Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

happy new year!

Did you know that it's not New Year's Eve everywhere? When we were in Ethiopia, I was surprised to see the big "2000" planted in the Project Mercy compound, and to learn that they operate on a completely different calendar than we do here. Who knew? Based on the Coptic Calendar, it has twelve 30-day months, and a thirteenth month of 5 days. It's currently 2001 there, and won't be 2002 until September 11th, which is the start of their new year, except in leap years when it falls on September 12th.

The clocks are different too. There are 24 hours in a day, but with a six-hour shift, and the days starting at 6AM. I never did really wrap my head around all this, and within the compound both forms of timekeeping are used.

I wonder... are we younger when we go to Ethiopia? On a quantum level, are we time-traveling in a bigger way than just flying through space and time zones? Hmmm...

Anyway, here we are at least in most places, on the last day of 2008. This was not an easy year for many of us, but it was also big in a lot of ways. Gratitude is in order here in our house, as we wave "bye-bye and don't let the door hit you in the you-know-what as you leave." I don't know about you, but I'm ready for a fresh start. I just love the promise of a shiny new year.

Rick and I are staying home tonight. We have food and champagne and plenty of firewood. We think we'll get a big jigsaw puzzle to work on, even though I generally find them annoying. Rick likes them. And I like to walk by, drop one piece into place, and be on my way... We'll also keep with our little "Mary Poppins Tradition" of writing our hopes and wishes for the New Year on sheets of paper, and then burning them in the fireplace, sending them out to the Universe. It worked for Jane and Michael. You never know. Besides, rituals are good for us. They keep us present. And after all, the Present is most certainly a Gift...

So here's wishing you a fabulous celebration tonight. Have fun, be safe, and I'll see you Next Year! May 2009 be a year filled with Love, Light, Hope, Health, Peace, Understanding, and Presence...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

two cool things

There's not a lot going on with me right now. I don't mind. This is a good week to rest and plan and look around me to see what's out there. But I'm really enjoying the fact that my son, Danny, is in Germany, visiting his friend Cliff, who's there in the military. The first Christmas I ever spent away from family was back when I was 19, and I just happened to be in Germany too. I like the connection, and I also like the ability to connect we have now, that was missing then. Email, instant messaging, and phones make it easy for my kid to keep me up on what he's doing, and also keep him from feeling too far from home. We talked for a long time this morning, and I spent a lot of time looking through his pictures on Facebook. The world has changed a lot, but Germany still looks the same.

Here's Danny, with friends Jason and Cliff, who are both in the military. Jason just got back from Africa, and Cliff, who is a pilot, has to make a quick trip to Afghanistan in a few days. What a busy bunch of guys. This was the night they went to the Hoffbrau Haus in Munich. There aren't a lot of pictures after this, because Danny dropped his camera in his very big beer that night. It could happen to anyone. Probably happens all the time there...

Cool Thing Number Two - I've been published again. That's always fun. I have a simple how-to on CZs in the current issue of Glassline Magazine. Not a huge big deal, but still, published is published.

I guess that about covers it for now. Sorry to be so ho-hum. I'm not bored, but I am very relaxed. Hope you're enjoying this last little smidge of 2008. It was a hard year for me, but no hard feelings. In a couple of days, we get to start again.

Friday, December 26, 2008

waiting for daylight

I think it's pretty ironic, in a Louise Hay sort of way, that the day after I said - I have nothing to say, I caught a cold and lost my voice... I've been taking it easy, listening more than talking, resting a little bit, and working a little bit, but only on new things that interest me. I have no idea if anyone will want anything I'm making. I'll find out soon enough.

I've been wondering what it might be like to work at Walmart, and to never ever buy anything there. Take the minimum wage and "back-door it" every night, as we used to say at Harrah's. Did you know that one of my many careers was as a cocktail waitress at Harrah's Tahoe? True story. For eight years. Lots of sub-plots to go along with that one, but the point here is, lots of people who worked the clubs would hang out after work, spending money, and sometime entire paychecks, at the bars and tables. To "back-door it" meant to literally head out the back door, past the loading dock, and straight to the parking lot and home. I hated that job for the most part. These days, when I ponder the worst that could happen, I think it would be a job at Walmart, where I've refused to shop for the last three years. If it comes to that, I sure hope they have a back door.

But this is a week for rest and festivity and openness to inspiration. I'm up at 5AM, the day after a lovely little Christmas, listening to the wind howl as it tosses another storm our way, and waiting for daylight. The metaphor is clear. Lots of people are waiting for daylight these days, and lots of storms will still blow in while we wait.

While the snow dances outside, we're fortunate enough to keep warm inside - in our houses, in our selves. We had just the small and meaningful Christmas we were hoping for. Karena came to stay here for a few days, feeling literally buried in snow out at her earthship. So we started the party on Christmas Eve Eve, as we used to call it when we were kids. Rather than blather on about every little detail of our holiday celebration, I'll just say it was wonderful, and still is actually. It's cold and stormy outside, but in here it's warm and filled with light. There's only a small cast of characters this year - Rick and me, the dogs, Karena, Julia, and Deborah & Thomas. This year the emphasis was less on gifts and more on just being together. We traded presents for presence, and I have to say, it was a good trade. I will mention one particularly wonderful gift though, and that's the poetry book that Thomas wrote, printed, and constructed for family and friends. It's called "Women & Other Dreams", and it's so perfectly beautiful in every way, filled with poems and photographs and heart. Great heart.

So, here's a little slide show. You can figure out things like snow and walks and silly girl time with nail polish. Hmmm... maybe I won't have to work at Walmart. Maybe I'll start a new career as a manicurist. Anyway, Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, Peace, Love, and Light. The last week of the year is always kind of nice I think. Enjoy it. Look back. Look forward. And then sit right where you are and be in that place. If it seems too dark, don't worry. Daylight will come again.

Friday, December 19, 2008

slinging hams

I'm struggling a little bit with What Am I Supposed To Do Now?........ I really believe that when we begin to feel lost or pitiful in any way, the best thing to do is to do something for somebody else. So yesterday I volunteered at the annual Taos Feeds Taos big day of food distribution at the National Guard Armory. Every town has something like this. I recommend spending a few hours or even a whole day making sure someone else gets fed. It will feed you too.

I spent a good part of my time there slinging hams into shopping carts - an odd job to give to the only vegetarian in the room...

But once the marching band started to play, I kind of got into it... Did you know that hams make wonderful dance partners? They also make terrific little drums.

The Guard Guys were great, as were the volunteers from the high school and the community. There we all were - cheerleaders, soldiers, artists, and real estate agents, all slinging hams, hoisting boxes, and pushing shopping carts through the snow like one big happy family. I wish I could do it every day.

After the food line slowed down, Deborah and I sorted out all the coats and toys that needed new homes. There's nothing like handing a fuzzy teddy bear to a little kid, or to a little old lady, and watching their faces turn instantly from serious to happy.

Later, I met up with some other good girl friends for a little get-together. Always fun, hanging with the girls. We are such an interesting group...

And so... another day, and still wondering what in the world to do. Maybe I'll make beads. It pays about as well as volunteer work these days, but still, it's what I do, and one of the things I love to do. Tonight we're going to a Christmas Sing-Along at the OBL. It's one of our favorite holiday events here, and we were lucky to get a table, thanks to Lauren, who pulled some strings for us.

If you don't hear much from me here for a few days, don't worry. I feel kind of talked out for now, but I'll be back as soon as I have something to say. Till then, Happy Holidays! Let's all go out there and make some magic.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

marshmallows from outer space

We had a lovely dinner at D&T's last night. (Thanks guys!) Full of good spaghetti and wine and a decadent chocolate dessert that could only be eaten directly from the baking pan, with ice cream, of course, we sat by the fire, talking, talking, talking. And then, more for show and tell than for eating, Deborah brought out a bag of gigantic marshmallows. I've never seen anything like these before. Huge, bulging marshmallows that looked like they might just keep growing and take over the world. Weird, alien marshmallows. And some of them were pink.

We decided to toast some. Everyone has their own preferred marshmallow toasting style, and Deborah stuck hers right into the fire, turning it black, blowing it out, and proclaiming it perfect. My own idea of marshmallow perfection is to toast it ever so slowly, preferably over a nice bed of coals, until it's evenly browned on all sides, and never, never, charred black. Call me picky. It's sort of like making a bead - take your time, keep it moving, be patient...

So I sat down on the floor with a big, pink skewered marshmallow and got to work. It looked like it was going to behave like a normal marshmallow, but nooooo... that thing kept growing and shifting until it looked more like a bagel than a marshmallow. I had to admit defeat before it fell off the poker, into the fire, but at least I managed to get a semi-nicely toasted crust on the outside. I pulled off a bite of it, just to prove it was wonderful, ignoring the fact that marshmallows are not a vegetarian food. And you know what? It was hideous! Horrible! Yuck Poo! I hollered, Quick! I need something to take this taste away! And Thomas, darling Thomas, immediately brought me a glass of whiskey. That's how bad that pink marshmallow was - only whiskey would suffice as an antidote.

It does not escape me that I've gone from talking about a life-changing humanitarian beadist mission to Ethiopia, to babbling about giant marshmallows. Maybe it's part of the re-entry process. Go from doing something that matters a lot, to doing things that make no difference in the world at all. A pendulum swing that eventually might go back to center and balance. And then again, who's to say that an evening spent with good friends, toasting marshmallows, sure, but also talking about Ethiopia and other life experiences, isn't as important as anything else we do. Who says? We do. And I'll tell you what. While I'd go back to Africa in a heartbeat, I also wouldn't trade an evening by the fire with D&T and those ridiculous marshmallows for anything.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


This is what I'm seeing from my perch at the dining room table this morning. See the little casita out there, behind the fireplace? I'm thinking of moving my studio out there. If we stay "stuck" here much longer, we'll consider turning my present studio into a rent-able little apartment. This place isn't paying for itself, but maybe it could help out a little bit. Besides, it might be nice to have a new view from the torch, and a short walk to work through the snow. I love the snow.

We decided not to decorate for Christmas this year. Not that we're mean old Humbugs. Not at all. We're enjoying the Dickens out of the season... It just seems like way too much effort to drag all those dusty boxes in from the shed, and drape all that stuff all over the house, just so we can take it down again in a couple of weeks. We're planning a very small Christmas this year, and two of the three kids won't even be here. Danny is going to Germany to visit a buddy in the military who's stationed there, and Lauren has just moved to Denver, and has plans there with a friend's family. Julia, at 27, is happy just to hang out with us, so we're pretty much off the hook as far as creating a Magical Holiday is concerned. Let it create itself. We did a terrific job last year, with a house full of family and dogs, and more darn merriment than one family deserves. This year, it all feels different. Not bad. Just different. We're embracing all the changes, all the chaos, all the uncertainty... nothing much to do but roll with it, and enjoy the ride, along with the view.

And when it comes to decorating, well, there are plenty of lights and sparkles and cheery scenes in Taos. All we have to do is take a quick drive into town. Taos is decorating herself today too. The snow is falling and drifting in layers like fluffy comforters, pillows, scarves, and veils. At night the moon lights it all up with that famous luster of mid-day, and when the sun comes out in another day or two, we'll take the snow shoes off the wall, and tromp out across the neighborhood to breathe it all in, to become part of where we are again.

We're still standing in two worlds - Ethiopia and Taos. I wonder how long it will take to bring all my attention back to where I sit now. I wonder if it will ever happen.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

moving forward

If you're just finding the Ethiopia blog, and want to read more, scroll back to 11-7-08, and read on from there. Or read it in any order. It really doesn't matter. Thanks for being here. Thanks for your comments. I like knowing I'm not just talking to myself!

I want to tell you a little more about the Bead Room - the studio - and the beadmakers I spent most of my days with. Many, many hours were spent there, teaching, coaching, encouraging, and getting to know those six beautiful young women. Again, here they are: Asnakech, Hana, Alfya, me, Denbele, Bzunesh, Tirunesh.

I felt like sort of a mom to them, sort of a friend. Dare I say, even sort of a mentor? I think if I had more time with them, they could do some really great things. Of course, they'll do great things anyway, because they are who they are. I'm just so pleased and honored to have had a little part in it all.

They were generous with their time and skills too. We had lots of visitors come through, just to say hi, and to see what we were up to, but usually we'd get them on the torch, making a bead of their own. Every time someone tries their hand at melting glass, they become even bigger admirers of the artists who do this for a living. We make it look a lot easier than it really is!

And this is the little Bead Room, much more magical on the inside than the outside.

Laurie Maves, an amazing artist who lives in Denver, and who was also there with the Cunningham Foundation, spent a late evening with the girls, painting big heart murals on the walls of the studio. They surprised me with it the next morning, and I just burst into happy tears. It looks so beautiful, and so inspiring for these growing artists.

I was confused for years about the who's who of all the different organizations involved. Project Mercy is the baby of Marta and Deme. It's based in Indiana, because that's where they were for a while, when they had to leave Ethiopia in the 70's, when the communists took over and their very lives were in danger. The Project Mercy compound is where we stayed. It became "home" to us because of all the lovely people there. The Cunningham Foundation is Noel and Tammy Cunningham of Denver. They do a lot of work to support Project Mercy, as well as other organizations, and we were there as their guests this trip, because of the HOPE Bracelet Project, which is one of their many fundraising efforts.

I started with the HOPE Bracelet Project about four years ago, initiating the Beadmaker Challenge as a way to bring in more donated beads for the project. What I finally got to see on this trip was how much we've actually been able to do with all those beads. It finally sunk in. Beads are changing lives. Beadmaking is becoming a worthwhile vocation for anyone who's interested in learning to do it, and the first big step for the HOPE Bracelet Project is the dorm for the kids. It was built entirely with funds from bracelet sales. This is the House That Beads Built...

It's not fancy, but it's clean, warm, dry, comfortable, and now has a live-in House Mom. The kids sleep in bunk beds, and each one has a small cupboard for their things.

This is one teenager's stuff. Not a lot, compared to our kids here in the states, but it's treated with a lot more respect, and every little thing has value.

Where to begin... where to end...
This will be the last of the Ethiopia Blogs. Of course it will come up in other contexts, probably for a very long time. But I think I've about exhausted the pictures and stories that are best for the internet. There's more to tell, of course, and if you come to my house, I'll probably blather on until you beg for mercy. When we travel, the places we go and the people we meet become part of who we are. I'm not the same as I ever was. I'm more myself than ever before...

This was a life changing adventure for both Rick and me, as I suspect it is for anyone who goes that far out of their comfort zone. Africa was never on my list of places I wanted to see. It was about the scariest place I could think of going, and the most foreign. Turns out I was right and wrong, mostly wrong, which so often happens. If I can go back, I will. The sooner the better. And if I can stay longer, I'll do that too. I sure didn't see this coming. Isn't life amazing?

What to do next? We really don't have a clear idea. We're bumping through the days, "waiting for further instructions", as usual. We've registered the "Milagro Network" as our very own, budding non-profit, which we'd been planning to do for a long time. Now we need to put it all together in a coherent package, build a website, and see where we feel drawn to help. The knitted bag project? New shoes for the Project Mercy kids? Equipment for the beadmakers? Something closer to home too? Yes to everything, I guess is the answer. Stay tuned. I know you'll be able to help!

Friday, December 12, 2008

take a hike

One of the outings we looked forward to most was a hike to the waterfall in the mountains near the compound. Much of the big group wanted to go, so we took six of the Ethiopian teenagers as guides, and set off one beautiful morning. We were warned repeatedly that it's a tough hike, about two hours to the falls, on rough terrain. Rick and I poo-poo'ed all that, since we were used to hiking here in Taos, at high altitude. Well... somebody should really be in charge of telling people the truth about this particular hike... It was brutal. I should not have done it. But I'm glad I did.

We started on the "flat" road outside the compound, walking with friendly farm animals. You have to watch where you step, for so many reasons...

After a slow and steady climb through the flat lands, we came to the edge of the forested part of the hike. I was already lagging far behind the rest of the group, but I'd planned to do that anyway. I don't love hiking in a herd, unless it's goats and donkeys. When I was a kid, my dad would take us hiking now and then, and it was always like a competition. I hate having to prove I'm rough and tough and can keep up with the big boys. I just like to be out there, taking my time, enjoying the scenery, taking pictures. So that's what I did here too. Rick and one of the kids usually hung back with me. The kids wanted to be sure they didn't lose an old firengee, and I think Rick liked not having to power up the mountain with the rest of them. We're just more leisurely hikers than most people... OK, and we're not in very good shape...

The views of the mountains and valleys were amazing. I could have stopped every ten steps just to take a fresh look. And because the path is really a "foot road" used by locals who live in the mountains, it winds through people's yards, connecting the community as far as you can see.

A lot of people farm up there, and we stopped to chat with this woman and her children, who were harvesting something - not sure what - and would later be making baskets.

This is my favorite picture from this day, and one of my favorites from the entire trip. I love this boy's beautiful, open face.

Local kids would follow along with us sometimes. At this rest stop, someone in our group pulled out a bag of balloons, a huge treat for kids who normally play with sticks and rocks.

But sticks and rocks are certainly more practical toys in this place... balloons have a pretty short life span with plants like this around...

Lots more climbing, lots more visiting, lots more resting...

The path turned from a narrow and slippery dirt path to unmarked piles of boulders. Goats hopped from rock to rock, mocking my clumsy struggle to make the finish line.

And finally, when I was about to give up and sit pouting on a rock by the stream, there it was. The waterfall...

OK, to be honest, I didn't really care much about the dang waterfall at this point. I was exhausted, and a little worried about how I was going to get my sorry self off that mountain. I'd already slipped and landed in the river up to my knees, so getting wet was no longer an issue. Staying on the "path" wouldn't matter much. I could just "creekwalk" down if I had to. I was a Girl Scout, after all. But after resting for a few minutes, I caught my breath, my knees stopped shaking, and I started to notice what was going on around me. Our group was mostly sitting on rocks, resting, drinking water, sharing snacks. Local teenagers scrambled up to where we were, stripped down to shorts, and jumped into the pool to shower in the waterfall, followed by a few of our own group. It did look refreshing.

There was a group of younger boys standing near me. They were there when I got there, and just seemed to be watching all of us. I suppose we were good for some sort of entertainment value. These kids were skinny and dirty as dirty can get, but with sweet faces, and a great curiosity about the "Larabars" I pulled out of my bag. I had several bars with me, being in Mom-mode that morning, and thinking some of the others might like a little snack at the falls. But once I took a good look at those kids, the rest of my group was on their own. Those boys looked hungry. The kind of hungry that never really goes away, even in the best of times. So, one by one, I opened my precious fruit-nut Larabars, and broke of pieces for each of them. They stayed close to me, hands out, mouths chewing, eyes smiling, until the last bite was gone.

I don't know, but I think the whole reason for me to go on that bleepin' hike was to meet those boys, and give them some food. It was enough for me. They followed us down a ways, showing us the easiest route to take, which I really appreciated. They left us eventually, but a little girl soon picked up where they'd left off, and walked with us the rest of the way down the mountain. She was on her way to the hospital, to buy some gauze bandages. Rick still had some almonds in his bag, so he shared the rest of them with her. She had him stop in front of a house - not her house - for a photo. I wonder if it was a house she hoped to live in one day... a Barbie Dream House compared to the mountainside tukle she probably shared with her family.

We left her at the hospital, and trudged along the last stretch of road, back to the compound. We'd been gone about six hours, and all I could think about was a shower, a beer and a nap.

As we walked down the road, all the kids in all the yards called out to us and waved. This little trio came out to the road for a closer look, and asked for "one camera", meaning "take our picture", so we obliged. They'll never know they made it to the World Wide Web, if they even know what that is. But aren't they beautiful? We can send them some long-distance love, and I know they'll feel it somehow...

I didn't get a beer that day, but I did get a shower, some Advil, and a rest. I hobbled around for a couple of days, and I'll never take that particular hike again. But really, I'm glad I didn't listen to the warnings this time. It was such a great day.