Monday, October 18, 2010

Fear & Adernaline Poisoning

On Saturday night, I had a harrowing experience that sent adrenaline coursing through my bloodstream with toxic effects. Here's what happened:

The day involved meeting Cindy's family in Fresno to see the movie Secretariat followed by dinner at the Chuckchansi Casino in Coarsegold. Sure, this was a lot of driving but also great catchup time for Cindy and me. After dinner at the buffet (a delicious stir fry for me), I left Cindy gambling with some of her family while I headed out to trek the curving foothill roads of Highway 41 and 49 to her parent's home in Mariposa.

As I approached the truck in the parking lot, I noticed that the left front tire was low, so I drove to a nearby gas station to air up. However, the air dispenser was out of order. The next station was 5 miles away, so I headed down the road to get the air I needed. Shortly after I left that station, a red light came on: "Check Gauges." I couldn't see that anything was off (though later learned I was misreading the battery charge gauge), so I kept going but pulled into a shopping center in Oakhurst after I turned onto Highway 49 and called Cindy. After a brief discussion, we decided I should drive on to Mariposa as we could not discern what was wrong.

I drove another 5 miles and another light came on. This one said "Air Bag." I could not figure out what was going on until I was heading down a steep, curving incline, a 2-mile drop into the river canyon, and noticed that the headlights were incredibly dim and then non-existent. I was driving in the dark with a car fast approaching behind me. I hit the brakes again and again, hoping the brake lights were working. The lights in the car behind cast an eeire shadow of my truck on the road ahead making it difficult to see. I barrelled downhill, headed for a narrow bridge that crossed the river. CLUNK--a noise reverberated through the car, and the power steering was gone. I sailed across the bridge in a frightening float-coast. Spotting a driveway just past the end of the bridge, I managed to maneuver into its entrance and stopped barely off the road. Five or six cars zipped past me at breakneck speed.

Coursing with adrenalin, my hands shaking badly, I tried to make the flashers come on without success. I reached behind the seat looking for a flashlight that I knew was stored there. In the dark of the cab, I frantically pulled stuff forward, dumping a mess all over the front seat. The truck was still running and cars were speeding past. I was shaking uncontrollably and felt like I was going to throw up that delicious stir fry. When there was a break in the traffic, I backed up by moonlight into the driveway, skimming by a row of mail boxes. Then I turned the car off and reached for my cell phone. No coverage in that canyon. Every nerve ending was alive in my body, twitching and shuddering.

I was eventually rescued with the help of a good samaritan and coordination by Cindy from a far, but the lesson about the effects of fear and adrenaline will stay with me. I didn't stop shaking until 30 minutes after I was in a safe place, and I was sick for hours from the adernaline rush, nauseated, head aching, and unable to sleep. I kept feeling myself rushing down that hill with no lights or steering and a weird shadow out in front of me. Adrenaline poisoning is surely a factor in post traumatic stress syndrome.

This tap on the shoulder by fear fills me with compassion for those who live in terror or are momentarily brushed by horror. My harrowing experience was brief with a very positive outcome, but it gave me a vivid taste of what fear does to one's body and spirit.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bottled Water Withdrawal

Today is Blog Action Day. Bloggers around the world are writing about water as a global issue.

I'm taking the stance: think globally, act locally.

By local, I mean right here in my own sweet home, or rather by my personal action. You see, I've been working not too successfully for two years to STOP using bottled water. I wrote the following statement on my annual goals for 2009 and 2010. "I will consistently use my Kleen Kanteen to carry water with me."

Notice that I had to write it two years in a row. That's because I did not manage to do this in 2009, and it now that it is October 2010, I can say that I'm not faring much better this year. But with this post and this day-- Blog Action Day-- I'm recommitting myself.


FACT 1: In the US, we buy an average of 200 bottles of water per person per year.
FACT 2: 17 million gallons of oil a year are needed to produce these plastic bottles.
FACT 3: More than 86% of those bottles are not recycled.

Here's the thing. Somehowm my taste buds tell me that the bottled water tastes better than our tap water. However, according to Annie Leonard who wrote the book The Story of Bottled Water, "Companies like PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Nestle, the big three water bottlers, are actually sucking municipal water systems for the product they bottle and sell back to us for hundreds and even thousands of times the cost."

So I've been duped. The solution? I simply need to train my mouth to enjoy the water from the tap that I put into my Kleen Kanteen. And I can do that by consistently drinking from my Kleen Kanteen.

By so doing, I subtract my infinitesimal numbers from those in FACTS 1, 2, & 3.

I offer this tiny sacrifice to :
3.6 million people who die each year because they don't have clean water to drink and 4,000 children younger than 5 who die every day from preventable, water-borne diseases.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


This post heralds one of those milestone moments. My eldest grandchild got his driver's license today.

Three of his siblings, his mother, and I waited inside the DMV office while he was taking the test. When I spotted him through a window on the other side of the office returning with the examiner, the HUGE grin on his face told me he had PASSED!

An obvious milestone for August, one of those markers on the way to adulthood, it is also one those countable moments for his mother and grandmother. As I get older, the notable events in this family pile up-- graduations, performances, sporting events, and all manner of firsts: first day of school, high school, the first lost tooth, first bike ride without training wheels. And now this: first solo drive. I count every event as remarkable as in worthy of notice and attention. Each milestone, each first, gives me a thrill. . .

. . . and also new possibilities. August will be driving to my place tomorrow to help me clean the rain gutters.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


This morning was the first in several months that I did not have hustle to get to a job, a task, a project, or some assignment. I took my cup of tea to my desk and checked my email where I found a message that I'd been saving for weeks about the end of Bloglines. So I decided to important all of my RSS feeds to Google Reader, not that I'd been doing much blog reading lately. The import led to seeing a list of unread posts, and so feeling like I had all the time in the world, I clicked in and started reading.

I read post after post at Zen Habits about simplifying one's life, and one about unscheduling one's life. WOW! This message could not have been more apropos. My life is totally over-scheduled.

Then I clicked into "The Race" and read a post about my daughter-in-law losing a friend to sudden death that was incredibly poignant and tapped into a recurrent worry I've been having about not making the best use of my time.

As I moved back to much earlier posts at "The Race," I found one written way back in January called "Memories." It's a slide show that I'd seen before but relished visiting again. At first, I was smiling but ultimately the show had me weeping with love.

Can I just say that having a free moment this morning, totally unscheduled so that I could just wander at will, led me down a very clear path to the truth about doing less and getting more.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fig Jam

Last weekend, five-year-old Nell labeled 3 dozen jars of newly made fig jam. While that's the remarkable fact, here's the delicious fact.

I was the recipient of one of those jars, and I've been indulging every since: fig jam on biscuits; fig jam on peanut butter sandwiches; fig jam on pancakes. And I confess to a simply eating a few spoonfuls of fig jam right out of the jar.

Fig jam is my favorite and has been since back in 1974 in South Carolina when Mrs. Suggs, Grandma Harrelson's neighbor, supplied our family with a year's supply of fig jam. I think I was the only one to get addicted. The problem is fig jam is not something you can buy in the store, at least not a variety that calls to my taste buds. So I am happy indeed that there is now a fig tree and jam maker in the family. The supply of fig jam will no doubt be endless.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Jenny's Triathlon-Inspiring

Inspiring is the only word that works to describe Jenny's triathlon. She smiled her way through the entire event and took 3rd in her age group. That smile was possible because she knew she was fit! She'd trained all summer and had the muscles to prove it. Watching Jenny had Raleigh, Cody, Kyle, and even me dreaming about doing it next year. It was really AWESOME! Here are some pictures including one with friends Tamra and Diana who also participated.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Surprise Moments

The best part of any day is one of those surprise moments! I had one of those moments this week on Tuesday, my homeschool day. I had just finished working with Kyle and Candice when Raleigh, who is home from work this week, asked if I wanted a latte. He has new espresso maker, and I happily agreed to the hot, frothy drink.

A few minutes later, he set a large cup in front of me and invited Cody to join him in singing a song for me--"Mess of Me." There I sat high on stool sipping a delicious hot drink, while my son and grandson strummed their guitars and sang in rich sonorous voice. It was heavenly, and got even better when behind me Kyle and Candice added their sweet, soft voices to the music.

I'm telling you, it doesn't get much better than this kind of surprising moment!

Friday, August 27, 2010


For weeks, this spider has been standing sentry at the entry way to our home. She has built a web with a 2 foot radius that rises out of lavender plant growing in a wine barrel that sits between the garden fence and the shed. There is one long, thick strand that connects the web to the roof of the shed. To negotiate the walkway to and from the driveway without running into her web, we have to hug the the shed wall.

She is in control of the passage, and we mindfully pass her web repeatedly throughout the day. In this way, she is proving a noble and constant teacher.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Day My Doctor Died

I did not know he was gone

as I harvested seeds from

spent love-in-a mist

and worried

that the size of my family

increased the chances exponentially

for injury and death.

The day before a woman,

whom I hardly knew, grasped my arm

with hopeful fingers

when told I had 14 grandkids.

“Do you have a favorite?”

she asked. “Yes,” I demurred,

“ but the favored one

changes frequently.”

She parried,

“My favorite is in coma.”

The day my doctor died,

I sat on a rolling yard caddy

plucking dried seed pods

crushing their bulbous heads

releasing tiny black seeds

into a Cool Whip container

and imagined my loved ones

hurt or dying.

On the other side of town,

the man who had tended all our family ills:

pneumonia and earaches,

rashes and whopping cough,

broken arms and broken leg,

retained placenta,

morbid staph infection,

congestive heart failure,

had died in his sleep.

He had caught our babies,

and told us in a gentle, measured cadence,

“You need to prepare for your mother’s death.”

The day my doctor died,

I collected seeds to sow.

A hot August breeze rushed

about my bare shoulders.

A plastic tub sat at my feet

filled with seeds and crumbled pods,

the fruit of delicate spring flowers,

the propagation of countless

tender encounters.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pay Off

On August 10, 2010, we paid off the mortgage on our home!

I've heard that in the 1950s, people used to have mortgage burning parties to celebrate the pay off date! We went to Baskin Robbins for hot fudge sundaes.

The moment was sweet and deserved a delicious acknowledgment. It had been a long haul though not the 30 years that are so often part of a home mortgage deal. We bought the place 10 years ago, in a moment of necessity AND impulsive enthusiasm. We planned to stay no more than 5 years. The interest was exorbitant--14.9%-- but in the moment we ignored the significance of that number. Soon however, we began trying to refinance. That proved impossible for a number of reason, the primary one being we had sneaked into our mortgage during a tiny window when getting financing to buy a mobile was relatively easy. But that window slammed shut quickly, and by the time we were ready to refinance, there was no one lending. It actually took us several tries to realize this was the case. We have 3 files labeled: refinance with the year we applied. Once we got so close we could taste the relief, but it bombed.

Three months ago, we knew we had to do something. We are on a fixed income with barely any discretionary money, and we were pouring money down the bottomless well of interest, getting no where fast. We came up with a plan to sell our house and use the equity to pay off the loan and buy a mobile of lesser value. It was that decision that launched us into a wild ride that included many side trips--talking with trusted advisers and researching a myriad of options. Once we started to think more creatively, the solution emerged. We took a giant leap that admittedly involves some scrabbling on the other side, but we are singing joyfully and hopefully.

The mortgage is paid, and in one year, we will have also paid off our credit card debt. We have to work hard for one more year to manage the choices we made, but we are not giving our money to the interest monster any more, and our house is OURS! We've fallen in love with it again and look forward to the rainbows that so often appear in our meadow.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Swimming Lessons

I have a theory that if you put a 7 year old in a swimming pool or a lake, you can stand back and watch him or her learn to swim. Throw that child a few pointers about kicking, stroking, and breathing and watch a swimmer materialize before your eyes.

I had the opportunity to witness just such a thing when I went to Ponderosa Hills pool with Athan, Leon and Aliou. Our hosts were Jenny, Kyle, and Candice, and when we got there at 10am, we had the entire pool to ourselves. The kids stayed in the pool for the next 2 1/2 hours, only emerging a couple of times to scarf down a fat pretzel, a bite of beef jerkey, or sip of melted yogurt before getting right back in the water.

Veterans Kyle and Candice were great instructors and life guards and undoubtedly the models for some of the things the boys learned. Jenny and I took turns getting in the water with the kids while the other one stayed on deck with an eagle eye watching their playful antics. Jenny pulled the boys on water boards for thrilling trips into the deep water and had a pool bottom "tea party" with Candice. I tended to put on my instructional cap, offering suggestions for improving mobility in the water. The main lesson of the day was cupping one's hands for greater traction during dog paddle and crawl stroke and looking at the sky while floating on the back to improve buoyancy. They all enjoyed learning how to do the dead man's float and diving from a kneeling position on the deck.

Athan probably had the most remarkable growth spurt when he discovered he could dive in and swim ALL the way across the pool. After about 10 of these trips, Candice led him to the deep end (with our permission) to try his new found skill there. He was glowing with pride, swimming beside the elegant mermaid Candice.

Aliou had a blast kicking, floating, and diving on water toys, but also demonstrated a very skillful back stroke.

Leon was an ever-eager student, who despite chattering teeth, continued to practice his crawl stroke all morning and finally mastered a pretty good dog paddle that took a little less energy and moved him more swiftly to where he wanted to go. His back float is also superb!

Kyle, the oldest of the bunch, showed everyone how to do flip dives off the side and handstands on the bottom, which they tried again and again. He was also a pair of 3rd eyes, keeping watch on 3 rambunctious 7-year-olds who were mastering the ability to swim.

Sadly, I forgot the camera, though I'm not sure it would have been easy to replace the eagle eye with a camera lens with everyone shouting "Watch this, Dearma!" Jenny and I agreed that being ultra-alert for 2 1/2 hours was exhausting. I don't know about her, but I took a nap when I got home.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Planting Pleasure

When I asked Culley if there was some kind of service I could do for his birthday, he said he'd like to have the planters on his deck cleaned up and replanted with annuals and some more perennials.

WOW! I thought, is this a gift for him or for me? Planning, shopping, and planting a little deck garden sounded like a lot of fun.

First, I drew a diagram of the deck and the placement of all the planters with their existing perennials, and then I set my mind to dreaming. I was thinking about color, seasons, deer, and children, all of which had to be factored in-- deer-proof stuff for the patio, flowers Nell could pick, spaces for the fairy gardens she and Huck like to make, plants that would bloom until Thanksgiving and ones that would return next spring, textures that would be pleasing against the oak backdrop that surrounded the deck, and colors that would be complimentary. I made lots of notes . . .

And then I went shopping and filled Cindy's truck with six packs and quart pots. I couldn't find the bulbs I wanted, but I would plant those later in the fall. At the house, I spent several hours cleaning up the planters, turning the existing potting soil and adding new soil to many of the planters. Then Cindy joined me, and we got to work planting. It took us 2 days. The work was such fun that at one point, Cindy said, "Why don't we do this for a living?" I was on exactly the same page. There could not be a more pleasant past time than working in the dirt with a passel of plants.

We filled the deck and patio with lavender, society garlic, petunias and zinnias and ganzia, coleus and baby roses, star jasmine and even a Japanese maple, to name a few. I'm looking forward to watching this garden grow, sure that in a month or so my dreaming will be realized.

Thanks Culley. This was a mutually beneficial exchange.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Clare is 2

Clare relished every minute of her 2nd birthday, reminding us all to slow down and savor time. She patiently awaited the older children who had to be called from play far and wide to come sing. She glowed after blowing out her candles, never for a minute realizing she'd had help from Dearma who was sitting behind her. She allowed the first piece of cake to go to brother Athan without a word of complaint, and he dutifully stood by to assist with present unwrapping--the hard stuff like breaking apart plastic ties and packaging. Clare carefully pointed to each letter of her name on every envelope and then studied each card as if memorizing the words. The time she took with each gift was the ultimate gift to the giver, topped off by the sweetest "thank yous" ever spoken. Once all the gifts were opened, she marched down to the lake--in her distintive deliberate stride-- to try out her new pink inner tube, a gift from Yay-yay, also know as Granddaddy.
Happy Birthday, Clare. We will savor your 2nd year in the style you so beautifully illustrated.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Second Book

My second book is out: The Right Sisters: Women Inventors Tell Their Stories. This was a collaborative project with my friend, inventor Julia Rhodes.

For me, it was tremendously satisfying to work on a project that celebrates women's ingenuity with a dear friend. Julia and I have a long history of supporting one another, helping each other to the next step . . . and the next. It also feels pretty wonderful to have in my hands two books that I authored.

If you'd like to buy the book, it is available online at Amazon or Barnes & Nobel or you can contact Julia through her KleenSlate Concepts website or give me a ring and I'll get you a copy.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Side Yard

This year, my major yard improvment goal is to finish the side yard. That side of the house boasts 4 native white oaks, and the rule of thumb is that you are not supposed to water under oak trees, so I decided to make this my native plant space. Well, sort of!

It will feature primarily natives after I finish terracing it with railroad ties and building paths with crushed granite (designed for ease in leaf blowing). I also plan to have rock enclosed bulb beds with crocus, daffodils, and irises that bloom before the summer heat. In the open space at the eastern end, I'm going to plant a peach tree to replace the one we cut down in the front yard this year and maybe a grape or berry vine. On the other side of the fence, I have left vinca on the long stretch of road that accesses the park. It's attractive (though invasive) and doesn't need a lot of water.

Four summers ago, Cindy's nephew Rex helped kick off the project by extending the privacy lattice and building the first level of terracing. Then on my 60th birthday, a work party built steps down from the swing and at the western entrance to the yard. Last summer, I bought 10 more railroad ties that Cody helped me pick up and unload. He also built one more step. Then the project languished for a year, a huge pile of ties laying in the yard with weeds growing up around them.

With renewed vigor, I was determined to finish the yard this year. First Argos came and sprayed for weed control. Then we raked and weedwacked and racked more. Then Argos returned to start building the terrace for the peach tree and a section of steps as well as beds from the road up to the fire hydrant. Last Saturday, Becky and I finished those steps and beds and dug up the trumpet vine and put in one more railroad tie on the upper terrace.

There are more stairs to build, and I have to create and plant the bulb beds and do additional work on the hill below the fire hydrant, but I'm thrilled with the major progress in getting this project done. Thanks to all of my helpers. You make me so happy!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Strawberry Fields

We are getting a bountiful harvest of strawberries this year. During the past 10 years, we have relocated the strawberry patch four times. We have battled deer, birds, grasshoppers, tons of weeds, and poor soil conditions. They have been in their present location for 3 years and finally we are getting LOTs of succulent fruit. The deer are fenced out and Cindy has been able to grab the berries BEFORE the birds get to them. I'm not sure if the large number of berries is due to finally getting the plants established in the right place or the late spring rain. I'm simply delighted to enjoy a delicious strawberry-banana smoothie every morning.
Oh, and I'm grateful to my diligent strawberry picker, Cindy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

New Door

Cindy got me a door for my birthday. The back door to our home opens into my office and the room is one of the darkest in the house. I wanted more light and thought a door with windows would help so she gifted me with just such a door. Then she enlisted the STAR family helper to install the door: Michael Tippett. It was an all day project because, of course, there were unforseen problems like termite damage to the beams under the door jam. But Michael got the door in and now I have much more light and a lovely smooth working door.
Thank you Cindy & Michael.
Old Door

Michael cutting away termite damage.

New Door!!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mission Impossible

Around these parts, 4th graders typically study California history for their social studies curriculum. Jenny enlisted me to to take part in Kyle's study by doing a couple of field trips and helping with his mission project.

Kyle is a little sponge who soaks up what he reads, so when he, Candice, and I went to Grinding Rock State Park last fall to see MiWok artifacts, he was well versed regarding how the early native Californians lived.

Next up was the mission project, which I was really sweating. I didn't do all that well with my own kids projects, and not being a particularly handy person, I was not sure at all what to do to get this one started. The night before our first meeting about the mission, I did not sleep well. I was thinking about using building materials like paper mache or sugar cubes or something like that. I'd downloaded pictures and diagrams of Mission San Juan Batistia, the mission Kyle had chosen because he had visited it with his family, but I still didn't know what I was going to do to get us started.

Then Fred Dixion came to my rescue. Cindy told her mom about my worries, and she told Fred who promptly called me on my cell phone. He told me exactly what to get--styrofoam sheets for the structure and strips of discarded lattice for the roof. He recommended getting twigs for trees and some ceramic angels or crosses for decoration. What a relief! Now I knew how to get started.

I took Kyle shopping at Wal Mart for the styrofoam, and then we hit three thrift stores. By then Kyle was getting imaginative and found some great contact paper to use for the tile entry ways, and he found golf tees and green yarn that he thought could be fashioned into trees. We also found some angels for decorations. Then I came up with the idea of using the corrugated inside of a pizza box for the roof. We were set.

On building day, I brought all the stuff to his house along with glue and an Xacto blade. Kyle had a board for us to build the mission on, and he suggested we use a hot glue gun to connect the walls and roof. I'd never used one before, but he was an expert with the gun. In a couple of hours, we had our mission built, and I was pleased as punch. He did way more of the work than I did, and I felt like the whole thing had turned out just as it should. WHEW, I was glad to have that project behind us.

Finally, we went to Columbia State Park. Kyle was decked out to the max in a cowboy costume, so much so that a bus load of fourth grade kids visiting the park thought he was part of the show. Kyle had plans to arrest the robber when we went on the stage coach ride. He even had handcuffs, but sadly the stage wasn't running that day. So he panned for gold. His plan: "If I find a nugget of gold, I'm gong to buy my mom and dad a house and all the Legos I want!"

I'd say that's a pretty admirable goal for a gold miner.

At the Museum, Kyle wowed the docents with his extensive knowledge about the items in the dioramas. The boy knows his California history! So glad to have had the pleasure of accompanying him on this learning journey.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Two Yellow Things and a Red One

Last night I dreamed about two yellow things and a red one.

I was busy in March, my life full of blog material though I wrote none. Actually I wrote many blogs in my head while driving, walking, washing dishes, going to sleep, and waking up. I still intend to publish them-- HERE-- right after . . .

. . . I finish a freelance project, plant strawberries in the Waldorf Kinder-Garden, go to a Sierra Hope Board Meeting, mow the lawn, fry chicken, pack for Disneyland, enjoy the Waldorf Rites of Spring Wild West Auction, attend an exclusive shopping event at Staples where I'll spend my gift cards and rewards card, and drive to Orange County to play with the Tippetts at Disneyland.

As soon as I get home I'll write those blogs and more.

Two nights ago, I dreamed that a large, joyful German Shepard demolished my computer as I slept.

Last night, I was an insomniac. When I finally fell asleep past 4am, I dreamed about two yellow things and a red one.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Writing a Book

I spent the last month finishing a book project. Twelve hours a day, day after day. I loved it! My back ached from sitting; my wrist ached from typing. My nights were filled with thoughts about the book to the point that I couldn't tell if I was dreaming or thinking. I'd wake at 3am or 4am and wish that 5am would come so I could get up (at a reasonable hour) and get back to work. Thirty marvelous days of writing. What a gift; what a privilege. This was the end of the project, during which I completed the last 75 pages or so.

But the project actually started years before when I had lunch with my friend Julia. The idea for The Right Sisters was hers. She came up with the title and she did tons of research before I ever got invovled. At lunch that day, I absorbed her enthusiasm like a plant collecting energy from the sun. The photosynthesis took eight years before that energy was fully transformed into a book.

When I think about it, the book project really started years before that lunch date, back when Julia and I first met and I reveled in her smile, in her joy of life, in her swinging blond hair and willingness to jump when I was merely tiptoeing . Way back in 1977, we started the partnership that would make a book thirty-three years later. We were the right sisters!

Thanks Julia, for being a part of my life, for shining your light on my creative life.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Snowmobile Adventure

Cindy loves machines and she loves speed, so for her birthday this year, I scheduled a snowmobile adventure. We drove to Tahoe on her birthday eve and stayed at Harrahs. First, we celebrated a belated Valentine's Day by going to see the movie so named. There were only three couples in the theater for this sweet romantic comedy. We left the show in a geedy feel-good mood and went for a late dinner at the casino. Then I headed up to our room and Cindy enjoyed a few hours of gambling. We were nicely primed for our March 2, birthday adventure.

The next day at Zephyr Cove, we got suited up in snow pants, boots, gloves, and helmet and then climbed on a bus with 23 other people for the drive to the trailhead where we would be oriented to the machines. The first thing we learned was that we would be on the Cadillac of snowmobiles weighing in at 700 pounds. That's a lot of machine to maneuver with two riders even with an engine. Of course, the trail guide emphasized safety with a few scary admonitions about keeping your legs tucked so they didn't get broken should you roll the thing. Sufficiently worried--me about everything and Cindy about driving the thing--we took our position on a machine at the end of the line.

Cindy pushed the throttle and we lurched forward making two or three lunges as she gauged how to manage speed. Soon we were flying down the trail, shifting our butt cheeks and leaning into curves. It wasn't long before Cindy was wanting greater speed though thwarted by a much slower driver immediately in front of us. I, on the other hand, was glad for the pokey gal as it was taking me a while to get comfortable bouncing over the bumpy terrain. By the time we reached the first resting spot on the tour, my bladder was screaming from the pounding, and Cindy was asking the trail guide if we could go faster. To distance myself from both perspectives, I decided to take some pictures. After getting one great shot of Cindy's wind burned and delighted face, the camera froze, literally, for the temperature was dropping as a storm moved in.

When the ride resumed, we were indeed going faster, mostly downhill, and I was trying to figure out the best way to position my body for the jarring. If I wrapped my arms around Cindy's waist, we banged helmets repeatedly, and if I held on to the hand rails, my head flailed atop my neck. Cindy meanwhile was really getting into driving her machine, oblivious to our fishtailing rear and my fretful, fearful ride. Good thing the engine drowned out my grunts and moans and occasional plea to "Slow down!" She just wanted to go FAST!

Two hours later when we pulled into our parking spot at the trailhead, Cindy was grinning from ear-to-ear as I leaped from our snowmobile to tear across the snow to the porta-potty. We were soon leaning happily against one another on the bus ride back down the hill-- Cindy fed by speed and I relieved.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Todos Santos

I wanted to post a few scenes from Todos Santos before I set off on my next adventure, Cindy's birthday week.

Here is a brief description of these pictures.
1. C&A with Heidi and Blossom in front of the Rav, a sturdy vehicle for Mexico dirt roads.
2. The path to Playa San Pedro or Palm Beach as it is generally called.
3. The 3 of us on an isolated beach near La Paz. Hiking over rocky terrain is worth it to snorkel in aquamarine waters.
4. The new stone walkway, designed by Connie and built by Pepe.
5. C&A, happily retired.
5. Patricia at an open reading at an art gallery in Todos Santos.

Like I said, this was a hard place to leave.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tiny Town

Tiny town is Connie's & Andy's pet name for Todos Santos. It refers to the manner in which news flies through the gringo community, or the entire community for that matter. For example, while I was visiting, Connie gave her housekeeper Maria a ride to her next job and on the way talked about Andy wanting to get in touch with the builder of the house, so he could deal with a few water issues. Two hours later, Paul, the builder, showed up at the gate saying, "You wanted to see me?" That's the way it is in Todos Santos. Communication travels rapidly via word of mouth.

Sometimes it's right on, like the way in which the neighborhood heard of C&A's arrival at their house last December. People immediately started dropping by to say hello and extend invitations. In two months, they have come to know everyone in the neighborhood, including all the neighbor's pets names. Most folks have at least one dog, and many have two or three. Barking dogs and crowing roosters form a back drop of sound that one no longer hears after a while as those sounds are ever present. Connie gets rides to Zumba from a neighbor and Andy shares tools and workers with guys in the neighborhood. It's a tiny town.

Sometimes the news gets twisted, like when we waited in the bank to cash a check. The regular customer rep was not there, and when C&A asked the person in front of them where Daniel was, he said, "I heard he got fired." Soon that news was passed down the line. But when Connie was cashing her check, she tactfully asked the gal about Daniel, and learned he would be back next week. She made sure, she told the fellows in line what she'd learned.

Late one afternoon while I was there, we got a call inviting us to join a bunch of neighbors at a newly opened restaurant in town. That's where I learned that Todos Santos is a tiny town in other ways too. One of the gentleman who joined us had graduated from the same high school as Andy and I. Another fellow had spent summers during his youth in Boot Jack which is where Cindy's parent's live, and he had attended the Mariposa County Fair every year throughout his teens. Another gal was from Modesto, and when she was growing up her family had cabin in Twain Harte just like my family. We knew all the same haunts, the Frost Top and the skating rink and the rock at the lake. Two people grew up in San Francisco and one in Orange County where Connie is from. The coincidences were enough for me to agree that Todos Santos is a "tiny town."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Change of Plans

Cindy and I planned to go to Todos Santos for two weeks in February to hang out with the dogs while Connie and Andy came back to the states to get their kitties. But all that changed.

Turns out the kitties bonded with Nora, the housesitter in California, so there was no compelling need to go get them, so Connie and Andy decided they would go camping since we were coming anyway. Then Heidi got VERY ill, and they weren't sure she was going to pull through. Meanwhile a bad cat mauled Ebby, and she was at the vet for a few days, and our normal cat sitter was not going to be able to watch our kitties while we were gone.

Though we had two excellent offers from animal lovers who were willing to watch the cats, we did not think Ebby could handle a stranger giving her medicine and taking her back to the vet to have the wound cleaned. Also, the bad cat was still hanging around, so Cindy canceled her plane reservation (now we had a big vet bill AND forfeited air fare).

Down in Todos Santos, Heidi was making a nice recovery, so Connie and Andy were going to be able to go camping after all, and Blossom would go with them. After my arrival and orientation, Heidi and I bid them farewell as they headed northeast to camp, kayak, and snorkel on the Sea of Cortez. Well, I waved good bye. Heidi hung her head in sorrow.

The first day was iffy. She wouldn't go for a walk with me; she jumped up and stood at the door at the slightest noise thinking they had returned, and then she vomited her dinner after which she went upstairs to her bed and would not come down. We are talking about a VERY old, large dog here, slightly senile and quite frail. I did not want her to get sick, or worse, on my watch. The 2nd day was better, but she is still making regular visits to the yard to stare longingly at the other car and the gate. She's waiting. Such incredible devotion.

I have just one question: Who is in charge here? The people or the pets?

Monday, February 1, 2010


Cindy's dad, Fred Dixon, recently turned 80!
That's a lot of years!

So the family threw a Surprise Party. Despite all kinds of commotion in the days before the party, Fred never caught on. And when he walked through the door of the Clubhouse at Rawhide Mobile Home Park, he was totally suprised. His first expression said, "What the . . . ?" And then he broke into a wonderful smile as he recognized family from far and wide grinning back at him.

He circled the room greeting people, hugging them and shaking hands until he got half way round the room to face his brother Cliff who came from Kentucky for the party with his daughter, Sissy, and granddaughter Audrey. SURPRISE!
Next, he met his sister Barbara who came from Chicago with her daughter, Loretta. SUPRISE!
Sister Rosie was there also with a big group from Southern California. SURPRISE! The siblings had a great time catching up and cutting up!

The entire family enjoyed visiting as they ate sandwiches and salads, played ping pong, poker, and horsehoes. The cousins had has much catching up to do as the elders, especially when Cindy's mom brought in boxes of photo albums she had prepared for virtually every member of the family. She had gone through ALL of her pictures and labeled them and placed them in albums to give to each person. All across the room people were oohing and aahing and reminiscing.

Eventually it was time for cake and ice cream. Cindy had ordered a special cake with a photo of Fred panning for gold and there was also a cake in the shape of the number 80.

Near the end of the party, Cindy presented her Dad with a money tree to which Fred said with a twinkle in his eye, "I think I'll water it and see if it grows!"

It was a spectacular day of reunion and celebration. Spending 80 years on this planet is definitely worth celebrating. Congratulations Fred!

Friday, January 29, 2010

More Skiing

Leon and Aliou particularly enjoy skiing backwards.

Clare wanted to be part of the action and paid close attention to how Mary Autumn rose to her feet after a fall, i.e with Dearma's help.

The power of the snowplow.