Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wild Wednesday ~ Birds!

After getting a bit of a late start bird-watching this spring (I was still in winter-torpor mode through most of April), I went on a few walks with our local birding club and then went out in earnest around our property, heading out at least once, sometimes twice every day.

Yellow-rumped warbler
Without wishing to minimize the very real skills of my professional birding friends, I think a lot of success in bird-watching comes from being in the right place at the right time.

Rose-breasted grossbeak
And I've been very lucky that birds like our property and that I'm home to check on their activities on a daily basis.

Baltimore oriole
This least flycatcher, too, was lucky I was home yesterday when he flew into the window on our sunroom door. He lay on his back, stunned, and I brought him in the house and set up a little grass nest for him. After a couple of hours, he seemed to have recovered sufficiently and I set him on the kiwi vine on the deck. He sat their a few minutes before disappearing in the moment I looked away.

And speaking of flycatchers, while I was tending to the least, which is our smallest flycatcher, a great-crested flycatcher, which is one of our largest, arrived to claim territory in the trees around our house. It's a bird I need to relearn every spring, though I think now that I've spent an afternoon listening to him whoop and trill, I'll have it down pat.

What's wild in your neck of the woods this week?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

This Guy

Milo, 6, at a monster truck rally.

Turns 16 today.

Milo, almost-16, behind the wheel. I think his 6-year-old self would be disappointed it's a Volvo and not a monster truck.

In the last month, he's finished drivers ed, gotten his driving permit, and interviewed for (and got!) his first job. I've been joking that he can move out now. But I guess he still needs me for a little while longer—at least until that permit becomes a license and his paychecks start coming in.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

These Guys

Turn 12 today!!!

We already started celebrating over the weekend, as is our custom, with a movie and bowling with their BFF and an old-fashioned red velvet cake.

It's been a wild ride, twelve years of mothering TWINS. So what can I say about these guys on the big One-Two?

Z: Climber of trees and walls. Cartwheeler, flipper, rural parkour-er. Lover of Norway. Baker of scones. Eater of all things sour. Duck-tender.

E: Lover of cats. Reader and mine-crafter. Sayer of the funniest words and sentences. Baker of banana-chocolate-chip muffins. Rider of bike. Watcher of You-Tube.

We have more celebrating to do this afternoon—a hike, dinner at their favorite spot, and presents.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Trying New Things

The 100 Day Project is a worldwide collective art project in which participants do something creative every day for 100 days and post about it on Instagram. There are no rules and what you do is completely up to you. I first heard about it sometime last year, after reading The Crossroads of Should and Must (the author, Elle Luna, is one of the organizers), but I didn't join in because I was getting ready for our big trip.

This year the project began on April 4, the exact same day I finished The Artist's Way, which was too much of a coincidence to pass up. I spent some time mulling over what kind of creative project I would want to work on every day for 100 days. I considered nature journaling, a poem-a-day, a flash fiction a day, sketchbook, and watercolor. The writing ideas didn't inspire me—I've been writing every day for a very long while and I've done a poem-a-day twice before for National Poetry Writing Month—I've also nature journaled (nearly) every day for a whole year before. I wanted to do something new and challenging and watercolor painting drew my interest more than anything else: I've always wanted to learn, but have never had the patience. This would be my chance: If I can't figure it out in 100 days (that's like 3.25 months!!), then I never will.

Still, after coming to that decision, I still had some resistance, mainly to do with the mess and the hassle of getting out paints, setting up, cleaning up. I resolved this by buying a super cheap watercolor set with lots of colors. I know it's generally preferable to use high-quality art supplies when learning, but these $5 paints helped me overcome the mess and setup issues and also made it okay to make a mess and "waste" paint, which a $75 set would tie me up in knots about.

So far it's been fun and I've learned a bit. It's also really hard. It requires patience and an understanding of how the paint behaves. I'm still in the stage of trying to control the paint. I have not graduated to the level of working with the paint to create the effects I desire. I alternate between lessons I found on some random website and just playing around with the paint. I prefer the playing around to the lessons, but I am beginning to understand why piano teachers make you learn scales before you can play songs—a solid foundation is helpful.

The picture above is in the playing around category. It's my second attempt. The first ended up a muddy mess. (When I turned the page to start again, E said, "Don't be a quitter, Mom." I showed him that I finished the first painting, but I wanted to do it again to make it better. Later he said I should get a job as a book illustrator. "I've seen some drawings in books that are way worse than yours. Or maybe you can be a butterfly painter." Aww, kids.)

Forty days in, I've hit a bit of a lull. Or maybe it's a plateau. I feel less compelled to do a painting every day (and I even missed a day this weekend!). It may be time to mix things up, get out the tube paints (or at least the slightly higher-quality travel watercolors), take a real lesson, or establish some sort of goal or theme.

Have you tried something new lately, started a new hobby, or set a creative goal for yourself?

You can see more on Instagram @andrea.lani and #100daysofandrealearningtopaint

Also see #the100dayproject and check out all the cool, crazy, and creative things people are doing.

Friday, May 12, 2017

If Mom's Happy

Many years ago, I was shopping in Portland with a friend when she nudged me into a little boutique and, before I knew what was happening, I was standing in a room surrounded by whips and dildos.

"Don't worry," she said. "It's a feminist toy shop."

The experience was eye-opening, to say the least, and it served as the kernel of a humorous short story I wrote during grad school about a mom in a toy shop. I had fun writing it, but I didn't expect it to go anywhere. It had everything going against it: the protagonist was a mom (protagonists are children, or coming-of-agers, or elderly people looking back over their lives, or men of all ages and types; never moms); it was funny, and not even darkly funny; it was not the least bit tragic; it was not sic-fi, fantasy, horror, or speculative in any way; it was not weird and not hybrid and not experimental and not lyrical. In short, not the stuff of which literary magazines are made.

And then last fall I saw a call for submissions for If Mom's Happy: Stories of Erotic Mothers. From the editor:

"Mothers might be exhausted, over-touched and under-appreciated, but they’re problem solvers who know how to get their “self-care” on.  In If Mom’s Happy: Stories of Erotic Mothers, we hear from women waiting for their child’s arrival; mothers of infants, toddlers and teenagers; straight, queer, partnered and single mothers. We hear from mothers who like it vanilla and others who want some kink. They lust after their longtime partners and near strangers, in public and in private, alone or with another…or a few others. No matter where, when, or how, these stories capture the complex and profound–and ultimately satisfying–task of attending to your own desires while tending to children."

My story was still a humorous tale about a trip to a sex toy shop, not erotica, but I figured it was worth a shot and submitted. I heard back in short order from the editor, who liked the premise, liked the characters, liked the dialogue, liked the writing, but wanted me to turn up the heat a bit…okay a lot…to make it more erotic.

And I did, which was a lot more fun than I had anticipated (why had I anticipated writing sexy scenes to be un-fun? Let's blame a prudish Catholic upbringing, shall we?). So now my story, "Toy Story," is in good company with many other stories of sex after kids in If Mom's Happy, available for order now, just in time for Mother's Day. Not that I would recommend you buy a copy for your own mother, but there's nothing to say you can't get yourself a treat; after all, if Mom's happy, so is everyone else.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wild Wednesday ~ Serviceberry Flowering

The trees in our woods have been flowering for a while, starting with the quaking aspen back in April. But most of them, so far, have been of the subtle flower type—catkins and tiny maple blossoms—easy to miss if you're not paying attention and not exactly showy, flower-flowers. The first of those to come alive around here is the serviceberry.

Serviceberry is also known as shadbush, because it blooms at the time shad, or alewives, run up the rivers to breed, and back in Colorado, C and I used to work in a national forest with an area known as Sarvis Creek Wilderness because, apparently, they're called sarvisberry there (one ranger we knew even named his sone Sarvis after the shrub).

Because not much has leafed out yet, they're very visible and easy to spot from a distance, though I have to admit this is the first spring that I've taken the time to get up close and personal with them.

I'm pretty sure these are Allegheny serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), one of the two species in Maine that grow into a small three (the other five being shrubs), because the emerging leaves are reddish and not downy.

The flowers are pretty, large for a tree flower, white, and five-petaled. My book says they smell sweet, but I couldn't detect an odor in these (maybe all the rain we've had lately has washed it away).

The twigs and leaves are alternate and the buds, before they open, sharply pointed.

The bark is smooth and gray and at this stage, almost indistinguishable from red maple (the tree in the center is maple, to two on the outside are serviceberry). If you look very closely you can see faint vertical lines on the serviceberry bark.

And if you look straight overhead, the branches are so intertwined, you might think you're seeing things: a tree with red maple leaves and showy white flowers.

What's blooming in your neck of the woods?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Wild Wednesday ~ The Great Unfurling

Doesn't it seem to you like you wait and wait and wait for spring and then suddenly it's here and somehow you missed it? This year—this morning, in fact, I think I caught the moment of spring, which is, appropriately enough, a verb as well as a noun. The trees are in the midst of opening up their buds and unpacking their flowers and leaves and shaking them out in the sun.

In other exciting nature news, several days of rain have added a bit of water to our gravel-pit pond, and at least three painted turtles have made themselves at home.

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