A place for family and friends to see what I'm up to. Visitors welcome here.

Hail Guest, we ask not what thou art.
If Friend, we greet thee, hand and heart.
If Stranger, such no longer be.
If Foe, our love will conquer thee.
-Old Welsh Door Verse

Thursday, March 23, 2017


Today was my Mom's 85th birthday.

Had a scare in December, so feeling lucky to still have this remarkable woman in my life.

Sunday, February 26, 2017


Mom had fun at Disneyland yesterday.

After a thirty-minute wait for our food at the Carnation CafĂ©, we wandered over to DCA to enjoy the Red Car Newsboys show.  (Always top notch entertainment)

...and then we went to the real draw, the preview of Beauty and the Beast.  This is someone else's video on the entrance.  I know there are other costumes and props on tour, but I was still expecting a better display than this in the "official preview" in Disneyland Resort.

The 3-D preview did, however, make me even more excited to see the movie (March 17 is almost here!)


We returned to Disneyland Park in time for the first show of Laughing Stock (meh) then got a drink at Coke Corner before heading to Tomorrowland to take a slow tour of the Launch Bay at Mom's request.  Surprised me, as she's not a Star Wars geek.  Picked up our AP buttons commemorating the return of the Electrical Parade (which I've never seen, so the button struck me as meh, but I was picking mine up to give to my sister, who has fond memories of the parade.)  After a stop at the pin trader, we settled in at Coke Corner to see our favorite Hatter work his musical chair magic, but he never showed up.  Too bad, too, for there was a mob of kids excited to play yesterday.

I did, however, see my next husband there.  That is, he would have been if I intended to get married again, which I don't.  And if he hadn't already been married, which he was.  And if we had actually been close enough to actually make eye contact, which we weren't.  But what a delightful man.  About my age, killer smile wearing a tweed flat cap and doing a shameless, silly dance with a four-year-old boy (not related to him) to the ragtime piano.  What a joyful soul.  It was a joy to watch him.  And a joy to remember the experience, which added a welcome dash of color to my otherwise meh day.

On our way out, Mom reminded me that she needed to get her passport renewed.  We waited twenty-plus minutes to speak to someone at the ticket booth, but when we finally got there Jose (another high point of the day) was friendly and efficient and the job was checked off.  After our tram ride back, during which I was congratulating myself on spending the extra $15 for preferred parking, we both realized neither of us had noted which level we were parked on.  The search meant even more walking than usual after all, and the day dropped from meh.

The now-traditional Knott's chicken dinner experience made up for it, however.

Mom said it was a good day, and that's what matters most to me.  The people watching was entertaining, the day gorgeous and except for grouchy castmembers (what was that all about?) and overtired babies, the people were in the Disney mood.

Guess it was a good day, after all.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


...actually do come true sometimes.


I can't believe it's been a month since the last post here.  Not that I'm clockwork or anything about posting, just that the month went by so fast.  And it's just a busy time for some reason, so I won't linger too long here.

It's been a ton of fun month.

Rain, rain, rain.  39,000,000 Californians wishing for rain and wow, are we powerful!  So far, while we've had a lot of rain here, it's been manageable.  And for once it is an advantage to live on a sandy lot.  The water seems to soak in evenly.  Only a few bad days where it would puddle, but even those drained pretty quickly.

And such a boon.

I've been trying to preserve this little clump of Spanish Moss for five or six years now, and this is the fist time I've seen it GREEN.  And it's growing.  If the birds will leave it alone, I may end up with a nice big clump.

I have to take the dog out to toilet several times a day, past this begonia "Freddie" which is in full bloom.  It's hard to see in this picture, but the blossoms each have a sparkly little raindrop hanging on.  One of my favorite perks of the rain.

Maybe a little easier to see?

Found another little surprise when I took the dog out a couple of days ago.

 A newly emerged Gulf Fritillary.  This is the lacy-looking underside of the wing.  The upper wings are a metallic orange.  Last fall I noticed the passion vine  that was pretty well covering this end of the trellis had been decimated.  I plant passion vine to attract these butterflies, knowing they are the host plant for caterpillars.  So, I looked to see if I could spot one and counted SIXTEEN.  So, now that I noticed the butterfly, I took a closer look for a chrysalis and was able to spot three more just on this grapevine wreath.

I'm happy to see that this plant is putting on new growth and am hopeful the big old vine in the front is doing the same.  It, too, was decimated last fall.  I have three new plants (all shades of pink) to plant somewhere, and the two plants of purple on the sideyard trellis appear to have decided to grow this year, too. 

Promises to be a good year for butterflies.  I cut back all the milkweed hoping for tender leaves in the spring and found three caterpillars, two about ready to chrysalis up (no, I don't think that's a verb).  I actually caught one of them in the act so sat at the table and watched the magic happen.

The rain is really encouraging the violets to grow and bloom (also butterfly host plants).  And I was thrilled to see that the hardenbergia is recovering nicely from the cutting back I gave it last summer.  (I killed one in the front a few years ago by cutting back too hard so was not as brutal this year.

It has been a month of uncustomary extravagance for me.  Once the financial dust settled from the property sale and credit card pay-off, I decided to embrace the encouragement of friends and make some wishes come true for myself.  I already mentioned the Bill LaBrie prints.  They are all framed and ready to hang.  I also bought a new chair for the family room - a gorgeous dark turquoise - that I can't get a decent picture of because my little Coolpix messes with color so never mind.  "Anacapa Arch" was also delivered, but is not framed yet.  I splurged on quilt fabric from a shop and a couple of online shops.

But the most fun has been the addition of the Kewpie family.

I fell in love with Rose O'Neill and her Kewpies about forty years ago.  I have collected lots of replica paper, have made a few reproduction dolls and have collected a half dozen Enesco figurines.  But the Rose O'Neill antiques (came out in 1912 and mostly popular through the 1920s) were WAY too pricey for my budget.  My discretionary money was limited and the antique doll market at its peak.  But, apparently the recession has hit the doll resale market pretty badly, and I'm the happy beneficiary.

They make me smile every time I look at them.

The sale of the property has also made my retirement in June a done deal.  I submitted my paperwork a couple of weeks ago.  I see my tax accountant next week to see if my preliminary income numbers are correct, then the health insurance guy the next week.  But, I'm done.  I had hoped to go out on a high note, but have too many challenges that I'm dealing with so it looks like I'll not be dancing my way out, but just walking through the door.  I am hopeful of a wistful, grateful smile in the end.

My most important smiles, though, come from the way my mom has recovered from her scare in December.  She's on blood thinners and being more careful about her medications now, but seems in good spirits.

Disneyland Saturday.

"The dreams that you wish will come true."

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Puttering, Again.

Second Post.

I just finished a long post on the events of the last few weeks.

At the end, I explain how I've come to make a change in my perception about where my life is at this point and where I'm going.

A few months ago, I happened to scroll down to the bottom of a post here.  Someone had added (and I still haven't figured out how they did this) "Blah, blah" to the bottom of the first page and "Blah, blah, blah" to the bottom of the second.  It was rude, intrusive and just downright mean.  It pissed me off because - and I'm very upfront about this - this blog is my journal.  A place "for family and friends" to check in and see what I'm up to.  I have some readers who have stumbled in and decided to stay and I value them, but the public is not my target audience.  This is a record of my life and a newsletter for the people I love.

That said, Mr. or Ms. Asshole did manage to make me self-conscious about what I write here, so I will preface this post with a little warning.  There is a previous post also called "Puttering"  below.  It is long and traces the lead-up to this post.  I went through a hard time.  I've come out on the other side and this post will be my record - for myself - of some happy times I've had lately.  You are welcome to go read the previous post, just as you are welcome to read this.  But I want you to know that both will be long as I record the details.

Blah, blah, blah.

So, where did I leave off?  Oh, yeah.

I spent my winter break taking care of my mom, contracting phlebitis from sitting in an ill-fitting chair too much.  On the day after New Year, I was concerned enough about the painful lump traveling up my inner thigh to spend three hours of my last day off in the emergency room.  They ordered an ultrasound, which found no clots, thank goodness, and told me to use ibuprofen and heat for comfort (which I had already been doing.)

My only concern about this was that in one week I was scheduled for a visit to Disneyland that I had been looking forward to for months.  Friends from the East Coast were coming for their annual visit, and I knew there was no way that I could stay more than a couple of hours hobbling with phlebitis in my right leg and my left knee still needing surgery.

So I did something impulsive.  Best impulse ever.  Maybe.

I know that when I take my mom to the park, I can put in 3-6 miles pushing her wheelchair without a problem, but when I go by myself, I'm constantly fighting my unstable knee, which then aggravates my back issues (I have arthritis in my spine.)  Thanks to good old Amazon, I was able to order this and take delivery in time for my January 9 visit.  I met them (oh, the joy of hugs all around) at California Adventure.  After some fun there we trekked over to Disneyland where I got to share their first visit to the Star Wars Launch Bay (my favorite part of the day) and got to snuggle with my littlest friend on Pirates of the Caribbean (where she gave me the running commentary.)  After Dole Whips in the Tiki Room, we headed back to DCA.  My friends treated me to dinner at the Trattoria, then, it turned out, my walker got us great seats for World of Color.  Our last ride of the day was the new Soarin' - which was fantastic - with a final stop for the traditional buying of the pins.  Truly, a delightful day all around.

Last Saturday I was included in the birthday dinner for my son's girlfriend at a local restaurant where he was accompanying a singer/piano player for the night.  It was the first time I had met her family, and they were lovely.  I spent the day doing one of my favorite things:  sewing a birthday passport purse individualized just for her.

I had an appointment the following Monday for a fine-tuning on my eye (should be the final little surgery after two years of work on it).  My ophthalmologist is in Santa Barbara, and I planned to leave directly after the surgery for my annual drive up the Central Coast to see the Elephant Seals have babies.  But, my appointment wasn't until noon, and I was afraid if I waited that long I might not make it up there in a relaxed trip.

So, I decided to make my trip on Sunday.

What a glorious day, filled with happy twists.

First, I discovered that I had a gift card for IHOP I had forgotten, so stopped on my way out for breakfast.  While I waited, one of these little guys entertained me by tapping on the window at my feet.

A common Yellowthroat warbler.  I'd never seen one before.  He brought the missus and they spent my breakfast scratching for nesting material (she was better at finding stuff for her nest; he just kept tapping at the window.)

It was a glorious, sunny day and I thoroughly enjoyed my drive up the coast.  As always, I took the first Cambria exit off Highway 1 to make a pit stop at one of my favorite nurseries near Cambria Pines.

Just three weeks before I had traveled two hours down the coast to Roger's Gardens in Corona del Mar searching for sweet pea flower plants and Apricot Chiffon poppies.  Roger's had lots of sweet peas but no poppies, so I was thrilled to find lots of healthy plants here.

They had been delivered just two days before by Annie's Annuals, the very company that posted this picture online.  I was thrilled to be able to buy six pots of poppies and two varieties of passion vine I hadn't heard of.

As I left the nursery, I decided to leave Cambria through town.

Years ago - maybe decades ago - I had visited the gallery of a photographer named Bill La Brie.  His photographs were stunning, and I never forgot them. 

At least once a year, something would trigger these into my consciousness and I would promise myself that someday I would go back to that gallery and buy one.  I could never afford it, but over the years I would do what I was doing last Sunday.  Drive down the main street of Cambria and look for La Brie's gallery and reinforce my promise that someday...

So, anyway, here I was on this beautiful Sunday with time to drive, money in the bank and an old promise tickling my memory.  I drove out and checked again.  The gallery was still there. 

I headed out of town and up to a spot that has become one of my favorites along the coast.  Just a few miles past San Simeon.  A big Elephant Seal Rookery.

First, though, I had to stop for a picture of the zebra.  Last year on this trip the hillsides were bare dirt and the rancher had to put out piles of hay for the cows and zebra.  This year, they were happily grazing on new grass.  (This is what's left of William Randolph Hearst's zoo.)
Once at the rookery I was thrilled to find it was again pup season.  Lots of babies.
You know a newborn because they are kind of scrawny and wrinkled and the seagulls are fighting over the afterbirth.

See, wrinkled newborn.  They flip sand to protect themselves from the sun.

With a comfortable chair and a warm blanket (maybe a cup of cocoa) I could have stayed all afternoon enjoying this fine show, but it was getting crowded and once I had all the photos and videos I wanted I decided to give up my spot on the rail to someone else.
As I drove out, the idea that had been percolating took full root.
I was going to drive through Cambria again and see what the current prices on Bill La Brie photographs had gone up to.  And, if I could afford it, this might be the time to treat myself to one.
I turned into Cambria at the west entrance and drove slowly down the street.  It was full early afternoon and the town was packed; no parking places anywhere near the gallery.  I almost gave up, then decided to go back to the highway for a second try.  Maybe someone would have pulled out.
No such luck, but as I crawled by the gallery the second time I noticed something in the window I hadn't seen before.  A banner declaring "Retirement Sale."
It had to be that day.  He was retiring.  I would never have this chance again.  I didn't care if I had to walk the four blocks from the Veteran's parking lot, I had to get my print that day. 
I got back on the highway a third time and was thrilled when I saw a car backing out just a half dozen cars up from the gallery.  Once in the gallery, I recognized the photographer and began one of the most delightful purchases I've ever made.  He explained that if he had the print I wanted in the gallery, it would be 50% off (excluding the framed prints).  If he had to order it from the printer, it would only be 20% off.
"Well, then," I smiled.  "Let's start over here."  In the first rack I found the first of my dream pictures.
Zion.  Utah.  I remember driving through in 1974.  So beautiful.

The second of my dream pictures was at my feet as a poster of Yosemite and only $10, but the quality of the print wasn't what I wanted.  I was going to buy it if that was my only option, but walked past it to the next rack.  The second print of my dreams was at the front of the rack.

Within the hour I was the giddy owner of BOTH of my dream prints (already matted, signed and ready to frame) plus three 8x10s for under $400. 

I stopped for gas in Cayucos, then enjoyed an uneventful trip home.  Sunset arrived just as I emerged from the Gaviota pass, and I was back in my hometown just about dinnertime.  I treated myself to a steak dinner at Lure and was tucked in with my prints leaning on the counter across from my bed so that I would see them when I woke up the next morning.

Which found me again heading north on the 101 to get my eye zapped.  On the way home I decided to stop for a magazine at the Barnes & Noble.  While there it occurred to me to go up to the Michael's to check out the frame selection for my new prints.

60% OFF!!!  They didn't have anything big enough for the Zion print (20" x 24") but I was able to find the perfect frame for El Capitan.  The two frames I got for the 8x10 are too small (but will be fine for the 5x7 prints I had purchased from La Brie all those years ago).

On the way home, this happy experience reminded me of another photograph I had been obsessing on in recent years.  I had even written to the photographer and he had sent a price list, but between my email and his price list I had learned the hard way the difference between taxes as a married versus a single woman and couldn't afford it.  Flying high on my good fortune with the La Brie prints, I contacted photographer Antonio Busiello again.

"Anacapa Arch" will be on its way soon.

Eventually I will gut my family room to re-decorate and these prints will be the inspiration for whatever I do.  In the meantime, who will notice the ripped up carpet and worn out furniture when I have such glory on my walls?


It's been an interesting couple of months.

In the tradition of the old movie serials...

In September I was excited to announce that I would retire in June.  I saw the
STRS advisor, and confirmed it was a go.  I chose not to ignore the little niggle at the back of my neck, the little flutter in my gut, and eventually figured that I'd overlooked an expense that could not be overlooked.  Retirement was out, at least until I could sell the pretty lot in Utah that had been on the market for six years.

It was OK.  I don't hate what I do, and would be OK with another year or two.

I was disappointed, though, that I would not be FREE to experience my Masteryear as I'd hoped.

Meanwhile, the Christmas season was upon us.  I planned to host it, but not as usual.  Usual means that I cook a big traditional (in our family, anyway) turkey dinner.  Stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, side dishes after too many chips and dip and followed by too many dessert options.

Problem is, I hate to cook at the best of times, and had built a significant resentment at being in misery for my favorite day of the year because I had to spend it cooking.  Then cleaning up.  While everyone else kicked back and enjoyed the day.

So, this year I was going to pre-prep a sandwich bar.  I would stuff and bake a turkey, then bake a ham on Christmas Eve.  I would slice them all up and add several types of pre-sliced cheeses.  Side salads if guests wanted to contribute.  Queso and chips, onion dip and chips.

I was debating cinnamon rolls for early guests when all hell broke loose.

A few weeks after learning I would have to postpone my retirement I had concluded that I did not want to do so.  The contract with my real estate agent would be up in December, so I decided, when I re-signed, to drop the price of the lot.  Again.  Another eight thousand dollars.  I wrote to the agent with the news, and she revealed that they had shown the lot to a couple.  They weren't sure whether they wanted a lot to build on or a house that had already been built, but the agent was going to let them know of my willingness to reduce the price in hopes that it would inspire them to choose the lot.

They did not.

And so, on December 6, the agent changed the listing.

That very day another agent called mine.  A couple in another country was interested.  They were working through a relative who lived in the valley and who had been watching the market.  We spent the next week with offers and counter offers.  I accepted less than I'd hoped, but it was cash with closing in a week.  It was enough to pay off enough debt to not only make up the money I was short to retire plus some to have fun on. The money would be in the bank by Christmas.

I started making happy plans on how to tell my family.  I would treat my mom and son and his girlfriend to a happy dinner at my favorite restaurant.  I would buy myself a bouquet of balloons and give myself a drumroll to announce the happy news.

I accepted the offer on the 11th.  The week of closing would start when the papers were signed on the 13th.

In the wee hours of Monday, December 12 I checked my phone messages.  My sister had taken my mother to the hospital.  Mom hadn't been able to breathe.   A friend accepted my sub request at 4:30 in the morning, and I spent that day at the Kaiser hospital in Woodland Hills.  We were not terribly concerned. 

Mom has been in heart failure for a few years now.  Her heart is not pumping efficiently enough to prevent a build-up of fluids.  One of the symptoms is difficulty breathing.  She was hospitalized Mother's Day weekend, 2015, and they drained nearly three gallons of fluid.  It was like a miracle.  Once she was released she had much more energy, her thinking cleared and she was rarin' to go.

So, we figured this time they would drain fluid again and she would be ready to enjoy the holiday.  Sis and I even joked that we should set her up with bi-annual spa days at Kaiser.  I went back to work Tuesday and arranged a sub for Wednesday, as they were prepared to discharge her then.  When I arrived, though, they told me that although they had drained eight pounds of fluid, there had been no improvement in her breathing.  Fortunately, her attending was on the ball and ordered ultrasounds that showed she had a blood clot in her leg that had migrated to her lung and was causing the breathing difficulties.  They were still going to discharge her later that day, but she would need someone at home with her for at least a couple of weeks.

Just in time for my winter break.

I took her home, attached to oxygen and with a handful of instructions.  When you take someone home from the hospital these days, you bring the hospital with you.  We arrived to a house full of oxygen tanks, concentrator, refiller and the constant banging sound of oxygen production.  We had to set up a new system to track her meds, and another to coordinate visits from home nurses, physical therapist and phlebotomist (she is now on Coumadin and needs constant monitoring).

Meanwhile, I was still in that closing week on the property.  The hospital waiting room had no reception for phone calls, so I wandered the halls looking for spots where I could conduct business with agents, title agents and escrow officers (or are they title officers and escrow agents?)  My sister lives with Mom now, and so I would drive the thirty miles home each night to docu-sign what had come in email that day.  I had had plans for that winter break, some of which I had to cancel and some I moved into the weekend when I expected my sister and brother to cover my mom.

The sale closed on the 20th.  The check arrived by FedEx on the 21st.  I had just pulled the check out of the envelope and allowed myself the first real excitement over the possibilities opened by this sale when the phone rang.

Three weeks before I was born, my mother's sister gave birth to a baby girl.  Every three years or so, Dad would drive us all to northeastern Kansas to my uncle's farm so that my mom and her sister could have a long visit.  My dad would help with the harvest, and my cousin and I would hang out.  Two little girls, then two teens, then two women content to sit quietly and share a spiritual space that was profound for both of us.  We used to laugh over our ESP experiences.  One that I remember vividly was the day that I decided it had been too long since I'd written to her.  I wrote a long letter, put it in an envelope, added extra stamps and walked it out to my mailbox.  Later that day I went out to collect my incoming, and there was a letter from my cousin.

The phone call to my brother was from my cousin's daughter.  My cousin had died that morning.  Massive heart attack.  She had retired only a few weeks earlier.  One of my first trips in my retirement would be to visit her again.  My son held me.

"I don't think I can do this, " I sobbed, "it's too much."

I'll never forget what he said.

"You will do it, Mom.  You're strong.  The others, the weak ones, won't, but you will."

Gotta say.  It's been a rough few years, and I'm getting plenty tired of sucking it up.  But suck it up I did.

Fortunately, Christmas Eve and Christmas were on the weekend this year, so I was able to do the cooking as planned (sort of) and then pack the whole thing to Mom's for the day.  I had shopped and wrapped presents early, but Mom hadn't so I tried to squeeze in a little shopping so that she wouldn't fret too much about not having gifts for everyone.

My mom has a recliner that I always sit in when I visit.  After just a few hours my feet will start to cramp, so I know this chair doesn't fit me and isn't good for my circulation.  But it was where I sat for five days taking care of my mom.  By Christmas Eve I had a new pain in my leg, and by New Year's Eve I was pretty sure I was experiencing my first bout of phlebitis.


New Year's Day proved more eventful than I would have liked.  My sister, Mom and I were pretty exhausted by the end of the two weeks.  Mom wasn't needing the oxygen all the time and we expected the physical therapist to discharge her from home health services the Monday after New Year.  Sis and I were ready to cancel the traditional German New Year dinner and I was looking forward to at least New Year and the day after pretty much off.  But, ultimately, Mom decided she wanted the family to come over anyway and she would order delivery.  We hadn't been there more than ten minutes when she said some things that hit me pretty hard.  Not doing exercises, not taking meds on schedule.

I'm still not sure I'm done processing it, but got this far at least.  Mom has been my focus since my dad died in 2010.  In fact, I realized one day a few months ago that I felt married to my mother in some ways.   And here I was, having given up my winter break, even developing  a painful condition in the process, and there was Mom choosing to go right back to the very behaviors that got her into the hospital in the first place.

It was like being hit with the two-by-four.

My perception of our relationship has changed.  She will always be important to me, but it's time to let her make the decisions about her life while I switch my focus to myself.

Saturday, December 31, 2016


Thank you, Col. Chris Hadfield.

Col. Chris Hadfield
With celebrity death and elections taking the media by the nose, it’s easy to forget that this year saw a great many positives. Let’s look.
1. The Colombian government and FARC rebels committed to a lasting peace, ending a war that killed or displaced over 7 million people.

2. Sri Lanka spent five years working to exile the world’s deadliest disease from their borders. As of 2016, they are malaria free.

3. The Giant Panda, arguably the world’s second cutest panda, has official been removed from the endangered species list.

4. Tim Peake became the first ESA astronaut from the UK, symbolizing a renewed British commitment to space exploration.

5. Tiger numbers around the world are on the rise for the first time in 100 years, with plans to double by 2022.

6. Juno, a piece of future history, successfully flew over 800 million miles and is now sending back unprecedented data from Jupiter.

7. The number of veterans in the US who are homeless has halved in the past half-decade, with a nearly 20% drop in 2016.

8. Malawi lowered its HIV rate by 67%, and in the past decade have seen a shift in public health that has saved over 250,000 lives.

9. Air travel continue to get safer, and 2016 saw the second fewest per capita deaths in aviation of any year on record.

10. India’s dogged commitment to reforestation saw a single day event planting more than 50 million trees, a world record.

11. Measles has been eradicated from the Americas. A 22 year vaccination campaign has led to the elimination of the historic virus.

12. After a century, Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves has been proven correct, in a ‘moon shot’ scientific achievement.

13. China has announced a firm date for the end of the ivory trade, as public opinion is becoming more staunchly environmentalist.

14. A solar powered airplane flew across the Pacific Ocean for the first time, highlighting a new era of energy possibilities.

15. Costa Rica’s entire electrical grid ran on renewable energy for over half the year, and their capacity continues to grow.

16. Israeli and US researchers believe they are on the brink of being able to cure radiation sickness, after successful tests this year.

17. The ozone layer has shown that through tackling a problem head on, the world can stem environmental disasters, together.

18. A new treatment for melanoma has seen a 40% survival rate, taking a huge step forward towards long-term cancer survivability.

19. An Ebola vaccine was developed by Canadian researchers with 100% efficacy. Humans eradicated horror, together.

20. British Columbia protected 85% of the world’s largest temperate rainforest, in a landmark environmental agreement.

21. 2016 saw the designation of more than 40 new marine sanctuaries in 20 countries, covering an area larger than the United States.

22. These marine reserves include Malaysia’s 13 year struggle to complete a million hectare park, completed this year.

23. This also includes the largest marine reserve in history, created in Antarctica via an unprecedented agreement by 24 nations.

24. Atmospheric acid pollution, once a gloomy reality, has been tackled to the point of being almost back to pre-industrial levels.

25. Major diseases are in decline. The US saw a 50% mortality drop in colon cancer; lower heart disease, osteoporosis and dementia.

26. Uruguay successfully fought tobacco companies to create a precedent for small countries looking to introduce health-focused legislation.

27. World hunger has reached its lowest point in 25 years, and with poverty levels dropping worldwide, seems likely to continue.

28. The AU made strides to become more unified, launching an all-Africa passport meant to allow for visa-free travel for all citizens.

29. Fossil fuel emissions flatlined in 2016, with the Paris agreement becoming the fastest UN treaty to become international law.

30. China announced a ban on new coal mines, with renewed targets to increase electrical capacity through renewables by 2020.

31. One third of Dutch prison cells are empty as the crime rate shrank by more than 25% in the last eight years, continuing to drop.

32. In August went to the high Arctic with some incredible artists. They helped open my eyes to the promise of the next generation.

33. Science, economics, and environmentalist saw a reversal in the overfishing trends of the United States this year.

34. Boyan Slat successfully tested his Ocean Cleanup prototype, and aims to clean up to 40% of ocean-borne plastics starting this year.

35. Israel now produces 55% of its freshwater, turning what is one of the driest countries on earth into an agricultural heartland.

36. The Italian government made it harder to waste food, creating laws that provided impetus to collect, share and donate excess meals.

37. People pouring ice on their head provided the ALS foundation with enough funding to isolate a genetic cause of the disease.

38. Manatees, arguably the most enjoyable animal to meet when swimming, are no longer endangered.

39. Grizzlies, arguable the least enjoyable animal to meet while swimming, no longer require federal protection in national parks.

40. Global aid increased 7%, with money being spent to help the world’s 65 million refugees doubling.

41. 2016 was the most charitable year in American history. China’s donations have increased more than ten times since a decade ago.

42. The Gates Foundation announced another 5 billion dollars towards eradicating poverty and disease in Africa.

43. Individual Canadians were so welcoming that the country set a world standard for how to privately sponsor and resettle refugees.

44. Teenage birth rates in the United States have never been lower, while at the same time graduation rates have never been higher.

45. SpaceX made history by landing a rocket upright after returning from space, potentially opening a new era of space exploration.

46. Finally - The Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years, giving hope to Maple Leafs fans everywhere.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Leningrad Cowboys & Red Army Choir - SWEET HOME ALABAMA

"Sveet home Ah-lah-bah-mah"

MTV Video Music Awards 1994

When I fell in love with the Red Army Choir.

Enough, 2016.   Time to go away.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


When I was a kid, my parents (especially my mom) made Christmas magical.  Decorations in every room (well, not the bathrooms).  Cookie baking and decorating.  Homemade flannel pajamas for Christmas Eve. A gorgeous Christmas tree (Dad insisted on one strand of tinsel at a time).   The presents starting showing up under the tree a week or more before Christmas Eve, and we were each allowed to choose one to open that night.  In addition, there was always a new board game wrapped for Christmas Eve fun.

I tried to keep the magic going in my own home.  Decorations in every room (even the bathroom).  Their dad preferred to have all the gifts show up on Christmas Eve (or, more likely, he didn't shop until then) but I liked to put a few under there for the boys to suffer over.  And while I didn't make flannel pajamas (they were too hot for my little furnaces), they did always get new pajamas when they were little.

I added some new traditions of my own, and we all loved the countdown quilt.

Twenty-four little quilted boxes filled with surprises and tied with ribbons.  When they were little, the prizes might be a special eraser or little toy for each that would break after a few minutes.  A giant candy cane, always, in the last box.  As they got older, the erasers and toys changed to quarters or rolled up dollar bills.

Easily a third of the boxes held chocolates that I used my collection of Christmas candy molds to make into sweet holiday shapes or delightful suckers.  Snowmen and Christmas trees and Santa.  Two little cellophane bags holding a tasty treat in each box, one for each boy.

They enjoyed that tradition well into their teens and beyond.  As long as they were around, I filled that quilt and didn't stop until they had moved out and away.

You never know what they carry away from home.  And so it brought happy tears to walk into my house today after a morning away to find my youngest dressed in an apron and pouring melted chocolate (Mercken's, the good kind that I always used and that he had to order on Amazon) into those same molds that I had used for over a decade.  He was making those favorite candies for his best friend's annual Ugly Sweater party.  My baby (all gorgeous 6'6" of him) dressed as Santa tonight.  The chocolates were gifts for their mutual friends, in addition to the bagful of toys (all projectiles) that Santa was bringing.

I'm an emotional mess after last week and not real sure how our changed Christmas plans will work out this week.  But right now I'm nurturing a happy holiday bubble inside.  It's a thrill to know that the handmade chocolates were not taken for granted, had been loved and appreciated enough to be brought back for another round.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Whimsy Works

Yeah.  I needed this.

It's about hope, and dreams.  Right?

No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
The dream that you wish will come true.

Dreams, wishes and a whole lot of action.

Another racing day.

As much as I hoped and dreamed for rain, its timing could have been better.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Well, Crap.

We knew about the congestive heart failure and consequent water retention.

Now we add deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.


Good thing she's a tough old broad.  That stubborn streak will hold us all together for a while.

Need to find out how to do oxygen at Disneyland.