Category Archives: children

Zooming and Blooming

Today’s post is about Zooming (video conferencing with my kids) and Blooming (photos I took about a month ago).

I haven’t been outside with my camera for several weeks, for fear of encountering someone on the trail who might sneeze on me. That actually happened to a friend of mine. Maybe my next batch of photos will be of the still life variety, taken indoors.

Let’s see … I could artfully arrange that pile of work folders that’s sitting on a stool in my living room. I might create a colorful collage from the pile of fabric rectangles stacked up next to my sewing machine. Or perhaps the world is ready for a sculpture I’ve created out of my pile of dirty laundry — the laundry I’m hesitant to do in the community laundry room. Then there’s my dwindling pile of toilet paper rolls … I really had better photograph it before it’s gone.

I’m doing okay, though. I just had a fun three-way video chat with my daughters. Tomorrow is the older one’s 40th birthday, so we celebrated by using Zoom. After the initially unsuccessful attempt at connecting, there we all finally were on the screen, looking like a pared-down version of the Brady Bunch (without the makeup, weird hairdos, or fake smiles). Well, in my case, I had put on a touch of makeup. They may have, too, but I couldn’t tell because they always look beautiful to me.

It wasn’t exactly the birthday party my daughter would have wanted, but it definitely made my day. I got to see with my own eyes how they’ve been coping during the pandemic, and it was reassuring. They even hilariously modeled their new masks, which they’ve made by cutting up the many pairs of leggings that they own, and making holes in them to place over their ears. It’s genius!

As always, they made me laugh, demonstrating how the stretchiness of the masks enables the wearer to quickly change them into long earrings, headbands, or a clever way to hide a double chin.

It was also a chance for me to visit with my grandsons. The 4-year-old (who tells his parents every day that he’s “so sick of the coronavirus”) said “I love you” (unprompted) and the almost 1-year-old smiled and waved and blew me an almost-kiss, touching his open palm to his mouth and holding it there for about 20 seconds. I have to say, it might have been one of the longest kisses I’ve ever received. It was definitely one of the best, anyway.

I hope you enjoy these photos of budding life and the promise of spring.

Bud 1Bud 2Bud 3Bud 5Bud 6

 

 

 

Dona Nobis Pacem

The Roman Colosseum, built between 72 A.D. and 80 A.D., is a symbol of brutality.

It is widely believed to have been built by tens of thousands of slaves. During some of the spectacles, it is said that 10,000 animals were slaughtered in a single day. Gladiators fought to their deaths and criminals were executed, all for the sheer entertainment of crowds of 50,000 or more. It is not my favorite place.

In fact, I never was very interested in Roman history, or in seeing the Colosseum. But when I was in Rome for two days in September with someone who did want to visit the Colosseum, I said, “sure, why not,” and went along.

It’s big. It’s old. And it’s kind of shocking to be strolling along on an ordinary cobblestone street, turn a corner, and there it is, looming over everything. Kind of spooky, actually.

Colosseum 3

But for me, the most compelling part about the Colosseum was the fence around it — a fence that was covered with children’s colorful drawings calling for peace. I loved the contrast.

Maybe there’s hope for this world yet.

Colosseum 2.jpg

This is post #3 for NanoPoblano2019. Click the link to read some other posts from a wonderful bunch of dedicated bloggers known as “cheer peppers.”

nanopoblano2019 Badge

 

 

 

I’m Living in a Children’s Book

My two-week Airbnb guest house in upstate New York comes with ducks and chickens. I didn’t know this when I rented the place, but I’ve discovered that I enjoy waking up to the sound of quacking and clucking in the morning. Sure, I have to be careful not to step in duck poop when I enter and exit the building, but I’m getting back to nature!

It had rained overnight. Good weather for the ducks, who were quacking up a storm this morning as they waddled around drinking from the puddles. Then the sun came out, and so did the chickens, clucking and pecking and watching me with their beady little eyes.

One of them came up to me and circled around my legs. She didn’t try to peck at me, so I put her to work as my model. I felt like a professional fashion photographer as I complimented her fine feathers and jaunty gait.

fullsizeoutput_b5

The photo shoot continued as we headed over to the chicken coop. I was hoping the door to the nesting box would be open so I could collect an egg or two for breakfast. Sadly, the door was closed and latched. I thought about opening it, but I wasn’t sure all of the chickens were out roaming around.

Just then my model chicken started clucking like crazy. Apparently, she really wanted to get inside of the coop. I thought about opening the door for her until I noticed a pair of eyes looking out from an opening in the nesting box. It was a rabbit.

fullsizeoutput_b2

What was a rabbit doing in the chicken coop? Guarding the eggs? Keeping them warm? Just hanging out? Maybe the chicken and the rabbit are BFFs. I’m dying to know. Could this be the inspiration for my next children’s novel?

The “Frog and Toad” books were a big hit. Maybe “Chicken and Rabbit” would be even more popular with today’s kids … especially if I include illustrations of duck poop.

Any illustrators out there interested in collaborating? If you act fast, I can pay you in fresh eggs.

Funny Looking Snowmen

It rarely snows in Tucson, Arizona, but when it does, it’s a pretty big deal.

There was a dusting of snow to our north last night, and probably five inches of the stuff 25 miles up the road, in Oracle State Park, which is where I went today to take photos. The place was swarming with “snow peepers,” and some of them were building snowmen.

Here’s one of my snowmen photos. But this snowman isn’t really a man, is it? Because he (it?) has three ears (horns?) and wings (gigantic shoulder muscles?). Obviously, it was built by a bunch of men with issues. I won’t say what their issues are, but what’s that guy in the red jacket pointing at?

Snowman 1-2

I do think this snowman is kind of lovable. Just look at that expression.

Here’s another snowman. This one is more typical of the ones I saw in Oracle today:

Snowman 2

A 3-foot tall snow person with eyes made from a plant called “desert broom.”

Obviously, we southwest Arizona residents aren’t too good at building snowmen. But then, can you blame us? It only snows one day a year here! We need more practice.

On my way out of the park, I spotted this 2-foot tall model pointing the way:

Snowman 3

Actually, I think its arm fell off.

I think this minimalist sculpture was the best little snowman of all.

If you like snowmen, you’ll probably enjoy listening to my song about them, called “Gonna Build a Snowman.” It’s guaranteed to get you in touch with your inner child, and you can listen now, for free, here:

http://www.pacificbuffalo.com/music

Just click the link, then click “Gonna Build a Snowman.”

Happy Snow Year!

 

A Little Reptile Music

How are you celebrating New Year’s Eve?

They’re predicting snow and ice tonight, so I’m staying home with my Trader Joe’s frozen hors d’oeuvres, bottle of wine, and internet streaming. And just in case you’re doing likewise, here’s a suggestion:

Log onto YouTube and watch my latest attempt at video stardom, Desert Spiny Lizard Blues. It features a song I wrote about a lizard who uses acronyms. (You may remember it from my previous post, A Lizard’s Tale.) Given enough champagne, I’m predicting you’ll enjoy it even more than watching the ball drop.

If you DO enjoy it, please feel free to give it a thumbs up, and share it with your friends! Once again, here’s the link:

Desert Spiny Lizard Blues

Wishing everyone a happy, peaceful, joyous, adventurous, and successful 2019.

 

 

 

 

Fewer Presents, More Presence

I knew I was old when my daughter called me last night and said she won’t be exchanging any Christmas presents this year, “except for the kids.”

I breathed a sigh of relief.

“Ahh … that’s finally over with,” I thought, supremely thankful that she’d had the grace to announce her intentions on the day before Black Friday, before I’d started my Christmas shopping.

I love my daughters, but trying to guess what gifts would bring them pleasure, frantically wrapping said gifts, cramming them into shipping boxes, standing in long lines at the post office, and paying extra just so they’d arrive by December 25 was something I wouldn’t miss (especially since I usually don’t begin the process until December 15).

And I knew they were probably struggling with the same ordeal: buying (or in many cases making), wrapping, and mailing their usual abundance of gifts, all with tight schedules and limited budgets.

For years, I dutifully trudged in and out of stores searching for the perfect gifts that I imagined would make my daughters’ eyes light up with glee. I baked cookies, knit scarves, and framed my own photos for them. I then graduated to letting someone else make the gifts by shopping at Etsy. It was fun and festive for a few days, and then it quickly became a disheartening matter of settling for things I wasn’t sure they’d even like.

dwarf-49807_1920.jpg

How they probably looked after opening presents from me.

As bad as that sounds, for the past couple of years our family has hit a new low: the Amazon Gift List, which basically boils down to the following interaction:

Recipient: “I want all of these things on my Gift List! You can buy them right now! It’s so convenient! I’m only telling you this to make your life easier!”

Me: “But these things are not at all unique! Don’t you trust me to buy you something wonderful?”

Recipient: “No comment. And now look: I’ve added even more things to my Gift List!”

Me: “Well … but it seems so impersonal … I don’t know …”

Amazon: “Don’t worry, there’s free shipping! Would you like a gift card with that?”

Me: (Sigh) “Sure.”

(Just kidding. My family isn’t really like that.)

My daughter’s current sentiments (seconded by my other daughter, my stepdaughter, and my husband) have finally allowed me to enjoy the holidays. Yes, I’ll still go a little crazy trying to come up with fun, exciting, and educational gifts for the three young ones in our family (books are always a good choice) but now I’ll actually be able to focus on fewer gifts for a change. Maybe I’ll make some by hand. I could even use my savings to make a donation to a worthy cause.

This is even more appealing when I think of how much I hate shopping. It wasn’t always so. I actually enjoyed shopping once upon a time, when I was about 15 years old. Department stores had fancy window displays and heavy revolving doors. When you pushed your way through them, you entered into a calm, orderly world of carpeted floors, gliding elevators, and the subtle fragrance of expensive perfume.

In high school, I’d ride the city bus downtown to the prestigious Sibley’s to do a little window shopping. The clothes sold at Sibley’s were well-made, and hence, I usually couldn’t afford them (but I liked trying them on). Then I’d head across the street to McCurdy’s basement in search of a bargain.

woman-163687_1280

How I felt while shopping at Sibley’s.

girl-3255402_1920.png

How I actually looked.

Finally, I’d have lunch or a snack upstairs at McCurdy’s classy yet affordable restaurant, which made me feel pampered and rich again. Sometimes I’d meet a friend there. Shopping was a social event in my youth. Now it’s an agonizing ordeal for me, at best.

This year, there will be fewer presents to go around, but perhaps greater presence of mind, and more time to reflect on other gifts — such as peace, good will, charity, and light — all of which are celebrated around the world in December. There will always be other opportunities to buy things and mail them off when the urge hits me. I’m just glad I don’t have to do it right now.

nanopoblano2018-notrim

Diversity Song

Yesterday, I walked to a little park near my apartment. It was a beautiful day. People of all ages, shapes, and sizes were out walking and riding bikes. A gray-haired woman sat on a bench in the sun next to a young woman with Down syndrome. A bald man on a recumbent bike sat quietly next to a statue, a memorial to children in the community who have died. Children played on a rainbow-colored slide. I noticed that it was also a rainbow-colored variety of children; their hair was black, brown, and yellow. It got me thinking about America.

It’s hard NOT to think about America these days (especially if, like me, you happen to be an American). We’re in the news every day, and most of it’s downright embarrassing. But at the park, I started thinking about what I believe truly makes America great. To me, it’s our diversity.

Maybe this Thanksgiving, Americans should make more of an effort to give thanks for our diversity. And maybe we should celebrate it this Fourth of July, too.

Tonight, I’ve written some lyrics about diversity in America. You might want to sing them to the tune of “America the Beautiful” while sitting down for your Thanksgiving dinner this year.

DIVERSITY

Oh beautiful for this our home
For mountains, rivers, trees
For buffalo so plentiful
Fish swimming in the seas
For Native people living here
Respectful of the land
The beans and corn and squash adorned
That perfect feast so grand

Oh brave the many immigrants
Who faced the ocean storms
With hopes of finding better lives
Wishing to be transformed
And braver still the stolen ones
Robbed of their liberty
Our country’s been a melting pot
Though not completely free.

We stand for nothing if not this:
We are diversity
A land of many colors proud
That is our legacy
America, America
Our strength: our many shades
A garden where all flowers grow
Where every grain can wave!

© Lori Bonati

nanopoblano2018-notrim

Confessions of a Terrified Child

I was raised Catholic, but don’t jump to any conclusions. Yes, my experience was frightening, but not in the way one might assume. It was a nun who scared the bejeezus out of me.

I was 11 years old and attended public school, but as a member of the local Catholic parish, I was required to attend “religious instruction” every Monday afternoon. (To this day, I’m not too fond of Mondays.)

The “instruction” in those days consisted of nuns forcing us to memorize answers to the questions in the Catechism (something we were too young to understand) while we sat for what seemed like hours confined to wooden desks (the kind that were attached to each other, with little inkwells and fancy wrought-iron scrollwork on the sides).

child-830988_1920

I was a good little Catholic. Most of the time I paid attention to what the nuns were saying. Some of the time I stared out the window, and occasionally I just wondered how the Catholic school kids could stand those weird little desks.

I wish I had spent more time staring out the window and less time listening to the nuns, because one thing a nun said had a traumatic effect on me. She was talking about sin, and the right way to go about Confession.

At Confession, we were supposed to walk into a tiny wooden space about the size of a closet, close the curtain behind us, kneel on a hard board, and wait until a faceless shadow appeared behind a sliding door. Pretty scary so far, right? Then we had to tell the faceless shadow (the priest) all of the “sins” we’d committed since our last Confession. Sin had been described to us as black marks on our pure white souls, marks that could only be erased by going to Confession.

We were taught that if we died with sins on our soul, we had to suffer before we could get into heaven. And God forbid we should die with a “mortal” sin on our soul. (Mortal sins were serious crimes, like murder, or coveting our neighbor’s wife, or swearing, and other shit like that.) If we’d done any one of those things and then had the misfortune to die without getting to Confession first, we were doomed to a fiery Hell. At least that’s what we were taught back then. We were taught those things beginning when we were only seven years old, the “age of reason” according to the Church.

It was bad enough having to go to Confession, and to be introduced to concepts of death and suffering at such a tender age, but forcing us to memorize and recite answers to God-questions like brain-dead parrots was unforgivable.

But the worst part, for me, was what one particular nun told us during religious “instruction” when I was 11 years old. She said that if we forgot to tell a sin during our Confession, it totally negated the whole Confession. We would get back ALL of the sins we’d confessed that day. They’d stick to our souls like glue until our next Confession. And then if we still forgot to confess the sin, we’d get all of THOSE sins back, too. In other words, if we made one tiny mistake during a Confession, it was almost guaranteed that we’d be going to Hell forever.

I was terrified. I convinced myself that I’d probably forgotten to tell one of my sins once, but because I’d forgotten it, there was no way I’d ever be able to confess it, and so I was going to Hell for sure.

Hell. Permanent, everlasting suffering of the worst kind. Eleven years old.

I didn’t know what to do. I held on to my fears and was afraid to share them with anyone. I started to worry about every little thing I did or did not do being a sin. For example, when my mother made a minor suggestion, not doing what she had suggested was a sin. When my teacher read chapters of “Tom Sawyer” aloud in class, I tried to shut out the words and think about something else because one of the characters said a swear word, and listening to it would be a sin.

I was extremely stressed, to say the least. One day I broke down in front of my parents. I just wasn’t able to hold it in anymore. Luckily, they realized I needed help. My mother took me to talk to the parish priest, Father O’Neill. I will never forget him.

He was big and round, with round glasses, black hair, and a kind face. I went into the room with Father O’Neill and told him what was troubling me. His reaction was to say this:

“None of this will matter in ten years.”

and this:

“At your next Confession, come to me. Say you’re the girl who is ‘scrupulous’. I’ll make sure that all your sins are forgiven.”

Trusting that he had some kind of magical pipeline to God, I did what he said, and immediately was cured of my fears. About two years later, perhaps I actually HAD reached the age of reason, and I decided that the Catholic church was not for me. I stopped going to church and didn’t feel an ounce of guilt.

Some people say that this obsessive worry about religion is a form of OCD or anxiety, while others feel it’s just a natural reaction to a traumatic event. In my case, I’m convinced it was a natural reaction to a series of frightening ideas presented to an impressionable child by a well-meaning but misguided adult.

I’m thankful to my parents for getting me help, and to Father O’Neill for figuring out a simple solution that worked for me. I know now that I was mistaken to believe that the only way to salvation was through him, but it was the band-aid that helped me heal.

 

nanopoblano2018-notrim