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 30, 2011

Big Life, Little Life

Reflections on a weekend.

Last year someone was teasing me about spending a lot of time on facebook, a program/service he'd never taken the time to really explore.  I responded that he had a "great big life."  He replied, "Do you imagine that you don't?"

My reaction was visceral.

I think I wrote it down somewhere, but it wasn't necessary.  At least once a day the exchange comes back to me as I ask myself, "Is what you're doing part of a great big life, or a little life?"  Each day I find new richness that I record in my emotional journal as part of my great big life.

I've learned that "great big" is open to interpretation and that we each get to define greatness bigness for ourselves.

This morning it seems like a little life day is looming. Laundering the sheets on my bed.   I owe the kitchen some work, including trashing and mopping down the refrigerator.  Sweep the dog hair off the bare floors - I don't have dust bunnies around here; they're dust elephants at this point.  Gotta fit the gym in somewhere.    

More proof that Benjamin Franklin needed to expand his perspective when he wrote about death and taxes:  Laundry should have been on the list of certain things, for sure.

Even these last two weeks of school - busy as they will be with retirement parties (lucky broad), class parties (one may be covered by the press; stay tuned), graduation trips (I hate Six Flags Magic Mountain but love this class), grades and final check-out - seem like little life stuff.  (Well, except for the possible press coverage but I won't get excited about that until it's a done deal).

I guess, for me, little life stuff is the stuff that causes stress but not excitement, angst but not satisfaction.  Check it off a list somewhere.  The momentary relief of "that's done" doesn't begin to fill the spirit.

Big life stuff fills the spirit.

Hence the reflection.

I wasn't particularly busy this weekend.  No adventures, no stepping out of my comfort zone. No drives down the coast.  No live music.  Too many brownies for someone with four more pounds to lose by June 18.

But as I reflect on the last two days, I can feel that little sparkler inside start to set off its tiny explosions.

Saturday I had a lovely day with my mom and sister.  I actually worked on scrapbooks during our scrapbook day.  I concluded weeks ago that one solution to my craft supply storage problem would be to actually - I don't know - USE the supplies to finish the projects I bought them for.  Now, there's a concept.  So I collected ALL that I would need for the present project and managed to finish SIX pages. We had a great lunch at a favorite restaurant.  My sister was feeling well after being under the weather for a little while.  Great visit.  Having this kind of time with my family is definitely big life stuff.

Yesterday I didn't want to get out of bed at 5:30 am (my usual time, even on days off 'cause I don't want to waste time sleeping).  So, I didn't.  Well, that's a lie.  I got up and got my pen and tablet and crawled back under the covers to write my morning pages in bed.  Looking out the window as the sun rose.  Right now the view out my window is greatness bigness.  The hydrangeas are stunning.  Cecile Brunner is in full bloom up there in the sunshine.  Anyway, I wrote my pages.  Yesterday's post was a part of those pages that I liked.  And my day felt greater bigger because of it.

Later in the day I realized that the Friday watering (usually done while I'm at work) had not been done and my flowers were wilting, so I took a little garden tour while I watered.  I don't mind water therapy.  It doesn't feel like a little life chore (like laundry, sweeping and refrigerator cleaning).  Helping something grow into beauty is a bigness.

And there were such surprises out there, such happy reward.  Brugmansia Creamsicle (planted summer before last from a six-inch rooted cutting with two small leaves) has the largest trumpet I've seen yet and SIXTEEN buds a-comin'.  Sixteen! 1-6!  I can't get over it.

Then, last year I bought a passion vine from Annie's Annuals in Richmond, California. (Amazing mail order; someday I will make the 10-hour trek to visit in person).   It was a healthy little thing in a four-inch pot with Annie's affirmation that it could cover a trellis in two years.  I was skeptical.  I've tried two other varieties of passiflora on this trellis.  The first, a red-flowered, grew well the first year and bloomed (gorgeous), then died.  I hoped it had only gone dormant but no, it never returned.  The second never even got that far.  Both had been planted from gallon cans, so I assumed they had had a head start.  Anyway, when this little baby arrived I was willing to give it a try but not optimistic.  Last year one "branch" grew the eight feet across the trellis.  No blooms.  But now?  It's only Memorial Day - May 30 - and the trellis is half-covered!

And check it out!
Three big buds on the passion vine.  Passiflora loefgrenii x caerulea
Yes, those are buds!  Three of them.  Right now they are a dark maroony purple.

I will post a photo when they open.  So excited!  And so excited to welcome the frittilaries when they arrive.  (Yes, they will lay eggs and the cats will eat the leaves.  So far, though, it's been my experience that this works like a pruning and the plant comes back healthier than before).

And I found first flowers on the sweet peas in the front, another couple of pots from Annie's via Roger's Gardens in Corona del Mar.

I will celebrate my 60th birthday next month and I'm doing it up big.  I have lots of adventures planned.  Some of them are even things that "other people" might put on their greatness bigness lists.  Parties.  Dinners out.  Rooftop bars and live concerts.  But it also includes things that I know will fill me, will add oxygen to the sparkler so that it will glow.  A visit to the Sisters of Mercy in Hollywood for pumpkin bread.  The Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Griffith Park.  A tour of the See's Candy factory in Los Angeles.

That drive down the coast.

Even visiting my friends on facebook, a powerful program I HAVE taken the time to explore.  And have taken the time to learn to enjoy.  Where I have stayed connected with people who matter.  Where I have found lost family and made new friends.

All part of my great big life.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


The day beckons.

The sycamores are dancing in the sunrise.  Each leaf shimmies against a gray-blue sky, clustered in bough groups that bob in time to the wind's cue, then bow to their neighbor in a second tree.  I can hear them murmur, but the music in my head is too loud and I can't make out what the leaves are saying.  I might ask the birds to relay the message of the trees, but I hesitate to interrupt them.

The goldfinches are in their shadow plumage now.  Just a few weeks ago they were bright yellow sun specks bickering and jostling for space on the feeder.  Now they match the black thistle seed, and they feed silently.

Parenthood makes us careful with ourselves.  Human parents buckle our seatbelts and have our blood pressure checked.  Goldfinch parents put on their camouflage and whisper in the bushes.

Who will raise our babies if the hawk eats us?

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Sometimes that's all I feel.

These are the gentlemen of the Swing Shift Big Band.  DS2 posted on facebook that they were playing at The Sportsman Restaurant and Lounge in Camarillo.  It was a tough decision.  Stay home and fold laundry?  Or go see a set?

So happy I made the right choice.  What an awesome group! Drummer is 92 years old and would put most young drummers today to shame.

They'll be back June 26.  I'm extending my birth-week one more day.

Maybe I'll see you at the Sportsman.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Another Friday Night...

...in the Sanctuary.


Almost finished with this one.  Not sure I like the buttons (needs several more).  I'll live with it awhile and decide.  No rush.

Favorite tunes on the touch.

Only If.  Caribbean Blue. '39. And So It Goes.  Anything Goes.  Beech Spring.  Birdhouse in Your Soul.  The Book of Love.  Burning Down the House.  Calypso.  Cecilia.  Come Dancing.  Do You Hear the People Sing?  Don't Stop Me Now.  Down in New Orleans.  Feels Like Home.  The Five Pennies.  Fix You.  Flying Theme from E.T.  Glory Days.  Goodbye Earl.  Grace Kelly.  Grandma's Feather Bed.  Handle With Care.  Horsethief Moon.  I Knew Love.  Imagine.  Is Paris Burning?  Lazy Day.  Little Love Affairs.  Love Shack.  May You Always.  Mood Indigo.  Morning Has Broken. My Life.  Next to You, Next to Me.  Oh Very Young.  Old Time Rock N Roll.  Once Upon a Dream.  Peace Train.  Rainbow Connection Raspberry Beret.  The Reivers.  Say Hey (I Love You).  She's Always a Woman.  Skokiaan.  So Close.  Somebody to Love.  True Colors.  Valentino.  What a Wonderful World.  You Can Depend on Me. Today Was A Fairytale. 

Dog at my feet.

Could be worse.

I love ...

...what the BIGS are doing with this little song.

Yeah, it's not a great song.  But ask any artist.  Musician.  Writer.  Ballerina.

Your first stuff isn't great.  Maybe it's not even good.  Maybe it's not even tolerable.  But, damn, you put it out there.  You DID something courageous.

I couldn't believe how many people just HAD to trash this effort.

So I love how REAL artists - successful artists in their fields - have taken this and made it something to be proud of.

First Colbert and crew on Kimmel.  Then Glee.

And my students as they came into class today.

Ms. Black.  You're there.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Stephen Colbert & The Roots - Friday [HD] on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Sunday, May 15, 2011


...from the Stitchery.

Moving toward completion on this sweetie.  Very close.  Only need a few vines, stems, highlights here and there.  I'm sure I have PLENTY of fabric to make it into it's signature pillow.  But it will have to wait because...


DS1 and DIL learned this weekend that the baby is a boy, so it's time to crank it into gear.  I'm planning a SKYPE shower for them and handed out invitations at a family gathering yesterday.  I also have baby-oriented stitchery and quiltery to do.

And DS2's life scrapbooks to complete.

And my own writing, working out, gardening to keep up on.

Not to mention wrapping up the school year.

It's a happy, busy time.

DCA Hollywood Backlot stage.  VERY impressed with the crew!
I had another fun day at Disneyland on Friday.  The event was my 13-year-old nephew's first Disney performance.  His concert band performed at Disney California Adventure as part of their Performing Arts program.

 The students in this group are in their second year of music instruction and sound wonderful.  My little recorder doesn't begin to pick up the depth of the music.  We were all delightfully surprised at how good the acoustics were in this little outdoor stage area.  (Shouldn't have been; Disney does things right).

The big man in front of me is my younger son who came down for the morning just to see his cousin perform.  The rest of us started the day with our usual great breakfast at the Carnation Cafe, then headed to DCA.  At that point DS2 arrived and he and I went on rides.  Soarin'. Midway Mania. Tower of Terror.  Then the concert, after which my son had to leave for a camping trip with a bunch of friends.  Some of us did Midway Mania again, then went over to Disneyland for dinner. 

Plaza Inn.  The Park is gorgeous.

My nephew abandoned us at DL to return to DCA for seven consecutive rides on Grizzly River Run.  My mom, sister and BIL and I tucked in at the Coke Corner to listen to a few sets of Ragtime Robert at the upright.  He has a very different style than we usually hear there and it was fun to listen to him.  He had an arrangement of music from The Music Man that we all enjoyed (as we all share a love of that movie).

After fireworks we all headed out for the return trip home.  I'd been up since 4:00 AM (my nephew had a 6:00 AM report time and my drive to their house to join their carload takes about a half-hour) so I was draggin'.

The STAR TRADER has re-opened.  Yes, that IS an X-Wing suspended from the ceiling.  Awesome!
 Yesterday my brother hosted a birthday bash for the several May birthdays in the family.  It was a lovely time.  As he put it, there's something soothing about family voices.  My sister-in-law's flowers are in their prime now and we enjoyed a nice garden tour.  I had suffered an on-point food day at Disneyland so that I could enjoy some chips-and-dip, a WHOLE hamburger and some potato salad sides and a small piece of delicious chocolate cake and 1/2 cup of ice cream. 
By the time I got home last night I was stuffed, soothed and sleepy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bird Bath


I have a towhee that spends most of her day in my fairy garden.  Sometimes I get lucky - like right now - and can hear her taking a bath in the birdbath.  I give myself therapy with music, but have to admit that hearing that soft splashing outside my window gives me a bigger lift than even my favorite music.
Well, maybe not Appalachian Spring.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mother's Day


 My son took the dog in with him last night.  Seems like a small thing.  I love my puppy.  Yellow Lab.  Watercolor hair blending from white to raw umber; overdid it a little on the black eyeliner but on him it works.  110 pounds.  2 1/2 years old.  I'm starting to see a glimmer of civilized emerging.  But he still believes, with all his heart, that I am the ONLY person in this family who actually knows the correct way to take a dog out for toileting.  And so, when he sleeps in my room, I can count on an early wake-up call (in addition to possible calls throughout the night).  It was a lovely Mother's Day gift to wake up on my own time and read without interruption.  And to sit here, to write this, without a huge yellow head with begging eyes resting on my lap.

I finished another Anne Lamott book this morning.  I haven't read so - I dunno - VORACIOUSLY - in years.  My sister-in-law gave me Grace, Eventually a couple of weeks ago, saying it was written for me.  She was so right.  I finished Grace... and went on to Bird by Bird.  Twice.  Then Traveling Mercies, and today I finished Plan B.  I'm a little sad.  I think I've finished the "faith" books.  The "sermons."  I've loved every one.  Am still amazed that I found a bit of myself, a bit of encouragement for the me that I'm becoming, in every chapter.  But, I have a stack of her novels to tempt me, so I won't be grieving long.

Once I finished Plan B, I moved on to Plan A for my day. Just doing whatever I feel like, when I feel like it.  First I felt like checking on the fairy garden outside my window.  It was hard to decide where to look first, so I started on the west end.  I didn't plant those nasturtiums but they are - as they say - rioting at the end of the garden in yellow and orange.  How can you not love them?  Such cheery informality.  And at the feet of the lilac - Declaration - that is putting out another round of deep purple blossoms.  It's a dignified plant, standing appropriately at attention like that.  The nasturtiums look like rowdy little children bent on irritating their elderly great-aunt with their smudges and runny noses.  She's not having any of it.

Next to her, my climbing rose, Cecile Brunner, is in bloom.  Because this is a side-yard garden I have to keep her under control and so far she's cooperating pretty well.  Her flowers are like perfect little miniature hybrid teas from bud to blow and they smell divine.  One of the branches has grown sideways behind the passion vine trellis, then through the trellis to my side to make a backdrop for the fairy fountain that I use as a sculpture.  Next to the fairy sculpture is an unintended hodgepodge.  The pink and purple fuchsia that I thought would die is thriving and blooming all over the place.  In front of that is the columbine that I THOUGHT would be shorter but is actually the taller of the plants.  Things are not what I planned, but I suppose that is the way of faeries.  They like to have their way.

All over my yard the Labrador violets have seeded and germinated and matured and are now blooming.  If you've read here before you may remember a post last year when I grieved for my lost violets (I was away and they didn't get watered), then saw the tiny seedlings in rebirth.  It was such a hopeful moment.  Now they thrive and the next generation blooms all over the place.  There's even a tiny blue flower that grins as me from the string-of-pearls pot that hangs at eye-level in the front.

  The passion vine on the trellis (placed to feed the gulf fritillary butterflies that should be on their way here now) is taking over.  Hooray! Coral Bells still blooming.  Blue columbine has a flower. Miniature roses in bud.  Two brugmansias are in bloom (Peach and Creamsicle), their graceful trumpets much larger than last year.  I lost one dicentra ("bleeding heart").  Went out one day and it was lying, shriveled and brown on the ground.  I looked for it to be outlined with chalk like on one of those crime shows, but I guess the police don't bother with planticide.  The other three were spared, however, and while not currently in bloom, they are growing quite nicely.  Canterbury Bells have put out another flush of gorgeous pink blossoms.  Hangy-downy plants are creeping over the retaining blocks.


The Dutchman's Pipe is making its way up the trellis.  There's something satisfying about watching a plant that seemed to be dead in its pot respond like this to being finally planted.  This flush of green leaves, the slow ascent up the face of the trellis.  At those times when you wonder if anyone appreciates you at all, you see smiles in the healthy green leaves and happy flowers and say to yourself, "At least I did this right."

On the other side of the garden, under my window, live the hydrangeas.  The white "waterfall" type are in bloom and the others are covered with buds.  Two will be pink.  One is maroon.  And the third may be pink or blue or - like last year - pinkishpurpleblue.  I do give it a dose of aluminum sulfate to push the blue.  But you're supposed to dose them every week or so, and that one dose is all I managed this year.  Same last year, and I got rather schizophrenic but lovely mottled pink and blue bracts around brilliant blue flowers.  I rather liked it.


No goldfinches yet this morning.  I've noticed grasses in seed everywhere so it may be that they are happily gnoshing in the natural foods eateries while the gnoshing is good.  They'll be back to my food share feeder when the pickings get slim.

I love spring.

And the rest of the day sits in promise.

My biggest problem on a day like this is to unravel the challenge of what to choose to do.

Last night I watched my "friends" at Visions Fantastic broadcast from the black carpet at the Disneyland premier of Pirates...IV.  I thought DaddyB asked wonderful questions.  The VF audience is rather young, and Brett spent most of his time talking to entertainers that appeal to the younger set.  He asked them fun questions, and it was a kick to watch them warm up to him and give him great interviews.  I was impressed with these young actors: charming, articulate, mannerly.  This is the second Pirate premier at Disneyland that I've watched and Johnny Depp always touches me.  You always know when he's coming because there will be a huge, boring gap in the festivities.  He takes forever.  Then, from the media side we never see his face.  Why?  Because it's all about the fans.  He takes his time, walking slowly along the fan side of the carpet, giving autographs and speaking with fans.  Isn't it lovely, when you're a fan of someone's work, to get such happy glimpses into a fine human being as well?

Anyway, back to today.  While I watched last night I got a little stitching done.  So I could actually finish that piece today.  If I wanted to.

Yesterday I went to the Santa Monica Mountains Native Plant Sale and bought eight (EIGHT!) plants.  I could and should plant them.  (Something about buying native plants from National Park rangers while IN the mountains that screams, "Don't kill us!")

I skipped laundry last week, so if I'm to have anything to wear next week laundry will have to be on the agenda.  And while I designed this room with minimum open spaces (because I will only fill open spaces with clutter), there are some and they are - SURPRISE - filling with clutter.  I love to putter in my lovely sanctuary so there may be some clutter putter going on.

And CRIPES!  I'm glad I wrote this, 'cause I just reminded myself that I have to go to Staples and get a display board.  The award banquet (did I post here that I won a teaching award?) is Wednesday and I have to do my display.  Totally forgot.  That has to go on the list, too.

Guess I'll mosey on to the next stage.

Sunday, May 01, 2011


take sweet
and mold sinister
I pity you.

Gorgeous Day...

...at my happy place.

Breakfast first, then morning entrance concert by our favorite, the Disneyland Band.  The train was ringing its bell in time with the music.

Mary Poppins and Bert, Mad Hatter and Alice coordinated the program for the morning.  It included the Disneyland Synchronized Stroller Drill Team and the mixed chorus, as well as choreographed dancing to the William Tell Overture.

Hahaha!  I caught Bert off the ground.

YeeHaw!  Rare sidewalk appearance by Billy Hill and the Hillbillies.  At least, rare for us to catch them here.  Nice treat.  We were on the way to see them at the Golden Horseshoe.

Whoa!  My favorite awesome-est bass player sings, too!  Nice.

Always good to crack us up.

Thanks to my fifth period class - part of my 160 Weight Watcher Buddies - for giving me this reminder to make good choices all day.  I did!

Over to California Adventure for a beautiful Southern California evening.  Got to introduce my nephew to Midway Mania.  He outscored me, but not by much.  I was pretty proud, considering he's a video game wiz.

Longest day in a long time (breakfast at 9:00 am, back to the car at 11:00 pm).  Feeling grateful and proud that I could do it all!