Category Archives: Family

Fabulous Prize Alert

I’ve spoken on Facebook quite a lot about the wonderful work of the Vermont Haiti Project.    My aunt, Kimball Butler, became involved with them about five years ago, and has been back several times each year through VHP since then.

Vermont Haiti Project works with a small community in the Port au Prince area.  It’s a grass roots, community to community effort.  They’ve helped raise money to build a building for a school.  They’ve gathered goods together and arranged a shipping container delivery.  They’ve put together a water filtration project.  Long term goals include sustainable energy projects and community gardens, if I understand Kim correctly.

A lot of that is on hold now.  Although they are not as much in the news as they’ve been, Haiti remains in crisis.  Kim’s been twice since January 12th, and tonight sat down to share where she’s been, and what she’s seen.

Although I suspect that she’d hate me saying it, that she will hate me making this story of Haiti remotely about her, I’m going to do it anyway.  I am in awe of my Aunt Kim.  I look at the suffering in the world, and I get overwhelmed and feel helpless.  She knows, I think, that she can’t solve the whole thing.  So she looks at what she CAN do.  Her most recent trip to Haiti was about trying to get some tarps and tents to the community she works with.  The community of her friends, and family.

When I think of the work of VHP, and of Kim, the words of Mother Teresa ring so loud in my head that I can’t hide from them.  “We can do no great things.  Only small things with great love.”

This is, I think, the work of the Vermont Haiti Project.  To do small things with great love.

So.  You could win a prize!  GET TO THE PRIZE.

I’m asking my friends and family to make a donation to the Vermont Haiti Project.  You can’t afford something big, you say?  That’s GREAT.  Do a small thing with great love.  Go here and make a donation to VHP.  They take paypal, or Visa or Mastercard.  Isn’t that awesome and convenient?  I think it’s awesome and convenient!

Once you’ve made your donation, post a comment to this entry.  We’ll do this through next Friday, March 5.  On March 6, when I wake up, I’ll assign random numbers to all the comments, and I will call my sainted mother, and have her pick a number between one and the total number of comments.

Winner gets $100 bucks PLUS, I will ask you privately for your donation amount and contact info, and I will match your donation, up to $50.00.

And we will have done a small thing.  With, I hope, great love.

Update:  I’m changing the rules a little.  Instead of matching your gift up to 50 dollars, I’ll be making a donation that equals your gift + 50 dollars, on gifts up to $50.00.  So if you donate a dollar, I’ll donate $51.  You donate 50, I’ll donate 100.  $100.00 gift still goes to the winner, no matter what they ask for.  If you want to re-donate, then that’s GREAT.  But you’re still getting the impressive hand decorated envelope.

Update: Updating to see how this publicize to Facebook feature is working.


The Hound From Hell

When I was little, my Grandma had two dogs.  One, Noel, was a fussy French Poodle, who, if I remember correctly, didn’t like me all that much.  The other, Susie, belonged to my Aunt Laurel, but lived with my grandmother.  I wasn’t sure how that worked, except Laurel moved around a lot.

I get it a little more now.

Some time in the fall, Caroline called to say she’d gotten a dog.  A stray that someone found prancing down the street with his leash in his mouth.  She reported that her roommate wasn’t thrilled about the idea, but had agreed when Caroline had promised to let her name the dog.  With this foolproof plan in place, the dog was named Chad.  What could go wrong?

Around the end of October, the bloom was off the rose.  Maddie wanted the dog to go.  Caroline was heartbroken.  I told Caroline that I would take the dog, if she couldn’t find anyone to take him.  She could handle it, she said.  But I’d really like to, really really.

In November, Caroline was planning to come home for Thanksgiving.  We were going to go to Ohio for Thanksgiving, drive Caroline (who had a one way ticket) back to Indianapolis on Saturday, pick up Chad, and come home.

Then our plans changed, and suddenly we were going to be home.  Maddie planned to drive out here for Thanksgiving with Chad, and take Caroline home.  Days before Caroline was scheduled to leave, plans changed. Maddie’s car couldn’t make it, and Maddie was staying in Indianapolis.

We figured out how to get Caroline back to Indianapolis after Thanksgiving, and Caroline placed an ad on craigslist, looking for someone who was driving out this way who would be willing to share the drive.  One response, from a dog lover, who wasn’t planning on coming out this way, but would do it if we’d pay for gas.  We told him we’d let him know whether we heard from anyone else.

The day after Caroline got back to Delaware, she had a message from Maddie, telling her the dog was going to the pound, having eaten something Maddie held dear.

So, over Thanksgiving, Chad came for a visit, until Caroline has a place for him.

Smokey and Ruth greeted him in solidarity, sitting down and turning their backs on him as he leaped around, trying to get them to play.

He runs.  Up the stairs, down the stairs, leaps on to the sofa and runs its length, into the dining room, where he crashes into the wall, back to the sofa, up the stairs, down the stairs, leaping over Smokey in a single bound.  Does he care if you’re lying on the sofa?  He does not.

He wants her to play, and barks at her, trying to get her to play, and Smokey responds with a low pitched growl.  Bark/Growl/Bark/Growl/Bark.

He eats things.  The Christmas tree, which, you’ll be happy to hear, we had the foresight not to decorate the bottom branches of, no longer has bottom branches, because he ate them.  Things that we throw away, thinking we don’t need them any more?  Well, we’re wrong there, Chad needs them.  Last night I suggested to Scott that maybe we should start throwing the used paper towels on the floor to save Chad the trip.

He ate my blackberry when I left him alone for 10 minutes to pick Charlie up at wrestling practice.

And I adore him.  He’s lucky he’s cute.  He drives me NUTS.  But he’s sweet and totally innocent.  He likes to snuggle.

And I think that’s lucky, because I think he’s here for a bit…

I’m thinking obedience training.

Looks like He’d Vote Republican. (For Margie)

Driving Charlie to the bus this morning, we were talking about the election, and I asked who he’d vote for.

“Whichever one is going to speed up global warming.”  He said.

“So, your main issue is?”

“I’m cold.”

Just yer 19th Nervous Breakdown

Most of the day was pretty good. I’m feeling a little sore throaty, and I’m not sure if that’s the clean sinuses plus the smoking, or the purge, or some combination of the two.

In my body I’m having weird things – neti pot related, I can actually FEEL the sinuses in my forehead and under my pituitary when I’m done cleaning them – purge related, I am losing an old sensation I get from time to time of having like, thick sludge in my bloodstream, and kind of feel tingly blood flow under my skin in some places. (My arms and face. Get your minds out of the gutter.)

So I typed up the days one through five entry, and then in the middle of it Scott got home and I was all of a sudden very very GROUCHY! Man, if he had set out to go to the store and buy every single thing I am not eating right now he could not have done one millionth of a percent better than he did not even trying.

THEN, oh, THEN, he decided that THAT? That moment right there? That was the moment that he decided it would be PERFECT to go over all the things you could recycle and how much you can get for recycled BRASS! COPPER! And Amy Amy Amy – Did you KNOW? Did you EVEN KNOW? That it is less expensive to recycle aluminum than it is to mine bauxite to produce it? And somehow he had misinterpreted Scott, I DON’T CARE, to mean Scott, if you keep telling me this then I WILL CARE, and the more I tried to explain him that no, I really didn’t? Well, the more recycling facts he pulled right out of thin air. And then my head exploded.

GAH. I was in this whole long rant of like – you didn’t even READ the labels and why are you feeding the kids all of the things I am reflecting on the utility of and OMG ICE CREAM IS NOT A FRICKIN NECESSITY. I swear on all that is holy he shops like he’s stoned.

Then I went off on a rant about how he NEVER supports me with the kids and, as if to prove my hypothesis, he got in the middle of something I was asking the kids not to do and explained why he thought it was an okay thing to do, (which, was, by the way, going into our room when we’re not home to make sure we’re turning all the electricity in the house off and OH MY GOD I JUST WANT SOME PRIVATE SPACE IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?????)

Then I realized that I was very much reacting to the whole evening much like Charlie does when he gets angry or upset. Charlie’s a pretty laid back guy, but when he gets upset? He goes ballistic. Last year when we were driving to Montana he spilled a little peanut butter oil on the rental car seat and “Dammit, I spilled something” accelerated into “and what idiot INVENTED putting oil in PEANUT BUTTER ANYWAY” and “WHY WOULD ANYONE EVEN SELL THIS PEANUT BUTTER????” in a matter of seconds.

I think I might be experiencing withdrawal from something or other. Either that or it’s PMS. From hell. Riding on a tornado.

Boy, am I tired

So. This was a long week. A long week of speaking in support of something I care about. A long week of tugging on Superman’s Cape, spitting into the wind, pulling the mask on the ol’ Lone Ranger, and a week of messing around with Jim.

This week, an article about The New School appeared in our local paper. It was mostly accurate, mostly neutral, kind of cool. It appeared on the FRONT PAGE, for heaven’s sake. That was enough to send some people into a frenzy of twitchiness… MEL.

Then it started to get kind of ugly. Did you all know that there were some REALLY angry people on the internet? Seriously. Who knew.

When I was really little? My favorite music was from Man of La Mancha. Specifically, my favorite lyric? Was “to bear with unbearable sorrow, to run where the brave dare not go.” What this means is that, as a very small child, I had the combination of depth and idiocy that will likely carry me to my death. Seriously. I was probably three. It set me on the trajectory to weirdness.


So here’s what I tried with the angry internet people. Reason. Here’s how it worked. Not well. Angry people on the internet are very, very, angry. And they like it. So I would assume they were asking questions because they were interested. And so I would answer them. And they would say “WE WANT FACTS,” “YOU’RE IN A CULT,” “YOU HAVE DRUNK THE KOOL-AID.” And I would say, here are some facts, Kool-aid has refined sugar and artificial colors and it’s not good for you, stop calling me names, I’m not calling you names.

Then they would say “DISGRACEFUL” “YOUR CHILD’S LIFE IS WASTED” “YOU DRANK MORE KOOL-AID.” And I would say here are some answers to questions you’ve asked, here is why I decided on this for my child, I DON’T EVEN LIKE REGULAR SODA, LET ALONE KOOL-AID.

Finally they said, “Cult cult cult,” “disgraceful disgraceful disgraceful,” “How would a creepy internet person break into your child’s school?” I said – “Guess what? I’m Done. Nice talking to you. ” And another person said, okay, I’m going to try to answer your question, and they said “HA. GOTCHA AGAIN.”

Now there’s something new. And they’re being pretty openly threatening. HEY – they are saying – MAYBE WE SHOULD CALL THE AUTHORITIES ON YOUR SCHOOL. And I completely freaked and had to be talked down. And then I remembered I’m not doing anything wrong. But still, part of me? Is still in the corner in the Evil Miss MacNamara’s class, with Miss MacNamara in the doorway saying to the principal – This Is the First Girl I Have Ever Had to Put in the Corner. (And as an aside, even though Miss MacNamara is dead? Her zombie corpse is now invited to bite me.) The adult in me tries to talk the six year old off the ledge.

And then the adult in me fantasizes heavily about making a new user name, with no association to the school, and pointing out to these people how absolutely teensy weensy their penises must be. And the six year old in me kinda goes, HELL YEAH.

North Wind Blows….(me away)

I spent a lovely evening at the theatre Friday, observing “What the North Wind Saw” at Charlie’s school. The play was student written, produced, and acted, with a few staff members in roles as well. Photos from the evening can be found here.

It was an adaptation of three fairy tales, the unifying theme of which was the inclusion of the North Wind. The North Wind was played ably by Nick, with just the amount of grumpy bluster that you would expect from the North Wind.

The first tale, The North Wind, the Pig and the Baboon, is the story of a pig and a baboon whose fighting so irks the North Wind, that he ends up blowing them to different parts of the earth, to stay for all eternity. Basically, the North Wind sends them to their rooms. They deserve it. The baboon was played by Charlie, and therefore, disclaimer, he was my favorite. The pig was played by Eneizah, who was sporting a pig nose and pink pig ears, whilst Charlie was decked in a large baboon mask, and a very purple bottom. Written by Hannah, this one act was simple, and to the point, and started the poor, poor North Wind, already in a very bad mood, off on his long, exhausting day.

Act two was the story of the Lad and the North Wind, and told the poignant tale of young Jack. Jack, (infused with kindness and determination by Mike), a young man clearly devoted to his aging mother (played by able knitter Emily), attempts thrice to procure grain from storage, and each time is thwarted by the blustery North Wind. I must mention that Nick, as the North Wind, seemed very much to enjoy his character’s mission of creating trouble for others for NO REASON AT ALL, and embodied a curmudgeonliness beyond his years. Jack, however, refuses to be daunted by the North Wind, and, when the two come face to face, it becomes quite clear that the North Wind’s gruff exterior belies a kind heart, and a soul which appreciates Jack’s bravery in facing him. The North Wind gives Jack a series of gifts designed to change his lot, which are promptly stolen by a greedy innkeeper and his wife, played with palpable avarice by Jens and Megan. Finally, the North Wind gives Jack a simple stick, played with just the right mix of rigidity, and, when necessary, bendiness, by John III, and all is set right.

The audience then enjoyed a lovely intermission, with refreshments largely provided by Margie and Debbie, I believe, and this writers’ family, pocketed one or two of those delicacies known simply around The New School as “Margie Cookies,” for the road.

The final act was based on a beautiful Scandinavian tale called “East of the Sun West of the Moon” with which I was unfamiliar. East/West tells the story of a poor farmer (John) with a large family (Lucy, Eneizah, Greg) approached by a large white bear (John III, in the less bendy of his two roles) who promises to improve the family’s lot in exchange for the hand of the beautiful Almira (played with aplomb and tinyness by the outstanding Hannah).

As you might have guessed, the bear is, of course, an enchanted prince, Almira’s tragic failure to heed the prince’s warnings leads to the jeopardizing of the breaking of the enchantment. The most horrible consequence ensues, and, the enchanted Prince appears to be doomed to marry the distasteful Troll Princess Yalda.

All is not lost, however, as Almira sets off to locate the castle, located East of the Sun and West of the Moon, in order to disrupt the nuptials and rescue her prince. In her quest, Almira meets a series of Old Women with magic horses and sparkly gold gifts. The old women, (played by Autumn, Autumn and Autumn) touched the childhood chord in me of wondering whether all mysterious strangers in fairy tales are actually the same person in disguise. The old women warn Almira in language that makes her quest seem hopeless, but still she charges on. Almira meets up with the South Wind, played by Jens with warmth and kindness, who takes her to the home of his brother, our friend, the gruff North Wind. The North Wind gives Almira a bit of a hard time, as he is wont to do, explaining that he is quite exhausted from dealing with the pig, the baboon and the overly trusting lad, but eventually relents, and takes her to the castle East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

Once there, sweet Almira encounters the wretched Princess Yalda, whose spitefulness was played with great glee by Tyler. Almira takes advantage of Princess Yalda’s greed, trading the gifts from the old woman, in order to gain access to her Prince each evening. Finally, with the help of a captive King and Queen, played with great elderliness by Joe and Stephanie, Almira and the Prince are reunited, and hatch a plan to disrupt the wedding.

At the wedding, the wicked enchanting step mother witch troll, played by Alex with cleverness and great witchiness, Yalda, and the trolls attempt to meet the conditions of the clever plan, to no avail. When Almira is able to meet the Prince’s condition for marriage, all the trolls implode, as trolls are wont to do, the old King and Queen are released, and living happily ever after ensues.

All three plays were well supported by set design and stage management by several students and staff, including Sam, Ian, James, Max and Melanie (and numerous others that I am sure I am forgetting). There was notable detail in the set design, including paintings, fireplaces, and fires, and the use of large black backdrops. The stage crew was unobtrusive, and swift, and the use of action to take the audience’s attention from the movement of sets was smooth.

Music was provided by John III and Joe, and sound was managed ably by Zak, and provided a lovely counterpoint to the action onstage.

Each play contained wonderful small moments of human (as well as pig, baboon and stick) connection and interaction. Most notable to me was the antipathy between the baboon and pig, reflected in their body language; the affection between the Lad and his Mother; and the warmth and love between Almira and both her Father and the Bear Prince.

I make an assumption here, that the costume design, which was spot on in every case, was largely the work of Tyler, as costume design is her passion, and also because Princess Yalda wore the most beautiful costume, despite her cold, cruel, troll-like heart.

Behind all of this delight was the amazing Chloe, who was the motivating factor behind the play, one of the three co-authors, and The Narrator. Chloe’s narration was performed with just the right blend of subtlety and emphasis, as is, in my experience, everything she does. It was very clear to this reader, throughout preparation that this event was, to some large degree, Chloe’s baby. It is a rare individual indeed, able to conceive of such a vast project, to execute it, and to provide such a wonderful opportunity to allow those around her to shine. Chloe is that remarkable individual, and she provided something of true beauty for her community this weekend.

If I have forgotten anyone, I apologize. You were all wonderful. Some of you I did not recognize behind your costumes, and makeup and embodiment of your character.

Mi Familia

We made it home from The West a few weeks ago.  Things got busy at my Mom & Dad’s pretty quickly, and I had to stop posting.  (again)

The trip was really wonderful.

My Dad is that Dad that never really took much time off, never relaxed.  I think, in retrospect, that his idea was that he would work really hard and then, when he retired, he would have all the fun he’d put off.  In retrospect, I kind of thought "Fat Chance."

But damned if he isn’t doing it.  The family togethernessfest in Yellowstone was his idea, and his gift to us.  I had a great (albeit long) walk, that started out as a walk with Charlie & Scott & Mom & Bridget & Dane and Dad, that turned out to be a walk with Dad, 2.5 mile to a geyser that Mom wanted to see, and that we all missed actually blowing.  He told me stuff about his work, and about his retirement, and was as open and talkative and cool and wonderful as I’ve ever seen him.  Relaxation actually suits him, which, I guess, makes sense, given that he’s procrastinated it his whole life.

It was fun to see my mom, and to have Scott beat her more than once at Scrabble, which served her right for all the times she creamed me at Sorry when I was four.  She’s busy from dawn til dusk, attending to most everyone else’s needs.

My younger sister Kate is just plain kind, and a wonderful, doting Mom.  Sam and Ella have really distinct personalities, and she delights in them both.  I don’t envy her that little kid stage, but she just seems to thrive on it.  She’s married to the magnificent Dan the man, and through any ups and downs, they are a great match.  She is also very girly, and bound and determined to girl me up, as a care package full of dresses proved.  And, actually, I love them.  I do fear that the next care package might be makeup!  She invited me to go a-waxing before we hit Yellowstone, which, thankfully, having seen the results, I’m glad I declined.  Because ouch.

One of the high points was getting to know Will, Peter’s oldest, who, by now is five.  It was hard to get a good photo of him because HE DOES NOT STOP, but he let us take him out to dinner without his Mom and Dad, and he did come knocking on our door a couple of mornings, quite early.  Peter is raising him to be a phenomenal fisherman, and, of course, the one time my camera caught him still, he was fishing.   Speaking of Peter, I am blessed with a really terrific sister-in-law in Bridget.  She is as down to earth and straightforward a person as you could ever meet, and she is really great with her kids, and, totally due to her patience, Willy will eventually be able to be still long enough to have his photo taken.

Kenny, the little one, has the dryest and pointiest wit.  He’s fun to be around, and I won’t flash the picture of him in his long johns in reaction to his telling Kate that he thought they were the only two with fashion sense in our family.  Unless, of course, you want to look at my flickr page.  I’m worried, because he wants to go into the military, and I hate the military, and the war, and war in general.  And the military.  I wish he’d go to law school instead, but I guess a lot of people hate lawyers too. 

We stayed, in Yellowstone, near Old Faithful, and millions of geysers.  There was one that only blew in the middle of the night, and Charlie really wanted me to get up at 1 to see it go.  But I didn’t.  There was fishing.  Scott and Charlie went in a couple of rivers, and then we went up and met Peter and Dan and Bridget and the boys at a lake.

There were buffalo (a word Ella picked up on day one) all over, including in our camping area, and Charlie was fascinated with the marmot around.  Okay.  So was I.

Yellowstone did not explode while we were there, and for this, I was thankful.

Pete brought a grill and did much cooking for all of us.

Dad wore a cap and smoked a cigar which, with his beard made him look like Castro.

And it was all over too soon.