Ode to a Bean

Very worn out post-holiday, so I am sharing this again as a little pick-me-up. How are you doing?

db mcneill - Momsomniac

Ode to a Bean

for Dan and Dan of Fojo Beans

I found a poem in a cup.

It was hot, I drank it up.

When the poem was smooth and brown,

it was good.

I drank it down.

When the poem was hot and black,

it called to me.

I threw it back.

When the poem was sweet and mild,

I held it gently, like a child.

The poem flowed – gentle, quiet –

moving moments, day from night.

It warmed me and it woke me up.

I found a poem in a cup.

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Korean Family and Kinship Terms

We are trying to learn Korean now as a family. I need to keep this handy!

the talking cupboard

I’m sure some of you who watch kdramas are already familiar with the titles used in the family, as in how a  person address his or her family members. I got used to hear a servant or maid calling the young master and miss as doryeonnim (도련님) and agasshi (아가씨) in dramas but when I watched another dramas, I was surprised to hear a woman addressing her younger brother and sister-in-law as doryeonnim and agasshi. I then realized that there are various ways of calling your relatives in Korean culture. It’s not as simple as uncles and aunts!

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Trick or Treat?

The time is nearly upon us – the night when the veil is thin, the hungry dead walk the Earth and we ignore them at our peril. In other words, trick or treat!

For people who claim no one played pranks involving eggs or toilet paper “back in the day”, for everyone who complains about teens trick-or-treating, for everyone who lives in Colorado – a State that’s very name is a Spanish word – and then complains about the Day of the Dead colliding with Halloween, I have three words: KNOCK IT OFF.

When I was a kid (in the 1970s), I lived in a bucolic rural area in Maryland. It was lovely. On Halloween, it was a given that if you had no treats, there would be a trick. The severity of trick often depended on how you treated the kids. If you were an older, popular kid, it was possible to end up with toilet paper trees whether you had treats or not.

When my Dad was a kid (in the 1950s), one Halloween he and his buddies carried the neighborhood grump’s Volkswagen up onto her porch and left it there. Of course, she was not handing out candy, so she did not find it until morning.

The pranks are not new. They are not a sign of the times. In fact, I see fewer of them than ever. So, yeah, trick or treat. Get it?

Teenagers are between childhood and adulthood, just as always. Even back when they were considered adults and were settling the (not empty) American West, their brains were still not adult brains. Sometimes teens are like adults, sometimes not. But really, think about it – what would you rather they were doing?

And yes, in Colorado, sometimes adults trick-or-treat – often with faces painted like skulls and dressed in wedding clothes. This is not new. The first non-native land claims in Colorado were made by Mexican farmers – long before the gold rush. This unique-to-the-region Day-of-the-Halloween mish-mash may or may not come to a neighborhood near you. But if it does, that’s really cool.

Here’s the main thing – Halloween is all Soul’s Eve, is Hallow’s Eve. This is the night when the dead were believed to walk the Earth and the living were to feed them. This was believed in many places across many cultures, and I can only speak for myself, but if people come to my door on Halloween, I am feeding them, whether they are 70, 27, 17, or 7 (though I also offer non-food items ~ which makes the night so much nicer for some kids).

So these are the questions – Trick? Or Treat?


Once upon a time, when I heard the word “poppies”, the song Dr. Demento used to play would run through my head. You know, this one.

Recently, however, I learned that poppies were a metaphor for soldiers fallen in war – a poetic representation of blood on the battlefield.  And the Existential Blues didn’t play in my head anymore.  I began to think about that metaphor. I began to think about how poppies are prolific.  I began to think about how gardeners call desirable plants that grow where they are not planted (or tended) “volunteers”.  And a picture grew in my head.

I painted the picture below for a fund-raising auction to support a wonderful non-profit, cooperative preschool – Lakewood United Methodist Preschool, aka “LUMP”.  All of my sons have gone there.  This painting is titled “Volunteers / We Stormed the Beaches at Normandy”.  You can’t really see it unless the light is just right, but in the sky is a letter from Winifred to Henry and in the grass is Henry’s reply.  This is an exchange of letters I imagined between a soldier and his wife during WW II.  I hope you like it.

Mixed media on canvas - prepared for LUMP fund-raiser
Volunteers / We Stormed the Beaches at Normandy




In addition to the paintings I shared here, I painted another, then another.  On Friday, I sold the first 3 to the same person – the friend who initially asked if she could commission me to do one.

She has done me the most wonderful turn of kindness without even trying in breaking through the barrier that had stopped me from painting for years. Maybe, having borne the heavy mantle of supporting the family for so long, I couldn’t break it out of simple desire.  Maybe there had to be money in it.  Whether she ever buys another painting again, I also feel that I have a patron, which is a huge big deal.

Paintings #1 through 3 are shown below.  I wrapped up #4 last night.  I did that one for a charity auction for the preschool my sons have attended (last one in his last year now).  I will share it soon.

How did your week-end start?  Did it wrap up in a similar way to how it started?

Pathways #1 - Over the Hill - inspired by Moundville, AL
Pathways #1 – Over the Hill – inspired by Moundville, AL
Pathways #2 - Into the Woods - Inspired in the woods of Louisiana, though the cherry tree is the stuff of fantasy
Pathways #2 – Into the Woods – Inspired in the woods of Louisiana, though the cherry tree is the stuff of fantasy
Ditch Weed/As I Lay Dying - Inspired by the tenacity of life and the rebirth of hope
Ditch Weed/As I Lay Dying – Inspired by the tenacity of life and the rebirth of hope

The Big Idea: William Alexander

I believe a surprise from the book store is needed by Son 1. But I better read it first, just to be safe *ha!* (I admit it – mostly, I do this to read these books in peace).


Who would you want as the first speaker to an alien civilization? National Book Award winner William Alexander proposes an intriguing candidate in his middle-grade novel Ambassador, and after reading his Big Idea piece, I can’t say I entirely disagree with him.


I love the word “ambassador.” I remember rolling it around in my eleven-year-old brain while watching Star Trek TNG. Ambassadors command reverence and respect. They defeat villains by knowing what to say and how to listen. They can end wars with words. Supposedly. Federation ambassadors seem to accomplish all of these things offstage, but on board the Enterprise they suffer tragic deaths or are otherwise incapacitated right before a commercial break. Then Picard takes over, quotes Shakespeare, and fixes things. I wondered what an ambassador might actually do if they could just live through the commercials.

“Neoteny” is another favorite word. It means “the retention…

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The Great Squirrel Rescue

Everyone was busy that day. At least no one was answering their phones.

Darth found a baby squirrel on the driveway. It appeared to be having seizures and the flies were settling in. He brought it water – which it reached for and knocked over. Darth herded the boys away and told me he thought the squirrel had been poisoned. He’d found a dead adult, possibly the mother, days earlier. I speculated that it was pesticide poisoning – and told him about the Mocking Birds I used to find having seizures in the road back when I lived in Florida. They’d eaten bugs spayed with “cricket bait.”

“Not everyone understands pesticide is poison,” I said.

“Some people really hate squirrels,” he replied.

Son 1 and I started the rescue process.  We shooed the flies away, I pulled on the gardening gloves, found a box with a lid and punched holes in it.  Then we got the squirrel into the box. Son 1 talked to the squirrel and peeked in on it. A lot. Darth began calling around to get help tending to the little critter. No one who answered the phone that day was able to take a baby squirrel.  They gave us numbers for folks who could.  But when we called those numbers, the phones rang and rang – and rang. Finally, one number answered, and for a moment, we were flushed with –  success!  But it was just a message saying they were full and could not take any more animals.

Animal Control referred us to our local animal shelter. They didn’t answer their phones either, but I knew they were open. So Son 1, the squirrel in the box and I drove over.  They told us, unless it was our pet squirrel, they could only take it to euthanize it*.   They  gave us another number to call.  I called and called, and no one answered. By then, Son 1 and I were in for whatever it took – we’d look after the critter ourselves if necessary.  So we drove to the drug store and I bought a syringe and some water.  Son 1 waited – with the squirrel in the box – in the van. He was talking to it when I went inside the store. I don’t know what they talked about though.  Neither one ever said.

The squirrel drank a little water from the syringe and started to get perky.  And so…we drove home – Son 1, the squirrel in the box, and I – making sure the lid on the box was secure. I looked up baby squirrel care on the Internet, grateful that my profession had taught me how to weed out the useless and the absurd.  We determined it was about 5 weeks old and that we needed to keep it warm.  I held it and we fed it warm goat milk from a syringe.  The boys helped.

We learned it would be 10 to 13 weeks of care – with efforts to keep it wild – until the squirrel could care for itself outdoors.  With all the cuddling available at my house, it was unlikely it would be wild after 2 weeks, let alone 10. But there was nowhere to go.  I tried a  few more places – where I was told to put it back outside and “let nature take its course.” We understand that animals eat other animals.  We do. Even my four-year-old gets that. But we were invested (at the very least) in making the little guy comfortable by then. We were not going to put it back outside to watch it suffer and die.  Not once we’d come this far.  And a few hours later, some friends of Son 1 came by on their bikes and said…there’s a baby squirrel on your sidewalk, shaking and covered with flies. They gave me a strange look when I exclaimed “Another one?!”

We repeated the process. And after dinner, we went to Wal-Mart (the only place open by then), and bought the world’s ugliest cat carrier  (an electric pink zebra print), a heating pad, and some puppy formula. We fed the squirrels, warmed them, and I washed them and tried to help them pee (yep, that’s really a thing). They didn’t want the puppy formula though – goat milk was the thing.

Monday I sent out a plea on Facebook for animal rescue centers…and was referred back to places we’d already tried.  Then my friend Andrea recommended Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.   Greenwood – that’s the name of the town my folks grew up in – many many states away. It was a long drive, but the synchronicity felt right.  The folks at Greenwood urged me to stop feeding the babies. They said they could easily get the liquid into their lungs. We stopped, and found it felt like loss – feeding baby animals is gratifying. But we stopped.  We did.  Then we hurried them to Greenwood, where they welcomed the two little guys – who by then we’d named.

I called on Tuesday to check in and Buddy and Snugly were doing fine. That’s Buddy on the right – he’s the first one we found.  Snugly on the left was worse for wear, the same age, but smaller. And yes, I’ll be calling to check on them again soon.


It was good to know they were in a safe place with knowledgeable care, but it was tough to let them go.

Son 1 wants to work with wildlife now. Darth said we should keep the cat carrier handy “in case it happens again.” Son 3 insists on looking for baby animals every night now.  Son 2 did the same for a few nights – and decided that this rescue was complete.

Have you ever found an orphaned or injured animal? What happened? How was the experience for you?


*If it had been our pet squirrel, they could have tried to rehome it. Son 1 and I joked about how awkward it would have been to have said “Oh yes, it’s our pet” then try to go back hours later with a second squirrel!  (We would not really have lied, but it was an interesting scene to play out)


Bocal Majority Masterclasses & Recitals for Students and Music Educators

If any bassoon-playing followers are in Texas….this is a great group of talented (and funny) musicians.

The Breaking Winds Bassoon Quartet

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 3.17.28 PMSaturday, September 20th, 2014

Berkner High School Band Hall
1600 East Spring Valley Road
Richardson, TX 75081
Admission: $40 for soloists, $20 for auditors, $10 for Music Educators

Student’s Schedule:
2:30-3:30 Concert by Breaking Winds Bassoon Quartet
3:30-5:00 Masterclass with Breaking Winds Bassoon Quartet

Music Educator’s Schedule:
1:00-2:oo Class on Bassoon Teaching with the Breaking Winds Bassoon Quartet
2:30-3:30 Concert by the Breaking Winds Bassoon Quartet

For more information and enrollment, please visit: http://www.bocalmajority.com/masterclass-1-dallas-2014/

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Getting By

I recently posted the info below in a comment to an article on “saving money”.  It was a well-intentioned article, but like many such articles, was not useful to anyone struggling to get by (as in, struggling to be able to eat and have a roof).  There are things I know that I tend to assume are common knowledge, but…may they aren’t.  So, I am sharing the comment in hopes of helping…anyone (sorry for the funky paragraph breaks; I can’t seem to get spaces to insert at will).

     If you are struggling for food and shelter, it’s tough, and these kinds of articles don’t help. Part of the problem with money-saving advice is that it rarely comes from folks that have struggled to simply survive.
     When I was living off one meal a day and struggling to pay rent, I looked for fun, free entertainment (art openings, concerts in the park, free days at the zoo or museum, festivals where you can people watch and hear music). Some of these are good with kids too – and with kids, you can usually add local (free) splash parks, playgrounds, and library story times. That helps with savings, because you don’t have to spend money to have fun. Walks and hikes are also good. Of course, you have to remember to pack your own food for many of these – pb&j is fine, popcorn is a good go-to snack you can pack, and rice and beans go a long way at home.
     Cook the rice and beans and keep them separate and you can make them into a variety of meals each night for a week with a few ingredients added (add chicken or other veggies) – just mix it up each night, and sauté the cooked rice and beans with new ingredients, and it won’t feel like you are eating the same thing over and over.
     For the popcorn, if you have a microwave and a sizable microwave-able bowl, you can make regular popcorn with 1/3 to 1/3 cups of kernels plus enough vegetable oil to cover, cover with a dish cloth, and pop for 3 to 4 minutes (listening). Popcorn and a movie on TV can be fun. If you have a TV and Netflix, you have a ton of choices for movies streaming.  If you meet a friend “out”, meet them somewhere you can have one cup of coffee (cheap) – don’t meet them for a meal.

     If you have any way to grow food (even indoors in a pot), that can help. If you have kids, they get a huge kick out of growing food. You won’t be able to grow enough to feed everyone, but you’ll save a few $, and it will be fun.
     If you can make the time to pick through things, definitely get your work clothes at the thrift store. Goodwill and ARC have dressing rooms, so you don’t have to risk that spending $5 to $30 on a bunch of clothes that only kinda fit.
     For the literal saving of money, start a change jar – just a little one, like a used jelly jar. When it’s full, take to the bank and put it in your savings. Or if you feel weird doing that you can use a change machine (lie Coin Star) at the grocer and either apply those $ your groceries or get cash. The downside of that, is that it takes a small fee. If you can join a Credit Union, do so – fees are lower and your money is safer. With either a bank or CU, make sure you have a savings account (with most CUs, you need $5 to $50 to start one). Put $1/pay check in savings. When you feel safe doing so, bump it up to $5, then $10…and so on.
     If you are crafty or need kids’ activities, don’t be afraid to use the insides of cereal boxes for drawing, or scrap wood to paint on. There’s a shocking amount of things you can do with what people throw away or with rocks and pinecones. Flour, glue, water, and salt are also handy. Since you are on the internet, you can find tons of ideas for this – modify the ideas to work with what you have on hand (added aside:  I will post some of my Mom’s simple crafty free/cheap things here occasionally from now on; I learned a lot about crafting on the cheap from her!)
Don’t give up.
     I hope some of that helps. I am doing much better now thanks to many things, including my friends, but I got pretty good at looking like I was living the kind of life that one needs to be considered for many jobs while actually being dirt poor (most people don’t even know that they fit some middle-class mold that helps them get hired, but once you’ve poor, it’s obvious). GOOD LUCK!”