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Sunday, June 26, 2016


I bet nobody outside Ohio knows that there are quite a few wineries in Ohio.  For many of us in the state, we pucker at the memory of drinking native vintage, but our wine has gotten remarkably better and even wins some big awards.  Some people enjoy winery tours around here, and you know, the more wine you sample, the less picky you get about it anyway.

We have the right climate for it -- to which I can personally attest since I was trying to tug grape vines out of my yard this week.  I landed on my butt and gave up.  I also gave up the battle with thorny raspberry vines.  I've achieved the usual mid-summer defeat in the battle between landscaping and nature.

I lack motivation to do much this week.  Sometimes I look at all the stuff everyone else is doing and feel like I've got to do more too.  Mostly I think that I need a real vacation and excitement, but that would all take motivation which I've already said I lack right now.  I want to curl up with a book and ignore the world.

I know a lot of this has to do with some major reorganizing they're doing at work right now.  I'm in limbo, waiting for a new person to start in a couple of weeks.  Everything may work out great, but the limbo of waiting to find out if it will be is wearing on me and sapping my energy.

I think we all go through phases like this?  Sometimes I think it would be better for everybody if we talked more about the times when we aren't winning awards and going full-tilt because the down times are the fertilizer for the later successes.  Or maybe I should say that these kinds of times are part of my life, and necessary to build up energy and ideas for later efforts.

Maybe I used up all my emotional energy earlier this week when the Cavaliers won the NBA championship?  GO CAVS!!!  Bzillions of people turned out for celebrations.  I went out for margaritas with some older ladies and we watched the parade on tv.  These grandmothers wanted our team to put on their shirts, quit getting tattoos, and "get a haircut!"  LeBron James is everyone's son, neighbor, friend this week since he's a local boy who's done good.

Maybe I should put in the disclaimer that I usually don't watch sports and mostly don't care, but the energy of everyone was electric this week.  I even watched the second half of the last basketball game.  GO TEAM!!!

But the joys of early week have faded and I'm lazy today.  I have some good wine that was made by an Italian with California grapes, but the wine was made in Ohio.  I wonder if that still counts as local vintage?  I'm thinking of putting my feet up and drinking some of it on this lazy summer day.  Cheers!

Saturday, June 18, 2016


I poked around in Grandma's stuff once and found a bunch of bobbins.  In the classic "what, why, how, show me!" way of children, I pestered her until she showed me how it all worked -- reluctantly, miserably, and demonstrating the definition of antipathy, she made some lace at my bequest on the special lap pillow with a project started and long discarded in the closet.  Grandma moved the bobbins around and pinned threads back while twisting and knotting things until my outspoken sister stated the obvious, "This is SO boring!"

We gave it up and made a pie instead which made everyone happy.

Tatting shuttle & lace
I inherited Grandma's dislike for such hobbies and love of pie.  Both of us preferred to crochet if we got out yarn.  Yet, I have her tatting shuttles and my heart feels warm that she humored me that day.  (Lace making by tatting is a bit more like crocheting.)

Not Grandma's hands, but this shows how lace is made
Lace was a way of showing status a long time ago.  Anybody who had the leisure time to make it wasn't worried about how to pay the rent.  Anyone who could buy it had extra money to spend.  Lace collars were popular, lace on pillowcases, lace on the arms of chairs... they put lace on everything.  And sadly, a lot of it ended up at the garage sale for a quarter, or "go ahead and fill a bag for a dollar!"

Tatted doily on my table
I've gotten a lot of doilies and lace from old ladies at garage sales.  I have exactly one on display on a table under a glass.  The others are boxed up and waiting for someone to love them in a different generation.  Having seen Grandma demonstrate the hideously tedious process, I feel for the women who made these things.  I'm supposing that some of these ladies might've enjoyed it, the same way some crazy women like to knit, but I just appreciate the amount of labor they put into making the beautiful lace designs.

The lynx on scratchboard took a year of my life to create.  About 2/3 of the way through, I started really resenting it.  I didn't feel like I could start a new project until I finished it, and the amount of work to finish it seemed insurmountable.  I finally said "screw it!" and just completed it, but I wasn't so perfect anymore.  I had it done within a week or two, and I don't think anyone can tell which parts I did fast and which I bled over.  In fact, I think the less labored parts are better.  That's a lesson I've carried with me.

The lynx hangs in my house.  I described to a friend the pain of creating it, and he called it "wampum", which is highly valued beadwork Native Americans made from shell.  The true value of it was in the labor it took to create.  Indians had to find the shells, sand them into beads, drill holes (without metal drills, and having to make the drills they used), and then they stitched them together for the final product.  It took many hands many hours.

Ever after that conversation with my friend, I see the wampum in certain things.  Hand-made lace is one of those things.  Painstaking art is another.  I think the world would be better if more value was placed on the wampum ideal.  In the meantime, I'll keep rescuing lace.

Saturday, June 11, 2016


I have a tornado story, but I don't really feel like talking about it.  Is it relevant?  The tornado that I spend quite a bit of time thinking about is the upcoming Republican convention which will be hosted in Cleveland next month.

Clevelanders are both hopeful for Republican convention chaos and fearful things will happen to embarrasses our reputation.  We're still suffering from the Cuyahoga River catching fire in the 1970s when we became the butt of jokes for decades.  Our dream come true would be for the Republicans to be the only idiots in play against the backdrop of our historic city, bucolic suburbs, thriving businesses, and beautiful parks.

Cleveland will vote Democrat in November.  Greater Cleveland which is the surrounding suburban counties, will be hotly contested.  That's why the Republicans are coming.  There are people I know and love who enthusiastically support Trump.  (?!)  Can I remind them that Cleveland was called "The Mistake by the Lake" because unbridled greed killed our ecosystem?  Cleveland is the reason the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exists.

We have racial demonstrations and conflicts without conventions.  Something unpleasant will probably happen in July despite the regular reassurances on the nightly news that the police have everything in hand.  I don't think I'm the only one who's cringing at the coming storm.

I don't know anyone who will be in Cleveland during the convention.  I'm almost certain no one I know will be interviewed for "man/woman on the street" interviews and that whatever tv shows you about my home will be skewed in significant ways.  All I'm asking is that you blame the tornado on the visitors instead of the natives.

As for the real weather tornado, I was happily playing on my grandparents’ living room floor when Grandpa came in and hurried my sisters and I to the basement while Grandma threw windows open in a rush so the glass wouldn’t break in the tornado.

We waited and waited in the basement… and then we started hearing a strange noise.  It got louder.  It really did sound like a train was going to run over Grandma’s house.  There was a wild few moments when things that didn’t normally flutter fluttered around, and then the train moved off and the sun came back and we went back upstairs.

The next day, Grandpa walked us around the neighborhood.  There were mangled trees and houses, and a street sign had flown sideways several inches into a large tree’s trunk.  I started to understand Dorothy getting blown to Oz.

I used to watch water spouts on Lake Erie, but water-bound tornados don’t really do anything other than suck up fish.  The first one I saw got me all rattled and perturbed though.  I was driving along the lake with my little brothers and the water spout was enormous and close to land.  I ran into the building with the boys and told the security guard about it.  He just laughed at me.  No big deal to old-timers.

Maybe the convention will just be a water spout?

Sunday, June 5, 2016


I buried my face in a magenta peony, inhaled, and exhaled disappointment.  It had less scent than paper.  I almost didn't bother with the white peonies, but I paused to dip my nose to a flower and sniffed.  Heaven!  I buried my whole face in the blossom, silky petals caressing my face.  Time stopped as long as I was with the peonies.  They take me back to childhood with one whiff and the sound of a bumblebee.

Sometimes I think it's impossible to explain why the Glen where I grew up was a different kind of place.  There was a luxury of living by extremely wealthy people while Mom yelled about not having enough money to give Kool-Aid to the neighbors.  I've written about being lonely in the woods, but maybe not much about walking alongside a billionaire's golf cart as we inspected his peonies?

Since I didn't have kids to play with, I hung out with old people.  I drank tea and ate cookies with widows.  I decided early on that extreme wealth is a lonely business and I didn't want that much money, or I'd never tell anyone if I got it.  (The older I get, the more I'm leaning toward the latter.)

The old people got me as I came, which was generally a bit muddy.  Yet, they let me sit on their Louis the something chairs and draped dainty lace napkins on my lap.  I never ate more than 2 cookies because I learned that more than 2 was gauche.  Pretending to be wealthy-compatible demanded a lot of restraint.

I'd go home, catch dinner, clean fish, weed the garden, wash dishes, etc., etc., etc. and feel somewhat glad that I grew up more regular than the widows who probably never wiggled their toes in river mud.  The old man with the golf cart talked about "his" peonies, and how he had planned his garden, but admitted that he'd never planted anything himself.  He had a "man" who took care of the dirty work.  That man rolled his eyes behind the millionaire's back.

This week I read Cleveland in the Gilded Age.  I learned the Rockefellers had a summer estate at the end of my current street.  From the mid 1800s through the mid 1900s, Cleveland had more millionaires than anywhere else.  It shows in beautiful old buildings, a world-renowned orchestra, art museum, Cleveland Clinic, and thousands of other ways.  Where I grew up was right by their summer estates.

I feel fortunate to enjoy the beauty the millionaires created -- and often feel more fortunate than them for being able to actually live in the world with regular people where people either like me or not based on who I am instead of what they might get out of me.  A billionaire once sniffed about his best friend who always had his hand out.  "But he's a millionaire!" I said.  "Yeah, but not very many millions, and he always expects me to pay" he answered.  This same billionaire was proud of his pre-nup that basically bought his young wife's commitment for his lifetime.  That's a lonely life.

I smelled the peonies and felt happy.  I read the book, and felt glad to be me instead of them.  I think about current events and wonder about our m/billionaire politicians and can only hope for the best while remembering that those kinds of people can't even respect their friends so how can they respect the rest of us?