Tag Archives: family

Black angus bull munching on a haystack that probably has at least one bug in it

Going buggy

It could have been worse. It could have been assassin bugs or spiders. If it had been assassin bugs or spiders, I probably would have made Steve drive back home and never slept in the camper again. But it was stinkbugs. They don’t bite and they’re kind of comical. They toddle rather than creep, half inch long odiferous shields with legs. I thought they smelled like raspberries. Steve thought they smelled like Jolly Rancher green apple candy, but then, he’s a chemist and he’s got a much more discerning sense of smell than me.

Bugging out

We were on our way south to visit our son, some friends, and also to pick up some of my artwork. We took the camper to save some money. On the first night we happened across few stinkbugs sleepily wandering around in it.

“Hey, there’s another one!”

“I found two in the bathroom. Out you go, little stinkbugs.”

They were easy to catch, slow moving and tickley in the palms of our hands. We lobbed five or six of them out the door of the camper and congratulated ourselves on how merciful we were being.

“Go hibernate somewhere else, you little pests! Haha.”

Things get (b)ugly

Two nights later, in a state park in Ohio, I woke up, heart racing, because I’d felt something crawling on my face. Earlier, we’d found about a dozen more stinkbugs hiding in the folds of the curtains that enclosed the bed. Steve was gently snoring next to me. There was a little light coming through the camper window but I couldn’t see anything, couldn’t feel anything. I probably just dreamed it, I thought. I pulled the covers over my head, just in case, and went back to sleep.

The next morning, I stared at the camper mattress and thought, “I wonder how many stinkbugs would fit under there?” I picked it up and looked underneath. Turns out the answer is lots and lots.

We immediately began hurling them outside by the handful.

“Gah!

“Gross!”

There’s a limit

As we got farther south, we found more and more stinkbugs. They flew out of the AC unit in the ceiling, they crowded together in the storage areas under the seats, they were hiding behind the valances over the windows. It looked like a stinkbug rave party. It felt like a plague. Around North Carolina, we started to question the wisdom of letting them live.

“Should we be killing these things? Are stinkbugs an invasive species?”

As usual, when squishing insects is required, I cede all control to Steve, who is the man and supposed to take care of these things.

“Hand me a paper towel, please? I found some more.”

“I hate stinkbugs.”

“Me, too.”

We ended up leaving a trail of stinkbug corpses in every state between here and Orlando. I feel bad about this, but not that bad.

Black angus bull munching on a haystack that probably has at least one bug in it

©2017 Marie Marfia, Dumbo Tucks In, 6×9″ pastel on paper. This is one of our friend Doug’s bulls. He named him Dumbo because of his floppy ears and sweet disposition. This painting is on ebay.

And the point is…

The trip wasn’t completely dominated by stinkbugs, fortunately. I got to have dinner with my favorite group of homeschool moms. Steve and I stayed on his friend’s cattle farm for a few days and I did graphic design work on the deck in 70 degree weather. My favorite part of the trip, though, was seeing our son, Nick. He looked really good, healthy and not starving at all, plus he taught us an obnoxious card game that we can’t wait to inflict on friends and family up here, just as soon as we remember the rules.

My friends, as always, told me in no uncertain terms what I already suspected was true, which in this case was that I had to quit sending my kids job listings via email. My son also imparted an important lesson to me, showing me he was fine and that all the stewing that I do in the middle of the night, whether brought on by actual bugs or merely what’s bugging me at the moment, is all about me and not him. He looked pretty wonderful, and required no help, just love, thankyouverymuch. I’m glad we went to see him. It was worth all the stinkbugs just for that.

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How I lost five pounds in one week

Last week I took a road trip with my brother Joe to see our sister who lives near Utica, NY. Mary and her partner, Jonathan, run Down Dog Farm, an organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and we planned to visit and help on the farm for a few days.

There’s a whole patch of flowers on the farm. So pretty.

It was a spur of the moment trip and we only meant to be gone Monday through Thursday, but we decided to hang around a bit longer and help them put up their timber frame house. They’ve been living in a barn for the past few years, and while it’s cozy, nothing beats hot running water and the occasional soak in your own bathtub.

I love visiting my family. Last week’s favorite memories include rolling up to the barn at 7 am in Joe’s truck and then listening to him play Reveille on his harmonica. We’d climb the stairs to the loft and have coffee and a peach muffin with Mary and Jonathan before walking with them and their dogs, Maya and Teddy, around the perimeter of the farm.

Staking the tomatoes.

After breakfast, we’d weed the beds or stake tomatoes or harvest vegetables. In the afternoons we toured the Erie Canal, played miniature golf, and sampled beer at the Saranac brewery in Utica. Evenings we played cards or dominoes or Bananagrams.

Every night Joe and I would go back to the motel and sleep like the dead. We were tired but happy. There’s something wonderful about hanging around with your siblings. The chores don’t feel like chores, the outings are a chance to add to the family lore, and it’s relaxing and familiar and precious.

There was lots of work to be done before the actual raising of the timber frame. Mary and I pored over the plans, counting the braces and figuring out which piece was going where. Joe did a ton of routing on the timbers, standing ankle deep in sawdust. I buttered the tenons with beeswax so they’d fit together more easily. Jonathan called the timber frame company with questions about how it was all going to work and sent out an email inviting people to help.

Swinging a sledgehammer.

Sunday came and about 25 Down Dog Farm subscribers and family members showed up. Everyone pitched in to carry the heavy timbers and swing sledges and hammer in the pegs to hold the pieces together. The actual raising of the bents (cross beams with the posts attached) was an elegant bit of choreography, with Jonathan calling out the dance moves (“Lift with your legs! Curl! Stick people grab your sticks! Rope people, pull!”).

Helpers on the bent.

I mostly stayed out of the way, taking pictures and not wanting to be personally responsible for a bent taking a header off the edge of the deck. At the end, though, I wrapped my legs and arms around a corner post and helped to lift the final bent into position. My partner on the post told me, “You are mighty!” and I’ve been basking in the glow of that compliment ever since.

Me and Joe taking the long way home.

I came home with bruises on my thighs, a farmer’s tan and a song in my heart, specifically, “I Hate You All,” which I first heard in 2004 on a road trip with my kids and husband (my daughter Alice has the best play lists). Joe and I took the long way home so we could see Lake Erie, eating the rainbow chard pancakes that Jonathan made us, talking about our favorite parts of the week and missing Mary the whole way. Some trips you just never want to end.

 

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pastel study of a man and his mother

Giving comfort

pastel study of a man and his mother

Steve and Diana, 5×7″ pastel study by Marie Marfia

This study is done from a photo that I took last Christmas of Steve and his mom, Diana, on the couch at my daughter’s place. She was just resting on his chest while watching some movie on TV. I wonder if she was pretending he was someone else.

Diana has dementia. She’s living in an assisted living facility. She has her own apartment, a two bedroom with a kitchenette, although she doesn’t cook anymore. She walks down to the dining room for her meals. When she’s walking back to her apartment she always says she lives in outer Mongolia because it’s such a long way away.

Diana doesn’t always remember who we are when we come to visit, so we always tell her as we’re coming through her door. “I’m your favorite daughter-in-law, Marie.” “I’m your oldest son, Steve.” That way, she doesn’t have to scramble to come up with names right off the bat. She’s pretty good at covering up her memory lapses right now, but that skill is slipping away, too, like everything else.

This is a hard thing to watch. She’s always prided herself on her intelligence. She got all As in school growing up and got a Masters of Library Science. She still speaks French sometimes and likes to play Duolingo on my iPad.

The place where she lives just called this week to tell Steve that she needs more care now, help with dressing herself, taking showers, doing laundry. It’s fine. Steve’s Dad made good investments and saved all his life before he died. She’s got plenty to cover the extra costs. It’s just that it’s another step down the road that you hate to have to take. We all gotta die. I get that. I wish it didn’t have to be like this, that’s all.

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pastel portrait of family of three

No. 4, 100 Portraits in 100 Days

pastel portrait of family of three

Linda and family, Nos. 4-6, 100 Portraits in 100 Days, 10×8″ pastel on mat board with pumice ground by Marie Marfia. Sold.

So I spread this one out over 3 days and I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. Linda’s son is quite a bit taller than his mom and his sister in the original reference photo so I had to do a little adjusting in Photoshop to put all their smiling faces on the same level.

Here are the progress pictures:

Read more about my 100 Portraits in 100 Days project, and follow along on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. Sign up for my newsletter and be the first to see my portraits as I finish them!

 

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