Less Talk, More Action

I think I sprained my uvula.  I was sipping coffee vigorously and I think I twisted the little guy.  You know how it is.

And that’s the most blog-worthy thing that’s going on these days.

The local pool will be closed for the season as of Tuesday so we went on Saturday though we generally avoid the weekend crowds AND even though the temperature was only in the low 70s F.  It has been a wonderful summer being dunked by my little boys.  Shhh – don’t tell them I’ve been taking a dive.

Wearing a swimsuit in public has gotten easier with exposure (HA!) and with the deep dark sun damage my skin has experienced.  It also gets easier with every pound I lose, which means I’m a lot vainer than I really wanted to admit.  It’s also easier to shave when the belly’s not getting in the way of bending.

So, yes, I’ve been keeping up with my fitness goals.  I’ve finished couch to 5k and am working on my speed and endurance; I think I can do a full lap at the pool, though I’m waiting to test that at the YMCA this fall; and I’m on track to hit a healthy BMI some time in the next five months.  I’ve also added some other goals because apparently when there is a formula to follow, I can do almost anything.

It turns out that if I really want to accomplish something I need to refrain from talking about it too much.  Less talk, more action.  So, that’s why  I haven’t been blogging much about it.  Well, that, and the fact that while losing weight and feeling strong is exciting to experience, it’s pretty boring reading about the minutia involved with getting there.

But OK, since you asked, I’ve lost about forty pounds since January and I have about thirty to go.  I’ve done it by eating fewer calories than I am burning.

Culling Roosters on Independence Day

This is the third year we’ve turned chickens into food.  See here and here.  Some differences this year –

  • We didn’t buy cornish cross chicks – the so-called meat birds that possess a body shape that resembles the chickens found in grocery stores.
  • Instead we decided to cull our extra roosters.  There were too many and were getting to be a little hard on the hens.
  • We only did two birds rather than ten or twenty.
  • I did not do any of the work.  My husband did it all himself with a little help from the kids.  The kids rounded up the two birds and put them in a crate.  My husband set up the pulley and bucket, table and hose, scald pot and plucking counter.  All I did was remind him to wear long sleeves and to read the directions.
hen with bald patch because of too many roosters

hen with bald patch because of too many roosters


covered animal crate

covered animal crate


bucket , table, hose

bucket , table, hose


one of three roosters who gets to stay

one of three roosters who gets to stay

  • Because these were older, scrawnier birds they’ll probably be for the pot rather than for roasting.

Our roasting chickens were delicious and twenty of them lasted us almost a full year so we’ll probably do that again next year, but at least we’ve got something.  And it’s nice to move a little closer to sustainability.

Enjoying Today

Bright yellow light is filtering through green leaves. I’m feeling all the promise of an unspoiled day.

The house will stay messy today because we are going out right after school. We’ll go look at the falls and climb some stairs and take deep fresh breaths and exert our muscles and use all these gifts that we take for granted too often.

Then tonight we’ll stay up too late waiting for the last light to leave the sky while we collect lightning bugs and poke the little flame in our ring of creek stones which doesn’t really approach the magnificence of a bonfire but which we give that name anyway. We’ll come home filthy and tired, covered in charcoal and bug bites, grateful for a shower and bed.

What a luxurious life! Hot coffee, slow starting, warm air, interesting children, books to read, clean sheets, comfy chair, creative projects, long walks. My favorite things. What are yours?

Soda Bottle Rockets

One of the best things about homeschooling is time and flexibility – drawing the attention of my students to the feast that is set before them and then allowing them to take their fill.

I wish we had the time and the … whatever it is… to study like the ancient Greeks; sit in a room with some sand on the floor and figure out geometry. Not because it’s necessarily useful (though it is!) but because it is interesting, beautiful and just because it IS.

My middle boy spent some of his own money on a big jug of white vinegar and two boxes of baking soda and has spent every free minute for the past three days figuring out the best way to make various pieces of recycling shoot into the air. I’m pretty sure it was the best $3.60 he ever forked out.

I could show him videos and books that demonstrate the “best” way of doing this but he is so invested– financially, temporally, emotionally, intellectually – I don’t want to ruin it. It would be like telling Archimedes about pi while he was figuring out his approximation.

Bonus: he has been entertaining his brothers as well.

Wildflower Beauty

I spent years feeling like there was no restful place for my eyes.  Maybe there is something wrong with a person who has such difficulty finding beauty in her surroundings.  Now that I’ve moved away from “the city” I think it wasn’t so much an inability to find beauty as an inability to ignore ugliness.  Beauty was everywhere, but it was tainted, surrounded, out of place.  There was sorrow too apparent in beauty’s struggling on, in its insistence on survival.  That’s still true, I suppose, but now I find beauty the abundant rule and ugliness is the intruding exception.  There is less bitter with the sweet.  What changed?  Me or the landscape?

dame's rocket and a little buttercup

dame’s rocket and a little buttercup

Dame’s rocket is a flower that is among the first to bloom in a succession of uncultivated flowers that celebrate the passing of the temperate weeks.  And as these pass away they usher in other blossoms.  They look like Easter candy in shades of violet, lavender, pink, and white.  They line the roads and ditches and creek banks.  They fill the edges of the woods.  In the evening they give off a sweet musky springtime scent and seem to glow in the diminishing light.

Its latin name is hesperis matronalis which I think has something to do with mothers at night, but makes me think of “The Wreck of the Hesperus” – fitting since dame’s rocket is banned in Massachusetts (and Connecticut, Colorado, and Wisconsin) owing to its invasive nature.

But it sure is pretty on my counter.

ETA:  I apologize to everyone who landed here because I erroneously added the tag “beauty.”  I didn’t realize that was code for cosmetics.  I’m just figuring this tagging thing out.  

Never Leave the House Without a Watch Cat

The sun had already set, but the twilights this time of year are long, especially up on the hills.  I carried a book in my hand, and a pencil, because sometimes I like to argue with my reading material.  I climbed the slope up to the vegetable garden with Snake, my favorite barn cat, rubbing in and out of my legs.  His mama was here before we moved in and he was born right on my kitchen porch.

I sat criss cross applesauce on the rough and weathered wooden bench overlooking the raised beds, with the hill and woods and pond at my back, and opened my book.  Snake was having none of it.  He walked across my legs bumping and rubbing on my book, my arms, my elbows,  back and forth, over and over, trying to share a flea or two because he’s generous like that.  After some negotiation we settled into a rhythm of simultaneous reading and petting.  The darkness began to spread through the light but I barely noticed.

Suddenly, Snake looked up.  Something over my shoulder had caught his attention.  His ears cocked forward, eyes wide, whiskers trembling.  There was movement in the brush behind me.  A bird?  Deer?  Ax murderer?

You have never seen a dumpy middle aged woman move so fast.  I rolled down the hill.  Once at the bottom, I looked back to see that the cat was headed toward the barn, but there was no urgency in his saunter.  He had done his good deed for the day in saving my life and now he was off to the Jellicle Ball.

Between Readers

I came across your margin notes

In a book I bought at Goodwill.

I have to say I don’t agree.


You mocked my favorite author.

You knocked my highest thoughts.

You made me quake with rage.


You wrote in red;

You wrote in caps.

You added a doodle too.


If I had you here

I’d give you a shake

and make you take it back.

Parenting Then and Now – Freedom

When I was a kid my parents often sent me and my brother to the store to buy cigarettes.  Nobody thought they were bad parents.  Now, all of them who haven’t died, have quit smoking and they’d poop their pants if anyone sent their grandkids to the store for milk and cookies.

My great-grandfather would sometimes want to stop at a bar* when he was out with his children.  Women didn’t often go to bars in those days and certainly little girls didn’t, so he’d leave them on the front step and bring  bags of potato chips out to them or give them a couple of nickels for ice cream.

This was not a scary thing for my grandmother any more than going to the store was for me.  We knew the neighborhood, we knew the neighbors.  More importantly, the neighbors knew us.  The man at the Superette knew me and my parents and he knew they smoked Benson & Hedges and Virginia Slims.  If I had tried to buy Camel or Lucky Strike, I would have had a problem.

Some people say that kids don’t have enough freedom these days and that parents hover like helicopters.  Maybe that’s true.  But I’ve noticed that a lot of what might have been called “freedom” was borne out of parental laziness, or sometimes parental need, rather than a philosophical belief in a child’s need for independence.

I’ve heard that, statistically, crimes against children are fewer now than they were when I was a child.  But maybe that’s because we don’t send them out alone to buy cigarettes.  What do I know – I haven’t read the studies.

So, do I say “our parents did it and we turned out of OK” as if turning out OK is any thing to brag about?  Do I say that kids aren’t missing out on some wonderful things that can only come from navigating their little worlds without adult interference?  The truth is I straddle this line and pick my way through one step at a time just like generations of parents before me.  And I hope I’m doing right.

Luckily I don’t smoke.

*Apparently, Neir’s is having something of a renaissance these days.

Show Me How You Do That Trick

Knowing how a magician does his tricks means that you will never be able to enjoy the illusions in the same way you once did.  It isn’t real magic for you anymore, it is artifice.

I like reading fiction.  I like being entertained, moved, instructed, surprised.  Sometimes I don’t even read the chapter titles because I don’t want to guess what’s coming.  Letting go is part of my willing suspension of disbelief.

I have intentionally avoided analysis, the purposeful breaking down of art into its components.  My husband tried for years to talk to me about movements and influences, hows and whys, contexts of art – and I have not been ready.  I have said things like, “Why does everything have to be so hard?  Can’t I just read the story?”

And of course I could.

But there are ways to appreciate a good show that are closed to someone who swallows everything whole.  It’s a secret club and if you don’t know the handshake you can’t say, “OHHHH.  I see what you did there,” with the magician winking in your direction.

And my willful ignorance limited my ability to criticize intelligently – I could say little beyond whether or not  I liked something or somehow intuit its merits.  I could not tell you why or how.

Some times growth happens against our will.  Whether I wanted to or not, whether I recognized it or not, art feeds the soul, the intellect; and a steady diet of a particular kind feeds it in a certain way.  You are what you eat.  This week I’m mostly coffee and goldfish crackers.

Or to use another metaphor, you are being grown in a particular direction whether you know it or not.  Espalier.

As an adult in a “free country”  there is an element of will and it can be argued that I have grown in the direction I chose or into which I was naturally inclined to grow, which seem like opposites but really are just facets of the same jewel.

However it was, I woke up one day and realized that I was somewhat different than I had been a few years before and I wanted to know why.  What had I been eating?  And how can I get more out of it?

So I read How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren.  It is highly respected, intelligent, chockfull of useful techniques and ways of seeing, and it was helpful to me in my reading of non-fiction.  But, I didn’t like it.  Because why does everything have to be so hard?  Can’t I just read the story?  The book is good, great, correct, terrific – the problem was me.  I still wasn’t quite ready.  I was recognizing my need to be led in a particular direction, but I was still fighting the bit.

But what if I were toying with the idea of BEING the magician?  Then I’d have to understand the tricks and the how would become interesting.

Writing convincing fiction requires analysis.  It requires knowing what the pieces are and how they fit together.

I’m in the middle of reading John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction, and it has done two three things for me already.

  • I have been reminded how woefully inadequate my education has been and how little reading I’ve actually done.  If it weren’t for homeschooling my children, I’d never have read Beowulf, or The Iliad.  and there are dozens of other references that I just don’t get because I haven’t read broadly enough.
  • And it has already helped me to understand why certain books have appealed to me or not.  For example, I knew I felt mocked when I read Cold Comfort Farm, but now I know why; it is a kind of metafiction.
  • It is making my husband excited to have conversations with me about art!  Love.  🙂

And just for fun.