sweet spring is your time is my time is our time
by E. E. Cummings, 1894-1962
🌸 // not nearly as much variety as last year, but still stunning nonetheless
sweet spring is your time is my time is our time
by E. E. Cummings, 1894-1962
🌸 // not nearly as much variety as last year, but still stunning nonetheless
Listening to Bridget Skype with Cora; they're happily chattering away, most likely planning their reunion sleepover this summer.
Anticipating the first weekend without a gymnastics meet since sometime in February.
But planning to sit down and write a season recap soon!
Scoping out some possible activities for our upcoming local-ish spring break. That will be equal parts moving prep. But I'm focusing on the more fun parts. So far I'm hoping: Bandelier National Monument, Acoma Pueblo, maybe a hike at Elena Gallegos Open Space (pictured), the newly reopened Utility Shack in downtown ABQ, trips to multiple Mexican bakeries, a grips-fitting at Ginnasta... what, you don't include grips-fittings on your spring break? Heh.
Marveling at the latest wind hazard to add to my long list of wind hazards: violent tumbleweed. ABQ sent out snow plows in an attempt to clear roads today! All futile, as the winds are blowing in the 50mph range again.
Watching 11.22.63 with Matt on a temporary Hulu membership. We're caught up to real-time now, only two episodes left but we'll have to wait for the next two Mondays for those. It's good, though not nearly as good as the book. I am always astounded when casting directors are able to find an actual real-live actor who is so perfect for a ridiculously specific role, like Lee Harvey Oswald.
Spending $5000 of imaginary daydream money in the newest Sundance catalog. I have most likely spent close to $100,000 of imaginary daydream money there over the years. Ha!
Starting to get a bad case of NBA Playoff Anxiety, even though the NBA Playoffs don't start until April 16. Please, Cavs, please. Let this be the year.
Maddie, Gracie and I took a road trip last month to Oklahoma City for a gymnastics meet; I like to tack on a few extra sightseeing adventures whenever possible when we travel for gymnastics, and one of the places we stopped on this trip was Cadillac Ranch. Are you familiar with Cadillac Ranch?
Located just outside Amarillo, TX (actually two miles further west than it used to be because it was moved in 1997, trash and all) it's an art installation that was created in 1974 by Ant Farm, a collective of hippie artists/architects/eccentric millionaires. It's a collection of ten Cadillacs ranging from model years 1948-1963, most purchased at junkyards and buried tailfins up at the angle of the Great Pyramids of Giza. It's never the same, because the whole point is to participate by spray painting them when you pass through on I-40. It's been repainted many times over the years—occasionally back to the original car colors, once all black when a member of Ant Farm died, all pink in honor of Stanley Marsh's (the eccentric millionaire) wife's birthday—WHOO BOY, if only Bridget could have seen that. If you look closely in Pixar's Cars, the mountains above Radiator Springs are shaped to mimic the Cadillac line of Cadillac Ranch.
I totally forgot to buy spray paint before we left (but please note I had an enormous gymnastics "hair kit" packed and didn't forget a single thing for that) but I decided we still had to stop to see it; a nice family leaving as we were walking up donated their half-empty cans of spray paint to the girls so they got the full experience. With some bonus Amarillo wind. It is super windy in the middle of west Texas.
Gracie made sure that Bridget was included, even though Bridget wasn't technically included since this was the first weekend the Dillows were split between gymnastics meets in the same weekend (Matt did gymnastics hair successfully, too).
We didn't see this sign (symbolic? tongue-in-cheek?) until we left our donated spray paint by the fence for some other gymnastics mama with a well-stocked hair kit and no spray paint. Well-played, state of Texas. Well-played.
Red, yellow, pink, green, orange, blue: six weeks of another Color/Colour Lovers with Andrea Jenkins and Xanthe Berkeley wrapped up! I love this project. I found this round to be the hardest, possibly because of New Mexico in the winter. Had there been a #colorcolourTAN hashtag I would have had zero trouble. Ha. I gave up trying to get the same number of photos for each color (my weird rule, not theirs). I didn't have a unifying photo that I used throughout (like the time I used my postage stamp collection) so maybe it felt a little less cohesive this time, the things I did use. But no matter–photo projects are still among my most favorite ways to spend time : )
I remember last year February kind of surprised us with its intensity—it used to just be May and December that did us in, but I'm pretty sure February owns its own steamroller outright these days. I joked last year that I would set an alarm on January 21, 2016 to remind me that February was looming but then I didn't do that, and WHOO BOY that was dumb.
When I was digging around in my archives looking for February things I came across a February family update from 2011, in which things seemed awfully busy then, too. [Ed note: I am terrible at foreshadowing. Which of course, is a close cousin to seeing February patterns.] I can't believe how much has changed (and how little has changed, too) since February 2011. So, a little compare and contrast between then and now:
+ Fablehaven still rates up there as one of her favorite series : ) We have another Brandon Mull series book on preorder—it will arrive in March, I noticed. That preorder feature on Amazon is great, because I never ever remember that I've preordered something and then it just shows up. She's been reading scary R.L. Stine young adult books and the Red Queen series; Matt and I were discussing when she should be allowed to scare herself to death with some Stephen King. Maybe next year. Ha.
+ Has been battling injuries this season—first the ankle, then a wrist... she hasn't really had any issues except for that February 2011 when her knees were messed up. The New Mexico state championships are toward the end of March, so she is braced up and doing her best. We're headed to University of Denver next for a meet there, and then state. There are 23 Level 6 optionals on Maddie's and Gracie's team this year. (!!)
+ We missed Georgie's birthday weekend because of a meet but she is awfully excited to at least get to see Georgie during her birthday month on our way home from Denver. Georgie will be FIFTEEN. We have celebrated with her for almost all of her birthdays.
+ I noted in 2011 that no one, including Maddie, was really all that into seeing Star Wars in this house. Some things never change.
+ School is fine, and before long she'll register for HIGH SCHOOL. I will never get over the absurdity that she'll start high school in a place she's already done a year of hard time [in utero] as I taught at Central High School in Cheyenne when I was pregnant with her. HA.
+ Loves her teacher this year, still a rule-follower (even more so since kindergarten if that's possible), and the winner of the cleanest room award at home, usually. Funny how things turn out.
+ She is still happily immersed in the world of big-girl gymnastics, and is holding her own this year, too. She had her highest beam score of the season at the Nadia Comeneci Invitational in Oklahoma City (9.4) and earned a third place medal, which was a pretty big deal at a meet that size—and going against a gym called Dynamo from Oklahoma, which pretty much kicked everyone's rear at every level. Apparently they practice a minimum of 26 hours a week and as much as 30, so we all decided we're good.
+ Just like five years ago, Gracie and Bridget get along famously sometimes and other times... not so much. But mostly famously. They've taken over the living room with Legos, and go to the park on their own a lot. Gracie is very excited for the freedom of roaming F.E. Warren when we head back this summer—she has an ID card now (you get one when you turn 10) which means she can ride her bike to the Shoppette and buy herself a slushie. This has been her dream for years : )
+ As for books... she is never without one.
+ Making things—both arty and science-y—is still very much her thing. She's spending most of her arty time lettering, and most of her science-y time with her Tinker Crate each month.
+ A big new thing: she started trombone lessons this month! Another dream for years... band doesn't start until sixth grade here, sadly, but Maddie's band director agreed to private lessons so she won't be so far behind when she shows up in Wyoming where the new sixth graders will already have a year of band under their belts. Trombone Shorty is still her trombone hero.
+ Bridget is officially a card-carrying member of USA Gymnastics for the first time this year! Her team has four meets (three of which are done, only state left). She has done very well overall—last week she earned second place in the all-around in the 8 year old division. If she can get her best day on each event at the same time for state she'll have a very good meet indeed. She has a good pal on the team and that has made it even more fun.
+ Speaking of the good pal, she is having her very first sleepover that isn't at grandparents' or the Karahalis house over there tonight!
+ Still loves princesses more than anyone I've ever met in my life. Still has a mental catalogue of what she has and what she still needs. Since 2011, we've found Pocahontas and the genie from Aladdin; her newest score was a very clearanced evil stepmother from Cinderella (under $10!) at the Disney store recently. It's a work-release program though, and she has to put in some labor hours before she takes possession.
+ She has the most homework of any of the girls this year, which makes for some ugly late nights sometimes. We are crossing our fingers that the planets align and she will have our beloved Mrs. Dixon next school year in Cheyenne.
+ We're still dealing with shoe-fitting issues. She hasn't worn orthotics for a while but she has outgrown many a shoe this year.
+ She is always up for an adventure.
+ All the grandparents traveled to New Mexico this month to attend Matt's promotion ceremony, which was great fun for all involved. Well, Matt could have done without all the people looking at him as an anti-center of attention type, but it was still fun for everyone else. Still waiting on the official photos.
+ In 2011 I wrote this: "Would very much like a week at the beach; he was even wistfully looking at rental properties recently. As if we'll be able to get away next summer for a vacation between change of command and Frontier Days : ) It's nice to have a dream, though." Substitute change of command with the new job in Cheyenne and we won't be headed to the beach this summer, either. Someday!
+ No dinosaur egg mail lately, but vintage Wyoming postcards show up from time to time. The Ebay King has interests that spread far and wide.
+ Still watching Gold Rush, though I don't really watch that one with him anymore. His favorite show currently is the one hosted by Henry Louis Gates on PBS; it's pretty good. We are anxiously awaiting time to watch 11/22/63, enough to figure out a temporary subscription to Hulu.
+ Not so hobble-kneed now that almost two months have passed since his knee surgery.
+ No mention of Ellie in 2011 because she hadn't joined our family yet. She remains the best and sweetest dog. She has a terrible case of congestive heart failure but is still aggressively interested in the walking schedule, emergency sitting in the sunshine, protecting the neighborhood from evil UPS trucks, avoiding pictures, and using her condition to her advantage to respectfully request chicken or sausage be placed in her bowl from time to time. She is on expensive medicine which seems to be doing its job keeping her comfortable. It's hard to have a terminally ill dog. We can hardly talk about it, we love her so.
+ I just wrapped up a nearly 600 person photo shoot (this is just one very partial screenshot) that I began work on around January 8; it went exactly according to plan in almost every way, and when I clicked send on the last gallery it was all I could do not to run into the street screaming with joy. IT WAS A BIG JOB. But fun. I also squeezed in a maternity shoot with a beautiful family and turned those pictures around, too. My camera has been napping for a few days because I wore it out.
+ I have done more gymnastics hair this month than I ever thought possible... though Matt will point out that he, too, had to do some gymnastics hair when Bridget had a meet in Belen and Maddie and Gracie competed in Oklahoma City. Between both Level 2 and Level 6 teams, we've had a meet every weekend this month (and some in January, too). I have a couple of new tricks: I'm still not the best at gymnastics hair but my new magic wand (no really, a curling wand) seems to be a good disguise for my clumsy hair skills. Everyone has a settled-upon hairstyle for the rest of the season, so that's a huge relief.
+ In 2011 I said my 52 Projects album was way behind. Just substitute 52 Projects with anything else and it's still an accurate statement. Someone pointed out to me recently that we have less than 90 days before we move again and I politely ignored her. Everyone is always incredulous about how we manage when we move so much and the answer is: DENIAL. That's how. Denial.
+ It's been ridiculously long since I've scrapbooked, but I have just the project to get me working with my own photos in a creative way again: my friend J.J.'s Leap Day Project. I'm all in this Monday, and I encourage you to play along, too! After my initial shock that Maddie will be a SENIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL when we'll open it wore off a little bit, I can't wait to do it.
OK! That's enough of an update that I feel like I've dusted off the cobwebs here : )
The American Library Association announced its slate of 2016 awards this month which means it's time to share the updated list of Caldecott winners for anyone who wants to tackle their own Caldecott challenge! This remains one of our favorite reading projects to date. Maybe someday I will decide to work through all the Newbery winners : ) I'm still not quite over Echo winning an Honor this year instead of the big prize, which went to a picture book: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña. I'm sure it's great, and we will read it at some point this year. But still. Matt thinks it's funny that I got so spun up over this. Ha.
But oh, the Caldecott winner! We ADORE Sophie Blackall in this house—it's hard to pick a favorite that she's illustrated; maybe a toss-up between the Ivy & Bean series and the Wild Boars books, which are hilarious. We had not yet read Finding Winnie when it was announced but I ordered it the second the announcement was made. It will no doubt go down as one of the best picture book acquisitions of the year. We loved it.
A disclaimer: I've always liked Winnie the Pooh just fine. I've never had a crazy-for-Pooh phase, nor have any of the girls—we like him, though. (Him! First thing I learned: Winnie was not a "him!"). I've always thought it was really interesting that A.A. Milne wrote such hard-hitting World War I poetry but switched gears and became famous for his children's stories instead. Beyond that, I really had no idea about any of the details about how Winnie the Pooh came to be, or even that it was based on an actual bear. The story itself is so hard to fathom—that this bear existed, how she traveled overseas, that A.A. Milne's grandson actually played inside her enclosure at the zoo—little bits of unbelievable are doled out over the entire story. I won't ruin it for you here, but the last bit of "what!!" took me by absolute surprise (related to how I never predict things in grown-up books, etiher, no doubt). It would have been great simply told in picture book format, but the historical photographs included in the album are a priceless addition. It's an amazing story and wow, was Lindsay Mattick ever the author who needed to tell it.
It is not without irony that I finally wrap up my Unfinished project of 2015, some 21 days past the end of the year. I claim December and a very busy month of photography work in January : ) But somewhere in the crazy month of December I actually did finish something I'd been meaning to do:
For Christmas in 2014 Jody sent this super-fun (and funny to Americans) tea towel in our Christmas package. I couldn't possibly USE it because it would ruin it... but I didn't want it to be one of those things that just sat in the Christmas tubs without ever seeing the light of day. So this year when it came out of the tubs, I decided I would turn it into something we could hang up for the month. This was possibly the easiest project ever—I bought a canvas at Michael's, stretched the towel over the sides and staple-gunned it to the back. I need to adjust a staple or two to avoid distortion but it hung by our front door all month to remind us of traditions a world away (and has been sitting by the Tetris closet door since January 2 or so, waiting for me to take a quick picture for this post). Next year I will make a pavlova for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day because I have a really good recipe from one of our Air War College friends from last year; I pretty much ran out of time and energy to do it this year. : )
So that's it! A full year of finishing up things every month. I didn't get to a lot of the projects that inspired the whole thing in the first place, but I did do some of those, plus a bunch of others—and it was absolutely worthwhile to introduce the habit and think through what often prevents me from finishing things. If pressed to summarize this whole exercise in three things learned from my own experience or absorbed from my guests, it would be the following:
Worth the time, worth the habit, worth the energy in every way—and definitely worth continuing, at least informally. I highly recommend revisiting my guest interviews if you need a good kick in the pants to finish your own projects in 2016!
Whenever I start to get overwhelmed with the thought of moving yet again when Matt gets a new assignment, I think about some of the most amazing opportunities that military life has afforded me. There are so many. High on the list: a five year stay in Montana where I put down roots so wide and deep that I still hold them close daily. The chance to be part of Cheyenne Frontier Days in a way that causes us to shake our heads in amazement. Two treasured years just five minutes from Washington, D.C. and the opportunity to witness centuries of American history and culture—and the 2009 Inauguration of President Obama, which I can remember in such perfect detail it feels as if it happened yesterday. Breathtaking access to hot air balloons. Mountains, zoos, and zoos on mountains. A year in Alabama, the most civil rights history-rich place I've ever experienced. Today seems like a good day to share one of the most emotional adventures I had there (or anywhere).
Because of the Great Alabama History Portfolio Project, in November 2014 Gracie, a classmate of hers, his mom, and I made the 50 mile journey to check out the Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail and walk the Edmund Pettus Bridge so we could retrace the footsteps of so many brave Americans in 1965. It's a beautiful stretch of road that has seen courage and devastation alike.
Selma is small, with a population hovering around 20,000. It sits on the banks of the Alabama River; one of the first things you see when you drive into town is the now-closed Craig Air Force Base, its old housing crumbling and deteriorated yet still partially inhabited with rents under $200 a month. It's a town that has seen hard days and even harder days, yet stands proudly to welcome visitors coming to learn about its role in the Civil Rights Movement.
We visited both museums/interpretive centers as well as the outdoor memorials. As much as I loved seeing the traditional photographs, documents, and ephemera in the buildings, these rocks and walls were perfect.
And then we walked the bridge. If you've seen the movie Selma you have a wildly accurate idea of what those marchers saw and felt on their multiple attempts to cross the bridge and move on toward Montgomery. You cannot see the base of the bridge from the middle: the hill is too steep. It was physically upsetting to walk across it in real life and to watch that scene in the movie, knowing what was waiting for them on the other side. Walking the bridge is not like standing in front of a well-thought out collection of twelve rocks or a painted brick wall or a set of black and white photographs. It is retracing footsteps, and it is an unforgettable and eerie feeling that I highly recommend to everyone.
We stood on the steps of the Dallas County Courthouse and tried to imagine the scene that unfolded on the small street out front when black residents tried and failed and tried and failed to register to vote. It's hard to imagine. And yet.
On the way back to Montgomery we stopped to pay our respects to Viola Liuzzo, the white woman who traveled from Detroit to assist in any way she could with the March—and was shot to death by the Ku Klux Klan at this spot on the highway while shuttling black marchers in her car. We tried to imagine leaving our families hundreds of miles behind to act on a belief too strong to be ignored. It's hard to imagine. And yet.
Fast forward to March 2015 and the 50th Anniversary of the third (and only successful) attempt to march those 50 miles from Selma to Montgomery. Matt wasn't able to come with us, but the girls and I headed over early to catch the shuttle over to City of St. Jude where the last leg of the original 1965 march began. We were there early enough to chat a little with friendly strangers, people watch some more, spot a couple of people we knew, and consider the significance of putting one foot in front of the other to retrace even more sets of footsteps.
The streets are narrow in this part of Montgomery, and we were right in the middle of a wall of people. Some were singing, some were listening to headphones, many were taking pictures and recording video. Everyone was taking it in with wide eyes.
Into downtown and down the last stretch—three miles passed in a blink of an eye. Maddie talked with a woman who told her all about how she had been around the same age in 1965 when she marched the first time, and urged her to remember everything she could so she could tell her kids and grandkids one day all about the time she marched to the Capitol building, too. I hope she will remember it, though I don't know how you could forget. We stayed for some speeches and performances before calling it a morning well-spent and heading back to the car, knowing how lucky we were to have experienced something so meaningful. Right place, right time.
Alabama is a difficult, complex place. It isn't a perfect place. It's hard to imagine the Alabama of 1965 in contrast to the Alabama of 2015. And yet.
Never underestimate the sacred right to vote. Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.