Woodpeckers…

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I’ve written about birds before.  I posted about Wild Turkeys, about  Sandhill Cranes, and about my most favorite bird of all, the bluebird.  I haven’t written about Woodpeckers, because I haven’t really thought about them.  Until recently.

Woodpeckers, came to my attention, and NOT in a positive way, when Sister Number One, in Wisconsin began her War Against Woodpeckers.  For some reason, last fall, the Woodpeckers in her neighborhood (and I use that term “neighborhood” loosely) began to attack her house.  Her home is cedar-sided, and the Woodpeckers were pecking right down to the insulation.  In multiple areas!

She tried everything!  She put up fake owls. She foamed the holes.  She hung up shiny strips of silver mylar.  She put up cameras, and sounded some sort of alarm when she saw one of the birds land and begin to peck.  When I was visiting her last fall, she had me hold onto her waist as she leaned out of the second story window to set up her defenses.  I’m not kidding to call it War.

Here at the Lake, Pileated Woodpeckers thrive.  These last days, I have “enjoyed” the woodpecking serenade every morning, and I’ve thought about the War.  I’ve wondered if I should engage in battle, down here, on behalf of my Lake family.  It was a swiftly fleeting thought.

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The Pilated Woodpecker is the Woody Woodpecker of the species.  He (or she) is the size of a chicken.  It has a wingspan of 28 inches, and is the largest of the North America Woodpeckers.  They, like all woodpeckers, eat sap, bugs, fruit and nuts.  They have a distinctive cry, and my former spouse and I used to sit here at the Lake, gazing up stiff-necked upward at the pines, trying to see one of those guys.  I never have.

The War Against Woodpeckers up north is currently at Truce, as the “Great Polar Vortex” put Woodpeckers into a cease fire.  Hopefully, when the Thaw comes, those guys will have found richer feeding grounds, or at least will have used the winter to get therapy for their OCD.

Here at the Lake, I think I might grab a chair, plant myself in the yard with some binoculars, and site a Pileated.  You’d think with a 28-inch wingspan, they would be hard to miss.  Then I can tick that off my “life’s desires” list, and move on.  Hoo-boy.  It’s the simple things, for sure.

 

 

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Retreat…

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This is what I found:

re·treat | \ ri-ˈtrēt  \

Definition of retreat

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a(1)an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable
2a place of privacy or safety REFUGE
3a period of withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction 
It occurred to me in the last few days that I am “on retreat.”  My first Retreat was in 2014, when I spent a weekend with Catholic women learning about my faith and how to practice it mindfully, in community, and with support and consistency.  I continue to meet weekly with some of those women, and I am a better person because of that life-changing weekend.
These were among the many people who came to console me, help me, and pray for me when my sister died.  I don’t know how I would have made it without each of them.
Now, I am at my Lake Sister’s home, pet sitting.  I am on retreat.
Usually, when I am here,  T,  my “brother-in–law,” and I are the early getter-uppers.  We watch the news, catch up with each other, and dialogue about the state of affairs.  Then, after daylight, G and I sit on the porch, rocking, drinking coffee, and chatting it up.  During the day, we go thrifting, look for plants, and go off on whatever outings G has planned for our visit.  I love their home, their surroundings, and I feel safe and protected with them and at their place.
This time, however, T and G are not at home!  They have gone international, and I am retreating to their safe place, in seclusion, as it were (except for two dogs and two cats).  I realized I have “withdrawn, especially from what is difficult, to a place of privacy, for prayer.”  I am trying to embrace the solitude, to think, to regain the balance in my life that is thrown off by my sister’s sudden passing.
So, here I am at the Lake, with my dog and kitty, caring for T & G’s dog and kitty.  There have been days when I spoken face-to-face with not one person.   There have been days when I have not driven my car, and have only left the house to walk the dogs.  There have been days when I went to bed at 7:30 PM, and there have been days when I have taken two naps.
There have not been days when I didn’t get dressed, though, or didn’t put on any make up, or didn’t do my hair, or didn’t eat.  I’m not depressed.  I’m just sad.
So, in the spirit of retreating, I think I’m going to take my book, go down to the Lake,  sit in the swing on the pier, and read a little.  While I’m there, I’m going to talk to my sister, and tell her how much she would would have loved some of the lines in the last Kimmy Schmidt season, thank her for the T-shirts I’m using to make her very most loved ones quilts, and ask her to give Mom and Reed my love.  I’m even going ask her to ask God, what the heck he was thinking!
You know…I could come out of this a better person, and this retreat might be life-changing, too.
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Grief…

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Eight weeks ago, I received a call that knocked the breath from my body.  My baby sister, the one I named and carried out of the hospital when she was born, was dead.  At the age of 52.  Suddenly.  Without any warning.

Paige, among others, had saved my life eight years ago, when I faced two other major losses.  She and I connected as sisters and friends despite our eighteen year age difference and previous two-thousand mile physical distance.  During those eight years, we were together weekly, talking, enjoying similar interests in home decorating projects,  thrifting, books, movies, and spiritual and life philosophies. 

When her father moved back east two-and-a-half years ago, we partnered in his caregiving, survived his major, four-month-long health crisis, looked out for his general well-being, and also endured his difficult, selfish personality, until her death dissolved our partnership.

At first, I had to remind myself every day, when I woke up, that Paige was dead.  I would lie in bed and remember the phone call, the words, the drive over to Paige’s, and the last time I looked at her sweet face and kissed her cheek before she was taken away to the mortuary.  Now, I feel overwhelming sadness, and sudden tears spring at the most unexpected times, and for unexpected reasons. 

I’ve been so devastated for myself and for Rob, her life-long partner.  My chest hurts at times with the pain of her being gone, of never getting to tell her I love her again, never laughing with her again, and of never getting to hug her tightly again.

I’ve lost my friend and my sounding board.  I’ve lost her encouragement and support.  I’ve lost the laughter we shared and her companionship, my pet care and airport delivery and pick-up, a lunch and thrifting buddy, a social justice ally, and a partner in her dad’s care.  I’ve lost all the little traditions and rituals we had when we were together and as we parted.

I adored Paige with the deepest sisterly love. She was an incredible sibling, friend, and person who had an enormous impact on my life.  I’m so very grateful we had the last eight years of shared experiences and people, conversations, pep talks, laughter, and yes, even frustrations and disagreements with each other.

Considering the love I have for Paige and our relationship, no other response except grief is appropriate.  I am willing to feel the full impact of my grief as a final act of tribute and love for my baby sister, Paige.

After this, I’d like to get back to writing about the simple, joyful, funny, scary, poignant observations and events I encounter.  Maybe I can share some memories, and maybe I can just start to breathe again.

2018…It Was (not) a Very Good Year…

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A lot of good things happened in the past year…

I painted the inside of my home, all by myself, and I also finished the inside of my tiny, tiny building out back, not by myself at all, creating a crafting Studio.

I turned 70 years old.  How the heck did that happen?!

My friends treated me to two birthday celebrations, one planned, and one a huge surprise!

My Australians visited!  One of them twice!

I made four trips to Wisconsin, one of which celebrated my dad’s 94th birthday.  Go Dad!

I am healthy, mobile, and busy.

I have my faith, family, and friends.  I’ve had really happy, grateful days.

And then,

My brother, Reed, lost his life after a four year battle, and I do mean battle, with prostate cancer.  He lived right up to the last bit, and set a pretty high bar for courage.

My step-dad suffered a health crisis that lasted four months, and involved daily hospital visits, rehab, two assisted living moves, and more. 

And then, my baby sister, Paige, unexpectedly died of heart failure in early December.  She was the kindest, most hopeful, loving, caring, generous-spirited, sweetest, funniest soul anyone ever received the graces to meet and to have in her/his life.

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And that is why I didn’t do Christmas cards this year.

God gives us only what we can handle, they say.  I handled it.  I’m full up, though.  From my mouth to God’s ears.   

And so, Amen.

Making Lefse

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For those of you who do not know what Lefse (lef-suh) is, let me educate you…it’s basically a Norwegian tortilla, but that’s really blasphemy.  I’m not Norwegian by blood, but by love, so when I visit my family in Wisconsin, I get the full-on Norwegian heritage experience.  I love that about my life.

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There are several variations of a Lefse recipe.  Me:  What’s in this?  Just potatoes and flour?  The women:  Yes.  Later…

One of the women:  I like the Lefse made with cream.  Me:  It has cream?  Along with potato and flour?  Them:  Yes.    Still later…

One of the women:  It tastes better when we make it with butter, too.  Me:  Butter?  And cream, potatoes, and flour?  Them:  Yes.  And then I found out…all of the recipes consist of potato (real mashed, powdered, or flakes), flour, a shortening of some sort (lard, butter, Crisco-type), a liquid (cream, milk, or water), and salt.  A smidge of sugar is optional.  I guess I just needed to read a recipe.

The potatoes are made the day before.   They sit in the refrigerator to cool for at least 24 hours.  The dough is mixed by hand, adding flour to make it the correct consistency, and it is rolled really, really, really thinly on a round cloth, covered Bethany board.  A special thinly-ridged rolling pin is used, and that is covered with a sock thingie.  Then long flat sticks, sometimes decorated on one end, are used to lift the circle of Lefse, which is brought to the hot, Heritage Griddle, carefully laid across, and then cooked until it bubbles on one side, is flipped, and cooked briefly on the other.  The flat is lifted off with the Lefse turner, and laid on a cloth.  Many circles of Lefse are piled up, and later, when properly cooled, the Lefse are folded in fourths, and packed in baggies.

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Lefse is a tradition.  Like Krumkake, around here, Lefse is a taste of the past.  People eat it with butter and sugar, or jam, or just plain.  Saturday, I went to the church with my sister to make Lefse.  There were eight of us…one mixer, four rollers, and three turners.  I, as a rookie, was assigned to be a turner

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People will come to special church sales just to buy the Lefse.  And women in churches all over the northern midwest are gathering to make the Lefse to sell.  Some have a personal business, selling Lefse for at least $4-$6 a folded over piece.  It is a big money-maker for the churches, and a bargain for the buyers who get a baggie of 9 pieces for $15.  All aspects of the experience are bonding events for the Lefse-making women and the Lefse-buying folks.

America is a melting pot.  We are people from all the lands on earth.  We embrace our past, share our traditions, and look to a better future for all our humans.  It’s a better world with Lefse making women, or any other food-making tradition that’s practiced.  My take-away lesson?  It’s all about teamwork.  If only we could have an overflow of this practice in the real life world-at-large.

 

Civil Rights are for Everyone

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“They sat so we could stand up,” reads the motto on a t-shirt in the window of the International Civil Rights Museum I recently visited  in neighboring Greensboro, North Carolina.  My Australians were in town, and they asked to go.  It was a sobering experience, even though I’d been to the museum before.

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On February 1, 1960, four young college students went to the lunch counter at the local Woolworth Dime Store.  Because of the Jim Crow laws, and because they were Negro, these young men could order at the counter, but they had to take away their food.  They could not sit and eat at the counter with white people.  And by the way, there were many other restrictions on their freedom besides that one, based only on the color of their skin.

They were not served that day, nor were they and the other young people of color who went each day from February 1 to mid-July, to sit and wait to order and be served, from opening to closing… every single day.  Persistence, politeness, and peacefulness finally broke the system.  Four employees (of color) were asked to sit, and they were served, ate their food, and integrated the lunch counter.  Part of that counter is displayed in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D. C.  The rest, there in Greensboro, is the original.

Our past is our past and our history is our history.  We have moments of pride and moments of shame.  It is the human condition, individual and collective, across time and nation.  Being in the museum, that original Woolworth’s store, in the cafe, and knowing that four brave guys took a chance to peacefully change a wrong practice for the right one made gave me goosebumps.

Civil Rights are not just about race.  They are about equality for all humankind.  You don’t need me to list all the groups for which this need for equality applies.   I’m pretty sure I’m not as courageous as the Greensboro Four, and I’m grateful they were.

How we Hurricane

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First, Hurricane Florence is not funny.  There are a lot of people who are suffering.  The storm has literally crawled across the Carolinas at a pace slower than one walks.  It has been seven days in the news before she even stepped a toe into the Piedmont area, in the form of light showers and winds.  Our coastal brothers and sisters have flood waters to contend with and no power.  Yes, we had plenty of time to prepare.  Yes, we waited and waited.  And yes,  here in the Piedmont, we’ve had way fewer effects than anticipated, praise God.  Still, rain continues to fall.  Rivers continue to rise.  Branches and trees continue to topple.

Saturday morning came, and with it the steady rain.  Cancellations abound, and many of us hunkered in.   Sue-on-the-corner sent out a text inviting us to gather at her home for Trivial Pursuit, Baby Boomer edition, sans board.  Just as we did when she invited us all for a Snow Day Film Fest a few winters ago, we  gleaned our cupboards and fridges of crackers, cheese, snacks, and the obligatory wine.  Two times a charm, Sue is now our official “Inclement Weather Hostess.” 

We thought the Baby Boomer version of Trivial Pursuit would be a piece of cake for four of us.  Our fifth player had no chance in hell, anyway.  She is a Julia Roberts lookalike, the lovely, Dr. Loli, here from Argentina to do a fellowship at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.  She stays with Sue-on-the-corner (not to be confused with Sue-‘round-the-corner.)  Loli not only is not anywhere near a Baby Boomer,  she has a cultural disadvantage, but we were to discover that we all were disadvantaged when it came to Robin, the actress, who knew every song, entertainment, and news question.

Since we had no board, we made up our own rules, and after a few rounds, we saw ourselves being trounced by Robin, who finally ended up answering all the questions, anyway.  We then turned to good old conversation, solved the problems of the world, and compared American life, death, and television with that of Argentina.  Snacks gone, wine drunk, daylight ebbing, we rugged up in our foul weather gear, and headed for home. 

And that’s how we hurricane here in our little neighborhood. 

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Guess which one is our Baby Boomer Trivial Pursuit Champion.

Photo, courtesy of the Lovely Loli.