Monday, June 09, 2014

Here today. Going, going, gone tomorrow.

Yes, the house came down a tiny blonde brick house reduced to a pile of twisted window frames and 70-year-old two by fours. Long ago, the house sat on what use to be a dairy farm. As did all the houses around here. But the lay of the land has changed since that last quart of cream. Now, all of our homes sit on the upside of a hill, with nary a cow in sight, aside from the concrete one in my backyard. 

The backhoe has finished demolition — there are no real remnants of family life at their address on  Cherry Street, where Maria and Gregory once made their home. 

They’re both gone now. Really gone. Maria and Gregory Barlowsky, our Ukranian neighbors. But it wasn’t THAT long ago when they were (t)here, cooking up a storm of borsch or potato pancakes, tending their “estate”, next door to us, speaking Russian or some hybrid dialect combining Russian and Ukrainian. Ever hear a heated argument in Russkrainian? We have. A few.

Maria and Gregory came to America from the Ukraine some years after surviving WW2 and a brutal concentration camp. They came (wounded) HERE to Colorado with two children, hope, trust, and a few pennies. Gregory came without a left arm, apparently the victim of bomb shrapnel. Maria came with an abhorrence for vinegar, apparently the Nazi concentration camp substituted vinegar for water. 

Without a college education, they worked long grueling hours saving their money in hopes of buying the American dream. In the 1970’s, they purchased a humble brick home at 4th and Fillmore and lived quietly for five years. But Gregory was offered a “much-ah betta” job as a deliveryman for a pharmacy in South Denver. So, they sold their Fillmore home and moved southward.

Our little family didn’t arrive next door until the late 1990’s. I recall the two of them standing at the front door, hours before Two Men and a Truck had even pulled away, Maria in a babushka, Gregory gesturing “welcome!” with an arm that wasn’t there. They introduced themselves with a bag of cucumbers, tomatoes, and beets. Every day for the next two weeks they brought homegrown vegetables to our doorstep, hanging them on a doorknob if we weren’t home. 

Gregory never allowed his disability to deter homeownership. He enthusiastically mowed, clipped, trimmed, wheelbarreled and gardened. And Maria did everything Gregory did, plus all the cooking and cleaning. She always said they made a good team, but I secretly thought she was the real super hero of the family.

Or angel.  

Maria told of an angry young man with a bandaged body during 1940’s Europe. She was intrigued the moment she saw him at the camp. Anger and resentment dripped off of this man, she said, who's buttons were never buttoned correctly. One day she watched from afar as he struggled, one-handed, to button his shirt, expletives flying. Little did Gregory know a sixteen-year-old angel was approaching. Maria took hold of his lapel and began buttoning each one into place. She smiled, then walked away without saying a word. After that, she said Gregory was a changed man with all his buttons in a row. It seemed her small kindness squeegeed and swabbed up all his disappointment and rage, replacing them with compassion. 

The two were together ever since then. 

Today though, it is as if no particle of their beings was ever there. The structure, the house, their home, is no more. My mind has to squint to remember how it all laid out. It’s even hard pressed to find leftovers of Gregory’s buzz cut lawn beneath the rubble. But it’s there, I think, somewhere, for a few more hours, before the backhoe scrapes it clean.

Maria and Gregory Barlowsky lived an abundant life on Cherry Street. Of course their grown children remember. Their children will always remember!  But, next door . . . I'll be remembering too.

Monday, May 12, 2014

An Unordinary List

Let’s move the month of May forward with a list! 

Oh-how I like lists. I inherited that trait from my mother. She is the empress of lists. Mom keeps a pen near her steady supply of plain white paper note pads from Walgreens. There, she jots down all the important stuff in her life: grocery lists, birthday party and holiday to-do’s, (down to the minute) thoughts, grievances, affirmations, reminders, sketches, praise, telephone numbers… 

But for me, I beat and plunk out my lists using these square plastic apple keys. (I think they’re plastic. Maybe their some kind of hybrid. It doesn't matter.)


May. Day Twelve. In perpetual motion (✓s mark the accomplishments.):

Look behind you now and then. But keep the pace moving forward, girl. 

Stones and sticks (yes) might trip you up now and again. Occasionally pick one up and examine. 

Investigate the hunches between your thoughts, the ones slightly to the left of your imagination. (✓)

Drink something mildly sweet. And OK, creamy and chocolatey. (✓)

Watch a funny youtube of dogs or kids doing ridiculous things. (✓)

Inquire about a local art/illustration class. 

Watch the (darn) snow melt off of the trees and bushes. (✓) Tomorrow the mess will all be gone. 

Lavish over a perfect pink grapefruit. (✓) Said grapefruit wants to know you thoroughly enjoyed every lip smacking bite. (✓)

Take every fleeting opportunity to hold a pup and tell her she/he is nonpareil. (✓) They like that. 

Friday, May 02, 2014

"21" boats and a wish.

Whooosh.Bam.Zing.Land-HO! 

April is over. 

The second to last day of April came with a "21" boat salute, just as Annie was turning 21-years-old. Imagine that! 

We launched my baby girl into a good future. The best future. The only future. She was surrounded by family, food, candlelight, laughter, song, toasts, gifts. Love doesn’t get any more “white light” than that. 

A regatta of life-long admirers will always have her back. Tried and true. Thick and thin. Good to know. Hmmm? 


A tabletop of seashells, fishing nets, sand, hurricane lamps, rope, and those "21" boats — it was all about that nautical launch... into a sublime tomorrow.

Happy Birthday to my love. May there always be a tailwind when you need it most.   

Thursday, March 20, 2014

TUMBLEWEED INVASION...


The Tumbleweed Came Back
Tumbleweed invasion... some times, real life finds authenticity in story books.

A Colorado town is being usurped by a flood of tumbleweeds, as reported in The Huffington Post. See the footage here. It's quite an issue for this community near Colorado Springs, but I couldn't help but see the parallel, (or mirror) to  THE TUMBLEWEED CAME BACK! 

"The tumbleweeds came back, the VERY next day...
Even more came back, they just wouldn't stay away!"

I can just see Granny and the kids skulking through the streets with a pitch fork and (good?) intentions.

I hope to learn how this besieged town digs their way out of this calamity. More at 10. I hope.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Hiking Boot Granola

I know. . . sounds yummy, right?

Well it is. Don't let my boot title sway you from grabbing a bag of oats and a mixing bowl. You won't regret one morsel of Hiking Boot Granola.

Hiking Boot Granola is a tribute to the little girl in my DO PRINCESSES series. She has a heathy appetite. And is always on the move. Sound familiar? She regularly heads into the kitchen for refueling.  Who wouldn't, after all that inquisitive play. Snack, breakfast, 2nd snackzies. You know the drill.

This recipe is loaded with goodness, made with 100% non-GMO, organic ingredients. Give it a try, won't you?

HIKING BOOT GRANOLA 

3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup coconut (unsweetened)
1/2 sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup pecan pieces (or other nut, or none at all)
2/3 cup coconut oil
2/3 cup maple syrup


Pre-heat oven to 325°. In the order listed, place the first six ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir, stir, stir.  Add coconut oil and maple syrup and stir, stir, stir some more.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. (Or not.) Spread the granola mixture evenly, pressing down with a spatula to the edge of the sheet, but not too close to the edge because you know the hazards.

Bake in a pre-heated oven for 20 minutes. Carefully stir and repress the mixture. Bake for 10 minutes more. Check. It should look nicely golden. Stir some more and bake longer if needed. YUM. Remove from oven and cool on the sheet until room temp. Transfer to a glass jar for storage in the fridge.

Photo coming soon!






Thursday, October 31, 2013

Woo-hoo, it's LAUNCH PARTY TIME

THE TUMBLEWEED CAME BACK is rolling into town. 

Please bring the little ones this Saturday to The Tattered Cover , Highlands Ranch CO for a rollicking good time. 

The best part of all? Kevin Rechin, the fabulous illustrator of THE TUMBLEWEED CAME BACK will be in town to demonstrate how he makes his awesome characters. 

Tumbleweed treats, contests, interactive readings and more!  

See you there... yes?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday Morning at the Picture Books: On a Beam of Light

Albert Einstein had me at hello. And so will On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky.

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein is a clever, witty, and informative tribute to a historic icon (with a twist of comic strip thrown in for good measure). The story clocks in at a "just right" length for the picture book crowd. It's never clumsy or slow. I found it captivating.

Of course, a conscience was at the core of Einstein's deeply wondrous wonderings. It's not new that his discoveries left a mark on the world. So did his philosophies and poetic offerings. Yet, in the end, Ms Berne circles us back around to a very personal meaning. Nice.

Readers will love the tonal illustrative technique used by Vladimir Radunsky, done here in goache, pen, and ink. Beautiful. The art is fresh and superbly alive.

On a Beam of Light is exquisite. I mean... just look at that!