Thursday, December 24, 2009

Unusual Stars

During the week before Christmas, I've been blessed by the appearance of many unusual stars. First there were the three stars who performed in a play at the Chapel in the Pines --a funny and joyful adaptation of the Christmas story called "The Unusual Star." This delightful performance turned on the love and made my eyes see unusual stars everywhere. The first star-- who I might have otherwise missed-- was stagehand Cody working in the dark to rearrange sets for the play in which his three siblings were performing.

Then there was the neighbor who came when called and who managed to finally straighten the tree!

It wasn't hard to miss this happy bass player! But what was unusual about this star was the joy he so clearly finds when playing music.

There is also the wonder of color-coordination: this Papa with his baby's bottom are truly star material!

Little yogini Nell shines under the bright tutelage of yoga star brother John.

And all week I've been enjoying the aroma of baking cookies. Cindy is--without a doubt-- the Christmas Cookie Queen. She brings sweetness and light to the holiday every single year with hundreds of cookies. She is a most unusual star!

Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas with Cousins

The best thing about the family Christmas gathering, other than celebrating with my wonderful children and their families, was watching the cousins play together.

(Athan is a rising pool shark who devoted considerable time at the table)

Christmas with cousins filled me with the same joy that Clare seemed to feel when handed her first Christmas stocking.
The party was definitely a success. I know because Anna Mae wrote a fabulous summary on her blog. Check it out!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gianna & the Nutcracker

One of my life goals is to take each of my granddaughters to the Nutcracker ballet in San Francisco. This year Gianna accompanied me! She even wore a dress for the occasion, not her favorite garment. She looked lovely and her mom had curled her hair a beautiful pageboy, a style reminiscent of my youth.

The three hour drive to SF whizzed by as she sat in the back seat, eating pistachios and playing hangman on my iPhone (thank you Aunt Jenny and Kyle for suggesting I download this application). We stopped at Trader Joes and bought sushi for lunch, and she ate all 6 pieces and the ginger, exclaiming her pleasure.

We were a little behind schedule, so we really had to rush to get to the Opera Hall after parking in the Civic Center garage. But we made it in plenty of time. I thought I had purchased tickets for seats one level below the balcony, but as it turned out we were on the ground floor level with the stage. What a suprise!

Gianna has an eye for detail and the things she noticed say a lot about her. She said she liked being at a level where she could watch the dancers's feet. In the dance of the snowflakes, she said, "Dearma, do you see the muscles in their backs?" She commented on the lead male dancer by saying, "The reason his legs are so big is because they are muscular." She asked questions about the sets. "How do you think they move?" "Do you think they are made of metal?" She was also quite the observer of people, for instance, pointing out folks who wore jeans or very high heels.
After the ballet, we went to Max's for dinner where she ordered pasta with butter and parmesan cheese. She loved the hot rolls, which she said tasted just like Uncle Culley's fresh bread. The ride home was long--rush hour traffic and then fog-- but she was wonderfully patient. We talked about her trip to North Carolina and New York and about St. Nicholas Days from the past and she played more hangman. In Oakdale, we stopped at Cold Stone where she ordered cotton candy ice cream with gummy bears. In her words, "I'm sure glad we stopped there!"

When we got back in the car, she read the clock on the dash and said, "It's 8 o'clock. That's my bed time." And she promptly fell asleep. That's Gianna & the Nutcracker! A fine memory for sure.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

No Cabin Fever Here!

Despite the drawbacks of snow at lower elevations, such as the crushing weight upon the oleander hedge that I have clutivated to be tall and graceful

and getting soaking wet trying to free the hedge from ice and snow,
and the belated rescue of tender geraniums from the unaccoustmed cold,

I am thoroughly enjoying staying at home to avoid the mess out there on the roads. No cabin fever yet, in part I'm sure to the Internet. I love my never-ending connection to others via email, Facebook, Bloglines, and Meehive.
And then there is snuggling under a blanket with a cup of hot tea and reading. I've read two books of poetry, Alison Luterman's See How We Almost Fly and Kay Ryan's Say Uncle, plus a daily dose from the Complete Works of Emily Dickinson. I read one full murder mystery by Kathy Reichs and started a second by Ellen Hart and I'm making my way through This Child Will be Great, a biography of Liberia's President Ellen SirLeaf. More snuggling to watch TV! One night, we watched 3 hours of the first season of ER compliments of Netflix, and we are keeping up with our regular programming too.
I've also done some work . . . finishing one freelance project and making a dent in another. We've gone for a walk everyday, albeit shorter than usual, and I've made muffins and addressed Christmas cards and taken care of some phone business that has been languishing on my to-do list. Today, I'm baking bread.
No cabin fever yet . . . wonder how long it will take before I want to go somewhere? Could be next spring.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas

Quite unintentionally, I've found myself launched into the Christmas season.

It all started on Friday when I accompanied the Tippetts to a program at the Gallo Center: "An Irish Christmas!" Thinking I was going simply as an extra pair of hands to help with the children, I wasn't expecting to be utterly delighted by the program of Irish musicians on accordion, violin, drum, and some kind of bagpipe like horn. Three female vocalist sang Christmas songs right into my heart, and the Irish dancers pounded the wooden stage with irresistible rhythm. The kids were rapt for an hour and so was I.

Saturday started with Mary Autumn's birthday brunch, where we all feasted on a delicious frozen dish made by August, frozen bananas made creamy by pushing them through the juicer and then topping them with chocolate sauce or in my case Nutella. The kids were giddy with anticipation, thinking about putting their boots out at bedtime in preparation for St. Nicholas Day on Sunday. I heard that they had trouble going to sleep and were peaking through cracks in the wooden framing upstairs in the hope of catching a glimpse of St. Nick.

Sunday was the Advent Spiral at the Waldorf School. We waited, shivering despite heavy coats, hats, and gloves for admission to the darkened room at the appointed hour of 4pm. The room was warm and packed with parents and grandparents who sang Christmas carols softly as each child walked the spiral to the center, tipped their candle for lighting, and then made the return trip out to place their light on the spiral. You couldn't miss Huckle's clear, high voice singing "Away in the Manger," and when it was his turn, he moved briskly for this was his 2nd year walking the spiral. Nell was more tentative holding Miss Beth's hand as she walked and looking out into the audience to see where Mom and Dad might be. Once her candle was lit, she gained confidence for the return trip.

Monday morning it started snowing in Jamestown at 7:10 and didn't stop until after 10. It was so cold that the snow did not melt, so we spent a most unusual day for our low elevation in a winter wonderland. We drank a lot of hot tea and I made muffins and we kept the radio tuned to KVML all day, listening to road reports and Christmas music, while we worked on our gift lists, did some online ordering, and then began addressing envelopes for our cards. And of course we took a walk in the snow.

I like having Christmas sneak up on my like this. It feels all warm and tingly and real.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

And now she's 5

Mary Autumn was reluctant to enter the world. Not only did she come days past her due date, but her birth vigil was the longest and the most strenuous of labors for Jennie Lou. Little did we know that she was giving us a peek at her personality: tentative though quietly strong willed. Her abiding affection and closeness with Mama is another thing she wanted us to know about her. That was the message in her birth story and suddenly she is 5. Here are some pictures that show the beautiful Mary Autumn.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Patricia's iPhone

This is my new iPhone! As a friend on Facebook writes: "Beware of buying a phone that is smarter than you." I'm still not sure what it's doing in my bag.

I started toying with the idea of getting an iPhone several months ago. When I posted the thought on Facebook, I got 20+ comments from folks who said "Go for it!" IPhone users love them.

Then Cindy's Blackberry died, so she got the iPhone. We could only afford one, and I had to face the fact that she uses her phone WAY more than I use mine. I really didn't mind. In truth, I was a little afraid to get something quite so racy. We agreed that I could get one in December when we expected to have a little extra cash. In the meantime, I helped her figure out some of the basics on her iPhone, and then the novelty wore off and the surge of "wanting" faded away.

But my iPhone was on the list of things to get with the extra money in December, so Cindy set December 2nd as the date to go to AT&T. I woke yesterday with a bit of trepidation. "Why," I thought, "do I need an iPhone?" But it was too late. Cindy was in motion and we were going. She even got up early, so we could be there when the doors opened.

An hour later, I was walking out of the store with my new phone, not sure whether to laugh or cry. I got into my car and the Mirimba ring sounded. I fumbled for my bag, found the phone, and tapped the screen.

"Hi," said Cindy. "I wanted to be your first call! Are you excited?"

Well, I'm not sure if that's the word I'd use, but I sat in my car outside the ATT shop and played with my new phone for awhile. First, I called JL to confirm some plans for later in the day. Then I called up my email, and there was a message from Culley that I replied to. "Whoa," I thought. "This is pretty cool."

By the time I got home, I was stoked. I downloaded some applications and got the correct software so I could take pictures with my phone. I'm on a roll. Oh, and I put some iPhone accessories on my Christmas list.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Camera Doesn't Lie

All my life, I've been fairly photogenic. So I have to believe the camera lens which is now telling me that I'm a chunky, thin-haired, dew-lapped grandma. Go figure! (Click on the pictures for the whole truth.)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Chocolate Fountain

Owning a chocolate fountain may not top the list of useful kitchen appliances, but when it comes to being the hit of a party, there is nothing like it. Adults grab forks as quickly as the children, reaching over the little ones to get a coating of chocolate on a strawberry, marshmallow, or piece of pound cake. See little William tucked just below Bonnie's elbow on the left of this picture? The little guy was in awe of this sweet machine and his fork worked as fast and furiously as any adult's.

The Chocolate Fountain has become a major attraction of our parties at the Rawhide Mobile Home Park Clubhouse. A few weeks ago, Andrea arranged to use the clubhouse for childcare while Waldorf parents worked on setting up the fall festival a few miles away. Accustom to the appearance of the chocolate fountain when he comes to the clubhouse, Huckleberry announced its eminent arrival to the children in attendance. What a sad thing to have to tell him that there would be no spilling chocolate that day.

Most of the year, the chocolate fountain sits in a box on a shelf in a dark corner of the pantry, but on party days it moves into the limelight: celebrated and adored! It's next appearance will be at a family Christmas party on December 20.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Since I was a child, saurkraut has always been a side dish at Thanksgiving dinner. The dish came to our family from my paternal grandmother, Mary Kamak. We think of it as a Polish dish, but in truth the method of preparation is common throughout Eastern Europe. My mother learned to make the dish from my grandmother (her mother-in-law), and I learned from my mother. This year, I passed the tradition on by guiding Athan in the preparation of saurkraut. He chopped and sauted the onion. Rinsed the saurkraut. Released the flavor of caraway seeds in the hot skillet and then combined all three into the savory dish. I hope that the scent of roasting caraway seeds will someday remind him of Thangskgiving.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

I'm thankful for all the opportunities I have to watch young minds growing and learning:
  • August doing 10th grade science, history, and literature in online courses;
  • Cody heading off to do the last part of 8th grade with 5 amazing young fellows;
  • Anna Mae becoming an adept user of the Internet, blogging, emailing, and discovering;
  • Taylor's unique and amusing writing voice;
  • Gianna's new found independence in managing school assignments;
  • Kyle's astounding vocabulary and repertoire of little known facts;
  • Candice & Athan as emergent readers;
  • Leon's meticulous care with penmanship;
  • Aliou's rapid mastery of phonograms;
  • Huckleberry's stylistic and intricate drawing;
  • Mary Autumn's fascination and concentration with workbooks;
  • Nell's notorious narrative imagination;
  • Clare's assumption that she too is a student of phonics, rhetoric, and script.
And last but not least, I was privileged to offer instruction as JL cooked her first turkey, 16 years into marriage. Can't wait to find out how it turned out.

May your feast be fabulous. Gassho!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


For seven days we were without Internet service. What an eye-opening experience. The last time I went for an extended time without Internet was when I was at a writer's retreat for a month in Northern Minnesota. I only got online once at the library during the whole month. While we were in Mexico, we did not have Internet at our living quarters, but nearby coffee shops had free wireless access, and it was fun to spend time online in these outdoor cafes munching delicious food prepared by others and sipping caffeinated drinks. We even had Internet service on our Alaskan cruise, albeit expensive service, but a means by which to connect daily to the world!

So seven days without service brought up a lot of stuff, most significantly the habit of mind I've acquired related to being connected to a world wide web. The impulse to get online arises frequently all day long, most obviously in terms of checking email and Facebook, but also for dozens of other reasons as well:

My betta fish is sick, so I head to the computer to look up sick betta. Whoa, not possible. I need to do billing for my freelance business. Oops! Online accounting service is not accessible. I'm going to an unfamiliar location in Modesto. No Map Quest. I can't get to my online class or review my grandson's essay for his literature class to email to him in time for class the next day. I'm writing a "Get Well" card and realize I'm not sure of the spelling of a word. Normally, I'd head for the online dictionary. Nope have to lug out the heavy weight Merriam Webster hardback.

Unable to get online at home, we grabbed laptops and headed for places with Internet access. Starbucks was the first destination! What a zoo. First, there are many steps involved in getting a Starbucks account, including buying a product card with at least $5 and then navigating the account application before actually getting to "free" wifi. Then there is contending with helpful patrons who want to continue the conversation AFTER you are finally happily online and only want to focus on the 200+ email in your inbox. Then there is the piped in music (not my preferred genre) and the surrounding young adult conversations and the guy trying to sell someone life insurance. The library was an option only if we stayed in our car because they were closed for the week, but we had one low battery so that didn't last long. We headed to relatives and got slightly caught up on the most important tasks in our online lives, but this involved 30 minutes of driving both ways. SIGH! We were frustrated to say the least. We just wanted our cozy connection at home.

The upside?? Well, there was one. I got all kinds of chores done: all the hand-washing, putting away spring/summer clothes and organizing closets and drawers, more yard work than I've done in the last 3 months, lots of handwritten notes I've been meaning to do, and I read three books. (I read all the time, but the Internet definitely competes with reading time.)

We are back online thanks to the patient perseverance of the techs at Mother Lode Internet who had to troubleshoot problems both with their tower and our hardware. The moral of the story? After a week of being disconnected, we've decided to reserve one full day a month for being off line and one day a week during which we can check in for an hour but must refrain from all other access. We want to maintain our practice in being disconnected.

Monday, November 9, 2009

In Memorium

So often when you make a new friend it's a package deal. In other words, by extension you become friends with the person's entire family. That's how it was when 34, years ago, I met Chris Ferroni.

Grammy was part of the clan . . . not a Ferroni, for she was Eileen Potter, but she was someone I came to know along with my new friend Chris. I can't remember exactly when I met Grammy. It may have been at one of the kids' birthday parties or perhaps at the lake or maybe at a nursery school open house. I just know that from early on I followed the happenings in her life right along with the rest of the family, especially the big ones, like the losses of her husband, her son, and her sister, and the fire at her house.

After Chris and the kids left the community, I'd run into Grammy at Twain Harte Market, and she would pass on some tidbit of news about the friend I sorely missed. When I attended All Saints Church for a while, we often stood in the parking lot to visit after church. Then when Andrea and Culley moved back to the area, I saw Grammy more frequently at family gatherings, birthdays, and Thanksgiving.

One of my favorite recent memories of Grammy was at music night when she and Fred Gehl would sit on the couch and eat dinner together. Grammy couldn't hear well and Fred didn't remember much, but they both still knew how to flirt. Watching them made me feel fortunate to have that generation represented at family events.

Grammy died on Sunday, October 25. I'll miss her presence. I'll miss sitting beside her in a room filled with noisy people, enunciating carefully so she could hear what I was saying as I repeated some part of a conversation that had sailed past her. I'll miss having an elder who always dressed smartly and made up her face for a party or for the lake. I'm glad she was part of the package when I met the Ferronis.

Rest in peace, Grammy.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Isn't coincidence a fascinating thing?

Yesterday was my son's birthday, Oct 29 and I had a doctor appointment to get the results of biopsy of two small growths on my thyroid. As I sat in the waiting room, I recalled another visit to the same doctor EXACTLY nine years before on my son's birthday, when I was told that a strange rash on one of my breasts could be cancer. Happily, both instances of possible cancer were NOT the dread disease!

Today, is the birthday of Cindy's best friend Becky. I just read on Facebook that today is also the birthday of Cindy's sister's best friend, Gina!

Like I said, coincidence is fascinating!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lucky Date Night

This week for date night, we decided to take advantage of a coupon that Cindy had recieved in the mail for two free dinners at Blackoak Casino. When we arrived, Cindy presented her coupon and got a complimentary scratcher which she immediately scratched to discover that she had won $500.

Obviously we were happy diners. We chose to sit at the sports bar with all the guys watching college football rather than wait 50 minutes for a table. The place was packed because of the dinner promotional. We sipped our drinks while waiting for our meals and fantasized about where we would live if we didn't have a million reasons why we would never leave where we do live. The impetus for this conversation was all the college towns playing across the big screen over the bar making us think about places across the country.

On the way home, we stopped at Blockbuster to pick up the movie that our friend Becky chose for her birthday celebration dinner at our house tomorrow. When I stepped to the counter, the clerk said, "I have this left over free coupon, so your movie is free tonight."

Guess the stars were aligned in our favor tonight. All in all it was fun and different and definitely lucky date night.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

And so . . .

It is true that Facebook is usurping Twilightme. It's just so easy to jot off a line or two on FB a couple times of day. But I'm sad. I don't want my blog to be overtaken by that easy floozy FB. Twilightme deserves better; more of my time, and quality time at that, for that is her strength--being a descriptive chronicle of my days. So I'm turning over a new leaf. I will give her much more attention from now on and just to let her know that I actually learned something from FB, here are a few one or two liners about what I could have been posting had I not given in to a FB infatuation. And I'm dressing up the post with a few pictures too.

  • When Nell spent the night, she was little Miss Independence, managing all of her self-care--teethbrushing, hair brushing, and dressing. She also made great use of a little copper teapot that I had picked up for her play with in the yard, filling it with flowers and leaves and building a little stove to brew her tea from a brick and the top of a solar yard light.
  • It takes an hour and a half to get to Indian Grinding Rock State Park, enough time for Kyle and Candice to thoroughly entertain me with their engaging and lively chatter: Kyle spouting off numerous arcane facts and Candice mananging order in the back seat and pointing out landmarks of note along the way. They were both well versed in Native American history and provided intelligent commentary on the artifacts we encountered in the museum and during our hike through the park.
  • I've went to SFO twice this month: once for a Research & Planning Conference with my colleagues from Columbia College and then a week later to pick up Kenny who was flying in from NYC. On both trips, the south bay shimmered beneath the arrival and departure of plane after plane, always an arresting sight.
  • At home, we had the first storm of the season with an accompanying 23 hour power outage which forced me to lounge around reading a murder mystery and gave Cindy time to read Kenny's first screenplay. Thankfully it wasn't too cold, so we were fine without heat.
  • Finally, Cindy and I continue to scurry here and there between work and family commitments, always juggling the things we love and sometimes complaining about being tired.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Autumnal Chores

We dove into autumnal chores the past few days with gusto!

First, I borrowed my son's pick-up and enlisted my grandson's help to pick up 2 yards of decorative bark that I won at the Waldorf School acution last spring. Friday was the last day to redeem my coupon for the bark, and that deadline is what kicked off the chore-filled weekend. Two yards of bark is a lot, and I'm so happy to have had Cody's help or it would have taken me DAYS to unload and situate the groundcover. I shoveled enough to have one heck of a back ache, but it was only 1/10 of the work done by Cody. The bark is all in place and will greatly reduce the weeding next spring, another back-breaking job.

Meanwhile, Cindy got started on cleaning out the shed, a project we thought about all summer but put off to wait for cooler weather. (As it turned out, it was 100 degrees on Saturday when we finished the job.) Cindy's methods of reorganization and cleaning are comprehensive and detailed. Any such project ALWAYS begins with removing EVERYTHING from the area, cleaning thorougly, and then replacing things in an orderly fashion. What I bring to such projects is the ruthless disposal of all extraneous items--defined as anything that has not been used in the past year! This is a compromise: we allow these compulsive needs to coexist--and the results are dramatic!

On Saturday, while Cindy continued emptying and cleaning the shed, neighbor Becky and I cleaned the rain gutters. This is the thankless job of removing accumulated debris that has fallen from the oak trees (leaves, acorns, dirt) and lodged in the gutters. We have to do it at least twice a year or we have waterfalls streaming from the awnings when it rains. Becky worked from the roof using the blower while I dug with a gloved hand into gutters to remove clumps of gooey mess.

Three hours later, I joined Cindy to haul several boxes of stuff removed from the shed to the hazardous waste disposal event (another reason we chose this weekend for the shed chore). After dropping the material at Cal Sierra recycle center, we fortified ourselves with ice cream sundaes at Baskin Robbins before heading home to finish the shed. It was dark by the time we finished the job, and we were both moving very stiffly, but the shed is certainly spiffy as are the gutters and the flower beds. Today will definitely be a day of rest.

For the Love of Books

I recently had the pleasure of spending two hours in the library with Kyle. He diligently completed his schoolwork, a writing assignment, so that he could move on to the fun part: locating, purusing, and checking out books. He is gettng quite skillful at looking for books on the computer data base, jotting down the call number, and then looking for the book in the stacks. When you watch a child learn all the steps necessary to finding books in the library, you really get an idea of how many different skills are required.

Kyle's tastes are varied which makes him a reader after my own heart. I sat in the children's section reading a magazine while he hunted for books, brought each selection to me, and explained its appeal and then went off to find another. He chose some old favorites, found a mystery chapter book, and a book about Star Wars. Once he had a nice little stack, he asked to go look at the movie section in the adult part of the library, so I carried his stack of books over there along with my magazine, and he disappeared into the movie aisle. A little while later he emerged with 3 videos just as hs mom arrived to pick him up. I hugged him goodbye at the circulation desk where he had pulled his library card from his back pocket in preparation for checking out the books.

The next day when I saw him, he was already on chapter 8 in the mystery. The boy loves to read!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Forest Lawn

During my time with Cindy, I've been to a number of funerals, many of which took place at Forest Lawn in Cypress. This past weekend, we attended her Aunt Joanne's funeral in the little white chapel at the cemetery. The blue casket was set against the backdrop of a lovely stained glass window. I first visited this chapel in 2000 for the funeral of Cindy's Uncle's partner. That's when I met most of Cindy's extended family who live in Orange County. The family has both grown and diminished in the 10 years since, with many births as well as deaths. In fact, a baby shower was scheduled for Cindy's second cousin Brittany's first baby several hours after the funeral service, and many of the family headed that way after visiting for a while outside the chapel.

Another rather large group, however, traipsed all over the cemetery at Forest Lawn as the Dixons visited graves and cleaned headstones. Small children ran and laughed while bigger kids were charged with filling containers with water for the flowers that were placed on the various graves. A plastic bag with towels, brushes, and cleaning materials was carried from grave to grave where adults scoured the copper headstones. Everyone went to every grave. At Cindy's grandfather's grave, Fred told the amazing story of his arrival in the US from England at age 14, as well as an hilarious story about the time he sold horse manure in a box as cake to an unknowing party. It was hot, and we were dripping with sweat, so slowly folks began to emerge from their cars in shorts and tank tops having changed out of black funeral duds while driving from site to site through the sprawling cemetery.

Sometime along the way, we got a screw embedded in one of our brand new tires, and it was going flat, so when we left the cemetery, we located a nearby automotive place on Cindy's GPS and drove straight there. The tire could not be fixed because the screw was in the side wall, so we put the spare on and will use the bad tire should we get another flat before we get home. Since we were in the middle of a neighborhood where Cindy once lived, we spent some time driving the nearby streets as she pointed out a few of her old haunts: the laundromat, the bar, the route to work, and the house, or rather the spot where she had lived because the house had been torn down and a new duplex stood there. Many changes had taken place in the neighborhood, offering yet another comment about the passage of time.

Then we headed to the reception for the funeral in Fontana. We spent over an hour in traffic on the 91 as did most of the guests. It was pretty late when we got there, but there was still plenty of food and lots of folks doing all the reminiscing that usually goes on at such events. The family had displayed many of Aunt Joanne's beautiful handicrafts-- quilts, crocheted afghans, poodle skirts and other wonderful garments. About 10pm, we drove up the 60 to Ontario where we had reserved a motel room. See how I'm referring to the highways by numbers? That's what everyone does down here.

Today, we will drive home on the 99! We are listening to a J.A. Jance mystery on an audiobook which will definitely make the drive pass by easier, but sitting in a car for 8 hours nevertheless takes its toll. We are both ready to be home and back to our normal routine. As busy as it is, it's preferable to long road trips. Though one gift the Dixon family has given me is a more full bodied respect for family and the traditions that mark passages.

Monday, September 14, 2009


On Saturday, I sat on the front patio and watched big black thunderheads roll in from the west. After years of living in the forest, the huge expanse of sky over my new home never ceases to delight me. I was captivated by the sky on Saturday and sat for more than an hour watching the play of light over the meadow. The meadow is another feature of my neighbor that makes me love where I live. Though I love the new spring green, my favorite season for the meadow is right now when the grass is tall and golden and wafts the scent of tar weed with the slightest breeze. I love the spaciousness of the land and sky around my home, and I love the majestic blue oak that sits in the middle of the meadow. It is all the tree I need. Perch for falcon and hummingbird alike, it is gorgeous in its summer dress of flickering blue-green or stripped of leaves in winter stretching thick dark branches in glorious symmetry. Here is picture that captures the natural beauty of where I live (click on the picture to get the full effect.) See the sky!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Traffic Jam

On Labor Day, I got caught in a traffic jam--thousands of people leaving the Sierra after the 3 day weekend. It took me more than an hour to get from East Sonora to my turnoff at Rawhide Road in Jamestown. I had no water and no food; it was after noon and I hadn't eaten since 7am. As I inched along listening to Radio Lab on NPR, feeling light headed and terribly out of sorts, it occurred to me that my life of late (and some would say long) has been one big traffic jam.

I haven't blogged for weeks because I haven't sat down long enough to even download the pictures from my event-filled life. I write blogs in my head as I take my morning walk or as I drive from one happening to another. Sitting in traffic on Labor Day, the blogs piled up in a long stream of slowly moving words and pictures. Here are a few images from that stream:

My writing retreat at the Dardanelles Resort, a highly productive time doused with a dozen reasons why I'll never go there again: ancient tilting cabin under which skunks lived all winter; the constant hum of a huge generator, critters invading the kitchen at night to munch on anything left out and knock dishes and pans at 2am.

Huckleberry's 6th birthday party at Brentwood Lake with tons of kids and friends and family. When I looked at his adorable smile with 3 missing teeth, it seemed like only yesterday that Emee and I went to Portland to meet him shortly after his birth and she put him a wagon, burrito-wrapped, for a photo.

The start of the new school year, including my first day tutoring language arts for the Tippetts, (phonics to 10th grade Lit) and opening ceremonies at Waldorf where Huck, Nell, and Opal are all in the same class.

Juggling freelance work (play reviews, newsletters, business blogs) with fixing the gushing drip system, helping Cindy re-situate her newly painted office, mowing the lawn, driving Cindy with her broken ankle to jobs, and shopping in Modesto.

Remembering Ashley and the 2 year anniversary of her death; researching a rose to buy and plant as a memorial and choosing a beautiful JFK--gorgeous many-petaled white rose.

Heading to a quasi-Dixon family reunion where Cindy spent time with the 2 boy cousins she hung out with as a kid and we all traipsed enmasse to the Mariposa County Fair to ride rides and dance to the music.

A caravan trip to Angel Falls where the clan fanned out across the rocks, climbing, climbing, climbing, laughing and enjoying the idyllic wonder of the place and finally patiently posing for a group photo taken by 10 snapping cameras.

Yes my life is a traffic jam of momentous events. The main lesson: make sure you have water and food!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Office Re-Org

Cindy broke her toe in June and her ankle in July. Not surprisingly, she was down in the dumps by August, having worn strange foot devices all summer that prevented driving, swimming, or even walking very well. On a particularly bad day, I asked her if there was something we could do to make her feel a little better.

"I want to re-arrange my office," she said.

Well that seemed pretty easy. I could help her move the furniture around, but then she added that she wanted to do a deep cleaning. Well OK, but I was working out of the house a lot, so she would have to do small things and then I could help with the bigger tasks when I got home.

She dove in with gusto and soon the living room was filling with piles of stuff as she cleared off book cases and started dusting and vacuuming. Then when I came home last Wednesday after working all day at the college followed by 2 hours with my writers group, she greeted me with, "I want to paint my office."

I was tired; I was cranky; I did not meet her excitement with anything like enthusiasm, but after a good night's sleep I rallied. By that time, she had enlisted Becky to help, but she nevertheless accepted my belated offer to assist.
We emptied the office of furniture, all but the desk, and spent the weekend painting. By Monday night, we were moving furniture on location and hooking up the electronics. The room looks great and Cindy is the happiest I've seen her since she was throwing money on me in our state room on the trip to Alaska.

Here are some pictures of her sunny, deeply cleaned, reorganized, freshly painted office:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Water Park Day

Take 4 kids, ages 9, 7, 6 and 4. Add one more 4 year old plus her 20 something dad and go to the Water Park. You will play HARD for 7 hours! Here are the pictures to prove it.

The photographer for most of these pictures was Cindy who was in a cast and couldn't make her way up to the BIG slides where we slid down flumes and vortexes, so there are no pictures of that madcap fun, but I think these pictures show what a blast we had. You can click on the pictures to make them bigger and see whose who. The person in aqua who is underwater is Gianna. And the body underwater behind me and Nell in the inner tube is Huckle. We all spent a lot time underwater!