Friday, October 27, 2006

On Overload

I'm feeling frazzled, overloaded, and that there simply aren't enough hours in the day. That's retirement for you! But it's all good stuff.

After getting home from months away, we went right into having Open Studios (an artist's event in Santa Cruz) for two weekends in a row. Daniella was showing her paintings again, and did VERY well, but it meant having about 100+ people a day cruising through our home, for four days. That's over, but it required a level of energy that was hard to summon up after all the traveling.

Next, I've been begged to come back and do a little more work at the University, so I've been going up about 10-15 hours a week for that. It's good to earn a little extra, but working is for - well - working people, not for us retirees! We like to have all of our time to use freely! I find that this is becoming a good habit!

We just took another short trip to Santa Barbara and Ventura - a two day adventure to drop off paintings at a new gallery for Daniella down there.

Meanwhile I've signed up for two small art classes - one about portrait painting, and another one for more in-depth charcoal drawing. Each meets once a week, and so far they are great. For me this is pure pleasure, even though I'm a little intimidated by the "real" artists in the group. I'll get there!

Add to that the daily phone calls I've been making for to encourage voters to get out and cast their ballots all over the US. Now I'm about to be trained to be a poll volunteer and work at the polls on election day, particularly keeping an eye on the electronic balloting process. As I've said before, not much scares me like the fraudulent voting tactics that have been popping up all over this country. I am looking for ways to do whatever I can to make our local process work as smoothly as possible, and to participate in this election in the most meaningful way. I've already sent in my absentee ballot - now I hope it will get counted!

Sorry, dear blogger friends - I haven't been much of a pal lately. I appreciate all of you who have left me such wonderful comments, even so! Many thanks!

Friday, October 20, 2006


Our house is usually pretty neat and tidy, but we do have our little pockets of clutter. This one, just inside the front door, caught my eye this morning, and it occured to me that clutter often has stories to tell. Usually in our house, the story has to do with "why we couldn't get rid of that" even though it is not something essential to our livelihood or well-being. I'll tell you some stories about this little clutter corner.

The big straw basket was a "score" at a yard sale a couple of years ago. It is African, and so beautiful - I love it. Inside that basket is a handmade quilt, a last-stab effort to hold me given by an ex-husband about 25 years ago. It is a beautiful quilt, too good to get rid of, but it holds emotional content that prevents me from actually using it on a bed. So it sits here filling out the sides of the basket. On top of the quilt is an assortment of toys, also found at yard sales, and kept on hand for neighbor children who might come visiting (but secretly also for our grandchildren, who are not yet more than a gleam in the eye of their grandmothers).

Also in the back of the corner is a Chinese umbrella stand which came to us from the estate of Daniella's mother who died several years ago. We now have a solitary green umbrella living there. It was left at our home last year after a party, by one of the hapless guests who apparently never thought of it again. It is waiting to go home, but it probably never will. There is also a nice, carved cane. Nobody in our home uses a cane, but it is nice and it is hand carved, and it gives the umbrella stand something to hold. Someday we might be glad to have one (but let's not go there!)

Next we see a small wooden stool (also from Daniella's mother's estate) which has never found a true place in our home, so it moves around from one clutter corner to another. Sitting on the stool this week is a Cuisinart in a box, the tiny size used to chop garlic and various herbs. Our friend Pamela, on Whidbey Island, expressed a wish to have one of these little machines, and Daniella found one, so there it sits waiting for December to come along so that it can be carried up to the island. Today, I might add, is mid-October.

Finally, the big blue daisy-covered tote bag in front holds assorted swimming gear - bathing suit, visors, sunglasses, lotions, towel, shampoo. It will be going to water exercise with Daniella later this morning, so it is passing through on a quick stopover.

For anyone who might wonder, the lamp on that table belonged to my grandmother, and then my parents. It was the one thing in my parents ' home that I most coveted. When it came to me, my son Phil made the glass lamp shade, when he worked at Johnson Arts Studio in Santa Cruz.

Does your clutter have stories??

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Lots of bloggers can brag about their sexy tomatoes, or their grandbabies, or their great works of art. Today I'm bragging about apples. When we got back to Santa Cruz we found the most abundant crop ever of apples and pears on our trees. The apples seem to get more delicious each year. They are juicy, tart and sweet. I've been making applesauce, and giving them away to anyone who will take them. We also have plums, lemons, and oranges in our yard. As the old saying goes, "an apple a day....." Wish I could send you all some!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Born Again

Our little dog Zuma has not been well for the last couple of years. She has been listless, overweight, suffered from flaky and itchy skin, and rarely seemed happy. She often sat with her tongue hanging out of her mouth, and taking a walk with her has been more like dragging a pull-toy on a string. Often she hid under the bed rather than go for a walk. She was cold all the time, and shivered frequently. Her tail was permanently tucked between her legs, and we never saw her wag it. We have taken her to numerous vets, tried out a wide range of pills and potions, and even had a "dog whisperer" come and try to figure her out. Nothing happened. Here she was, lethargic and seeking a warm spot to rest.
While we were on Whidbey Island we took her to the Useless Bay Animal Clinic, and the vet immediately said "I think she may have a thyroid problem". She proceeded to do a blood test. No vet in Santa Cruz had ever suggested this. Sure enough, Zuma had a thyroid level of 0.01, where normal is between 1-4. We immediately started her on thyroid medicine. The results have been miraculous! After just a few weeks on the pills, our little dog is like a puppy again. She is full of energy, playful, and begs to go for long walks. She runs all the way, pulling us along behind her outstretched leash. At home, she plays with toys and runs around the house like a pup. Her tongue no longer hangs out. Her tail is up and out and wagging. Her skin is silky and coat is filling out. The itching and flaky skin is gone. She jumps onto furniture where we previously had to lift her. She is curious and excited about everything, and more alert than she has been in years. It is truly like having a new dog, the results are so startling. Here is a recent shot of our happy little Zuma. Needless to say, we are thrilled!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Back on Line!

After a minor wrestling match with Blogger and, as it turns out, my outdated browser, I've managed to get back into my blog after a few weeks of having no luck! Sorry for the long silence. To those of you still reading this, I am home again in Santa Cruz, after our month-long travels through the midwest. In fact, in the last 4 months we have travelled over 10,000 miles through 18 states. The last trip was terrific, every day. Without writing reams about it, I'll try to share a few of my most memorable highlights of those last weeks on the road.

Milwaukee - the surprise city of this trip. I thought it was only a 'beer and brats' kind of town, but in fact it is vibrant and exciting. It has one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever entered, the art museum, sitting on the shore of the vast Lake Michigan. The museum was designed by the Spanish architect, Calatrava, and it looks from some points of view like a great white swan just lifting off into the sky over the lake. It is gorgeous, inside and out. Here are a few photos:Not only is the building stunning, but the art collection is magnificent too. The Bradley Collection emcompasses all of European and American contemporary art, with over 700 pieces donated by one collector.

Missouri - on our first visit there, we fell in love with the rolling countryside, leafy green trees, winding rivers, elegiac farms. One day we rented bikes and took a 30 mile ride on the Katy Trail, a bikes-only pathway that runs for 245 miles along the Missouri River, flat all the way. Despite our sore butts, we loved every minute of being able to get out into the woods and meadows and explore.

Grand Teton and Yellowstone Parks. This was another first, and both of these national parks did not disappoint. The Tetons are shown below, at sunset.We saw bison, wolves, and dozens of elk. One of the most exciting moments was watching a pair of bull elk rutting, ramming their antlers together repeatedly, and then bellowing loudly as they repositioned themselves for another run-in.In Yellowstone, we explored the weird bubbling, steaming, simmering geyser areas scattered throughout the park. We watched "Old Faithful" gushing high into the air. Everywhere in these park the views were breath-taking, and the air was brisk and salubrious.Autumn. As California residents, experiencing seasons is always a treat. During the month of September, the autumn colors were advancing as we drove along. We saw golden aspen, willows, cottonwoods, flaming maples, and many other signs of the fall season. So often I thought of just the simple notion of "America the Beautiful", because this trip was all about that - from the wilds of Montana to the lakes of Minnesota to the prairies of Kansas to the Rocky Mountains, and everything in between. I've had such a bittersweet feeling, torn between immense love for our country and huge sadness at what we have become politically, militarily, and emblematically in the world. If anything I'm even more determined to fight back against the powers of fascism and extremism growing in our government. Today I signed up to work at the polls on election day, because I am deeply concerned about the validity of the American electoral process. For some reason I'm more frightened of fraud in the voting machines than all the saber-rattling about terrorists. I want our voting system to remain intact, untampered with, and reliable. For the last 6 years, it has been violated repeatedly, and without the soundness of our votes, our democracy is gone for sure. At least, I thought, I can do a small part to participate.

Anyway, it's great to be home again.