Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Great Transformation

Well, if you've noticed that I haven't posted much lately it is because I've been in the process of transforming my garage, aka the place where we store EVERYTHING that won't fit in the house, into my studio and a more organized place where we store EVERYTHING else. Part of this transformation involves making room for all the stuff that didn't make it here in Phase One of our move from Tahoe to the Sonoma wine country.

Last October I moved into my present house. I just couldn't take another Sierra winter and one of my daughters said she could no longer visit us there because the combination of the altitude and allergans triggered her asthma to the point where breathing was too difficult. So my husband stayed in Tahoe, where he still had a job (although business was being hit hard by the recession and he feared that any day he might be laid off) and I moved into a much smaller house in the wine country. On weekends my husband commuted the four hours each way to visit. Over the next few months, both of my daughters decided they wanted to change the colleges they were attending and they moved back home, along with all of their stuff. I was thrilled to have them home, but the little house was a bit crowded and LOTS of stuff ended up in the garage and what was supposed to be my studio. Every weekend, when my husband made the trip here, he would bring more stuff, anticipating the day when he would actually move here too. Gradually, my little house has become stuffed to the bursting point. I can hardly turn around in the garage and the studio is just as packed with boxes. Last week The Great Transformation began. My studio is finally starting to look like a place where art and writing can take place and the rest of the garage is almost ready to welcome our remaining stuff.

Tomorrow I head back to Tahoe for a week to finish packing up and cleaning out that house. While there, we will get to watch the amazing fireworks display on the 4th of July that the city puts on over the lake. Believe me, that will be the high point of the week. But today, it's back to the garage to complete the transformation. I can't wait to show you pictures! Our internet access in Tahoe has been spotty lately so you probably won't hear much from me for the next week. Hope you all have a happy Independence Day!!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Solstice


(Photo courtesy of http://www.exoticflames.com/fcreative.htm)

Life has been full. A week ago tonight I celebrated the Summer Solstice at a drumming circle in Santa Rosa. I have always loved the sound of the drums, especially native drums. There's just something magic about the sounds of drums outdoors. Part of last Friday's solstice ceremony was to write down on a piece of gray paper something in your life you were ready to let go of. While the drums were beating you were to throw your paper into the fire and release whatever you'd written down. You were also supposed to write down on a golden piece of paper something you intended to accomplish or bring into your life during the next six months. You were supposed to take that piece of paper home with you and put it up on your bulletin board or fridge or somewhere to remind you of what you want to manifest in your life. Being as I was all caught up in the spirit of the moment and the sound of the drumming, I missed that last little piece of the directions. So while the drums were thundering I danced up to the fire pit and tossed both papers into the flames, thus releasing them both to the Universe. I'll let you know in six months, come Winter Solstice, just how that all worked out.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Life is a Numbers Game

I have never been very good with numbers, at least not if I have to calculate them in my head. I once bargained for Giants tickets with a scalper through the window of my car while stopped for a red light.

Scalper: “Field Club seats for $65 each.”

Me: “Would you go $200 for three?” He gave me a big smile. Money changed hands along with the light.

My husband: “Way to go! You do realize you just gave him more than he initially wanted?”

Every now and then you just have to make someone’s day.

You can probably imagine why playing Poker makes me squirm. Same way with Bridge or Hearts. When we used to play Bridge I’d always feel relieved if I got to be the dummy. When we play Hearts, if I try to run the cards, I experience a mild panic attack. My husband always seems to know just how many cards of each suit have been played. Every hand! All this while watching TV and carrying on a conversation. Me, I know that two suits are red and two are black.

Numbers are funny. My mom used to say she was no good with numbers but she could tell the checker exactly how much each item in her grocery cart cost. She couldn’t give you the total but she always knew the price. I can probably tell you the number of calories in every item I’ve eaten in a day but never ask me for an end-of-day tally. Maybe that makes me a live-in-the-moment kind of girl. Or fat.

Now colors, that’s a different matter altogether.

Officer: “Can you describe the vehicle that side-swiped your car, Ma’am?”

Me: “Certainly. It was a sleek, sexy number the exact shade of a ripe pomegranate seed.”

Officer: “Year and make?”

Me:

Age is another of those numbers that gives me trouble. When you’re five, ten sounds old. When you’re fifteen, ten sounds young. My mother never wanted anyone to know when she turned eighty. She said it sounded so old and people would treat her differently. I told her that was just silly. We wanted to throw her a big party to celebrate. Then I noticed myself wanting to hold her arm to help her across the room. She told me that every now and then she’d catch a glimpse of herself in a mirror and wonder who that old lady was. Then she’d realize she was looking at herself.

“It’s always such a shock,” she confessed. “Inside I’m still just forty.”

Two years later, I turned fifty. Fifty sounded so old. My mother just smiled. “I’d kill to be fifty again.”

Monday, June 15, 2009

It's All About the Shoes

I just read this article on Yahoo news:



Reuters – A fox looks for food along the edge of a farmer's field in a file photo. REUTERS/Andy Clark

Fri Jun 12, 10:39 am ET
BERLIN (Reuters) – A fox has been unmasked as the mystery thief of more than 100 shoes in the small western German town of Foehren, authorities said Friday.

A forest worker stumbled upon shoes strewn near the fox's den and found a trove of footwear down the hole which had recently been stolen overnight from outside locals' front doors.
"There was everything from ladies' shoes to trainers," said a local police spokesman. "We've found between 110 and 120 so far. It seems a vixen stole them for her cubs to play with."
Although many were missing laces, the shoes were in good condition and their owners were delighted to reclaim them, he said, adding that no reprisals were planned against the culprit.
(Reporting by Dave Graham; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

I thought this was a pretty interesting story. Like, why were peoples' shoes outside their homes? Were the shoelaces ever found? What happened to the fox's hole after the forest worker broke in? What will the fox family wear to the ball now that all the shoes are gone? The questions just go on and on.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Colorful Weekend

This weekend was a feast for the eyes, even if they were very tired eyes. Both Saturday and Sunday mornings the family got up at 4:00am (yes, you read that right!) and headed off to a local park in Windsor where the 20th Annual Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic was scheduled to start at 5:00am. We arrived when it was still dark and traipsed across the wet lawn to a spot where we could witness the inflation and launch of thirty hot air balloons. Our good friend, Cynthia, from whom we'd won the tickets in a contest on her blog, met us at the event a few minutes later bearing lattes (bless her!!) Luckily my daughter, Kristina, thought to bring large beach towels so we all hunkered down to await the spectacle. We were lucky. Saturday was a perfect day for a launch (unlike Sunday when the fog was too low and all we got to see was the inflation of the balloons.) The first three balloons to inflate were called the "Dawn Patrol" as they set up in the dark. Local DJs chatted up the crowd on the loadspeaker system and played wonderful music.

We wait in the dark while the vendors sell coffee, breakfast, champagne and souvenirs.



Here are some of the images from both days.




















On Saturday afternoon, after coming home from the balloon launch and taking a nap, the family headed to San Rafael for the Italian Street Art Festival put on as a benefit for Youth in Arts, an organization that tries to provide funds to keep art in the local schools. Some of the artists' work was truly spectacular. I am always amazed that there are people who travel the world in order to participate in these festivals. As a pastel artist myself I have the utmost respect for what they accomplish in a short amount of time working directly on asphalt. My niece was a participant and it was a lot of fun to see her work. I have a difficult time imagining spending that much time and energy on a work of art that is so transitory. True, photos are taken of the work but the originals have a very short shelf life. I'm told that after the festival the streets are hosed down and the gutters run with color.

This was my favorite—



With a close up of it—



Others I liked—









Even the kids got in on the act.



Here is my niece and her friend. They were hot, sweaty, covered in pastel dust and looking pretty happy.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Another Low-Fat Story—The Angel

I haven't had time to post in a few days but I have been writing. This is a little stand-alone story but it's ultimately headed for the memoir I'm working on. Hope you like it.

THE ANGEL

When I heard the grinding gears of a vehicle straining to make it up the steep, deeply rutted road that ambled past my cabin, I went out onto the front porch to take a look. I was living on the side of a wooded cliff in the Santa Cruz mountains. This morning I was expecting a delivery of two cords of firewood. Before moving here a month ago I’d never even built a fire but then, there were a lot of things I’d never done before this move.

The rattle and clunk was getting closer and I could see a cloud of dust billowing toward me, signaling the approach of the vehicle. It rounded the bend and slowed to a shuddering halt at the base of a slope I laughingly called my driveway.

“You the one that ordered the wood?” the scruffy old driver called out to me as I looked over the railing.

“That would be me. I ordered two cords,” I called back, wondering how he was going to parcel out my wood from the huge load that filled the back of his rickety dump truck.

“You got the cash?”

“Inside. I’ll get it for you.” I went in and found the envelope I’d filled with twenty dollar bills. When I opened the screen and went back out onto the porch I saw that the driver was busy maneuvering his truck forward and back, spewing exhaust, until its backside rested snug up against the start of my driveway. Then the bed of the truck began to shake as it tilted up and up, spilling its entire contents right there at the bottom of my hill. I was glad I’d taken the time before he arrived to move my car a little way up the road. I only did that to give him a bit more room to navigate the narrow road, but if I hadn’t, I’d have been trapped for sure.

I made my way down the wobbly porch steps and picked my way around the wood to the cab of the truck. “Here’s your money,” I said, offering the envelope through his open window. The stale smell of tobacco smoke assaulted my nose. His dirty, weathered hands opened the envelope and thumbed through the bills.

“Yup. It’s all here.”

“How do you know that’s two cords worth?” I asked, wondering how I’d ever know if I was being cheated or not, never having seen what a cord of wood looked like. I’d ordered it over the phone, just taking a wild guess that was how much I’d need to get through the winter, given that the cabin had no other source of heat but the fireplace.

“I get paid to know,” he barked. Then he actually looked up at me and added, a bit softer, “My truck only holds two cords. Have a good day.”

His truck started to lurch forward and I blurted out, “Aren’t you going to stack it?” A look came over his face like I’d just told him I thought he was wearing lacy pink undies.

“Look lady, I just deliver it. I certainly don’t stack it.” Through the window of his cab I caught a glimpse of him shaking his head as he headed back down the hill. Or maybe it was just the potholes and roots lifting up through the dirt road that made it look that way as his truck slowly bounced away.

In any event, he was gone and I was left with a mountain of wood that needed to be carried up the hill and stacked. Sighing, I filled my arms with three or four logs and headed back toward the porch and the covered area that served as my wood shed. The wood was heavy and the climb was steep. I got to the shed, dropped my load, and headed back down for more. Thirty minutes later I was way past exhausted. Every muscle in my arms, back and legs was screaming and I had a couple of nasty looking splinters in my hands. I went inside to dig them out. As I was washing up I looked out the window over the kitchen sink and I could see that I hadn’t even made a dent in my new wooden mountain. I went outside to the fridge on the back porch, grabbed a Guinness, and headed back through the house to the front porch where I plopped down on the steps, popped the tab and drank the entire beer. Then I started to cry.

A week went by and every day I moved more of the logs to the shed but it was becoming clear to me that the mountain was winning. It didn’t look any smaller than the day it arrived. In fact, I would swear it was growing larger.

I was in the kitchen making dinner when there was a knock at the front door. This was my first visitor since moving in. Both my dogs were barking like crazy and I had to push them away to open the door. The screen was closed and on the other side was the scariest looking man I’d ever seen up close. He was scrawny but tall, with long bushy hair that stuck out in all directions and had leaves and sticks clinging to it. He probably didn’t have to worry about mosquitoes because the odor that rolled off his body would keep anything at a distance. He had intense, light blue eyes that held an urgent look but he had a very soft voice.

“Looks like you’ve got a lot of wood that needs stacking,” he said simply. Oh god, did he want me to give him my wood?

“Yeah,” I said warily.

“Maybe I could stack it for you.” I was pretty sure I wanted this guy to get the hell off my porch and not be hanging around stacking wood. Even my usually friendly, to the point of knocking you over to kiss you, dog, Radar, was having none of this guy and had bared his teeth and was growling. Sascha, the little one, was cowering behind me, barking and piddling all at the same time. I was tempted to simply say no and shut the door but then again, I clearly needed help with the wood.

I hesitated just long enough for desperation to trump fear then said, “What would you want to stack it?”

“Oh, you don’t have to pay me.” I must have looked pretty skeptical because he said, “It’s just,” there was a long pause, “I, uh, well, I just need to keep busy. If I don’t keep busy I tend to rob banks. Would it be okay if I just stacked your wood?”

Well, that was not what I had expected. But some part of me had learned that you don’t get something for nothing so I said, “No, I couldn’t let you do that unless I paid you. How much would you want?”

Maybe he had enough money left from the last bank job, I don’t know, but he looked at me for a moment and said, “Can you sew?”

“Yeah. I can sew.”

“Could you make me a jacket from some pairs of old jeans?”

Well, I’d never tried that but it sure sounded easier than hauling all that wood up my hill so I said, “Well, I could certainly give it a try.”

“Thank you ma’am. I’ll start tomorrow morning.” He nodded his wild head to me and disappeared into the twilight. I closed the door and locked it. Then I went and locked the back door. I went around and closed and locked all the windows. Then I turned off the lights.

True to his word, he was already stacking the next morning when I left for work. I arrived home that evening to find the mountain of wood had vanished, but my shed was filled with neatly stacked logs.

I kept dreading the day my stranger would reappear, his arms filled with a pile of dirty jeans, but I never saw him again. Oh, I thought of him now and again, usually when I was passing a bank. But over time I relaxed and came to think of him fondly as my wood angel.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Orange Tinged Guilt

MONET AND THIEBAULT BEFORE


THIEBAULT AND MONET NOW


PINK SANDPAPER PERCH



I know that there are a lot of folks out there who are struggling with REAL crises and concerns in their lives, and I feel a teensy bit silly admitting to such a shallow concern, but I have a confession to make. Remember when my two pretty-boy canaries arrived in my life? Thiebault is the orange one and Monet is the bright yellow lemon shaped one. Well, it was suggested to me that I feed the orange canary something called red-factor food. My daughter warned me "Don't do it Mom!"and like any good parent, I ignored her. After all, Momma knows best. Well, this time, maybe not so much. Now Monet looks like he rolled around in a bag of Cheetos. His gorgeous yellow plummage has been replaced by blotchy patches of orange feathers. I feel awful. I almost took the mirror out the cage so he wouldn't see himself and feel embarrassed.

The other thing I didn't realize about canaries is that they get long nails on their tiny little feet that need to be trimmed. Oh, you can get sandpaper covered perches but many books discourage that practice, saying that the sandpaper is hard on their little feet. So of course, I said no to the sandpaper. Well, Monet's and Thiebault's nails are getting REALLY long. They're beginning to remind me of Howard Hughes's nails--you know, like creepy-long.

In order to trim a canary's nails, you must first catch the bird. (Yes, that would indeed be the catch!) Did I mention canaries are not birds that can be trained to sit on your finger or become hand trained? Oh, I guess if you are there when they hatch and they do that imprinting thing and think you are their mommy, well then, MAYBE they'll let you get near them with your big, scary paws, but shy of that, forgeta 'bout it.

I asked at a couple of pet stores how they catch canaries. One used a net. Another guy said he just used his hands to catch them. But he warned me to be really careful not to squeeze them too hard or I could kill them. He also mentioned, almost as an aside, that they are so fragile they can get spooked when you hold them and have something like a stroke or even die. He said every time that happened to him (EVERY TIME???!!!) he'd blow in their faces and it seemed to bring them to. "But don't worry. I'm sure you'll do just fine." My daughter said, "If being in a breeze can kill them then how can blowing in their faces revive them?" Good question. No answer.

So here are the before and after pictures of Thiebault and Monet. For me, looking at Monet now is kinda like seeing one of my kids covered in a weird rash. But can you also see that odd little pink perch? Yeah, well that's the sandpaper perch I broke down and bought. I'm feeling less guilty about roughing up their tender little feet than giving them a heart attack by trying to grab them. Who knew canaries could be such effective agents of guilt?

My Sister's Keeper


I just finished reading "My Sister's Keeper" by Jodi Picoult. The movie, based on the book, is due out later this month and I'm certain that Abigail Breslin, as the main character, will prove to be a perfect piece of casting. It wasn't a book I particularly wanted to read but my daughter, Kristina, really loved it and thought I'd like it as well. I started it late one evening and discovered, at 2:00am, I was still reading. I'm sure much has been written about it so I won't rehash here. But the issues the characters grapple with in the story are ones that all of us, parents in particular, deal with all the time in one way or another. As in most good books, the stakes here are high and the tensions are taut. But I'm always aware how my decisions regarding one of my children always effects the other and I never know if my choices will tally on the positive side or the negative in years to come. This book gave me a lot to chew over in my mind. I am looking forward to the movie.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My 1st Blog Award!!


I feel so honored!! Robbie S. Redmon, LPC at A Spiritual Connection gifted me and 7 other bloggers with this wonderful award. This is how it works:
The "Love Ya" Award states:
These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.

Here are the 8 bloggers I have chosen to pass this award on to. The owners of these sites made me feel welcome to the blogging community. I really appreciate each of them. Thank you so much! Please visit them and leave a comment or two.

1. Thinking Of Blue
2. A Shimmy In My Spirit
3. At the Porch Swing
4. Daily Dose of Diva
5. Design it Chic
6. Just a Plane Ride Away
7. I'm still standing
8. papermoonies

Thanks again Robbie!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tagged for the Very First Time

I just got Tagged by Design it Chic! She has a very fun blog you should definitely check out. This kind of thing's never happened before so I feel very flattered. Well, here goes...

Here are the rules of Tag:

* List Six Unimportant Things That Make You Happy.

* Mention and link to the person who tagged you.

* Tag six of your favorite bloggers to play along, and comment on their blog to let them know they've been tagged.

These Are Six Unimportant Things That Make Me Happy (but honestly, if they make me happy, then how could they really be unimportant?)

1. Peonies. I have always thought peonies were beautiful but lately I've fallen in love with them. Our local Trader Joe's has been carrying bouquets of them the past few weeks--4-5 blooms for $7 and I've not been able to resist. Who wouldn't love a face like this?


2. My latest favorite drink--cream sherry over crushed ice with a bit of juice and a twist from a Meyer lemon. A glass of this is lovely before dinner or just to sip while enjoying the sunset in the back yard.

3. The light but intoxicating scent of honeysuckle. Our honeysuckle bush is huge and just loaded with blossoms and it makes me smile whenever I head out the back door. The hummingbirds are pretty fond of it too.

4. A perfectly made latte--rich coffee with thick, creamy foam and just a sprinkle of chocolate on top. This one I had yesterday at Michelle Marie's Patisserie with my good friend Cynthia was especially nice.


5. Black. I have been in love with this non-color since I was a very little girl. My mother thought it was an inappropriate color for children so when I was four I used my Christmas money to buy myself a black dress. My whole family kids me now when I come home with a new piece of clothing I've fallen in love with because 90% of the time it will be in black.

6. Fireworks. Not firecrackers, which I only consider annoying and a little bit scary. But huge, gorgeous displays in the sky of giant pixie dust, the bigger and more extravagant the better. In South Lake Tahoe they set them off over the lake and synchronize them to music for the Fourth of July and they are truly spectacular.

And now on to six blogs I love:

1. Thinking of Blue

2. A Shimmy in My Spirit

3. At the Porch Swing

4. Daily Dose of Diva

5. Just a Plane Ride Away

6. Wind In Your Vagina

And once again, thank you Design it Chic. This was fun.