Monday, August 30, 2010

Red Light, Green Light

Taking the Bread to Food Finders in My New Red Car

While driving around town this morning running some weekly errands, I was reminded of one of my favorite Deep Thoughts:

"As the light changed from red to green
to yellow and back to red again,
I sat there thinking about life.
Was it nothing more
than a bunch of honking and yelling?
Sometimes it seemed that way."

~Jack Handey~
from Deeper Thoughts

Ha! Ha!

Also Good for Bringing Home Chrysanthemums . . .

. . . and Christmas Greens!

Why did Honda name this car the FIT?
I asked the salesman, "Were they thinking of HAVE A FIT?" He said, "No, they were thinking of KEEPING FIT." My friend Jan, who has a blue FIT, suggested that this car is always A GOOD FIT. And then I thought about how much you can FIT inside. Or is really not a FIT . . . but a KIT? (That was Gerry's conclusion!)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Time to Talk

" . . . to have a friend takes time."
~Georgia O'Keeffe~
American artist, 1887 – 1986

"There was a definite process
by which one made people into friends,
and it involved talking and listening to them
for hours at a time."
~Dame Rebecca West~
British writer, 1892 - 1983

Here I am in 1973, talking and listening to my friend Joni
. . . for hours at a time!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Koala World!

How fun to compare and contrast the artistic development that is evident in these two precious drawings by my little friend Lily. As you can see, colored pencils and a shaded background have replaced the bold magic markers; the single tree and prominent branch (below, from a year ago) have given way to a forest of depth and density in the more recent "Koala World." The motif of bird and nest appears in both pictures. Last year, two bright yellow birds took center stage, with baby waiting for its dinner and mother bringing the worm -- a charming detail! This year features the exciting new koala family, while a lone red bird plays a supporting role. The nest is smaller, nestled higher up in the fork of a tree, and full of eggs, a nice touch! Great job, Lily!

Lily & Me

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Believe In Your Own Full Moonlight

"And what do you remember of your own full moonlight?"
~ Contemporary American artist Cooper Edens (b. 1945)


"What use dragging the body and all
its loose desires and its ghost - connections
through days wounded by doubting,

the purpose is ecstasy --

believe in it, undo the mischief
night's wardens have created."

lines from "The Purpose is Ecstasy" in Grave Gossip
by British poet Brian Patten (b. 1946)
best known as one of the Liverpool Poets
(see "Happy Batday" on The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker)


The picture above is featured on the cover of Cooper Eden's beautiful book With Secret Friends. You can see a couple more of his whimsical illustrations on my blog post "Butterfly Collection."

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Eggplants from Gerry's Garden
(also zucchini, green peppers, green tomato)

This is my favorite vegetable bowl. It has held twenty summers's worth of produce and still looks just as bright as shiny as it did back when we received it as a wedding present from our friends and dear neighbors Dot & Ted. All the decorative vegetables painted on the bowl are so cute, but see the darling little eggplant? Isn't it the cutest!

I don't know of many eggplants in literature, but there is an unforgettably sly image in True Stories by Margaret Atwood. She describes the furtive yet blatant behavior of a man who is suspected of killing his wife while on vacation in Spain:

" . . . in Barcelona not Madrid. So they're there and he's here and naturally they want him to go over, for questioning they say, and naturally he won't. He says he doesn't need the distress all over again. I'll bet. Not that I would either if I was him. I saw him in the supermarket last week. He was holding an eggplant and he said, 'Aubergine, it's a much better word don't you think?' He was running his fingers over the purple skin. He hasn't changed a bit."

from True Romances #1
in True Stories [a collection of poetry and very short stories]
by Margaret Atwood (b. 1939)
Canadian poet, novelist, essayist

Here is a timely poem from the same book:

High Summer

High summer,
our lives here winding down.

Why are we building fences?
There's nothing we can keep out.

Wild mustard, hornworms, cutworms
push at the edges of this space

it's taken eight years to clear.
The fields, lush green and desolate

as promises, are still pretending
to be owned. Nothing

is owned, not even the graves
across the road with the names

so squarely marked.
Goodbye, we credit

the apple trees, dead
and alive, with saying.

They say no such thing.

~ Margaret Atwood

Lovely But Not Quite Ripe
In vain, have we attempted to own this peach tree
in our backyard, but it is not even pretending!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Take This Quiz!


What is your motto? I have a million mottoes; here is but one: "Some haystacks don't even have any needle" (short poem by William Stafford).

If you could only name one all - time favorite book &/or author? The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.

If you could only name one all - time favorite movie? Choose Me

Who / what / where are the major influences in your life? A hundred authors and poets whose words I have been lucky enough to read.

What keeps you going? Curiosity, obligation, the holidays.

Do you work best under or tension or relaxation? Definitely tension! When we're counting down the hours and the minutes, then I can get going!

How do you recharge your creative spark? Looking through the notebooks of poems, favorite passages, and mottoes (see above!) that I have collected over the years.

My best ideas come to me at unexpected moments,
like when I'm . . .
Tossing some laundry in the washer.

The biggest enemy of creativity is . . . Busywork.

What is always on your desk? A cup of tea.

What was your first job? Shelving books at the Lindenwood College Library.

What was your childhood ambition? To sing on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour.

What is your fondest memory? Grandma & Grandpa Lindsey's house.

Soundtrack? All Christmas all the time.

Retreat? Reading.

Alarm clock? Fuqua.

Hero / role model? Gerry is my white knight in shining armor! He is invincible!

What accomplishments are you proud of? My beautiful home, my talented family, my Ph.D., my blogs.

No one is better than I am when it come to . . . Making literary connections; matching pictures to quotations.

What is your favorite way to celebrate? Baking desserts.

Through your life, how have you dealt with people who tried to discourage you from pursuing your dreams? The only one guilty of that is ME, MYSELF & I. I just have to constantly remind myself that I MUST have it in me to accomplish what I desire. If not me, who? If not now, when? If not here, where? (See Rabbi Hillel, the Elder)

The world would be a better place if only . . . we all followed the advice of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: "Please -- a little less love, and a little more common decency."

What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you were younger? That "TIME FLIES" is not a mere cliche; that "A year is but a day" applies not only to the mind of God but to us humans as well! How can it be that events from ten, fifteen years ago seem like just the other day? Is the world spinning faster and faster each year? Somehow I thought it would slow down, but no!

What book or movie character reminds you of you / or would you prefer to be like? I've always wanted to be like Jo in Little Women -- so assertive, brave, independent, talented. Or like Tillie, the main character in "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man - in - the - Moon Marigolds." Of course, my worry is that I'm more like the mundane Janice, who is sure she's going to win, but in fact comes in second at the Science Fair, after Tillie, who is a girl of true vision.

Do you have any lucky talismans? I am still using a big ol' Leave it to Beaver style of red boys' bicycle that I bought at a yard sale in 1978 (don't know how old it was at that time, maybe 15 years). When I was at Notre Dame (1984), I encountered one of my wackiest professors as I was riding across campus. He hailed me to a stop so that he could admire my bike; he said, "This bike must be your talisman." I've never been sure exactly what he meant, but the idea has stuck with me -- and so has the bike! So there's my bike; also my lucky turquoise earrings and a little pewter Gemini necklace -- both gifts from Peg on my 19th birthday. A couple of years ago, I was wearing the earrings at Peg's house and Brittany was drawn to them -- I told her why -- because her very own grandmother had picked them out for me -- very talismanic!

My life is . . . half over!

Most importantly, I have come to realize. . .
1. that one day, I will die;
2. that, beyond a certain point, I am not all that special (i.e., we're all in the same boat).

The only thing I know for sure is . . . "The meaning of life is life" (from my notebook of mottoes; said by Anna Quindlen in her introduction to Living Out Loud).

Additional quizzes . . .Possible ~ Plausible ~ Improbable

Quarantine Quiz Shows

Class of '75

Challenges: Special K & Ten Favs

"Christmas Quiz"

"You're Out Walking"

["Take This Quiz!"]

"Monday: Pop Quiz"

"Talk to Me"

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Write Swim Play

Days of Yore at the Pool
Molly, Ben, Emily, 1991
(& Moms -- Kitti & Katy)

Swimming Buddies
Kitti, Lynn, Nancy, 1992

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, if there's one thing I love now, it's swimming laps during the summer. However, if there was one thing I hated as a kid, it was swimming lessons.

At age 5, I steadfastly refused to participate in any way, shape, or form. For example, when the instructor dropped some magnets into the water, in hopes that we little ones would gleefully "dive" for them, I was not about to do any such thing. For a magnet? Was she kidding? Then she upped the ante and tossed in a handful of dimes, but even that was not enough to entice me. Looking back, I can see that the pool in question was perhaps 12 inches deep. Thus an enterprising child could no doubt retrieve a few coins simply by wading out to the prize and reaching in the water, no need for total immersion. But even wading was too much for me. I no more wanted to put my feet in the water than I wanted to put my head under the surface. At their wits' end, I guess, my parents gave up on me, led me screaming and crying away, and never made me go back. Hmmmm . . . perhaps not the ideal parenting decision on their part; but, hey, my childhood is over, right?

It took me only a year or so after my failed lessons to enjoy getting in the water with my siblings and friends. Nor did my limited skill set prevent me from having fun. It just meant that my range of activities was limited by my refusal to put my head under water; and if I couldn't feel the sandy beach or river bed or bottom of the pool under my feet -- panic attack!

Finally, at age 32, at the very same pool where I now swim laps during the summer, I enrolled in a series of lessons for the adult beginner. No one but me signed up for this class, so I was the lucky recipient of two weeks of one - on - one instruction, for an hour per day, with a very patient woman who knew how to diminish all my fears and basically convince me that I already knew how to swim if only I would just do it.

The following summer, upon the completion of my Ph.D., one of my Swimming Buddies congratulated me on what she referred to as the major accomplishment of my 30s. She was surprised when I told her that, no, it wasn't finishing graduate school that defined my 30s to me, it was learning to swim! The doctorate had been the goal of my 20s; and although I was thirty-something by the time I finished, I still counted it as the major accomplishment of my 20s. Even when it took a bit more time than I had originally foreseen, I was never in doubt that I would finish.

On the other hand, if someone had told me at the beginning of June 1989 that, by mid- August, I would be able to swim without fear across the deep end, I would not have believed it! Yet, it happened! Now that was a major accomplishment!

Major accomplishment of my 40s: resuming piano lessons in a valiant struggle to make up for my misspent youth . . .

. . . and of my 50s: the discipline of writing regularly every day and at long last organizing all the material that I have been storing up in my head and saving in dozens of notebooks since I was 16 years old. Took me long enough!

I guess that's how life is sometimes. We wait and wait, and then we act.

Additional Swimming Pool Blog Posts

August 11, 2012: "Swimming Pool, Swimming Pool"

August 9, 2012: Feed Your Brain

August 28, 2011: "Back to School"

August 18, 2010: "Write Swim Play"

June 22, 2010: "Summer Rerun"

September 15, 2009: "Buoyant"

August 13, 2009: "Moisturizer? Yes, Please!"

July 28, 2009: "Summer Afternoon, Summer Afternoon"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Animals Are People Too

A Safe Place for Animals: Squirrel Sanctuary in England

If only I could so live and so serve the world
that after me there should never again be birds in cages.
~Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Blixen)
Danish author (1885 - 1962)

How can you be sure it has a soul? she said.
You can't, I said, unless you've got one yourself.
~Brian Andreas, StoryPeople

Like St. Francis of Assisi and Beatrix Potter, Opal Whiteley was devoted to animals. All of her pets were grandly named: Elizabeth Barrett Browning was the cow; Peter Paul Rubens was the pig. Opal wrote in her diary:

So many little people live in the woods.
I do have conversations with them.

When the cornflowers
grow in the fields
I do pick them up,
and make a chain of flowers
for Shakespeare's neck.
Then I do talk to him
about the one he was named for.
He is such a beautiful grey horse
and his ways are ways of gentleness.
Too, he does have likings
like the likings I have
for the blue hills beyond the fields.

Today there was greyness everywhere--
grey clouds in the sky
and grey shadows
above the canyon.
And all the voices were grey
And Felix Mendelssohn* was grey
and down the road I did meet a grey horse--
and his greyness was like the greyness
of William Shakespeare.

[*Mendelssohn was her pet mouse;
another mouse was named Mozart]

Euripedes [pet lamb]
did follow after me.
He does follow me
manywheres I go.
I looked for fleurs
that I had longs to see.
I lay my ear close to the ground
where the grasses grew close together.
I did listen.
There were voices from out the earth
and the things of their saying
were the gladness of growing. . . .
All the grasses growing there . . .
from the tips of their green arms
to their toe roots in the ground.

~Opal Whiteley
from her childhood diary
(pp 4, 20, 59, 116,)




Monday, August 16, 2010

Dream Days

The clouds go slow across the sky.
No one seems to be in a hurry.
Even the wind walks slow.
I think the wind is dreaming too.
This is a dream day.

~Opal Whiteley
from her childhood diary (151)

Benton County Wind Farm

A DREAM DAY IN PORTLANDOverlooking the City from Pittock Mansion

John Hancock Center

Central Park


Morning is glad on the hills.
The sky sings in blue tones.
Little blue fleurs
are early blooming now.
I do so like blue.
It is glad everywhere.
When I grow up
I am going to write a book
about the glad of blues.
The earth sings in greens.

~Opal Whiteley
from her childhood diary (92)





Friday, August 13, 2010

German Vocab

Carriage House in University City, West Philadelphia

For Friday the 13th, how about a couple of German vocabulary words whose connection you will appreciate:

The first, weltschmerz, particularly in relation to "The Door," E. B. White's essay of pain and distortion:
weltschmerz (VELT-shmerts) noun meaning world-pain or world weariness; pessimism, apathy, or sadness felt at the difference between physical reality and the ideal state.

The second, torschlusspanik, in relation to Kafka's "Man Before the Law" whose doomed life illustrates the very concept:
torschlusspanik (TOR - schluss - panic) noun describing the door-shutting panic experienced at the thought that a door between oneself and life's opportunities is closing forever.

For more on Door-Shutting Panic & World-Pain
see my post "The Little Door"
on my fortnightly literary blog
of connection and coincidence

Saturday, August 14th

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Indifferent Universe

Above: Some Things We Wish Would Stay!

Brian Andreas:
"It's not a personal world, he told me,
no matter how much of it recognizes you on the street."

Something else to make me cry . . .

True. The universe is indifferent. It doesn’t even hate us.

Thomas Hardy:
Going and Staying
The moving sun-shapes on the spray,
The sparkles where the brook was flowing,
Pink faces, plightings, moonlit May,
These were the things we wished would stay;
But they were going.

Seasons of blankness as of snow,
The silent bleed of a world decaying,
The moan of multitudes in woe,
These were the things we wished would go;
But they were staying.

Then we looked closelier at Time,
And saw his ghostly arms revolving
To sweep off woeful things with prime,
Things sinister with things sublime
Alike dissolving. (1922)

See also my later post "The Grief That Saps the Mind"

Monday, August 9, 2010

Triple XXX

The Triple XXX Diner, West Lafayette, Indiana
As seen on "Diners, Drive - Ins, and Dives"
Click here to view a clip of Guy Fieri's visit to The Triple XXX

A great place to take family and friends from out of town . . .
which is just what we did when my relatives were visiting last month and I took the above photo. We are lucky to live just a few blocks (within walking or biking distance if you wish) from this nationally famous local landmark.

We should have eaten here (not Taco Bell!) when we first moved to town in 1988. But in fact, having breakfast for the first time at The Triple XXX, on a sunny-side-up Saturday morning in 1993, was the last thing Gerry, little Ben, and I did (with our friend Logan) before heading down to Indianapolis to catch a plane to Philadelphia, where we lived for the next 11 years. Why did we wait so long to check out the home of "On The Hill, But On The Level"? Too late, we knew what we had been missing and would be missing for years to come. Since our return to West Lafayette, we have been making up for lost time. Come visit us, and we'll take you there!



(Click on text to enlarge for reading)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Las Vegas

Just Too Good To Be True!

Earlier this summer, I tagged along with Gerry to Las Vegas. He had been there for meetings a couple of times before, but I had yet to experience this iconic North American destination. Knowing that the Dalai Lama says to visit someplace new every year, I figured I would give it a try. Don't worry -- I wasn't even remotely tempted to gamble -- all that noise and racket! Who can stand it? Besides, it was not as glamorous as it appears in the movies. Instead, I went for a long sight-seeing walk, wandering up & down the hot sidewalks and in & out of some of the elaborate hotel lobbies.

As for gambling, Gerry did take the opportunity to lose $20 in a poker machine, but I took a different approach. I went to the Ann Taylor store and bought three $130 skirts for $30 each! Then I went to the vending machines to buy a Diet Coke and found 50 cents in the coin return, so my $2 Coke cost me only $1.50!

I was excited for Gerry to see Jersey Boys, which I went to twice in Chicago last year, but he had yet to see. So I walked from Mandalay Bay to the Palazzo / Venetian, purchasing many bottles of icy cold water (just a dollar each -- good price!) from the sidewalk vendors along the way. I was content to buy the cheapest seats, third row from the back, for $70 per ticket; it's all about the music anyway, not the visuals. As luck would have it, however, when we got to the theatre that evening, the usher said, "Let me find you some closer seats," and proceeded to escort us down to the main floor, 10 rows from the stage, in the $140 section! Yay -- best seats available, for half the price! Turns out, I was a winner all the way around and very proud of myself for beating the house at every turn!

You're just too good to be true.
Can't take my eyes off you.
You'd be like Heaven to touch.
I wanna hold you so much.
At long last love has arrived
And I thank God I'm alive.
You're just too good to be true.
Can't take my eyes off you.

Pardon the way that I stare.
There's nothing else to compare.
The sight of you leaves me weak.
There are no words left to speak,
But if you feel like I feel,
Please let me know that it's real.
You're just too good to be true.
Can't take my eyes off you.

I love you, baby,
And if it's quite alright,
I need you, baby,
To warm a lonely night.
I love you, baby.
Trust in me when I say:
Oh, pretty baby,
Don't bring me down, I pray.
Oh, pretty baby, now that I found you, stay
And let me love you, baby.
Let me love you.

You're just too good to be true.
Can't take my eyes off you.
You'd be like Heaven to touch.
I wanna hold you so much.
At long last love has arrived
And I thank God I'm alive.
You're just too good to be true.
Can't take my eyes off you.

I love you, baby,
And if it's quite alright,
I need you, baby,
To warm a lonely night.
I love you, baby.
Trust in me when I say:
Oh, pretty baby,
Don't bring me down, I pray.
Oh, pretty baby, now that I found you, stay . . .

Hit single in 1967 for American musician Frankie Valli (b 1934)
written by Bob Crewe & Bob Gaudio

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Old Trafford

(Click to enlarge for reading)

If I could choose what I would like to be
I'd choose the wind. Then rise and kiss the sky
In spring, I'd be the lilac wind of May, untie
The rose and scatter loveliness. I'd free
The kidnapped autumn leaves upon the tree,
And drown the brown October fields which lie
Whispering dry songs and waiting now to die.
And if my Zephyr wish were granted me,
I'd be the shadowed wind of March and lay
Rich melodies across the grasses bright
And I would blacken winters earth and gray
The hilltops with my breath, and I would light
Rivers with lanterns of ice, but I play
My wind games only on pages I write.

~untitled sonnet by Ellen Trafford

Today's post honors writer and editor Ellen Trafford, born on this day in 1925. Ellen was my next-door neighbor in Philadelphia for three years, and I count myself lucky to have been her friend for the last five years of her life. When we moved in and she learned that my husband Gerry was from England, she shared with us her favorite nickname: "Old Trafford," an appellation she was proud to share with the big soccer stadium in Manchester, England. When Gerry's parents visited from England, they delighted Ellen with an official "Old Trafford" sweatshirt.

Here she is (look closely!) wearing her sweatshirt and waving from her front step (hers was the blue door; mine the black one):

And here is the Old Trafford Football Stadium,
home of Manchester United
Old Trafford Wallpaper by WhiteSea

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Great Lake

In Philadelphia there's a special phrase for making the trip across New Jersey to the Atlantic Ocean: it's called going "down the shore." Not "to the shore," or "down to the shore," just "down the shore." As in, "We're going down the shore this weekend" or "We'll be down the shore all next week."

I never could get used to that particular Philly - ism. Besides, I had my own name for the Atlantic: I pretty much just called it the Lake. As in, "We built sand castles at the lake all afternoon." Then our friends with whom we often went "down the shore" would remind me: "Uh, this is not the lake, Kitti, this is the ocean."

"Oh, yeah . . . I mean the ocean. Same same."

Great Lake . . . Down the Shore
Lake Michigan in 1986 & Atlantic Ocean in 1996

That's what happens if you've lived all your life in the land-locked Mid-west and never seen the Shining Seas which bound our continent. I had, however, seen Lake Michigan plenty of times. I can't say it was just like being at the ocean, because I hadn't yet been to the ocean.

But I can say that looking across the Atlantic, when I finally did so, was just like looking across Lake Michigan: water, water everywhere, as far as the eye can see. A Great Lake! Not as vast as the Atlantic or the Pacific, but you'd never know it. Chicago, though not as distant, is just as invisible from St. Joseph, Michigan, as England is from Ocean City, New Jersey.

Just water and the horizon.