Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year!!

Since I'm saying goodbye to Christmas 2009, I thought I'd leave you with a few images from our house this season.
I hope your holiday was merry and bright.

I hope it was filled with love and family and laughter.

And I hope, for all of us, that the coming year brings health, prosperity and fulfillment of all of our very best dreams.

Happy New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Puttin' On the Glitz


When I was a little girl we always made a trip into San Francisco to see the holiday decorations and one of our favorites stops was always the big, four-story-high tree inside The City of Paris. Well, that store has gone the way of $1.50 a gallon gas but Neiman Marcus in now in that famous building and they've carried on the the big-tree tradition. Here is this year's tree.

View as you approach the front of the store:

View from one of the balconies that encircle the tree:


View of the top and the magnificent ceiling:

And another...


As we wandered the store we saw plenty of other delights such as these angels,


A red ribbon-bedecked tree,


A twin tree topper,

A tablecloth and ribbon skirt on a very jazzy carpet,


And what all of us will be wearing to our family get-togethers, no doubt.


Wishing you and yours a very merry holiday season!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happy Holidays to One and All!!


My daughter, Krissy, was insistent that we take a holiday family portrait this year. Coordinating all of our schedules was tricky. Finding a place where the light wasn't too spotty or the wind too disruptive was dicey as well. But Krissy was determined. She dragged us to the park, set up her camera with a timer, and after a number of hits and misses she finally the scored the picture you see above. Then she created the card and graciously allowed me to post it here. Since I probably won't get around to mailing out any cards this year, may I just say to all my friends and family,

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Walking With Angels


I am in Washington state on a pilgrimage, of sorts. I am staying at the home of my very dear friend Madelyn, who lost her husband John to a stroke on October 28. We three have been close friends—like family-close—for many, many years. They have lived on this farm on the Olympic Peninsula since the mid-seventies when John designed and built the house I’m sitting in as I write. I mean John truly designed and built this house by himself. He’d never built a house but, as he told Madelyn, “There are books.” He built the structure slowly and she has spent her life filling it with beauty. It is like a magnificent, epic poem of love with walls, a roof and windows that provide views of some twenty-eight acres of trees, meadows and a meandering creek.

When I look up from my laptop I see birds vying for a spot at the suet feeder outside the windows. All kinds of birds come and go, stellar jays, chickadees, juncos and lots more whose names I don’t know and who I’ve not seen in California. Music plays softly and reverberates through this vaulted wooden structure the way notes emanate from the sound box of a well-made acoustic guitar. Outside, the sun transforms the powdered sugar snow to a field a brilliant diamonds, carelessly strewn about as though they were of little value—an abundance of riches here so immense that everything, and nothing, is precious at once.

Tears flow easily. Sadness mixed with such love and joy that it cannot be contained. The tapestry of love woven here fills me up and pours out unchecked.

The story of the three of us is intertwined like the grapevines that climb the deck outside. I have been here for so many pivotal events. We have made many stories together—many memories. A part of me lives here and walks the land even when I’m back home in California. And yet I’ve never lived here. What I experience must be powerfully magnified for John. Even though he is off somewhere on a new ethereal adventure, I am certain he walks the land and inhabits this house in very tangible ways. It is impossible not to feel him.

I have to wonder, is this how it feels when you brush against the wings of an angel?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Just an Update

I know I haven't been posting much lately. Like many folks, I suspect, I have been all caught up in the day to day business of getting ready for the holidays.

First came the eighteenth birthday of my youngest child, Krissy. It is amazing to me that my baby is now an adult. Geez that time sped by quickly. We had a big party for her and I think she had a great time. A few days later we celebrated a quiet Thanksgiving.

Of course, getting ready for my daughter's party entailed a lot of cleaning and clearing away the clutter from when my husband finally moved the rest of our stuff from Tahoe (deferred housekeeping is my artform). So I threw my back out during that process. It was just about healed by Thanksgiving when I threw it out again lifting the turkey in and out of the oven. The days right after Thanksgiving, while both daughters were home from college, we began the task of decorating the house. My back was almost healed when I helped bring in the tree and...big surprise here...I re-injured it again. So the tree still sits swathed in netting in its stand in the livingroom awaiting my touch with lights and ornaments. My back is finally feeling up to snuff again so perhaps today...? When it's all done I'll post some photos and give you a home tour.

Added into this decorating saga is the plight of my little yellow canary, Monet, who caught the band on his leg (don't get me started on the insane practice of banding birds!!) on a millet holder in his cage. I discovered him upside down, hanging by his foot and bleeding a week ago. Now canaries don't like to be held, so managing to free him from this trap was a bit tricky but I managed to capture him and get the bleeding to stop. I carried him to an avian vet who miraculously happened to be in on a Sunday in a vet hospital across the street. He removed the bands on Monet's legs and told me it is quite common for birds to catch these bands on things in their cages. Long story short, I have had to capture Monet daily to feed him medicine. The first time I tried, my other canary escaped so I had to capture him amidst all the boxes of Christmas decorations that we'd brought inside. It is amazing how you do get better doing things with repetition and the past few days have been much easier.

Later today I'm off to read one of my short writings "Life is A Numbers Game" at Iota Press at 2:00 pm . My writing group will be there and we've each been asked to read one of our pieces which should be fun. There will also demonstrations of the antique letter presses. Following this, the family will drive to Sonoma where Krissy will be reading one of her poems during a Lights of Rememberance ceremony for the Hospice By The Bay. It is a literary day for our family, it seems.

All of this was just to say, sorry I haven't been blogging as much lately but I promise to do better. Hope you're all enjoying the craziness of the season.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Treasure of the Golden Loo

Well, the holiday season has arrived and completely thrown me off my schedule. Sorry I've been MIA here but at least my house is getting clean and ready for Christmas. I thought I'd share with you a story I recently wrote for my Low-Fat Fiction workshop. The seed for the piece was: It wasn't our idea.

“Treasure of the Golden Loo”

“But it wasn’t our idea,” we said later. It really hadn’t been our idea but we jumped on board with the rest of our friends when Billy Crump, a wild light dancing in his eyes, suggested it. My twin brother, Jem, and I were doubled over laughing, our backs to the black and white when it arrived.

“Why don’t you tell me the joke so we can all have a good laugh?”

We turned in unison. That’s when we discovered our so-called friends had evaporated.

Jem glanced at me, shrugged slightly, then turned and offered up his most charming smile, “Knock, knock.”

Turns out Officer Horntree didn’t have much of a sense of humor. But to be fair, maybe only kids think tipping port-o-potties is funny. Our folks, when they showed up later at the station where we were taken, seemed to share Horntree’s view of the situation. We listened as the officer described the scene of the crime before he laid out for our parents the options now available to us. We simultaneously noticed the muscle in Dad’s jaw moving rapidly in and out as a murderous glare appeared in his eyes. Mom’s face turned pale and her eyes became red and watery. A few months in Juvy were starting to sound like a trip to Disneyland compared to what we’d face if we had to return home today.

“Lucky for you this is your first offense,” Horntree said with a stern frown in our direction. Ha! Lucky indeed, we both thought. “Next time you won’t get off so easy.” Maybe this guy did have a sense of humor after all. “If you can get through the next year without my having to hear your names then I’ll agree to drop this incident from your records.” He gave Jem and then me his formidable cop stare but he didn’t look nearly as scary as our dad. “Otherwise it’s off to Juvenile Hall for the both of you. Understand?” We both nodded. “Your parents have agreed to pay one hundred dollars to cover the cost of clean up.” Jem and I exchanged glances. A hundred dollars? Crap! We couldn’t do the math in our heads fast enough to calculate how many allowances that would be at a dollar each a week.

“What do you say to Officer Horntree?” Mom asked.

Not what we were thinking, that’s for sure. “Thank you,” we both managed to mumble, more or less at the same time. Thanks for nothing. Thanks for the ticket to Hell, more like.

Back at school we milked our fifteen minutes of celebrity but before long we were old news. Home was another story. There we were front page for the next two months. Then Christmas came and our parents lightened up on us with the arrival of tinsel and holiday cheer. Not coincidently, that was the year our folks began volunteering us to help out at the old folks home in town. We pretended to hate it but actually we made some pretty cool friends over checkers and Go Fish.

Years later, long after both Jem and I had married and had kids of our own, the folks let it slip that they’d always referred to “The Incident” as the “Treasure of the Golden Loo”. Apparently a hundred bucks was a good trade for all the free work they got out of us. In retrospect, and with the buffer of time, Jem and I agreed it all worked out for the best but still, it wasn’t our idea.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pink Glove Dance on YouTube

A friend sent me this video on breast cancer awareness.

The video was shot at Providence St. Vincent Hospital in Portland. When the video gets 1 million hits, Medline (maker of the Pink gloves) will be making a huge contribution to the hospital, as well as offering free mammograms for the community. Please check it out. It's an easy and great way to donate to a wonderful cause, and who hasn't been touched by breast cancer?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wild Women Weekend

Yesterday my good friend Cynthia and I set off for a weekend with our other good friend Susan, who lives in Palo Alto, California. I have been best friends (at my age this seems an odd term but calling her my oldest friend seems borderline rude) with Susan since high school. We have gathered, ostensibly, to celebrate my birthday (which happened last month). We always call these weekend gatherings our Wild Women Weekends, which, to be truthful, is more wishful thinking than anything else.

Cynthia brought some pretty tasty cakes from Michelle Marie's Patisserie.



We took a long walk yesterday afternoon to the Elizabeth Gamble Gardens where I used my iPhone to photograph these porcelain berries. I've heard they become even more colorful with cold weather. Suburban legend?



Along the way I photographed this garden angel,



...and this lovely blue nautilus bench.



This morning we walked to the Farmer's Market and I couldn't resist photographing this beautiful vine colored building across the street from the market.



Now we are back at Susan's house, drinking more wine and surfing the Net. I've been playing around with Photoshop filters on my photos which is why they don't look quite normal—my little nod to being wild. We decided to pass on the movie because you can't talk at movies and let's face it, wild women are all about the talking.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Visiting the Ferrari-Carano Winery Gardens



My husband and I recently made a visit to the wonderful Ferrari-Carano Winery along Dry Creek Road outside of Healdsburg, California. The location is spectacular and the wines quite tasty but I fell in love with the gardens. The gardens were created by Rhonda Carano. There is no charge to wander through them and apparently in the early spring 10,000 tulips are in bloom. We were told that each year they are planted in a different color scheme. You can bet I'll be headed back there then!

Beautiful spots in the gardens.





One interesting thing I learned about was the cork oak tree. If you click on the photo of the sign it should become large enough for you to read.





I rubbed the snout of the wild boar sculpture for luck—it is my firm belief that you can never have too much good luck!



Views from the veranda off of the tasting room.





Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Gone"


The following is something I wrote for my weekly writing group. The writing seed was "gone".

“Gone”

8:50 a.m.
My daughter asks, “Can we buy a balloon for Jessi?” I ask why. “Today would be her eighteenth birthday.” I fill in the blanks. Jessi, her best friend from elementary school, died two years ago in a car crash.

9:05 a.m.
I check my emails hoping for an update on a good friend. Last Thursday he suffered a “substantial” stroke. His wife, one of my closest friends for forty years, sits at his side in an ICU. Unable to speak, he may, or may not, be able to respond to questions by squeezing his hand. We are told we should know something today. She waits for the doctor to arrive and announce the shape of their new life.

9:08 a.m.
I sit and watch the orange, red and amber leaves drift away from the giant tree. The ground below it is already covered. Some leaves let go more gracefully than others.

9:15 a.m.
I think back over last night’s phone call. A dear friend told me one of her daughter’s best friends was killed this month when thrown from her horse. Her last words as she galloped away were, “I love this mare!” She’d been invited to row with our Olympic crew team but chose instead to attend Harvard. Always active, that day she was riding with friends. Not a bad way to go, I think, feeling passion and joy at that last moment. Would I feel the same were she my child?

9:20 a.m.
I peruse my “To Do’s”. Pay bills. Clean kitchen. Take out trash. What will I be doing at that moment my life ends? Why are the important things not on my list?

9:25 a.m.
I look at my watch. In thirty minutes I will drive to an appointment.
In twenty-nine...
In twenty-eight…
Just as I cannot see the air that moves my lungs I cannot see the time that remains. How do we make our choices?

9:28 a.m.
A crow scolds me loudly from branches overhead. “Who asked you?” I scold back.

9:33 a.m.
I sit, overwhelmed by ideas of all I want to accomplish—lofty goals and small flourishes—yet I cannot live each moment amped up, adrenaline coursing through my veins, pushing me to move faster. I want to savor, not squander, what time is left but the weight of these thoughts makes me crazy, immobile. It is a delicate balance—choosing where next to place my feet.

9:38 a.m.
I remember Sean. Slowly strangled in the grip of ALS, he stretched his dying out, but that was not his choice. At thirty-nine the note he left behind read, “…I wish you all a long life, a happy life, and a death you don’t see coming.” He had time to say goodbye but was that worse?

9:45 a.m.
Before this day is gone let me do one true thing:
Experience beauty that steals my breath.
Revel in my body’s movement.
Give voice to my I-love-you’s.
Create anything that merits the space it occupies.
Laugh long and hard from the boundaries of my soul.

9:49 a.m.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

May I Have the Crumpled Paper Please?

We have a winner for my 100th Post Giveaway!!

Now I know many of you fair-minded folks use Random Number Generator to choose winners for contests. That just feels a little too clinical for my taste. I decided to let my cats choose the winner of my giveaway. It was bound to be fair. I mean, they can't read so they can't cheat, right?

Emma said, "You want me to get off this comfy chair to do what?"


Mystic said, "I'd be honored."


I printed out all the comments that were left on my post, along with a couple that arrived as emails since the entrants don't have blogs and couldn't figure out how to work the comment button (always an option for commenting!) I cut the comments into little pieces of paper and wadded them up into tiny balls—just the size to entice my cats to pick one from the bowl to play with.



At first, they weren't very interested. I had to sprinkle catnip on top of the entries and mix them around. Even then, they had to think about it.



"What have we here?"


"You want me to touch one with my MOUTH???"


Finally, Emma decided it was time to choose.


She took a swipe at the bowl and four entries went flying out. Voila! We had our finalists.


We laid them out in a square on the ground (I was being helped by my daughter—it's helpful having a cat wrangler!)


At last Emma pounced on one entry and held it close to her heart. We had our winner.


Drum roll please...

The winner is Suzann at The Olive Cottage!! Congratulations and thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. She has a great blog you should visit some time.


She wins this beautiful 16" square, giclee canvas wrapped print donated by my good friend Cynthia at Willow Rosa Studios. Cynthia has her own wonderful blog called A Shimmy in My Spirit. She has lots of gorgeous art over there so you should definitely check her out and her blog is guaranteed to lift your spirits.



So thank you all for playing along. Thanks for your comments on my 100th post and for your encouragement along the way. You make the journey loads of fun.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Yin and Yang of Produce

As we begin to move into the holiday seasons I am aware that most of the farmer's markets near me are getting ready to close for the year. I will certainly miss them. There is just something so wonderful about their lively atmosphere as people stroll between the booths chatting and the smells of fresh produce and flowers fill the air. Everything seems to look more appetizing in natural light. I took these two photos last weekend with my iPhone. I loved how perfect opposites looked together:

Black and white eggplants



Red and green peppers



If only opposites could get along so nicely everywhere else.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pumpkin Bowling and More

Last Sunday morning we went to the Windsor Pumpkin Festival and Farmer's Market. Windsor is a tiny little town in the Sonoma wine country and this was a tiny little pumpkin festival. But it was the first place I'd seen scarecrow making or pumpkin bowling as featured activities. The event ran from 10:00am until 2:00pm. We arrived about 1:00pm and it was definitely winding down but here are a few photos I managed to take with my handy dandy iPhone.

My daughter dubbed this the "inappropriate scarecrow"



A pumpkin sculpture



2nd Biggest Pumpkin



Biggest Pumpkin



My personal favorite—Pumpkin Bowling!!



Ya gotta love small towns!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Last Night's Performance

Last night we went to see our twenty-one year old daughter perform in Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs.” She plays Blanche, a thirty-eight year old Jewish widow in New York in 1937. This was quite a stretch for Bri. In her last role she played Miranda in “The Tempest” by Shakespeare. She was quite convincing in that role as a fifteen year old. But thirty-eight? We weren’t too sure.

True to the chameleon that she is, she had us (and many others in the audience) in tears during her very moving monologue in the second half of the play. We were really proud of her. Unfortunately we weren't able to get any photos so you'll have to take my word for it. She had morphed into a thirty-eight year old and even managed to sound Jewish. Oy vey!

Friday, October 16, 2009

I'm Steamed

It’s October 16, halfway through the month, and the weather is STEAMY today. I’m not talking “Body Heat”, sexy movie steamy. I’m talking too many people in the gym together, hiking in a jungle, middle of summer in the Midwest steamy. What’s up with this?

The first few days of the week we had wind and lots of rain. The cold snap in the air caused trees to turn color and it really started feeling like Fall. Pumpkins and Halloween decorations started appearing everywhere. I dug my socks out of the bottom of the drawer. I crawled under the bed to find my Ugg-knock offs. I even wore my red jacket with the hood. I am READY for crisp, cool Autumn!!! And now we have steam heat???

Sometimes life just hisses.

I Just Received the Dragon's Loyalty Award



I just received the Dragon's Loyalty Award from Lisa Anne over at Smell the Coffee Lisa. Thanks Lisa Anne. I don't know who did the artwork for this award but I think it looks pretty cool. I am passing this award on to the following folks because they are awesome and repeatedly make me smile when they stop by and drop a comment.

Krissy at Thinking of Blue

Cynthia at A Shimmy In My Spirit

Divaeva at A Daily Dose of Diva

Bettejo at From Fat to Fifty

and JaPRA at Just a Plane Ride Away.

I limited myself to these five because it takes a frikkin long time to contact everyone and basically I don't have much free time. Besides, these guys deserve it! They make my day, OFTEN.

If you're one of the lucky five here are the rules, should you choose to accept this award:

Rules for this award!

1) If you have a blog, post it on your blog with a link back to the site who gave it to you;
2) Leave them a comment on their site, email, etc. to let them know;
3) If you don't have a blog but have a website, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or other type account, post there with a link back;
4) Pass this on to 3-10 loyal fans. YOU GOT IT!

Thanks again Lisa Anne and congrats to everyone else.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Morning Conversation

I'm gradually learning to use my iPhone to take photos. My friends know I'm a big fan of crows. I saw these two friends talking the other day overhead and I just had to bring them home to share with you.