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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


or Re-Connection


Apparently it's time for me to reconnect with people.

First was a guy from the gym.  It's a hoot talking to him.  He is the most profound example of an adult with Asperger's that I've ever experienced.  Having determined a couple of years ago that I, too, am on the autism spectrum (although quieter) I get it that when your brain is misfiring there isn't a whole lot you can do about it.  He has no filters.  None. 

My favorite conversation with him happened back in 2012.  At a previous gym visit, I had shared how much I was enjoying the Sunday Morning Coffee Talks that Tom Shadyac and Nicole Pritchett had produced in Venice around Tom's documentary, I AM.  On this day, we were pedaling on side-by-side recumbent bikes and chatting when he asked if I was still going to the coffee talks.

"No," I said.  "I don't think the results were what they hoped for, and they stopped doing them."
"Oh, that's a shame," he replied.  "You really enjoyed those."

Now, I have to say that I don't have a whole lot of experience with men who actually listen to me, much less with any who remember, weeks after a conversation,  an event that I attended and even more rare is one who will remember that I enjoyed myself.

"I did," I confessed, "but as much as the event I enjoyed that a friend of mine from a writing class I took back in 2010 lives down there and would join me for the talk, then we'd go have lunch."

A drive down the coast, a great talk and lunch with a good friend was a fabulous way to spend a Sunday morning.

So then he said something about me dating my writer friend.  A brilliant essayist, my writer friend was twenty-seven to my sixty-one at the time.  Guys in their fifties are spectacular, but twenty-seven?  Meeting this young man for lunch was more like sharing a meal with one of my kids.  So I deferred, saying that we were just friends, thinking that would be the end of it.  Then,

"You should have sex with him!" 

I just blinked.

"You should!  Young guy like that!"  My poor little misfiring brain was suffering.  I could actually see the neuron flashes ricocheting inside my skull, so I blinked again.

"Really," Mr. No Filters insisted, "You should!"

So I pulled out the only truth I thought might stop this conversational path quickly.

"I'm sure he wouldn't be interested.  He's gay."

So underestimated him.

"No, that's great!  You should have sex with him!  I've heard gay guys are really good in the sack!"

Honestly, I was flattered.  Although Mr. No Filters had (in his kindest no filters way) made it clear in a previous conversation that I was not HIS type, he clearly thought that I could interest a hot, gay, twenty-something.

So here he was, three years later in the produce section of the local Vons market.  We talked for about an hour.  The cool thing about talking with this guy?  I don't have to engage my filters either.  So if he cuts me off or diverts the conversation back to himself, I can just say, "Shut up.  I want to finish what I was saying."  And he's good with that.

That happened Tuesday, November 11.  On Friday the 13th I went with my mom to dinner at our favorite restaurant as we have done just about every Friday night since my dad died five years ago.  We've been regular customers at this place since the owner started his first restaurant twenty-three years ago, and he and Mom have a special relationship.  He and I have had some interesting conversations over the more recent years, but he got himself some good managers and has taken Friday nights off for the last couple.  It was a delightful surprise to see him on duty Friday night, a nice re-connection for Mom and me both.

Then, when I got home, I learned of the Paris attacks.  I have friends in France.  The obstetrician that helped deliver my older son (at home) lives in Paris now with his husband.  A decade ago I was part of a cross-stitch blog group and one of those friends lives outside of Paris, and she and I have been facebook friends for years.  We have been walking similar spiritual paths (which means we're both weirdos) so are strongly connected.

And a third friend lives there.  He and I found ourselves pinning each others' pins on pinterest so often that we became facebook friends.  He is an executive life coach and I assume quite busy.  He does not post much on facebook, but when I posted that my husband had died, he messaged me with very kind support and asked me to keep in touch.  And then disappeared.  After a few months I sent a short message noting that I had not seen him there and I hoped he was well, but there was no response.  A few months later I starting seeing him in the chat bar, but I did not contact him.  But on the night of the 13th I noticed that he had "liked" some of the supportive things I had posted.  I messaged him my gratitude for "liking" what I posted and my relief that he was safe.  We ended up having a short message conversation that ended with his wish to "keep the channels open." 

Last Saturday I was working with photographs to put together a Christmas slide show to music to send to my now-scattered family and ran across a couple of pictures of a couple who had been my parents' best friends for most of my life.  I have no idea, really, if they are still alive, but their daughter is a popular local newscaster with a facebook page.  I wrote her a short message, mentioning the photos and expressing my gratitude that we had had such good friends for so long.  I didn't really expect to hear back from her, but this morning there was a response from her and a request to see the photos.

A bit after I sent the message I came back to facebook and there was what I thought was a second message from her since the first names were the same.  But no, the second was from a dear friend who has recently retired and moved to the San Diego area.  She is so dear that she was present for the birth of both of my children, but at some point in her career she went to work for a company that required many more than full-time hours.  My life was rather chaotic, as well, and as often happens,  when the path forked, we went different directions.  It was a long, lovely, delightful catch-up message with news that she would be in town briefly next month.  I will use one of my personal days to re-connect with her.

And I've been facebook friends for a few years with the boy from high school who took me to homecoming when we were juniors.  He was such a nice young man that I looked him up on facebook and we friended each other.  His life is very full of music and travel and he does not spend much time on facebook.  But yesterday I took one of those silly facebook meme quizzes and scored 100% on knowing the lyrics from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  (Only time I ever got turned on by a guy in full make-up wearing a corset.)  Turns out my old friend worked for the manager for Tim Curry and my friend spent quite a lot of time with Curry when he was doing Rocky Horror live in Los Angeles.  It was great fun to hear about that experience.  My friend posted "Don't dream it, do it" a half-dozen times.  Which is something I've been working on since 2010.  I can't help think that will turn out to be an important re-connection.  I don't think I would want the life he's led necessarily, but I would love for some of that live-life-to-the-fullest vibe to rub off on me.

There are several people - including some of those who walked past my life and helped me make profound changes before they moved on - who I would love to re-connect with. 

Maybe I'm on a lucky streak. 

Post Script:  Another one just popped.  Years ago my kids played jazz in a Big Band called Lane 29.  The featured singer was a great guy named Dylan White.  Dylan is your typical multi-talented kind of guy.  For years he's been one of the actors portraying Genie in the Disney California Adventure production of Aladdin.  He does stand-up in his "spare" time, and is also a published writer of books for young adults.  He's gone through a rough time with a sick child (diabetes) and the medical expenses have him in a rough place as well.  Was happy to be able to buy the books and make a small donation as well on behalf of my mom (she LOVES him in that show) and my kids.  Another re-connection, although I would have preferred it on happier terms.  Maybe you could check it out and see if the books interest you.  You'd be helping out a great guy.

Dylan White as Genie, Disney California Adventure Aladdin

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Can't stop watching.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Monday, November 16, 2015

Love After Love

Derek Walcott

A new friend posted this on his facebook page.  I thought it lovely and wanted to capture it here.

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here.  Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine.  Give bread.  Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit.  Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

One of the wonders of poetry is that it is always read through the filters of the reader.  I cried the first twenty times I listened to Sara Bareilles' new song, "She Used to be Mine."  Which is nothing new, but this time I was feeling the lyrics at a deeper level than even most of the time.

And then she'll get stuck and be scared
Of the life that's inside her
Growing stronger each day
'Til it finally reminds her
To fight just a little
To bring back the fire in her eyes

It took me another dozen times to realize that "the life that's inside her" is actually a life.  This character is pregnant.  But the lyric spoke to me more symbolically, as I am scared of the new me that emerges, growing stronger each day and learning to fight just a little. And for me, the fire will be new to my eyes.

In the same way, it took a dozen times to realize that Wolcott is talking about someone recovering from the loss of a person.  Another person.  A person they had loved.  And who was gone.

Didn't catch it at all.

A few months ago someone walked past my life and made me wonder, what would my home look like to someone who didn't know me?  I took a walk around and realized that a stranger would think a little girl lived here.  It made me smile.  Gently.  I am well aware that I was never a little girl.

I remember the most powerful writing exercise for me in Julia Cameron's program, The Artist's Way, was to write a letter to yourself from yourself at age eight.  She told me -sweetly and calmly with the insight of someone who is experiencing and knows they will experience - told me that I didn't have to be afraid of "them."  She wasn't specific but it didn't matter, as I've pretty much been afraid of "them" my whole life.  And I broke.  I've never experienced the "broken-hearted sobbing" that I did that afternoon, standing in my sunset room crooning to that sweet little thing, "You poor baby, you were such a good little girl.  You didn't deserve any of that."

And so I indulge her now.  With a studio painted in the colors of the sunset (or the sunrise, depending on the time) and filled with butterflies, faeries and mermaids. 

"You will love again the stranger who was your self."

I may have loved her once.  In my case, the "another" has had all of the faces.  Except mine.  "...the stranger who has loved you all your life" is the life that is fighting for that fire.

As I started to recover the self I'd "ignored all my life," I started to feel something inside start to sputter.  Eventually I had an evening where, writing in my darkened room with something gorgeous on the headset, I realized that if anyone opened my door right then they would see sparks shooting out of my pores, and from then on I started referring to the Fourth of July sparkler that lives inside me.  Sometimes it almost goes out (although less often now), and sometimes it is rockets exploding forth in all directions, and often it is just a sweet sputter of a little flame, kept safe in the heart of an inner eight-year-old with solemn hazel eyes and long dark curls.

Come.  Sit.  Let's feast on this life of ours.

I think it will taste of HoneyCrisp apples.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Pamper Thyself, Self.

Had a perfect weekend with Mom this weekend and want to capture it here, but first to the ending.  When I got home from work this afternoon, this was waiting in the mailbox.  Bummed that my camera felt inclined to 'correct' the color from its true gorgeous teal green to this color.  Pretty as it is, it isn't as yummy as the teal.

I ordered this last week.  It's a checkbook cover by Oberon Designs.  I saw it in another company's catalog for $52 and talked myself out of it.  I mean, I don't even carry checks.

The biggest nightmare in dealing with my late husband's financial mess was that he did everything online - mostly autodraw - and I didn't have the passwords to get in and stop it.  Fortunately, with the exception of the LA Times lady, everyone I was able to track down for corrections was sympathetic and helpful.  I'd heard horror stories about Verizon, and they were the most wonderful.  The collections agency lady was lovely (although after our first conversation I followed my probate lawyer's advice and ignored their calls) and even the IRS rep ended up being gracious.  Eventually I had all the internet stuff switched to paper statements and paper checks.  I have a simple though slightly time-consuming book keeping system, my files are organized.

I make my bill-paying like a monthly spa ritual for myself.  I take my shower, moisturize, flannelize and take up residence at the rolltop desk my parents had given me as a gift years ago.  I fire up the ipod and gather the goods.  I buy commemorative stamps (there are three versions of LOVE stamps out right now, although this month I used the Japan/America cherry blossom friendship stamps with a few Paul Newman's in the mix) and use a pretty pen.  It is a happy time, for all the issues have been resolved and while not wealthy by any means,  there is an abundance by my past standards.

I had filed for divorce before his death, and for the several years leading up to that step the butterfly was a symbol of the me I was learning to know.  I also have been gradually transforming my yard into a haven for Monarchs as well as other varieties of butterflies.  So, this piece really spoke to me.  After a few weeks of waffling between lust and sensibility, lust finally won.  A leather checkbook cover for someone who doesn't carry a checkbook is a luxury, but with so little wear and tear it will last a lifetime and be the perfect holder for my butterfly checks during my monthly parties of financial congratulations.  I managed to track down the manufacturer and was delighted to find the price directly from them considerably less than the other catalog price.  As I noted, it was in the mailbox when I got home today, handsomer than the picture and accompanied by a delightful "thank you" silver butterfly charm.  I'm looking forward to my next purchase.  I wonder what I need.


So, my Mom's an awesome mom.  Maybe the most awesome mom of all momdom.  And she's going through a rough time right now.  She'll be 84 in March.  Heart failure.  My sister (and her son) moved in with her as my sister divorced and the adjustment has been difficult on Mom (who, like me, is pretty much an introvert and a loner).  I try to take her to her favorite getaway - Disneyland - once a month, and I let her take me to dinner at our favorite restaurant once a week.  But it's just not getting her AWAY from her environment.  It dawned on me last month that I should bring her to my house and maybe a little ride up the coast to a favorite quilt shop.

So, we did.  Dinner in her town Friday night, then home to mine for the night, then to Carpenteria for shopping, then home for the afternoon and night.  The next day we holed up in my sewing room, then returned to her town for another dinner before I dropped her at her house.  It went so well I wanted to expand it this month.

It was perfect.  Even the not perfect parts turned out to be perfect.

As before, I picked her up at her house, then we went to dinner before coming to my house.  We spent the night here, then prepared to leave early the next morning.  I headed for the car to load my suitcase and was greeted by a beautiful sight.

November 7, 2015  Sunrise with the Moon and Venus still visiting.
I have a condition called BET (Benign Essential Tremor).  It usually doesn't affect my life in any way, but I cannot get a picture of the moon at all, especially using the telephoto lens.  But the picture serves to remind of that beautiful morning.  Just the hint of an incoming Santa Ana wind condition that meant the trip up would be crystal clear.

And it was.  After breakfast at Denny's, we headed up the coast.  We could see every island off the coast all the way from Ventura to Gaviota Pass.

Traffic was light and we made good time.  We stopped in the tiny Old Town Orcutt at the most delightful quilt shop of our trip.  Bright and happy and full of fabrics to please the little kid in all of us.  After a couple of hours on the 101 we stopped at the second shop of the day in Atascadero, then across the freeway for a lunch of ice cream sundaes before hitting the more boring leg to Salinas.  After a quick tour fly through Spreckles we found the 68 to our ultimate destination, Pacific Grove.

After a scenic tour around Asilomar we found out way to our motel and checked in at the Monarch Resort.  They had done a great job of accommodating Mom's needs.  A handicapped slot right in front of the elevator entrance and the room only a handful of doors down the hallway.  I loved the planters of live plants in the hallway and the fireplace loaded with a duraflame log in the room.  Our ice cream sundaes had worn off by then, but neither of us was really up to the ordeal of a meal, so I tucked mom in for a while and went for a short walk up a steep hill to the Monarch butterfly sanctuary.  I was so excited that I remembered my camera and phone, but forgot my glasses and after the trek (damn, I'm out of shape again) it turned out I couldn't see a thing.  I just kind of pointed my camera where everyone else was and hoped.)  I got back to the room just as the sun was setting.  Mom and I looked at magazines and catalogs and generally just wound off the road hum, crawling into bed very early.

Well rested, we were up and loading the car by 7:00 and back to the sanctuary.  Mom stayed in the car while I took a few minutes to explore the sanctuary WITH my glasses on this time.  I heard from another guest that the butterflies were high up in the trees, but I couldn't see them in the lower areas of the sanctuary.  My eye still hasn't completely recovered full vision after my retinal detachment (more surgery after the first of the year will help).  I have seen Monarchs roost before.  With their wings closed, they blend right into the eucalyptus leaves they hang on.  But that's not to say I didn't see anything worth the visit.



When I returned to the gate where I had started, I went over to the tree that I had blindly photographed the evening before.  This beautiful morning - WITH my glasses on - I could see the butterflies almost close enough to touch.


Another crappy telephoto picture, but you can get an idea.  When they are closed like this, you aren't knocked over by their beauty.  Just more in awe of how far they've come and how they tuck in for the winter just like this.

At this point the trip took a funny turn.  I had mapped my route out of Pacific Grove, trying to avoid the weekend Cannery Row madness of Monterey.  But as I drove, just about where my street should have been, I ran into road closure markers.  There was a parade that morning (on the street I wanted to drive out on, as it turned out) and we ended up taking a scenic tour of the wonderful homes of Pacific Grove and Monterey after all.  In fact, we were just one block from the Bay and I could see the familiar Cannery Row landmarks and Fisherman's Wharf as we passed by them.  Eventually we made our way out of the city onto the Pacific Coast Highway (1) and in my best tour guide voice said to Mom, "And that concludes our tour of historic Monterey, first capitol of the state of California, home to Del Monte Foods Corporate Headquarters and research headquarters of Dr. Ed Ricketts, model for the main character of Doc in John Steinbeck's legendary Cannery Row series."  Mom said, "Really?  I didn't know that."  

And we giggled.

In Carmel I had done my homework and headed to the (wonderful) Barnyard for breakfast at a breakfast restaurant called From Scratch.  Their website had made a big deal about their handicapped accessibility, but when we got there it turned out that it was only accessible to the handicapped who could climb two flights of stairs.  Instead we headed over to the Crossroads where we had a delicious breakfast at a stunning, fun cafe called Cafe Stravaganza.  I can highly recommend it.  I had wanted to drive a little ways down Carmel Valley Road to a nursery I had visited last year, but I was disappointed and we returned to the coast highway in short order.

And so began the best part of the weekend for me.  My dad had driven my mom north on this road for a band event in Pacific Grove (and he had even taken her to a fabric store he had found), but as you know if you have ever driven the 1 northbound, the passenger can't see anything of the view except the mountainside rather close to the side of the car for over seventy miles.  This was the first time Mom had ever seen the Big Sur Coast.

A school of Flying Fish.  They make these squiggly lines with their tails as they "fly".   I don't know if it was a large school by Flying Fish standards, but it practically filled the smallish bay so seemed huge to me.


Mom loved this road.  I wasn't sure, as she has been carsick on less challenging roads in the past.  But she couldn't believe how beautiful it was.  "I've never seen anything like this before," she exclaimed.  "The beaches here are much more interesting than the ones down by us."  And I almost cried when she said, "I'm sorry you have to drive.  You're missing how beautiful this all is."

I think that will go down in my personal history as one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  To take my spectacular mother to see my favorite spot on the planet, a place she has never seen before, and to see it impress her so spectacularly.  I felt like I had given one of the people I love most in my life a very special gift, one she might never have seen in her lifetime if not for this weekend.

Mom said this cloud looks like Fiberfill.  Only a quilter...

The Pampas Grass covered the hillsides with blooms. 

Once we were off the mountain coast portion of the ride and back on the flats we stopped at the Elephant Seal view point.  She'd had no idea.  Again, her handicapped hanger got us a parking space a very easy walk to the railing where she could see the seals.  "Oh, my gosh!"  She had the same reaction I had had last year.  It takes a few moments to realize they aren't rocks or driftwood washed up on the beach.  We didn't stay long, just long enough for her to be delighted.

In Morro Bay (another favorite place of mine) we stopped at another quilt shop.  It wasn't our favorite of the trip, but I was delighted to find several pieces of fabric (including a special batik showing Morro Rock) to round out my sea theme collection.  I also got the Morro Bay Row-By-Row kit and think that finishes what I need to do one of these fun row quilts.  Just wish I could put my hands on the pattern for seagulls and happy fishes by Paper Panache.  I'll have to buy it again, I guess.

By the time we left Morro Bay it was well past lunch time (closer to dinner) and we were starving.  Neither of us had ever eaten at the famous Madonna Inn,  so that's where I headed.  Again (as for the whole trip) we got the best handicapped parking spaces and the most pleasant service.  My burger was mediocre but Mom was pleased with her turkey sandwich and her pumpkin pie for dessert. 

A quick trip to one of their famous restrooms and we were ready to complete our trip home.  At her request we listened to Christmas music during this trip, and my Christmas CarTunes mix was oddly appropriate.

"Christmas day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp...  Christmas day will always be, just so long as we have we."

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Breathless. Tearful.