Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Gratitude List

Dear Family and Friends,
We are about to close out 2010, a year which for me has been full of wonderful blessings and joys. I know this is not the case for huge numbers of people, across the globe, and even in the midst of happiness my heart aches to know that so many are suffering. Let's hope that 2011 will turn things around and head in a more positive direction.

Mostly I am ecstatic to be lucky enough to live close to my grandson, Desmond, who is a bright light at age 2 1/2. Throughout the year, I've spent two afternoons a week with him regularly, as well as many other non-regular times together. I know how lucky I am! Here he is on his 'kateboard, in his blue "cow boots", about to head out on an adventure.

One highlight of the year was a day when our entire family had an outing together in Sausalito, at the Children's Discovery Center. Tommy and Annie joined us, and afterwards we went into San Francisco for a little visit to the Museum. The photo below shows all of us just after our picnic: Daniella, Kim, Megan, Phil, Tommy, and Annie holding Desmond.

The biggest personal sadness of the year was losing my beloved younger brother, Dick, to cancer in early June. We went to Florida for his memorial service and spent time with many family members there. I still miss him every day, and think of things I wish I could share with him.

Daniella had a year of gypsy living, traveling all over the U.S. teaching encaustic painting classes. She also published two teaching DVD's and a book. In April and May we went together to Holland (where she taught a class), then Berlin, Frankfurt, and on to Turkey for a wonderful vacation trip with our friends Wendy and Judy (same sisters who were with us in Korea the year before). We enjoyed every minute of this journey, seeing exotic new places and meeting great people. I wrote about all of it, and posted photos, on my (sporadic) blog, Her Secret Garden, in the April and May 2010 archives.

Because of so much travel, and the desire to stay close to Desmond, we barely made it to Whidbey Island this year. I think Daniella went twice, briefly, and I had only one very quiet week in October - not nearly enough.

Oh, and a big deal for me was joining a gym, hiring a fabulous and inspiring personal trainer, and spending the past year working out, as well as doing water aerobics several times a week. This tends to prove that you can teach an old dog new tricks! I am getting stronger each week, and it feels great. Better late than never, I guess!

There's so much more, but I want to keep this short. We love getting news from each of you, and thank you for the many wonderful holiday greetings we have received already this winter. I am so grateful that YOU are in my life. Wishing you holiday blessings and joy, and a heartfelt wish for a Happy New Year!
Much love,

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving 2009

"Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground." (Rumi)

This year seems especially poignant to me. It is balanced by life arriving (in the form of my magnificent grandson, Desmond, now 17 months and blooming!) and life departing (my beloved brother struggling with his metasticized cancer, far away from me in Florida). My own heart feels as if it is swelling with joy and breaking with pain, both at the same time. And that is life, isn't it?! Such big feelings, nothing staying the same, floods of memories, and daily appreciation of the newness and wonder of all that is around us.

This year I am grateful for so much, even the hard things.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Losing a Brother

I lost my brother two months ago, to cancer. For a long time I've struggled to find words to help me come to terms with this huge loss, but everything falls short of expressing what needs to be said. First of all, I could tell a bit of the story. Dick got kidney cancer a few years back, and it recurred about 3-4 years ago, in his lungs. Over time, it spread to other places in his body, until he was unable to live any longer. He died on June 29 at the age of 63. He was the youngest of my three younger brothers, and the sunniest of the four of us. He is survived by his lovely wife, Marnie, who was with him for 36 years; by three fine sons, all married; and now two small grand-daughters.

Dick was a monumental hero in my life, the best of men, the best of human beings. He danced his life with exquisite grace. At all times, he balanced his ability to be utterly serious and committed to the task at hand with his gift of lightness, humor, playfulness. We saw this again and again, in his role as a parent, a worker, a craftsman, a neighbor, and a husband. It was especially evident in the way he died. Each week he devised small projects for himself. He made gifts for people, copied paintings he admired, spent hours setting his financial and legal affairs in order, made home repairs, baked some of our mom's most remembered recipes, did research about parts of the family history that had not been uncovered, and spent hours writing his own obituary and planning his memorial service. He continuously set small goals for himself, and managed to meet every one of them except the last one, to live until his second grandchild was born, two weeks after he died.

He endured his illness with amazing courage, volunteering for a series of experimental drug tests once it was determined that there was no hope for a cure. These drugs caused a wide range of miserable side-effects, and yet he persisted because he believed that he might make a difference for somebody in the future. He never complained or felt sorry for himself, but used each day and each hour to get his life in order, deepen his loving relationships with his family, and marvel at each hour he got to live. He looked at death as a new adventure, and was fearless in the face of it.
I always remember him as the happy little brother in our family, whose white-blond hair and sunny disposition were so striking. He loved music and made his own guitars, carefully carving inlaid designs into the surface. He wove baskets, baked pies, loved to fish and to wander off into the woods. He was the quarterback on our high school football team, and always had a swarm of admiring girls around him. He was as good a humorist and writer as anyone I know of, and left behind a box of letters that I hope someday will become a book, so that all the world will know of his quicksilver wit and verbal agility. His creativity and talent was outstanding. But most of all he was a loving, strong, and deeply ethical human being. In a quiet way, he took care of many other people in his community, never seeking any reward for himself in the process.

I have many cherished memories of him. He and I sailed across the Atlantic together in 1965 on a small passenger ship. My parents had assigned him to be my chaperone (!) and he and I both were happy to discard that role as quickly as possible. Years later he flew to California for my son's wedding, and helped us collect and arrange flowers, put up tents, string lights, and take care of the many "gopher" jobs that come with organizing a wedding on a remote farm. He took me to his local airport one day and sent me up in a one-passenger biplane for a little flight designed to deal with my fear of heights - an amazingly scary but successful moment for me, and a great gift from him. I have hundreds of wonderful memories of Dick, and every day I think of the sound of his voice, the shape and strength of his beautiful hands, the way he flavored his days with choice bits of music. He has been my rock and I will miss him every day for the rest of my life. I'm so sad to have him gone, and at the same time grateful for all he has given me. There are some video clips of Dick talking about his life here, if you are interested. They were put up by his son, Peter, who spent time in the months before his Dad's death making these recordings.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Listen to the Mockingbird

A few days ago, some Facebook folks posted a cheery little youTube video of a young girl jumping up and down on her bathroom vanity, shouting a string of wild affirmations into the mirror about herself and her world. It was striking in its intensity and spontanaeity, a moment of pure and innocent joy in being alive.

This morning, lying in bed listening to one of the many neighborhood mockingbirds that light up daybreak with their lovely and varied songs, and in-air somersaults, I thought of that little girl. I love our mockingbird morning concerts, because for me they are a reminder to rejoice in just being able to be awake, alive, and participating in what happens here on earth. They are a gift of pure beauty, a vibrant pulse in life's heartbeat. Thanks, little birds!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Love my iPad, for those who wondered!

Inquiring minds want to know! So many people have asked about how I liked traveling with the iPad. I thought it was the perfect little traveling companion. It is lightweight and so versatile. I was able to use it for email, internet browsing, reading books, writing blogs, listening to music, playing games, making travel plans, reading maps, checking on flights, navigating subways and buses, and so much more! There I am, above, on the patio in Kapadokya, iPaddling down the stream of consciousness.

The keyboard is very sensitive and takes some getting used to. I frequently switched from alpha to numeric keys when I didn't want to, and it has taken time to get better at avoiding that glitch. For the limited amount of writing I did each day, it was just fine. Someday I may get a little wireless keyboard, as they are now available.

The biggest drawback was not being able to download photos from my camera. We left the country before the photo card reader attachment became available. This forced me to use Daniella's laptop to download my photos, and often caused a lag on my blogs where no photos were available for a few days. Hated that part!

One fun and unanticipated bonus of carrying an iPad was being among the first in Europe to have one. They won't be released there until mid-June. Whenever I took it out, people swarmed around it wanting to feel it, try it, play with it. It was a real people-magnet, like having a puppy only not quite as cute! On our flight from Izmir, I sat with an elderly Turkish couple who now live in Munich. They spoke only Turkish and German, no English, but we were able to converse for two hours using only my very rough German and the iPad. We shared photos, maps, and used the drawing/art application to make words and pictures to get around the language barrier. It was engrossing and delightful to converse with the iPad as a helper! Neither of them had ever heard of it, and they seemed unfamiliar with computers. Yet the iPad is so user-friendly that they were soon enjoying it and easily able to navigate around on it. We had some great in-air bonding!

I can also report that Desmond, now age 22 months, loves to play with the iPad. He can turn it on and find his favorite apps. He begs to play with it. So for all those who are curious, I love my iPad! Go get one!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010


For those who are interested, our tour was organized by Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), and in my opinion it was great value for the money, and super well-organized and exciting. I see on their web site that you can catch a last-minute reservation for the same trip we had for as little as $1995 per person!

It goes without saying that one's traveling companions can make or break the travel! We were fortunate to have a lovely group for our time in Turkey, and now seems like an appropriate moment to acknowledge that and say farewell to all of you! Most of these photos were taken by Daniella, who has the best eye!

First of all, our fantastic guide, Erol, who was like a walking encyclopedia of knowledge about Turkey, past and present, and who surprised us every day with new "discoveries". Amazing person!Judy and Joe (below)
Wendy & Roger (below)
The irrepressible Daniella (below)
Bob & Linda (below)
Edie and Nonie (sisters, below)
Marilyn and Mary Kay (below)
Don and Maida (below)
Thanks everyone for adding to our fun and laughter! Happy trails to you all.

Journey's End

We are back in Santa Cruz, after a long day and night and day, about 30 hours of travel over 10 time zones, stopping in Munich, Washington DC, and finally San Francisco. We were greeted by our doggies who gave us oodles of kisses to welcome us home again!

Yesterday was a bit of a fog, with the jetlag sandbagging us, although we did get to see Desmond, our grandson! One month away from him has been hard, and he has grown up so much and so quickly, many new words, taller, and running faster than ever! Lucky us!My little vegetable garden, that I left as dirt and a few tiny seedlings, is now fully flourishing, and we will eat good green things tonight!

I thought I'd share these photos taken in the airport in Izmir, Turkey, in the duty-free shop. In contrast, in the US any warnings on cigarette packages are microscopic.I also enjoyed this bit of "truth in advertising" at Ephesus.I have one more postscript to add about this trip (for now), and will do that in a separate post!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Gorusuruz Turkey

I don't have the right keyboard to put the little dots on top of all the vowels in that word, "so long" to Turkey. But check out this site: www.charismahotel.com to see this amazingly gorgeous hotel where we are spending our last few precious hours in Kusadasi. We just got out of a dip in the Aegean and then the pool, and are getting ready for the farewell dinner in the outdoor dining room on the edge of the sea. You can see Daniella sleeping by the pool in the photo below, lower right corner!For our last excursion today we went to Ephesus. It is the second most popular tourist attraction in Turkey (after Istanbul) and it was pretty crowded with tourists. Nontheless, it was a magnificent site, a once ancient city known throughout the world, referred to often in the Bible, and a place that was first built up in the second millennium BC, and then grew to immense power and size (estimated population in Roman times was 300,000).

What remains is impressive in size and scale, for example a theater that held 30,000 people, a library that was ranked as one of the top three in the ancient world (below), wide paved streets, marketplaces, huge baths, walls, and lovely mosaic floors. What amazed me was how much of it is still unexcavated, waiting for teams of archaeologists to come in and unearth what remains hidden. In fact this is true at most of the ancient sites we have visited in Turkey. They represent a fragment of the historical area, and much remains underground. In the photos below, the light green areas that stretch on both sides of the city are unexcavated.My imagination was fired up thinking about what life must have been like in this city at it's prime, and wanting to know more about it. Our guide suggested we begin by reading Architektura by Vetruvius, and when I get home I may just start there! Other suggestions most welcome.

We were there all morning, and only saw a small part of what can be seen. We then went to the Temple of Artemis ruins nearby, where the Amazon women ruled. Here the site is completely broken down, but we could see the size and shape of the original temple and it was massive, on the scale of the Blue Mosque.

Lunch was at a Turkish style place out in the country (Cave of the Seven Sleepers) where we sat on cushioned benches around low tables outdoors and had the Turkish equivalent of quesadillas stuffed with vegetables and cheese. These women were rolling out the flat bread and baking it on a griddle on top of a wood fire.And now our trip is ended. In about 12 hours we'll be flying on the first leg of our journey home, Icelandic volcanos willing! We are happy/sad about this, happy to come home to all our loved ones, and sad to leave this fascinating country when we feel we have only scratched the surface. We want to know the language, taste more food, visit more villages, drink it all in deeply. We love you, Turkey!

-- Posted from my iPad

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Counting Down The Clock

Sadly we bid goodbye to our ship crew this morning, after a great four day cruise. We will miss the playful young Farouk, our serious Captain, the impish and lovable Emi, our chef and newest convert to Spite and Malice, the wiry and soulful Hassan.

It was a long drive to Ephesus, across high mountains, through a big agricultural plain (Meander River Valley) where honey and pomegranates and citrus and figs and olives are everywhere. We made a special lunch stop at Sirence, a tiny village high atop a winding mountain road. This is a Greek orthodox village, nestled deep in the heartland of Turkey. As with many of our stops, Erol had arranged ahead for a prix fixe meal, covered by the tour costs, and all we do is walk in, sit down and eat. No choice of menu, all a big surprise. Today we were surprised by an 11 course lunch of such extreme deliciousness we thought we would burst. I tried to photograph the entire thing, and I'll get something posted as soon as possible. OMG!!etc.......

Temp was in the 80's this afternoon, but we visited the Church of St. John Evangelist located at the very spot where the acropolis of Ephesus was once located. At its prime it was the largest church in Asia Minor. Supposedly John the Apostle is buried there, and it has a long history. We also went through the archaeological museum to prepare for tomorrow's visit to Ephesus. It was too hot and we were too stuffed to get much out of any of it, sadly although there were some amazing statues of Artemis. We watched some huge nesting storks, and tried to find shady spots or passing breezes. Yes, we are tired from all this fun.

In the late afternoon, we arrived at our final hotel, in Kusadasi right on the Aegean Sea, where we will spend our last two nights before flying home on Thursday. This is a five star hotel, quite new and luxurious. there is a lot of access to the sea right out front, plus an "infinity pool", a spa and sauna, gigantic restaurant buffet included (looked a lot better than it tasted), and internet access. yay!!! Tomorrow will be our last touring day. It will be hot again. We will love every minute of it and soak in how lucky we are to have had this phenomenal adventure.

-- Posted from my iPad

Location:Gazi Beğendi Sk,Kuşadası,Turkey

African Queen? No,wrong movie!

We left the luxury of our sailboat this morning and boarded a little putt-putt river boat for a trip out of our cove, across the gulf, and up a nearby river. Both the boat and the river were, as Joe Stabile pointed out, very reminiscent of the African Queen. But our pilot fell short of Bogart's manly charms, alas. Daniella thought it was like the jungle boat ride in Adventureland at Disneyland, sans hippos and pith helmets. Anyway, we wound through a labyrinth of reedy marshlands, somehow following a main channel that would have baffled all of us. We were headed to another ancient site, Kaunos at Dalyan.This river was full of loggerhead turtles (huge) and blue crabs. Along the way upstream we encountered crab boats pulled up into the reeds where big turtles were circling for crab scraps, and men were BBQ'ing crabs. We put in an order, to be picked up upon our return downstream, and continued on upriver to our destination. Kaunos is a lovely spot, high on a promontory looking out over that gorgeous river/marshland area on one side, and on another down into a valley full of pomegranate and citrus orchards and red-tiled rooftops. There were a few shepherds up there with cows, and thousands of honey bees buzzing in the dappled sunlight. Turkey has a huge honey business, and we have had honey every day, some of it flavored with rose petals, divine. And yogurt three times a day, super divine! But I digress.

The amphitheater and mostly unexcavated ruins at Kaunos date to the 2nd century BC and were lovely small in scale compared to what we have seen so far, although there were some lovely chamber tombs. We wandered around up there in the heat of the morning, then returned to our river boat and back through the marshes, lazily, making sure to pick up those crabs to go with our lunch. Not that we needed more food.

Meals on the ship were lavish, succulent, and varied. Our lunch following the river trip was eggplant moussaka, greek salad, rice, mixed vegetables, bread, and fresh fruit for dessert. Every day at tea time we get tea with freshly baked cakes or cookies. Then there is dinner, a huge feast. Last night we had sauteed chicken breasts, shrimp, fried eggplant with yogurt, steamed cauliflower, Greek salad, marinated red cabbage, bread, couscous, and fresh green melons. As long as I'm digressing, I'll let you know that our typical shipboard breakfast consist of tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, a yellow cheese, cucumbers, yogurt, an egg dish, orange juice, tea, coffee, two kinds os honey, several jams, and muesli cereal. It seem impossible to ever feel hungry, yet at each meal, we rush to the table, mouths watering! Maybe the relevant film for the day is "la Grande Bouffe".

After lunch and a swim in the choppy blue sea, we pulled up anchor for a bracing two hour sail into the wind and spray to Marmaris, a party town, where we docked for the night near a pine grove at the foot of the mountain. We were within sight of the town, but out of earshot, so we fell asleep to the sound of owls in the trees and the gentle lapping of waves outside our porthole.

-- Posted from my iPad

Location:Gazi Beğendi Sk,Kuşadası,Turkey


Never left the ship today. It was a day for total relaxation, sunning, swimming, eating super delicious meals, and soaking up this sunny sea. We've been gently rocking as if we were in a giant cradle, lovely! We sailed from the little cove where we spent last night, and came about 30 miles further west to Ekincik, another small cove. This one has a hotel or yacht club where many other sail boats pulled in all afternoon to moor for the night.There was great entertainment, almost Laurel and Hardy style, when a German yacht with 5 male passengers attempted to anchor itself to some rocks adjacent to our gulet. This is an operation that we have now watched our nimble crew perform many times with great efficiency in about five minutes. They race to the shore with a small dinghy, attach a rope to a rock or a piton, while simultaneously lowering the anchor from the bow. Then both lines are tightened holding the ship in place through the night. These Turkish crew members are totally shipshape. We have watched them and learned the meaning of "running a tight ship".

The German guys backed in next to us and spent an hour and a half trying to tie up. They first tried to attach to the same rock as we were using, and kept drifting perilously close to us. The engine on their dinghy gave up, and one ended up swimming back to the ship dragging the dinghy by a rope around his chest. None of them was able to tie a nautical knot. Their rope kept slipping, snapping, snarling, and coming undone. We watched in amazement as they struggled to attach the ship using a square knot, a completely futile proposition. Many times the rope snapped away from the ship and sank into the water. This meant that they had to paddle back to the rock, retrieve the rope, and start over ...and over... and over!

At one point they actually backed their ship right over the dinghy. Several times they backed up over their rope, lying slack in the water. They came perilously close to hitting our ship so many times that our crew finally hung bumpers around that side. And they never said a word to us, even though we were 10 feet from this riveting drama. Finally they gave up, yanked in all their rope and anchor, and pulled into the yacht club marina, which probably cost them a pretty penny, but maybe not as much as it would have cost them had they crashed into our ship. We were delighted to see them leave.

So that's all the drama from the high seas today, folks. Stay tuned for more tales of adventure in the few remaining days we have on this little journey! Life is really, really good here.

-- Posted from my iPad

Location:Gazi Beğendi Sk,Kuşadası,Turkey