Friday, December 09, 2016

Archie and Popcorn

Around the time that Millie was starting to show signs of illness and decline, the volunteers at the cat sanctuary for Animal Friends Connection Humane Society found a Rubbermaid container outside a rarely-used door.

It was a warm morning, and would later be a very hot day. In the container, nestled among a bunch of warm old jackets, were seven tiny kittens. They all had colds and infections and they were infested with fleas.

I remember my friend Marian posting about it on Facebook--I used to volunteer for AFC, and they are the group from which I adopted the late Harley Dude. Marian and I have kept loosely in touch via social media, and I even commented on her post about the abandonment.

A couple of weeks later, Millie was gone. I saw occasional updates about the seven kittens and thought it would be sweet if I could adopt a pair of them...but circumstances were such that I couldn't adopt again just yet. It bothered the hell out of me that while my heart broke at losing Millie, someone else in the world could dump seven helpless kittens like so much garbage.

Meanwhile, three kittens went with one foster mom, and four went with another. The group of three were named Archie, Angel, and Popcorn.

Angel later passed away, and the boys struggled a little, too, but persevered.

Eventually cured of their maladies and with fleas washed away, they grew into healthy, adoptable cats. Eventually they were adopted, by a couple.

Fast-forward to this past summer, when papers were signed and a condo was closed on. I sent a message to Marian on Facebook, letting her know I'd be in the market for a pair of kitties within the next few months. AFC has a hard time with overpopulation and finding homes for their animals, so she was ecstatic to hear from me. Even though I no longer live in Stockton, it's an easy enough drive and I know the people of AFC well and believe in what they're doing.

August was full of painting and cleaning and new floors. September was move-in time, as I unpacked boxes and found places for everything, and purchased furniture. October and November had some added financial burdens--my car's registration, a plumbing repair--that made it impossible to spend money on adoption fees and litter boxes and everything else cats need to get started.

Through all this, Marian sent the occasional "how are things going?" message, and while I was chomping at the bit to find a pair of sweeties, it just wasn't quite right yet. I eyed December with a lot of hope.

Last week, another message. It had two pictures in it, of a pair of boys.

Turns out Archie and Popcorn's couple are divorcing. There's a baby, and the mother can't afford to keep cats. Nothing has been said about the father, so I assume he doesn't want them.

Marian convinced the lady to keep Archie and Popcorn in a sort-of foster situation because the sanctuary was full, and so were all the foster homes. And she sent me two sweet pictures, while I was out drinking wine and painting with a bunch of work friends.

I looked at the pictures. I cooed. I showed my friends. The next day, I showed Mom. "I'm thinking about it..." I said. I thought about "the boys" and how sweet they looked. I thought of how a young-but-not-tiny pair (they'll be two in April) would fit my current lifestyle very well. They're completely bonded to each other, which is perfect.

So I messaged Marian again. "I'm really considering Archie and Popcorn." By the time she called me on Sunday evening, I was telling her, "Really, meeting them is a formality. I want them."

And there you have it. We spoke on Sunday, and on Wednesday, she took them out of the lady's house to visit the vet for shot updates. They're now waiting at the sanctuary, where I will meet them on Sunday morning. This week has felt excruciatingly slow, as I wait and wait for Sunday to roll on so I can meet my boys.

Popcorn wears orange striped pants. Archie wears white. They're so flippin'
cute with those pink noses, I am about to start bouncing off the walls. 

I shared my news on Facebook, and Marian, in turn, shared it with her friends, including the boys' foster mom. Everyone is very excited to see them get a new home--apparently they're known as being very sweet boys (shy initially, but totally unable to resist cuddles). Their pictures show them to be bright-eyed and healthy. Their journey thus far has had its ups and downs, but they're about to embark on one last big change--a drive from Stockton to Antelope with a very excited lady (and her mother, who is coming along) to settle into their forever home.

Their former foster mom shared baby pictures with me, and the story of how Popcorn got his name.



Being me, I've gone a little overboard with the toy-buying.

Yes, those are Star Wars break-away cat collars and Star Wars mice.

Anyway, this rambling blog post is all a way of sharing my news that I'm finally adopting a new pair of sweeties. I'll never replace Millie, or Harley, but I have a lot of love to give and rather think my sweet babies would approve. There are far too many homeless kitties in the world, and I'm in a position to help. These boys need me.

And I need them.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Christmas in Casa Meg

The obligatory picture post.

A $5 sign, a $5 candle, a $1 vase, and $3 ornaments.

Another $1 vase with the rest of the ornaments, and a book that
was Aaron's, then mine.

My balcony.

Looking in. It's quite cozy.

My England Tree. I have two Christmas trees, because why

From my February trip. :) 

Also from February--there was a loud squee from me when I
saw Jane in the National Portrait Gallery gift shop.

Tea by the tree.

Mom gave me this last week. Having a bird house in your tree
is good luck.

Christmas stuff was 60% off at JoAnn Crafts, so the little
silver tree was a no-brainer.

I went to one of those Paint Nite deals and left a $5 tip--so our
artist let me pic a tiny painting.

My parents bought these English village pieces many moons
ago. As a child I adored it, so they let me have it.

It's not particularly Christmassy, but we always put it out at
Christmas, so that's what I do now.

I'm going to be all vague and add that I've added another
stocking since then. No, I'm NOT pregnant.

Some of my favorite childhood books. I'm glad Mom kept
them. (Again, NOT pregnant.)

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. So I guess I have three
Christmas trees.

One Tiffany ornament surrounded by Snoopy.

My second piano teacher, Mrs. Heindmarsh, used to give
me an ornament every year. I have several from her that
I hang with great love each year. She's been gone many
years, but I credit her with helping me learn to love music.

The tree when I first finished it.

I found this topper and realized it would make the perfect
topper for  my eclectic little tree.

I found the sparkly candle cup at Orchard Supply Hardware. 

The England tree, next to my hutch. I started collecting
these ornaments in London Semester 1999. Bought a few
more in 2004-2005, and then another five or six on this
year's trip. Since taking this, I've wrapped some red tulle
around the tree to finish it.

The second bathroom.

Under the tree.

Mom made the sign many years ago, for her parents. She was going to get rid
of it, but I grabbed it. I've had the Peanuts ornaments since high school. 

This pic of Grandma and Grandpa Bean is always on display. I kept it out for

That doorway on the left is the 2nd bedroom. 

The view from the kitchen. 

Mom and Grandma made these when I was a child. The small bell on top
was my contribution. It's a hot mess, which makes it wonderful to me. I was so
eager to do what Mom and Grandma were doing, and they let me. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Christmas Comes to Casa Meg

In all of the places I've lived, I can't recall ever having such a hard time really settling in and thinking of a place as home as I have since I bought and moved into Casa Meg.

Sure, I've been moved in since Labor Day weekend, and it didn't take too long for me to get everything out of all the boxes. I pretty much have a home for everything now, except a few framed pictures I'm still thinking about. I've been set up to do everything I need to do in my home life.

But it has still felt...temporary.

It's hard to explain, and I'm not even sure I want to try. I know it has something to do with anxiety, and perhaps being in denial that I'm really responsible for everything in this place. (I'm back on meds, about two weeks in, feeling a lot more even-keeled about everything, which is nice.)

If there's one thing I love, it's decorating for Christmas. For the last five Christmases, Mom let me take over the kitchen table with a four-foot pre-lit Christmas tree and my massive collection of Snoopy ornaments. If the rest of the house looked straight out of Better Homes and Gardens (Mom's got style), my kitchen corner looked like Santa Claus and Charles Schulz co-hosted a raver. Bless Mom for realizing I needed a few of my own special things each year.

This year, I have my own home to decorate, and a week off for Thanksgiving. My usual MO is to set everything up the day after Thanksgiving, but yesterday, I got a bee in my bonnet to at least dig everything out of my storage closet. When I moved in, I shoved a ton of stuff in there, slammed the door, and ignored it until now. With rain coming this week and the closet being on my balcony, I figured a sunny day was the day to wrestle everything out of there...and I ended up setting it up because once it's out, I might as well.

After five years stuffed in a storage unit, my cheap pre-lit Christmas tree still works, and looks really great by the sliding glass door. As I set it up and watched it light up, I realized that this is what I've really needed all along--Christmas in Casa Meg.

Somehow, the simple act of hanging my beloved holiday memories on a fake tree that sheds all over my living room is what I needed to feel like I'm really home.

Today I bought a couple strands of white lights and strung them around the railing on my balcony. I plugged in a giant light-up Santa Snoopy that Mom and Dad brought over for me (we've had him for years). There are plush toys by the fireplace and under the tree, and doo-dads and knick-knacks on the mantel. It's cheerful and homey.

It's home.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Tales From the Schoolyard...Cave Painting

My school is an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, which is a program of study that emphasizes a global approach to learning. IB schools, for example, must offer 2nd language instruction (our school offers Russian and Spanish) to encourage bilingualism. Units of study are developed by teachers to reflect this global approach to learning while also staying true to whatever local standards and curriculum exists (in our case, California State Standards).

This year, as we roll out the IB program in our middle school, I'm building units of my own...and my first one is a unit for my 6th grade art class on Ancient Art. They study ancient civilizations in 6th grade Social Studies, so I figured it would be cool to give them some exposure to the art these people left behind.

While pre-history is not a part of their curriculum, I decided to include the cave paintings of Lascaux because these paintings point to some of the earliest examples of culture being developed. Plus...they're just really cool.

So a week-and-a-half ago, armed with lots of ideas, I started my very first IB unit by turning on my doc camera and reading a short book about the discovery of the Lascaux caves in 1940 to my students.

"That's a 4th grade book!!" called out one indignant student in 6B. 

"Yes..." I replied with a sigh. "But if I found a book at your level, it would take forever to read it to you, and we'd have less time for doing actual art work."


"Yeah, so just relax and enjoy the story."

After reading, I gave them a worksheet about the caves and we watched a short video of Rick Steves on a visit to Lascaux. The original caves are sealed off, after twenty-odd years of tourism started to ruin the paintings. A full reproduction has been built nearby, though. 

I read one question on the worksheet out loud to the students of 6A. "Why do you think these people painted the caves?"

In answer, I received dead silence and blank stares.

Hmm, I thought. Then: "Okay...this isn't going to leave this room, I promise. But how many of you have graffiti'd something you shouldn't have?"

First, incredulous looks, followed by a couple of bold hands. I smiled at them. A moment later, a few more hands started to tentatively raise, and I grinned even more. More than half the room admitted to it.

"I won't tell. I don't condone it, but this is just a question to help you understand., why did you do it?"

"I was bored..." replied one student. More hands went up. "Yeah, me too--I was bored."

"Okay, fair enough...any other reasons?"

Finally, another hand went up. I called on her.

"I wanted people to know I'd been there."

"YES! See...everyone wants to know that they mattered, that their lives had meaning. It's why we create art, or write books, or make songs. Because what's going to happen to all of us?"

"We're going to die."

"Yes, eventually. And all humans want to know that they have left some sort of mark on the world that will exist when they are gone." 

It was so amazing to see their faces light up with understanding.

We spent the rest of that lesson sketching some of the animal images that are in the Lascaux caves.

On Monday and Tuesday this week (I see 6B on M/W and 6A on T/Th, for about 90 minutes each lesson), I gave each student a cut-up piece of paper bag and some chalks...and we went for it.

I don't yet have pictures of their final products--it was a hectic week (and an emotional one), and they are sitting in bins on my desk waiting to be graded.

For this unit, I'm aiming to find a modern equivalent for each ancient art form we study. Cave art leads quite naturally to graffiti, so on Wednesday and Thursday this week, I showed the students some pictures I've taken over the years of graffiti and street art (believe me, I looked closely at every single image to make sure there was no naughty language!!). We discussed the difference between graffiti (usually done without permission) and street art (usually done with permission) and I gave my "I don't condone graffiti!!" spiel.

In 6B, one boy's eyes lit up, and his hand shot in the air, when I said, "Here's what we're doing today...yes, D?"

"Are we doing graffiti?"

"Why yes...only I'm calling it Contemporary Cave Art."

While they got started on that, I got two volunteers to oversee a whole-class project--our very own wall of hands like one in Lascaux.

Before class, I taped a large piece of brown butcher paper on the wall outside my room. As the kids came in, they could see it, with two outlines of my hand painted with (very drippy) brown tempura.

Before long, my volunteer had kids coming out two at a time to add their hands. She was great--coming in and yelling, "Okay, [name] and [name], it's your turn!!" She made sure there was no paint dripping on the walls.

Every once in a while, I stepped out to monitor things, and it was going swimmingly.

...And a bit drippily.

On Thursday, 6A added their hand prints, and now we have a delightfully odd wall of hands on display, which most of the school has to walk past when going to recess.

Meanwhile, inside the room, there was a hum of happiness as my students drew their names, or words like "love" and "hope" in graffiti letters and blew across marker tips to get a spray paint effect.

I took a few pictures during the process, as students finished up.

The kids have begged for more time to finish their graffiti art next week, so I'll adjust my unit a little to give it to them. Next up is Aztec suns, made from terra cotta clay.