Saturday, July 31, 2010

my grandma

My father's mother had four sons - she knew a little something about being tough.
She was born at the end of World War I, survived the Great Depression, World War II, and sending a son to Vietnam and then ushered in a new century and a new millenium.
She beat breast cancer 35 years ago, long before survival was common.
She made the best gravy.
She always encouraged my creativity, taking me to the craft store in the summer and letting me pick something new to try.
She agreed to ride shotgun with my 18-year old BFF from Ohio to Maryland cause it was the only way Rea's parents would agree to let her drive to my high school graduation.
She never wanted to be a bother.
She had a great laugh.
My grandma died a week ago today.
It is a testament to how she was the actual center of this seemingly male-dominated family that all of her kids (4 sons, 4 daughters-in-law and even one ex-daughter-in-law), all of her grandkids and their spouses (including 2 estranged ones that haven't been to any family event in at least a decade), a lot of her great-grandkids and a few great-great-grandkids came together to honor her and share our grief.
But i find myself not that sad about her passing.
She lived a good, long life, at the end she was ready to go, she believed in Heaven and I know that my grandma continues to live on in each and every one of us that was touched by her love.

Friday, July 30, 2010

what is hawaiian for "frickin' awesome"?

Last time i reached my Gold Star for Grown-ups goal i decided to try a different massage; gotta keep up the trying new things, ya know.
Lomi Lomi is a technique based on ancient Hawaiian healing rituals.
The folks at Massage Associates took a trip last year to Hawaii to get trained and certified in it and i figured that now was as good a time as any to try it.
From the outset you can tell that this is different from the standard Swedish massage because instead of working the body in top half and bottom half, the massage is divided into right side and left side. Also, the oil is different. For Lomi Lomi, they use a more expensive coconut oil. You can feel the difference in the quality on your skin and the smell is yummy. I really dislike fake coconut smell - it kinda makes me gag - but this is not that phoney-baloney, suntanning-oil, car-deodorizer nasty smell; rather, it smells like my kitchen when i make coconut candy.
It is almost impossible to describe Lomi Lomi: there is a lot of rocking and long sweeping motions, but there is also really small knuckle work in circles, arm swings, and this cool leg throwing thing. It fluctuates between slow and vigorous. Immediately i could feel the tension being worked away, but also i could feel my skin warming up and blood rushing to whatever muscles Lynn was working on.
Generally after a massage i am super relaxed and kind of a puddle, like a sleepy kitten who wants to curl up in the sun and nap. After the Lomi Lomi i felt relaxed, but energized. Yes, it seems like an oxymoron, but its true. I stood up and felt wide awake and ready to take on the world. I went to the library, grocery shopping, made dinner, cleaned out my pocketbook, finished a mending project that has been haunting me for weeks and balanced my checkbook - and this is after working all day.
I felt GREAT!
 Lomi Lomi at Massage Associates is only a little more expensive than Swedish massage ($10, i think) and it is totally worth it. Though Swedish will always be my regular massage of choice, i think Lomi Lomi will become my special treat massage.
You should go try it and see for yourself how something can be both relaxing and invigorating at the same time.
It's sorta mind-blowing.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

i wanna ride in a blimp

There is just something cool about blimps. There aren't that many of them around. It is newsworthy when you see one in the sky. Driving in to the city this morning i was so excited to see one circling downtown that i had to pull over to take the picture. I understand the design and mechanics of blimp flight, but they still feel somehow otherworldly. Or like magic. Or perhaps it is because they are from a bygone era. Whatever it is about blimps, i really, really, really want to ride on one. Could someone get on that, please?

Monday, July 19, 2010

use what ya got

I was performing in a rec center downtown.
I'm pretty sure that the last time this place was renovated was the 60s. The murals of kids playing sports did include the wide range of diversity of having both white boys and white girls. Oh, and there was a kid with glasses.
Despite the surroundings i was impressed that the director was trying his best to do right by his kids, providing them with a safe and fun environment.
The place felt scrappy and resilient.
I was musing on that when i noticed the clock over our performance space
  yes, those numbers have been written on;
 no, i have no idea what happened to the glass or the original numbers;
 yes, that was the correct time;
 yes, it did make me laugh like a hyena;
yes, i love it when people just use what they have.
It's scrappy.
And resilient.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

what is it with me and grottoes?

For a girl raised Methodist and currently non-denominationally affiliated, I certainly am drawn to Catholic grottoes.
There is something about the juxtaposition of over-the-top religious icons in the middle of nature that is appealing to me.
I am incredulous of the sight, yet somehow attracted. The pomp and circumstance of Catholicism has always fascinated me and though i feel no compulsion to pray in front of statues of long dead saints i've never heard of, i do feel a sense of peace and quiet in these tucked away places.
  The sign even says so!
This sign right next to it does give one pause, however.
In Portland, Oregon, i found a shrine and botanical garden in the city called the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, which included a grotto carved into the side of a cliff.
As i got closer i could see that the centerpiece is a marble copy of Michelangelo's Pieta and since i don't see me jetting to Rome anytime soon, this might be as close as i get to seeing the real thing.
Alongside the grotto there is the Chapel of Mary:
  That is a chapel?
When i think of a chapel, i think of a wee little building or room, but this place is not wee, not at all. I didn't take any pictures inside, but it was incredible and beautiful in a baroque sorta way.
For $4 you can buy a token to take the elevator to the botanical gardens an the top of the cliff. Yes, that is a 10 story elevator attached to the cliff face by a little walkway. Even if you are a bit nervous about the elevator, it is totally worth the fear and $4 for the view:
There is a glass-walled meditation chapel at the top that allows for the incredible panoramic view. You will just have to believe me that i could see Mt St Helens from here, in the distance just to the right of the tree in the foreground - it was snowy and blended into the sky haze in the picture, but my eyes could see it just fine. There are various paths circling the top of the cliff with various religious art and shrines,
and an extensive collection of rhododendrons
I was a bit sad that the labyrinth was being repaired
  so i couldn't walk it,
but i took solace in sniffing the largest peony i've ever seen.
The Sanctuary is run by the Order of Friars Servants of Mary and was built in the 1920s by Father Ambrose Mayer to fulfill a pledge he made after his mother miraculously recovered from near death in childbirth. In the middle of the botanical gardens is the Servite monastery with an award-winning rose garden. It was lovely and made for a restful afternoon.
But you know this is a Niki adventure, so there had to be something weird, right?
The Grotto is also home to the most disturbing statue, ever:
I get that it is supposed to be a celebration of the sacred nature of motherhood, but i kept waiting for them to move.
If you find yourself in Portland, i definitely recommend spending some time at the Grotto.

hello there, Collin

So you say that fTM Erin had a baby back in May?
Mayhaps you recall that baby Collin had some health issues right after he was born. And then i reported nothing more. That isn't because he didn't get better, but more because i am lame. Collin stayed in the hospital for just over a week. I went to meet him when he was 17 days old:
  See? He's fine and wearing overalls.
After mom fed him I got some quality baby cuddle time:

In the fTM Erin house there are also 2 cats and 2 dogs that enjoy attention, as well.
The longer i sat with Collin, the more animals showed up to hang out:
It was a lovely visit where everyone in the family seemed to be doing well and slowly adjusting to each other. I went back 10 days ago when he was almost 7 weeks old to deliver his custom cards. The household had definitely fallen into a rhythm of dogs, cats, parents and baby swirling together in well controlled chaos. It had been a tough night for mother and child (the first bad one in 7 weeks actually) so after a little visiting I took the baby so that mom could nap.
Once Collin finally went down the whole household slept while i watched Harry Potter.
It was so peaceful i didn't even dare disturb it by taking pictures.

anything for some attention

I've been housesitting for fTM Kate this week.
You might recall that she has an energetic and entertaining beagle, but she also has a cat named Millie.
Millie is the eldest animal in the house.
She comes and goes as she pleases, meows for treats and tolerates your presence, as long as you are quick with the treats.
She is less than amused by the dog. He damages her calm.
The last few days, Millie has really warmed up to me, coming over to wherever i am sitting to have her head scratched and purring. Of course, as soon as Guiness hears purring he come running - no one gets attention but him. She growls, he wags his tail, she hisses, he charges, she runs. I know he really just wants to play, but he ends up chasing Millie off every time she gets close to me.
A few minutes ago it came to a head while i was checking my email.
Millie decided she was gonna get some attention with no risk of the dog interfering:
 I'm sure this breaks some sort of house rule, but how can i say no?

Friday, July 16, 2010

you say there was an art exhibition?

Yes, indeedy bob, there was an art exhibition.
It was a lovely, though wretchedly hot, day in Catonsville.
If you recall waaaay back then, i decided a day before the event to take a second piece and to take some hand painted cards. After seeing how other people had laid out their works for sale i also decided to step up my presentation. The morning of the opening i inked and glittered a flower and wired it to a basket, with a collaged card with my contact info under it.
It looked nice on the table with my cards in it and my shabby hope leaning against it.
I was so nervous and excited and overwhelmed that i forget to take many pictures once people started to arrive, but i did manage one snap of the wall right inside the door.
My new piece is in the middle on the bottom under the lady in the blue hat:
  and my second piece is the bottom one that normally hangs right inside my front door. I decided not to sell either piece, but i did sell over half of the cards i made for the event.
 Thanks to Jason, Kate, Bebe, Dash, Franci, Charlotte, Nancy, Karen and Amy for coming to see me.
 It was amazing and a bit surreal to see my name on a gallery wall.
 Now i need to make a new art goal.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I'm not a suburbanite mom,

... but i play one on tv.
 For one of my "new things" this month i am hosting a Tastefully Simple party tomorrow night. I have never done it and am trying to have people over to my house on a more regular basis in an effort to keep it clean. If you've never been to a Tastefully Simple party, it is just like any of the other direct-order product parties: Tupperware, Pampered Chef, PartyLite, that lingerie one and the highly suspect "adult toys" one.
 Basically, you sit around chatting while a consultant tells you about the product and you try it (which is why i am so freaked that there is an "adult toys" one...).
 They also try to convince you to start selling the product. It is an interesting study in group psychology.
But the reason i picked Tastefully Simple as the product i am going to host a party with, is because it is a food product, so we get free samples.
 I love free samples.
 I am spending this evening mixing up dips and baking almond pound cake.
 I have decided to do things a bit differently -anyone surprised?- by not just making the samples into the suggested dips, but actually making some different types of appetizers, as well as a light meal -
Bold & Bossy beef sandwiches with Tomato & Garlic Pesto corn-off-of-the-cob.
 I didn't ask my consultant if it was okay to deviate from the directions,cause i didn't want her to tell me No. Plus, the point of the thing for me is to have some people over and i can't have people over without cooking for them. There is still room at the table if anyone wants free food Monday, July 12th at 7pm.
 If you'd like to order some of the food, but can't make it to my house, you can go to the website, under shop our products, and there is a button to search for a host - put in my name (it is under Nicole instead of Niki), Maryland and July 12th.
Wish me luck in this endeavor; i have a secret fear that no one will come.
 I gotta go make a Backyard BBQ Dip appetizer pizza with chicken and scallions now.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

bullet points for the last 3 weeks

Let's catch up, shall we?
- summer programming started
- i tried mixing up accessories in funky ways, with mixed results
- invited one of the artists that i met at the Catonsville exhibition, Mary Jo, over to my studio to show her how to use embossing powders to create one-of-a-kind papers (a new thing for June)
- cancer scare with my mom
- first anxiety attack in over a decade
- tried a massage chain (who knew there was such a thing?) called Massage Envy when my massage therapist was fully booked during aforementioned anxiety attack; it was very different, but got the job done (and counts as another new thing for June!); i really liked the heated table; pricey, but there is a discount for a first visit; if you go to the one in Columbia, ask for Inger - she was excellent
- finished the fiscal year at work
- flew to Florida
- spent a lot of time at doctor's offices
- got a vicious, patchy sunburn because of poor sunblock application (i blame the excellent book i was reading at the time) and look like a leper;
 yes, those are really finger marks in the sunburn from where i grazed my knee with sunblock
 - celebrated my dad's birthday with him for the first time in 4 years at a beautiful outdoor restaurant in Cape Coral
- got 27 mosquito bites, some on my sunburn
- it rained for 3 days straight in FL; mom and i barely left the house, but hung out reading and watching Clean House
- i read 6 books in 7 days
- only disturbed on vacation by work once for some epic van shenanigans (lost power on I-495 during rush hour - yikes), but my team did a great job handling everything and only called me afterwards to keep me in the loop
- Grandma went into the hospital in Ohio and the report has been wildly fluctuating and drastically different every day: either she is fine or she is dying, one of the two
- 3 friends had babies within 6 days of each other, 2 on the same day; welcome to Margaret, Ella and Avi!
 - took a lovely golf cart constitutional; am preparing the next installment in my hard hitting expose on retirement life - look for a separate post
- spent time feeding the fish and turtles, which have gotten even bigger
- celebrated Independence Day with my mom by simultaneously watching A Capitol Fourth on tv and the local fireworks that we could see from her porch
- attacked by the metal, toilet paper cover in the bathroom at the airport; i swear i didn't touch it; it just suddenly came unlatched while i was sitting there and crashed down on my leg
- after extricating myself from the bathroom stall, i flew home just in time for the East Coast heatwave
 - inferno-like temperatures drove me to busting out the bitchin' car sunshield that i bought years ago, but have never used (it was actually part of a prank that fTM Matt and I were going to pull on fTM Rob) after nearly scorching my skin off on my steering wheel
- more van shenanigans at work with a high-speed blowout on I-83 (thank God no one was hurt) and a speeding ticket within 2 hours of each other
- dismissed a member of the team; it has been a long road with this person, but they were out of chances; i felt like crap, but it was the right decision
- totally reworked the schedules and am happy that there are only 4 days when i have to perform by myself
- finally finished Collin's custom cards
- kicked serious a** at trivia
- cleaned my house in anticipation of my Tastefully Simple party on Monday
- am currently preparing to house sit and doggy sit, which means i will have air conditioning and internet for the next week!