Monday, May 30, 2011

Our garden, a work in progress

After several years of neglect, we have really been working on the gardens this year, trying to make the yard look nice and finish projects in progress. I took some pictures today; there are some areas that are looking really good and some that need a lot more work.

Happy rose
 I'm very pleased that my roses are doing well. This one in particular is happy - on the northeast side of the house! It smells marvelous.

The area off the back patio is coming together nicely
 One area that needs some work is the shade garden. It has 'good bones' so it's just a matter of clearing out unwanted plants and making it pretty.

There's a bird bath hiding in there

Shade garden
 We have done some work the last few years to remove the invasive honey suckle from along the back fence. There is still much to do as a lot of weeds are growing there, including some chokeberry. Plus we need to remove the honeysuckle stumps. That's also where Chris's nemesis, poison ivy, tends to lurk.

Along the back fence

One of my favorite hidden treasures
 Currently I am working on clearing the grass from around some blue rug junipers I planted years ago along the driveway. We've mulched what is clear, but we still need to expand the line so they have room to grow.
Blue rug junipers
 We've been working on putting hardy water-tolerant plants in the front ditch. Because of the slope, it's not a fun area to mow so our goal is to fill it with plants. They need to tolerate a lot of water but also be hardy enough to not need watering. So, lots of day lilies, sedum, black eyed Susan, and periwinkle.

Front ditch
Another area we've been working on is the front 'island' where we have 2 redbud trees, 2 tulip poplars, native grass, 'ditch lilies', burning bush, peonies, and some bulbs.

Front island

Front island, from the other side
Then there's my 'rose garden', which is very sad. Even though it is on the south side of the house, the roses there aren't thriving as much as the backyard rose. They have also been neglected a bit, so we are starting to connect them into their own bed which will eventually expand to join the bed along the front of the house.
Rose garden

Old-fashioned rose

Bed along the front of the house
 There is a surprise in our back yard. He's been a good friend. One day I hope to build a bed around him, but that is for another year.

Our alien friend
We bought a rain barrel last year. Chris still needs to cut the gutter and hook it up. It would probably be full if we had gotten that done before April!

Rain barrel
 And because every garden should have one because he was a friend to animals:

St. Francis of Assisi 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Miss Scarlet

This is a somewhat fictionalized memory written based on the following prompt from The Red Dress Club.

This week, we want you to recall the games you played when you were young.

Did you love Monopoly, Yahtzee, or Uno? Or did you prefer backgammon, Trouble, or Scrabble?

Write a piece that explores one of your memories.

Let's have a 600 word limit.

We all wanted to be Miss Scarlet. Six young girls sat on a suburban porch, game board balanced on a table made from an old electrical wire spool, ready to play Clue. But first we had to argue over a little red token.

"I'm the oldest. I get to choose first," my sister, Tracy, declared.

"Not fair! you would always go first if we did that," Sarah protested.

"I never get to choose first. I think it's my turn." It was true. Gretchen never got to choose first.

"I'm the youngest. Shouldn't I choose first?" I knew I would lose the argument, but it was worth a try.

"You know I'm always Miss Scarlet." Becky snatched up the prized piece, placing it triumphantly on the board.

"Hey!" her twin, Susie, exclaimed with a frown. But it had been inevitable. Sticking our her tongue, she quickly grabbed her second choice, Mrs. Peacock, and placed the blue token in its starting place.

The rest of us took our usual characters: Mrs. White for Sarah, Mr. Green for Tracy, Mr. Plum for Gretchen, and Col. Mustard for me. The game quickly got started, as it did each time. We searched for clues to who dunnit, drinking lemonade and laughing.

Later in the evening we would play Kick the Can or Leftover Sardines, ranging along the whole block, most yards open to us, but afternoons, in the heat of the day, we played board games on our front porch. Some days it was Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit or Mousetrap. 

It's funny, looking back. Any other game I would have picked yellow without thinking twice. Yellow was my favorite color back then, a happy, sunny color. Tracy was always green, her favorite color. But add the characters and their personalities... well, what little girl wanted to be one of the men?

I still have that same copy of Clue. It sits on the game shelf along with the new version of Clue and all our other games. It still has some of the old marked up clue sheets from when we were young. My husband and I don't play games as often as we'd like these days, but we try. Games matter. They have been an important part of both of our lives. 

our game stash

Oh, and sometimes Miss Scarlet did it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Phineas and Ferb philosophy of life

I downloaded the Phineas and Ferb soundtrack album (available on iTunes) and listen to it a lot. It's amazing how many good songs in such a variety of genres they can come up with. Ok, some are silly, but it's a great album and the kids like it too. I admit, I love that show. There is so much good about it, and it's been written about extensively, but the expanded theme song, "It's Gonna Be a Great Day" by Bowling for Soup, is a wonderful philosophy for life.

Here is the song, although the person who transcribed the lyrics made a few errors.

The chorus is fantastic:

"This could possibly be the best day ever.
And the forecast says that tomorrow will likely be
a million and six times better.

So make every minute count.
Jump up, jump in and seize the day.
And let's make sure that in every single possible way
Today is gonna be a great day!"

Seriously, go back and read that again.

Now go do it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I spent the day yesterday at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater at the TEDxBloomington conference. There were many amazing speakers, all based around the idea of "The Wisdom of Play".

I admit, I'm a TED addict. I love watching TED talks. Despite freezing (the theater was cold!), I had a fabulous time.

Some highlights (the program can be found here):

Section one was about Wisdom.

Stephen K. Hayes, ninja, got things started with great stories about playing roles (the Dalai Lama) and having the wisdom to know when to fight and when to give in (magazine cover shoot). (YouTube video)

Debby Herbenick, Editor-in-Chief of, likened sex to a tree house using aspects of both (perspective, exclusivity, playful discovery, risk, sharing ideas, the moment, getting back up). And she made everyone want to eat strawberries. (YouTube video)

Bryan Stuart talked about getting involved in One Laptop per Child even though he had no idea what he was doing when he started. (YouTube video)

Keith Johnson talked about organic gardening and permaculture. (YouTube video)

Nolan Harrison III is my new hero. He made me cry with his story about stepping up to the plate and being the superhero he had always aspired to be. Yep, his talk was about superheroes. (YouTube video)

Section two was about Learning. A lot of the ideas about rethinking schools really hit home for me. Shouldn't learning be fun?

Gever Tulley talked about his Tinkering School and Brightworks and how he is changing what school is all about. A lot of the principles he talks about can be used outside the classroom, but this is a good place to start the discussion about rethinking the classroom. I need to go buy "50 Dangerous Things (you should let your children do)" now. (YouTube video)

Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, founder of the Academy for Global Citizenship school in Chicago, showed another new model for a school. Some ideas that rattle around in my brain from her talk: "Play isn't what we do; it's how we do it." "Play is taking the ordinary and making it magical." (YouTube video)

Amy Yurko, an architect, showed some ways to use building design in rethinking schools. Why do we live in a world where we've partitioned play from learning? Kids don't distinguish until we tell them "play here; learn here." (YouTube video)

Lindsay Manfredi introduced us to Girls Rock and their mission to build positive self-esteem in young girls through music. If you have a daughter, this is something she should do. (YouTube video)

Edward Castronova talked about gaming and the importance of games. Games can help us learn about complex situations. And while people talk about games and virtual worlds as an escape, he prefers to think of them as a refuge, and a refuge is somewhere to look for home. (YouTube video)

Section three centered on Creativity. It started with a bang with a wonderful story from Arbutus Cunningham. (YouTube video)

Marc and Sara Schiller showcased street art and explained how street art isn't about vandalism. (There's a difference.) A lot of the art they showed was about rediscovering the world around us and seeing what is easy to miss. (YouTube video)

Jeff Nelsen, known for the Canadian Brass, talked about overcoming fear in performance. He pointed out that we perform all day, all over the place and fear is a choice. (It isn't the audience that makes us afraid; it's our awareness of that audience.) Performance is about 3 things - the What, the How, and the Why. Focusing on Why you perform can help. Surrender. Be creative - find ways to fool yourself, be solution-based, and perform as often as possible. Share your stuff. (YouTube video)

Charlie Todd, founder of Improv Everywhere, talked about how he started doing what he does and shared some of the group's missions. I have to admit I was really excited about this one and talked to him for a minute during a break to admit I'm a fan and love watching their videos. (YouTube video)

Stephen Volan, a local city councilman, told his personal story of learning to interpret social interaction through improv to cope with Asperger's Syndrome. (YouTube video)

Corey Jefferson got us all on our feet for a quick improv exercise. (YouTube video)

Section four centered on Play.

Robert Scoble led off with a sobering talk about how we need to make mastery trump knowledge. We need to teach kids skills. We're teaching to the test (something few will argue with) rather than the creativity that they need. "We have a strategic plan. It's called Doing Things." (YouTube video)

Seth Frey, founder of a local housing co-op, talked about learning to share and finding solutions to common problems (provisioning public goods, bargaining & coordination, sharing common pool resources).  (YouTube video)

Jessica Quirk talked about the importance of clothing (not fashion). If you doubt this, "try running in flip flops." She asked us all to go home and give a piece of clothing some significance. She's been photographing her outfits for several years and posting them at What I Wore. (YouTube video)

Muffy Davis, a World Champion athlete, talked about her life, going from an up-and-coming young athlete to a para-athlete after a ski accident. She talked about not giving up. Difference isn't less. The phrase she used over and over was "If I can do this, I can do anything." It was really inspiring to listen to her. (YouTube video)

The final speaker was Shawn Achor, a positive psychologist. He shared his favorite fake graph, which he used to illustrate the idea that statistics removes outliers so we study the average. But if we study the average, we will remain average. The lens we look at the world through is important and we can't let the external world be equated to happiness and success. If we decide we will be happy when we accomplish something, the goal posts will always move and we will never be happy. When we are positive in the present, the brain works better (enjoy the now!). A lot of his research is what my philosophy has been (I just don't have the degrees and research) so I really got what he was saying. (YouTube video)

All in all, it was a really good day and I want to do more. I would love to see what we can take from yesterday and integrate into the local school system. And I really want to see a group in Bloomington do some flash mob stuff a la Improv Everywhere.

NOTE: Edited with the new YouTube links replacing the outdated ustream links.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fact checking

People who know me are probably well aware that I am angry about the recently passed and now signed Indiana law defunding Planned Parenthood. I am angry because I think it is an assault on women's healthcare.

I know a number of women who have relied or still do rely on Planned Parenthood for family planning, pap smears, mammograms, and all the other services they provide. There are a lot of people on Medicaid who will now not be able to receive that care. All because a group of people wants to make it as hard as possible to get an abortion and people apparently don't care that abortion is a tiny portion of the services Planned Parenthood provides.

I have heard a couple of comments that I would like to address. And I intend to cite my sources rather than just throw information out there since there is misleading information everywhere.

"I don't want my tax dollars paying for abortions."
Good. They don't. They are prevented from paying for abortions, other than the 3 stipulated exceptions of the Hyde Amendment, by federal law. In fact, several states, including Indiana, also have laws on the books prohibiting tax money from paying for abortion services.

Under Medicaid, family planning services, not including abortion, must be covered. Read the very long, very tedious, Title XIX, section 1902 of the Social Security Act, to learn more about the operation of state Medicaid plans.

And speaking of Medicaid funding, yes, the state could lose federal funding for Medicaid by enacting the law. See Title XIX, section 1904 of the Social Security Act.

"Planned Parenthood is just an abortion provider."
I beg to differ, but the majority of services provided by Planned Parenthood are not abortions. The Planned Parenthood of Indiana 2010 Annual Report has a very easy to read chart detailing the services provided in the state and demographic information on their clients (page 9). Really, out of over 244,000 patient visits and over 85,000 patients, that they performed 5,580 abortions is really a small percentage. Yes, 5,580 is a large number and I for one would like that number to be smaller. But approximately 2.25% of patient visits...

There's even a nifty website called which has answered both of these questions on a national scale.

So here's my gripe.

The 97+% of non-abortion services that Planned Parenthood provides are going to not be funded in Indiana. So the over 386,000 contraceptives that were dispensed might not be this year. Which in all likelihood will lead to more unplanned pregnancies. Which will lead to 1) more abortions or 2) a drain on welfare dollars since a lot of those mothers likely use Planned Parenthood because they are unable to afford other healthcare, don't have insurance other than Medicaid, and are thus living below 250% of the federal poverty rate (if you read Title XIX, section 1902, you would know that is the income requirement), thus meaning that they likely receive some sort of assistance.

And all those women who can't afford Pap tests and mammograms, and all the men and women who don't get STD tests, will not get the preventive care they need. When the potential cancers are found, they will be much more costly and harder to treat.

So not funding Planned Parenthood, rather than saving Indiana residents tax money, could very well cost us more. And cause larger problems. And if you think other providers will be easy to find or not be overwhelmed, well, maybe you should read this.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


My two year old reminded me today of a lesson I try to teach my boys.

Me, griping: "There are a lot of bad drivers out today."

Sam: "But Mommy, they aren't bad. They're nice."

Me: "You're right. They're just making poor decisions today."

Just that little reminder, that we all make poor decisions, calmed me. I could feel my blood pressure drop back to normal. Because I'm sure I've done bone-headed things while driving - forgetting to signal, getting confused which lane I should be in, maybe stopping a little too late and quickly. Haven't we all?

And that little parenting lesson, telling my sons that I still love them even when I don't like their behavior, is about separating the person from the action.

Remembering that the driver who just cut you off isn't really a bad person sure can make you remember that they are a person. The driver isn't the car, which is easy to transfer anger to, inanimate object that it is. And the driver is only human and humans make mistakes.

I bet removing my anger and aggression (ok, more annoyance than anger) made me a better driver so someone else wasn't griping about my ability to safely maneuver a car.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Least presidential thing

With all the hoopla Sunday night and since about the killing of Osama bin Laden, there is a movie quote that keeps running through my mind. It's a quote from "The American President" (1995).

President Andrew Shepherd: What I did tonight was not about political gain. 
Leon Kodak: Yes sir. But it can be, sir. What you did tonight was very presidential. 
President Andrew Shepherd: Leon, somewhere in Libya right now, a janitor's working the night shift at Libyan Intelligence headquarters. He's going about doing his job... because he has no idea, in about an hour he's going to die in a massive explosion. He's just going about his job, because he has no idea that about an hour ago I gave an order to have him killed. You've just seen me do the least presidential thing I do. 

Michael Douglas plays President Andrew Shepherd. If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend it. 

While I understand the necessity, I find the euphoria.... uncalled for? Cheap? A lot of other people have pinpointed some of the uncomfortable feelings I have watching the cheering crowds and reading the smack talk on Twitter. So I'll share one that I think makes the point rather well.

I found links on Feministing and GOOD to this post on ColorLines.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pictures from my 4 year old

Wil discovered my digital camera yesterday and has been taking pictures ever since (almost 200 so far). Very few have been so out of focus that I just deleted them (about 5). the vast majority are just things he found interesting, like the wall, the stairs, the grass.... But a few are actually pretty good.

Wil's guitar
Portrait of a dinosaur

Dinosaur family
Wheelbarrow wheel

Study of a wheelbarrow
Hi Daddy! I found the camera!

Action shot of Daddy working
Mommy, how does this work?

Picture of Mommy & Sam
self-portrait of the artist
This is just a small selection, but I was quite impressed with the composition of some of the photos.