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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Great River Shakespeare Festival - wish I was heading for Winona.

Jessica's "Daily Affirmation"

This really helped me get through a tough day.

Want to share it in case you're one of the five or six people in the world who hasn't seen it yet.

Do you remember this woman?

Or should I say, "Do you remember this fairy?"

If you're not from Southern California, you may not know that in the old Disneyland parking lot there now stands another amusement park called California Adventure. For the first five years of its existence I pretty much ignored it. I mean, if I was going to drive 75 miles, I was going to spend my time at the real thing, right? Then my sister told me I HAD to at least go over and ride Soarin' Over California. She is usually right about - well - everything, so I took her advice. Not only is Soarin' worth the price of admission (another $20 tacked onto your Disneyland admission) but I found a lot to love about that park.

Including the Animation Building. Home of "Turtle Talk with Crush" (figure THAT out) and the Toy Story Zoetrope. I haven't yet learned to draw my own Disney character in the animation class but I did sing about "Bare Necessities" with Mowgli and Baloo. I also wandered into the Beast's library where Cogsworth and Lumiere told me (after taking my picture and asking me some questions) that my Disney Character was Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty.

I wasn't sure how to take this. She is, after all, my favorite Disney villain. But until today I didn't really think I was much like her.

Today she moved in.

What a total crab. I simply couldn't shake her off.

Actually my day started with a tearfest at 4:00 AM and I couldn't go back to sleep. By the time I came out of my lair I was in a full-blown hissy fit. Thank goodness it was a holiday or I would have surely aimed my scepter at some hapless student and turned him into - well - one of these scruffy crows.

It took all day, a couple of hours of gardening, an hour in the gym, some youtube fun and some facebook fun at Maleficent's expense but I finally managed to get my head on straight.

As I searched for a self-portrait I learned that Disney is planning a movie (screenplay by the same person who wrote the recent Alice in Wonderland and possibly directed by Tim Burton) that will tell the Sleeping Beauty story from "my" point of view. Angelina Jolie has been tagged as "me." Perfect casting, I'd say.

One of the youtube videos that helped bring my perspective back was the "Jessica's Affirmation" viral that's making its way around. It's the second one above. The other, which I will try to share after I finish this post (which means it will be above Jessica's video) is a promo piece for the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, Minnesota.

Alec Wild is a director (again) this year. I saw his Taming of the Shrew in Los Angeles a few years ago. It was in the newly renovated Orpheum Theater and so cleverly done. The audience started (as I recall) in the basement bar (tavern), then moved up into the lobby, then back down to the bar, then back up to the lobby then into the theater seats and then onto the stage to be part of the final dinner scene (complete with bread and wine). I'm wishing I was heading to Winona this summer. Alec's mother is one of my best friends and invited me for a visit, but with my dad so sick I don't want to be so far away. Maybe next year, Skipper.

If I can hang for the rest of this week I will bid a fond farewell to the class of 2010 on Friday. Out of the 160 students I had this year, I'd say 150 of them are not only the kind of kids you would want next door, they are the kind of kids that give you confidence that everything is going to be all right. Even some of my "challenges" are actually very sweet kids with some physical issues (crack babies, for example). Still, it was a difficult year and very tough to get through with all the distractions.

I wish I had the words to convey how very much I look forward to cleaning and weeding this summer. Throw in two or three trips to Disneyland (or five or six or maybe seven or eight) and lots of time with my folks and the summer will fill out.

I'm starting the process of planning some farewell parties for my oldest and his wife as they leave for Japan. I know that one will be at my folks' just for family. The other will be for their lifelong friends here in Camarillo. All I have set in my mind so far is the menu for the second:

Somis Market burritos, Topper's pizza and In-and-Out burgers.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hello, Rosedale!

You do intrigue me.

I mentioned in a previous post that I'd had a visit from someone within Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles. The imagination soars. For those who are not familiar with Rosedale, it was created in 1884 when Los Angeles was still a "small" town. A lot of our SoCA historical figures (like John C. Fremont) and early entertainment figures are buried here. Anyway,
s/he continues to visit from time to time. Brightens my day every time, so thanks for coming by.

My dad continues. He struggles to put together the right combinations of substances to stay comfortable. I'm putting together an article titled "What They Don't Tell You About Pancreatic Cancer". Some of the surprises - like the nausea and belching - make sense once you ask the question and eventually get an answer. The pancreas is working out of whack, the amount of bile being dumped into the stomach goes off the charts and causes problems. OK, that makes sense. But it turns out the pancreas is also responsible for hormones that facilitate brain function. Somehow those going out of whack are causing dementia, and for me the most painful part of this exercise has been watching my "mind like a steel trap" father - who has ALWAYS been in control of his faculties - now confused about where he is and what he's doing.

He did have a lovely time Tuesday, however. My nephew had his end-of-the-year middle school band concert (first year, only chair bassoon). It took some imaginative car and wheelchair juggling but we managed to get two grandparents there in time for nephew's performance (great job!). Dad was so excited! He lasted for about five hours (not counting the cleaning up, grooming, dressing part) including concert and dinner afterward. Even managed a half slice of banana cream pie after dinner. Then was fast asleep within seconds of that last bite.

BTW, I neglected to give credit for the beautiful portrait I used in my last post. My lovely and talented DIL took that picture of my dad and his baritone.

She and DS1 found out that he did get the job he interviewed for through the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme) and have been posted somewhere in the Shizuoka Prefecture.

They haven't heard what city yet, but the prefecture is the home to Mt. Fuji so they will have plenty to see, do and explore.

And I will have plenty to see, do and explore.

Just five more days of school before summer break. If my Dad dies before summer is over I may go up to Utah for a visit, but for now am just planning to stick close. I will work in the garden, deep clean the house and laundry area and do the other things teachers usually do in the summer but which I have neglected for the last seven years since Utah became part of my world. Of course, I plan to spend time with my folks.

Disneyland will probably be the extent of my summer travel plans this year.

I'm also hoping to increase the amount of time I can spend at the gym. Tonight I rejoined Weight Watchers (again). I'm setting a 2-pound-per-week goal for the summer. Twelve weeks x 2 pounds per week = 24 pounds. That would have me starting school 50 pounds lighter than the year before and halfway to my weight loss goal. I decided to rejoin WW because - with all the stress looming for the summer - I can see the potential for a massive backslide over the summer. WW will - she says hopefully - be my safety net.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

A Noteworthy Weekend...

...in many ways.

My dad is holding his own. He's thin and tires easily but keeps doing things. He still plays baritone in a community concert band and also plays trombone in a senior citizen swing band. My mom drives him to the swing band rehearsals which is no small feat for her. The retina in her left eye detached a few years ago so she only sees out of one eye, which means her depth perception is impaired. For that reason she hasn't driven a freeway or even out of her neighborhood much in years. But she's driving Dad to the town where I live - 35 minutes from her home - so that he can continue to play.

His biggest challenge has been weeks and weeks of unremitting nausea and anorexia. Finally he got fixed up with some medical marijuana. In just fifteen minutes after his first dose (it was in confectionery form) his nausea was gone, and the next night he ate a full meal for the first time in over six weeks. I've never used any illegal drug (in fact, have never had a drink of an alcoholic beverage), but I've become an advocate for legalization of marijuana only because it has been such a nightmare getting the stuff for my dad (who has a prescription, but that's not enough). The man is 84 years old and has terminal cancer but for a while it looked like he would not be able to get the one thing that made life worth bothering to hold onto. Without it, he was saying he just wanted to "get it over with" because he was so miserable. Fortunately he is now in hospice and it appears they will be able to help him stay supplied with a pill form (which was his preference, anyway). With marijuana he is not only nausea-free, his anorexia is gone and he eats well and, in his words, "feels almost like himself again."

I've been spending lots of time in the garden. This was today's accomplishment. I attended Otto & Sons Rose Days event last weekend and bought two roses which I planted today. The rose for this bed is called "Honey Perfume." I was looking for a scented rose with a color between "Brass Band" and "Sutter's Gold." I was happy to find this one.

Also in the bed with this rose and "Brass Band" is "Hot Cocoa." I've divided each bed into two sections. The section with the roses has a thick layer of wood mulch to try to keep the weeds down. In front of this bed are a couple of scabiosa plants (the lavender goes great with these apricot-y colors), some "Apricot Chiffon" California poppies (my new favorite plant),

and a gorgeous penstemon. I don't remember what it's called but it looks very similar to this one that is called "Blue Springs."

For the first time this year I've purchased plants via mail order (the local nurseries are just not offering anything much other than the common stuff. I've been particularly pleased with the plants from Annie's Annuals and Bluestone Perennials.

I'm still teaching, of course. We just finished our standardized testing, which means the eighth graders will be checked out. As CJSF adviser I've been working on the annual Disneyland Ditch Day, their reward for academic achievement and community service. That will be on Friday May 21. I have a couple of other trips planned there in June, and am hoping my dad feels well enough for me to take him on our annual trip there to see the All American College Band. Last time I was there I spoke to the nice lady in the first aide center. She assured me that Dad was welcome to go there to rest whenever he wanted and they had facilities to keep his medication refrigerated if he needed it and even to keep his oxygen there if we wanted.

I took Mom to Disneyland two weeks ago (I had a Monday off) and she decided it had been a perfect day (I had to agree). We left her house early so that we could have breakfast in the park (their cinnamon roll French toast is pretty yummy.) Then we did some shopping, checking our purchases at one of several locations that will hold them for you while you go have fun. By 10:00 am we were in California Adventure where we rode Soarin' Over California, Mom's favorite ride, a couple of times. Then we went back to Disneyland to see Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. It wasn't her favorite version of their show, but good nevertheless.

Mom has had one knee replacement, but the year she was due for the other surgery was the year she lost the retina, and the next year she came down with shingles. By the third year Kaiser was not longer willing to do the surgery on her other knee and her arthritis is so bad in that knee (bone on bone) that she can hardly walk now. I have no problem wheeling her around the park in her wheelchair, but getting on and off rides is no longer appealing to her so we didn't ride anything. I had made reservations at the Blue Bayou restaurant. We got a waterside table and the ambiance was worth the effort and the money; the food was secondary to the experience. Once we finished this "linner" (late lunch, early dinner) she had done everything she wanted to do except for one thing, so we headed to Coke Corner to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening with Ragtime Michael. (Mom is almost as big a fan as I am).

Michael never disappoints.

After his last set we picked up our purchases and headed home. Had a bit of a panic when Dad wasn't home in bed as Mom had expected. As I was unloading Mom's stuff from my car, my sister drove up with Dad. We had totally forgotten it was Monday and that Sis took Dad to concert band on Monday.


I'm finally having some success at losing weight thanks to my physical therapist and trainer at one of the local gyms. The pt got me back and functioning (after close to six months of not being able to walk well) and then the trainer put together a weight training program. I'm at the gym after school four days a week for 1.5 to 2 hours at a pop. It's hard to believe but I am now actually enjoying going there and am thrilled with the results. I'm losing about a pound a week (total of 22 pounds) and can't get over how strong I am and how well I move. Like Mom, I have arthritis in my knees, but after two months of working out I noticed one day last week that I had stepped up onto a curb with my right leg and never even felt a twinge. And today I worked in the yard hauling bags of compost, digging deep holes, sawing thing roots and dragging plants around for about eight hours. I shocked a woman (about my age and much thinner) by hoisting my bags of compost into the car without assistance. A couple of months ago I wanted to buy a cast iron patio umbrella stand but couldn't lift it. Yesterday I was not only able to lift it off the stack and put it under the cart, in the parking lot I was able to lift it out from under the cart and up into the car. 64 pounds! I have a long way to go yet, but hope I never forget how good it feels to be strong and able to move easily as compared to barely being able to get around before.

Oh, and I almost forgot (how could I?) A couple of weeks ago a colleague and I were talking about a mutual favorite of ours, singer/songwriter Nanci Griffith. I said that I hadn't checked in a couple of years to see if she was going to be in California. When I got home that night I checked and Griffith's ONLY California performance was just over a week away in our backyard (a town 20 minutes away). I'm trying to be more adventurous and spontaneous and after just a little bit of dithering got a ticket to go see this delightful artist. It was a fantastic show in a great venue (dinner theater style). She sang for almost two hours straight and the music was just as good as I'd hoped (just as good as the recordings which doesn't always happen). Loved it!