Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Ornaments Part 4: A history of a life continues


Wow.  It’s Friday December 17.  Next Friday is Christmas Eve.  This is the way it happens every year – the planning is so much fun, I always think I’m ready early, and then boom! still have the newsletters to send out, etc.  But this year I am in good shape.  Now it’s time to enjoy.

I have a few more ornaments to talk about.  Not that they are that significant or important, but just because I got started on this as a way to take a walk through a life.  Now I see that if I’d taken them chronologically, I would have a timeline.

Yes, it is.  It’s a Starbucks ornament.  I’ve spent many pleasurable hours in Starbucks with family and friends. This is a nice reminder.  Although it’s now a reminder of how pricey it’s getting there.  Doesn’t keep me out, though.  I just get less expensive drinks.

THIS is precious.  My three girls went to elementary school at Franklin in downtown Bakersfield.  It was a great school, great teachers, and just a block from our house.  In those days, the “old” days, the school had a Secret Shop.  I don’t know, perhaps the PTA sponsored it, but my kids shopped there.  One year one of them gave me this – it’s lost a few reindeer along the way but I put it out every Christmas.  Something about the tacky plastic santa and sleigh, and the beauty the kids must have found in it, makes it so precious.  I have something else they purchased at that Secret Shop – a shoehorn that hung on a hook.  It has an Old West look to it.  I use it all the time.  That plastic shoehorn is as tough as the West it emulated.

The Mouse King.  Nutcracker.  As a child I played the music over and over.  When we moved to Bakersfield we started going to see the Civic Dance Center production of Nutcracker.  This is an amazing ballet school and their production is just the best – nothing amateur about it.  Also, they dance with live music from the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra.  The dance studio is owned by Cindy and Kevin Trueblood.  When I was teaching 7th grade at Fruitvale, along came a student one year named Mason Trueblood.  He is Cindy and Kevin’s son and the most delightful young man you can imagine.  Funny, too.  And a beautiful, accomplished dancer.  I watched Maso (as I called him) play many roles in the productions.

Why did I call him Maso? Because on a standardized test, he asked why his name showed as Maso.  The answer was easy – there wasn’t enough room for the “N” to print.  And a nickname was born.  And see how much of a story I can get from the ornament of the mouse king?

I first saw the wiener mobile at Stop and Shop Market in Studio City, where I grew up.  It was thrilling!  To see a big truck shaped like a hot dog is almost a fantasy, but there it was.  So when Hallmark put out this ornament, I had to buy it.  It even plays the song: “Oh I wish I was an Oscar Meyer wiener, that is what I’d truly like to be.  Cause if I was an Oscar Meyer wiener, everyone would be in love with me.”  Strangely enough, one of my grandkids saw the wiener mobile just the other day here in Bakersfield.  That was marketing genius – 50 some years later, still chugging along.

This is the last ornament I’ll write about.  Jackie Robinson.  Oh the memories this evokes on so many levels.  First, baseball itself.  I’ve been a Dodger fan since they were the Brooklyn Dodgers and Jackie Robinson wowed the world as the first black man to play major league baseball.  Robinson was a marvel – quiet and dignified, an elegant player with a sort of pigeon-toed walk.

Next level is the historic Jackie Robinson.  I coached teams of students in a national competition called History Day for many years.  The competition has three levels – local, state and national.  My marvelous principal at Fruitvale Jr. High, John Hefner, was big on history day.  He did lots of things last minute but they always worked.  One day I was standing outside his office and he poked his head out and asked me to come in.  Three students were in there and John told me they were doing history day, they needed a topic.  I said oh no, John, I wasn’t coaching history day this year.  Oh, he understood, but would I just give some ideas? That day was the deadline for entry forms and this group needed a topic.  Ok, I said, – Branch Rickey.  Who was Branch Rickey? The Brooklyn Dodgers general manager responsible for integrating baseball.   Without Branch Rickey, there would have been no Jackie Robinson.  So Branch Rickey it was.

I did end up coaching the project.  As I type this I’m cuddled in a blanket made for me by the kids, a blanket of baseball material and fleece and signed by the three.  Another memory.  But the project itself – heaven for a baseball fan.  We had a video conference and tour with a historian in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame.  We interviewed Branch Rickey’s nephew; Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s widow; Buzzie Bavasi, a consummate baseball man who was with the Dodgers; Don Newcombe, the second black man to play in the bigs, the list goes on and on.  The kids went all the way to nationals.

The next layer of memory is about this ornament itself.  Jacob George, a fellow teacher at Fruitvale, was also a baseball fan and he coached history day.  He saw how much the project meant to me and he gave me this ornament.  It was his and he so generously gave it to me.  Jacob moved on to another job up north, and I’ve lost touch with him.  But Jacob, if you should ever by a small miracle read this, I’m so grateful still for the gift of this ornament.

This plus the last three posts are just a smattering of the dozens of ornaments on the window, all of them telling stories.  And now that I’ve started, I think I’ll continue for myself so the kids will know what these all are – if they should one day care.  Plus – I’ll have this to remember from when I wonder myself why I have something.

Season’s greetings to everyone, whoever you are and whatever you celebrate.  We celebrate Christmas and Chanukah, but my theory is, you can never have too many celebrations!

Ornaments Take Three


More ornament stories.

I bought this in 1971 in Malaga, Spain.  It’s a little set of a chair, hat, castenets and also a guitar.  I don’t know what it was intended for, but I use it as a Christmas ornament.  In 1971 we were in the Peace Corps in Oujda, Morocco.  Oujda is on the Algerian border and about 60 kilometers from the crossing to Spain.  There’s actually a small town on the Moroccan coast, Melilla, that is part of Spain.

So – it was cold.  We had no heat and we could see our breath inside the house.  We moved the stove into the bedroom and tried to keep warm by having the oven on all day, but it was a very small oven and ineffective.  We moved our dining table into the bedroom also.  The table consisted of a wide board on bricks and cushions for the floor.  That arrangement worked until I spilled a pot of soup I was cooking on our very small, light three-burner stove,  all over our bed.  And it took so damn long for anything to dry!  We hung our laundry in the living room all winter and it took days to dry.

I was pregnant, cold, and not real thrilled, so we decided to take a boat to Malaga for the day.  We got the cheapest tickets for the overnight trip and oh boy, was that ever a mistake.  We must have been in the very worst part of the ship.  There was a bunk bed – Jennifer probably slept on the top, but I don’t recall.  The only thing that I remember was that I threw up all night long.  My dear long-suffering husband took care of me.

But Malaga was warm! Oh it was nice to let warmth seep into our bones.  I remember looking in stores, Jennifer playing at a park, seeing the bull fighting ring, but I have no recollection of whether we spent the night or not nor do I remember the return trip.

That’s a lot to get out of one Christmas ornament, isn’t it?

Ah, the shoes.  Michael Purcell gave this ornament to me a few years ago just for fun.  Why? Remember when Bush was giving a speech in some Arab country and a guy threw his shoes at him?  The oddest bits and pieces of history stick, and inconsequential as it was, it’s now history.  I think many people will remember the shoe incident.

Ah, Jean Luc.  I taught 5th grade at Voorheis School and Tracy Elder had the other 5th grade class.  She is very sweet and generous, always picking up things at yard sales and so on that she knows other people will like.  She found Jean Luc Picard and gave him to me.  This was a moment of high excitement and I am eternally grateful to Tracy for this.  Yes, I’m a trekkie.

And while we’re on the subject…I bought this last year.  All you original Star Trek viewers, remember The Trouble with Tribbles?  It was a favorite for so many.  When you push the button on the ornament, the tribbles bounce around and parts of Kirk’s dialogue from the episode play.  This year’s new ornament is from the episode where Kirk and Spock were forced to fight each other, and the music that plays is so corny!  It’s amazingly terrible, but so wonderful too.  Mark and I watched Star Trek avidly and we probably have every episode of The Next Generation memorized.

The space shuttle.  An astronaut.  These probably came from the Smithsonian catalog years ago.  They tell me about my youth.  We were always excited about the space program.  I remember Dad waking us up when Sputnik was overhead, even if it was in the middle of the night.  It was so exciting! To run outside on the lawn (there goes the crazy family again) and watch for the little speck to move across the sky.  Mark and I of course watched every second of the moon landing, and we got up to see launches on television no matter what time.  That meant we saw the tragedies also.  The shuttle lands here in Kern County at Edwards Air Force Base when weather prevents it from landing in Florida.  When Ali was just over one, we were babysitting and heard that the shuttle would be landing.  We jumped in the car and drove the hour plus to Edwards, made it on time, and watched the shuttle land on Rogers Dry Lake bed.  Wow.  I don’t know if Ali observed anything but we marveled at how quickly the shuttle dropped in – really, it is as if it drops in, it loses altitude so quickly.  Great day.

One more for tonight.

Glennwood Hot Springs.  Soon after Karen and Steve moved to Colorado, we headed out on a spring break, taking Ali and Daxton with us.  One day we drove up to Glennwood Springs to see the caverns and swim in the hot springs.  I’ll always remember all of us taking a tour of the caverns – except Jackson, who was screaming his head off.  I believe Steve stayed out with Jackson.  The hot springs were wonderful but Karen didn’t go in – she was pregnant.  Karen’s spent a lot of time being pregnant.  Good trip though.  I’ll always remember Ali’s amazement when we went up the mountain on an aerial tramway.  She didn’t know we’d be going up so high, and so high off the ground.

Good memories.  Even Jackson’s screaming fit.

Ornaments tell a story, part 2


Yesterday I started a little series on Chrismas ornaments and how they tell stories.  How every year when I hang ornaments on our window, I replay the particular occasion that the ornament brings to mind.  I put this photo in yesterday, but in case you missed it, I’ll do it again because we don’t have a tree, we have a window.

So, a few more stories.

When I taught at Fruitvale Jr. High my lunch was fifth period.  About ten of us had 5th period lunch and we became a close group.  We always ate in the lunch room.  I didn’t allow anyone to eat lunch in their classroom while they worked.  Not that I was in charge or anything, but it just seemed important.  I know when new teachers started they must have wondered who the lunatic was who thought she was the boss.  But soon they realized we had a good thing going.  We pulled the tables together and talked, laughed, and learned.  There was no griping or complaining or gossiping allowed.  Our 5th period lunch bunch was legendary (or else it’s a legend in my own mind) and we gave each other little goodies at Christmas.  Lori Maynard, who taught history, gave out these tin seahorses one year.  Lori and I both coached history day and we spent lots of time together traveling to the state and national competition.  We don’t see each other now because she’s still teaching and I’m not, but I remember Lori every time I put out this decoration.  I think I’ll call her for lunch soon.

We went to China right before the Beijing Olympics.  It was a wonderful trip – a National Geographic Expedition and boy, did they do it up right.  I bought this little Olympic mascot doll to hang on the window.  You can see a pagoda hanging next to it – another of those Cost Plus ornaments I talked about yesterday.

I used to go to Lugano, Switzerland to visit William Jordan, a student of mine in 7th and 8th grade who went to high school in Lugano.  I went the first year for a long weekend.  Was I crazy? Perhaps.  But a friend of mine surprised his wife on their anniversary one year with a long weekend in Paris.  If they could go to Europe for a few days, so could I!  And I did.  The second year, however, I realized it was a bit much for a weekend so I added three days in Venice by myself.  I took a tour of the Doge’s Palace and afterwards, out front, found these cute little puppets at a cheesy souvenir stand.  I bought some for everyone and decided to give them out as ornaments.  Who knows – maybe that’s what they were designed to be – but they always make me remember that trip.

There’s something else it reminds me of, too.  I booked a room in a small little place I found in the Rick Steves tour book.  After checking in, I set out for a walk to get an idea of the surroundings, and when I decided it was time to head back, I realized I had no idea what the name of the place was or where it was – and no business card or anything!   I didn’t really panic because I realized Venice is very small and it’s an island so I was bound to stumble upon it sometime. I started walking until I saw places that looked familiar – and I’ll tell you, my lifetime habit of taking note of my surroundings really paid off. I did find my room without too much difficulty – no small feat, but I did it.

This star was a gift from my dear friend Michael Purcell.  He’d gone to Santa Fe and brought this ornament back.  I remember lots more that I won’t discuss, because it became a very painful time in Michael’s life.  It all worked out, and I see the ornament as a testament to resiliency and the human spirit.

Ah, this bedraggled kitten in a mitten.  I fell in love with it as a twisted version of the Three Little Kittens who lost their mittens.  And I bought it in a Christmas store on the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  Christmas stores that were open all year weren’t so common then – it must have been 1974 – but we had good years in North Carolina and great trips to the Outer Banks, so that store provided me with lots more than a kitten in a mitten.  It’s provided me with memories of our three years in North Carolina.

Yes, it’s a key chain and I really didn’t need a key chain but I determined it could go on the Christmas window.  When Ali, my 16-year-old granddaughter was in 7rh grade, she and a friend made a video documentary for History Day on Fannie Lou Hamer.  Hamer was a hero of the Civil Rights Movement and you can go right here on You Tube and watch their video  Take ten minutes to learn something about this remarkable woman.  Ali and Allie were invited to present their documentary at the Second Annual Conference of Mississippi Civil Rights Veterans, where it was well received.  This key chain has nothing to do with Fannie Lou Hamer, but it is from the Mississippi Museum of Natural History and it brings the entire experience to mind.  And it is a gecko, which again has nothing to do with Fannie Lou Hamer, but I like geckos.  I have a tattoo of a gecko on my back (my 60th birthday present to myself).

If you watch the video and want to contribute to a fund for a statue to honor this woman, go to  You can give as little or as much as you want.

Ok last one today.

Two gold birds.  Three years ago was my parent’s 65th wedding anniversary and I planned a big party.  I went all out with decorations and these gold birds I believe I used on the napkins.  It was an amazing event if I do say so, so now I put the birds on the Christmas window not just as a reminder of the party, but as a testament to a long and happy marriage.  My parents just celebrated their 68th.

More tomorrow.

The final score: a perfect ten


A perfect ten.  I’m talking grandkids. With the arrival of Samuel Mark Jefferson Davies on October 28, we went from an excellent nine to a perfect ten.

This is how our grandkids go: junior in high school; sophomore in high school; freshman in high school; two in eighth grade; fifth grader; first grader; kindergartner; three-year-old, and newborn.  Quite a spread.  Thinking back to the first grandchild means thinking back 16 years.  How is that possible?  When Ali was born, her mom was still in college so we babysat Ali LOTS.  Finishing college was a priority; at least it was a priority for us that our daughter finish.

Ali was a wonderment. Mark and I would hold her and watch every little move.  We’d ask each other, “Did our kids do that?” If she fell asleep in my arms, I sat with her, no matter how uncomfortable it got.  Our patience was endless.  Then Sarah was born. She was just a little Jennifer – we saw so much of our oldest daughter in her right away.  Kim was next with her second.  The oldest and youngest daughter traded off.  After Daxton, it was Jen’s turn again and she had twins, Sophie and Joe.  There was a three-year pause until Kim had #3, Xavier.  Daughter’s #1 and #3 were finished.

And then came Karen, daughter #2. So exciting when Annabelle was born.  Then Jackson came along quickly – pretty hard having babies a year apart.  And the Colorado adventure commenced.  They moved and all of a sudden some of our grandkids were out of state!  We had the Bakersfield Six and the Colorado Three.

Three years ago I was out here for Cooper’s birth.  Taking care of a two and three-year-old was tiring.  A few days ago, along came Sam, and taking care of a six, five and three-year-old is not nearly as tiring.

I do have a way of complicating things, however.  I plan activities. Weeks ago I sent out a box full of fabric paint, glitter glue, Halloween candy, and assorted other decorations so we could decorate trick-or-treat bags. I sent out Halloween cupcake papers and paper umbrellas so we could make cupcakes.

Karen and Sam beat me.

My kids and I are pretty good at popping babies out, and they all weigh 8+ pounds.  Except the twins of course- they were smaller.

Sam arrived on the 28th and I got here on the 29th.  Steve picked me up at the airport in Grand Junction and we all went to the hospital to pick up Karen and Sam.  Annabelle, Jackson, and Cooper got their first look.

Jackson is scrambling – he must be headed towards Karen’s lap.

Abbo and Jacks took a closer look, and Abbo made a pronouncement: “He’s a girl.”

We’re pretty sure that by now she’s decided he indeed is a boy.

Abbo was still focused on Sam, and Steve had him ready to go home.  But Jackson got excited, so he ran around the room holding his pants up.

He thought this was the most incredibly funny thing ever.  Listening to his joyous laughter, we couldn’t help but laugh too.  I tell you, as the mom of three girls, boys are a different breed. When Joseph and I had our first tea party he was two. And when we were done, he threw his cup against the wall.  The girls never did that. The girls never did things like Jackson, either.

So we came home to Paonia.  And today being the day before Halloween, we did our Halloween activities.

First, decorating bags for trick or treating. Gads, setting up everything for the bag decorating was like herding cats.  Sit still, no, don’t touch, hang on, wait until we’re ready.  We’re ready.  Finally.

Abbo is a first-grader and she understands glue.  Cooper watched and then started gluing herself.

But none of that boring white glue for Cooper – nope, she used glitter glue, not quite understanding that she was supposed to use glitter glue on top for decoration.  Whatever – I didn’t bother to try to get her to change.  She was having fun.

Jackson concentrates intensely when he paints.

I had some googly eyes, and Jack realized it would be funny if he held them to his eyes.

Abbo loved that idea.

When Abbo concentrates, she sticks her tongue out, so her upper lip is chapped.  Plus she’s lost a tooth, has another growing in, so along with the googly eyes, she is quite a sight.

Sam made an appearance.

The finished products:

They turned out lots better than I expected.

Moving on to cupcakes.  I sent the kids into their room for quiet time while I baked the cupcakes.  The kids were decorating, not baking, and that meant eating frosting.

So that was that.

Yeah, I knew it was silly to buy pointy things to stick in the cupcakes, but I’ve always loved those little umbrellas.  Karen made an appearance and put one in her drink.

All in all, the day was a success.  Tomorrow I’m taking Abbo to Montrose to get her some winter school clothes, and then Monday it’s school.  How different it will be with both Abbo and Jacks at school all day!

Right now, the wind is howling, there’s a smattering of rain, and the air is cool.  Winter is coming to Colorado.  All the more reason to get snuggly inside with the Colorado FOUR!

Fun in the Sun in West Palm Beach


I’m here!  West Palm Beach, Florida.  I came for the AYSO national soccer tournament because my granddaughter is playing on a team.  This has been a gargantuan effort – fund-raising over $30,000 so the team could participate.  In AYSO, all the money must be donated; parents are not allowed to pay their kid’s expenses.  That gives everyone an opportunity to attend.  For example, if my daughter wanted to put in the money for Sarah, she couldn’t – she’d have to make a donation to the team.  It’s a good, fair system but it’s been so much work!  My daughter is team mom, my son-in-law is a coach, and I am the grandmother.  Which is not an official position.

My flights were not crowded at all so luckily I had rows all to myself.  Look at this spectacular view from the airplane.

This was a long long day – travel day.  The next day was soccer registration and opening ceremonies, which I opted out of along with three of my grandkids.  It was a good decision – I guess they sat for hours in the sun and humidity.  A soccer tournament here in the summer is insane.

Cities put in bids to hold the tournaments, and I don’t think the AYSO selection committee thought about things like heat exhaustion, heat stroke, humidity, temps with a real feel of 111.  In a couple of years the tournament will be in Tennessee.  What happened to the northern climates, like Washington or Oregon?  Seriously, this is insane for real, not to mention dangerous.  You can’t call it fun for the refs and coaches and parents who worked so hard to get here.  Yesterday, one of our girls had heat exhaustion and she kept saying, no, she just didn’t feel well.  We are Californians.  We don’t know about that (although Bakersfieldians should).

I know about that, however, having suffered heat exhaustion three times. By the fourth time, I knew enough about what was coming to cut short my activity. ( That was the Unal Trail hike I did recently, by myself.) What I was saying wasn’t getting through, however.  If you haven’t exerted yourself in this kind of climate, it’s hard to know exactly how careful you must be.

But Sophie, Joe, Daxton and I had a great day doing some sightseeing.  We hit three beaches and greyhound races.  I’ve never seen dogs race and everyone said go, go, it’s fantastic.  I suppose it is in some ways, but I hate to see animals used like that.  In one race a dog tripped, and if it hadn’t gotten right up the day would have been ruined.  I didn’t really like seeing dogs running around a track while old men sat around working on their wagering picks.

The track had signs around urging adoption of greyhounds, but I don’t think that compensates for forcing the dogs to race.  My sister has recently adopted two former racing greyhounds.  Beautiful animals.

The blur on the left is the dogs starting the race.  There were two old men sitting near us, and listening to them talk I thought, these guys belong in a movie.  They would be perfectly cast in so many films.

Anyway, it was an experience.  But the beaches!

Look at the colors of the ocean! Couldn’t believe it.  This is Ocean Reef Beach in West Palm Beach.

We all just walked right into the water – it’s 82 degrees!  I love the warm Atlantic.

We were so lucky to be at a drawbridge when it opened  It’s the first time the kids had seen one and I always enjoy it.  Heck, I enjoy just about anything.  Except heat and humidity.  But I knew what I was getting into when I said, “Hey, I’d love to go!”  So no real complaints.

Back at the hotel to recover from the morning, Dax and Joseph had fun with ice cream.  Sophie took a nap.

We headed out for more beaches, this time to Dubois Park.

The kids were standing still, waiting to see how far their legs would sink.  Of course, being a worried grandma, I remembered reading about how someone died from being “buried” at the beach – you know, something everyone does, getting covered with sand so only your head sticks out.  But sometimes the sand can create strong suction and you can’t get the person out fast enough.  I had to go over this in my mind several times, how they were just standing there and it wasn’t the same thing at all.

To get to our third beach, we drove down this gorgeous street.

This town isn’t called Palm Beach for nothing.

We did lots of driving around and saw some very big, probably very beautiful homes.  The reason I say probably very beautiful was because we couldn’t see them.  This is the land of giant hedges.  This next picture is not a giant hedge but certainly an unusual one.  The building was so exclusive that it just had an address, barely visible.

I was determined that we would eat dinner on the waterfront and knew if I drove long enough we’d find something.  Just as I was about to give up, we did find something.  I’m not sure we were in the best area (ok, we weren’t) but the food was good enough.

End of Day One.  Just about any day I spend with my grandkids is a good one, but it was cool to be in a place exotic to all of us.  Even if it was humid and hot.

Coming soon: more beaches.

Go Take a Hike


Has anyone ever told you to go take a hike?  I told myself to do that very thing yesterday.  About 1:00 in the afternoon I decided to find a trail my friend Chris McKee told me about. Just a short distance from the cabin.  I loaded my pockets with important things like my lipstick, my small camera, water, phone, car keys, and set out.

I was a good girl.  I let my husband know where I was going since I would be alone.

The trail of the bear?  That got me wishing I could see a bear but knowing I wouldn’t.  But I did want to and thought how I would jangle my keys and make lots of noise if I did see one.  No dice, though.

So I set out – I was walking too fast.  I kept telling myself to slow down, I wasn’t in a race, I should look around.  So I took many short breaks to look around me.  In “My Photo Tips” on the tabs above, which don’t seem to be working quite right – but I talk about that – always take a look behind, to the sides, etc.  I took my advice.

Here I am, on the trail and happy, wearing that damn shirt I bought at WalMart about 7 years ago for under $5 I think.  It won’t wear out!

Here’s the trail.

Elevation started about 6,000 feet and went up to over 7,000.

First I saw a bunch of pine cones.  All kinds – they should have been labeled.  Close up, a pine cone could be many things.

This could be little hillocks with just a trace of snow.  Or something.  I started wondering about Fibonacci’s sequence in nature and couldn’t believe math had entered my mind, or anything to do with it.  Anyway, I think pine cones follow Fibonacci’s  Golden Ratio.

Now this was cool.  What a great shape; such a graceful tree.

About now my knee was hurting a little.  Oops – forgot the Aleve.  I have chondromalacia patella in my right knee, whatever that is.  It’s an ailment common to runners; however, I never run.  I am overweight – but I get a runner’s problem instead of a weight problem.  Go figure.  Anyhow, I adjusted my gait a little and went on.

Look!  It’s a rock. A rock for the ages. (Slap myself.)  It does have an interesting pattern though, which I could tell you about if I was remotely interested in geology.

I have to digress here – when I was teaching fifth grade, I was almost the only teacher in the school who did science.  I found a tape in the library called Igneous Rocks – yes, a title to excite anyone – but it went with our unit so I showed it.  Who would have known that volcanoes fall into the igneous rock category!  It was the most popular tape I showed all year.  And yes, I do mean tapes.  Schools are always eons behind in technology.  I had to buy my own DVD player.

How about this pine cone?  It landed upright, apparently, when it fell, because I’m pretty sure it didn’t come from that little tree.

About now I was getting hot.  I’d only brought one bottle of water because I didn’t expect it to get hot.  I was rationing.  There was no trail map so I didn’t know how long this was going to be.  I’d picked up a pamphlet at the trail head and it had numbers where you could stop at markers and read about how it would have looked from the point of view of the Tubatulabal Indians who were native to the Southern Sierra Nevada.  However, I put the pamphlet in a crevice where I thought the next person might see and use it.  Why?  I never saw a sign post with a number, and the trail map said “not to scale.”

I saw a butterfly.  I saw a marker. Sign post #12.  Where were the first 11?  Now I wished I had the not-to-scale map so I could find out how many signs there were.

It was a beautiful day.  But I felt a little shivery.  Uh-oh.  It wasn’t all that hot, but I’ve had heat exhaustion three times previously and I know the signs.  I wasn’t going to take any chances. I turned around and went back the way I came.  I was probably almost at the  mid-point anyhow, but I couldn’t risk finding out.

Going back the same way had its advantages, however.  I saw these flowers – I think perhaps they are called Snow flowers although they don’t match google images exactly.  Anyone know for sure?

Here’s a close-up.

When I got back to the cabin (about a 2-minute drive), I looked online for the Unal Trail and found it was 3.6 miles.  I’m sure I went almost two of those 3.6.  I’ll go back another time.  I’m sure I’ll tell myself to take a hike again.

Odds and ends and follow-ups


Review of Painting World War II: The California Style Watercolor Artists

The art show we went to recently, in which one of my dad’s World War II paintings was exhibited, got a wonderful reivew.

Check it out here.

Weedpatch Camp

I posted not too long ago about the Sunset Labor Camp, or Weedpatch Camp.  Here’s one of the wonderful things about the internet.  I received a comment from Judy Anderson, a woman who lived in that camp as a child.  We’ve exchanged a few emails since and she has helped bring history alive.  For example, here is one of her emails.

“In reminiscing about the past I remembered a few things you might find interesting about the history of the camp. There used to be tents instead of houses. At least the front part was tent and the back part which was the bathroom and one bedroom was build very crudely with scrap wood. It rented for $10.00 a month. The one room wood shelters were $12.00 a month and the better built wood structures were from $15.00 to $20.00 a month. There was a general store strictly for the residents which had the absolutely cheapest prices anywhere. You were issued a card when you moved in and had to show that card to prove you lived there. You could buy a loaf of bread for 5 cents. It was not the best grade of food but it did keep people from going hungry. It was upgraded as time went on and lost some of the stigma of being poortown. Hope you find this interesting.”

Without the internet, blogging, and so on, we could never make these kind of connections.  And I was able to put our local Dust Bowl historian Doris Weddell in touch with Judy.  Wonderful.

Alice Walker and the Fannie Lou Hamer Statue Fund

You know that cause that I keep begging people to donate to?  Even $10?  We got a big boost the other day when Alice Walker (The Color Purple) made a $10,000 donation.  Gloria Steinem is on board as an honorary board member and she will make a like contribution.  It’s so easy – just click on this link for; click on the NBUF button, and donate even a small amount.  Then feel good that you’ve honored someone who was willing to die if need be so everyone could exercise the right to vote.

If you want to learn more, click here.  Take ten minutes and watch a documentary my granddaughter made when she was in 7th grade.

Besides, as a committee member, I have to be bringing in some donations.  Help!

The first party in the new house

More like a lunch than a party, but I had my parents over for lunch today so they could see the house as it’s shaping up.  My husband went and picked them up.  My sister and her husband came also, and we had a lovely lunch in the backyard.  Beautiful day.

Stay tuned for more thoughts about moving and pictures from The Bellmore, a new underground (literally) art gallery in Bakersfield.  Plus – I damage another camera.

World War II art and random thoughts


Combat Artists in World War II

I’ve been keeping track of some random observations the last few days.  First, though, I’m heading out of town for four days.  Yep, in the middle of The Never Ending Move, we have to head south to the San Diego area.  The Oceanside Museum of Art (scroll down to Painting World War II on the link) has an exhibit opening tomorrow about WWII, painted by California-style watercolorists.  My dad was a war artist and we loaned one of his paintings to the museum for the exhibit.  I’ll put in a very bad photo (Know why it’s bad? Because right before we moved I ran around the house shooting snapshots of all our art – I wasn’t trying to take good photos, just get a record.) and then explain it.

My dad, Edward Reep, painted this in 1944 on the field in Anzio, Italy, on the Mussolini Canal.  Soldiers had come out of their foxholes at the canal surrounding the beach, which was guarded by two men with 50-caliber machine guns at night.  Six or seven yards from the foxholes was a mine field with a path through it separating the Americans from the Germans. These men knew the way through the minefield, and on this particular night, as they returned from patrol in the early hours of the morning, they were leading a cow.  Dad was up early, away from his foxhole to paint, and he asked the men what they were doing with the cow.  They replied they were going to have steak for dinner.  A few hours later the cow, having escaped her fate, came running wildly back into the mine field seeking the way home.  My dad described her running with udders swinging to and fro. Not knowing anything about mines, the cow blew herself up, and shrapnel (as well as pieces of the cow) just missed Dad.  He narrowly escaped death that day and he said he shook for a long time after that.  He collected some of the shrapnel, which shaved branches right off the bushes next to him, and still has the pieces.

Anyone who is interested should purchase or rent the DVD They Drew Fire.  This documentary about WWII combat artists was produced by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Brian Lanker, and it is amazing.  Basically, Lanker realized that most of the WWII artists were dying (my dad is almost 92) and if anyone wanted to learn from them, they’d better do it now.  If you go to the PBS site I linked, you can read more about it, see photos, read quotes (my dad is quoted on the first page), and probably purchase the DVD.  My dad is one of the artists featured in the documentary.


In the post on William’s visit, I got the order wrong.  I had us on the wine patio at my daughter’s house in the morning.  Not so – it was in the late afternoon and we were drinking wine.  What we did in the morning was have coffee with Chris McKee.  She’s Mike Murer’s mom, and Mike is my student who died recently of a heroin overdose.  Mike was a year ahead of William, but they both participated on my Headliners team (current events competition).  I think Chris and William enjoyed talking to each other.  Any connection is a piece of Mike, who has left immeasurable sadness and spaces that can’t be filled behind.

Random thoughts

Talk about going from the sublime to the profound to the mundane.  From World War II combat artists to death to silly random thoughts.  But we have them.

My friend Wendy came by a couple of mornings ago to see how the house was developing.  I realized that I was wearing old jeans that I refused to give up even though they were several sizes too big and full of holes. The term “bag lady” came to mind.  After Wendy left, the jeans went in the trash.  Enough is enough.  I kept the shirt though – the under $5 shirt I bought at Walmart maybe 10 years ago?  It just does not wear out.

I went to Target to find little gifts to take to San Diego.  We’re staying with my son-in-law’s sister, and she has three young children.  I bought some little beach bags, shovels, towels, got home and realized I had two pinks and a blue.  Each of my three daughters has two girls and a boy.  But Leanne has two boys and a girl.  Back to Target for exchange.  Imagine – not everyone has two girls and a boy.

The cats are playing so much more in this house.  They like it!  All of the old toys have been unearthed and they bat those little balls with bells inside all over the place.  Lily has lost her collar again, however.  I’m not replacing it this time.  Tiger has the same collar she started with; Lily has lost at least five.

Things are going up on the walls at home – finally!  My bedroom has reached a satisfactory state of clutter and I feel at home.  Pictures in a couple of weeks.

The State of My Union: A Week in the Life


It feels like it has been so long since I’ve been connected to a routine, to my home, to myself, that I barely know how to begin.   So the title of this post doesn’t refer to the state of my marriage, which is doing just fine after 41 years, but to the state of my union to myself.

I’ll start with a deep breath.  And a pretty view.  I looked out the window at just the right moment last week and caught some beautiful late afternoon light.

I think February is the very best month in Bakersfield.

So – my last post was on a home devolving back to a house as my parents lose their grip on reality and day-to-day functioning.  That post was like projectile vomiting – it spewed out.  This one is harder, not just because I don’t have an emotional bombshell sitting on my chest right now,  but because it has to do with putting myself together.  Sort of vague – how to put oneself together when you haven’t come apart.

I had a full calender over the last two weeks.  Lots of lunches, evening commitments, and then with my sister visiting, lots of daytime lunches and visits at my parent’s house.  All the activity reinforced something I know but sometimes ignore.  Sixty-three isn’t fifty-three; it isn’t even sixty or sixty-two.  Every year my tolerance for being on the go declines just a little. I have to pace my activity.  I can only handle so much.

All tuckered out

Let’s just take this week, starting with Sunday: we had a lovely Valentine’s lunch at a great restaurant in town, appropriately named Valentien.  (The link gives you the menu which says Saturday but it was the same lunch on Sunday.) Then we had dinner at The Orchid (Thai fusion)  that same evening with my two sisters and brother just to make sure we are all on the same page regarding my parents.  My husband is restoring a Model A Ford that’s been in his family for ages, so he joined the Model A Club.  Monday night was their monthly dinner outing, this time at Moo Creamery, and I had to be social and interested in dozens of people who come together because of a common interest in cars.  Which I have no interest in whatsoever. But if my husband wants to do this activity, be in this club, I’m doing it with him.  He does an awful lot for/with me that he doesn’t want to.  He demands very little, is very low-maintenance, and I’m thrilled when he’s interested in something.

Tuesday I spent time at my parent’s house, (my father is definitely extra-high maintenance as you might expect from a nationally-known artist), went to lunch with my sisters, Target and Ross, and then went to Fat Tuesday at a local club called Fish Lips.  I didn’t really want to go but BECA (Bakersfield Emerging Contemporary Artists) was doing face painting to raise money, and I volunteered to help.  I have to contribute somehow to these organizations I benefit from.

So I put on my festive purple hat and went out after dark.

Corky Blaine was there also, painting away, and the belly dancer is Nyoka, our BECA leader. (I want to call her the Goddess, she’s such an amazing person.)

Ok, that was Tuesday.  Already I was zonked.  But we had Wednesday, and I had a coffee meeting with John Harte, a free-lance photographer whom the newspaper had hired to take photos of my Altered Landscapes show last October, and he was giving me a disc with the photos.

This photo is from the show at Metro Galleries and it’s me, my husband, and my parents.  My parents look so fine – you would never know from a first meeting that my mom has Alzheimers and is forgetting who some of the great grandchildren are and that my dad sleeps most of the day.

I was going to go to the Random Writer’s Workshop Wednesday evening, but my sisters and I took my parents out to dinner instead.  We went to California Pizza Kitchen, which my dad forgets that he hates – so it’s his new favorite restaurant.  My mom was looking at the wonderful photos on the dessert menu and she said she wanted one.  Which one, Mom? No, not a dessert, she wants to take the menu home so she can keep reading about the desserts.  It’s a good thing my natural propensity is towards laughter instead of frustration!

Thursday morning started with Starbucks – I was having coffee with Chris McKee, the mother of my former student who died a couple of weeks ago.  When I had asked, during the week of the funeral and preparation, what I could do, she said I could have coffee with her in the coming weeks, when all the relatives had left, and there she and her husband would be to face the emptiness.  That was an easy request since I’ve always liked Chris, a fellow artist.  We’re going to make coffee a weekly event, which will be good for both of us.

Zonked for sure

And then I was zonked for sure.  Picked up my granddaughter from school, came home, and called it a day.  I was supposed to go to a mini-reunion of the Vaudeville Express Melodrama, a local theater I used to be involved with, but I just had reached my limit.  So I stayed home and worked on the photo-sorting project.

Today, Friday, I had lunch at Enso with Wendy Wayne, my dear friend who had the stem-cell replacement last year for non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and my oldest daughter joined us.

This photo is from the October opening of my show at Metro Galleries.  That’s Wendy in the middle.  She’s getting her hair back.  On the left is her husband Gene Tackett, and on the right John Hefner, my former principal at Fruitvale Jr. High.  We both retired the same year.

I’ll allow that trying to keep up with the Olympics, not to mention American Idol and Survivor, robbed me of what little free time I had, but a person has to have priorities.  And if you DVR the Olympics, it’s possible to zoom through them pretty fast.  I mean no disrespect to any of the sports or athletes, but how many people can you really watch leaving the starting point of the Nordic Combined?  And a couple of minutes of Curling seems adequate.


So it’s Friday evening and I am HOME and glad to be here.  The state of my union will solidify with some quiet time at home.  I have nothing on my schedule for the weekend, although that has a way of changing.  The parent situation is always a bomb waiting to explode.  In fact, when I got home from the Model A Club dinner on Monday, there was a phone message.  It was my mom, who didn’t understand she was talking to the machine, telling me something was very wrong with Dad – that he was shaking uncontrollably and she didn’t know what to do.  She ended the message in tears.  I called immediately and Dad answered the phone sounding just fine.  Whatever it was passed quickly and wasn’t as severe as Mom thought, if it was anything at all.  It was kind of scary that she didn’t call my sister or my cell phone, but at least she can still dial a phone.

The Photo Project

The best news and probably most helpful in getting the state of my union back to rights is that the massive, multi-week photo organization project is finished. Almost.  If you haven’t read this blog post do so – because you do not want to find yourself sorting decades of undated photographs!

So here it is – 14 cases full of photos divided into 12 compartments per case.  And inside each one is an excel spreadsheet with the contents of each of the 12 compartments, organized by month and year.  I am so relieved to have not only the photos organized, but the cases off my bedroom floor and out of the studio.  That alone is helping put order in my union.  But – there’s always a but, isn’t there?

I’m not entirely done with photos.  About 1/3 of the albums on these shelves contain family photos from high school years, college, our marriage in 1968, and our children’s lives until 1981, when the photo organization project started.  And the photos in these albums are deteriorating and fading badly so they all need to be scanned.  And then there’s this:

I found a box of really old family photos – both Mark’s and my parent’s families and early years.  So they have to be scanned for sure – and there are more photos than it looks like spilling out of this box.  Including the stack of photos under the box.

But that’s for another day.  I can start this project soon, but at least there will be nothing taking up space on the floor, so as long as my surroundings are ordered, my mind will be ordered.

So the state of my union is tired, basically.  Last week proved to me what I already knew – I have to keep my activity closer to home if I hope to get back in the studio and keep my mind clear.  None of these multi-meal out weeks – which are killers of balanced meals as well as expensive.  Going out nights and being out late (um – 9:00 pm is late)  is especially hard, and I need plenty of down time.  Home is the anchor.  Home is February’s theme for Creative Every Day, and it’s an important theme, because for most of us, if we are lucky, it all starts and ends at home.

Cleaning out the cobwebs – from my mind, from my studio, from my home


I feel as if the last week didn’t exist.  From receiving the news of my former student’s death until today, my mind feels like it’s been stuffed with cobwebs.  It’s like I went through the motions: I had a couple of lunches out with friends, did a post or two, perhaps I even cooked a meal here and there.  Probably not, actually.  Went to my granddaughter’s soccer game, visited my parents, had lunch with my sister, coffee with my daughter.  None of it felt real. I felt like I was in the lyrics of that song from Midnight Cowboy, Everybody’s Talkin At Me.  Just substitute the word “cobwebs” for “echoes.”  I wasn’t hearing echoes, everything was getting trapped in cobwebs.

Everybody’s talking at me.
I don’t hear a word they’re saying,
Only the echoes of my mind.
People stopping staring,
I can’t see their faces,
Only the shadows of their eyes.

Yesterday was the memorial. The hall was overflowing, SRO for sure, everyone from parent’s friends to a slew of young people from Santa Barbara, where Mike went to college, and former high school and junior high buddies from here.  Former teachers, his junior high principal, neighbors, relatives.  Overwhelming.  (I was so glad I’d reviewed my yearbooks from those junior high teaching years – really helped me recognize kids I might not have otherwise.)

Three people spoke formally – the close family friend who also served as MC, Mike’s sister, and me.  Then it was open mic.  Some strong messages came through from all three of us who spoke formally – actions have consequences, serious ones.  If you need help, get it.  If you know someone who needs help, then help them get it if you can. I have a feeling that this message got through to a number of young people there.

I made a photo board of Mike’s jr. high years.  Lucky I’m a picture taker – and lucky I am organizing my photos!

It’s been rough.  But I get to move on, unlike Mike’s parents who will never be the same.

So today after I got it together, which did take a while, I put my mind to home.  Moving on to the next verse of the song.

I’m going where the sun keeps shining
Thru’ the pouring rain.

Strangely enough, we did have pouring rain today. To get to that place where the sun keeps shining, I needed order around me, so I organized.  Sometimes getting one’s surroundings ordered does a lot to order the mind.  I hadn’t unpacked yet from getting home from the cabin last Sunday, so I started in the studio.  Feels so much better to have everything back in place.  Took a few photos of the studio.  My husband helped me hang the Chinese dragon I bought last year in Paonia, CO when visiting my daughter there.  I really needed a Chinese dragon, didn’t I?  I thought so.  It’s in the back right corner of the room.

It was the grandkid’s playroom but now it’s my playroom.  We’ve got a “mini playroom” going for them in another room.  Those are the grandkid’s names stenciled on the wall.

Notice the name Daxton in this photo.  I’m going to write about the adventure that name is about to take me on!  Maybe tomorrow.

Maybe in a couple of days I can get back to work.  Catch up on my journal.  Finish that dratted photo-organizing project.  Get a routine going.

So I did shake some cobwebs loose in my mind just by getting stuff cleaned up around me.  Perhaps my posts will be a little more inspired from now on, but at least I’m doing one.  Getting back into a routine of sorts.  Routine is important.  I think the fact that my mother always had good habits and regular routines has helped  slow her descent into dementia.  Didn’t stop it, but I know it was important.