Friday, January 29, 2010

More Skiing

Leon and Aliou particularly enjoy skiing backwards.

Clare wanted to be part of the action and paid close attention to how Mary Autumn rose to her feet after a fall, i.e with Dearma's help.

The power of the snowplow.

Ski Party

Spectacular weather on the heels of the great snowfall last week, made for one terrific skiing birthday party at Dodge Ridge. Everyone was in high spirits, eager and cooperative, which made equipping 7 Tippett kids and a Harrelson a quick and easy task.

The four younger boys --Athan, Leon, Aliou and cousin Kyle-- took a 2-hour lesson in the morning which made them ALL ski-worthy in no time. Meanwhile, Michael skied first with Mary Autumn and then with his older children--August, Anna Mae, and Gianna as well as some of the Little Red Schoolhouse contingency who were on the hill yesterday. Back at the lodge, JL, Cindy, and I got the birthday party ready on the deck in the beautiful sunshine. Clare poked around entertaining folks who were coming and going with a congenial "Hi!" Cindy snapped pictures of anyone we spotted skiing on nearby hills using her long range lens.

Soon a bunch of hungry kids started trickling in. Once they were fed, we sang happy birthday to first Leon and then Aliou, who wore their birthday crowns with pride and clearly enjoyed having a ski trip birthday.

Papa and August were tardy to the party, but just in time for Mama to don Papa's ski pants and equipment and take off skiing with the children who were rushing from the deck party to get back on the slopes. Once suited up, JL headed for the rope tow and then skied across to Chair 2 with Athan and the rest of boys. A fifteen year lapse since she last skied had not cramped her style one bit. She shushed right into the swing of things. After a zig-zagging decent down Chair 2 with Athan, she met August and Anna Mae in line at Chair 3 with Leon and Aliou following and begging to go to. "Sure," she said and soon half of the Tippett family was settled in swinging chairs to climb the face of the mountain. We didn't see them again for over an hour. (If you click on the pictures below, you can see JL and Athan crossing the hill, and five Tippetts in two chairs--Mae & Aliou in the 1st chair, JL, August, & Leon in the 2nd.)

This prefect mid-week ski excursion and the ease with which my daughter took to the slopes made me think I could ski again. Uncle John, are you there? Can you get Dearma back on the hill?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Prose Poem

During our recent redecoration of the guest bathroom, the toilet sat in the living room for several days, calling to mind Russell Edson's prose poem, "With Sincerest Regrets."

Like a white snail the toilet slides into the living room demanding to be loved.
It is impossible, and we tender our sincerest regrets.
In the book of the heart there is no mention made of plumbing.
And though we have spent our intimacy many times with you, you belong to an unfortunate reference, which we would rather not embrace . . .
The toilet slides out of the living room like a white snail, flushing with grief . . .

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Plenty of Time

When I volunteered to drive Huck and Nell to the Oakland airport, I allowed myself plenty of time to get there for the 1:30 pm check-in. After dropping a work project off at the Junction, I made my way up Phoenix Lake Road, driving first through rain, then sleet, and finally softly falling snowflakes. My Subaru negotiated Belleview Road fine. Culley loaded the kids and their baggage in the car, and we were on our way before 9am

Huck and Nell are veteran travelers and great in the car. They took turns listening to stories on the iPod. Huck skillfully set up the story that Nell wanted to hear when it was her turn. The child who was not listening chatted with me. We got to Tracy where we made a pit stop. We all used the rest room and stretched our legs before getting back in the car for the last leg of the journey. It was 10:30.

As we came down off the Altamont Pass, traffic slowed to a crawl and then to a complete standstill. About that time, I got a text from Andrea, saying she was on BART after taxiing around SFO for an hour, but she was sure she would be in Oakland on time. I texted back that we were stuck in traffic in Livermore.

Forty-five minutes later, we had gone less than a mile, so I called Cindy and asked her to see if she could find out what was going on. Using the Internet, she discovered that a big rig had overturned near Livermore, effectively closing all four lanes. The advice was to take an alternate route. But how could I do that when there weren't any off ramps and I was surrounded by green hills where cows were peacefully grazing oblivious to my plight? Every time one of the lanes started moving, Nell suggested, "Why don't you get in that line, Dearma?" The kids made a game of shouting at the trucks and cars to get moving, and though it didn't work, it was entertaining.

At 1pm, we finally crawled past the scattered debris from the big rig, plus a burnt out hull of a van and gathered speed. It was raining pretty hard and I needed a rest-room again, but time was of the essence. I drove fast (for me). By the time I hit 880, it was imperative that I stop for a bathroom. I took the first exit, saying, "I have to go to the bathroom. I'm feeling sick!"

"How can you get sick because you have to go to the bathroom?" asked Huck.

Good question! But my legs were trembling violently and I had a raging headache. I was sick! Maybe toxins were leaking back into my blood stream from my kidneys. I don't know. I just had to get to a bathroom. "Look for a restroom, you guys," I said.

"Try that dress shop, Dearma," said Huck. I pulled into a parking place and waddled into the store, but the clerk was immune to my desperation and directed me across the shopping center parking lot to a Starbucks.

When I got back in the car, Huck said, "That's weird. People always have bathrooms where they work."

At Starbucks, I begged to go in front of a woman who just going into the bathroom, and she graciously let me. While I was relieving my bladder, Andrea called. I told her what was happening and said I thought I was close to the Airport. I left the bathroom still buttoning my pants and ran for the car on firm legs, the headache GONE!

"Now I have to get back on the freeway," I said as I started the car.

"It's that way," said Huck helpfully, pointing back the way we'd come.

I could only turn right out of the parking lot, which was the wrong way, so I immediately flipped a U-turn around a cement divider and sailed into a left turn lane squeaking through the signal as it turned red.

"Now you have to go that way," said Nell pointing right. She knew what she was talking about because a half block later there was a sign for the on-ramp to the freeway. I thought the Airport exit was coming up, but I had not seen any signs yet. Then suddenly there it was: "Oakland International Airport-1 mile."

"Put all your stuff in your bags, kids," I directed. "And grab your coats. When we get there, Mommy is going to get you out and you will have to run to catch the plane."

I drove the Airport ingress road at 70 miles an hour through the pouring rain, scanning signs for Terminal 1- United. "Look for your mommy," I shouted.

"There she is," yelled Huck!

I pulled over and leaped out to get the luggage from the back as Andrea got the kids. "Can you wait and see if we make it?" she asked.

"Yes," I said as they disappeared through the door, Nell running as fast as she could while hiking up her drooping jeans.

That's when I remembered that the kids' passports were in my coat pocket. I yanked on the passenger door. Locked! I ran around to the driver's side, reached across and pulled them from my coat and ran after Andrea, leaving the car running, lights on and windshield wipers slapping. I could see her half way up the sloping runway on her way to the security station. I yelled, "Andrea! Andrea!" She heard me on the second call, and I waved the passports. We ran toward each other. I passed them off and then turned and ran back to my car, where a green and black vested parking Nazi stood frowning at my car. I got in, my heart pounding and breath ragged, and pulled away as the attendant honked her obnoxious horn at me.

I drove the departure circle 3 times at a leisurely pace, scanning the United door each time I passed. As I came around the fourth time, my phone chimed. "We made it!" read the text message.

A big smile! I moved over to the freeway access lanes, and as I left the airport, a second chime came through. "Thanks, Mom!" wrote Culley.

Can I just say that Huck and Nell are simply amazing: cooperative, patient, helpful, and smart. I will always have plenty of time for them.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Storm: January 2010

Two power failures in as many days. The second of two storms rushing in over New Melones Reservoir and two more forecast as coming this way. Radio says this is the most rain in a one week period since 2005.

A ski trip planned for 4 grand-kids canceled due to high winds at Dodge Ridge. Hail so big and intense we thought the metal awnings would be scarred for life. Two cats, who are totally insane whenever it rains, giving us all kinds of grief. A rush of water pouring in over the kitchen window, causing paint to pucker and sag.

But we are nevertheless grateful to get a good deal of water on our parched state and some beautiful photographs on Cindy's camera.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


After watching Andrea knit several gifts for people, including cute little socks for Juniper, I was inspired to learn to knit. I inquired about classes at the local yarn shop, By Hand Yarn, and learned that an ultra beginner class was being offered the second Saturday in January. After writing "Learn to Knit" on my 2010 goals, I emailed Anna Mae to see if she wanted to go with me. I hate going new places by myself and knew that Anna Mae is generally eager to try anything new, so I thought she would make a good companion. She emailed back in a matter of minutes, saying, "Yes!" So I signed us up.

We got there more than an half hour early, and it was a good thing because the teacher said it was the largest beginner class she had ever taught. I guess others made learning to knit a new year's resolution too. Our teacher Candice helped us select yarn and needles. We took our seats at the table, and she cast on the first row for us and then quickly showed us how to do the basic knit stitch. By the time other members of the class arrived, we were already knitting a second row.

Anna Mae zoomed along, knitting a loose relaxed stitch and chatting with the other women at our table. Meanwhile, I sat in deep concentration knitting tight, uniformed stitches that I counted at the end of each row to ensure that I still had the requisite 25 stitches. The teacher stopped by periodically to offer encouragement and suggestions. By the end of class, we were both immensely satisfied with our progress and envisioning future projects. I saw myself making 30 or 40 scarves, and Anna Mae was already in the throes of designing knit dresses for Clare and herself.

Time will tell how we do, but I can happily report that I sat knitting before bed last night, while my tea steeped this morning, and also later in the car when I got to meditation before the hall was unlocked. I'm making headway with my little scarf and getting a tad bit more relaxed with my stitch. Maybe someday I'll look and feel the part of a knitting grandmother

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Getting back to homeschool this week after the seasonal break underscored the simple pleasures in this occupation. How many grandmother/tutors have the privilege of enjoying:

  • a seven-year-old gnawing a chicken leg at second breakfast while doing phonogram drills?
  • the burgeoning vocabulary of 18-month-old, sitting happily at the schoolroom table repeating sounds and words from her older brother's phonics lesson as she marks a paper with her pencil?
  • a fashion show-- in between geography and Latin lessons--of the new clothes a grand-daughter acquired at Plato's over the weekend?
  • the song of parakeets joining the conversations and questions regarding various and disparate lessons: "Dearma, how do you make an uppercase cursive K?" "Dearma, do you know about librevox?" "Dearma, remember those maze books you used to bring?" "Dearma, what am I supposed to do here? Translate the Latin to English or change the person?"
  • the Ah Ha of a child who suddenly sees/hears the relationship between 2 sounds?
  • the careful and deliberate penmanship of a 4th grader mastering cursive?
  • a phone call from a 9th grader making a date for help with a research paper?
  • that same 9th grader remembering the Citation Machine used in a previous lesson, more than year before, to construct a bibliography?
. . . all of this against a constant backdrop of joyful noise: children clamoring to tell about a recent event in their lives.

My life's work has been entrenched in the laboratory of learning and homeschool is a glorious opportunity to continue doing something I love.

Friday, January 8, 2010


We interrupted our routine at Wallys to go hopping. At least that's what Cindy called it. First, we hopped among stores: trying on clothes at Marshalls, purusing the Dollar Store, choosing new shower curtain and towels at Bed, Bath & Beyond for the bathroom Becky is painting while we are gone; and going to Penney's which carries our favorite underwear brand (since the closing of Mervyns and Gottschalks at home, we had been able to replace the ratty things accumulating in our drawers).

Then we went for a late lunch at Applebee's. From there we hopped to the movie theater for an early show: Invictus. The last time we came to Wally's, we saw Morgan Freeman in The Bucket List. We were happy to see him again this time. He made a superb Nelson Mandella. The movie was wonderful in weepy, happy kind of way.

Then we hopped back the Applebees for dessert. Chocolate Lava Cake! Our FAVE!! While we were there we decided to go back to the theater to see The Blind Side. It was a cute movie with a parallel theme to Invictus and also based on a true story.

On the way back to Wally's, we talked about how popular true stories are in the movies these days, just like non-fiction books and I guess reality TV. We also realized it was the first time either of us had done a double feature at the theater in a VERY long time.

Vacations offer lots of room for spontaneous hopping from place to place. FUN for sure!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

How We Play

We have fallen into a sweet little routine over here in Nevada. I get up early each morning and go for a long walk before heading to water aerobics while Cindy sleeps in. After breakfast, we do a little sightseeing in the nearby town of Genoa or over in Minden. We come back to the condo for lunch, after which I take a nap and Cindy goes to one of the small local casinos. (Lady Luck accompanies her; once again she's won enough to pay for our vacation.) After my nap, I do some writing until she comes back and we fix dinner. Our evenings have two parts. First, we work on a memorial project that we are doing for Ashley. Then we click on our little gas fireplace and curl up to read for a few hours. After I fall asleep, Cindy has a little bowl of ice cream and checks her email.

The next day it starts all over.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

High Desert

Being on the high desert east of the Sierra in January is a sensual feast: the quiet, the ever changing light, the cold crisp air, the soft wash of color, the texture of brush and bare-limbed trees, the steaming hot springs, the sulphur- laden air, the bird-filled marsh, and a nearly full moon. I'm taking it all in, filling my spirit with beauty and peace.

Walking. Writing. Reading. Resting.

Surely absorbing such beauty will buffer my immune system and ready me for the rest of my life.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

There is more to the season . . .

For many years, I struggled with the commercialism around Christmas, wishing I could find a way to circumvent the hype and overspending. Instead of improving the situation, I found that my angst about it seemed to make me at best a reluctant participant and at worst a grouch, bordering on curmudgeon.

But this year something shifted. Maybe it's been coming on for years under the influence of Cindy who loves Christmas and who I now see grasped a deeper meaning than I could muster. She loves to GIVE! And she loves to spend time with friends and family. For some reason, I fully absorbed her attitude this year, and we have enjoyed a full month of "Christmas" --wonderful times with family and the deep satisfaction of giving--not only carefully conceived and chosen gifts, but also homebaked cookies and lots of hugs.

This year, I enjoyed my grandchildren's anticipation and pleasure upon opening their gifts at our party. I enjoyed sharing a meal with friends. I enjoyed watching Cindy's delight in spending time with her family, especially her parents. I truly enjoyed the sight of her handing out gifts in her new Tweety pajamas and plaid scarf on Christmas morning, and I enjoyed the bedlam in the afternoon when everyone was passing out and opening gifts.

And I admit, I enjoyed receiving too. When you wish for something and then open a package and the wished for thing sits in your hands! WHOA! It does feel GREAT!

I get it! That's what the giving part of the season is about: fullfilling wishes and witnessing pleasure.