas.

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The swans are nesting at Kensington and the rookery is full of cranes. I can watch their nests all day – they’re like something from another time, enormous shaggy piles of sticks and twigs, with prehistoric birds rising from them and circling.

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We went to the library and I always end up reading her books as well as mine.

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She has, of course, already requested another Disney trip for our Spring Break next year, so I guess I will start saving my pennies again.  đŸ™‚

 

in which there are birds and some other things.

you can't see her, but she's there.

you can’t see her, but she’s there.

As I write this, the rain thunders down outside and creates rivers in the street, sweeping up all of the yellow pollen and driving white and pink petals from the flowering trees. It is spring in Michigan and everything is exhausting because the world is green and growing as fast as it can. I can almost feel it; suddenly there are things where no things were before, hostas and dandelions and weeds galore, wildflowers and strawberry leaves and wild mint. I am mowing, hacking, weeding, moving, and sweeping as fast as I can but I can’t keep up.

Cardinals are one of my favorite birds and I have always felt something very symbolic about them although I can’t tell you exactly what I think they symbolize. There was a meaningful cardinal in the Pamela Dean ‘Hidden Lands’ series but I couldn’t tell (or can’t remember) whether it was good or bad. I have been moving backyard furniture and tackling one small garden patch at a time and as I’ve done this, I’ve noticed a pair of cardinals circling nervously. They perch on the overhead lines and in the lilac trees. In the evening, I can hear their silvery chirp through the screen door and when I walk back to the den, Sarge is crouched staring at them. And they are staring back from a very close place, the wood rack or the back of a lawn chair. That chirp can be kind of maddening when you are hearing it for hours straight; I feel like I have two new roommates who are loud and unhappy with everything I do. I see Papa Cardinal blazing red in the long damp green grass, I hear Mama near the birdfeeder. I was in the front lawn pulling dandelions and there they were again, hovering over me in a slightly unnerving fashion.

Of course they are not harbingers of any sort of doom or glory (or maybe they are) – in this case they have a nest built in one of the cedar trees tucked up against the side of the garage and of course on weekends when I am passing back and forth, unwashed, in my Detroit Tigers hat and beat up Chuck Taylors, I am too close for comfort, poor little things. I would love to inspect the nest more closely and take some pictures but I will restrain myself and instead be hopeful and excited that at some point soon there will be a clutch of cardinal eggs hatching basically on the other side of the wall from where I sleep.

Spring is TIRING.

A couple of other notables. Awhile back I read an article about dry brushing and ordered a brush from Amazon. It never showed up. The other night I was at Whole Foods buying a slice of pizza (I have a problem) and looking at a bottle of wine for a friend of mine who had a significant birthday recently. I decided against the wine because honestly that friend is kind of a jerk but came away with the pizza and a dry brush from their health and beauty aisle. The Whole Foods health & beauty aisle always makes me feel like inner peace and wisdom can be attained from applying one or six of their exorbitantly priced essential oils and buying an orchid and burning a $12 joss stick and I am a sucker for ALL of that. (I also ended up going back for the wine, thinking that just because my friend is a jerk doesn’t mean that I have to be, and quite predictably, I ultimately wished I’d just drank the damn thing my own self. PEEEEPLE.)

So anyway, the whole dry brushing thing is all kinds of awesome. I have incorporated it into my whole new morning routine, in which I wake up earlier than I used to, have a leisurely cup of coffee, meditate, dry brush, and get ready for work. I have been enjoying this so much that it actually makes me want to get up early. And if nothing else, even if I haven’t found inner peace and wisdom, my skin is velvety soft.

in which i have a saturday.

Or, in my case, perhaps a ‘caturday’.

It still feels weird when Miss L is with her dad for the weekend and I have a full Saturday and a Saturday night without anything to do. I have a reflexive feeling of guilt about these times, and an almost subconscious anxiety that makes me want to sit at home and wait for her return. I’m gradually processing those feelings, and I’ve been dating, and I have things to do, and plans. But at heart I am still inclined to back out of social commitments and hide with the boys, which is exactly what I did yesterday.

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Yesterday I spent my Saturday doing a few of my favorite things. It was a bit of a grand day for me because it was my first time running since January! I had a tibial stress fracture and spent the last nearly 3 months in recovery mode = no weight bearing exercise. No boot camp, no elliptical, no walking. I got to be very good friends with the spin bike in our workout room.

Last week, I was able to start with the elliptical and walking, and yesterday was my first gradual ramp-up. Run / walk intervals, 5 mins of walking and 1 min of running for 30 mins. It wasn’t much, but everyone has to start somewhere, and I have a 9-week recovery training plan that I am going to follow to the letter. I have new PowerStep Pulse insteps, a fancy shin harness, a new iPhone sport armband, and wireless headphones on the way, my gifts to myself for my return to running.

I picked Kensington for this run, and spent another hour after I was done tromping around looking at birds.

I swear, someday I will be the old lady clomping around the parks clutching binoculars and bird books. I know there’s something tweaked about me, that a day spent doing that is preferable to going out and socializing, but I was completely happy with my choice.

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Everyone is sitting a nest these days, and the air is filled with the booming noise of the cranes nesting on the island in the middle of the lake, and the noisy chatter of red-winged blackbirds. The swan pair were quite domestic. She stood up to rearrange her nest and tenderly cover her eggs back up with fluff while her hubster looked on. The Sandhill Cranes seemed to be having some sort of dispute, however, as they kept the cold shoulder toward one another.

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I came home, took a nap, which Emmett loved, and ambled over to Whole Foods for dinner… I am addicted to their pizza which is a sad and expensive addiction at $3 a slice, so I save it only for special occasions because 1 slice is never enough.

Sometimes, a Saturday night spent doing laundry and watching historical English programming (Wolf Hall, White Queen) is balm for the soul, and better than any night out on the town.

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mostly catch up.

Every January and February, I lose my voice. I’ve noticed this phenomenon for the past several years. During the long, dark, cold days of winter, I pull back from interactions. I’m not mad or sad or depressed, really, at least not that I can identify; I just seem to need more quiet, alone time to recharge my batteries to get through the daily work. I don’t blog or write or talk to friends or family as much. I am just quiet and waiting for the sun to return, and with it, my voice.

Still, there is a lot that’s happened since the last time I blogged, so here is a quick round-up of life in suburban Elysium, mostly in pictures.

Brutally cold temperatures have forced school cancellations. Cabin fever sets in, and so I try to get Miss L out whenever the weather breaks for a short time. Fresh air, activity. Here is our take on the Stranger in the Woods - we call it Weirdos in the Backyard.

Brutally cold temperatures have forced school cancellations. Cabin fever sets in, and so I try to get Miss L out whenever the weather breaks for a short time. Fresh air, activity. Here is our take on the Stranger in the Woods – we call it Weirdos in the Backyard.

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02.2015 chickadee

I’m trying hard to keep my backyard birds fed and watered. I resurrected the old heated birdbath that never had a proper pedestal, and put it on my patio table. It isn’t as popular as I would like, but I do try to make sure it always has a little water in it and it has worked admirably well at keeping it unfrozen, even during the coldest nights here. Many chickadees, finches of different types, dark eyed juncos, a pair of cardinals, white breasted nuthatch, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, and the usual plague of house sparrows have been spotted.

Kensington Metropark is still our favorite place to wander, and feed birds by hand. One day, we got to see a special guy out for a walk. Ranger is a red-tailed hawk that was injured by a car and now serves as bird-in-residence. He can't be let back into the wild due to his injuries, but they are rehabilitating him. Miss L and I got to pet his very soft feathers. He was quite fond of her hat. I told her he probably thought she was a big rabbit.

Kensington Metropark is still our favorite place to wander, and feed birds by hand. One day, we got to see a special guy out for a walk. Ranger is a red-tailed hawk that was injured by a car and now serves as bird-in-residence. He can’t be let back into the wild due to his injuries, but they are rehabilitating him. Miss L and I got to pet his very soft feathers. He was quite fond of her hat. I told her he probably thought she was a big rabbit.

The winter light is moody, blue, sad, and beautiful.

The winter light is moody, blue, sad, and beautiful.

Fat Tuesday happened, and genuine Hamtramck paczki. My hipster colleague's girlfriend stood in line at the best bakery for paczki and he made sure we had a box.

Fat Tuesday happened, and genuine Hamtramck paczki. My hipster colleague’s girlfriend stood in line at the best bakery for paczki and he made sure we had a box.

02.2015 sarge recovery 1

Sarge scared us to death. Being the quasi-billy goat that he is, he ate something that didn’t agree with him (likely a portion of the rubber floor matting in the basement). Seriously did not agree with him – to the point that I thought we were going to have to say goodbye to our big fluffy bae far too soon. However, 36 hours in the Animal Emergency Center, IV fluids, antibiotics, several rounds of x-rays, and $1,400 later, he came home. He was properly aggrieved by his ordeal and spent several days sleeping.

Miss L took tender care of him.

Miss L took tender care of him. $1,400 was well spent to keep these two together.

After this exhausting month, Emmett & I are looking forward to March.

After this exhausting month, Emmett & I are looking forward to March.

object lessons

I flew home last night and left a glorious Florida sunset behind.

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Before I left, I took another walk to try to absorb as much sunshine as I could, and added some birdwatching to the mix. It’s always fun for me to see different birds in different places, although I wore my iPhone battery down trying to Google ‘small brown bird with yellow butt’. It made for some dicey moments standing in line to have my boarding pass scanned at the gate (I use the Delta app on my phone and I kept wondering if anyone has ever had their phone die before they could have their electronic boarding pass scanned…this is the kind of thing that would happen to me.)

This white ibis was pretty easy to ID and he was a fine looking fellow. There were a couple of other wading birds that were more difficult, it’s hard for me to distinguish egrets from herons from cranes and it began to interfere with my attentiveness to the final bits of my seminar so I finally gave up.

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And of course there were the usual flocks of house sparrows, a brown plague that has taken over my own yard at home. But I couldn’t resist this picture – they were all sitting around the table at the Trattoria at the Disney Boardwalk looking expectant and vaguely European.

01.2015 florida sparrows

My seminar was quite large, almost 300 people, and when you attend these types of events, there are funny little behaviors that emerge. You find yourself sitting next to the same people every day, you quickly establish your cliques. People network and chat and swap business cards and I am wretched at all of this. I sit in the front row where no one else wants to sit and I try not to make eye contact with people. I don’t like small talk or chatting, it makes me nervous. I always forget my business cards and I tend to be focused on consuming as many of the free meals and snacks as possible in the shortest amount of time and then fleeing to somewhere quiet. (I also stockpile pens at these seminars. For some reason my pen jar at home tends to be filled with dry markers and useless highlighters and small screwdrivers and broken-tipped pencils, everything except pens that work. I found these Disney resort pens quite satisfactory.)

The sunshine and birdwatching opportunities made my lack of desire to network at breaks even more prominent, as did the fact that I started reading George R.R. Martin’s “A Feast for Crows” on my Kindle during the flight down. I’m so absorbed in this book that I want to read it straight through and I feel a little dazed when I look up from the pages. I spent many a break hiding in a sunny corner poring over the pages. To be sure, this makes me feel guilty. When my company sends me to a seminar, I’m on the clock, so I really shouldn’t be sneaking away, even on scheduled breaks, to read or play or absorb sunshine.

So when I pondered skipping the last day lunch and heading to the airport to try for an earlier flight, I thought better of it. I girded my loins and hit the buffet and found a new place to sit and before I quite knew what had happened, one of the panel speakers sat down next to me and then another and then two board members on the other side. The first panel speaker started talking to me and quickly we were laughing and he introduced me to the other speakers and board members. I felt like the new kid at school who suddenly finds herself at the cool kid table. I came away with a pack of business cards and promises of LinkedIn invitations and guidance on which chapter I should join, feeling stunned. I told myself sternly that this is an object lesson – 45 minutes at a lunch table and I made great contacts that my boss would appreciate. Those 45 minutes of somewhat painful socializing probably had greater benefit than the prior 2 days of seminar materials and skulking. I was proud of myself and so I had Pinkberry at the airport to reward myself.

It was about 18 F. in Detroit and the airport was full of tired commuters, ready to be home with their families. It was so nice to be home, cold notwithstanding, and Emmett & Sarge piled onto my lap on the couch while I ate pasta late at night and finished watching ‘Broadchurch’. (What do we think about mysteries that end with the killer being someone entirely unexpected? Do we feel impressed at their cleverness or do we feel a bit put out that we aren’t given the proper clues to solve it ourselves?)

And now, Winter Storm Linus. For fuck’s sake.

happy places

I’m enjoying my Sunday morning lie-in in my favorite way, propped up in bed with my computer, a cup of coffee, and the windows wide open to sunshine and birdsong. Also the Weather Channel, but that didn’t sound quite so lyrical. I’m sort of addicted to the Weather Channel. For some reason, I find the constant flow of information about weather in other parts of the country very soothing. It seems to remind me that I am not alone in my own little weather bubble. Emmett and Sarge are out playing dress-up with Miss L in her room and eyeballing Gaston – the fish – with evil intent. They are, I think, still recovering from the trauma of July 4. They spent most of the booming fireworks either hanging from the screens or hiding under the bed.

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Southeast Michigan has been blessed with an amazing weather weekend, sunny and clear and warm without being uncomfortable. Miss L and I spent the day of the 4th in our happy place with a bag of birdseed and binoculars.

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In addition to feeding the birds, we had a little chipmunk following us closely to pick up the dropped birdseed. He even came right up and took seed out of my hand, leaving a generous smear of chipmunk drool. Miss L knows better than to try to feed a rodent with her bare hand so she kept a safe distance and rolled her eyes at me.

We were so busy having fun that I didn’t get out to run until midday yesterday, and pulled out a pretty pathetic 4 miles with a lot of wheezing even though honestly, I had no reason for the hystrionics. There was a nice breeze and it wasn’t too hot. Yet still, I came home a bedraggled red-faced mess wondering why I call myself a runner. I sacked out in the backyard chaise for awhile while I finished ‘Attachments’ by Rainbow Rowell, which was a decent if somewhat fluffy romantic novel. I have little stomach these days for fluffy romantic novels but it was engaging and breezy and the right kind of read for a chaise, although there were constant interruptions by the wildlife in the yard. The hummingbirds are crazy pigfaces this year and can’t stay away from our feeder – their tiny motor noise is constant and they aren’t deterred by Emmett’s wild fishtail jumps at the screen window to get them, or our presence in the yard. And we even have a tiny brave baby bunny who came out from the shrubbery to sit a foot away from my sweat-reeking prone figure and nibble on clover.

The tomato plants that I bought from Michigan Heirlooms are booming and I have many little green tomatoes starting. The horrible Mr Stripeys that I detested last year appear to have reseeded themselves in one of the other beds and I’m waiting to see what they are going to do – if they seem like they are going to develop flowers, I’ll thin them and stake them and see if I can coax something out of them worth eating.

In front yard news, I worried that the pink Annabelle hydrangeas might have been irretrievably damaged by our harsh winter, but they are back and in better shape than ever. The day lilies need to be thinned and the knockout rose bush, which had grown to epic proportions, reminding me of the gnarled thorn hedges around castles in fairy tales, has bounced back as well even after my vicious pruning of it. I am full of plans for the backyard and feel like every plant and every tiny garden space that I invest in weaves a bit more protective magic around the house.

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I’m hoping that this week is short and relatively painless, as Miss L and I leave for a nice weeklong northern Michigan vacation on Thursday afternoon, and I think we both really need the downtime.  I, for one, am looking forward to long sleeps, no makeup, and some time spent outdoors and with my folks.

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For a day that started out so peacefully, with breakfast on the patio with Miss L, yesterday ended up kind of a big deal around here.

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One of the downfalls of being a small framed person is a distinct lack of upper body strength, which translates into the embarrassing problem of not being able to pull the starter on a lawn mower with any degree of success. One of the side effects of the overall life transition that has been occurring around here lately is an increased responsibility for yard work and the mower issue was very frustrating for me. I pondered alternatives that all seemed to point to splashing out for a new mower (not something I wanted to spend the money on at this point) until I had a big AH-HAH moment. A little Internet research + quick trip to Home Depot + a strawberry lemonade to keep Miss L happy with this extremely boring-for-her errand + $100 = solution.

IMG_20140607_172224I had remembered my mom using one of these when I was a kid, only it wasn’t a nice shiny new one with sharp blades, it was an old rusty antique one that I think had been salvaged out of the shed behind our circa-1800’s farm house. Who knew they still make them?

It’s definitely a different solution than a gas mower. It’s quiet, I can use it whenever I want. It isn’t a perfect cut and there needs to be some weed-whacking afterwards, and raking. It jams up with twigs and sticks, which was extremely annoying around our old shedding tulip tree. But I really enjoyed it. It’s a great workout and maybe after using it all summer I will have the arm and shoulder muscles to pull the starter on the other mower. It’s a convenient, cheap, green alternative and my lawn got mowed yesterday. Problem solved.

Saving the best for last…

As I mowed and trimmed our crazy rosebush, Mommy duck was angrier than usual, hissing and fanning out her tail every time I came even remotely close to her. Usually she just keeps quiet unless I’m sticking my face right near her nest. However, mid-afternoon I learned the reason for her increased agitation.

IMG_20140607_160524WE HAVE DUCKLINGS!

The eggs hatched yesterday and by evening, there were at least five little fluff ducklings rolling around the nest and poking their little beaks out from under her sheltering wings. I tried to get closer to take more pictures, but it just made them so upset, it wasn’t worth it. She would hiss and like good little babies, they would freeze where they were. I haven’t been out this morning to check on them, but hopefully they had a good first night and will stick around for a little while before decamping to a water source. Well done Mommy duck!!

The perfect Saturday ended with Miss L. and I enjoying burgers on the grill, a fire in the backyard, and smores. Emmett was furious at being left out and climbed up into the kitchen window precariously to add to the conversation with the occasional indignant yowl (he must have a Siamese back in the family tree somewhere). Life, my friends, does not get much better than that.

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