December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve

Our great-granddaughter. Photo Courtesy of Nicole Chelonis Photography

 Just returned from Dutch Bros with a large hot Kicker (hot espresso with Irish Cream flavor). In honor of Christmas Eve, I asked for whipped cream. Shh, don't tell my doctor! She's not a fan of dairy...or meat....or cheese!

My tasks for the day are short and sweet! Peel and slice a small herd of apples (or would that be a bushel?).  Roll out some pie dough and bake an apple pie.  Wrap presents, water the Christmas tree, kick back and wait for that handsome husband of mine to come home.

Pandora is playing Christmas music. House is cozy. I'm amazingly content. The next 8 days will be filled with my kids and grandchildren, snow, birthday parties and games! My granddaughters will help me make pancakes; we'll sneak cookie dough when the adults go to bed and play black jack at the kitchen table when the parents are out and about!

My parents will be here to share the joy (and chaos).

It's a good day to be happy!

Merry Christmas to you all.


December 23, 2014

I'm Going In

An item left to purchase which means I MUST venture into the Mall (insert theme from Jaws).

I avoid the Mall at all costs but there is a shirt at Hot Topics absolutely made for one of my granddaughters but it was out-of-stock online. (grimacing accompanied with veins throbbing in forehead).

   Two Days Before Christmas
+                          Mall Traffic
                               Tight Jaw

For those of you who don't understand "old-school-math" this equation is my kind of extreme sports.
I don't like extreme sports.

Cover me, Dano! I'm going in!

December 22, 2014

What Do You Have?

Imagine it's the end of a long day. You're tired.

You strip your clothes off, crawl under the covers and drop off to a sound, deep sleep.

The next thing you know, your room is full of smoke; your house is on fire. You leap out of bed and run out your sliding door. Your house burns to the ground.

There you are, sky-clad. You didn't even grab a sheet to cover yourself. Everything you own is gone.

What do you have left?

Most people would shrug their shoulders, responding, "Nothing." 

They would be wrong.

You still have the only thing that was ever, really yours. You have your word. You have your integrity.

There is nothing in the world that can't be taken from you. Cars, clothes, books, your wedding ring, your job, your home. Even your freedom can be snatched!

Is your word good?  Is your integrity solid?

The only way you can lose your integrity is by giving it away. Little lies grow into big lies. Small indiscretions manifest bigger indiscretions. Before you know it, you speak and people stare at you, wondering if you are speaking the truth?

If you lie about something little, people think, "If he would lie about something so minor, why wouldn't he lie about the big stuff? 

Honor your word. It's really all you have.
Picture courtesy of

'Tis The Season...

Pre-Christmas Disquietude Syndrome (PDS)

I've looked it up in the medical books in my expansive library. Nothing. No such thing, but there should be and I've got a serious case of it.

Symptoms: Frequent explosive tears and just as frequent explosive use of expletives that truck drivers would frown on. Shoulders in permanent position about half an inch below ears. Lower lip raw from constant chewing. Overwhelming need for 3 Dutch Bros Kickers per day just to get through it. Did I mention explosive tears?

It doesn't help that my husband has had to work every day since November 1st, with the exception of Thanksgiving afternoon.

Yesterday was the topper! Dogs fighting and snipping (PDS must be highly contagious and transmittable to animals), Amazon order's that haven't arrived yet, emails that state the orders shipping is scheduled between December 27 and January 6 (despite paying $28 extra for expedited shipping).  I still have groceries to stock, a couple of gifts to purchase and sleeping arrangements to make. Worried about my sister and niece, worried about my mom and dad, sister-in-law in hospital with possible stroke, grandson still in extreme pain from 5 blown discs that is preventing him from sleeping at night, looking for home for the two precious but powerful pit bulls who I love but just can't keep and, of course, typical nuisances that are petty but distracting.

After we returned from church, shared a quickie breakfast of homemade tamales, my husband headed to work. The dogs and I hung lights, decorated the house and tree, opened boxes and checked lists (not twice but thrice and I don't care who was naughty or nice). Made several lists: To Do (necessary); To Do (would be nice but not necessary); To Buy (necessary); To Buy (would be nice but not necessary); To Be Thankful For (totally necessary for peace of mind and maintaining sanity....oops, too late!)

I tossed out the To Do (would-be-nice-but not-necessary version) but later dug through the trash to retrieve it, then added Hand Sanitizer to the necessary To Buy list.

I let the dogs in and out at least 30 times (each) which adds up to 90 times, added "mop the mud at family room slider" to the To Do list, (necessary) and underlined it.

My husband walked into the house, smiled at the lights and decorations, greeted the excited dogs (who were incredibly relieved to be saved by a sane human).  He walked over to me to give me a kiss. I could see him studying me, you know, that husbandly "is-it-safe-to-approach" study that wise husbands practice, much like lion tamers and maniacs who walk tightropes across open spaces between Manhattan skyscrapers and Grand Canyons!

He wrapped his arms around, squeezing tight. He said, "get your jacket, we're going for a ride."
Minutes later we were in the car headed west. He parked the car at a perfect overlook at Whiskeytown Lake. We were surrounded by fog, the opposite shore barely visible through the mist.

He lowered the windows of the Malibu. I got my first dose of just what the doctor prescribed...QUIET!  The silence and stillness was magnificent. We sat together for an hour as dusk approached and passed.

When we did talk, it was in whispers. We talked about vacation plans for next summer, ducks, geese and otters. The mist enveloped us in peaceful respite.

Have I told you lately just how much I love that husband of mine?

December 16, 2014

They Make Me Laugh


My stomach hurts from laughing so much and so hard.  My grown children have families of their own but they are still "my kids"!  Best yet, they are the funniest people I know!

We are planning a five-generation family portrait. We're talking color-coordination, inside/outside options; you know, photographic basics. Epic!

The photographer is my daughter, Nicole. Her portfolio is awesome not to mention her Photoshop skills.  In fact, I'm hoping she can "svelte-me-up" by erasing my double chin or, better still, pose me as chin-solo!

Nicole and I iron out the basics. We decide that each family will choose one color to wear, not matchy-matchy but coordinated. She chooses the color options that will blend beautifully. Then she informs me that one of my sons stated that he absolutely refuses to "dress up" for holidays. His belief is that holidays are for being comfortable.

"He'll probably show up in one of his Superman t-shirts!" she tells me.

"Cool!" I answer, "maybe we should assign his family the color blue."

"No way!" she insists, "We can't dictate or there will be dissention! Every family should choose their own color."

We agree. We message the whole family, date, color options to choose from; the look we're going for!We ask them to choose the color they most want for their own family.

Several dozen messages later the Five Generation Portrait has gone from classic, lovely, full color photo worthy of enlarging, matting and framing and hanging above the mantel for years to come to a full-on everybody in jeans and Superman shirts of various types.

Capes are clearly out but there is a bit of anarchy regarding black smudges on our faces from saving the world all day!

Superman t-shirts on my 86 year old parents, my husband and I, our children, grandchildren and great-granddaughter and I'M OKAY WITH THAT!

I'll still enlarge it, frame and mat it and hang it above the mantel because it will be the most accurate portrait of our family. Every time I behold those smiles and t-shirts, old and new on the old and new,  I will smile. I'll remember the messages that almost immediately busted into total anarchy making  my belly ache with laughter. I'll remember my grandson looking down at his phone as it went crazy with beeping notifications that the family was at it again.  After reading two dozen messages, he looked up at me and apologized for "leaving the conversation"!

"Nothing worse than 'non-sensicle' adults!" he smiled as he turned his phone off.

I'm looking forward to Superman day. I'm going to wear my best earrings and smile big for the camera.

I'll be counting myself lucky that we will not be dressing up as Storm Troopers, Tardis's or Sherlock Holmes. With this wonderful family it could have easily gone in any of those directions!

December 15, 2014

Ten Days

Christmas! I have a love-hate relationship with Christmas, but not the Jesus and Manger and Bethlehem part of it, just all the rest of it!

I want everything to be perfect. The perfection I speak of would include to give the "perfect" present to each of my grandchildren, for the tree to be glorious, for dinner to be delicious for 19 different palates and various food allergies.  I want the house to be warm and inviting even though 10 minutes after everyone shows up it looks as if I haven't cleaned in a year!

Is it wrong that I just want to tell all the grandchildren that we have adopted a family-in-need in their names and given them food and presents for their children, order 5 pizzas with various toppings, sit around the fire in our best pajamas (and by "best", I mean the oldest, softest most comfy, even if the butt is worn to paper thin!).

Can we play charades and talk and share our memories of the past year and our dreams for the coming year?

Can I decorate a wall with lights in the shape of a tree so that a beautiful noble fur doesn't have to donate it's life to "fill us with joy" for three weeks?

On the other hand, I can't wait for everybody to get here. I can't wait to see my granddaughters all dressed up, my mom and dad surrounded by their grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great granddaughter! I can't wait for family portraits and listening to my kids and their spouses joking around with each other or in serious conversations.  I can't wait for the giggles and guffaws.

I can't wait for the margaritas, the turkey and mashed potatoes.

Okay, mostly I love Christmas. I'm 85% Santa and 15% grinch....what can I say?

December 12, 2014


Storm of the year came in yesterday. Not storm of the year for the world or even the United States. We didn't get 6 feet of snow in 8 hours, our rivers didn't over flow their banks, nor did large sections of houses fall into holes.

We just got a lot of rain and a lot of wind.

My folks saw the river from their patio for the first time in a couple of years. It was the opposite bank which is low and stretches out. Their bank is steep and the water line is not threatening in any way. The did get a little flooding in garage from the deluge and they were without power.

Scary not being able to get in touch with your aging parents during a big storm. The phone was finally answered and my mom joyfully announced that she could see the river. For them, seeing the river means there is water in their well again! Worried I ask how it was without power; how are they now?

"Oh, honey," she says, happy that I asked, "We are eating warm rolls fresh out of the oven, drinking our coffee and watching a movie!"

On the other hand, I don't live on a dangerous river in the boonies. I live in a neighborhood protected by a couple of tall hills. In spite of the protective cover, I lost about 35 feet of fence.

Two of my dogs discovered the downed fence before I did. They decided to inform the rest of the neighbors before sharing the important information with me.  I tracked them down, eventually. Bless their little souls, they went in two different directions and stayed off of the sidewalks, choosing to stay in the muddy passages. I don't blame them, sometimes I choose to do the same, though not in 40 mile an hour winds and driving rain. They brought some of the mud home with them; most staying on my car seats rather than accompanying the boys into the house.

Luckily we have a supply of lumber on the side of the house. I waded through the puddles and mud into the neighbors yard (they weren't home) and stood the fence up, bracing it with 4x4's and 2x4's here and there.

Do you know how much a water sodden fence weighs?  Do you know that I have two young football players living with me. One offensive lineman and a defensive lineman, both in the 300+ weight category and both bragging just the night before about how much weight they can lift and bench press! Guess who wasn't home when the fence needed lifting?

Looks like the roof suffered some damage too, at least, the shingles in our yard match our roof better than the houses on either side.

Good news is. Found the dogs, Mom and Dad are cozy and dry and I get to buy a new pair of shoes. Does it get any better?

Epiphanies Over Tuna Sandwiches

My friend is leaving for about a month to visit her parents in Ohio. I'm kind of the psuedo-housesitter while she is gone.  Her neighbor will be keeping his eye on her place. He will also have my phone number in case of emergency. He will probably file it under Bogus Caretaker!  There is nothing to do. Everything is automatic or unplugged or timed.

This morning I stopped in to get my "briefing" and pick up a key. That part of the conversation lasted less than it took to take the key and put it in my pocket.

The rest of the conversation lasted 3 hours, then we went to lunch (good conversation stimulates appetites) and talked even more.

I have known Julia for over 30 years. She was my divorce buddy about 35 years ago and my Maid-of-Honor 30 years ago. She has always been my best friend, confidant and, in the old days, my drinking sidekick. We actually had other associates who drank with us, but no one who could keep up!

One of the most wonderful things about her is her depth, her insight and how eloquent and articulate she is.

We can be speaking of the ordinary things of life and I may express a certain reaction that I may have had or thought that occurs to me that tweaks my mood. We might dance around the subject for a moment or two. I perchance will even rephrase the original statement or complaint.

She then asks questions, makes comments and digs....really digs, and, more importantly, she forces me to dig. Like a balloon popping at a kids party, a burst of cerebrum sagacity! I get it!

She rakes aside the leaves molding in the lawn of my mind, so that I might scan the landscape, unencumbered. There behind the cement quail with busted beak and the garden gnome is a throbbing lump in the soil. The clod may be 10, 20 40 years old, but there it, throbbing and very much alive. The Core Issue!

Core Issues! Whoa. Got any of those?  Julia doesn't have a road map to get to them but I can attest that she knows the directions and she is not afraid to use them.

Every time we talk, over coffee, wine or tuna sandwiches, I learn more about her, more about me and more about the world. Now that is what I call a good friend.

December 10, 2014


As an artist and photographer, I tend to observe people, look for shapes and textures in the mundane and focus on color, shadow and contrast.

Having said that, I have to admit that I am also an accomplished day dreamer. Someone observing me might think I am staring at a subject when I am actually climbing the steep trail to Machu Piccu in my mind.

My husband and a good friend are toddlers in adults' bodies. Like youngsters, they have serious cases of neophilia. They are walking, talking observation decks! Sighting "something new" floats their boats.

Spotting a new species of bird sizzles my husband's bacon! Discovering a new "photo-op" cocoas his cola!

Finding a new kayak-worthy tributary or lake for my friend really toots his horn! If you want to butter his biscuit, introduce my friend to a new word not already in his consummate vocabulary.
(sorry, couldn't help my weight it's hard to stop when I'm on a roll).

Most of us are specialists in tunnel vision! Don't deny it! When was the last time you drove down your street and noticed the shapes of houses or patterns in the pavement?  Even those days when you decide to take a different route home, are you really noticing the "newness" of the journey or just patting yourself on the back for climbing out of your routine (and it it really a new route or is it your go-to alternative?)

I was sitting in a parking lot yesterday, a shopping center lot that I have parked in a hundred times.  The building is long, holds a large grocery store, a big-box store and maybe 10 small businesses. The building leans on the yellow side of beige. When I looked up I realized it was a maze of triangles, squares and several rectangles. If the gaudy neon signs and the "For Lease" flyers were gone it would be a beige kind of way.

Go outside today and look around. What have you seen so many times that it has become invisible? Visit your living room and rediscover the unobserved! If cob webs reveal themselves to you, don't knock them down until you notice their rhythm as the hot air rises and cooler air falls in the room.

Who knows what you might find! And, yeah, you could probably take a dust cloth with you...I know that I am.


Gal pals and I had a wonderful conversation last night about purging and editing! Though most people, hopefully, are in a constant state of flux and change, the four of us seem to be going through some major changes.

We are all editing our lives. Somehow, we have all been approaching closets, drawers and boxes tucked here and there with an overwhelming emetic spirit.  We are dumping the excess.  Those journals that have lost their importance but still tucking away the ones that continue to hold an important place in our lives. Sorting through our books, tossing some and keeping the meaningful ones and the ones we tend to read annually, (Little Women, Gone With The Wind, As I Lay Dying, Their Eyes Were Watching God). Clothes that were specifically for work; you know, the skirts, blouses and pant suits that smell of rules and regulations and time cards, are tossed into bags and boxes for the Women's Rescue store.  

My pals are even tossing out shoes that were meant for the office. I am saved from that chore due to the diligence of my two pit bull pups who have eaten at least one of every pair of shoes I own except the pair on my feet. Yes, I put them under my pillow when I sleep, what's the big deal?

We still find little mementos of events that we are not ready to part with; maybe next year or maybe never.

Even our personal boundaries are fluctuating. We have found that many boundaries are sorely in need of editing. Some are so tight that we are strangling ourselves in anxiety, some have been too lose and some are non-existent. And to quote Goldilocks, some are "Just right!"

Have you ever seen any of Michelangelo's unfinished sculptures; the figures appear to be climbing out of the marble. Each of us, in our own way, seems to be stepping (and sometimes clawing) from the stone that life's experiences and our own choices have motivated us to reside in.

It's good to see the rocks being chipped away and know that you are not just witnessing the freeing of my friend's but that are seeing the shards of marble fall away from me.

Thank you my friends for being part of the process. I don't know what I would do without you!

Playing With Fire

My kids grew up with wood stoves for heating. We have had years of practice building fires.

There was a couple of years that I worried that any one of them might become an arsonist.  They were accomplished fire starters from a very early age. Their expertise for emptying ash from wood stoves was not as proficient.

There is a knack to gently shoveling out the ash without sending clouds of it out and about the room and clothing. It takes patience. Patience is not a general endowment for people under the age of 20, especially if you are cold and anxious for some heat.

Then there would be those small trails of ash on the dark green carpet and various partial gray foot prints leading across the ash trail here and there.

It's funny to watch members of our family when camping or vacationing and a fire needs to be built or stoked.

We downed five of our trees last year so are heating house with fireplace insert, though, at the moment, it needs ashes removed!  Manana!

Every time I bring in wood or start a fire, I think of my kids. I see them standing by the old wood stove or fireplace warming their backsides.

For more years than I can count my sons would stand together, taking the chill off after coming in from outside-boy-stuff.  My oldest son was taller than my younger son every winter. Then, one winter, younger son was taller! He had grown 7 or 8 inches in one summer!

There was the winter that the glass doors of the fireplace imploded and we all laughed our heads off!

Christmas is coming and all the kids and grandchildren will be here. Our parents and great-granddaughter will be here, too. Five generations gathered around the table. Five generations talking about old memories and making new memories.

You can bet I will have a fire going to make the picture complete. 

December 06, 2014

Who Knew?

A good friend is considering producing a show in which he would interview homeless persons. What are the back stories for these people? How did they land on the street?  Knowing that most children do not grow up dreaming of growing up and being cold and hungry. No kid that I've ever asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" has ever answered, "I'd really like to homeless and invisible."

We live in a town where the population of homeless is huge and growing. We see them wandering the streets day and night, living in the parks and doorways, panhandling on every other corner. These poor souls are the visible homeless.

What about the invisible homeless?

There are two young men sleeping in other rooms of my house as I type this. They are students at a nearby college. They came to our town to be on our football team. Their families are hundreds of miles away..

Two months ago we discovered one of them.  He had been living in stairwells, benches and occasionally on one of the other team members couches or floors.  He was surviving on Top Ramen and warm water from the college cafeteria. He tried to hide his homelessness from his coaches and teammates. Finally, he confided in one of his coaches. He now lives with us.

He was extremely quiet the first week or two that he was here. He was almost embarrassed to share meals with us. We had to convince him that it was open season on the snacks in pantry and fridge; no license required to consume.

"Maybe he wants Top Ramen!" I thought, after several times of asking him what his favorite foods are and getting a shoulder shrug for an answer, after all, he is only 19.

I bought several packages of the stiff sodium-packed noodles and left them on the space we had cleared for him on a shelf in the pantry.  The next morning I noticed that he put a pair of socks and two packs of ramen in a plastic bag, then dropped the bag into his backpack. It made me feel good that he was probably going to eat the ramen at lunch.  Slowly the packs of that ghastly dehydrated soup disappeared.

A week before Thanksgiving he brought a friend home with him. They were both leaving for home on the bus at 1:00 a.m. for Thanksgiving break.  He asked if his friend could spend the night and go to the greyhound station with us.  They were gone for two weeks.

When they returned, they hung out with us in the evening. We ate a late dinner, so asked the friend to spend the night on our couch.  He seemed relieved.

The next day, he returned to school but was at the house doing homework at the table when I got home in the evening. He ate dinner with us again and slept on the couch.

That next day we discovered that he was the reason our first roommate took the clean socks and ramen to school.  They had both been homeless while attending college classes and playing on the team. The second young man had dropped out of football because he found that his studies were slipping. He couldn't play ball and keep up his classes when he was barely sleeping at night in stairwells.

They had been sleeping in the area around the college until the warnings that a mountain lion had been spotted on campus...four times. That's when they moved into stairwells and cafeteria seats.

He carries a 3.1 and his classes are tough.  He'd won a Division I football scholarship in his freshman year and attended a four year college. The tough part of being a freshman in a Div I four-year-institute is you get a lot of bench time.  He also found that his fellow students and team mates were pretty bigoted. Hard stuff when you are away from home for the first time.

How can this happen?  How many other students are sleeping in the park, stairwells or the mountain lion infested campus? How many kids are afraid to call home and ask for help, not wanting to add to the stress of their parents?

What's wrong with me that I never imagined that there are kids out there, working hard on an education and sports, that are homeless. I know about the hungry part. I remember my own son telling me when he returned home from school that he would sometimes lay on his bed as still as he could to conserve energy. He had a job, an apartment and full-time classes but still didn't call for help because he didn't want to stress us out.

These two students are warm, clean, well-fed (but don't serve them anything with sun-dried tomatoes) and have a place to stay. They will both be returning to their families for Christmas, the families that they didn't tell about their situations because they didn't want to make it a hardship on parents still trying to support younger kids; parents struggling in this economy. Next semester they will take online classes. Next year, our newest kid, will be returning to play football. He will be playing for a Pac 12 school.  He will be graduating with a degree in Kinesiology and Physical Education.

Maybe one day he will be coaching a college team and will remember to check with his players, to make sure they have a place to rest their heads at night.

When we look at the visible homeless, we need to remember, they have a story, but we also need to be aware of the invisible homeless and ask, "What can we do?"

My husband and I have really grown to like these two kids. The energy in the house is nice. We will truly miss them when they are gone. 

December 04, 2014

Breaking the Plate

A man entered the church to see the priest. He held his head down in sorrow.

"What is wrong, my son?" asked the priest.

"Father, My words have wounded someone and I am so sorry. What can I do to make it up?"

The priest thought for a minute, because this man has used words to wound others before. What could he do to help the man use kinder gentler words?

"Today, my son, I want you to go to Farmer Smith and buy a chicken from him. Pluck the chicken's feathers and throw them to the wind. Then return to me tomorrow."

Looking confused but repentant, the man did as he was told. He purchased one of Smith's hens, plucked her down to the pin feathers, tossing the feathers into the wind. The wind swept up the feathers and off they flew.

He returned to the church the next day.

"Father, I am here and I did as you instructed."

"Today," ordered the priest, "You must go back out to the road, gather up the feathers and return them to the chicken."

"What!!!" exclaimed the man, "That will be impossible!"

"Yes, my son, you are right! The feathers cannot be put back. Our words are much like feathers, once thrown to the wind, can they ever be recovered?"

December 01, 2014

Red Flags are Red Flags

A couple of days ago I wrote about the kid who took the butcher knife to school and was hiding in the hydrangea bushes by my garage. The kid, who the "professionals" are advising  be in a residential treatment center for psychological help and guidance but his mom insists that he will be well supervised at home.

Saturday, I was backing out of the driveway and saw the the young man on his bike. He saw my car,  made a quick u-turn and hid behind a large motor home parked a couple of doors down. His head was peeking out from behind the vehicle as I drove down the street. I stopped at the intersection and sat for 10 minutes watching through my rear view mirror. He continued to hide and occasionally peek out to see if my car was gone.

I had an appointment in Bella Vista for a photo shoot but was worried that I had left our three dogs in the backyard. I didn't want the kid teasing or taunting them.

I tried calling one of the neighbors to ask them to keep their eye out for "anyone" harassing or teasing the dogs.

The photo shoot took a little over an hour in a pretty isolated little valley. My cell phone didn't have any reception. Heading home, I turn onto the highway.  My phone goes a little crazy; one call from scary-kid's mom and three calls from my grandson just seconds apart. I pull over and call grandson back.

He is at my house! Apparently scary-kid and his brother were agitating the dogs and one of the dogs broke through the fence. Dog only went into yard next door but there are so many "what ifs" that I don't want to think about. What if dog got out in street and was hit by car? What if dog got lost? What if boys had fallen in the yard and been hurt?

This kid is supposed to be under his mother's supervision; he lives about 5 blocks away! His mother cannot see him nor supervise him around two corners and five blocks!

So, all you psychology-types, I need your advice!  What do I do?

I will be calling his mother this morning to tell her that it is unacceptable that he come to my house, especially because he was so overtly devious in his approach. I changed my wifi passwords so he can't sit in the bushes playing games.

What about the kids in the neighborhood? What do we do to protect the kids and pets in the neighborhood?  If he found the butcher knife his mother felt she had to hide, will he find them again?

If he was so excited to be on the television news, like the kids he saw who were famous for killing others, will he stop before he makes the six o'clock news?

Red flags are red flags...he needs help before he hurts someone or hurts himself.

November 29, 2014


Do you remember Grey's Anatomy? The prime-time drama that launched Denzel Washington, George Clooney, Sandra Oh and Patrick Dempsey? Somehow, I missed it. Don't know what I was doing that decade, but it wasn't watching the baby docs and senior baby docs do life! I have worked in the medical field so maybe I just didn't want to take work home!

I've been hanging out with my grandson, his girlfriend and baby, Brinley, for the last couple of weeks.     Together we watched several episodes of season 1. The next day, they had jumped on to season 2 episodes and I watched again. Addictions can sneak up on you!

Netflix! Those first couple of episodes were the gateway drug to my addiction. There should be warnings!

I can't get enough of those characters...hell, I wouldn't mind some Dead-Denny hallucinations! The kids have me hooked on the happenings at Grey Sloan Hospital! 

I WILL get even with soon as I finish the last three seasons!

November 24, 2014

Time Bomb or Over-Reacting?

Many of you who know me personally know that a close neighbor has a son who is a pretty violent kid who suffers from a mental illness. Apparently, it is politically correct to say his problem is on the "autism spectrum".

We have seen him kick, bite, shove his mother with no consequences. Many years ago, after he screamed at his mother that she was "ruining his life" because she told him it was time to go home and before he had been diagnosed, I told him that we don't speak to each other like that in this house. I also told him that he couldn't come back to this house until he could treat his mother with respect. He has let me know ever since that he does not like me.

He has been kicked off the school bus and suspended from school for hitting, biting and fighting; also for screaming threats to bus driver and teachers. He is now taller than his mom and dad and quite strong.

A few weeks ago he saw a documentary on television about violence in young people. His mother found him watching the show and turned it off but not until he had seen a couple of mass shootings and the two teenage girls who had tried to stab their friend to death.

A week or so after the program, his mother found employment but she had to be at work before the boy got on the bus for school.  She asked a neighbor to make sure her son got on the bus. Before going to work, my friend hid all the knives in the house in a place she thought would be hard to find.

She and her husband were called shortly after the school day began. He son had been arrested and taken out of the school in handcuffs, screaming and yelling and threatening. He had pulled a butcher knife out of his back pack at school.

He has been expelled from the school. He was taken to the hospital to make sure he wasn't on drugs. The professionals at the hospital advised that he be admitted to a residential school where he could get the psychological help he needs. His mother fought to keep him home. She won. After the doctors left the room, he asked his mom, "Am I going to be on TV like those other kids?" He was pretty excited about the probability of it! Do you have goose bumps yet?

"Why did she hide the knives" you might ask. Why did he search for them?

Her son is now attending another school in town but not very happy about it. The kids at the school he attends now have taught him some pretty foul language and are older, so are really bullying him.

His mom promises that she will be cautious and supervise him well.

It is Thanksgiving break, school is out.  I just drove up into my driveway and saw a strange bike on the far end of the lawn. No one was around. As I stepped out of my car, the young man steps out from the bushes up against the garage.

"Hi!" I called out to him.

"I was just getting ready to leave," was his response. But he just stood there, looking at me.

Keeping the car between him and me, I waved, told him to ride his bike safely and slipped into the house.

Now, I don't know what to do. Do I call his mother and tell her he was here, hiding in my bushes? What if she yells at him, tells him not to do that again and he gets angry with me?  Do I put extra locks on my gate? 

His mother hid the knives. The professionals want him in a residential program for his safety and public safety. He has a record of violent behavior and he is unsupervised.

I am mad and I am scared and I am mad and I am scared and I am mad! What do I do? Am I over-reacting?  Do I plant poison oak between the bushes in my front yard? What about the kids he goes to school with?

Winter Vacation

Imagine a cozy warm cabin on the north shore of Lake Tahoe.

A fire roaring in the stone fireplace.  An amazing view of the lake through the falling flakes of snow.

The smell of bubbling homemade soup fills the air.

Two pajama-clad women are seated in cozy over stuffed chairs, legs tucked underneath them, noses buried in open books. The pine table between them offers a plate of cheeses, breads and fresh fruit. Wine glasses are full, one with chilled Chardonnay and the other with a rich Merlot-Sirah blend.

Behind the glasses and platter is a stack of 6 books, yet to be opened and read and the car parked in the garage is not moving for a week.

Now, imagine that those two women are my sister and I and the scene is this coming January!

Yummy, huh?

I think so!  I hope Santa brings me some new jammies for Christmas. I'll need at least two weeks to wash and dry and wash and dry and wash and dry them to a perfect softness.

Wish I had a time machine. I'd skip Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and jump right ahead to cabin time. 

November 22, 2014

Out Of The Box

Friends! What would we do without them?

I, for one, would be sitting in a dark corner sucking on my thumb, or maybe both thumbs if it wasn't for my friends (and sister, of course!).

Several of my friends and I gather on a regular basis, sometimes in a kitchen to share a cup of coffee, other times, over wine and goodies in someone's living room.  Wherever it is, there is authentic caring and listening with open hearts.

Being "women of a certain age," we are all on the threshold of Act III of our lives. We've been to school, married, raised children; we've held jobs for the majority of our adult lives. We're all retired from our chosen professions but not retired from life.

When we gather, whether it is two of us, three, four or the rare moments when it is all five of us, something internal and eternal is happening. An onlooker may just see us laughing, heads back, tears pouring from our eyes. Another moment you may see us sitting on the edge of our seats, leaning forward, listening, really listening, to wisdom that comes from the depth of women's experience through the ages.

Each woman is a blessing in my life and each others' lives, inspiring each other to live bigger, learn to fly and be truly alive.

Jess C. Scott, author of The Intern states, "When someone loves you, the way they talk about you is different. You feel safe and comfortable."  How true this statement is with these women. We promised each other a safe space and we promised each other to truly "show up" when we are together. Each promise has been kept, 100%. So, in a way, it is not how we talk about each other as much as how we talk to each other and more importantly, listen. Through listening, we grow.

"There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature."  Jane Austen

Best Educated Guess

Imagine that you are twenty-three years old; just starting a family. You are a hard worker and the primary provider for your little family.

One afternoon you hear a snap in your back and your legs are instantly numb. Somehow you stay on your feet but your not sure how!

You get to the Emergency Room and after many hours and tests the ER Doc informs you that you have suffered serious back injuries. He prescribes pain meds (narcotics) and advises you to sit in your recliner for the next three days rather than lay in bed.

The next day, your feet start to turn blue and it's back to the ER. Same diagnosis: serious back injury! Advice: takes meds, sit in recliner but this time, get an MRI on Monday. More meds. May need surgery to repair damage.

Three days later, pain is bad; not improving, pain meds doing nothing. Steering away from ER, you see a different and highly recommended doctor. Diagnosis: Serious back injury, may need surgery but might be rehab-able. New meds, two weeks bed rest and most importantly, stay out of recliner; lay flat.

Two days later, pain not letting up. Visit another highly recommended health specialist. Advice: get up and walk; walk a lot!

What do you do?

Do you take meds and sit in recliner?

Do you take more meds and go to bed?

Do you take lots of walks and hopefully don't fall down as meds are prone to knock you out?

Do you draw a big circle with 3 or 6 or 9 pie shapes; each pie shape with one word. Recliner, Bed, Walk. Spin a soda bottle and see where it stops. It's not an "educated guess" but have the highly educated health care professionals helped you sort out a solution?

I'll tell you one thing....if they mention surgery again...scoot out of the way as fast as you can because that is a pretty invasive guess.

November 20, 2014


Have you ever loved someone with such passion that saying "I love you" to him would make you cry because the words, compared to your emotion, are so lacking in meaning and fervor? The simple word love is just too inadequate to express the depth of your feelings? To whisper "I love you" in his ear actually causes you physical pain by virtue of overwhelming deficiency?

Do you wake up in the middle of the night, tears puddling on your pillow, feeling lost because you are merely human with a language that is incapable of expressing how much he is cherished by you?

Do our souls mourn for us when we become so conscious of the limitations of human language?

"We are so limited, you have to use the same word for loving Rosaleen as you do for loving Coke with peanuts. Isn't that a shame we don't have many more ways to say it?'  
Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

November 14, 2014

Old Standards

Listening to Big Band and Old Standards today while I clean house.

Usually this genre of music makes me dance but today, not so much.

No tears....yet...but the mood of the house just seems somber.


Wrote the portion above yesterday. Couldn't shake the the worries and anxieties. Once more, my gut proves it's intuition, grandson seriously injured back (pulled muscle and 4 bulging discs), BOLO out on niece (disappeared from apartment in Redding, 3 strange men in apartment with all her belongings and her cat who say she left and gave them everything...uh, I don't think so!),  revelations about roomie (Darth Vader said Whaaaaa!), really good friend had a truly demonic experience and my husband is sick!

Gut's don't lie!

November 07, 2014

My Beautiful Boys

Several years ago, if you had asked me if I would ever pet a pit bull, I would have laughed so hard I'd wet my pants.  Just the name Pit Bull scared me to death.  I thought they were vicious, ugly dogs that should be outlawed.  My bad!

My grandson moved in with us and with him came a sweet Border Collie, Reximus Maximus Aurelius the Third! We call him Rex.

I'd been pushing my husband for a dog and he kept telling me to wait until we were both retired and had more time to devote to walking, training and being with a pet.  He did give me a book about dogs and bought a car with the words PUP on the license...yup, he is all about compromise!

The book had a lot to say about Border Collie's. Smart dogs, maybe the smartest in the world; they can have a vocabulary up to 600 words and understand sign language!  The book also cites a couple of studies done on dog behavior and traits. In all studies the Pit Bull came in second only to either Labs or Golden Retrievers in gentleness and loyalty.

Due to medical reasons, I was no longer working, so I was home alone with Rex. My grandson accuses me of stealing Rex, but I have to say, he just adopted me. Maybe because I was the most needy at the time because of physical limitations or I was just the easiest to herd. Without questioning his motives, Rex became my dog.

Two years later, our grandson and his girlfriend adopted two 6 week old blue-nose pits. Tiny little things but the mom had 19 pups and these two were not getting fed.  It was the middle of winter and those two little naked bodies always seemed cold, so I would let them snuggle just below my chin to keep warm (big mistake! Do Not, repeat, DO NOT let baby dogs snuggle under your chin, especially if the are going to weigh upwards to 150 pounds full grown).

My grandson and his girlfriend rented a nice house with a large backyard. The two pups (Rex stayed with me) loved their new home. A little after moving a huge storm came through and three oak trees in their yard fell. The tree punched a hole in my grandson's roof, took out their air conditioner and a little bit of rain gutter. The real damage was to the house next door. It destroyed the neighbor's jeep, swimming pool, patio, rain gutters and a little bit of the roof and the fence between the two houses.

We got a call late in the night. Can the boys come stay with us until the fence is repaired? Of course they can. We love them.

That was in June! Guess who still lives with us?  It seems the owner's insurance paid for repairs to his house, repairs to the house next door, but because the people next door were renters, the insurance company would not replace the above ground pool or the jeep.  The renters were quite angry and demanded that the owners of either house pay for their stuff (renters' insurance people, remember renters' insurance). When both owners declined the renters informed the owner of my grandson's house that if the pit bulls get out of the yard and hurt their children they will, most definitely, sue him.

The owner of the house just laughed at them but went home and called his insurance company to ask if he was covered for dog bites. The insurance company basically said, "What! There are pit bulls at your rental! We are discontinuing your insurance! No Pit Bulls allowed. The pups could not return home.

They are pretty well behaved for the most part. On command, they sit, they lay, they stay. They know the difference between off and down. They don't eat, even with the full bowl in front of them, until we say they can. We can take their food away from them, even a bone right out of their mouths. They still get excited when someone comes to the door but that's mostly because they catch Rex's exuberance for company. If Rex is on a walk with my husband and someone comes to the door, they barely raise their heads; just to see if visitor has food.

When I announce that we are going to bed, all three dogs run to our bedroom. Thor opens the door to the kennel, then he and Kona run inside and wait for their goodnight treat. They won't come out in the morning until I tell them it's okay.

We are trying to teach Kona that feet go on the ottoman, not the head! He is a chair hog!

The are really the most gentle dogs. They love to listen to stories, the love treats, they love to jump onto the bench under the dining room window to see what is happening in the neighborhood. It's cool to see all three dogs sitting in the window when I drive up, almost like they knew I was coming home.

Funny thing. After living with these two beautiful dogs, I have come to genuinely love them. Kona and Thor are really very lovable (though a little dumb at times). The heart-break is, we can't keep them. They are so powerful and I am so not! But, we can't give them away, either. This is Redding and we have a gazillion idiots who live here and want to make Pit Bulls tough monsters and, sadly, there are still some sick Michael-Vicks out here who get a thrill watching animals brutalize each other.

These guys have a lot of energy and need to be walked a couple of times a day. Both Kona and Thor are great on a leash. Kona stays right at your knee and Thor stays about half a step behind your knee. They don't bark at or chase any other dogs or cats they see on the trail. They don't pull on the leash, which, sad but true, Rex is very bad at, but getting better! Rex is better without a leash, but put a leash on him and he thinks he is a pony pulling a cart!

I can't walk both of them at the same time.  They are way too strong for me if they were to bolt. Not that they have ever bolted but I never count on never! My grandson and his girlfriend are looking for people who can be trusted with a Pit and so are we, though most of the people we know already have their maximum allowed pets.

November 06, 2014

Mid-Term Elections

To begin this blog, maybe I should start with the word "Duped"! According to, a Dupe is:

"1. a person who is easily deceived or fooled.
 2. a person who unquestioningly or unwittingly serves a cause or another person.
 3. to make a dupe of; deceive; delude; trick"

The root of dupe is French, coming from the word duppe derived from d'uppe which is the head of a hoopoe. A hoopoe is a bird thought to be especially stupid. (Not my terminology, I don't like the word stupid....but for this blog, I am willing to give it a try!)

A week prior to the elections, a new Rasmussen Reports national survey reported that 8% of American were happy with Congress and thought they were doing a good job. They also reported that there had been no change from the previous month and 62% of Americans were unhappy with the job Congress was doing.

Gallup polls varied the tiniest bit, with a 12% approval of Congress and an 82% disapproval.

Public Policy Polling reported that cockroaches were liked 11% more than Congress! With an approval rating of 9% and disapproval of 85%.

Two-thirds of voters who were interviewed after casting ballots said they believed our country was seriously on the wrong track. Every news report for the past 6 years has reported how the Republicans have basically paralyzed our government with a record number of filibusters, fighting every move to better America. They voted against helping Vets, raising minimum wage, are seeking to destroy social security, which we have all paid into with each paycheck. Truth is, Congress doesn't want to pay back the money they borrowed from Social Security because we're broke!

Chris Cuomo from CNN asked Senator Bernie Sanders if he was optimistic over the election results. Sanders response is the same as mine. The Republican agenda is frickin' scary. Cuts to social Security and Medicare; more tax breaks for the wealthy, more human rights awarded to non-sentient corporations, jobs leaving America.

Hiding behind the Abortion Issue, their "Christian-shield-of-armor", the Republicans are the ones who want to deny abortions but drive around with the bumper stickers proclaiming "The Government Is Not Your Baby's Daddy!"  So, keep that baby but once it is born, you are on your own!  Speaking of Christian values that the Republicans continue to scream to the tree tops that they are fighting for; why is their agenda so focused on shutting out the poor, the hungry, the aged, the sick, the veterans, women and minorities?

As you can tell, I am a little "put off" by the results of the election. I am appalled by how many congressional incumbents were re-elected and slightly more disconcerted on how many more Republicans were voted in. Especially since progressive issues significantly won across the nation!

The Koch Brothers are sleeping good and dancing all the way to the bank to deposit more of our money, sweat and blood into their off-shore accounts. They duped us. We are Dupes! At least we can still have pride that we are the head of France's stupidest bird and not it's ass.....though......

Courtesy of
Much like the Republican Party, the bird appears to be looking in one direction, when it is actually focused elsewhere.

2014 Mid-term Elections just tossed out the stately Bald Eagle for a Hoopoe! Scared? I am!

November 04, 2014

Visio Divina

Visio Divina (Divine Seeing) is a form of contemplative prayer.

Lectio Divina is the practice of promoting communion with God through reading scripture or sacred texts, meditating on the reading, prayer, and contemplation. It has been a long standing Benedictine tradition. Visio Divina, (Divine Seeing) is praying with art, bringing in all the senses during contemplation. 

Our culture today is one of technology. If you observe a group of teenagers sitting together, or adults gathered in a restaurant, chances are the majority of them will be disengaged from the conversation; texting, checking email, using their cell phone, playing a video or an online game. 

We are also bombarded with messages through television, movies, music and printed materials that attempt to define us; to encourage us to fit into a secular box with everyone else. 

The media tries to indoctrinate us, especially our children, that character has no value. It exhorts that what is important is popularity and material possessions. The message is: If you don’t have the latest gadget or wearing the newest fad, aren’t the “first on your block” to own something, aren’t one of the kids sitting at the popular table or you don't have the perfect body type, then you don’t fit in. The media stresses, If You Don’t Fit In, You Don’t Matter.

The distractions keeping us from establishing a meaningful portrait of our true self and nurturing authentic relationships, are endless and overwhelming. This is especially true if we are confused about our true identity and self-worth.

“A picture is worth a thousand words!” How many times have we heard this expression?  Images and icons have touched us in unmeasurable ways. For some, the sight of a pregnant woman stroking her unborn child through her baby bump fills us with love. A veteran returning from war fills our heart with compassion. An ice cream commercial on the television at 10:00 often pushes us into the kitchen for “just a little bit of something!”

Images don’t stop there; sacred art and images of a holy nature often help a culture define itself.  

One of the first actions the Communists, the Nazis or any controlling dictator does when conquering a village or country is to outlaw all religious images, icons and statues. Citizens who are found hiding a painting or even the tiniest statue are imprisoned or killed. Artists and sculptors of holy works of art disappear, never to be seen again. That is followed by outlawing prayer and the practice Christianity in any form. Churches will be confiscated and turned into government offices or storage facilities.

Arbitrators of these types of measures know that the loss of holy images, the intimidation and threats towards those of faith slowly eats away at the victims’ souls, their identity and eventually, even their humanity. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author, scholar and psychoanalyst, presents this theory in her book entitled, Untie the Strong Woman ; a book about the Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Love. She states, “Totalitarian ambitions move swiftly to first and foremost erase powerful sacred images that inspired souls to strive not for the state, not for any organization, but for the soul’s worth, toward Creator…” 

Many people are leaving their faith, or attending services in a robotic haze as an insurance policy for a place in heaven. It is highly likely that the only images they are going to have with  meaning are the ones that not only invite but insist that one strives for material substance and mainstream immorality. The possibility of knowing and recognizing the divine diminishes with every breath. 

Even if you don't believe in God, or a Creator or Source, it is vital to be able to see the divine in the mundane; to see that we are all connected and equal. We need to believe in the "holiness" of all of Earth and all her creatures.

While many take the bait our culture casts, many feel uncomfortable; they sense absence of authenticity; they are in a state of confusion, frustration and dissatisfaction.

Imagine if religious people everywhere could relate to the holy, to the sacred and divine in the mundane. If our soul’s worth didn’t depend on being reminded by sacred art, though sacred art is beautiful and glorious. If we could see God in the leaves of the trees, in the clouds sailing through the sky, in a tiny flower pushing its way through asphalt. What if we could recognize a sacred presence in the eyes of our neighbor; if we could close our eyes and feel the divinity in life flowing through us!

My husband and I are teaching a Visio Divina class at our church. It has been rewarding in many ways. We are meeting new people, contemplating the divine in the mundane and teaching photography lessons all at the same time.  

My husband is, also, the one of great faith. He knows his stuff though, speaking of religion, it would  be more accurate to say he knows His stuff? I, on the other hand, have been the great questioner!  I want answers and question everything. Visio Divina has helped me find some of the answers.