30 August 2011

Cheshire's last day at home. Meds doc visit for Julia and I. Small tasks today.

28 August 2011

My darling girl. Five years and counting.

Julia knew what was in the package almost as soon as she saw it. She has been wanting a Rapunzel doll since she saw Tangled. She wanted to earn it and save her money but it was too expensive to make that work. And so Family Day seemed the perfect occasion to indulge the dear girl.
Julia and Cheshire's good side. The face is healing, so is the leg, but Cheshire is not willing to pose with sores.

Today's work schedule:

1. Strong sitting. We did 13 minutes closing with loving kindness meditation. When I say my last part, "May you live with care," Julia always adds, "with me." And then we hug.

2. Counting. We counted reward point coupons. Julia has 12 points towards her next 20 minutes on the wii -- Mario Brothers. She counted and then we did the subtraction problem 20 - 12. She also did three pages in a math workbook which were about counting objects up to 20. She is very solid in this skill. Yahoo!

3. Play dough. Does that say it all? She made a pink chair that was really delightful with cut outs on the back. I didn't have the camera close by. Drat!

4. Morning Parade. Today's directions: (1) The yellow heart is fifth. (2) The purple O is third. (3) The purple X is after the yellow heart. (4) The yellow circle is first. (5) The red dot is between the purple O and the yellow heart. (6) The blue heart is before the purple O. Before and after directions are still hard for Julia, but we work on it.

5. Reading. We shared the reading of 4 pages of The Velveteen Rabbit. Julia does not know all of the words in that book but when a word is used more than twice, she has it.

5. Reading Journal. Julia writes the name of the book, a sentence about what she has read, and draws a picture. I can't wait to show this book to her teachers at our Ready, Set, Go conference on Monday.

She has done this work quickly, efficiently, and cheerfully. And so, I will give her 5 points towards playing the wii. And if you are doing the math, it means that she will probably get a turn on the wii tomorrow. This reward system is working but I still have the nagging feeling of bargaining with the devil.
Posted on facebook this morning: 5 years ago, we met Julia. As if that was not enough, during the journey we spent our days with our travel group, in Beijing, Nanchang, and Guangzhou. We met in Newark Airport and two weeks later, we had friends and extended family for the rest of our lives. I did not expect this, and I am grateful for the love and support these people have given to our family. And there is nothing in the world like watching these precious kids grow up. I love each and every one of them! Dayenu!

27 August 2011

Tomorrow is family day. Five years with Julia. A journey, to be sure.

Because of the storm on the east coast, Cheshire is staying in Madison until Wednesday of next week. The extra days are lovely. A bit lazy -- due in part to her wiping out on Thursday when she was roller blading. She took a fall at the bottom of a hill that was too steep for her to control her wheels. She scraped and bruised her face and one leg. It looks awful but is healing.

She relieves my loneliness, and yes, I am sure that it is important that I be alone and lonely for the time ahead, but I am grateful for this time before.

I worked for more than an hour on the back garden, setting up the new and much smaller compost bin. A black plastic box, about a third of the size of the compost bins I've have for the last 10 years. More.

The back garden is a mess. I have not worked on it all summer. I despaired of it when I started. It felt like it was going to take forever to clean and arrange and make some changes. I was so grumpy about it. I could see the work stretching out for a long time and I did not want to do it, but then as I was working -- cutting back a bush which has grown out of control, pulling weeds, transplanting ferns and hostas, spreading a bit of mulch -- and I began to feel a measure of balance return.

Julia is earning reward points to be able to play Mario Brothers on the wii. She earned 20 points for listening and doing as she is told the first time I ask her. She has missed many opportunities to earn reward points and I hope that she gets better as time goes on. Besides just listening, she also gets points for doing as she is told in a cheerful way. Another tough task for her at times.

24 August 2011

97, 98, 99, 100!

Julia has been arranging her number tiles in order since school let out in June. At that time, she could sort of do 1-20, and could sort of count them as well. Today, after lunch I suggested we do numbers before her afternoon therapist came over, and she asked if we could do up to 100 today. I told her yesterday that I thought we should try up to 100, even though she has only gone up to 80 previously. So, we dumped out the tiles for 1-80 and she arranged them. Then, I took the extra 20 out of a plastic bag and she arranged them as well.
She was very proud of herself, and needless to say, so was I.

After she was finished my phone rang and Cheshire needed directions, so Julia went outside to her beloved bugs. She loves rolly pollies -- she collects them, puts them in plastic containers and tries to keep them alive. She says she know who are the husbands and who are the wives. Some are babies.
Cheshire asked me to print out "An Evening with Jon Jones", David's last script. I found a version, longer than what was done on stage in February, on the flash drive that I carry. Is it too weird to carry around David's last flash drive. I don't think about it often, but I do carry it. How convenient is it to carry an author's work around. Although, to be honest, most of what is one it is the business and minutia of life, not creative endeavors.

So, I printed it out and looked at it some. Tears welled up -- for David, for Jon, for Jim. I've been thinking about how much I still miss Jon and Jim and they have been dead for more than 20 years. When I am with Cheshire this week especially, I've been very much in the present. And at best, my very best, I can feel as if this time, right now and in the future, is truly another portion of my life -- I thought to write the second half, but I don't intend to really live as long as I have lived. But maybe it is a second half, in quality if not quantity. And for a few minutes, a few moments, I can honestly say that having a second half of life is not good, not bad. It just is. And I have the power to enjoy it or be miserable through it.

Yes, I am better than I was last year at this time. I am further from David and sometimes I can be very sad about that, but when I feel particularly without, I ask for strength, I ask for support. If he is close, I expect that he is giving it.

22 August 2011

Julia and I are on the front deck putting numbers in order. Now that she goes up to 80 it does take a long time. I admire her persistence but I wish it could go quicker. I wonder about the value of searching for each number in the pile, handling each number tile, and making the grid. She is still not perfect. She can get confused with the order of the digits, e.g., 45 for 54, and also the order of the numbers, e.g., reversing 46 and 47. My hope is that each time she puts the numbers in physical order that it cements it into her brain. I don't think that just reading the numbers on a finished grid would do the same thing -- or at least, not as effectively. I expect to go to 100 by the end of this week, and then, practice that two or three times a week when school starts. I aim for such a low number of repetitions a week because full time school, plus 20 hours of at home therapy and another 4.5 hours of other therapy, leaves scant time for me to work with her. I could shift this task to therapists but I like that it is especially ours.

I moved Julia to 13 minutes of Strong Sitting today. I would like to get to 15 minutes before school each day but this is a big undertaking for us considering that she boards the bus a bit past 7 in the morning. This year, pick up is 7:20, instead of 7:00, so we do have about 10 extra minutes. Early mornings are not easy for Julia and I. However, I remain optimistic.

Cheshire is home this week for R&R. She wants to eat healthy, exercise, and hang out. This is lovely. I enjoy the adult companionship so much, and after all, it is Cheshire.

Tomorrow is my wedding anniversary; the 28th is our Family Day with Julia. I am not as sad this year as last to be in this alone. Julia was talking the other day, when we were waiting in the airport for Cheshire's plane to arrive, about how our family used to be 3 with Daddy and now it is 2, but when Cheshire comes home it is 3 again. I was so pleased to hear her using numbers, and she was trying to make me happy. I did not tell her that our family used to be 4 and is no longer that. Still, I am so grateful for this child who bends and stretches me in ways I would have never done myself.

21 August 2011

Very lazy Sunday morning. Cheshire is home after a rough day of airplane delays. Julia, still sleeping in her own bed, is downstairs and I can hear that she's turned on the forbidden Mario Brothers' wii game. What?? Does the kid think I am deaf? We have Farmers' Market scones and fruit for breakfast and afternoon tickets for My Fair Lady, staring a friend of mine. Oh, and the house is finally put together -- minus a few kitchen cabinets that needs cleaning out (from the floor sanding) and all the pictures on the walls and books on the shelves. The art and the books will go up slowly and with intention over the next few weeks.

So, pretty much, this is as good as it gets.

I don't intend to be maudlin, rather somewhat rational. This is a good morning, a good weekend, a good time. And I wonder how and when and by what power I could take a step towards happiness.

19 August 2011

Just beginning to see an end to the putting away and organizing of the house. New shelves are still deliciously empty just waiting for some long days of book sorting once school starts for Julia -- two more weeks, two more weeks.

Today's organizing and putting away is just in time for Cheshire's visit tomorrow. Probably a busy day today, and little time for reflection and quiet, but there should be a big sigh at day's end.

17 August 2011

Julia and I are going to man the PTO welcome table on Thursday morning during registration. I told Julia about this today and she was very excited. She talked about seeing her SE teacher, how excited her teacher was going to be to see that Julia has grown and that Julia could count numbers up to 80. She was beside herself with excitement. It was so cute to see.

Oh, I have such hope for this school year. How wonderful it would be if she enjoy and work at school this year. Of course, right this moment, she is whining at her morning therapist.

16 August 2011

16 Aug. 2011

Today, I put Julia’s bedroom together. I wasn’t in any rush to do it because she doesn’t sleep there! I did Cheshire’s room yesterday -- she is coming home on Saturday, and then, thought I’d move on to Julia’s. I rearranged furniture and made a little book nook with her beanbag chairs and a fluffy rug. I showed her the room and we read a book in it during the day, but I expected nothing else.

But tonight, after she was in pjs and brushed her teeth, she went into her room to get a book. She climbed on her bed to read the book and I asked if she wanted her quilt which was in my room. She assented and I grabbed the quilt and her stuffed dinos that she sleeps with as well. We all settled into her bed to read, then we did loving kindness meditation, kissed, and I asked if she wanted the night light and the bathroom light on. She said yes, I said good night. And that was that.

Was she waiting for me to do something with her room?

This is exactly how I stopped laying down with her until she fell asleep. It just happened one night. I know I will miss her little body in my bed, but she has not slept in her own bed since David died. I decided not to push her at all. And wow, she did it. Even if it is only for tonight!

Horseback riding update: Julia’s weekly lessons are beginning to melt into our schedule. Today, for the first time, Julia was not anxious about her lesson. She still remembers little from week to week, but her demeanor is quieter and she is following directions. There were only two aides for each rider today. Now, it could have been there were not enough volunteers to give each kid a third aide, but I prefer to believe that the three young riders are now able proficient enough to lose one of their helpers. The new skill was posting -- that funny, rhythmic bouncing that riders do when horses trot. It will take more than one lesson to learn this one, but Julia did it for a few seconds a number of times.

I am ready to sign her up for another round of lessons. I hope that there will be a class that can fit into our busy schedule.

Sunday at the geology museum

There are dinosaurs in Madison. At least, a few, replicas at our little UW Geology Museum. We have not been there before this and it is all my fault. I've know about it for quite some time. I think we've found a new go to place for lazy weekends when we need a little something when the weather gets cold and ucky.

So, here is Julia posing in front of a T-rex head.
And I think this is a mastodon.
And here is something that looks like a turtle. I'll have to catch the name some other time.
And here she is with her favorite, I hope, dinosaur.

Last year on FB

FB is so nice as to quote back what I wrote a year ago today: "Today, I want to be rescued. Not thinking so much of a prince on a charger, but more like a swat team with kleenex and some good drugs. Volunteers?" I am so impressed that I really had my priorities stacked neatly.

15 August 2011

This morning when Julia woke up, I asked her to get dressed and she said, "in a minute." And once again, I wanted to cheer. She said "minute" as in a measure of time! Off hand and casually, but measures of time are entering her vocabulary. If she has some times, she may have a past, and perhaps a future! Momma's dreams!

I can see little steps forward all the time -- asking to pet dogs, complimenting people she casually talks to, counting with her number tiles to 80 (we may make 100 by September 1), more difficult directions using before and after and between for our morning parade. We are also playing "hot and cold" when she cannot find numbers -- she never understood the concept behind that simple game. We are having a challenge listening which I've decided to work on by giving her reward points towards time with the wii. I have not let her turn it on since I decided it was rotting her brain. I am calmed down about it now. Oy, I hate those games but it does give her a skill that is like other kids. I want her to fit in. But if she is going to play, I might as well use it to teach something.

And then there is the picking on her skin. The behavior is still present -- a bit less this summer because she has been busy and I've been with her to call her attention to it -- and I am worried that once school begins it will get worse. I've not managed to use any behavior means to control it, so I finally asked our drug doc for help. We are going to raise her dosage of her stimulant (Adderall) by 5 mg and see if there is any change. There is research to support more stimulant to control ADHD thereby diminishing anxiety, but also the possibility that the picking is a side effect of the Adderall. We start the change tomorrow. I will have to watch her carefully over the next two weeks.

I put Cheshire's bedroom back together today, cleaning everything that was not painted or sanded and rearranging furniture. The room, which is set up for Cheshire, was used most of the time by David. He put a desk and computer in there, he brought his electric keyboard in to play music. After the transplant, that room became medical and drug central, and he set up charts for what he took each day, his blood pressure, his sugar levels. As I cleaned and rearranged, I was aware of a heaviness of spirit about the room. It needed the cleaning for more than dust. The chi needed to be stirred up and some darkness dismissed. I wondered if he had sat at that desk and thought about the fall that he took that he didn't tell me about, and possibly feeling weak or ill and deciding it was not important enough to let me or his medical team know. Such a sadness. I lit a candle and burned some incense. I opened all the windows wide. I hope that spirit of the place can be revived.

13 August 2011

Plans for the Farmers' Market are dashed by steady rain, but an idea to take Julia to the UW Geology Museum, where we have a few small dinosaur skeletons just blocks from our house are brewing. We need the rain -- the back garden has a brown lawn. And we need to get out of the house where all I see is organization and unpacking needing to happen. Now that I am doing it -- I seem to be avoiding the work of unpacking with vigor and instead, I am reveling in the emptiness and possibility. My leather chair which was looking a bit worse for wear and was wounded when the movers took it out of the house, is repaired and reconditioned -- the repair paid for by the movers, the reconditioning, I paid for. It looks great, and I will now endeavor to keep it out of direct sun which was responsible for its shabby look.

Oy! I have washed every stitch of clothes, material, and baggage that was on out trip, just in case one bug -- as in bed bug -- came with us. Total, over do, but Julia is itchy this morning which has me running to check the sheets and put her back into the shower. Again, oy!

11 August 2011

I dreamed of David last night. He gave me a piece of paper with a list on it. There was a heading and three things below the heading. It does seem that David enters my dreams at the tail end of a dream and I no sooner took the piece of paper than I was awakening. I scrambled to try to remember what was on the list. I woke myself up enough to remember the paper, the heading and the list, but when I woke up later in the morning, I completely forgot what was on the list. I don't remember what it was about or whether it was important.

This communication from either my sub-conscience or the other side can certainly be frustrating. It is time to start keeping a dream journal near my bed and to use it. I don't know if I would have remembered more in this case, but I couldn't have remembered any less. I seem to have lost am ability to remember dreams that was incredibly strong from childhood to the beginning of middle age. I am not sure how I lost it and I hope I can cultivate it again.

We have clothes in cleaned closets! More sorting of the toy room today and tonight.

After therapy this morning I gave Julia the choice of spending some time in the garden -- me gardening, her looking for and at bugs -- or going to the zoo. I was routing for the zoo, but she wanted to be in the garden. It was a good choice. Very good, in fact. I did a bit of weeding and cutting back that my poor garden really needed. I must say that the devas were singing to me. I have an idea to redo the back garden which I have worked hard at ignoring beyond very basic work this whole warm season. House and garden, house and garden. I can work in the house all day and feel not a single vibration, but let me pull a single weed and I am alive and close to some very basic me.

Julia is definitely in transition -- of coming home, dealing with the end of our journeying, having a house that is not set up as usual. I am not sure what it is, but she is having a hard time concentrating and listening. She has been tough on therapists since we returned. But today, we saw Marilyn and Julia told her two stories in possibly the most complete way she has ever done. The told Marilyn about the concert and operas she saw at Chautauqua -- Peter and the Wolf, and Babar. She loved both of them and remember quite a lot. She also told Marilyn that she loved Chautauqua. She loved living in the house with Lisa and all the other people who lived there.

I realized that she might have enjoyed the communal living experience so much because of her early experience in China. Julia did fold into our shared bathrooms and shelf in the frig and rules about cleaning up quickly and without complaint. She enjoyed the casual contact with our housemates and also really like the praise from others when she did her assigned chore of carpet sweeping around and under our table which morphed into sweeping for others as well. None of this was a big deal, except that this is the first time that I can see that something that she learned in China benefited her. And that thought warms my heart.

10 August 2011


Moving back into the house is taking a long time. Everything goes slower than I imagine. Was it really easier to pack? My bedroom is set up. Clothes and shoes back in the closet; everything plugged in and working. The toy/office room is getting closer. At least, there are games, books and toys for Julia to use. Therapy material is out. My desk needs sorting and going through. There is dust, wood dust, over everything that was not taken out of the house. And so, every surface needs cleaning. I am putting felt feet on very stick of furniture to preserve the floor from getting scratched. There is the remains of a previous felting from when we did the floors on Washington Blvd in Indy. I am still reveling in the finished wood floors, the color of the walls and my beautiful shelves! Last night, I put the tv and accompanying devices on shelves. Again, I managed to do all the connecting, although I did peek once again, at my pictures.

Twinges from the past attack me -- David did the felting in Indy. Now I am scraping the remains of his work off the bottoms of chairs. No, I am not considering preserving his work, but it is just something else that is gone. Replaced by something that I do. And I want to complain about every task that I must do by myself. I can still be such a spoiled child.

Yesterday, I was aware how I brought home the deaths of those old men of my family. Dad, David's father, is no longer available to call. It was duty much of the time. That made me call, that kept me on the phone. Even that is gone. I talked to him the day before he died and his voice is still inside my head.

I wrote out a few post cards when I was at Chautauqua and realized that most of the people that I used to write postcards to are now dead. When we traveled, I loved writing postcards. Connections to those who were not with us. That was so sweet to me. Maybe I need a new list. Maybe I don't need to send any at all. I am not sure which.

I am not working on the house for hours each day because of Julia. It seems silly to spend more than her therapy time working on the house. School begins in less than a month and then I will have the days to do house chores. Right now, it is better to be with her whenever I can. So, we do work and fun stuff.

This week's work: Julia is not putting the number tiles 1-70 in order and I think I can go to 80 tomorrow. She confuses numbers at times, but is correcting more of them herself. She is counting by 1's, 5's and 10's by herself, and can almost do it for 2's when I separate the numbers into columns of 2's. Counting is still pretty much rote but the form is getting inside of her. She still works with before and after in our instruction exercise -- morning parade. She doesn't get the terms yet but we keep working. Reading and doing our reading journal comes pretty easily. She doesn't always have something inspiring to write about but her pictures usually make up for that. And it is the exercise that is important.

She has had a hard time concentrating on anything and focusing since we got home. She chattered during her riding lesson to the people who help her ride. She missed every direction that teacher called out. I know she is responding to the transition of coming home and the upheaval of the house. Another reason to concentrate on Julia the rest of this month. Hoping that she is ready to start school.

We took a walk tonight after her last therapy session and before our supper. After feeling sad for a few days, I saw some small miracles that could not help but get me giddy. First, Julia can really skip! She has been sort of skipping for more than a year now, but it has been skipping as if two legs were not her original means of motion. It was tortured and practiced. Today, it was wild and free and very big skips. Skipping is precious to me. In dance class in college, I was never a good leaper, but an incredible skipper! I felt speed and height. I felt the power of muscles. Skipping was as close to wild flying as I ever got. Watching Julia tonight, it is clear that she has it too. She skipped and ran and called back to me, "Mommy, I want to fly. Can I fly?" Her legs are still a bit bowed and her feet turn in a little when she walks or runs, but it is much less than a few years ago, and everything about her movement is evening out. Watching her, looking for all the world like just a regular kid, I tear up. Oh, if David could see this. Maybe he does, but he is not available for comment.

And -- drum roll, please -- Julia can cross the street by herself. This is the culmination of a long, long teaching -- at least two years, but she has it. She is erring on the side of caution right now and we had to wait a long time for a car to get to us and pass us before we could cross, but she is watching, noticing, and making sure we are safe. She even told me that she didn't have to hold me hand because she was keeping us safe.

And -- another and -- Julia's love of animals is blossoming. It is lovely to watch. The little girl who was so scared she wanted to hurt every animal she saw before they hurt her, now asks owners if she can pet their dogs or cats. She is gentle and kind. She compliments the animals, and thanks owners. She continues to catch and investigate bugs -- might I say, torture? I try to encourage kind behavior, but I am happy to see her sustained interest and I have noticed that when she puts them in containers to save them, she is trying to put in "brown and green" and a bit of moisture, like I tell her.

And me.

Yes, me. Part of the sadness of coming home is facing the enormity of my feelings for what I propose doing. Lying fallow. My secret fear, my great giant of a fright, is that I will not discover anything. That I will be as clueless about the shape of my future in June as I am now. My eternal optimist, sitting on one shoulder, loudly proclaims that even if I discover nothing, there is value in the great clearing, sorting, and storing of possessions, in meditation and exercise, in intentional arrangement of the house and garden. Cynically, I wonder about being clueless, but neat, clean, thinner, and more spiritually fit. What would that look like?

Seriously, I want clarity. I get announcements for conferences, conventions, and teachings that I might be interested in. I remember that some of my confusion from last year was about not knowing which of a garden of choices to pick. I have ideas, I have possibilities, but I want to grow into a path. I want to fit into a place, even if it is up to me to create that place. I want to look like my work.

Being at Chautauqua, ignited a new idea, not novel in any sense of the word, but new to me. I felt my love of learning, and remembered how I clung to that passion all last year. And I remembered that I love learning broadly and deeply. And I experienced, for a first time, a place where I could go to be reinvigorated and replenished. Perhaps, this is a first point on my year's outline. Perhaps this is a beginning point.

I tend to worry beginnings, wanting to get to some absolute original point. Now, I see that I have taken a few steps. No question but that I am already on this path. I am already moving in the direction I intended to go.

08 August 2011

I am tired and a bit burned out today. The drive on Saturday was too long and not long enough. If there had been another driver in the car, we would have made it home in one day. As it was, I almost tried driving the entire 10 hours but decided after a bit more than 7 that I couldn't do it. We stopped, found a hotel, and went looking for food. I was incredibly grumpy and unhappy. I was also depressed about coming back to my real life. Feeling like I had lost purpose.

I revived on Sunday, made it home, started in unpacking and getting the house set up again. I've worked all day today even though I have not done as much as I hoped. It is like moving -- too much like moving. I know the only way to proceed is as much as I can each day with some time off for food and rest, but the singularity of the work is lonely. On one hand, I am doing the work for myself and Julia; on the other, I wonder if that is enough.

Julia was very excited to get home and start playing with the wii again. It took my awhile to set up the computer, the internet connection, and the television with the DVD player and the wii console. I have never had to set up electronics when David was alive. I took pictures of all the connections before I took them apart and the pictures helped me set up our systems, but it all took time. Throughout, I was both patient with myself and wanting to give up.

Julia has had a very hard time listening and following directions in the past day. She has been marginally able to follow three directions at a time this summer, today, one was too many. This behavior scares me. I worry that I am seeing some plateau in her abilities. I worry that I should have her right beside me every minute that she is not occupied by someone other than me. I wonder about a more specific lack of auditory processing.

I also do not like her insistence about playing her wii game. I fear that it is another way for her to disappear from her present. I also don't like it being a reward or a punishment for behavior. I raised Cheshire without video games and now I feel like a neophyte in this world. I can't help having negative feelings about allowing video games. I've tried to hold to the belief that allowing Julia to play video games would give her an interest that she might be able to share with NT kids. But I am still not comfortable.

Kind of a bad, uncomfortable day all 'round. Need to get to bed and start again tomorrow.

05 August 2011

So, today. Just wow. Maybe a specular last day to seal the deal that we will come back next year.

Julia was off to her last day of camp today. Tonight, she told me she was going to miss camp tomorrow. They did their regular camp stuff today and also had a “halloween party”. I am not sure what they did, but Julia ate candy corn.

My day: The morning began with my last class on Islam, taught by a professor from CUNY at Buffalo. Today, we talked about women and revolution. Then, before lunch, Hossein Mousavian, the former Iranian Nuclear Negotiator, spoke. At 2, Karen Armstrong lectured on the Theology of Revolution. And tonight, Straight No Chaser, a male a cappella ensemble which formed over a dozen years ago while students at Indiana University. Not high art, but ever so much fun.

I have enjoyed the communal living of a basement kitchen space with assigned tables, frig space, storage shelf, and many stove tops lining the walls. Julia learned how to use a battery powered sweeper and cleaned around and under our table and as many other places as she could fit in. Our cooking has not been gourmet -- maybe a bit more of that next year -- but it was simple and ample. And especially good, after some junky traveling food of the days before.

My contractor send pictures of my new painted walls and the finished floors. It is time to go back to my new, old house and set life up again. It is time for a new year.

And one more picture, this time of Karen Armstrong, for Cheshire because I know she had read her books.

Chautauqua: a place of such beauty

Some picture from this lovely place. I will add some words about these pictures, but not tonight.

The Hall of Philosophy where we attended a UU service on Sunday and where I listened to the afternoon lectures.

The bell tower that rings in each quarter of an hour and the original dock and receiving building. Oh, and Julia on the little beach.

Julia at Chautauqua

Just before sunset on the little beach by the original dock and bell tower.
Julia in front of a little fountain in the main square of Chautauqua. She liked the kids with the fish.
At a corner of the big fountain in the middle of the square.

04 August 2011

I skipped the third lecture of the day. Walked and biked some with Lisa, and then tucked into the second floor porch watching and listening to an orchestra rehearsal. I feel the tug of home. I smile that it has taken so long. Julia asked about the puppy house yesterday and today, I am worrying about the new paint colors. But there was a dinner out to enjoy, a stop at the little lake beach that I have totally neglected this week, and the orchestra concert tonight. I have been lucky enough to hear it almost twice with the rehearsal this afternoon and performance tonight.

Julia enjoyed last night's ballet in performance as much as she did in rehearsal. More. One of the pieces -- a requiem to 911 -- had incredible costumes -- five dancers in tiered skirts reminiscent of the draped robe of the statue of liberty. I wish I had a picture because although the skirts reminded me of the statue, they looked nothing like the statute. When the dancers took part of the skirts off and draped them around their shoulders, Julia giggled in delight. I have rarely seen her as attentive as she was during the concert. I am hoping for some dance concerts in our immediate future.

Julia also enjoyed the Peter and the Wolf performance that her camp group saw today. I have made the commitment to find the music and a book when we get home. Maybe we can find a performance to go to during Christmas time in Madison.
Julia with her camp group the evening before last during "Old First Night" which is a fund raising and recognition gathering. The Girls' and Boys' Club and younger children's group present moneys they have raised for Chautauqua. It costs big time to keep a place life this going. During "Old First Night" the master of ceremonies also conducts oral polls, like how many generations of your family has been to Chautauqua - 8 generations was reposted by two families -- and how many years have people come to Chautauqua -- 95 years was reported by one woman.

Julia, still the outsider, wanted to be a part of her group. She was able to stay with her group with a big of extra direction. Lisa and I hovered which they got ready to parade into the amphitheater, but Julia stayed with her group and her counselors and did not come to us.
Appropriately applauding.
Julia, not visible in this picture, is in the crush of kids. Her ear plugs and head phones on her head to deal with the very loud organ music.

03 August 2011

We woke up to rain this morning and indeed, the release of moisture from the air was delightful for awhile, but it is close to four now and it is once again muggy and gray. There is a light glaze of sweat over my body and I did doze for a few minutes during a very good lecture on the minority populations in mid-eastern countries. There are so many riches here. The chance to learn about subjects that I know a bit less than nothing -- Islam, Iran, middle east policy -- and to listen to inspired speakers can be a bit overwhelming. I am deeply happy.

I do wish that David and I had made the effort to take Lisa up on an invitation to come here long ago. David may have been a bit put off by the elitist WASP culture, although there is a Jewish community here, small but visible, but his course on Film and the First Amendment would have gone over incredibly well in this place.

Julia is back from camp. More on camp another time. Having an aide at camp has proved to be quite a good idea. Putting Julia in with kids another year her junior -- kids going into 3rd grade -- was also a good idea. But for now . . .

Julia came home today with Taylor and I presented her with three choices. We could go and learn about bats, we could sit on our porch and draw, or we could watch the dance rehearsal (for tonights performance). Julia chose the dance rehearsal -- rather surprising -- and sat in the front row of the theater (which is right next door to our house and very visible from our upstairs porch. Really a delight!) in wrapped attention. Umm, is wrapped attention the right words to described her? She made a few comments. She was especially impressed by how sweaty the dancers. I had to laugh at that. Rarely, have I seen her so interested in something outside of her own art or dinosaurs.

The camp counselors have prepped the kids for seeing a performance of Peter and the Wolf tomorrow. Julia can’t wait. I’ve just heard about some of the instruments who are like animals, and how Peter’s grandfather told him not to go into the forest. Is my girl turning into an arts enthusiasts? Could I be more delighted?

Two days ago, working on numbers, Julia counted backwards from 12. It was a workbook page and I did not expect that she could fill in the countdown. I was ready to tell her to do it backwards -- to start at one and count up -- but she did it backwards without pause. I cheered!

To be sure, Julia is still different from her peers. It is most evidence in her social dealings, but she continues to make attempts at talking to other kids and adults. Often she misses the cues -- people being friendly, greeting her or asking her a question. But she does reach out. She is rebuffed at times, girls roll their eyes and walk away from her. That still hurts me much more than it does her. And then, Julia tries again -- saying something different or talking to someone else. I don’t know what she thinks about the rebuffs or if she recognizes them for what they are. If she does not realize what is going on, it is a blessing for now. If she does, then she is so brave to persevere in friendliness. Either way, her spirit expands.

02 August 2011

Oh, this is not fair! I am awake at 3:44 a.m. but I cannot connect to the internet and so cannot check if the new Harry Potter site (Pottermore.com) has put up a new clue to qualify to enter the sight before the general public. I admit that this is a silly pursuit but I had thought to get into the site and then introduce Julia to it, hoping that she too would catch Harry Potter fever -- What fun I had reading and sharing the books with Cheshire as they came out. With Julia’s new found love of words and reading, and the website’s stated goal to encourage reading, and also the tantalizing preview of great graphics, I thought this was a match made in heaven. Well, and the challenge of Potter trivia for seven days with the prize of entrance to the site before October when it opens for general use. But the last two days, I checked just after midnight but the clues had not been published, and then on waking around 7 a.m. to find that all the entrant spaces have been filled. 3:44 seems like a promising time to check for clue and entrance, but no internet.

Work on the house goes well. My contractor has called me each week I’ve been gone to report. The best news has been that it all goes smoothly with no major surprised. Renovation on an old house can always bring surprises -- expensive, time consuming, and necessary add-ons that must be done. There is one -- removal of a grease well -- that will have to be tackled this fall. It is a necessary, moderately expensive fix because of a water leak that was badly patched by previous owners. I have been mildly concerned that we would find more of this sort of repair, and utterly thrilled that this is not the case. Is there a saint of home renovation? A small pagan deity? I household shrine may be in order.

I took some “before” pictures at home before dismantling the house. I looked at them last night. Two things struck me. First, that the furnishings and decorations did not look permanent. Pictures were on the walls and books in cases and furniture in every room, but nothing quite fit. Nothing had really changed since David’s death and at that time we had been in the house for 3 years. I don’t remember how long it took David and I to make our Indianapolis house a home, but it was longer than that. I don’t know how long it will take in Madison, or if it will happen at all. I am still so new to doing it on my own.

Second, I hope to resist the impulse to just put everything back where it was before, especially art and photos. I don’t know how long I want to leave the walls bare -- I usually rush to hang art and put books on shelves as soon as I move into a new home. New bookcases will encourage the later but I’d like to hang pictures slowly. I did really like the gallery feel to the stairway and upstair’s hall -- this house does not have the wall space to hang as much art as I like on the walls. But I am looking for calm, for peace, and then for right-placement. I don’t even know what I mean by this.

Chautauqua is all that Lisa promised -- she has been trying to get me here for years. Years and years. To admit right off to its weaknesses -- it is WASPy, probably too geeky for many palates, and really expensive. Also, the guest “star” of this week is Dan Brown, the author -- whose writing I do not like and whose lecture confirmed my opinion. I was slightly disappointed that he was received here like a celebrity, a literary hero. But putting all that aside, it is wonderful! And we have not yet explored the entire enclave or played on the beach! I am going to three lectures a day while Julia is at day camp! We are meeting interesting people, and because of Lisa’s work and invitation to preach, socializing with at least as few long time vacationers. There is the charm of a near carless community, a casual friendliness and acceptance, facilities for classes and lectures and worship, many of which are open on three or four sides, live music being performed or rehearsed almost constantly. Tomorrow evening, there is dance!

How I would love to be able to spend a week or two here each year! What an environment to claim as a family tradition. The biggest pause to such a plan and/or wish is economic. There seems to be a few ways to make this a more affordable vacation, the most promising for me is to offer to teach something for the week. Lisa is teaching this week and peaching next week. Each gig -- the teaching and the preaching -- comes with one free gate pass and one free parking pass. And so, I have to wonder if I can come up with anything to propose by the October deadline.

01 August 2011

Very happy.

Julia finished her first day at "Girls Club" -- day camp. I engaged a girl going into 10th grade who signed up for babysitting at Chautauqua to act as her aid at camp. Julia had on okay time this morning but when asked about the afternoon, she was very enthusiastic, telling me that she loved playing with the hoola-hoops and with Taylor, her aid. We missed a few days of strong sitting and work but we got back on track to day. Julia is asking to pet dogs, and she wants to talk to everyone. Okay, not always appropriate but great to see. Today, doing a math sheet that had strings of numbers with digits missing for her to fill in, she was able to count backwards from 12 to 1. First time I've seen that.

I am attending lectures on Islam, Iran, and comparative religion. In between and to bookend my days, I have Lisa to talk to. No question about it -- this is heaven!

Now, if Cheshire was with us . . . . Yes, I know, give me perfection and I just want to improve it. Just a little bit.