Sunday, August 30, 2009

Leaking Gloom and Doom

Do you ever have nights where you wake up shuddering about the future? Yeah? Well I had one the other night and it's taken me almost a week to recover. I tend to be a the-glass-is-full-you-just-can't-see-it-clearly kind of girl but that night the frickin' glass was bone dry. With daylight I tried to hide my glaring self-doubts under layers of brightly colored clothing but the murky gloom leaked out through the seams.

Then my daughter called to say her computer had died. Classes were set to start the next day and she was in a panic. I hopped in my SuperMomobile and drove to her college where we exchanged computers. I drove straight from there to the local Apple Store. When I began to rail to the beleaguered tech about how this is the third time we've had to replace the hard drive on this machine, the damn thing started up on its own. Being so close to the Apple God put the fear of hazardous waste dump in it, I suppose. But it had been overheating for weeks so I left it there and went home computerless. Several days of diagnostic tests and a new battery later I sit here typing on my daughter's computer.

But the day after the computer-stroke I turned into a driveway too early, in an attempt to get my other daughter to class on time, and killed my front tire when it went over the curb at a bad angle. I'm still awaiting a replacement tire. Like me, it doesn't seem to be a standard size.

And then there was the heat wave that arrived just as our aging AC unit puffed its final cool breath. That kind of put me over the edge—a short distance to cover.

No one was hurt in any of these events. They just cost time, money and my good humour—the very things I was feeling a distinct lack of when I awoke terrified in the middle of the night a few days before. I'm not so far gone that I can't see a pattern here and I realize I need to do some work on my energy field. Sucky is not how I want to live.

In this vein I spent the past few days trying to refocus on all the things that ARE going right in my life. I'd like to say that was easy but it's hard to stop a runaway train. Sometimes you just have to let it hit a wall. When the dust settles you can pick up the relevant pieces and go on about your business.

It may be time to resurrect my Gratitude Journal. I did this a few months ago and I don't remember walking around in a black cloud while I was doing it. So here goes:

Today I am grateful for:
1. smcFanControl—a new app I downloaded that lets me set the fan on my laptop so it runs faster. So far, anyway, the computer is running much cooler. It shows me on the top bar that the temp has dropped from 170 degrees F. to 120 degrees and my knees are no longer scorching.

2. My cat, Emma, has stopped trying to climb over the fence into the neighbors yards where she always used to get stuck. She seems content to hang out in our yard and I no longer have to wait until the neighbors return from work so I can knock on their doors and ask for the return of my kitty.

3. Both daughters seem to like their classes. Yea!!

4. My book is coming along. The characters are now telling ME the story.

5. I have a computer on my lap that is working.

Life is good...or at least it feels better.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

In a Fog

It's a foggy Thursday morning here in the wine country. School is back in session so I am back to my old routine—driving my daughter to class and waiting to pick her up. Her classes last between one and a half hours to three so I have a bit of time to myself. Today I am waiting in the Safeway parking lot. They have a Starbucks inside and free WiFi in the parking lot so I am set. I can do a bit of surfing, a bit of writing AND a bit of blogging!!

I couldn't find any cool fog vistas around here this morning to take pictures of so I thought I'd share these of views I snapped out of my window at a bed and breakfast in England a couple of years ago.

Hope you all have lovely and productive days, even if you feel you're in a fog.

Monday, August 17, 2009


I haven't posted in awhile. I've been busy helping my daughters get ready to return to college. Thankfully one will still be living at home and the other will only be a little over an hour away—so much better than when one was on the opposite side of the country and the other was ten hours away by car.

I've also been busy writing, mostly working on the novel. But today I wrote this piece for my Tuesday night class and I thought I'd share it with you before I share it with them.


“W6DZQ, Dog, Zebra, Queen in beautiful Mill Valley, California, calling CQ and standing by.”

I can still remember that sound, my dad’s voice from his shop on the other side of my bedroom wall. Both rooms were in the basement, nicely separated from the rest of the house, and my mom’s voice—a setup that suited us both just fine. Hearing my dad reach out to the world from the HAM (amateur radio) set he’d built was a comforting sound. He got his HAM license when he was only fourteen and he made a bit of pocket money building and selling crystal sets, a primitive version of the radio, in the 1920s. I often think now of how excited he would be about the Internet and our amazing ability to connect so easily with people all over the world.

Another voice I loved belonged to Father Murray Hammond, my minister. My parents weren’t exactly the churchy type but about the time I was in fourth grade I decided, for reasons I no longer remember, that I should attend church. I’d been baptized Episcopalian as a baby. Aside from weddings and funerals, that might have been the last time my family had been inside a church. The Episcopalian church in our town was located next door to my elementary school so I started walking there by myself every Sunday morning. In those days, kids had a lot more freedom to walk places on their own.

I found Sunday school boring but I enjoyed sitting in church with the grown ups because it gave me the chance to listen to Father Hammond’s voice. I never paid any attention to what he said. I was content to drift along on the tones and musicality of the words that flowed out of him. A number of years later I actually began listening to the content of the prayers. The words of the Eucharist that went along with the bread and wine —“Take and eat, this is Christ’s body…and drink his blood which was shed for you…”—my sixteen year old self found particularly unsettling. While I was so proud of Father Hammond for marching in Selma with the civil rights protestors, an act for which many of the well-suited, starchy parishioners in our congregation voiced strong disapproval, I had my own moral compass I needed to follow. Attending church for the sole purpose of drinking in his voice felt so hypocritical I stopped going.

Two other voices I adored were those of Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons. They were the radio commentators for the San Francisco Giants when I was growing up. Dad worked the graveyard shift at KPIX, a television station in San Francisco, so he was home during the day and summer afternoons were spent in the backyard. I’d read or paint pictures while he gardened. His transistor radio was always at his side crackling out the roar of the fans and the voices of Russ and Lon calling plays. Dad would join in by whooping or throwing comments their way. I didn’t understand baseball then but it didn’t matter. Those voices were simply the sound of summer and happy times.

Walter Cronkite had another of those memorable voices. Sometimes I listened to his words, like when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, but more often it was just the sounds he made when he spoke. His voice was comforting, like he somehow had a handle on what was going on out in the big, unfathomable world. In the sixties it was dangerous to actually listen to what he was saying, at least in our house when we were all at the dinner table. Civil rights, Vietnam, the Free Speech Movement, war protestors and then the hippies were simply not neutral territory. I can’t tell you how many meals were ruined when everyone (but my wisely silent kid brother) would start yelling at each other during the evening news on TV.

Years later I took voice over lessons and even recorded some commercials. It was fun wearing headphones in a sound booth, speaking into a mic while modulating my voice to rise and fall, hitting the words differently for nuanced meanings. Catching my voice later on the radio was a rush. First I’d recognize the familiar words and then realize that the voice sounded strangely like me, only better.

I don’t remember my mother’s voice. We were at odds so often when I was young that I think I learned to block it out. I could never hear it as pure sound. It always arrived with an agenda. Even after I was an adult her voice would be the one I heard inside my head, The Critic. Gradually, I made it go away.

Thankfully my mom and I became friends when she was in her eighties. For several years I would call her every night and we would talk and laugh on the phone. When she died I kept her answering machine. Every now and then I plug it in and listen to her greeting, just to hear the sound of her voice.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Friday Night at AT&T Park

Last Friday night my husband and I went to see the San Francisco Giants play the Cincinnati Reds. I am a big Giants fan.

I have fond memories of being in the backyard when I was very little. My dad would be gardening and listening on his transistor radio to the voices of Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons—the voices then of the SF Giants. Friday night they were honoring the current "voice"—Jon Miller—and we got a bobblehead of him. Bobbleheads are really rather strange looking creatures, I have to say, but it was cool anyway.

Jon Miller

Jon Miller as Bobblehead

You never know how the Giants will do. Friday I was excited to see Tim Lincecum pitching. He's a pretty amazing kid and he did great, however, in the eighth inning our team turned into a bunch of clowns, made five errors and we ended up losing 10 - 5.

Oh well, the Giants might let me down but AT&T Park never does.

We arrived when it was light and I snapped this photo from behind the scoreboard.

We were up awfully high but managed to avoid nose bleeds AND were able to see a pretty amazing panoramic view of San Francisco Bay.

The sailboats races were going on in The Bay.

Twilight came with fairytale colors.

So did the cotton candy.

I think the park is even more beautiful at night.

The fog rolled in.

And then the moon rose.

When we left the game we looked up into the palm trees just outside the park.

We didn't win the game that night, but with views like these I'd say we did pretty well.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Julie & Julia & Tricia

I just arrived home from seeing the film, Julie & Julia, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. I have been waiting excitedly for this film to come out and it certainly did not disappoint. The movie came from two books—Julia Child's memoir and a book which came from, of all things, a BLOG! The blog was started by Julie Powell during a time in her life when she was about to turn thirty and felt that her life was going nowhere. She decided to cook her way through Julia Child's book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in the space of a year and blog about it. Along the way she discovered that Julia Child learned to cook as a way to keep busy when she was living in Paris with her diplomat husband. She had a passion for food, especially French food, but wanted to learn to cook. (We all know how that worked out for her.)

Both Julie Powell and Julia Child found their joy, along with fame and fortune, by pursuing their passions. Both were a bit lost when they began. The poet, Robert Bly, once said something like, "Notice where you enter the story. That will tell you a lot about yourself." Where did you enter the story?

I entered the story when Julie is feeling lost and decides that writing a blog might help her find her way. (Ok, so now we all know how that worked out for HER.)

For me, the story was not so much about cooking but about throwing yourself into a project you feel passionate about, getting overwhelmed, sinking, swimming and coming out on the other side with a firm grasp on your new self, very much improved both in skill and outlook on life.

I'm in the midst of writing a novel, feeling excited and overwhelmed, sinking and swimming, and swimming, and swimming. I'll let you know how this works out.

In the meantime, check out "Julie and Julia". Meryl Streep outdoes herself in this one and Amy Adams is delightful. It's a wonderful film.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Morning Glorious Love

For years my husband and I have had a running argument about the most unlikely subject—morning glories. There is no fence-sitting here. He stands firmly on the side of hate. I am planted on the side of love.

What my husband most abhors is their quality he calls "invasive". I will readily admit they send out shoots in all directions and they travel great distances at the speed of light but I see this quality as vibrant and "inquisitive". Ten years ago we had a garden where I planted morning glories. I am so in love with their intensely blue flowers. I was disappointed when those seeds never bloomed that year. The following year, however, they surprised me by springing to life. With a gusto! They quickly covered the back fence with lush green leaves and a galaxy of blue flowers. I was in heaven.

My husband, however, was in the "other" place. He is the one who takes care of the garden, for the most part. Once the morning glories arrived so did the cussing. My morning glories, as he tells it, had become greedy. They were not content to decorate the dull, drab brown fence. No. They were headed straight for his roses. Now I will say here, my husband was known for the gorgeous roses he grew. These were long stemmed beauties he grew by the armfuls. But my morning glories were trying to strangle his roses. They were traveling across the lawn (another of his garden favorites) and climbing the thirty foot Italian cypress trees. They were "strangling" everything in sight (his word, not mine.) Every day he'd rip out huge lengths of their vines but they seemed to have doubled themselves by morning. The way he tells it I see images of Mickey as the sorcerer's apprentice from Fantasia where the mops keep doubling and those keep doubling. It's a freaking morning glorious nightmare.

Now, I know I may be sounding like the villan here. I'll admit that morning glories are a bit unruly. But I rather like that about them. Maybe it's akin to falling for the bad boys at school. You like the fact that they are rascals. And scoundrels. You wouldn't necessarily want to marry one of them but as eye candy or fantasy fodder they can't be beat.

I also think morning glories are a lot like ravens, crows and jays—gorgeous, strong, tenacious and inventive. For all of them the word "no" means "go around" or "find another way." I admire this about them. In life, I think these are the qualities you need to reach your dreams. In my experience, people are always telling you to stay in your place. You can go this far but no farther. Don't set your sites too high. Well, good luck telling that to a crow. Or a jay. Or a morning glory. Or, guess what, ME!

After tangling with the morning glories for several years, when we moved, my husband forbid me to ever plant another morning glory (unless I wanted to take over the maintenance of the yard.) Okay. Fair enough. But that doesn't stop me from loving and admiring them every time I see one. The other day as I was driving around town I spotted a fence filled with my blue lovelies and I had to stop to take some pictures.

And if you think love's not powerful, morning glories have begun peeking over the top of the fence in our new home. Our neighbor, it appears, is standing on the side of love.

Sun's Up

It is a gray, drippy morning outside due mostly to what I imagine is just fog. We are about a half hour from the coast and often the fog blankets the vineyards before pulling its disappearing act to allow the sun to beam down on us. We were having the same kind of weather the other morning when I happened to be out driving and passed this row of sunflowers. They seemed to be lifting the gloom of fog all by themselves.