Monday, April 30, 2012

Z: Zero. Zilch. Nada.

   Zero.  Zilch.  Nada. That's how much we have left to go in the A to Z Challenge.  I forget where I heard about this challenge but I remember exploring it last December.  I decided then I wanted to try it just for fun.  I liked the structure and I've had a good time with this project.  Prior to April 1, I had written about ten posts - random days where I already knew what the letter was going to stand for.  I didn't want to pre write everything but ten posts gave me a good head start.

   Some people opted for a theme and it seemed like the organizing panel thought that was a good idea (though certainly not required).  I, however, chose random as my theme and that worked well for me.  It allowed me to go exactly where my fingers wanted to go that day.

   I also enjoyed reading lots of other new blogs.  I have visited over three hundred blogs this month and I hope the list stays posted for a while as I would enjoy visiting more.  I have made some new blogging friends and my "to do" book reading list has grown immensely.

   In short, this A to Z Challenge was fun and, for sure, I want to do it again next year .  I'll probably start working on posts any day now!

Sunday, April 29, 2012


      This A/Z Challenge has been entertaining and informative.  I have enjoyed my familiar  blogger family and have been introduced to some wonderful new writers.  The bloggers in my world tend to be caring, compassionate, smart people.  They often make me laugh but they also often give me something to think about.  One new blogger I have encountered is The Death Writer.  I know, I know, you are going to wonder what the attraction is there.  In fact,  Pamela is an avid writer who, in her own words, writes about death because it is "scary and inevitable".  She has written a book about death but her blog is also full of lively information.  She is a witty storyteller and she can write like there's no tomorrow (go to this post  for a great example).
      When I was younger (like 20 or 30 years ago), I doubt that I thought of death much.  I was too busy planning for my future.  What would I do when I finished college?  Should I marry this dude or not?  Should we have kids yet?  How many?  How are we going to pay for them?  Where is the best place to raise them?  And then there were years of child related issues followed by dealing with their college years.  That is all behind me now.  Although I  am still interested in living, I am keenly aware that, no matter what the measure, I am surely far closer to death than I am to birth.  I don't contemplate what comes next.  What I do consider is whether I am using my time well.  I never really thought about that much before.  I marched forward, as I think many people do, taking the cards I was dealt and playing them as well as I could.  Not so many cards left to play now. Consequently,  I find myself wondering how I will live out my remaining years.  It's a natural progression, I suppose.  As time becomes even more precious, I am unwilling to squander it.  Not sure if I am or not.  Not sure how to figure that one out.
     In the meantime, though, I have become a follower of The Death Writer.  I have also secured a copy of Jessica Mitford's book The American Way of Death (revised) which I read years ago for a college class.  Now I will read it with new eyes.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y: Yes

Where does life go?
      My sweet daughter watches a TV program called "Say Yes to the Dress".  I've never seen it but I like the title.  I am going to play off that and suggest that it is time for me to say yes to the mess that is life.

     Somewhere back in my youth, I thought that if you did certain things in a certain way then you would realize a certain outcome.  Hmmmmmmmm.  So not true.  I am older and, yes, wiser now.  I know now that life is so much more disorganized, so much more cluttered and, yes, so much messier than that.  I am learning to embrace unpredictability.  I look for surprises every day and accept the constant adjustments that life demands - no choice on so many so why not ride it out with curiosity?  Life is complicated.  Life is a mystery.  Life is random.  But I am also all three of those things.

   How about you?

Friday, April 27, 2012


   I've been looking for an image, a way to represent XOXOXO, but I am having trouble with that.  All the images want to be pink and purple and want to show romantic love.   But that's not my take on XOXOXO - not exclusively anyway.

   Sure XOXOXO is a sweet way to let your sweetheart know where he or she stands in your life but I love to use that simple expression to indicate love and affection way beyond the couple thing.  I find that it states very accurately the connection I have with my brothers and my sister , for example.  I can always toss that string of letters at the end of a text message or an email or a Facebook post.  It almost feels like a secret code to them that says I love you and I want the world to know that (even if I am not your "girlfriend").

   When my kids were small they wrote that all the time to their dad and to me.  Relatively easy letters for a newborn writer to tackle, the XOXOXO says I love you without too much thinking.  I like to toss it at friends who are there for me - especially when the days are rough.  Oddly, to me, just the simple nature of the message brings levity to what might have been a difficult situation or a difficult day.

    In short, it's all about reassurance to me. XOXOXO is the shortest love letter and it can be sent to anyone.  Seeing that simple string of letters (or writing them) always makes me smile.  XOXOXOXOOXOXO

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W: Walls

        From “Mending Wall”

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.
Robert Frost

       Walls interest me.  The physical walls in the world can be low and decorative, they can be complicated and rich with texture, they can be high and shout , “I dare you to climb over me”.   Walls can keep dogs and babies in, they can give roses and kids a place to climb and they can keep robbers and heartbreakers out.  Walls can be concrete and smooth or can be brick and mortar construction.  It seems to me, if you are looking for protection, a wall might give you that.  Among my father’s many talents and skills, was the ability to lay brick, to build strong brick walls and I can still see him building the wall in our back yard (upon which he once told me that if I ran fast enough on the top of that three foot wall, I would be able to launch myself into flight.  Oh, how I tried!).
      There are also imaginary walls , created in the mind.  These walls can be designed to keep something inside.  They can also be  designed to keep someone away.  They can provide protection for the heart,  a refuge  for the soul, and some breathing room for the mind.  My father was the strong silent type of father.  Child of the Great Depression and boy soldier in the South Pacific during WW2, he saw more hardship than anyone should see in a young lifetime.  When he came back from the war, I think he build those imaginary walls in his mind.  I observed a hard working, responsible, loyal man who kept most people at a distance.  His internal walls were as strong and well built as those brick walls he laid.  I was a kid who watched the world.  Ever cautious, I looked at what the adults in my world did and I followed their lead.  I learned how to build strong walls from watching him.  Overall, they have served me well.

      Just for fun, I invite the reader to look at some walls I have seen.  Can you climb over them?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A New Thing: Comment Mob!

       So this whole blogging world is such a cool experience.  My blog has been huffing and puffing along for several years but it wasn't until last summer that I plugged myself into the larger blogging community.  What a fun surprise that was (and that is significant coming from me since I have been known to write about my perceived lack of surprises in the empty nest  years....) .  For sure, I have been touched by the connections among bloggers.  We share our good days and our tough days and we appreciate our individual voices.  In all likelihood I will never actually meet up with the blogging friends but we can still be a supportive community.

      One of my first blogging pals from last summer was cdnkaro at  fourunder4plustwo  This woman is amazing. She is wondermom to four small children (right there you got me), she is working on her Ph.D (got me again!), she has a translating business, and she writes about it all with humor and warmth.  Imagine this:  she's been a tad overwhelmed lately so some of her blogging friends are mobbing her today with good wishes and thoughts. She gives so much to her blogging friends and we want her to know she has been missed and is appreciated.  So, stop on by and visit her here.  Say hi and make yourself a new friend!

cdnkaro likes my art so this one is for her!

V: The View

       I like to walk with my camera.  I learned (from a certain very special photographer) that the best photos come if you look up or if you look down.  Consequently, when I travel, I tend to get a neck ache because I am constantly watching the skyline.  Sometimes my photos are artsy and/or goofy.  Sometimes they might appear bland or uninteresting and often what I found interesting was the color, the pattern or the implied texture.  Let me show you what I mean.

This is the Empire State Building, seen from the sidewalk across the street.
Not the view with
which you are familiar, heh?

I liked the angle on this one.  I am not sure where the tracks are going and when I look at this I feel ever so slightly dizzy and unstable.  Interesting feeling.

What got me about this photo was the layer of texture -
the delicate leaves in front of the sturdy brick buildings.

This is some building in NYC.  Does not the view seem entirely too surrealistic?

These tulips in Central Park appear so tender and soft, don't they?

This actually is sort of boring but I like the reflection (I like those a lot) and I like the way the
tree in the foreground contrasts with the buildings in the background

This was the view at dawn from our hotel room.  I liked the clouds most of all.

Glass on glass.  Need I say more?
Progress is being made on the World Trade Center Memorial.  Reflections, again, are the strongest draw here.. and a bit the old contrasted with the new.

Old and new.... business and spiritual (this is a block away from the real Wall Street)

I am captured by the light shining on the brick.  That's all.

Do you understand what I mean now when I talk about the view?  I like to take the customary photos of people and statues and ordinary stuff but I also enjoy catching the oddball stuff.  Which one do you like? 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U: Untied

“We all have an old knot in the heart we wish to untie.” 
 Michael Ondaatje, The Cat's Table

Thoughts  dangling,
like laces on a line,
waving in the wind.

Colors brushing,
like wind on the water,
painting the world inside.

Fears breaking,
like hearts given away,
shattering among the waves.

A life, incomplete and lost,

Monday, April 23, 2012

T: The Trip

      I had another idea for the letter T but my head is full of my recent adventure so that's the account you get to read.  This year's T can wait for next year....

      At this moment, I am sitting at the JetBlue gate at JFK but the adventure began at SFO.  Early on last Thursday morning (and we are talking early, even for me - 3:30 am) I drove my silver bug Oskar down to San Francisco to pick up Sonny Boy.  He lives in the Sunset district so we tooled from there a bit south to SF International, made our way out to the long term parking garage, and then got the shuttle back to the terminals.  Security proved to be a challenge on two accounts, one inevitable and one a result of my carelessness.  I have a 4 inch chunk of metal along my right collar bone so bingo - there goes the metal detector.  Pat down time.  Fine.  While waiting for the TSA person I am asked by another TSA person if the bag she is holding is mine.  Yup.  "Do you have a knife in here?" she asks.  "Heck NO," I assure her. Guess what?  I did have a knife in there.  I was using the backpack that I take to work every day and I carry a paring knife in a sheaf.  Oops.  You know where this is going.  Fortunately, we all actually had a chuckle over it because I think they could tell I was flabbergasted.  I also freely released my paring knife to them.

      From there it was a jam packed three days. Tons of walking, hundreds of photos, one museum (MOMA), lots of general tourist behavior, and volumes of good conversation with Sonny Boy and my other traveling companion, Kevin.  On Friday evening, we all attended a rehearsal, out-of-towners dinner for the wedding couple.  That was a blast!  Perhaps forty people present, all very engaging and lively people.  That dinner set the stage for the wedding the following late afternoon.  The ceremony was at Prospect Park in Brooklyn.  The weather prediction had been iffy all week and the evening turned out to be cool and breezy but not wet.  Excellent omen.  I was the celebrant and embraced my role as master of ceremonies.  I had a story to tell.  It was really Tim and Sierra's story but I loved performing it.  Again, the guests were wonderful, interesting, energetic people and I do believe the wedding couple have surrounded themselves with a slew of positive and creative people.  It was an electric place to be.

      I won't get home until late tonight but I was smart enough to take tomorrow off from work.  I will need to collect myself before going back to the trenches.  I had been mentally preparing for this trip since late last fall.  My comfort level with the whole thing varied, depending on my exhaustion and confidence levels.  As the trip is wrapping up, I am pleased to report that it is all good.  I learned a lot, I made sweet connections with new and old friends, and my eyes were further opened to life.  Recharged and inclined to more adventure, I remain alive.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S: Sebastopol, CA

    S is for Sebastopol, CA, the place that I now call home.  Sebby (one of two common nicknames - the other is Sebtown) is a quirky small town about 60 miles north of San Francisco.  We are on the western edge of the Santa Rosa plain, about 8 miles from downtown Santa Rosa and about 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean.  Our population is about 7,500 but the surrounding rural population brings the "market" population up to about 50,000.

 We are quirky in the way that many small towns are quirky.

Of course, there is a quirky store called "Funk and Flash".

     We are a haven for artists.  There is an Art Center, a Community Center (with regular musical performances), an art supply store, a small town theater, and lots of public art.

This is one of many murals in town.  It lives on the back of the surf shop.

 Our population is diverse, though largely white (72%).  Our community is comfortable with  same sex partnerships and tends to support the Occupy movement.  There also is a politically conservative element in town and people generally treat each other with respect despite political or social differences.

The town has much pride in its sister cities and its high school.

      Our town used to be largely about agriculture, primarily apples.  In recent years, the wineries have taken over many of the apple orchards and tourism is becoming a more and more important industry.

       Sebby has an almost year round Farmer's Market and is home to several CSA's.  We have a thriving Whole Foods, two independent groceries, and two big name groceries.  The town residents have access to curbside recycling and need to be aware of water use all year round.

Sunday morning is Farmer's Market Day at the town plaza.  Lots of flowers and veggies and generally some kind of musical entertainment.

Our climate is Mediterranean.  The winters tend to be mild and not too wet (about 40 inches of rain a year) with an average winter high temperature of 56 degrees and average low of 30 degrees.  Summer temperatures are tempered by the marine influence off the Pacific coast.  The average high in the summer is 80 degrees and the average summer low is 44 degrees.

The Laguna de Santa Rosa sits on our northern edge.  It has many trails and is visited by lots of birds, migratory and otherwise.

I really could go on about all the pluses of this community but it would boil down to good people working hard to build a tolerant , sustainable community for all residents.  We have a long way to go but the desire and energy are there.  Go, Sebtown.

Friday, April 20, 2012

R: Red

Dear Red,
      When I was a kid, I was afraid of you.  Even though you were my big brother Mark's favorite color, you scared me.  You were the color of blood and anger.  You blinded me.  I retreated to Blue, the color of calm, of silence, of skies and solitude.
       But something has changed.  I guess the change must be mine.  Now you are more attractive to me.  I appreciate your boldness, your enticement to have fun.  Even as the color of blood and anger, you are interesting to me.  I am curious about you.  No, you are still not my favorite but you are far more attractive to me.
     Look, I find you and embrace you everywhere!  Thanks for inviting me back!


These are not exactly the heels I will be wearing in NYC this weekend but close to it -- these are Jimmy Choo - mine will not be Jimmy Choo.....

Red shows up in nature in the most beautiful ways.
I read this book some years ago.  I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

I find more red in my original artwork now than I used to find there.

Red flowers can add a touch of bright to a dismal grey day.

This photo was taken in Boston - how appropriate!

Sunsets can be magnificently red.  This was along the Oregon coast.

Red toenails!  Summertime!

Tomatoes!  More summertime!

When Sonny Boy was six years old, he wanted me to make him a quilt.  He and I took a field trip to an awesome fabric store and he helped select the fabrics for his one quilt.  His favorite color then (and now) is red.

Yes, I do enjoy a nightly glass of red wine!