This Old House

In the late 1960s, a couple with 2 young children bought their first house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

the house

There were small trees in the back yard that grew and grew…

back yardThe trees shaded the house and the garden.  The children played beneath the trees, and the mother and father planted flowers in the garden so that they could sit outside and enjoy their color and fragrance.

gardenThe children grew, too, fed at the kitchen table.

kitchen tableThey grew tall and strong…

stairway…and enjoyed their own place to dream and read and learn.

Steve's roomAs time went on, the children grew to adults and moved away from the house.  The couple lived there still, and grew older together.  Then the father died, and the mother lived there alone.  Finally, she decided to sell the little home to another young family with small children…and a baby on the way.  So she and her grown-up son said ‘good-bye’ to the place together.

Steve & MomThank you, little house, for sheltering this family.  Thank you, trees and garden, for living and growing with them.  May you continue to shelter and live and grow with the new family, in peace.

Christmas Day 2013

Thank you, blog followers, for counting the days with me and considering the many gifts that we receive in life. 

May we be filled with gratitude;

may our gratitude transform our spirits;

may all beings be happy. 

From icy Milwaukee, I wish you peace!

christmas eve

And to close, I simply must share my favorite Flash Mob scene of all time, from the 1970 movie musical “Scrooge”.  I cry happy tears every time I see it and find myself dancing and singing along.  Please click on this link and Enjoy!  I was 8 years old when my father took me to see it in a theater.  When we emerged, a beautiful light snow was falling on the Chicago streets.  Years later, my youngest daughter was cast in a production of this delightful (and musically superb!) show, and Jim and I helped prepare the chorus in rehearsal.  I also got to conduct the band from the orchestra pit for every show, and it was one of the most thrilling experiences I’ve had.  Imagine me waving my arms enthusiastically, caught up in the joy of “Thank You Very Much”.  Thank you all for supporting my blogging efforts over the years.  Your company is a great privilege!

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Day in My Life

This week’s photo challenge, A Day in My Life, is a great opportunity for me to tell my readers about my New JOB!  I have completed two days of training at Discovery World in Milwaukee, and although I haven’t taken any of my own pictures, you can see some on their website.  In addition to my job in Guest Services at this museum, I will also begin working two days a week at Old World Wisconsin at the end of next month as a Costumed Historic Interpreter.  This means that I get to do weekly time travel, from the 19th Century into the Future, and talk to folks of all ages about how things work, how we work, what we do with what we know, and what wonderful things are all around us!  I think it’s pretty cool that someone’s willing to pay me to do that.  And when I get home, I photograph, describe, list and sell all kinds of old and new stuff on eBay.  

Favorite elements of my new job: hearing the screech of seagulls on the Lake, matching my breathing to the pace of fish in the aquarium (ever notice how flying ducks are always in a hurry and fish rarely seem to be?), watching a 5-yr-old stroke a Pencil Urchin with 2 small fingers, and seeing a kid’s face light up when he lands his plane in the Flight Simulator.  I am looking forward to getting a deck tour and cruise on the SV Denis Sullivan when the ship returns from the Caribbean and taking in a film at the outside amphitheater at dusk during the summer.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lunchtime

This week’s challenge is about a universal favorite: FOOD!  I grew up in a family that was highly educated about and highly appreciative of food.  My family was started in Massachusetts, moved to Chicago and then to California.  Regional ethnic influences were explored and absorbed with gusto.  Last night, as Steve & I enjoyed dinner at our local sushi bar, we got to talking about our personal culinary histories.  Steve adamantly refused to eat anything but hot dogs, potatoes and asparagus until he was 16.  Then, on a trip to New England, he actually tried fresh fish and realized that he was missing a world of wonderful taste.  You can get lost in a food wasteland, if you’re not adventurous, in the Midwest.  But there are plenty of opportunities to branch out. 

Last year, on St. Patrick’s Day, we ventured into the city to see what kind of shenanigans we could witness.  We had lunch at one of Steve’s favorite places: Beans & Barley.  I love it immediately for its California vibe.  Here’s a picture of my portabello and gorgonzola and roasted red pepper sandwich with curried potato salad:


And the beer?  New Glarus Spotted Cow.  The best in Wisconsin micro brews, IMHO.  And you can’t buy it in Illinois.  Oh, but that’s not all!  DESSERT!


The cafe has a deli and market attached, were you can find a variety of locally made sauces, mustards, natural soaps, and ART!


Yes, indeed, ladies & gentlemen!  Step right up to the Art-o-Matic vending machine, insert your token, make your selection, pull the knob, and PRESTO!  A cigarette-pack-sized piece of genuine, handmade ART will plop into the tray!  Decoupage, graphic, random, actual ART.  Really, isn’t this a cool idea?  Get your local cafe to install one TODAY!  All your neighborhood artists will want to supply stock for it.  I think it’s brilliant.  

This year, on St. Patty’s Day, we’re invited to the Finnegan’s house (Steve’s sister’s) for garam masala corned beef & aloo gobi, naan, chutney and Chai spiced rice pudding.  See, living in Wisconsin need not be bland!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Resolved

When Steve asked me on Sunday if I’d made New Year’s resolutions yet, I grumbled at him, “I don’t jump on that bandwagon.”  I had a sore throat that turned into a head cold and was definitely sending out the “leave me alone!” vibe.  I make resolutions to do better every single day of my life, and it often becomes an exercise in self-flagellation.  Someone I admire does this kind of thing much better than I do: visit her New Year’s post here. (plugging my daughter’s blog – I typed ‘blugging’ first; suppose I can coin a new word?)  

Actually, Steve and I had spent quite a bit of time last week discussing and deciding on goals for this new year.  We call it “pointing our canoe”.  One of the things I put on my list was to submit something to a publisher every month of this year.  Another thing on our mutual list was to plan a weekly field trip to learn and research and engage in our love of the land (land ethics, land management, environmental education) and to get outside every day for a walk.  I skipped the first two days of this year with a head cold, but I’ve managed in the last couple of days to walk to the car repair shop, the grocery store, the bank, and the cafe where we breakfast with his mom.  Now, this might not sound like a big accomplishment, but let me add one bit of info – I live in Milwaukee.  And this is what is forming outside my upstairs window:

tri cicle

That, my dear readers, is a tri-cicle (three-pronged icicle; just coined another word – where do I collect?) photographed through the screened window.  The center section of this bad boy is about 4 feet long now.   This is what outside is like here, and this is where I want to be every day.  I don’t want to make it more comfortable, I don’t want to avoid it.  My resolution is all about facing the world as it is and appreciating its wonder as a thing that I don’t comprehend or control.

If I Had Wings…

Flight.  In my dreams, this is how I move about…

This is how it feels to navigate construction in Milwaukee just before the freezing temps come and shut down the projects…

And this is sometimes how I see myself…small, at home, soaking up the warmth, sheltered and bright, but poised to fly!

Appreciating Milwaukee

Here it is, March in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Some unknown and perhaps magical forces have transformed this place into a balmy paradise.  It is 81 degrees F outside, flowers are blooming, trees are sprouting leaves, and chipmunks are cavorting around the forest floor.  I am appreciating it.  Last year was a very different story.  We had a blizzard at the very end of January, and snow fell into April.  The last two months of snow in a winter that can sometimes take up half the year can be very trying on a person’s patience.  Especially if that person lived in California for 15 years and got rather attached to sunshine and greenery!  So, what is there to do in Milwaukee when the weather is nice?  So glad you asked!

Steve used to live on the East Side of Milwaukee, which is kind of an East San Francisco.  Well, a little bit, anyway.  There are lakefront parks, beautiful old buildings, college students from the University, and a smattering of the nature freak/hippie vibe.  On St. Patrick’s Day, we headed to his old neighborhood to take in some of this atmosphere, which was augmented by people parading about in green beads with plastic tumblers of beer, enjoying the unseasonably comfortable weather on a Saturday devoted to pub crawling.  It made people-watching that much more interesting. 

We ate a late afternoon meal at Beans & Barley, which features a deli and market as well as a vegan-friendly cafe with a huge selection of tea.  I had a grilled balsamic Portobello mushroom sandwich with red peppers and bleu cheese, accompanied by a fantastic curry potato salad and a bottle of New Glarus Spotted Cow beer.  Steve had a black bean burrito with some very spicy salsa, an entree that is approaching “landmark status” since its debut in 1979.  We shared a piece of their “killer chocolate cake” for dessert.

After I was satisfied that every bit of frosting had been thoroughly licked up, we headed over to the deli and market to take stock of their offerings.  It was there that I found this most delightful treasure: it’s an old cigarette vending machine that now provides the customer with a genuine work of art for the price of one token.  All of the Art-0-mat items are the size and shape of a pack of cigs, and decorated in a variety of different ways, by different artists.  Examples are installed on the front of the machine. 

Here is a close up of one example:

I simply love this idea!  I’ve never seen anything like it before.  It’s hip, it’s visual, it’s smoke-free.  These should be everywhere, supporting artists in every community. 

I’m feeling young, artsy, and energized.  We take a walk down to the lighthouse station.  I do a portrait of Steve that I think would look good on the back of a book he will write some day.

I’m having fun discovering something wonderful every day, no matter where I am.  This is how I want to keep myself well and happy for the rest of my life.  A few weeks ago, Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ben Merens did a show on wellness that featured an interview with a personal life coach named Colleen Hickman.  Steve likes to call into this radio station when the topic moves him, and he called in to add to this discussion.  He had two things to share.  First, he said that his partner (me!) was very good at appreciating things, and then he said that his contribution to our positive relationship is that he doesn’t think of life as a problem to be solved or a commodity to be evaluated.  It is something of which to be constantly aware, though.   After he hung up, Ms. Hickman says, “Steve is certainly one of the lights we have in the world.”  That makes me chuckle because it sounds so “media”, but I have to agree.  If you want to hear the broadcast, here’s the link; just scroll down to the Friday, March 2, 5:00pm broadcast and click the Windows Media Player or MP3 icon to the right.  Steve’s call is 17:30 into the program.

What a wonderful world!  Even in Wisconsin in March!