You're my obsession...

Photo credit: Seaworld.org
...an ode to Shamu.

I have a problem.
It all started with that Chumby I was telling you about before (yes, that's a link, for those of you who are curious - just click on the word "Chumby" and it'll take you there). The Chumby is an alarm clock, yes. It also shows the latest stock prices, the local weather forecast, breaking news, traffic reports, LOL cats, Overheard in New York, vintage Loony Tunes, and oh, so much more.
Our favorite thing from the start was the live webcams. Every night when we go to bed, we can check on the street scenes in Times Square (latenight), Dublin (early morning), Abbey Road in London (early morning), Kona Beach Hawaii, etc. There's something very soothing about seeing a moment in time around the world.
And then there are the zoo cams.
Now, I'm an animal person to begin with. I love to watch animals, or, really, critters of any variety - even bugs. And as much as I love to watch them, I am equally horrified that animals have to live in captivity at the zoo. There's nothing better than taking our nieces and nephews to the zoo, and there's nothing worse that watching a group of tweenage boys taunting the bears in their cages just to make their friends think they're "tough". I can't come to terms with my feelings about the zoo.
I am equally conflicted over large ocean creatures in aquariums. And I am even more irresistibly attracted by watching things underwater. This has been a lifelong obsession of mine, from watching Jaques Cousteau as a kid to collecting water bugs from the ponds and marshes on our ranch, from snorkeling among the giant rocks of The Baths on Virgin Gorda as a teenager to learning to SCUBA dive off the coast of Belize in my 20s. If anything, I love our local aquarium even more than our local zoo.
So it was that I was primed for love at first sight when we found the Shamu Cam on our Chumby.
I can't say that I ever had a special place in my heart for Killer Whales. Not until now, anyway. But, since the advent of our Chumby, I am as eager for bedtime every night as a kid on Christmas eve. While M. reads his business reports and tech magazines, I prop myself on my elbows and settle in for an evening of Shamu-watching.
Let me tell you, I had no idea. I really didn't. But I am now convinced that Killer Whales are the best thing, the very best thing ever to inhabit this big, beautiful planet. Have you ever seen them swim together? And I don't mean during the shows, where they do tricks in formation and flap their tails for treats. I mean underwater. These enormous, toothful creatures are the most graceful, clownish, comical, lyrical things that I have ever had the pleasure of resting my eyes upon. They are as agile as dolphins and as inventive. They are always in motion, and every night there is a new show of agility, a new and more creative routine that they come up with to entertain themselves. Some nights, they're all about teamwork and swim in graceful formation for hours like the most well-rehearsed of water ballerinas. Some nights they're all about clowning around, and it's a free-for-all in the tanks.
The cameras are underwater, so it's like having a window on a secret world, especially at night when the ambient light is just right for whale watching.
The other night, I stayed up til 3 am Shamu-watching. Yah. This could be a problem.
Oh, Shamu, how I love you.
I felt just the tiniest bit better to know that the various Shamus (it's just a stage name, as I learned on "Ask Shamu") are mostly born and raised in captivity these days. Otherwise I would have been sorely tempted to do a "Free Willy" on their @$$es.
Am I glad that there are Shamus in a gigantic tank somewhere so that I can watch them on a web cam? Yes, because otherwise I would never have come to understand the wonder and beauty of Killer Whales. Would I rather, on the whole, that they were out free in the great oceans of the world? Ab-so-frickin-lutely. Just give me a few more nights...

Sea change

I got bored.
Well, not bored, exactly...
In fact, I have just a smidge more work than I can comfortably handle right now. It should, really, be enough work to make the time go quickly. But at this stage, there is the possibility that we're just a few weeks away from a referral, and with that kind of proximity to our goal, the days have slowed to a crawl. Maybe it's that I'm checking the calendar every few hours to see if it's any closer to March. You know what they say about a "watched pot".

In any case, my impatience is, I'm afraid, getting the best of me. So today, in the midst of a long studio day, I took two hours off for a little, shall we say, "salon therapy".
If you know what I mean. Nudge, nudge. Does yer wife like to take pictures? Ya' know, pictures? Eh? Is she a goer? Eh? Nod's as good as a wink to a blind man, eh?
....Oh, sorry. Where was I?
Now, I know myself, and I know that my impulses toward radical change are usually misguided, particularly in moments of stress. What I really wanted was bright, Irish-setter red hair. What I decided on (with a little help from my loungemates - thanks, guys!) was all-over highlights that are close enough to my natural hair color that they can be very low-maintenance. I simply don't have the patience (or the extra cash) for high-maintenance hair. Fortunately, my hair already has a tinge of red in with the brown, so we had something to work with.
I lucked out and got a very good colorist, and she managed to make the result so natural that you can hardly see where the highlights end and my natural hair begins. It also goes quite well with my skin color, I think! Very crafty.
And perfect for someone who only remembers to go back to the salon about once per season.
Well, that was fun. Now I'm afraid there's nothing for it but to get back to work...I've done all the procrastinating I can afford to do.


Dream children

I’ve gone through phases of adoption dreams throughout this process. During the dossier paperwork I had rafts of them that tended toward the pregnancy dream type - small, fragile aquatic creatures that required responsible care and that I was always afraid of mishandling. Last summer, I had another spate of dreams, this time involving babies or toddlers.
This morning just before waking I had a very vivid one that I’m going to try to write down before I forget it. In this dream, we had just adopted a girl of about two (who did not seem to have a name in the dream), and in addition to that, we had our nephew Harrison staying with us for a period of time. We also seemed to have a new dog. Sounds like a heavy load, but I was feeling very calm and fulfilled in our life, and seemed to be in control. In the dream, I took Harrison and the little girl and our dogs into town to go to Whole Foods. It was a busy day at Whole Foods and I was juggling packages and lists and kids and dogs. As we were heading through checkout, I noticed that near the exit doors they had a little girl who was up for adoption - much the way you see an individual pet from a shelter on a “visit” at Petsm@rt (odd, I know - I’m not responsible for what my mind does at night!) They had her up on a wooden palate with an attendant and a sign saying she was adoptable, and people were sort of glancing at her uncomfortably as they passed, the way you look at a homeless person on the street.
I looked at this girl through the crowds of people - she was maybe ten or eleven, and you could see that she had been toughened by her experience. Her face was very hard and set and closed-off to what was going on. She had long white-blond hair in two braids and a Norwegian-looking face that was completely blank. I only glanced at her, but I knew I couldn't stand to see her on display like that, and I told the cashier that I would take her home for a trial. I didn’t even think about it. I just couldn’t stand to see her sitting there so stoic, amid all those indifferent people.
So I took the kids and the dogs and my packages and scooped up the little girl, whose name was “Sam” for Samantha, and off we went to the car.
On the way home I worried about what I was doing to our new daughter and to Harrison, whether they would be jealous, how they would manifest it, whether it was fair to add this girl to the mix. I also realized I hadn’t consulted Mike about this and wondered if he’d think I was crazy. But I figured everyone could deal with it for a few days.
For the next couple of days we all did things together, went to the park and to the playground, played with the dogs, went for walks. Harrison and Samantha (being closer in age than our smallest daughter) seemed to be getting along the best. They were wary, but I could see Harrison starting to admire her and court her favor. Sam was tough and a little gruff with all of us, but something about her thick-skinned nature, her streetwise-ness, really touched me deep inside and I could feel myself watching her and my heart going out to her.
When I would hold her, she would tolerate it, but she was definitely just “letting me”. She wouldn’t push me away, but she wouldn't reciprocate. But I felt something very strong toward her when I put my arms around her, that solid, sturdy little body, so tightly-wound, and you could feel the strictly-contolled emotions in her under the surface.
But Samantha had a special power, too, which manifested when she was particularly stressed or angry: she could become invisible and grow very small. On the last day that we had her, the stress was really building up in her, and she started acting out and getting very hostile with all of us, even with Harrison, with whom she’d become grudgingly affectionate. When we went to the park to play, she started vanishing, and I knew in my heart what she was going to do. Sure enough, she hid so that I couldn’t find her. I started to get desperate, and had the other kids helping me out in searching for her. It was getting late, and soon I even had the dogs sniffing around in case they could recognize her scent. From time to time I thought I almost had her, but then she would vanish again. At last, I just sat down on the ground and started calling her name over and over again, telling her it would be OK and that we could all go home and make something good for dinner. And I started bargaining with myself silently, the way you do. I told myself I didn’t want to take her back. I wanted this little girl. She was under my skin. Yes, she was older, she had some issues, she was going to be a tough nut to crack. But I knew that this girl was for me.
I thought, “We can’t do this. We cant’ adopt three children at once. There’s no way we can manage.” Then I remembered that Harrison wasn’t actually ours and would be going home to his family in a few weeks (somehow I’d forgotten he was only our nephew), and the world opened up for me again. Two we could manage. Two was OK! Two wasn’t insane. I could keep my Sam...if only I could convince her to let me find her again...


Another beautiful painting from my Mum

My mother's painting of Checkerboard Mesa, Zion National Park


...on second thought...

OK, so remember when I was tagged to tell a number of weird or quirky things about myself? And I thought that there weren’t any left to tell?
Well, I have since thought of a few, and...why not. So here you go:
- My very straight teeth are 100% orthodonture-free, and here’s why: When I was in third grade, my new front teeth were very, very crooked. I was not only bucktoothed, but at least one of my front teeth came in basically sideways! I didn’t like to smile because kids on the playground would make gruesome faces to imitate my snaggletoothed grin.
I desperately wanted braces, but my parents were reluctant. We were living in Taos, NM at the time, and (after much begging and pleading on my part) they found me a “holistic” dentist. I was mortified. The man (who came to our house, by the way - I’m not sure he even had an office!) told me to wake up every morning and spend the first ten minutes of the day “envisioning” my teeth growing straight.
Phphphphphthhhhhh...yeah RIGHT! I scoffed.
The really embarrassing part is that it worked. My teeth did, in fact, grown straight of their own accord. Perfectly straight.
Wonders, I truly believe, will never cease.
- Also, I have never had a cavity.

- As a child, I was very into water creatures, bugs and snakes. When my parents were reluctant to order me an “ant farm”, I made one myself (there was a lot of trial and error involved. The first couple of colonies resulted in ant genocide. Tough life lessons, best learned young.) I once rescued an injured gopher (well, he lived for a while, anyway), and frequently collected field mice from the oat bins in our barn (my family was blissfully oblivious to rodent-born illnesses). I also liked to collect snakes (my parents taught me to select the nonpoisonous ones, since we had lots of rattlers in the area) and kept them in terrariums. My dad had a soft spot for tarantulas (also prevalent in our part of Colorado) and liked to scoop them off the road when they were in danger of being hit by cars. He would dodge in and out of traffic with a shovel, racing to carry a hairy spider to safety. Once, he brought one home for me inside a cardboard box of nails, and we kept it as a pet for a while before releasing it back into the wild.

- When I was little, we traveled so much that I could sleep better in a moving vehicle (plane, train, car) than I could in a bed. I loved change, and was uncomfortable with stasis. I did not like to return home from abroad. On my first night home after every transatlantic flight, I would sleep fitfully and tended to displace heavy objects (stacks of books, lamps, mattresses, piles of blankets) in my sleep. Only in the past few years have I finally come to appreciate, and even find comfort in, the concept of “home”.

- In addition to his long and storied career as an artist, my late father was also a folk singer who played casually with many of the prominent Woodstock-area folk musicians of the ‘60s. Shortly after I was born, my mother inadvertently introduced him to Bob Dylan, who at the time was the boyfriend of her best friend’s Greenwich Village roommate, Joan Baez. My mother lived to regret that particular introduction (late-night jam sessions in our livingroom, baby asleep in the next room - you get the picture), and has been forced to retell the story ever since.

- I am a vitamin supplement junkie. I take a dozen or more different supplements every day. Whether for that reason or just good luck, I have a very solid immune system, which I jealously guard.

- Oddly enough, considering my immune system, I had cancer of the lymphatic system (Hodgkins disease) at the age of 29. It went undiagnosed for two years (although I was certain I had it) and was very advanced by the time they started treatment. My mother had the same type of cancer when I was eight or so. Up until I got it myself, cancer was my greatest fear and I’d always promised myself that if I ever turned out to have it, I would just let myself die. These are the things you think when you’re a child. As it turned out, the will to live is much stronger than any petty fear, and I immediately agreed to treatment when I was finally diagnosed. Which is lucky, since Hodgkin’s disease is very curable, as cancers go! My mom and I are both healthy as horses now.

- I love color (our kitchen is Chinese-lacquer red - a layered shade that I spent three weeks perfecting) and our bedroom a twilight blue. But for my studio, I can only work in a white room. Color in my work environment muddies my brain.

- I was first published at the age of 17. I wrote a poem (in Spanish, which is not my first language) which was picked up by a literary journal, and several years later by a romance language textbook that was published
by Tufts University. That poem has remained in the curricula of various Universities, and is still used as a teaching aid today.
I’m really not sure why.
I did not pursue poetry.

- I am almost six feet tall and have size 11 feet! Please don’t make fun of me, my feet are proportionally appropriate.

Moments of joy

For those of you who read my little birthday adventure at the butterfly pavilion, here was its intended audience. This picture was taken by my sister-in-law during our nephew Harrison's thank-you call to M. and I. After thanking us very kindly for "the story", he informed us in no uncertain terms that he is going to go to the "ant place" with us on his next visit, and that next times he comes to see us he will stay for "one million one hundred and forty-one days!"
At the moment this photo was snapped, he and his little sister were in the process of chorusing "I love you!!" to us through the phone.
Worth every minute, I tell you!

And on a totally different subject, this is my best "happy place" right now: our bed with its new sheets. It's difficult to see the pattern in this picture but to me it looks like the Mehndi henna painting that is traditionally used to decorate brides in India and other South Asian countries. I love the henna color and the pattern, and what it does to the light in our bedroom (the walls are twilight blue and I like the play of warm and cool together). My bedtime reading at the moment is
Organic Baby: Simple Steps for Healthy Living
Organic Baby: Simple Steps for Healthy Living by Kimberly Rider and Thayer Allyson Gowdy. I'm not a fanatic when it comes to the greening of our household, but it's something I like to think about on a regular basis. I want to make my choices thoughtfully, and this is the perfect book to assist in that process. It gives you the appropriate information without either preaching, advertising or overwhelming (yes, I'm easily overwhelmed). It allows you to create your own balance. It won't, for instance, scare you so badly that you're afraid of the plastic in your (regulation) car seat, but it will give you the tools you need to make your nursery a healthier, less toxic place, and some good design ideas in the bargain.
The other thing that is making our bedroom a happy place right now is our recently-acquired Chumby alarm clock...the single most amazing invention since the astrolabe. If you don't know what a Chumby is, I highly recommend you check it out (I say alarm clock, and it is...but it is so, oh so much more!). Maybe we're easily entertained (or maybe it's that we don't have TV), but it has changed our world for the better!


More birthday magic

Could I possibly be more spoiled? Just when I thought my birthday celebration week was over, M. comes home on a work break with a box of...drummroll...cupcakes! There's a new bakery in Highland Square called Happy Cakes which trades exclusively in designer cupcakes for special occasions.

Just look at that! Rich cream cheese icing infused with scents like lime, orange water and liqueurs of various persuasions. I can't remember all the names, but the best were "Cosmo" and "Jack & Coke".

At every birthday and holiday for the past year we have bought something for Flynn. This time, it was this handmade olivewood bowl - part of my ongoing (and sometimes futile) struggle to reduce the number of plastics in our household. The spoon was a gift from M's parents upon their return from Africa. The fewer toxins that enter my child's tender mouth, the happier I will be!

This was quite possibly my favorite present of all. M. likes to order curiosities from Asia that he finds in his internet perambulations. This one is, I suppose, a meditation "cheat-sheet" - because he knows that I crave meditation, although I have yet to find the time to properly learn. This little box contains twelve Buddhist chants which can be changed with the flick of a button. Meanwhile the lights swirl rhythmically behind the icon, creating the most alarmingly mesmeric effect. I'm just afraid that if M. were to walk in the room while I'm "meditating", I might be in such a suggestible state that he could convince me to cluck like a chicken every time he says "kalamazoo" for the next ten years.
Here I've placed it on my painting table, where it sooths me without actually putting me in danger of being hypnotized ;)

To rewind a little, we topped off our Butterfly Pavilion day on Wednesday with a trip (as per my one special request) the the amazing and phantasmagorical world of Casa Bonita. Those of you who live in Denver as well as those of you who are fans of South Park will know what I'm talking about, wink-wink.

This room looks like the inside of a cupcake.

The grottos.
Casa Bonita claims to be the most exciting restaurant in the world.
And extravagant as that claim may seem, I can't really disagree with them, even though it is categorically the worst food this side of the Rio Grande.

Here's M. onstage in the cabaret room.

Well, that's how he rolls.

And of course, no birthday is complete without my sidekick and companion, the wonderful, worrisome and neurotic Sam. He shares a birthday with me, since he doesn't have one of his own.


essay: what I did for my birthday week

Harrison, you might wanna listen up here, 'cause you're gonna wish you had a birthday like mine. Well, except for the end, which gets kinda scary.
First? M. took me to the butterfly pavilion, which is like this big greenhouse full of jungle plants. And butterflies, of course. There were also praying mantis and hissing cockroaches and you could have a tarantula crawl on your hand, but M. was too chicken, so no tarantulas.

Here's me. Hi, Harrison!

Like I said: jungle-y.

Here's me pointing to a turtledove. A pretty white turtledove that was sitting in the rafters, just waiting to pick off those amazing butterflies. Or that's my guess as to what he/she was doing there. Hey, a dove's gotta eat, too!

This butterfly got wet, and needed to dry off before it could fly again. It decided that the best way to do that was by climbing up M.'s leg during the lecture on butterfly habits. The butterfly lady had strictly forbidden us to touch any butterflies with our hands (it damages their wings. Remember that, Harrison, next time you see a butterfly!) so M. couldn't do much about it.

...still climbing...

...still climbing! See it just below his right knee?

Never fear, Mike managed to convince that butterfly to climb off onto this leaf, where it quickly dried itself by beating its wings furiously.

There were red butterflies, yellow butterflies, orange butterflies, metallic blue butterflies that looked like their wings were made of tinfoil...butterflies that looked like twigs or leaves or even flowers. Some of them, when they stayed still, looked like they had huge eyes on their wings!
So anyway...there were butterflies.
And then we went into another room, and they shrank us.

Yup, they shrank us right down as small as crumbs. The worst part about that was that the room was full of giant red ants!!!! Boy, Harrison, was your uncle in a pickle!

Fortunately, the ants were busy fighting with one another, and we thought fast and hunkered down behind a big log, so they didn't get us.

They didn't get us...but then as we were running away a HUGE scorpion snuck out of the grass stalks and snapped its claws right at my head! Boy, that was a close one. Look at those claws! Good thing I was running so fast.

Just when we thought we were safe, a little girl who was walking by said, "Hey, mister, LOOK OUT BEHIND YOU!!"

This is your uncle M. screaming like a teenage girl. But you can hardly blame him, because there was a GIANT PRAYING MANTIS directly behind him. He hadn't even seen it because it blends in with the foliage.
Fortunately, we all lived.
And then we went to a farm to pet some hedgehogs.
That's right, I said PET SOME HEDGEHOGS!
But, Harrison, your aunt M. was so overexcited to see the hedgehogs that she forgot her camera in the car.
So, no hedgehog pictures.
...More birthday shenanigans to come. Stay tuned!

What's in the bag?

I'm feeling a little short on time today so I decided to do a quick "what's in the bag" post: Here it is, the innards of my kangaroo pouch.
- Two travel wallets (I have a tendency toward disorganization which needs to be strictly curbed).
- $12 sunglasses (I lose/break them a lot, so I know where to get the cool ones for cheap!)
- A free P*pyrus portable calendar that I got in the mail (no, I don't have a Bl*ckberry).
- A Seph@ra mirror/brush compact in case I ever need to try on clothes (I don't buy ANYTHING unless I can see the rear view).
- Alt@ids: we're a bit addicted.
- Two different kinds of natural hand sanitizer (one smells like rosemary oil, the other like lavender - two of my favorite smells).
- An Av*da gift card (to remind me of the gift I forgot to get for my husband on V-day, but which I still intend to get him.)
- Two pens (I'm a journalist)
- A movie ticket from the Aztec Theater that just says "Love" on it (I think it was "Love in the Time of Cholera")
- My glasses case (I can't drive without them after twilight)
- An antique key that used to be attached to my car keys, but fell off.
- Pocket change (this is a parking meter town)
- A "Sm*le" tooth whitening ampule (I always carry these because driving is the only time I remember to use them).
- Bigel@w's Ultra #1122 mentha lip shine. It's made with real peppermint and field mint oil and tastes like minty sugar-water. I'm not a big fan of sticky lip gloss, and my lips are always chapped, so this is my best solution.

...and here's a random picture of what our sunporch looks like in winter. I liked the colors.
That is all!
Have a happy day, bloggers!



So, this week is my "birthday week" (we keep it pretty loose since we're both very busy at the moment and our free hours are few and far between), and the first present I was allowed to open was: ta-da!!!! ...a Hello Kitty Wafflemaker.
The really weird part about this is that a few weeks ago M (who had been coming in with mysterious packages on a daily basis for several weeks) waltzed in from a T*rget foray, hinting coyly that one of my birthday presents just might be in the bag. "Oh?" I said casually, looking up from my work, "Did you get me a Hello Kitty wafflemaker or something?"
Now, this was a totally glib and off-the-cuff comment. I mean, who expects to get a Hello Kitty wafflemaker for their birthday? I thought I was just making a joke.
To his credit he (after an internal struggle) managed to keep his face muscles under control and prevent his jaw from hitting the floor, and the secret remained intact.

Now, generally, we don't eat waffles and pancakes. But we've always said that when Flynn came around, we would start the tradition up again. In my house, growing up, my mom made either waffles or pancakes every Sunday, come heck or high water. My mother was of the organic persuasion, and preferred her foods unbleached, so, pancakes or waffles, they were always buckwheat.

Mike remembered, and picked up a package of buckwheat mix, along with some real Vermont maple syrup for his Eastern-born wife.

The first round was a bit of an experiment...it's been years since either of us has laid hands on a wafflemaker.

But Mike's a quick study and before long...perfect kitties (and bunnies. and bears.)

I made short work of them. Buckwheat and real maple syrup? You won't see a crumb left over on my plate.

Oh, and this was my second birthday present. For lunch yesterday Mike took me to the very cool newer branch of the Tattered Cover bookstore, built inside what used to be an old theater stage on Colfax. The attached restaurant is an excellent bistro called, I think, Encore. Incredible food. At any rate, the first thing we noticed were the s+p dispensers - hefty and space-age, they looked like something out of a futuristic cooking laboratory (they grind a perfect single serving of fresh salt/pepper when you depress the syringe-like top). We were instantly smitten. The restaurant sold them on request, but they were quite expensive, and Mike felt sure we could find them cheaper at an upscale cooking store. After driving all the way to Westminster, we finally found them at a housewares boutique...for exactly the same price as at the restaurant.
Oh well. At least we have them. And you can bet we're gonna be seasoning fools from here on out!