Welcome!

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, June 30, 2011

Joy.

Contentment. Tolerance. Satisfaction.  There is a noncommital look that could be any of them.

But joy is a diamond sparkle.  More than the twinkle of an eye, more than sunlight sparkling off a toothy smile.  It's an energy that builds in the soul and shines like a sparkler escaping through the pores to inspire everyone to love life just a little bit more.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

June 22, 2011
Yep, that's me turning sixty.  No sneaking into it.  Thoroughly enjoyed the process and thank everyone - most sincerely - who helped me celebrate.  Gonna be hard to return to real life.

Maybe I'll just keep the party going, a little every day!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Birthday Present from DS2

video

We're huge fans of the Yale Whiffenpoofs 2011.  Don't know how he managed it, but these are the real guys.

Yes, I cried.

Three days later I was similarly serenaded by the Disneyland Band.

Amazingly lucky.

Birthweek 60 Draws to a Close.

Whew!

Getting ready to leave for Birthweek 60 Sushi, the last meal of this most memorable week of spoil-age.  I've had eleven days of doing what I wanted to celebrate this milestone and must admit - it's been terrific.  I've enjoyed lunches, movies, concerts, shopping expeditions, explorations in the city and way too much chocolate with old friends and family.  I've committed acts of extreme bravery (getting my portrait taken, for one, and driving the SoCA freeways and Los Angeles city streets).  Saw some bad movies, heard some terrific music.  Had a perfect day in my happy place and received some gifts beyond setting value.

As I've reconnected with old friends, they've noted that I'm not the same as I was the last time they saw me.  I've used some of this week to reflect on this past year, keeping in mind that a birthday is not the beginning of a new year, but a celebration of the completion of one.  So, in my case, this year's birthday - 60 - has been a celebration of the completion of my sixtieth year.  This seems significant, because while I am excited to be in the beginning of a new decade, as I look back it really does seem that this past year has been very different from any other year of my adult life and - consequently - does seem to have been the beginning of the new decade.

I've been trying to come up with an analogy for the year.  I'm thinking of it as domino art.


I feel like I've been stacking dominoes all my life.  Not the black and white ones, and not even the white-with-colored-dot ones in this picture, but the multi-colored dominoes used for those gym-floor creations that spiral and climb and form complicated, intricate designs as they topple.  And then, going on two years ago, the first domino was tapped to start the chain reaction and bring all those designs to life.  I don't really know which strands will be successful, which designs will reach completion.  It appears that some have already hit dead ends or failed to cause the next step in the chain reaction.

What I do know is that I am entertained by the sequence of events that are making up this decade, and excited to see what will develop and the dominoes continue to fall.  I'm hopeful (if not optimistic) that some of the failed chains can be resurrected to complete their patterns, but if not, what had been completed already has value and I feel gratitude for what has already happened.

I admit to being a tad tuckered by the past week.  Celebration has an element of work.  I look forward to winding down for the rest of this summer break.  I will finish another bed along the south side of my back yard.  I will finish a quilted jacket for Christmas that has been waiting for almost 15 years for completion.  I will write every day - morning pages and Rosedale and whatever else calls.  I will make progress on the Brown genealogy.  And I will purge this house and relegate something to the "move it out" area every day.

This new decade of mine will be one of clearing the decks to accomplish the tasks that I will look back on at the end of my life with a sense of satisfaction, pride and joy.

Onward.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

It was one o' them...

...zip-a-dee-doo-dah days.

Birthweek 60 had another winning day with my Saturday, June 25 trip to Disneyland.

And yes, I wore a birthday button even though my birthday was officially on the 22nd.  My rationale is that everyone hitting 60 deserves to celebrate for a full week.

 

It was a perfect day.  Started off with no traffic on the way down, decent parking space, short wait for a tram and no line at security.  Short, fast-moving line at entrance.  Delicious breakfast at Carnation Cafe, short line for a fast pass for Star Tours (Got in line about 9:30 am, report time was 5:45 PM.)

First stop was the Candy Palace.  A couple of years ago my mom and I discovered a confection called a Pecan Nuttle.  Kind of like a turtle with less caramel.  Delicious.  I like to buy the candy that was made fresh that day, and we learned the hard way that if you don't get to the Candy Palace early, you will miss out on the fresh Pecan Nuttles.  So, my routine is to go there first, pick up a package and keep it in a locker all day.  Then, when Mom and I settle in for the evening (usually at the piano corner) we treat ourselves to some candy.  For months I've been staying away from the Candy Palace.  One does not lose 62 lbs by patronizing candy stores on a regular basis.  But, every time I've just said no and have patted myself on the back for staying out of the Palace, I've promised myself that on my birthday trip I would allow myself Pecan Nuttles.  So, I went there first to get a package for later, then was shocked to see that there were NONE on the fresh daily counter.  

What could this mean?

Turned out what it meant was that the candy makers were making them that morning.  Talk about fresh! (I went back in the early afternoon and got some right off the slab.)

After the morning candy adventure I headed to Town Square for the morning Disneyland Band Concert.

Of all the fabulous entertainment at Disneyland, the Disneyland Band is the best.  They have a variety of shows that they do.  My favorite is the jazz show and I had my fingers crossed that I would luck out and hit that one yesterday.  I looked at their books for the morning, though, and it was the movie tunes show.  I remember that show well because a few months ago I got to be the "Director" for that show.  That meant I got to sit in a director's chair (with my own microphone) next to Toby, the bass trombone virtuoso (and a very funny man) and read the introduction to each number.  At the end I was presented with the rare and most-coveted Disneyland Band button.

When I saw that the movie tunes show was up again, I made sure to sit a ways away from the band so that someone else would have the thrill of sitting in that chair and getting that button.  But there wasn't much of a crowd yet.

Yep, I was back in the Director's chair.  I told Toby that I had done this once already and he drolly replied, "I know, but you're the only one here."  I'm not complaining.  It was really fun.  Toward the end Artie, the conductor, announced to the now good-sized crowd that it was my birthday, and conducted the band as they played "Happy Birthday" to me.  I was presented with another button (Toby's comment: "These must be stacking up at home") and I tucked away another happy Disneyland memory of the day.

After the band concert I headed over to Disney California Adventure for my first ride on the new Little Mermaid attraction.  I expected to wait about 1.5 hours, but they've figured out how to keep people moving and I walked onto this charming ride.  Saving 1.5 hours of wait time meant I had time (and energy) to head over to Screamin'and after a brief stop for a picture with Mickey...

 I hit Screamin' as a single rider which meant another walk-on.

 A photo op with Duffy...

..and another ride on Little Mermaid (really is delightful), and then back to Disneyland for the rest of the day.

One of my favorite rides at Disneyland is Splash Mountain, another with the single rider option.  I trekked over there, stopping to listen to a tune by Jambalaya Jazz (during which I was thrown some Mardi Gras beads) on the way.  Splash Mountain gifted me with a thorough drenching, but by then it was getting warm so I didn't mind.  I still had time before the 4:00 parade (which I hadn't seen yet so it was a high priority) so I took in a Billy Hill and the Hillbillies show.  New lead (or at least new to me) added energy to the show. The Billies were having fun with that show, which is fun for the audience, too.

After the Billies I detoured to the photo pick-up to get my portraits, then to the lockers to drop stuff off, then over to my favorite parade watching bench between the castle and Pixie Hollow.  I did some journal writing (I'll do that again; fun to write in a new place with new information coming in.)

The new Soundsational parade is just that.  All rhythm and color and fun.

The float designs are also sensational (although I wasn't fond of the costuming in this one)...

My favorite "act" was the "Steppin' Time" chimney sweep segment.  The dancing sweeps are phenomenal.  Choreography, energy and a marvelous sense of fun.

Mary Poppins and Bert on their Jolly Holiday carousel horses...


and ending the parade with this fabulous float covered with musicians, sweeps and sculptural references to Mary Poppins.


At this point I still had over an hour until my Star Tours fastpass was valid, so I headed for the stand-by line at Space Mountain.  By the time I finished that space adventure, it was time for the next.  WOW!  I thought I was headed for Naboo, but got detoured into battle in space, then down onto Kashyyyk (the Wookie planet) for more fighting and finally - safe but shaken - ended with an emergency landing in Coruscant.  I'm not a real fan of 3D but this ride is awesome.


After that adventure I headed down Main Street to catch the parade again, 


then to the Main Street train station for the All American College Band.



I'll be seeing them again week after next when I take my Mom to DL for the summer fun.  It's early in their season and they weren't QUITE tight yet.  Would especially like to hear more brass, folks.  (One of the sax players is at New School, where my older son got his degree in music.  Maybe next time I'll get a chance to speak to this young man and learn if he's in the same jazz program as my son.)


By this point it was going on 8:00 and I had had nothing but a pint of milk since breakfast, so I headed to Plaza Inn for dinner.  The CM graciously made me a Cobb salad to my specifications.  With that, a couple pints of milk and two glasses of iced tea I was revived enough to think about how I wanted to end my day.  I would have liked to finish with a couple of piano sets, then fireworks and decided to wander down Main Street to see who was playing the evening sets.  If it was the "right" piano player, I'd stick around a while.  If the "wrong" one, I'd head home. As it turned out, it was the wrong one and I beat the crowd out for an easy tram ride, easy "escape" from the parking structure, light traffic home and was safe and sound just after 10pm.


In 55 years I can remember only two "un-winner" days at Disneyland (and both times I left before 3:00 PM so as not to compound the negative experience.)  But I have to say, yesterday's trip is going to rate up there at the top of bestest Disneyland days.  Friendly castmembers, wonderful entertainment, terrific ride experiences.


Doesn't get any better than that.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

She shares well with others.

Birthdays, that is.

With millions of people in the world and only 365 days in a year, it is surprising that we are surprised to find we share our birthday with others.  I'm even more surprised that I share mine with some favorite people.


Meryl Streep is a June 22 birthday.  I've loved her in everything I've seen with her, but this number in Mamma Mia blew me away.  She is a couple of years older than I, and I sat in the theater at over 100 lbs overweight and watched her do this split while jumping on a bed.  I could hardly get up the stairs to my seat that day.  Her inspiration contributed to my decision to get control of my weight once and for all.

I'm happy to share this birthday with Cyndi Lauper (I hope below).  My boys watched a lot of MTV in the late 80s and early 90s.  There was a lot of crap music, but I let them watch in hope that this song (among a few others) would pop up.  Such a beautiful song with such a beautiful message.  (Must say, though, my favorite version is by the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles.  Bought a concert series after I heard them.)

Cyndi Lauper "True Colors"

Others...

...with whom I share this birthday include:

Dancer/Choreographer Gower Champion (I've loved musicals - particularly the dancing in them - all my life.)

 Journalist Ed Bradley (watched him on 60 Minutes just about every week).

Kris Kristofferson who, with Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton, convinced me I actually DID like country western music after all.

 
Paul Frees, the voice of too many happy childhood memories to list here including John & George from The Beatles animated TV series, Disney's Ludwig Von Drake, Crusty from The Incredible Mr. Limpet, Meowrice from Gay Purr-ee, Boris Badenov from Rocky and His Friends, Burgermeister Meisterburger from Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Little Ace from Beany and Cecile.  He was even the voice of the President of the United States in one of my favorite Sci Fi movies, When Worlds Collide.

Peter Asher.  World Without Love was one of the first songs I used to sing along with, singing the harmony part.

  Ralph Waite.  We watched The Waltons every week, too.  Goodnight, John-Boy

 Dan Brown.  Always excited when a new Brown novel is due.  (Deception Point is my favorite.)

 
California Senator Dianne Feinstein. Overall pleased that she is my senator, although she tends to be a little conservative (for a Democrat) for me.

Michael Todd, producer of Around the World in Eighty Days, also produced the Broadway version of Up in Central Park.  The movie version is one of the first musicals I remember from Saturday morning television.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice

The sun shares maximum energy.  Enjoy.

Daniel Merriam - "Out For a Walk"
The Birth Week is going along swimmingly.  Well, no actual swimming (certain body parts continue to remind me that the weight loss journey will continue for quite a while yet).  But, I am having a lovely time.

Yesterday DS2's girlfriend gifted me with dinner.  My younger son has always had spectacularly good taste in women and I haven't met one yet that I didn't admire.  But I seem to have more in common with this lovely young woman than with any of the others, enough that I like spending time with her even when The Man is not around.  When she wasn't cooking we began a quest to catch her up with all the chick flicks she has missed during her college years.  Yesterday it was Enchanted.

Dinner was delicious and - and here's evidence of how sweet and considerate she is - she pulled the recipes from a Weight Watchers cookbook.  All on program (which made two days on program in The Birthweek) AND light enough that I slept soundly last night.

Today the same young woman and I are going to have our day in the city.  The plan is to spend a couple of hours at the Autry Western Heritage Museum in Griffith Park, then into Hollywood to the Arclight to see Super 8 and then to the rooftop of The Standard Hotel in downtown Los Angeles for dinner and sunset.  Someone recommended the The Standard a year ago and I've been wanting the experience ever since.

Another happy quest.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Birthweek, Day One

Being loved is the sweetest.

Overwhelmed by the party my family threw for me yesterday.
Small family group and everyone I invited attended.
Pink, Pink, Pink.
Flowers everywhere.
Favorite snacks and dinner foods (heading for the gym soon).

Treated like the birthday queen.
So touched and grateful.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I HEART SIXTY.

Embrace seniority.

I'm kind of amazed at the number of people who have asked if I am just going to ignore my 60th birthday.  Keep it quiet.  Downplay it. My answer to them:

HELLNO!

My sixtieth year - the celebratory change of year will be on Wednesday - has been in almost every way the best of my life.  I started Julia Cameron's transformational program, The Artist's Way, on June 25 of last year and I will never be the same.  The program led me to a writing class with Jack Grapes, which led me to new friends I cherish.  Because I am more satisfied with my life I am happier with me, which opened the door to improvements in my physical health that reflect the improvements in my psychological and emotional health.

There has been loss, as well, some I don't imagine I will ever completely "get over," but I'm no tragic heroine going to throw myself under a train because life doesn't always go the way I think I want it to.  The most important lesson I've taken from TAW is

The Universe is always working for us.
There is no such thing as coincidence.
We have to pay attention and embrace opportunities.

I've done my best to pay attention and embrace opportunities this year, and am often overwhelmed with gratitude at the gifts that have come my way, sometimes at shockingly "appropriate" times.

So, no, I'm not slinking into this next decade undercover.

Turn on the spotlight!  I'm dancing my way in!

And the celebration starts today.

I was awake at 4:00 am.  I read for a while, fell back asleep and woke again after 7:00 (I never sleep in that way).  In that time I dreamed of people in my life who love and support me.  Can't ask for a nicer way to start a day.  Then I did my Morning Pages, three pages of whatever popped into mind.  This is ALWAYS positive therapy for me.  After that I did a little craft project, a bracelet to wear this week.



Blingy enough?

Then it was time to head into the garden.  Nowhere is Einstein's theory of relativity more correct than in my Fairy Garden.  I pulled weeds and did some general cleaning but mostly I just smiled.

This morning's view from The Sanctuary.


Purple passion flowers still amaze me.  Bring on the frits!

Brugmansia labeled only Peach?  Plant is COVERED.

Stephanotis in bud.
And now it's time to get ready for the party that my wonderful, loving family is giving me.

As if my day weren't already full enough, my son is playing SAMBA on the drums.  Just the beat I need to dance my way into a new decade.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Contingency

New TV show.

My son has been working on this (writer, voice-over) for over a year.

Check it out.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday.

Lovely.


No, really.  One of my favorite days of the year is the first Monday of summer break.  Saturday feels like Saturday, Sunday feels like Sunday.  The next morning you wake up and when you're barely awake Monday feels like Monday.  Then you wake up enough to realize that it is, indeed, Monday but YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO TO WORK.  Couldn't if you wanted to.  Classroom is bare, locked up.  Keys are in the possession of the Admin. Ass't and you are - happily, thankfully - locked out for ten whole weeks.

There's a classic joke about the best part of teaching: June, July and August.  I originally chose teaching because what I wanted to be was a stay-at-home Mom to my kids and at least as a teacher my work calendar and work day coincided with my kids' so I could be with them when they were not in school.  I think there is a lot of misunderstanding, though, about what that time off is.  It's a lay-off.  Teachers aren't paid vacation time, just a daily rate times however many days we work.  We have to be sure we save enough money throughout the year to make it through the breaks.  I only mention it because of my incredulity.  A couple of weeks ago a colleague was talking to a woman who had been a member of our local School Board of Trustees for decades.  Yep, she was my boss for a while. She's still active in the education community.  Anyway, my colleague was talking to her about current district issues and somehow in the conversation the topic of summer break and saving for it and so on came up, and this woman - who had been a powerful leader on the Board that RUNS the district said, "Wait a minute!  You mean you aren't PAID for those breaks!"

I wanted to bang my head on the table.

So, now I look at this summer's promise and try to wrap my head around that instead.

Summer before last on this day I was getting ready to go serve on our county' criminal grand jury.  99 days.  Three full days a week.  It had been a form of hell during the school year.  Sub plans, and then dealing with the avalanche of paper created when you have a sub.  On top of that the 5-month-old puppy managed to break BOTH back legs which started a nightmare of care (I didn't have the heart to put him down).  My great accomplishment of that summer - between jury days and carrying this dog's hindquarters in a sling every time he had to toilet (did I mention he was allergic to dog food and had chronic diarrhea unless I cooked chicken and rice - constantly) - was The Sanctuary.

When we moved into this house 37 years ago, I had a sewing room.  When the first son came along, my sewing room became the nursery, and was his bedroom for a couple of decades.  Then it served as storage/sewing room doubling as guest room when he came home.  Then it was his bedroom again.  And finally when it was clear he had gone on his own for good, I moved in.  It was like living in a storage unit.  So that summer I squeezed a complete make-over into the spare hours.



The before/after pictures are here.

Then it was time for another school year.  December 5, 2009 I decided that it was time to really commit to losing the 100+ pounds I'd carried around for over three decades. In late January we learned my dad was dying of cancer and by late June he was gone.  It was a hard time for my family, but I was given some guidance and support that helped me through it and I came out of that summer feeling strong, happy and on the right path.

Now it's a new summer, full of promise.  So far (and I don't want to tempt the fates here) there seems to be a clear road ahead.  I just have to figure out how I want to make the trip.

I was complaining to a good friend that I have so much I WANT to do, I can't seem to make the first move to do anything.  She says I have Option Paralysis.  Isn't that perfect?  For her, lists are a strong tool for moving things along.  I'm going to take her advice and Lists are high on my list for today.  I also have some errands that MUST be done.

Tomorrow will be fun.  I'm going to spend some time with my mom, then go to my sister's for a make-up lesson.  I'm not really into make-up.  This is the first year in decades that I managed to flick on some mascara before work every day.  And I'm not really interested in sacrificing precious minutes every day for the ritual of foundation, highlighters, blushes and bronzes and four different shades of eyeshadow.

But next week I celebrate a new decade.  Yep, next Wednesday is my 60th birthday. 


I'm planning a celebratory Birth-Week including having my portrait taken.  Nothing too fancy, just the local Penney's Studio.  But I bought a new blouse (in a killer color) and am getting my hair cut.  AND am getting some instruction in putting a finish on my face.  Don't have much hope that it will camouflage my wrinkles but it should help tone down the freckles and shine.

Once I get past a Wednesday deadline, the summer will be mine.  I just have to make some lists (or maybe some charts and probably both) to still the chaos in my head and actually move forward on some long-anticipated projects.  Writing projects.  Quilt projects. Purging and Organization projects. (Quilt, cross-stitch and other craft supplies headed for ebay).  Gardening projects.  Even some planning projects for school next year.

I was very productive during my one-week spring break this year.  I came back to work feeling like I had been gone forever and had accomplished - much to my satisfaction - a great deal.  I would love to finish out this summer break in the same state of satisfaction.

The solstice falls on my birthday this year.  Maximum elevation.  The longest day of the year.

Seems positive, somehow.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

"Tomorrow they might wrap fishes in it...

...but I was a star for one whole minute!"

I was in the newspaper today.



Ventura County Star, Camarillo Edition, June 8, 2011.
Robyn Flans, with photos by Joseph Garcia.

My students were thrilled.  I was shocked to find us all on the front page of section B.

A great article.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Stretch...

Literal. Figurative.

Passiflora loefgrenii x caerulea

She's pretty, isn't she?  First time this passion vine has bloomed for me and I think she's stunning.  She has STRETCHED across the trellis in the Fairy Garden.  I smile because I also think she's stretched her roots across the planter and out into the walkway to give me a second plant.  I'm going to wait a while to make sure that's what it is before digging, though.

I went out this morning to spend a half-hour cutting flowers.  The time STRETCHED into considerably more when first I couldn't get the garden waste can out to the front.  The wisteria had STRETCHED down and wrapped itself through the chain link gate.  It wouldn't stay open long enough for me to wheel the can through.  So, I had to spend considerable time trimming the wisteria back.  I really had to STRETCH to reach the branches on top of the arbor.

Then, that chore completed and the now-half-full can out in the front, I had to do some doggy clean-up.  I will spare you the details of what he manages to STRETCH across several feet of front grass.

Cutting flowers is a pleasure right now, there are so many to choose from.  Roses, mostly.  The tortoises love to eat the petals of the flowers that I consider have STRETCHED out their time on the bush past their prime.  (Yeah, I know.  That one was kind of a STRETCH, wasn't it?)

I'm in the home STRETCH for school.  Five more days.  Yesterday was the graduation trip to Magic Mountain and I chaperoned.  I hope to get to my exercises to STRETCH my hip again and re-strengthen the muscle that is being thrown into chaos by my orthotics.  All it took was a walk across that facility (Yeah, it was uphill but still...) to kick the pain into full gear.  By the time my shift at the first aid station was over, it was all I could do to limp back to the front fountain, find a nice table and wait out the day until departure.  The 1/2 -mile walk back to the buses about did me in.  Next week will be very disrupted with grad practices, grades to put in and the classroom to shut down (lots of stuff to move into cupboards for the summer).

It's no STRETCH to declare that I don't think I've ever been so excited for a summer to begin.  I've already started planning the days.  I'm hoping to STRETCH my exercise time by at least five hours a week, including doing some walking (not on a treadmill - yesterday taught me they are not the same thing).  If I do that, I should be about to drop another 15-20 pounds (at the rate 1.5 pounds a week, about what I lose now if I keep on my diet and exercise program).  And if I do THAT, I can drop the next 20 and reach my goal of 100 pounds off by December 5, 2011.  December 5 is Walt Disney's birthday, and I have a date with a castmember photographer to take my portrait in front of the Christmas tree.  It would be very cool to have reached that milestone by then.

I'm also trying to decide what to STRETCH onto my stitchery q-snap bars for a summer project.  This piece?

Meadow Dance - Marjolein Bastin

 I've already done a few inches of that one.

Or maybe this one.  It's the newest chart in my collection.


Les Coprins des Fees - Nimue - ABC Stitch Therapy

This one seems like a natural, since my first grandson will be born this summer.

La Balancoire (The Swing) - Nimue - ABS Stitch Therapy

Just the tip of the iceberg of my stash, of course.  I've become an expert at STRETCHING the storage space around here.

Writing to do every day.  The garden to finish - actually hope for that.  Part of the garage to clean up, clean out.

Menus to plan.  There's no way I'm going to be able to make this diet a life plan - a forever plan - if I don't start pulling together some appropriate healthy meals to fall back on when the "chef" takes the day off (which is just about every day around here).  I'd like to have about two months worth of menus charted with recipes and shopping lists so that I can make sure to have all I need every week.

So much to do in so little time.

Anybody know how to STRETCH time?