Monthly Archives: November 2011

A day of doing nothing and everything

Just when I was beginning to feel stressed over the inevitable busyness of the holidays, there is a day like today to remind me of what I love about this time of year. A day of doing nothing and doing everything.

This follows last night’s accidental discovery that all of our efforts to segregate the miniature Schnauzer from the visiting Lab have been a trifle over done. Luna, the lab, escaped from her prison and tore downstairs. In the midst of the scuffle, one sniffed the other, found nothing of great interest and both dogs retreated to their corners. That was that.

This morning, child number 2 woke me up to let me know she’d  be downstairs waiting to go for a run. This had to be a first. I’m usually the one waiting. We survived about 45 minutes of intermittent sprinkles, make more enjoyable by about two weeks worth of conversation.

Soon after that, the kitchen activity commenced. My only part so far has been to make cinnamon raisin bread in the bread machine, some iced tea and periodically answer questions about where certain items are kept. So far, today’s cooks have produced one batch of baked oatmeal, a whole pineapple cut up, several pots of coffee, and now vegan jelly doughnut cupcakes.

Still on the agenda is tofu spinach soup, which I guess will require my assistance since I’m the only one who knows how to make  it. That and the fact that someone else wants to learn how to make it.

In the middle of this, we’ve been serenaded by child number 2, who makes the grand piano sound like it’s supposed to sound, playing some Christmas stuff mixed with an old favorite, Clair de Lune. In the dining and living areas are three Macbooks, one iPad, the New York Times strewn in various piles, three iPad Touches.

Standing at a window overlooking five bird feeders and several dozen birds, are two dogs — paws on the windowsill, tails wagging, as one Significant Other eggs them on. From the kitchen come strains of daughter number one and her dad, singing their old variation on Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual To Be…”, the lyrics of which should not leave this house.

The best part of this is that there are — as yet — no Christmas decorations to worry about. Quite honestly, when you add four adults and two large dogs to the usual threesome, the house can’t take much more “stuff”. Or maybe it’s just that I like the unfussiness, the unhurried feeling of listening to others cook, bake and clean.

In the end, it’s this kind of day that I love about this time of year. Lots of family conversations, some music, shared activities, a competitive game of Scrabble.

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On losing things and diamond rings

Well, it’s happened again. I’ve lost another diamond. Okay, so I have a habit of losing things — earrings, socks, pens, chocolate (really), even a pair of running shoes (which I did find the next day 60 miles from home). But a diamond? Maybe others don’t find this so unusual, but I don’t know any other women who have lost the diamond out of their engagement ring….twice.

The first time this happened was about 25 years ago. It was a dark and stormy night, and we’d just arrived at our cabin in Port Clinton. With the girls tucked into their beds, Fred and I went back to unload the rest of the car. As I slammed the trunk of the car shut, my ring caught on the lock. No big deal, right? Wrong. We stumbled back through the rain and gravel into the cabin, where I discovered my ring intact on my finger, the prongs on the setting looking as though someone had pried them apart with pliers. No diamond.

Eight sleepless hours later, we began the search through the gravel parking area. Ever try to find a diamond in what seemed like a field of stones? Not even Lindsay –who at age 3 1/2 had the uncanny ability to find everything I’d ever hidden from her — was unable to spot it. We finally gave up, somewhat reassured by the reminder that our insurance would cover it. Three days later, we returned home, pulled out the insurance policy. No coverage. Technically, our insurance expert had failed to add the rider.

Disgusted, I turned down Fred’s offer to buy a new diamond. At that stage in life, I didn’t think it would be the same. Instead, I suggested we change insurance agents.

Over the years, we eyed rings in jewelry stores but always walked away with the thought that the money could be put to a better use. Then about eight years later, we both agreed it was time to get a new ring, so we spent time looking at options. In the end, we picked out one that was identical to the original — a simple solitaire. It was perfect.

About five years ago, we had the stone reset in a wider, comfort band with a better fit.

All was well…until a few days ago. The ring seemed to be scratching me, but I was busy and didn’t bother looking at it. Midday, walking through a parking lot, I happened to look down and thought something looked strange. I held my ring finger up to my face. I squinted, wondering if my eyes had gotten worse again. I touched my finger to the top of the prongs. Dang. No diamond. Gone again. I thought back to all the places I’d been that day — it could be anywhere, back home on the floor, in my office on campus, in my off-campus office in Findlay…in the middle of any of the parking lots I’d been in.

It wasn’t in the car. That I’m sure of. I remember sitting there, stunned, wondering how this could happen twice in 31 years. How is it my mom still has her original diamond ring, probably her original iron and toaster, and I’ve been through two diamonds and a zillion irons. But I digress.

This time, though, our insurance provider had us covered. In fact, today I received a call that a check would be in the mail.

Despite that, I’m not sure I want another diamond. Maybe another stone would stick around longer.

Ask me in five years.

What is art?

Ask 10 individuals to define “art” and you’ll get 10 different answers. In fact, Merriam-Webster.com lists six definitions of “art” as a noun. Technically, it’s impossible to define art because it really is very personal. One person’s definition may produce a look of disgust from another.

Having grown up one house over from Darvin and Evelyn Luginbuhl, much of my own perspective of art was formed by frequent exposure to Darv’s home studio. Our race to the Luginbuhl’s tv room to watch Saturday morning cartoons with Bill, usually took a circuitous route through the studio, where we were met by the heady smell of clay and Darv’s wheel — an awe-inspiring piece of equipment.

Darvin Luginbuhl, c. 1994

Christmas and birthday presents often arrived in the form of a hand-thrown ceramic pot filled with candy, the bottom of which was always signed with Darv’s swirling “Luginbuhl” signature. Later when my husband and I married, we received a wedding gift of a large teapot with matching mugs, of which there are no duplicates.

In a way, I’m an art snob, but mostly in terms of the fact that mass-produced items don’t fall into my own definition. More importantly, though, my definition is formed — in part — by Darv’s belief that personal, creative expression is essential when “making art.” If I learned nothing else from him, it is that one can almost always find beauty in a piece of art.

When my daughters were young, we kept a constant supply of plain white paper for them to draw, paint, and color on. This practice was encouraged by Darv’s admonition that a children’s Christmas art contest should not involve coloring in some preprinted Christmas design. Instead, they should be encouraged to draw their own picture of “Christmas”.

So last night, while my husband and I perused the items to be auctioned off during the Bluffton Center for Entrepreneur’s annual art auction, we agreed we needed no additional paintings or photo productions.

Our own collection of art includes names like

Paul Soldner, "Of Ships and Sea," c. 1950s

Paul Soldner, Darv and Gregg Luginbuhl, Bob Minto, John Klassen, Steve Smith, Richard Minck, and some pretty amazing stuff by Lindsay and Anne Steiner.

That didn’t stop my husband from bidding on a few pieces. What I didn’t realize was that he fully intended to win the bidding on the only item of wearable art,

Barbara C. Fields' fingerless wool gloves

a pair of wool fingerless gloves knitted and designed by Barbara C. Fields, and inspired by Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s painting, “A rainy Day out on sea.”

Suffice to say that we came home with these beautifully crafted gloves. They meet my current need for art to be useable, practical, and unique.

My only regret is that I didn’t need to wear them today with temps in the mid 50s and no chill in immediate sight. But there will be plenty of time for that. I’m just wondering if the hubs was attempting a subtle hint that I resurrect my wish to become a better knitter. Now where did I put that red yarn?

Insomnia party, anyone?

Well hey, it seems I can no longer blame my insomnia on my mother, my husband’s snoring, or my children. Apparently, I have no one to blame but myself.

According to an article by Pamela Paul, “Sleep medication: Mother’s new little helper” in Sunday’s New York Times, nearly 3 in 10 American women find solace in sleep aids (i.e. Ambien, melatonin) to get a good night’s sleep. The rest of us lay awake, our minds racing from thought to thought….did I include the wrong person on that last hastily-sent e-mail….why did my child miss that word on the weekly spelling test…did I remember to lock the front door? Seems like silly stuff, but at 3:30 a.m., it’s overwhelmingly important.

Here’s the interesting thing. It’s worse for moms. According to Paul, most can trace their initial bouts of insomnia to the sleepless nights of pregnancy. Remember those? Trying to find a comfortable position when Baby is doing gymnastics inside you is next to impossible. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any better after Baby is born.

Nope, as Paul says, “the sleeplessness of pregnancy, followed by the sleeplessness generated by an infant (a period in which a staggering — truly — 84 percent of women experience insomnia), is not followed by a makeup period of rest. It is merely the setup for what can become a permanent modus operandi.”

Let me tell you…she’s right. OH so right. Darn it anyway. I had hoped that by age 55, I’d be sleeping soundly as a baby on a full stomach. But it is not to be. In fact, I have proof. My own mother, now 89, regularly admits to frequent periods of wakefulness at 3 a.m. But she has the advantage of being able to sleep in…assuming she finally falls asleep while reading one of the books stacked beside her bed for that very purpose.

There are nights when I conk out immediately, only to waken four hours later…wide awake, mind racing. Sometimes meditation works but when that fails, I finally give up on returning to dreamland. Those are the nights when I get some writing done, grade papers, mop the kitchen floor, sew, go for a run, and yes, sometimes, eat. Why not? It’s better than taking a pill — to which I’ve not yet resorted.

It’s good to know that I’m not alone. In fact, there have been times when I’ve logged on to Facebook at 3 a.m. only to find at least one other female friend who is wide awake. And so…we chat.

Now if all of my friends could coordinate our moments of sleeplessness, we could have a middle-of-the-night party. After all, we seem to be too busy to schedule them during normal waking hours.

Fording a new frontier: Becoming a “senior”

It appears the secret is out. My husband has officially joined the society of “seniors”. I guess that’s what happens when one turns 62. Oops.

Yesterday, a bright yellow postcard arrived in the mail — courtesy of an area “Buffet and Grill” — inviting him (cordially, I should add) to join some unnamed folks for a “Complimentary Meal” (their boldface, not mine). Of course, should he take them up on one of the three dates offered, he will be lucky enough (and I use that term loosely) to attend a seminar on “How to Protect Your Assets in Today’s Uncertain Times.”

Among the oddities about this offer is that lunch starts at 10:30 a.m., one dinner starts at 3:30 p.m., and the third at 6 p.m. Who eats lunch at 10:30 a.m.? Or dinner at 3:30 p.m.? Technically, we don’t eat dinner. We eat supper. But…I digress.

Apparently, there are things he needs to learn about becoming a so-called “senior”. Let me just say that this seminar makes no comment on the visual side-effects of becoming a “senior” (i.e., wrinkles, graying hair, increasing health concerns). Apparently, those are of little consequence — despite the fact that a “buffet and grill” suggests an unlimited supply of food that is guaranteed to clog one’s arteries and/or increase one’s weight.

Nope, the little yellow card informs him that he will learn how to (their uppercase lettering, not mine):

1. Avoid the Four Critical Mistakes that Seniors are Making
2. Eliminate the Six Major Risks during Retirement
3. Help protect your Principal, Reduce certain Taxes, and Increase Retirement Income
4. Avoid being taxed AGAIN on hard-earned Social Security Earnings

I should also mention that there is NO cost and No obligation, but seating is limited. Okay, I’ve driven past this place. It’s the size of two barns. How can seating be limited? Oh, and by the way, he’s encouraged to bring a SENIOR friend. No mention on what qualifies one as a senior, but I have a funny feeling that his wife doesn’t fit into that category. Wonder who he’d take?

Ah…and the last bit of information. In tiny print at the very bottom. Of course. The disclaimer.

“Investment strategies and products mentioned involve risks and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any strategy or product will be profitable.”

Seems to me that disclaimer fits right in with what one will learn by attending this seminar. (See number 1 in aforementioned list.) Which, on the face of things, is a hair this side of a tricky marketing ploy.

And…since the hubs is not fond of tricky marketing ploys, my guess is he’s going to pass on this one.