Saturday, January 23, 2010 know the drill

Cats. Our poor Lilliane (shown here exhibiting one of her highly-developed skills) had a Little Problem. You always hear that the goggies exhibit their pain, and whine and whimper and basically let you know if they don't feel good. But such behavior is not in the make-up of the Pampered Daughters of Bast. So the other evening, when my friend Donna and I were enjoying our weekly "Knit and Giggle", Lilli came to join us on the couch. seemed to me she couldn't quite get comfortable. And later, when Evangeline came along, Lilli growled and hissed! She has never....and I do mean NE-VAR...done that. Oh, she hissed a tad at the boykitty here temporarily once. But not the rest of all this.

Nothing for it, we took her to the Kind and Friendly Dr. Smith.

Oh - I might add that she has been throwing up too - but it seemed more like the result of eating too fast.

Well! The visit to the K&F Dr Smith revealed something else. WARNING: those of delicate constitutions might skip down a ways, though *I* have a delicate constitution and will not dwell on details.

Lilliane apparently had overful anal glands. (Who knew?) Seems that, in the wild, when cats are being chased and terrorized, they spray from those glands, and so have no such problems. Well, Lilliane was born in the vet's office,and the closest she's ever been to "the wild" is if we're watching National Geographic.

So they did rude things to her, out of our kenning (fortunately); we have a choice of how to prevent this in future: a)chase her around the house until she's terrorized enough to spray; b) feed her Metamucil. GUESS OUR CHOICE!?!?!

So, after another trying period of Mutual Hostility when she came home, the "Cats" portion of this blog seems to be back to normal. And if Mr Dearling and I ever need Metamucil (I'm not sure what people take it for but a lot of beautiful models on teevee seem to enjoy it) we'll have plenty. It comes in huge drums.

STICKS! Now tell me, doesn't this look like an old pioneer-y basket full o' old-timey pioneer-y knittin' up? Well,regardless of your opinion, yes, it does. And it's going with me, dressed in my best old-timey (OK, I heard that - "old-timER) way, for this afternoon's hijinks.

In case you're somewhere else, or hadn't heard, "Little House on the Prairie: the Musical" is playing here in Madison at our wonderful Overture Center. And between the matinee and evening performances, we (in this case "we" means Mr Dearling, myself, and two fellow museum colleagues) are participating in something called a "hootnanny". In this case, "hootnanny" means: a variety of child-friendly activities about pioneer life for the amusement and edification of children and their Big Folks who are either just finished seeing -- or are waiting to see -- the show.

So I'm going to wear my prairie-style dress (which I often just wear day-by-day) with an apron and sun bonnet; I'll have my beautiful handspun (thanks, Otter-Dottir, for the spinning!) which I've begun knitting into a shawl, on one set of (genuine antique wooden) needles, and a scarf on another set of the same.

Now, I WILL say (unashamedly)that I think this whole bit looks marvelously authentic. The yarn is natural colors (still "in the grease", which I love) and the needles really ARE old...I haven't the provenance, but they're perfect in appearance. And the basket? One of my all-time favorites of all -- and it was barter payment for a toque, which renders it more precious. I may tuck in a darning egg and drop spindle for further "dressing".

Lest anyone think there's no "real" knitting going on, I'm near done with this toque (several have preceded this one) and it will be on its way before too long. It's unique, black stripe and all, but so it was requested, so will it be done.In fact, it's already on the decreasing needles.

And last, if I were keeping strictly to my title, would be BOOKS. Oh, I'm reading, like a madwoman. (Yeah, I know, "whyn't you brush your hair?" NEVERMIND!) However, I will here illustrate not the reading of books, nor yet the writing thereof, though there is some of that going on too. No - I will here address the rearranging of books and other things, otherwise: what passes for Redecoration at Chez Catssticksandbooks! Yes, near 30 years in this house, and I've made some Changes! So here are my improvements:

I got a new switchplate for my Writing Room. Small change, I admit it, but this is beautiful. The picture looks awfully yellow-y (although the wall color's pretty accurate) but if this isn't stunning nothing is. And it seems to me that some culture somewhere says that dragonflies carry ideas from the gods or some such thing; in any event, she does look like a muse, n'est-ce pas?

Now, truth to tell, neither Mr Dearling nor I notice things like kitchen curtains so much. Oh, we move them in the spring when the morning sun shines in and we're trying to sit at the table; I close them TIGHT if there's another cat outside to prevent Evangeline turning into a Wild Killer Territorial Hunter (and attacks Lilliane, poor thing). Otherwise....meh! But the other ones (and no, I'm not going to find a picture of them) were really just about disintegrating, and these caught my eye. Now I see them up? Ooooh yeah. Really smartens up the place, and they're denser than the otherswere, too. I DO have a touch of Martha Stewart!

And last, the most major change: new teevee and new teevee stand!Mr Dearling much admired to have a new teevee, and the plan is, we're going to get rid of the cable (most of my favorite shows are on CBS anyway) - but this new teevee, with some newly acquired cords*, can be attached to the laptop and we can see anything on line.....ON THE TEEVEE! Imagine Cute Overload on a 32" screen! And what with Hulu and some freebies from Netflix, &c &c. we are SO in business!

*Mr Dearling, in spite of protestations to the contrary, loves fooling around with cords and lines and wires and stuff - this truly IS a boy thang.

I LOVES me my new "teevee stand". In a previous life, it was a handsome sideboard in a formal dining room. (There was another piece that sat on top with a mirror and a leaded-glass lighted curio cabinet -- we "re-donated" that and left it.)

So now, instead of holding fine table linens and sterling silver - it holds DVDs and tapes; my soprano recorders and music; my candles and incense...and there's a drawer for Mr Dearling's cords and wires and stuff! I like the way it looks - and I think it's a Happy Piece of Furniture (which may have had some nervous moments sitting in the St. Vincent's furniture department).

And "a fine": I posted my other entertainment center on Craigslist and had an immediate response - it was picked up within the hour to replace a piece that had been stolen from a single mom by an ex when he moved out, taking her furniture along! How cool is that?

Soooo....what's new wit' you?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Human Heart....

... is a vessel, and it can hold limitless quantities. Most hearts hold a variety of things - ranging from the adoring tenderness for a child to the bitter wrath of disappointment. My belief is that most hearts are chambers of pleasantness, although we all know of some whose hearts are bleak,desolate wastelands.

Two days ago, a woman passed away. She was 100 years old, and when you think about the things that any 100-year-old person has seen and experienced, you can imagine that their hearts must be very full.

This woman was named Miep Gies. She was unremarkable in many ways, and most of what I know of her I've read in the last 24 hours since hearing of her death.

It was she who hid Anne Frank and his family -- and in fact, apparently it was she who saved the little girl's diary. These two acts make her,in my mind, one of the most remarkable human beings ever to walk upon this earth.

By simply providing shelter to her boss (she was Otto Frank's secretary, apparently) she performed an act of heroism equal to any performed anywhere, at any time of human history. The personal danger she risked ... well, one can only imagine.

Here is a quote, which I think illuminates the chambers of Miep Gies' heart:

Miep Gies stated in her autobiography, and on her own website:

I stand at the end of the long, long line of good Dutch people who did what I did or more – much more - during those dark and terrible times years ago, but always like yesterday in the hearts of those of us who bear witness. Never a day goes by that I do not think of what happened then.

By the saving of a simple little book, which she did with the intent of returning it to Anne, "afterward", she has given the world a gift. WE, those of us of this world, have some exceptional treasures. The Book of Kells, the Lindisfarne Gospels, various priceless paintings, works of fact, I view potsherds dug up from archaelogical sites "treasures".

But this humble piece of ephemera, the writing of a little girl in a dark loft at one of the darkest periods of human history -- this is the equal of any other.

This is Miep and Jan Gies, standing (as I believe) in the very space in which they concealed the Anne and her family and the others. The link from which I took it is an article worth reading; find it here: Global Voices.

The people responsible for our "innerwebs" were grandchildren - or great-grandchildren - of people not yet born when Miep made her world-altering decision, and now, in 2010, I can share this story with you.

When I die, I mean to look up Miep Gies; there is nothing of value I can say to her, but I would welcome the opportunity to simple kiss her gentle hand.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


These are my favorite figures from Mr Dearling's creche - the grandfather tenderly cradling the lamb and his granddaughter stands by, spinning with her drop spindle. OK, so I like arranging the figures. Oh, all right: I like playing with the dolls. I can spend a LONG TIME arranging them. Be quiet.

But the New Year has begun, and I'd have to say, it's off to a good start. So far, no worries. Now, let's just see if it can keep the pace.

As far as last year - I stood in the doorway waving: "Don't let the gate hit your arse on the way...." That's not to say that good things didn't happen; they did. As far as New Year's revolutions, I figure a couple spins around the house will do it.

WHAT? It's reSolutions??? Oh well, that's something different. I may address that subject at the end, but no promises. Instead, a Retrospective, which is to say "How I spent my 2009."

There was an Inauguration, unlike any other. I wrote a note to Willie again here, although I'm sure he knows. That's one for the History Books.

It was a year of twos: we went to two weddings; we welcomed two new babies into the world; we lost two very dear long-time friends. I got to see two fabulous world-famous knitters. I went to two exciting writers' events. My Second-Born Son married (wife #2) and I inherited two adorable new granddaughters.

We went to a lovely party to celebrate my sister's 50th wedding anniversary (!). It was a lot of fun, and I remember her wedding day....I'm the rebel, the beatnik, the hippie - but she and her husband did something just short of outrageous: when they changed after the wedding to head off for their honeymoon, they were not dressed in the expected style, which was a suit and tie and fedora for him, a smart travelling suit with hat and gloves for her. (Remember those days?) NO! Not for them -- they were wearing matching outfits: black Bermuda shorts and white shirts with black polka dots. There were gasps! It was sort of a nod to the fact that they were going to Bermuda. I thought it was DARLING, and I got a bit misty, my big sister an Old Married Woman. Remember up there where I said "rebel", "beatnik" "hippie"? For her wedding I wore a waltz-length pink gown and I had my hair done.

They had their wedding album at the anniversary party, and I'd have to say, for a short, rather bosom-y Jewish girl, I looked pretty good. I was her Maid of Honor. There were other "unconventionalities" -- her gown was palest pink and had a little jacket; underneath it was a strapless top. NOTE: my mother, a master seamstress, made the beautiful gown! And the top layer on their wedding cake? The one you save in the freezer for the first annniversary? It was chocolate cake. Yes, my wonderful traditional sister had a little wild streak.

'Nother NOTE: she's led a lovely, wonderful and somewhat traditional life, and I've been proud of her all along. She inherited - and USED - some gifts from our mother. She decorates her homes with a real gift; she entertains beautifully, and my nieces and nephew are terrific people. They've always had beautiful homes and the opportunity to travel all over the world - and I remember something she said to me once when I went to visit for a couple of days. She looked around at her elegant surroundings, and said, "Every morning when I wake up I feel like I've won the lottery!" Well no, Sister, you didn't -- your life is the result of your skill and eye. And I'm absolutely tickled!

One more NOTE: she truly met her soulmate at the University of Michigan; she and her husband are about the most compatible people I've ever seen, still romantical after fifty years, and although we haven't spent much of our lives "together", I know the truth of that because all of their friends at the anniversary party, who have been with them about from the start, said the same thing. She's a shining example.

And a final NOTE: I'm fond of saying that the only thing we have in common is parents; even that's only partly true, because when she was born, our parents had been married a couple of years and had been children of the Depression; when I was born they'd been married longer, were more established, and we were a Wartime family. I truly went a very different path from my sister's, and that's why we weren't close so much "in between".

But believe me when I say that today I find myself equal to her in so many ways. Affluent? Well, I have to admit, when I look around at my cozy little nest, packed full of books and yarn and cats and stuff ("decor"? not so much) I feel a tad sorry for Donald Trump - he couldn't even hire anyone to make him as comfy a home. Well-married? It took me three times, but I finally do have it absolutely right. And children? Well....I have to say, you'd have to go some to find anyone as proud as I am. Mine are -- well, they're MINE. Each is an individual, and each has given me every experience a human being can have....and today I see in them solid, clear-thinking people with good values and fascinating minds; they're kind and loving and solid, and they make the best of whatever situtation surrounds them.

So I guess now, more than ever before, my parents' children are more alike than ever before and I'd like to think they'd be proud of us equally. (Although I'm sure Mom would stand in my living room, look around, and with arms akimbo say, "I don't know, Dale Harriet*, if you don't learn to clean your room you'll never get a husband.") She said that a lot, bless her heart.

*I added the hyphen, "Dale-Harriet" to make it obvious that I'm a female girlie-type person. Mostly it doesn't work, but it's proven an advantage in a lot of other ways.

Among my accomplishments of last year: I developed a first-person character to do programs for the Museum: Mary Hayes Chynoweth was an exciting spiritualist and psychic healer in the late 19th century, and the Museum had a stunning 1895 walking suit and hat made for my portrayal. I'd have to say, (and it's still very much a work-in-progress) I love standing up before a group of people and "being" Mrs Hayes Chynoweth. I hope I do her justice.

I also wrote a 50,000 word novel, Daughter of Lotus, Daughter of Wheat. You'll see that I said "wrote" and not "finished". I haven't finished it yet - but I DID pass the 50k-word count necessary to win the NaNoWriMo challenge. It's about.....well, it's about 53,000 words. I wouldn't look for it on your bookstore shelves any time soon, although I am going to finish it -- and edit it in the bargain. No one will be surprised when I say I have NO trouble writing with a lot of words. I only hope that my skill with quantity might be at least equal to my skill with quality.

We again had the incredible pleasure of a few days at our friends' cabin in the Upper Peninsula, where - along with much reading and knitting, I actually put together some quilt squares (by hand) for a baby quilt for one of the aforementioned babies. My strip of squares looked quite nice and I had a great deal of satisfaction from sewing it. SO much, in fact, that it took some effort to set aside all thoughts of taking up piecework by hand. I'd love to do that, but I'm relegating hand quilting and spinning to my next life. I'm dilettante enough without expanding!

As an overview, not a bad year at all. But there were those two losses. My dear friend Sunawa (of blessed memory) was a wild hippie with me and we both found our ideal partners and became nice old ladies; her sudden death in May diminished my world considerably. She had been "family" in the truest sense of the world. And our friend Joe was a reenactor and "family" in another sense, as I'd been friends with members of his actual family long before I met him. Both of these dear souls were my age - that is to say, not that old, and only now, these months later, have I given over being angry that they were taken from me. I'll never not be sad, I'll never not wish they were with me, I'll probably never quit thinking "Oh MAN that was funny....I have to call Sunawa to tell her...." But oh ladies and gentlemen, both of these people enriched my life, and I love turning over in my mind moments we shared.

Then there's the whole money thing. As in: there ISN'T any. Oh, we're ok, being pretty much retired, (although Mr Dearling makes sure we always have plenty of canned cat food in case the day comes when we need to share with the girls) [snerk] but if the movie rights to my novel are picked up I'll make my children's lives easier.

And there have been treasured kitties who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge from families dear to me, and my grandkitty had a bit of a scare and my Evvie had that dental cleaning -- oh, I know, that's not much, but I still have far-reaching phobias about any kind o' dental thing. (I'll spare y'all the Dentures Have Given Me A New Lease on Life speech, but if you want it just e-mail me.)

In conclusion: The end of 2009 gave me a bit of a spiritual jolt; I've even dug out my old tarot cards and I feel like I've found an old friend. Because of that - and because it's just pretty much how I roll - I feel an optimism about this shiny new 2010. My observation...from the pinnacle of my Advancing that the country has awakened to a realization that you can have a lot of OUTRAGEOUS fun without spending any money at all! I think that bodes extraordinarily well for our country - and for the world, because that kind of knowledge is contagious.

So - my wish for 2010 is that it holds a return to values and delights and pleasures perhaps forgotten; that everyone relish their new-found wealth WITHOUT money; that such thinking spreads and can begin to effect every corner of our global village too.

And I hope that the anger and fear and hatred that is promulgating war diminishes in the face of this. Having a Marine in the family gives it a personal connection that I share with altogether too many other of my countrymen - I wish there were NO grandparents or parents, siblings or spouses or children, who had the little pool of sadness and fear beneath our glowing pride.

Now then. Where's my knitting?