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July 24, 2011


I have been noticing lately how many little things make me happy -- silly things that I use, places I go in town, convenience items that are pleasing. Sometimes when I am traveling along in an otherwise normal day, I realize how satisfied I am by a little serendipitous occurrence and feel that life has treated me very well indeed. You will think these occasions completely silly, I'm sure.

For instance, a few years ago Jeni and family bought me a SodaStream bubbly water maker. It is in constant use. In fact, it is probably the most used appliance in my house. It makes me happy every time I make my own soda water from good old H2O and not have to spend money on soft drinks or the like. James used it so much that I gave him one for his birthday. He thought it was an odd gift at the time, but has since thanked me profusely because he also uses it daily. Of course, now his is packed away in storage until the return from Hong Kong. The SodaStream reminds me of my childhood when my father, a sales manager for Glass Containers, use to supply our home with Pepsi Cola glasses that had a red line about one inch up from the base that you filled with Pepsi syrup and then poured seltzer water to the top. In my home we made our own Pepsi Colas.

I live in fear that my wonderful original Russell Hobbs tea kettle will finally bite the dust. Bill Russell and Peter Hobbs of the UK designed the first electric tea kettle in 1955. They were also the first to design the automatic coffee percolator in 1952. Russell had previously helped design the first hair dryer, pop-up toaster, and electric iron. It seems fitting that my tea fancy is served daily with a British design and manufactured product that I bought after some people in Canada and I were discussing tea at Yellowpoint Lodge. They said, "Well, you do have a Russell Hobbs, don't you?" And, I came home and bought one. Then I bought one for all my children. Russell and Hobbs are both dead and the company has gone through several permutations. You can still buy an updated version of my tea kettle at Macy's but I have the original design, and I'm reminded daily of how much I love it.

My weedwacker died the other day and I called Hardware Sales to see where I should take it. Finally, I went to Mac and Mac's Electric and found that it wasn't worth fixing, so I returned to Hardware Sales to buy a new one. I don't use it as much as I used to when I was keeping down the weeds in the back yard. I've given that chore over the Steve Jensen but I still use it for trimming here and there. It's not the weedwacker that I love. It's Hardware Sales! I can find more reasons to go to that store, and they always come through for me. It is pleasing to know that is owned by McClellans even when we are not related. Hardware Sales is more than products, it is advice, interesting tips for completing your projects, 7500 different kinds of screws or nails or whatever. I try to find as many reasons as possible to go there. I just love the place.

And, down the street is Trader Joes. I waited eons for Trader Joes to come to Bellingham! In the 70's, Don and I shopped at one of the first Trader Joes in the San Fernando Valley. It was a great destination. We got reacquainted with Trader Joes when we visited Dani's family in Irvine because they had a store on campus. In Washington, we'd stop in Everett or wherever we could find a Trader Joes always begging them to come to Bellingham. Don was convinced our population base was not sufficient to bring them here. He would have been very pleased that they finally did. I like Trader Joes for their uniqueness in this cookie cutter world!

It is just silly for things like this to please me so much. Perhaps this blog should be more about people and not things. People often surprise and please me for a zillion reasons. But, in my daily living, I also surprised by how many other things give me a tiny jolt of joy -- discovering a new mystery, opening my monthly retirement check to see that I got a cost of living raise, roses that are suddenly in bloom, having the sun break through on a rainy day -- I am constantly thankful for where I live and what I have been given in this life. Thanks be to God!

Posted by Marilyn at 12:31 PM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2011

Sponge Bob

Dani and the boys and I are settling in to co-habitating. The house has assumed some measure of organization and life has some degree of rhythm which makes a smooth transition from living alone to living with three others including two children.The largest of the two, the teen, is a great deal of help. We have worked out some requests from grandma to please put her items back as found after use which has been honored. The teen eats often at different times during the day than others. He is not only is a good cook (which means that he actually cooks stuff from scratch rather than microwaving fast food ) but he has pretty good at cleaning up after himself. Now, if we can keep Nico from rummaging around in the freezer for hidden popsicles, I will be happy. My fault for 1) having a bottom freezer, and 2) buying popsicles for him from time to time. It is difficult for a four year old to keep from wishing that there are more popsicles in the freezer if only he could just find them.

James just finished jazz camp in Blaine which he loved, and he is playing all summer with his teacher Mark's middle school jazz band which augmented over vacation with alumni who return from high school to play with him. They give gigs all over the city (three this week) and James will complete them before they take off for Hong Kong. Charles is in the middle of checking out the houses which Dani finds on Craigslist and various other places on the web. They are hopeful that something in their price range will appear that is not a one bedroom tiny unit without workable kitchen. Unfortunately for Nico, his best buddies Bo and Sam (my neighbors) are gone this week to California so we've been watching a lot of sponge Bob in the morning before he goes to preschool in the afternoon-- giving his mom a chance to get her editing done.

I have been really lazy. I simply cannot get up the energy in this lousy weather to do any yard work other than basic watering. It is just too cool and overcast. The deer have eaten all the buds on my roses and, frankly, I am just resigned to having a yucky yard and plants that are growing so slowly that they will not produce anything unless August turns into a real summer. I should have planted a whole mass of peas and spinach. I have been busy at church but otherwise quite idle.

Why do I always feel useless when I am not busy? Why is it hard to get into gear when it is so dreary? I have lots of projects sitting around waiting for me to get to work. If I figure all this out, I'll let you know. Otherwise, I'm going to take a long, hot bath and read my book.

Posted by Marilyn at 11:52 AM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2011

Art Camp

I went to Junior High and High School with Mona Brookes. Then we lost touch. I don't know what she did while I was in college and then married, but I know she had a baby right out of high school and then finally entered Pepperdine where she majored in art. She had a job driving a preschool bus and was invited to teach art to the children. The director hung some of that art at LAX in the long hallway where children's art is featured. That was the beginning of Mona's notoriety, at least according to the story she told Don and me when we met for dinner during her visit many years later to Bellingham to speak to the school district.

According to my memory, Mona was deluged with questions about her teaching technique since her childrens' art was fantastic. She said that she didn't really have one, but when she was asked to teach she remembered how her aunt taught her to draw. She helped children see elements of shapes (square, circle, etc.) in nature and in what they wanted to draw. Once they could draw those shapes, they were halfway there. She wrote a book, "Drawing With Children" and began to spread her ideas. They were not universally accepted because giving children specific instruction was not encouraged. So, Mona took her ideas into an elementary school. She took two same-age classes and taught her art methods in one class and had the other class do free drawing without instruction. She had them take a pre-post reading test and found that children who used her art method made faster strides in reading. Recognition and use of shapes made a difference and her art methods were transferable to other subjects.

Monart schools were opened and are found internationally today. Mona also teaches her method in school districts throughout the country. Lynn Zimmerman opened a Monart School in Bellingham and my three oldest grandchildren have been fortunate to attend art camps there since they were very little. It became a tradition for each one of them to spend a week at grandma's going to art camp. They have produced amazing work and have loved the system. Once I overheard James and Nicole talking about Lynn. "She knows how to turn our mistakes into good things," one of them said. "She is such a good artist and such a good teacher.""She makes us look like great artists." I thought that was nice to hear when they were going to school in the summer.

A few years ago, Lynn pulled away from Monart and her studio is now called Bellingham Art. Although Allie and James are finally off to other pursuits, Nicole came up this summer for her annual week. Nico is still a bit young yet, and maybe even Lionel will go some day. I sing the praises of the Monart method to everyone I know. It is so exciting to see young children produce art that seems way beyond their ability level. It is not surprising to me to know that children needed to be taught how to produce art just as they need to be taught how to play the piano. They don't learn by osmosis. It is nice to see someone from my hometown make such a splash in the world with her talents. Horray for Mona Brookes.

Nicole at art camp -- theme is fairies!

A painted silk scarf and a sleeping fairy

A fairy house

A painting by James from about 10 years old

Posted by Marilyn at 7:04 PM | Comments (4)

July 6, 2011

Feeling Rotten

When it rains around here, it really pours. I mean literally and figuratively. Jeni and family came for the 4th. To be more accurate, Jeni, Ron and Nicole came for the 4th. Allie was on her way to Pilgrim Firs for a week. Charles and Dani were frantically moving big items out of their house with James helping to provide muscle. Frantic because Charles was leaving on the 5th to go back to Hong Kong. Dani, James and Nico will follow at the beginning of August. And, since they now have no beds in their house, they have moved in here. I was going elsewhere for dinner on the 4th, but they planned a chicken dinner and invited Keith, Eulalah and Marilyn G. and the neighbors! So, I came home from my dinner to find a party going strong. More interestingly to me, when I left at 6:00 Jeni and Ron had just gone to the store. When I came home at 9:30, they had barbecued dinner and the dishes were all done -- according to Dani the thanks for that goes to Marilyn and Eulalah. I know that Keith didn't help because he finished off my puzzle!

Life is sometimes so busy. I was determined to go to the Riselands for dinner on the 4th. I had been invited for many years, but Jeni and Ron's famous (infamous?) 4th of July party had me in Redmond instead. However, since they have moved into two small apartments (yes, two!) and couldn't even begin to replicate their annual fest (nor will they be able to have their famous Christmas party this year either until they buy a new house). So, nothing stopped me from going to the Riselands -- not even a party at my house! Nor, did my cold which I had had for three days - and which got worst on the 5th and 6th - and I'm just now beginning to feel better. I also had some sort of stomach upset on the 3rd which hung around until the 5th. Maybe that was just too much partying.

I have also revisited my sickness obsession. The first time I remember this event was when Don and I were down with the flu when our children were little and we lived in Santa Barbara. I distinctly remember this because our little en suite bathroom was (thankfully) only three steps away from our bed. I have no idea who was watching the children and I didn't much care because we were sooooo sick. I began reading The Hobbit and Don began reading The Lord of the Rings. We made it through with a bit of seven-up and sleeping in between the pages. We finally came up for air after the series ended and we felt better. It was the only time I remember being sick at the same time. And, frankly, it is the only time I remember being really sick. I didn't realize until recently that the Hobbit was published the year I was born. I wonder why it took me so long to read it.

Well, this time I was not really beached, but I have been obsessively reading a new author for me. The woman who writes DoveGreyReader, a British blogger that I follow, mentioned an Italian mystery writer, Andrea Camilleri and I have been hooked on Inspector Montalbano, a pasta loving Sicilian detective who has a long-time girlfriend he has never married and a host of colorful associates. He lives at the beach and swims daily, has a housekeeper whose boys he has arrested several times for mischief and who is a gourmet cook. She hates his girlfriend so she disappears and won't clean when Livia comes to stay for a vacation. I am now on book eight which I got at the library. Our Bellingham library has a magnificent foreign mystery section and stocks books that you simply cannot easily buy in most regular bookstores. Sometimes I can get them in Canada. In any case, it is always fun to look back on a cold with fondness because of the trips one has taken and the people one has met through the leaves of a really good book.

Sun is out, nose almost dry, still some books to read. Life, itself, is indeed really good!

Posted by Marilyn at 5:06 PM | Comments (0)