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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016



I find myself with an extra day of summer break because I had to go visit this guy (on the second day of school, which I find amusing.  "Hi, kids. Bye, kids.")

Want to give a shout-out to Dr. Robert Avery, who I met Monday, September 21, 2014 just before emergency surgery to re-attach the retina in my right eye.  Full detachment, including the macula, that occurred over an almost-three-week-period.  Usually you don't wait that long to figure out why your eye seems to be filling with putrid pond water, but that was the three-week period during which school started and my husband died, so I was more than a little preoccupied with other things.

The surgery was actually entertaining.  They put me under general anesthetic just long enough to completely deaden the eye with locals, then brought me up so that I could respond to instructions if needed.  They didn't need any help from me, but it was interesting to "see" the procedure from behind a blue plastic mask.  If I had any discomfort at all it was my frustration at the conversation.

They were talking about concerts they'd seen at the Santa Barbara Bowl, my favorite venue for anything.  I wanted to contribute, but somehow flapping one's jaw while someone was using a laser in their eye didn't seem prudent.

I had several follow-up visits with Dr. Avery over the course of the last two years.  As warned, I noticed my vision in that eye not improving as well as might be hoped because the cataract that had been developing over the previous dozen years bloomed following the retinopathy (and vitrectomy).  So, once I got the "all is well" after a year of healing, I was back to see another medical hero of mine.

I've been a patient of Dr. Stuart Winthrop for over thirty-five years.  At one visit, he and his optician and I all compared notes and learned we were all the same age, so you might say we've grown up together.  Sort of.
There is nobody I trust with any part of my life the way I trust this doctor with my eyes, so when he said it was time for cataract surgery, I was all go.  I had to postpone the timing a little.  Because of the complications caused by having no vitreous solution (a gel-like substance in the eye that acts like a cushion during normal cataract surgery), Dr. Winthrop wanted to use new technology for the best result possible.  Insurance didn't cover that, so I needed some time to save the money.

Once I had it, though, we were full steam ahead.  That was another interesting, eye-witness experience.  (tee hee)

I had my follow-up on that one early this summer.

I really am trying to learn not to be such a people-pleaser, but admit that it was such a pleasure to watch this man go through my file and see what he'd accomplished.  In 2001 he had done my lasik, which took me from being legally blind (since fourth grade) to normal vision.  Within a year, though, the vision in my right eye had slipped 50% of the way back and he had the sad task of informing me that this developing nearsightedness was the first symptom of a cataract.

I know few people as dignified as Stuart Winthrop, so it would be too big a stretch to say he was giddy at the result of his surgery.  But he was close.  And when I asked him to "consider himself hugged," he accepted it with pride.

Anyway, today was my follow-up - first one post-cataract surgery - with Dr. Avery.  Who is also a dignified man who trembled on the edge of giddiness when he saw the result of my vision test.  When he greeted me and asked how I was, I responded "spectacular."  He then checked the scans and used the word back to me, then checked into the eye and recapped where I'd been and declared the recovery, "SPECTACULAR."

These two men have taken me from no vision due to a complete macular detachment two years ago to 20/25 vision in that eye today.  I don't think I've EVER had 20/25 vision without corrective lenses in my life. I am fully functional, and able to do simply everything I want to do that requires decent vision.

The day of my last appointment with Stuart (in Santa Barbara) I treated myself to chowder and calamari at The Enterprise for lunch, then went out on a whale watch (we had to settle for a huge pod of dolphins, oh gee darn) to celebrate how well I can see.  I can do my fine embroidery and soak up the sunset.  The new lens is actually "set" for the computer monitor distance, so I'm more comfortable using glasses for greater distances (especially when I'm driving) but otherwise I just do whatever I want.

I want to celebrate today, but since I'm back in Weight Watchers (82 down, 40 up, 25 down, 7 up) and in the detox-from-sugar stage, I will forego the food part of the party and just enjoy writing this celebratory post.

Which includes a recap of my "spectacular" summer.  Best one in a long time.  Maybe ever.

I noticed a few years ago that the more productive I am over a vacation break, the longer the break seems and the more satisfied I am with the memory.  So I set some goals for myself.

I didn't achieve all of them because I was determined to just do stuff for the fun of it and not beat myself into a stress mess if I didn't get everything perfect (another character challenge I'm dealing with.)  I had fun and got quite a lot done that I had set for myself.

I started with my backyard pond.  I built it (I mean, I BUILT it, not that I hired someone to do it) about 15-20 years ago.  Fortunately, my yard is really easy to dig (mostly fill, which means not much grows in it, but it is easy to dig), but I was thrilled when I got all the holes and placement right the first time.  (The only way to know that is to fill it all up and turn on the pump.)  Now it is that many years later and it had developed a full crop of duckweed (one of my favorite water plants) that I could not get rid of.  Since it uses up all the oxygen in the water, everything else died off.  The only thing I could think to do was let all the water evaporate then let the weed die off.

A year later I was ready to start the refurbishment.

The first thing I had to do was scrape and scrub out all the dead stuff clinging to the sides of the pond, then sweep out the big chunks.

Which was when I discovered a tiny crack at the bottom edge of the lowest level's vinyl pre-formed shell.  This explained why I was having trouble with the water level (I thought it just evaporation), but was not good news.  I researched patching, but my gut feeling was that even if I was successful at patching, I was probably facing more cracking over time.  So, I decided to invest in a new liner.

Which meant moving the rock collection.  Which was not good for my back.  Or knees.  But I am stubborn.

The best way to check that I had the liner the way I wanted it was - again - to fill the pond.  Happily - again - I had it the way I wanted it so was able to trim it down and return the rocks.


I only worked in the cool of the morning, so it took a little over a week to get this much done.  The pump still worked so I had it making pretty water music pretty fast.  At this point I left it and moved to another project.

It must have been about 1975 when my husband and I took a day-trip up to Solvang and wandered the shops.  One artist had a display of almost life-sized pelicans perched on pier pilings.  We both fell in love with them, but at about $170 each and up, we didn't feel we could afford the extravagance.  He then proceeded to whine, "We should have bought the pelican," all the way home and for the next several weeks.

That year, I decided to do something that was, for me at that point, very daring and brave.  I saved the money, then took myself off to Solvang to buy him the pelican for Christmas.  Today I smile at that youngster, gathering her courage to go drive those highways along the coast and through the hills.  Today I haul myself all over the place and enjoy it.  But I was in my early 20s then and not nearly so tough.

I got the thing home in time to hide it, and it was - I believe - his favorite Christmas gift in the over forty years we were married.  So he felt a special sadness when he broke off the beak in the last weeks of his life.  I didn't know how to fix the beak, but didn't have the heart to just throw the bird out so saved the pieces.  After my husband died, I moved the pelican outside (the beak just nagged at me) where it wasn't so noticeable and where it actually looked awesome next to the pond.

One of the things I wanted to try over the summer was repairing the pelican.  I researched adhesives and decided to try the white Gorilla Glue.  Armed with the broken pieces, the glue and some painter's tape, I spent part of a morning doing reconstructive surgery on this bird.  I decided his name was Harold.  Not sure where that came from, but I was in a reminiscent mood working on the thing, and probably my subconscious was remembering going to see Music Man with Dick Van Dyke as Harold Hill.  Whatever.

Anxious for a full recovery, Harold cooperated fully with his doctor's instructions to, "Just lie still, now."  The next morning I removed the bandages and, with the exception of his rather remarkable scar that may require further plastic surgery, he is looking very healthy again.  He is much relieved.

This is another little souvenir that fell apart and only took me twenty years to gather all the parts together to repair him.  I got this in a tiny gift shop along the road outside Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park along Highway 1 the first year I "met" this stretch of road.  My favorite drive.  Ever and ever.

As I said, I only worked in the cool of the morning outside.  Once the sun was overhead and the outside started to heat up, I retreated inside.  I had decided a few months ago that I wanted a little quilt that matched my studio.  I keep a recliner in there, and in the winter (since I rarely turn on the heater) it is pretty chilly in the mornings (for meditation) or evenings (for crafting).  I collected some fabrics and spent a day sewing this together.  I still need to sandwich the batting and back, then I'm just going to stitch in the ditch where the stripes come together and add a binding.

The studio, which my son named "Mom's Happy Room" had received very little attention over the last two years becoming mostly a "stash and dash" spot, so it needed some focused work.  I started with this area, as I want a space to pick back up my elementary yoga practice.

All of my chores took a while, because I was careful to return EVERYthing to its proper living place, and in many cases, the flotsam and jetsam of my life had not yet nested anywhere.  But, I was patient with myself and my collections, and eventually...

Everything had found a home.

My time was split between the outside mornings and the inside organizing for most of the summer.  My next outside target area was the courtyard outside my front door.


  ...and this...

 ...became this.

I'd had this little collection of cymbidium orchids for years.  I'd never potted them up, nor fed them.


They got cleaned up, re-potted and fed.  I need to hit them with the food again.  They've bloomed every year, so I hope I haven't messed them up with my TLC.


It took me several days, mostly because I had a lot of plants that needed to go into larger pots.  But I'm really pleased with what a restful place this became.  It's very nice to walk from my car, through this courtyard and into the house after work.  This place no longer screams at me.

Thrilled that this is doing so well this year.  I've had it for several.  Saw them at a restaurant in Downtown Disney one year and tracked one down.  This is the first year I think I'll be able to divide it.  I need more.
 Back in the house, I next tackled the sewing area of the Happy Room.


This space tended to stay a bit tidier than the rest of the room because I did do some sewing in here over the last couple of years.


The strips in the basket are leftovers from the quilt.  My next sewing project will be covers for the sewing machine and iron.

I'm pretty excited to have been able to work in space for my expanded ironing table.  Got it out of the way and useable (and since it's propped on storage boxes, I added storage, too).

The closet door ribbons were actually for quilt blocks, but I am so happy with my little love display that I think the blocks will stay stacked on a table.


On a best day I can sit here and enjoy the ocean breeze, the songs of the birds and the scent of the brugmansia ("Charles Grimaldi" that grows in a big pot outside the window.)  Gets close to my vision of "bliss."


After the pond and the courtyard, I returned to the backyard to finish up the view from the Happy Room.  I discovered that Lowe's has an amazing selection of rocks and picked up a few bags to finish up the north side of the pond and the deck right outside the studio.

I admit to being particularly proud of this project.  That looks like a railroad tie, but had actually rotted out some underneath, which made it unstable (not good with my vision and knee issues).  In addition, that little empty space was a little too tempting to the ground squirrel that took up residence back here.  I gathered up a couple of pieces of used brick I had laying around and shoved them under the tie, then filled in as much empty space as I could with larger river stones.  Next I filled in the remaining space with smaller rounded river stones, continuing with them to fill the space up to the pathway.  That tie is now "rock" solid and looks good, too.


I NEVER thought I would be dragging bags of rocks to go around my pond (not the original vision at all) but all in all, I'm more than pleased with what I did with this space this summer.

Lowe's also has some pavers in a gorgeous color and clever design.  With seven different angled sides, the pavers can be arranged in a random design that I think will look fantastic on the unfinished side of the pond.  I can pick them up a few each month (or all at once as they aren't that expensive) and get that done at my leisure.

Next to the pond is a deck (oh, the year after the pond I also rebuilt the seven decks that go around the house, create a small patio deck area and then surround the spa).  I did some tidying there, although I'd stayed on top of it pretty well through the winter.

I am really happy with this water lily experience.  I bought the pot at Costco this spring and didn't drill the holes, so it makes a nice water pot.  Then I ordered a lily from Lily Blooms aquatic nursery.

Only $25, so I wasn't sure exactly what I would get.

And was thrilled when this arrived.

Then, saddened when every single leaf fell off, one sad day after another.  Kind of like Beast's rose.  I was so upset when the last leaf fell off that I avoided the deck for a few days; kept busy elsewhere.

But when I finally returned it was to THIS!  Oh my gosh!

Whoosh!  And it hasn't slowed down yet.  (Pet store feeder fish rescue.  They seem happy there.)

Look!  Babies!

I didn't just work around the house.  Astrologically, I am a Cancer on the cusp with Gemini.  As in, if I'd been born nine-and-a-half hours earlier, I would have been a Gemini.  I joke that this must be the most schizophrenic of signs.  Cancer wants to stay closed in the shell of home, puttering around dividing trash from treasures.  Gemini wants to go party!

So, I've taken my Mom to Disneyland about once a month (with another trip planned this Saturday).  I've also been taking her to her weekly quilt club meetings (she had stopped going; I hope she continues).   I took my SIL to The Last Bookstore downtown (ohmygawd) and then to Newport to our favorite nursery.  A few weeks later I took her up to Carpenteria to Roxanne's Make a Wish quilt shop, Seaside Gardens nursery and then - yum - Cafe Nouveau in Ventura for lunch (although we both opted for breakfast instead of lunch).  Tack on multiple trips to Simi to Red's for meals, my weekly taco at Ola's here in town, and Baja Fresh and a movie a few times with a friend, and my social calendar stayed full enough for me.


But, as the summer drew to a close, I realized I would have to double down on the projects if I was going to be able to check off what I considered my minimum accomplishment.  I started with a few concentrated days in the Happy Room.

This was the hardest space, believe it or not, because nothing here had a home yet.

Partway there.

And done!

In the end, the Happy Room clean out ended with this.

I did manage to create a home for them.  Somewhere.  Don't ask me where, because right now, I don't remember.

As my final task outdoors, I moved to the south side yard.  I've been trying to get stuff to grow here for years, but starting with the first dog, the last two and rude guest dogs in between, this space became a canine commode and nothing will grow here.  So, I decided to dig up the plants worth trying to salvage and lay mulch.  It has become another container garden.

My husband liked to grill, and just before my older son and his family came for a month's visit in  2014, I bought a new one because I thought we would eat a lot of grilled food.  He used it to make one meal.  And it sat for two years.  With my younger son's permission (he lives with me) I found it a new home.

And the after.

Working toward the service area, outside the kitchen window it looked like this:

And now looks better and is much safer (from the other direction).  The hose used to stretch down this sidewalk.  With the grill gone, I can store it in that space.

Because I love Disneyland, most of my friends think I'm a supergeek expert on all things Disney.  And that my house must be all Disney Decor.  Not really.  But when they were selling these in the Courtyard of the Angels in New Orleans Square one year, I had to have one.  I've never been able to get any flowers to grow in that pot, but my string-of-pearls plants are doing really well, so I decided to try some in this guy's pot.  It will look adorable if it works out.

I did pick up a new hobby this year, and enjoyed it through the summer, ending with buying this toy.

It all started when a friend in Juneau posted a picture of some dye samples on some pretty planner pages (she owns a yarn shop and dyes her wool).  I asked about the planner, and she responded that her Erin Condren planner was the first that ever worked for her.  Since I'd never found one to work for me, I ordered one to give it a try.  It's the first planner to work for me.

Thing is, the people who love these things don't stop with buying the planner and writing their commitments in them.  They decorate.  Extensively.

Now, I don't have much interest in decorating, but it didn't take long for the archivist in me to realize the potential as a book of memories.

So, the toy.  It's a cutter.  I will be able to have it cut out all the little pictures out of sticker paper, which will reduce my time.   Cutting.  And gluing.

There's a learning curve.

So, I had this great summer and it was the day before school started up again.  I had this amazing idea.

I LOVE bubbles.  So, I had purchased one of the new bubble wands at Disneyland at the beginning of the summer, and I decided to save it just for this day, this day before work begins again.

I would take it to the backyard at twilight, my favorite time of day.

I would appreciate my beautiful brug, with its wonderful fragrance and the promise of many flowers still to be enjoyed this summer.

 I would appreciate the little school of fish (about 20) that has established in the pond.  (Another 80 became part of the circle of life.  Raccoons, I think.)

I would enjoy the company of my faithful doggy companion.


And I would fire up the bubble wand to enjoy the quiet evening, the music from the waterfalls and the floating bubbles.

That floated right into my face.  To an obnoxious version of "Under the Sea" belting from the wand.

Oh, no.  These things play [sort of] music.  Loudly.  Horrible stuff.

I couldn't stand it.  What a waste of money on something that should have been so delightful.


I'm going to buy a bubble machine.  A quiet one.

I'm not sorry, though.  I got to catch the sunset through the sycamores.  (They are already entering fall mode, always the first to show.)

And this!  Not the music I had in mind, but much better than the wand cacophony (or caca-phony).

Do you know what a group of crows is called?

It's a "murder" of crows.

Halloween up next.

It was a good summer, and fun to think back and document it.  This may be (will probably be) my last year of teaching.  I read an astrology article over the weekend that talked about the Mercury retrograde offering signs as I make a decision.  So far, this year's snafu start (I laugh, haha) is only making the decision easier.  Seriously, though, I'm really expecting to have as good a year as last to end my teaching career, and begin my MASTERYEAR in the same month.

Oh, yes, I have plans.