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Archive for February, 2011

Water the Stick… Some Things Take Time

Friday, February 25th, 2011

One year, we moved a decades-old peony bush to a more sunny spot. Peonies thrive in sun, and pine for more light when they don’t get it.

So we moved the bush maybe 4 feet. And it just flipped out.

Leaves shriveled and fell. I pruned away as many as seemed prudent, to help it deal with the shock of a move.

The leaves continued to shrivel and die. Until one night I clipped back all but one single cluster of leaves on a single stem.

I could not take the broken heart I would have felt, had that last leaf not made it. I babied it like no other plant in my history. (I have never been a big plant nurturer, but I love gardens.)


Every morning, I would water that peony leaf. When I started, that leaf was always actually flat on the ground, as if it had already given up.

It felt like watering a stick. There was no promise in that leaf at all.

In an hour or so after I watered the stick, I would notice that it had gained enough strength to come an inch or so off the ground. I have never been so happy to see such subtle change!

Of course, I had to leave the garden during the daytime. I would get back home around dark, and again that poor leaf was flat and lifeless against the dirt. Once more, I would water the stick.

Nothing happened that year to indicate that my watering was worth the time. The leaf did not improve at all, though I kept at my routine.

The snow covered my stick along with the rest of the garden. I held no hope that I would see a peony plant come up the next spring.

Amazingly, it did come back, with a few other leaves to keep it company. It took about 3 years to really look healthy, and now perhaps 7 years later it is huge and bold.

The moral: Water the stick. Keep the faith; keep doing your part when it feels uncertain.

Photo: See the flamingo lost in the midst of dark green leaves? Those leaves are the very plant which was once a mere stick. It is even stronger and larger now.

Celebrating my Womanhood

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I’ve always danced. I have practiced many different types of dance over the years… ballet, modern, jazz, tap, theater. I was always good enough to be part of a team on stage, but never was good enough to solo.


Now I’m a “belly dancer” (with the Habibi Dancers of Lansing, Michigan), and I’m good enough to solo at times. I started at age 38, just after I married the love of my life (we’ve been married 14 yrs and still crazy about each other).

HabibiAllenZillDetailI have found that in making my hips visible across the room, I now love my female-ness as I never did. You can’t shimmy without making friends with your hips (and peace with being female). On top of that, seeing other women be beautiful in this way helps one appreciate one’s own womanhood.

(I am still not quite comfortable with the word feminine, though… which is sad. I still see it as fluffy and frilly and perhaps even powerless. I might as well own my roadblocks while I’m discussing this.)

habibiAllenStreet4zillsLynnThere is nothing like a group of 30 women shaking that thing, to find out what the positive power of being female can be. A great part of this dance culture is that we often tell other dancers how lovely they look, how much their dancing pleases us.

Everyone rocks it in a different way, for sure. But when one of our team is in trouble, you should see the power of the crowd rallying behind her.

Yes, in March, when the world gets grumpy and miserable until spring hits… we are working on our biggest production of the year. There are extra rehearsals, and costumes to sew, not enough time and nerves to soothe. We whine and complain together and (unfortunately) sometimes at each other. But when push comes to shove, I know who’s got my back.

I love my community of dancers. I love the joy of dancing, the ease and fun of moving to music in a way that pleases me and those around me.

Being female was not always something I felt good about. With this dance, I have not only made peace with my womanhood, but embraced it.

…and the costumes sure are fun, too!

habibi2007 med

My Heart Overflows

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

My favorite photo from last week’s trip to Florida (click for larger view):


I had the pleasure of walking with a fine 11-month-old child. She wanted to get to Brian who was playing ukulele in the far room. Brian is often a hit with little ones.

I understand that she does not often let people walk with her like this, not even her parents. She prefers using a toy baby stroller as her balancing device. I was touched, charmed and honored.

We drove many extra hours to spend a day with our newest niece and her parents (Brian’s sister and her fine husband). It was worth every mile.

Singing in Florida

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

We (Brian & I, as The Fabulous Heftones) just had a whirlwind 3 days singing in Florida. Friday we sang at a house concert for Tampa Bay Ukulele Society (TBUS). Saturday we jammed with the TBUS in the afternoon (we took Brian’s dad, Larry, with us).

What great folks we met! Steve and Dr. Ron were great hosts to us Friday, and the audience was wonderful.

Saturday’s jam… well, how many people have heard “Wild Thing” played by several dozen ukuleles at the same time?  That was fun! It was unforgettable in many ways.

Sunday we sang (in Lakeland) a concert for my mother and her friends. Brian’s parents attended, as well.  Can you say “Three Dozen folks singing along?” Much fun, indeed!

It will be hard to transition to snow by Monday, after the beautiful sun we had Sunday in Lakeland. Lansing is home, though, and I will enjoy being back with “my people” back home.

Here is a photo Brian’s dad took of us at the Lakeland concert:LakelandHeftones
This is what I do for a good time!

A 6-Year-Old Knitter

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

beawristbandThis is a triumphant photo. I taught 6-yr-old Bea to knit a few weeks ago. She made a wristband in merely a half hour.

To be honest, she had made a few stitches off and on in the past year. Her mommy knits, but Bea did not have the focus and hand coordination she needed. Teaching very young knitters is a skill that I have developed over many years, and Mommy did not have that experience under her belt.

So I got Bea and we worked at focus and understanding. She was very happy to be so competent, so quickly. She wore her wristband to acrobatics class later that day, to show off to the teacher (who is my dance teacher, too).

Last Monday, I also taught four 4th graders how to knit, also. It’s an after-school program, where the teacher is also one of my knitting students. I’m happy to work with more kids again.

Congratulations to Bea!

Snow Day… I Mean, Week

Monday, February 7th, 2011

On Wednesday, Lansing slowed down to a crawl. It looks in our neighborhood as though we had about 10″ (25 cm) of accumulated snow.

The cities of Lansing and East Lansing required motorists to not park on any street so that snow removal could be efficient. Lansing opened parking ramps for folks who normally park on the street, and every school in town was closed. Even Michigan State University canceled classes, for the first time since the blizzard of 1978. (It was much worse in 1978, I remember.)


Although I work from home much of the time, my two appointments of the day were canceled as well. I settled into the lovely feel of a snow day. I did work, but I was able to work in my jammies. I also made a full pot of tea rather than a single cup at a time. The day just felt more relaxed for some reason.


The first three photos in this post were taken on Wednesday. The storm had actually started coming down on Tuesday night, around 6:30 or 7:00pm. By sunset on Wednesday it had stopped and most folks had their sidewalks cleared pretty well.

The city did a great job of getting those streets cleared off. The street where our driveway exits is only 2 blocks long, and they got here about 24 hours after the initial snowfall started. Lansing is facing major budget issues, but they sure handled this well.


The photo below is my car in the driveway, on Thursday afternoon. Brian had shoveled around the car but you can see how high it was, those tires barely  had a chance! Thank goodness I got new tires the last week of 2010.


Below is a photo of my car in the East Side city lot, behind Rae’s Yarn Boutique. This was taken Thursday around 4:15pm. This is only 20 blocks due east of our Capitol building. As you can see, the piles of snow at the edges of that lot were remarkably tall!


The last photo here was taken at the Frandor Shopping area on Saturday. Even though they had the lot scraped well, and the sun had helped the main areas to evaporate… wowie, do they have major piles of snow.


Sometimes when the piles melt, you will see shopping carts frozen into the middle of the icy remnants of these snow mountains. I find that poetic in some way.

I have been able to go for walks Friday, Saturday and Sunday, in my neighborhood. I often walk in the dark. The echo of early video games comes back to me when walking down those sidewalks in the streetlights. Remember the first Star Wars movie? Scroll back and look at the sidewalk photo again. It’s amazing how close it feels while I’m out there.

Sidewalks are rather well cleared by my neighbors, although the intersections have snowplow piles left which makes it hard to access the sidewalk without a bit of climbing. I try to remember enjoying that climbing when I was young.

I hope you are warm and happy. We have been eating different sorts of home-made soup since things started canceling on Tuesday night. Soup is just the ticket in this sort of weather!!!

A Fine Project, by a Fine Kid

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Many of my friends have girls. I believe that all kids benefit from knowing adults who are not their parent (although some don’t get that lucky).

Since I a) don’t have any kids of my own, and b) really like kids, I enjoy taking the girls out on dates from time to time. This is one of the best parts of my life.

Monday I had the pleasure of four hours with a remarkable 10 year old. We had dinner at a place she had never tried before. Then we went back to my house, made brownies (and later brownie sundaes – with Brian), and had a creative time.

She had just acquired a stack of books at Everybody Reads Bookstore, before I picked her up. The pile of books came in to the house. One of them was about embroidery. Cool! I love to embroider and had a bag full (yes, maybe too full) of supplies.

While the brownies were baking, we found a rag made from an old shirt, to embroider. It turns out that piece of the shirt had a pocket. Not too long after the find, she determined it might make a fun purse.

We got out the embroidery floss and a needle, and she commenced to experiment with sewing a bit. This turned into the choice of a word, “Heart,” embroidered on the pocket.

She chose a button to sew on the pocket, and I let her pick a ribbon from my collection for a strap. She did all of the sewing herself, and all of the design choices. I just presented materials and she did the rest.

I sent her home with an embroidery kit of her own. I had a great hot-pink plastic embroidery hoop I could spare.

We found a bag in my supplies for teaching kids (thanks, Riin!), and she picked several colors of embroidery floss to take home. I had a mint tin where we could put her sewing needle safely , a small pouch for her to put that tin and the floss in, and a pair of inexpensive scissors. She’s all set to keep going!

I love what kids do when we let them. A few supplies, and the hands and mind pull a project along.

Nice job, sweetie!