Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I'm not THAT lazy! Why the Christmas Wreath is still on the Front Door.

Any visitor may notice that the Christmas/Winter Wreath is still on the front door.  I admit to being a tad late on switching out for a spring wreath but laziness is NOT the cause of it still being up.

When I went to take it down, I found that a lovely wren had decided that my wreath would make the best place in the universe for her to make a nest.  In short order, there were 3 eggs in that nest.  Many a times since, I chuckled to hear her scold me when I've opened the door for a guest or a delivery.  I've done my best to use the side doors when possible instead of disturbing her little abode.

Today, I checked the nest and was tickled to find...BABIES!

So it seems it will have to stay Christmas on my front door until these little darlings take to wing.  The door will indeed need a good cleaning and frankly...that wreath is hitting the trash when they're gone.  Hopefully I can get that screen door I've been wanting installed before next spring.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

I'm Not Her: Lesson from my Garden

Last year, we purchased a lovely larger home with an extensive yard, lots of garden plots, two water features- one being quite large with a small river and waterfall, and extensive border plots. Quite a few years ago, supposedly this yard and gardens was THE showplace of this small town. So many time's I've heard this referred to as "Arlene's Garden." And to give proper credit, Arlene did oversee all these gardens and kept them pristine and gorgeous. I've seen pictures; it truly was beautiful.

Fast forward to now. Arlene went to walk with the Angels quite a few years ago. These gardens have only received cursory care over the past ten years or so; and it shows. Most are overgrown and weed ridden. Pathways and borders have been overtaken by the lawn. Rocks coverage, is now weed infested and buried. Perennials & shrubs are badly overgrown in some areas. If you look long enough, you can see a shadow of what it once was.

And into this, I've now stepped. Me, the city girl, who is moderately frightened by nature. I see the beauty in it, but I don't necessarily want it to touch me. Add to that several other factors; I am old and fat with a bum knee, weak neck & back and a bum shoulder. I have a toddler who takes 110% of my energy when home. I have a full time job which requires often intense mental strain. And possibly my most fatalistic flaw, a perfectionist streak that frightens even me. I'm a firm believer that jobs should be done correctly, to full completion without stopping to rest until those goals are achieved. Like most of us, I am my own harshest critic.

Today, I really started on the clean up. Out of the approximately 25 beds, I've focused on one. Just one. I started my day thinking that if I can get this one bed back in shape, my day has been good and fruitful. But as my low back began to throb, my knee began to swell and my neck began to freeze, THE voice started in my head. You know the one; we all have it. The one that said, "Well, you're going to kill yourself on this one bed and there are countless other that look like absolute crap. You're such a failure at this stuff. You know this'll never look like how Arlene had it and everyone will know just how much you suck at this."

That voice is the killer of hope. The killer of the bright side. As my frustration grew, I just sat down on the grass and looked around. Really looked. It was then I found a small slice of peace accepting the fact that no, this will never be like Arlene's gardens will. Instead it will be what OUR gardens are. In our gardens, there will always be some weeds. There will always be some rocks out of place, possibly some plants that need watered. Likely a border that needs a good edge put on it and probably a dandelion or 20 in the law. Always something that we just can't afford to hire someone to do this year or have the time to do ourselves.

But what the Brouse gardens will have is a seat for very guest, a smile and a cool drink. I will always make time to enjoy a conversation with a friend or time to lay on the lawn with my son looking for airplanes in the sky. Hopefully the kitchen garden (which was once a beautiful flower garden that we'll be transitioning into something more useful to us) will always have cherry tomatoes to snack on fresh off the vine. And I do promise the pool will always be clean.

What I cannot and will never be is Arlene. Nor will my gardens ever be as stunning or beautiful as hers. You may have to look hard to find the beauty in mine, but it is there. I trust Arlene will understand; and I hope my visitors will too. Don't compare us; pointless to try. And please don't compare our gardens, because on that, she will always win. I graciously concede to her superiority on that front. Instead, come on over. Bring some wine to share, and we'll enjoy a lovely summer eve either swimming, chatting or just relaxing. If you see a weed, please pull it.

Below is today's success.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

2012 - Summer of CRAZY!

Flashback, May 2012. Mr. Mouse, "Are you serious???" Me, "Yes....they wanted to know if we want to sell the house and in this market, it'd be downright stupid to turn down an offer." Thus began the summer where so very much in the Brouse House changed. We were lucky, there was a house on the market that I'd had my eye on for a year or so. It was about twice the size of our little lake house; had a huge (acre+) fenced in back yard with a pool. After the first walk through, we knew it was meant to be our house.

They say that money is cheap these days with rates the lowest they've been in years. While that may be true, the strangle hold banks have on loans make it nearly impossible for people with excellent credit and an impeccable track record to get a new mortgage. Why? Because banks no longer have any faith in the real estate market. They won't hold the mortgage so even local banks will only lend if they can turn right around and sell your loan to another institution. Welcome, to the era of "UNDERWRITERS ARE KINGS!" That said, through persistence, creativity and a lot of prayers I was able to secure our mortgage and we finalized the sale of the old home and purchase of the new home in early August. We moved in 5 days later.

Now let's be clear about this. Even though I took 2 weeks off to handle the pack up, move out and move in, we're still 1/2 living out of boxes. But the important stuff is done. The rest will happen when it happens.

I was worried how Mouse would handle the transition, but he was generally unfazed. First night in his room there were ZERO issues. And to say he loves his new backyard is an understatement. He now has a huge playroom but of course still prefers to play under my feet in the kitchen.

So now...we're just trying to get back into a regular routine and schedule. It'll be a while before this place really feels like home. I'll admit, when I walked around my old house that last time after it was empty, I found my self awash in memories and tears. That house meant a lot to me. I helped come up with the layout and decided how it would sit perfect on the land, watched as every board and wall was put up and carefully stressed over each fixture. All this I did as a single girl in my early 30's....not bad for a kid from very very modest means. (Some day, I'll share the stories of how my Mom provided for a family of four on my Dad's security guard salary.) That house saw my greatest love, my greatest heartbreak, the death of my father and the birth of my son. So many tears...so much laughter.

It's funny, the old house I always considered mine. Not because of any sense of meanness but because I put so much of me into it's building. When I built it, I was a me not a we. While I do miss it, I'm not sad. Our new house feels more like ours. I'm looking out into the evening twilight through the sunroom windows and looking around I can imagine how our first Christmas tree will look in here. I can look out at the pool and imagine my son, as a teenager, horsing around with his buddies. In time, this house will indeed become our home.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Father of the Rain - Review

Father of the RainFather of the Rain by Lily King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Father of the Rain takes three snapshot pictures of Daley's relationship with her alcoholic father. In the first, Daley is eleven years old and while she adores her father, she's beginning to see that something is very wrong with their relationship. King deftly stays within the parameters of Daley's youthful, and sadly hopeful perspective as Daley's mother leaves her father and her father quickly jumps into a painfully dysfunctional relationship with wife number two. Watching how Daley's weekend visits with her father's new family is really painful but realistic.

We are brought forward to Daley's graduation from Grad school and plans to move in with the man she loves and to start her dream job as a college professor. Still hopeful , albeit guarded due to the damage caused by her father in her youth, she finds herself sucked back into her father's world as he faces his own crisis of wife number two leaving him.

The last portion of the book is present day. Daley is called again to her father as he lay dying.

This book touched me in a very personal way. While my father was not an addict at all, we did have a fair amount of dysfunction in our family. My mother died when I was nine leaving my father to raise my older brother and me. Looking back, I do know he did the best he could. But there are a host of issues that still linger in my "grow up" psyche related to being left really to fend for myself at a very young age for long spaces of time. And while my damage is nothing like Daley's, I felt a true kinship to her. King's ability to tell the story from Daley's perspective keeping in her realm of understanding brought me back to my own eleven year old self...alone, confused and desperately trying to connect with a father incapable of connecting. But perhaps the best thing about reading this book for me was that while it brought back some difficult memories, it also left me remembering that I am the woman is today BECAUSE of what I went through, just as Daley is.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

One year ago today

One year ago today the world was changed forever.

Our little Mouse was born via emergency C-Section at 8:21pm. I remember not caring one bit that the birth had not gone as I’d hoped, but rather I was strapped down, numb and just straining to see your face and praying to hear a healthy cry. I remember Mr. Mouse’s eyes as he tried to hide his fears and be strong for me. I remember the gentleness in the stroke of hand on my hair and cheek…the only thing he was allowed to touch.

And then…you simply were. You were the screech of fear and health that filled the room with your anger at the bright lights and cold air. You were the squinty, bloody face that I could not look away from. You were the tiny soul your daddy held next to my face to kiss. I could only cuddle you with my eyes and voice. Those moments were too brief because it seems that in an instant you were leaving with your Daddy so they could sew me back together.

The recovery wait seemed like hours; but made tolerable by your Grandma who came to hold my hand and remind me again and again that you were alright; that I would see you again.

And there you were again. In the haze that is my eyesight without my glasses, I saw your Daddy walking towards my bed wheeling you ahead of him in your crib. He laid your tiny body against my chest and it felt as if you were finally home again; against me, heart to heart. No longer sharing the same beat and blood, but still attached by that invisible tie that only a Mother has with her child. You opened your dark eyes to look at my tear filled eyes and we both knew it really was going to be all alright.

It has been an entire year my dearest son. A year filled with joys unimagined and love unbound. I’ve found depths I never imagined; depths of strength, wisdom, fear, laughter and joy.

We three are now changed forever. Our little family while not even close to perfect, is, indeed ours to make of it all we can.

One year ago today, the world changed forever

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

11/22/63 by Stephen King ~ Review

11/22/6311/22/63 by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been a diehard fan of King since he scared the bejeezus out of me at the tender age of 12 when I read Salem's Lot. Please don't ask me what in the world a 12 year old was doing reading Salem's Lot; suffice it to say that it's complicated. I read MANY things in my youth that were well above what would be considered an appropriate age. That said, I have read almost everything (fiction & non) written by Stephen King. Given that, I'm about to say something I can't believe I'm going to about this author beloved by me. But here goes...

With 11/22/63, Stephen King has written a beautiful, painful, real and aching love story. Yes, 11/22/63 at it's heart is a love story. Said love story is wrapped around an amazing journey through time tied to stopping the assassination of JFK. What if you were given the opportunity to change the course of the world? Would you take it? What if it would only cost you 2 minutes in your "now" to spend several years with your goal to save our beloved president? Looking more promising? What if every trip back is an assumed reset? Meaning, if the outcome didn't work, you just travel back again to the exact time and place and everything is all reset? No harm; now foul. Would you do it?

Jake Epping did. He did so with with solely good intentions: stop a family from being murdered; stop a boy from being crippled savagely by his deranged father; stop a girl from being shot during a hunting accident, but most importantly; stop Lee Oswald from killing JFK. But here's the rub, and there's always a rub isn't there, the past is obdurate. Very...very obdurate.

In 2011, Jake Epping discovers a bubble in time which allows him to travel back to the the exact same place and day in 1958. After some small test runs, through the bubble, or rabbit hole one may say, he goes to become George Amberson armed with his knowledge of what will be he navigates this time and place directly towards Oswald with a plan to stop Oswald, somehow, before the murderous shots are fired at JFK.

During Jake/George's 5 years in the rabbit hole, King does what he does best by immersing the reader completely in that time. In a way, it feels like he's letting us in on his love affair with the period. But make no mistake, this is not the sugar coated 50s & 60s that we've heard from our parent or grandparents. Yes, there are the sock hops, gorgeous cars, unlocked doors in bucolic towns he also reminds us of the rampant racism, women "in their place," bad healthcare and all the ugly. But we come to love it nonetheless. King creates "place" like a master.

George (lets drop the Jake for now...in this past) meets lovely Sadie at a warm summer evening garden party. Sadie: beautiful, clumsy, broken, wonderful Sadie. George never had a chance really. Was it that obdurate past that brought them together? Another block? Fate? One doesn't know. And while I know I'm writing in an all to frilly manner about this, I'm happy to share that King does not. He does that other "thing" that he does best; he create real characters, multidimensional, heroic and flawed. That is why readers cannot help but fall in love with George and Sadie too.

In all this, I've only lightly brushed on the Oswald. King truly brings him in to a more human focus. For most of us, I'd venture to guess that the name Lee Harvey Oswald brings to mind the picture taken just as he's gunned down by Jack Ruby in the garage of the DPD. King uses the facts of Oswald's life to bring him out of that iconic picture to humanize him. Keep in mind, humans can be evil and ugly creatures. And we come to understand how ugly truly Oswald was as George weaves himself into the fringe of Oswald's fabric; keeping close, until the time (pun intended) is right.

I'll let you find out if George succeeds; and I'll let you found out if he can save JFK and keep his beloved Sadie. But I will say again, and again...the past is obdurate and the Butterfly Effect is in-calculable.

If it's not clear, allow me to be blunt. Read this book. If nothing else, because there's dancing. Sweet, sweet dancing. (And poundcake too!)

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Mothers Faith ~ Mary's First Christmas

As all of you know, this last year has been one of EXTREME changes for the Brouse family. I can say, most of the changes have been expected: lack of sleep, lack of money, increased volume in the house, and lots and lots of love, joy and fair amount of drool. But one thing I did not expect was how much motherhood has really changed my perspective. And while part of me did think that would happen, I guess I didn’t quite “GET IT”.

But there were a lot of things I didn’t quite get. I’d heard about the depth of a mother’s love, but I didn’t get it. There’s fierceness about it that I never understood. There’s also an underlying terror to being a mom. There are so many “What Ifs” that one could drive a Mom crazy. What I trip and drop him? What if he cries and I can’t figure out why? What if I don’t get a cabinet latched properly and he ingests something harmful? And don’t get me started on the perils of learning to walk!! The first time he tumbled and hit his head on the end table, it was literally painful to me to see the bruise…I would have gladly taken on 5 bruises if I could just take away the owie from his one bruise.

As he’s reached milestones in the last year….rolling over, sitting up, standing, trying real food, first tooth, first steps....I can’t help but fast forward and now worry about his future, which compounds both the depth, fierceness and the terror of a mother’s love. What if he has a hard time making friends in grade school? What if he’s bullied? What if someone breaks his heart? And it’s during thoughts like that that I really understand a Mother Bear. Meaning, I will take someone OUT if they hurt him. ;) I’ve jokingly been known to say that this City girl knows a guy named Luigi back east who can make “problems” disappear. ** chuckle** And while I’m kidding…sort of…the fierce emotion behind that need to protect is very very real to a mother.

Which brings me to this Christmas….and yet another change of perspective.
Like you, I know the story of the Angel, Mary, Joseph and the birth of Jesus, but motherhood has given me whole new connection to it.

Over the past few weeks, my thoughts have been firmly set on Mary. And in a way, we were on the same path to motherhood. DON’T GET ME WRONG! While Will indeed “a” son of God, he’s not “the” son of God. No, what I mean is that this time last year, I too was about 15 months pregnant (at least it felt that way) And I know that there were never be a Christmas that happens that doesn’t remind me of the expectancy I felt a month before he was born.

But Mary, had to make long hard journey when she felt 15 months pregnant. (Kevin had a hard time getting me out of the house, I cannot imagine Joseph having to talk Mary in to taking that trip!) And I’m pretty sure she would NOT have been a happy camper during that journey. The physical discomfort, the worry about her unborn child, and the stress of the unknown would have driven and already hormonal, pregnant lady to the brink I’d think. Then to find out there was nowhere for them to stay…can you imagine poor Joseph having to deliver that little nugget of information to Mary? I can only imagine the “conversation” Mr Mouse and I would have had in the same circumstance.

Then think of that night….the night she labored. (And there’s a REASON it’s called LABORING!....IT”S WORK!) My heart just breaks to think of her alone, but for Joseph, without the comfort and aid of her mother or other women to help. Truly take a moment to think of it…a young woman laboring in a cattle shed, with only a young man who likely knew very little about childbirth to help. Can you imagine HER fear? HER worry? How about Joseph? I clearly remember the look of disguised of fear tempered with joyful expectation on Mr Mouse’s face when he walked into my delivery room in the hospital. And I try to think of how he would have been in Joseph’s place. He would have tried to wear the most patient and competent face he could have just to keep ME calm.

And then after all that labor and worry…..Jesus comes. There is NOTHING more vulnerable than a newborn. I can imagine Mary’s shaking hands cuddling her infant to her. I can imagine Joseph's face transformed with Joy. I can imagine the quiet aftermath as Jesus finds his first human comfort suckling at Mary’s breast.
Maybe it’s because I’ve now experienced a year of those tender moments with my son, that I can now so clearly see that real scene in my mind. And I know in my heart that young Mary felt the same sort of fierce, tender, and terrifying mother’s love for Jesus.


A young mother who probably had the same hopes for her son that I do for mine. But unlike me, she in some way knew that his path was already set by his heavenly Father. It’s unclear how much she knew or understood about what Jesus’ path would ultimately lead to, but I think she probably did consider that his physical end would not been good. And frankly, I’m in awe of her.

I don’t know how she did it. I mean I know my fears about my son and I know how all I want to do is to protect him from every type of harm that could befall him. Mary had to feel the same way about her beloved son. I asked myself how?

Clearly, the one answer is FAITH. Now, I’ve run many years with my faith bank on empty. By the time I was 9 years old my mother and my grandmother died. And over the next 15 years I lost my other 3 grandparents, 2 friends and 1 fiancĂ©. The final blow was when I lost my Father in 2002. I’ve felt for many years that I ought not attach myself too closely to people because they wouldn’t be here for long. I’ve spent many years angry with God.

But this year, as I felt a sisterhood based in mothering with Mary, I realized that her Faith allowed her to love and care for her son…knowing all along that he would never be hers…he would belong to everyone. She cuddled that baby to her breast, comforted him when he was teething, kissed away tears caused by skinned knees and mean people, encouraged him as he learned carpentry from Joseph and followed him as he stepped along the path that led him to Calvary.
What amazing faith she had!

This year, has made Mary very very real to me. I’ll never look at the Nativity Scene and see her as an ethereal untouchable Saint. I’ll see her as a woman, as a mother…a mother with a heart full of love for her son. With faith in God, strong enough to believe that no matter what happened to Jesus all would be well. And maybe I’ll be able to slowly keep rebuilding my faith bank keeping her as my example.

Christmas blessings to you!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See - A Review

Dreams of JoyDreams of Joy by Lisa See

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dreams of Joy is the conclusion of the story started with sisters May and Pearl in Shanghai Girls. I do suggest you start with Shanghai Girls. I will say though, Dreams of Joy was the better of the two. So even if you feel Shanghai Girls was only a moderate book, do persevere because by the end of Dreams of Joy, you will be VERY glad that you did.

We join American born and raised Joy, who in a fit of despair after the suicide the man she thought to be her father and the discovery that who she thought was her mother, was really her aunt, seeks what she believe to be her utopia behind the Bamboo Curtain in Chairman Mao Zedong's Communist China. Her Aunt/Mother Pearl (who raised Joy as her own after she and her sister narrowly escaped from China to the U.S.) follows Joy back to China in a desperate attempt to get her safely home.

Dreams of Joy has many delicate layers which intertwine in ways you don't notice until you finish and have time to reflect. Lisa See does a wonderful job of showing life behind the Bamboo curtain in the time of Mao in contrast to how life was just 20 years earlier before May and Pearl escaped. Nothing is as it seems and all is covered by a false pretense of what it should be rather than what it is. Such is the relationship between sisters Pearl and May. On the surface, the closest of sisters who've never been apart, yet a turbulent relationship tainted by jealousies and lies but cemented by love. And of course Joy finds her "utopia" of rural China during Mao's Great Leap Forward to be anything but utopia. Instead she learns about loss, famine, death and horror.

The story moves well. I was compelled to do more research on China and Mao's reign after the taste that Lisa See used as her backdrop. In a true testament to how much I loved this book, when I finished it, I could not go right to another book. I wasn't ready to let go of the characters quite yet and needed a few days to let them go.

One final suggestion, if you've not read anything by Lisa See. Start with Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Why? Because it is set in China about 75 years prior to the start of Shanghai Girls. And by starting there, you can really understand 1) foot binding and 2) the true extent of changes and turmoil experienced in China during a relatively short period of time.

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

I Never Really Got it Before

I'm exhausted. No...really....really exhausted. This weekend has been a crazy fueled mishmash of food prep (for Mouse), shopping (for us all), laundry (piles and piles and piles), cleaning (he got sweet potatoes caked where??), and desperately trying to get caught up on some office work. Hello!! It's budget season you know and as the Controller, it's the 2nd busiest time of year for me. And to top it all off, Mr. Mouse had a train show today so he wasn't home at all today.

Somewhere around 5pm today, Mouse hit his "end." You mommies know what I mean. Nine months old, doesn't want to play, doesn't want to eat, doesn't want to be held, doesn't want to be put down, tired tired tired, doesn't want to sleep. You know...the END. So, I pulled out my last tried a true trick. My hair.

See, I have reasonably long curly hair which I most often wear up. But Mouse loves it. He loves it when I put it down and he can pull on it and touch it. One of our all time favorite games is that we sit forehead to forehead and I flip my hair up over both our heads and tickle his face and neck with my hair. Yes, I know, it's weird. Couldn't even tell you when I first did it, but it's been one of the few things that can stop his "end" from becoming a full blown meltdown.

So around 5pm today, we're sitting on the living room floor. Only 1/2 of the laundry was done, haven't touched dinner, only got about 2 hours of office work in when I really needed 6. But here I am, forehead to forehead with my 9 month old with the world darkened because we're both now hidden by my dark hair. He's giggling as I'm tickling him and he's getting spit all over my hair because he has 2 teeth coming in and is a drool machine. He lets me cuddle on him now, he's tired and though he's never been a cuddling type of baby (who would have figured) he is now because he's happy and tired.

At that moment I really understood what I've heard others say about the love you feel for your child is like no other. I get it now. I get that every fiber of my being wants and WILL protect his body and spirit. I get a love so fierce that it's frightening.

I married late. I was 40 when Mr. Mouse & I tied the knot...first and only marriage for us both. Thus when we were blessed with Mouse, it was humbling and awe inspiring to us both. Before that, when I was in my 20's and 30's and all my friends were having their children I thought I knew about this kind of love. But I didn't. I had the first spark of it when Mouse was born and since that moment it's been slowly enveloping me. But not until today, did I really REALLY get it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Playing in the leaves!

Fall in West Michigan means crispy air, lots of leaves and enjoying the last few days of comfortable outside weather before winter hits and the accompanying many feet of snow. Mouse got to play in the leaves for the first time!

Okay, fun to look at and touch, but how do they taste?