Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my birthday. It's been a lovely day, me and Husband and Cipher (The World's Most Amazing Cat, Screw You if You Don't Agree tm) being lazy. I had a visit from the naan fairy. A serenade from dear friends far away. Presents, cards and even Husband's famous Once-A-Year Gourmet Mac and Cheese.

It's also one of those days where I tend to reflect on my life and how lucky I am. So I would just like to take this opportunity to say thank you.

Thank you to my wonderful Husband for your constant love, support, friendship, and care. You make every day better just by being in it and I am so lucky to have you in my world.

Thanks to my friends. All those crazy, warm, brilliant, creative, loving people who I am lucky enough to call friends. Each of you inspires me. Each of you makes me better, and you all make the world better because of your generosity, your social conscience, your kindness and your commitment.

Thanks to the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA for letting me be a volunteer. Over the past few years I have found true joy and fulfillment. I have made wonderful friends, and I have used my time for something so worthwhile that there are days when I truly cry from happiness.

Thanks to KZSU, for giving me the opportunity to be a radio DJ. The education in world music I have received from you is one that I treasure and which is a constant source of pleasure.

Thanks to the fates for giving me so much. A warm and cozy home in a safe neighborhood. Enough money to pay our bills. Access to good health care. The chance to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Thanks to you, all of you who drop by and read my words. Who take the time to comment. Who share your own lives with me through your blogs. Although invisible, you are dear friends to me.

May your own holidays be full of as many moments of thanks. Be well. Enjoy the holidays. And may we all have a happy and healthy new year.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Because of GB

Our dear friend Gabe passed away on October 25th after a long battle with cancer. Husband and I are both devastated, and at a loss as to how to help his wife and daughter deal with this pain. We owe GB and his wife, The Foreigner, a great deal. You see if it weren't for them, we never would have met. They were responsible for our becoming a couple and when we eloped, they were our only witnesses.

They are, and always will be, family.

Gabe was a wonderful man. He wasn't a superhero or world leader. He didn't invent something amazing or save the planet. He was just a good man who tried to live a good, responsible life. He had a huge social conscience and did the right thing without proclaiming it or drawing attention to himself. He just did what was right. And he made you want to do what was right as well. Because of him we learned of so many amazing causes and organizations. He cared about human rights, the planet, artistic freedom, education.

Gabe was brilliant. Not just well-educated, but a lifelong learner. He was an engineer with the soul of an artist. And he knew more about music than anyone I know. (And believe me, I know a lot of people who know a great deal about music.) He was a quiet man who didn't speak much, but when he did it was worth listening to. He was funny and strong, sweet and loving, gentle and generous.

And you could tell by the way he looked at his wife and daughter that they were the center of his world. He was so proud of them. Gabe wasn't overly demonstrative about his affections, but it was so obvious to anyone who knew him how much he loved them. His family was everything.

Those of us who were lucky enough to know him have lost a warm light. And somehow the whole planet seems diminished. His beautiful wife, who we love dearly, will get through this. She has a strength that is astounding. And all of us who loved him will help keep his memory alive for his daughter. But the pain of losing someone so central to our world has rocked us.

Go hold the people in your world a little closer. Never miss a chance to say "I love you."

As for us, we know we were so lucky to have him in our world. But it hurts like hell.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Not-At-All Highly Anticipated Return of Photo of the Day

The Saturday night carnival.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bix

The kitten nursery is closed for another year. Sigh....

This is Bix (named for jazz great Bix Beiderbeck), one of the cuties who came through the nursery. I just love this photo.

Well, let's see. It's been a while, hasn't it? Shall I catch you up?

One 4-day hospital stay and one ER visit for my usual zarfing mystery disease. (Actually it now has a name -- Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome -- worst name ever.)

Mom successfully moved from senior home to a lock-down home that specializes in dementia care. All good, except now we're fighting various insurance companies because her care is now close to $6000 a month.

Happily volunteered extra hours in moving our shelter animals to their new home. Our gorgeous new facility opened last month and is a huge success already. It's beautiful and a wonderful space for our critters. Big, open spaces. 10 x 10 rooms instead of cages and kennels. Our cats even have condos with windows! And they love sitting on the windowsills watching the birds fly by.

I've received extra training on dogs and have taken to working with them one day a week. At our mobile adoptions they seem to give me either the pit bulls (which I love!) or the problem dogs. Last Saturday we had a dog that was so much of a problem that I had to call Husband to come collect me and trouble-pup from the event and give us a ride back to the shelter. Problem-pup kept barking at every animal that came near him. Considering we had 5 other shelter dogs, a police K9 demonstration, and were massed in front of a pet store -- this was a problem.

Add to that severe writer's block and various personal problems and you have an excuse for my silence. Thanks for checking back. Just look at Bix, that makes everything OK.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


New and Improved
The above is one of the new cat condo rooms in our beautiful new Humane Society. Check out this story for more pictures and coverage of our grand opening.

The Tom and Annette Lantos Center for Compassion is our beautiful, state-of-the-art facility that opened yesterday. The day exceeded expectations with 27 adoptions. No figures yet on how many adoptions we had today.

The new space is beyond amazing. Big, bright, beautiful. The cat condos and dog dorms are large and comfy spaces where our critters can sleep, play, and stretch their legs. The cat condos ring the outside of the building so have windows on the world that our cats have already discovered. The window ledges are crowded with happy bodies sleeping in sunbeams and watching the birds in the trees. The dog spaces have comfy big beds and places for them to roll around and play. The kitten nursery is a huge space with viewing windows so customers can watch the kittens being fed and being all cute.

There are new areas for our birds, reptiles, and wildlife. We have a big play space with a retractable roof for our dog training classes and for them to just run around and chase balls. Forget small shelters with chain link fences and small cages. This is the exact opposite. And our animals are already showing the positive changes. They are more relaxed, healthier, and happier. And so are we.

This has been a sad weekend with all of the September 11th remembrances. But for me, it's been a joyful thing to have our beautiful space finally open and for the public to see what we've done.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Scenes from Silver Creek: Mrs. Blakey and the Amazing Disappearing Joint

Mrs. Blakey was the least popular teacher at Silver Creek High.

Junior high students were told horror stories about her by their older siblings and went into Freshman Social Studies with severe trepidation. She was like our own version of the boogeyman. Only in polyester pantsuits and a beehive hairdo about 20 years out of date.

She ruled her classes with an iron hand wrapped in an iron glove. And room 402 always smelled of her personal combination of baby powder and chalk dust.

To give you an idea of what a martinet she was, on my first day of her class (my very first day of high school) she gave me detention. Her reason? My older brother, Peter, had earned it but graduated without serving. In her power-mad world this made sense, even seemed fair. But to me it just served to make me loathe her as much as I had been warned I would.

Mrs. Blakey was approximately 137 years old and, it was rumored, had actually always lived on the site of Silver Creek High even before it was built. She was some sort of ageless, eternal evil siren and her lore only increased once you realize that nobody ever saw her outside of room 402. Ever.

She was never seen in the grocery store or the library. Nobody ever saw her walking across the parking lot in the morning. She was never witnessed going into the teacher’s break room or the cafeteria. I always supposed that she hung from the ceiling at night.

Because I have always had awful luck I drew Mrs. Blakey every single year. And by senior year she and I had reached an understanding: she would ignore me and I would stick pins in my Mrs. Blakey voodoo doll while she wasn’t looking.

Scene: room 402. I’m sitting in the last row of the classroom, trying to be invisible and counting the minutes until lunch. In the desk next to me Ricky Garcia is trying to be invisible and practicing his joint rolling technique while hiding behind his textbook. Out of nowhere, Mrs. Blakey calls on Ricky to answer some lame question about the Continental Congress or the Gross National Product of Peru. And Ricky, in a cannabis haze, panics and throws the joint into my lap.

Mrs. Blakey, seeing something flying across the aisle, stomps back in her Frankenstein shoes, her lime green polyester pantsuit making sparks as she walked. And there I am, all bored innocence, with a joint in my lap.

Thankfully, at that moment, Grace Minolli (always a kiss up) starts to answer the question about the Continental Congress or Peru and Mrs. Blakey is momentarily distracted. So I did the only honorable thing: I throw the joint across the aisle to Liam O’Connor. Who throws it to Andrew Neison. Who tosses it to Laura Fontaine. Within minutes this become the most well traveled doobie in the history of drugs. In an informal debriefing in the locker corridor after the Social Studies period it was decided that out of a class of 28 students, at least 17 had at one time had this joint on their person.

The only problem was that at this same debriefing it was also discovered that nobody walked out of the class with the contraband. Or at least nobody admitted to it.

At the end of the school day, when my friend Sean and I walked past the closed door of room 402, it was noticed that the room had a certain aroma surrounding it.

And that day Mrs. Blakey was finally seen off of the school grounds. Buying Hostess Twinkies at the 7-11.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Thanks
Thanks everyone for your good thoughts, kind wishes, prayers, and general support. It's been a rough week, but we're hanging in.

Mom's new situation is going as well as possible. She's not happy, but she hasn't been happy in over a year. The new place is, ultimately, safer which is what's important at the moment. There's 24-hour nursing care and they check on her frequently so our fear of her falling again is dimmed somewhat. In her old place she had her one one-bedroom apartment and unless someone was with her or just outside the door, chances are she'd fall and wouldn't be found for a bit.

We haven't seen her, but the management has been great about keeping us updated. She was very confused and angry at first, no surprise. She was moved from the hospital to her new place by ambulance and they got her into her new room as quickly as possible. I don't know if she's on her new meds yet, but this place specializes in dementia care and know all about dealing with someone as difficult as mom is these days. They say she's eating well, talking to the care aides, and everything is going as well as can be expected.

My family is dealing with all this in their usual manner. My eldest sister, mom's primary caregiver, is wracked with guilt and generally falling apart. My brothers are being "men" and handling the paperwork and insurance details. And me? I'm nicely detached, thank you. Filling in holes, being calm and reasonable. Trying to help while staying away from most of the soap opera.

Sigh...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mom Update
Short story: not good.

She's deteriorating rapidly. The other night she was found wandering down the street in the middle of the night. Proving beyond a doubt that her current senior home is not right for her. Luckily the police found her and took her to the hospital. No injuries, but confused, agitated, and aggressive.

We found a lock-down facility for her. (The sounds awful!) It's not a prison, just a secure senior residence that specializes in dementia and Alzheimer's patients. She'll be unable to wander away and will have access to more medical care than the place she has now. She'll have her own room, a shared bath, a and 24-hour nursing staff that has a lot of experience dealing with people like mom.

She was released from the hospital today and taken by ambulance to her new place. They suggested we stay away for a bit to minimize her confusion. So we'll stay away for a few days. This weekend we'll move her things out of the senior home and back to the house. At her new place we'll just move over photos and a few personal items.

It's been a very stressful week. Lots of e-mails shooting around between the siblings. Phone calls. Tears. Guilt. And more stress. But I think this is the best we can do. Her new place has gotten a good review from everyone we've spoken with. Mom's new doctor will work on her meds to figure out the best mix to address her anger and aggression. And she'll be safer in a place she can't get out of.

And, all in all, the whole thing sucks big time.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Health Woes

I've been sick off and on for a week. Mostly on. I am, once again, the zarf queen.

As if that weren't bad enough, my mom has taken a turn for the worse.

Last week she was in the ER on Monday. I was in on Tuesday. I went in with her on Monday and it was an ordeal, to put a positive spin on it. Her dementia has completely taken over and there's no longer even a shadow of the woman who used to be my mom. She used to be passive-aggressive, but mild-mannered. But last week she bit, spit, kicked and hit me and two nurses. It took three of us to put bandages on her after she took a fall at the senior care home.

She's taken three falls in two months and has broken her arm and gotten a concussion. Her anger and aggression has gotten to the point where the care home has decided they can no longer care for her. She's taken swipes at the staff and had a run-in with another resident. That was the last straw. They're not a dementia home, they're a senior residence for people with mild health problems.

So my family has been scrambling to come up with a new care facility. We're having her evaluated by a dementia specialist which is step one. We've received recommendations on board care homes that are geared towards people with Alzheimers or dementia. It'll be yet another jarring change for mom. Hopefully the dementia doctor can adjust her medications in a way to help curb the anger and physical aggression. We all have a feeling that this will be the last place mom lives, so we want it to be comfortable, safe, and as homey as possible. In her current situation she has a little one-bedroom apartment with her own things around her. The bed she shared with my dad. Her collection of magnets. We're not sure if we'll have that option in her new place, but we'll do what we can to make sure it's the best we can do.

In the meantime, I throw up a lot. Fun!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Photo of the day: Masks

More from the cemetery girl.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Photo of the day: Optimism

Another day, another cemetery. This is from a local Jewish cemetery. The big surprise there was the grave of Wyatt Earp (yeah, that Wyatt Earp).

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Photo of the day: Insert Secret Heart Here

There are a lot of sacred heart images at the cemetery we visited last weekend, but this one struck me because it came with instructions. "You are there!"

And so how was your day? I've got a lead on a contract writing job which would help bring some much-needed cash into our much-depleted coffers. I had a phone interview today and next Tuesday I'll have an in-house interview with a few people. Hopefully it'll be someplace cool with some interesting people. Although at this point I think I'd start on at Burger King for a regular paycheck. This sounds like a great deal because of all the plusses:

1. It's a start-up (and I prefer them to megacorporations)
2. I already know one person there (my favorite ex-husband)
3. It's only a few days a week so I can still spend hours on my volunteer work.

So I'm hoping it turns out to be a good thing.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Summertime Dreams

I am sitting on a chair on a porch overlooking the Petaluma River, or more precisely the slough that contains the Petaluma River as well as about 50 million bulrushes. I might with luck have found the baby that would one day lead our people out of Egypt, but actually I was reading a Thomas Perry novel and daydreaming. From the genius of Jon Carroll at SF Gate.com.

It just makes me think of all those long, lazy summers where you crawl into a lounge chair in the morning and by the evening it's shaped to your ass and makes removal impossible. You sit there all day, with period escapes for the beverage of your choice or a half-hearted game of badminton or horseshoes. Maybe a swim if you are at a pool or lake. But mostly it's watching the bees laze over the seductive lure of warm sage. Tracing lazy trenches in the dirt for ants to ford. Daydreaming about elephant-shaped clouds and anticipating the scent of steak bar-b-quing on a darkening porch. You think of friends chipping in to make salad and ruin dessert, and after dinner plans for either marathon games of cribbage and gin or perhaps a trip out to hear bad local music or drop a few bucks at one of the Lake Tahoe casinos.

But mostly it's about books. The fact that you backed more books than underwear in your weekend bag testifies to your desire to get lost in someone else's mind. A thumping-good read that leaves your mind free from cell phones, deadlines, e-mails, and bills. Spies and explosions. Retired colonels found dead in a vicar's library. A centuries-long galactic war for supremacy of the galaxy. A young immigrant woman looking for love in a culture not her own. Any store, any character you can attach your weekend to is what you want. That and a good strawberry margarita.
CD Pick of the Week: Vieux Farka Toure

Check out The Secret. Ali Farka Toure’s son stands on his own as a singer/songwriter/guitarist with a great African rock/blues style. Some great guest stars including dad, Dave Matthews, and John Scofield add extra interest. Powerful and stylish from start to finish. If you like blues, check out what our African brothers are doing with the genre. This is delicious and sophisticated stuff.
Photo of the day: Gateway

Meanwhile, back at the cemetery ...

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Photo of the day: Pieta

More from the Italian Cemetery. A rather impressively-sized Pieta.

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Fourth...
A CNN Poll reveals that only a slight majority (58%) of Americans know in what year we declared our independence. One in four didn't know from what country we seceded. Oh my...

Americans have a notoriously bad reputation for awareness of history and of the vast world beyond the continental US. I remember years ago when I was on a business trip in Chicago, I was stopped by a couple of college students doing a survey for a political science class. They were asking random people in the international terminal to name 5 heads of state from countries other than their own. Nearly 90% of European and Asian residents could. Only 40% of Americans could. I am proud to say that I passed the test -- I even stumped the pollsters when I told them who the President of Malawi was -- they hadn't heard of Malawi.

The 4th of July is an odd holiday. What's the deal with fireworks? Are we reenacting the national anthem? The rockets red glare? The bombs bursting in air? Who decided that we needed to commemorate our giving the finger to Britain with bangs and booms? Cats and dogs all over the US are hiding under beds and wondering what the fuck is going on.

Ah the rituals of the 4th. Burnt hot dogs and watermelon. Root beer floats and small town parades. In my white trash family 4ths for years have been celebrated with the family Olympics. These hotly contested games include a cherry pit spitting contest (for distance, not accuracy), a water balloon toss and, my favorite, the "who the hell am I?" game. Figures from American history are written on a piece of paper which is then taped to your back. Through a series of "yes" or "no" questions you have to guess what person you are. The only problem is that nobody in my family knows anything about American history. For example, one year I had "Ben Franklin" taped to my back. I asked an aunt "was I ever President of the US?" And received the answer "yes." Further questions elicited the helpful information that lived in the 19th century. It's no wonder I lost that year.
Photo of the day: Little Girl's Got Game

Yesterday Husband and I went on a photo safari to one of our favorite locations -- a cemetery. This was taken at the Italian Cemetery in Colma. There were hundreds of monuments with photographs on them, but this one really struck me. It's both sad and weird. Sad in that this poor child obviously died way too young. But weird because...well...what the heck is the story with the racket?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Return of At the Cafe Bohemian
Yes world music fans, Decca is back. Starting today, June 18th my radio show At the Cafe Bohemian will be back on the airwaves. This quarter I'm on from 7-10 pm (Pacific time) every Tuesday evening. You can listen online or, if your are in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can tune in to 90.1 FM for a tasty blend of music from around the planet. French jazz, Latin pop, Celtic ballads, African blues, you'll never know what I'm going to play next. Mostly because I never know either. Yes, three hours of making it up as I go, and making it all sound damned good too. Tune in, and hear what the rest of the world sounds like.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Beans 'n' Cornbread

Husband and I did a three hour blues show today entitled Beans 'n' Cornbread. It's been far too long since we've tag-teamed on a blues show and we had a lovely time. In the past we've done a sort of "he said, she said" show where he'd play "she's a mean mistreater" songs and I'd play "he's a no good cheater" songs.

Today we just played straight up blues.

It reminded me of a road trip story from a few years ago.

I was driving across the state of Georgia alone on a business trip. Since I wasn't in a hurry, I took a lot of little back roads just for the heck of it. I found a kick-ass blues station and rocked along with the windows rolled down and my best Etta James voice filling the car. At one little hole-in-the wall one-horse town I stopped at this little grocery store for something to drink. There were these two ancient black guys sitting on rockers on the porch -- looking like a stereotype of old guys in a small southern town. Howlin' Wolf was singing one of my all-time favorite blues songs, Smokestack Lightning and I pulled up with the radio blaring. As I got out and walked into the store, one of the old guys drawled out in that syrup-slow accent of the true south "oooh, white girl likes the Wolf."

Yeah, white girl does like the Wolf.

Tomorrow Husband rocks the airwaves with a special entitled Big Bands and Bongos which is self-explanatory. Lots of mambos, lounge-fi, bachelor pad tunes. I can't wait.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Photo of the day: PIt Pup

Just in case you're sick of cute kittens I give you a cute puppy. This is one of a litter of four pit bull puppies that came in with mom. Each is cuter than the next, but this guy is a total flirt. He and his littermates were having a fine time playing tug of war with a chew toy and hanging out in the sunshine. But he came over immediately when I walked up to the kennel and said hi.

In other odd news we have a particularly annoying bird in our yard. He chirps all night long. Aren't birds supposed to shut up when the sun goes down? OK owls and nightingales get a pass. But this chirpy guy is a mockingbird with a huge repertoire and endless energy. As if it already wasn't hard enough for me to get to sleep I now have to deal with Mr. Chirpy and his endless songbook. Husband and I, both die-hard animal lovers, keep saying "shut up." But no...away he goes. I might find it endearing, at noon. But it's midnight and he's singing away.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Revisits

There are some movies I can watch hundreds of times. Some books I will read and reread on a regular basis. And some where once is enough.

It's not even a question of quality. My favorite fiction book ever is Possession by A.S. Byatt. I've only read it once and have no intention of picking up again. Perhaps I'm afraid it won't hold up or that my opinion will change. So maybe that's a bad example. But you know what I mean.

What is that elusive quality that makes something worth revisiting? Why is it whenever The Philadelphia Story is on I have to watch it, in spite of the fact that I can probably quote the entire movie? And yet I have to be in the mood to watch the delightful Hepburn-Tracy comedy Woman of the Year. I can pick up the Dorothy L. Sayers novel Gaudy Night on any day and happily open it an random and be entertained. And yet her equally good book Strong Poison requires the right frame of mind.

My "endless watch" list of movies is practically endless. Casablanca, Singing in the Rain, On the Town, To Have and Have Not, and any of the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, or James Bond movies. And about a dozen more, now that I think about it. There are even nights when I should be sleeping (or at least trying to sleep) and yet I'm staying up because I just have to see the end of a movie I've watched innumerable times. A few weeks ago I stayed up because The Big Sleep was on and I'm genetically incapable of turning off that particular Bogart classic.

And when I'm prowling around looking for something to read, my hand naturally goes to the old favorites. I might pick up something I haven't read for a while and, without fail, I'll put it down and pick up Murder on the Orient Express for the hundredth time. Why is that?

There is certainly comfort with an old favorite. A level of brainless relaxation that is, at times, necessary. But it's still odd how often I go with the familiar rather than the different.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Photo of the day: 10

Yeah, on a cute scale this little guy rates a 10 in my book.

Sorry I have nothing but kitten photos lately. Tis the season...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Why didn't they all die?

By which I mean the pioneers. I'm re-reading the Little House on the Prairie books, which I haven't read since I was a kid. Back then I was just interested in them as a story and I think I viewed them rather like fairy tales. But now I'm reading about how hard their lives were and I am astounded that the entire generation didn't just curl up and die. Or freeze to death. Or starve. Or collapse from exhaustion.

I remember back when I was employed (well, employed for money) how I'd come home from working all day in front of a computer and feel tired. But these people slaved away at manual labor from before dawn until after dark. They plowed and planted, hoed and weeded, harvested, chopped, butchered, trapped, baked, scrubbed, you name it. And they were happy at the end of the day with a little fiddle music and some dried plums. Christmas meant a tin cup and two pieces of Christmas candy and they were thrilled.

How spoiled we've become. I was just feeling tired about doing laundry. Oh yes, how hard it is to carry a basket from the bedroom to the garage. How in the world would I have managed filling a tub from a well, scrubbing with my cold hands, hanging heavy woolen clothing on a line to freeze in the winter chill and then spending the entire next day ironing? The answer is, I wouldn't. I'm a wimp, I admit it. I am so thankful to be living in a world with dishwashers and central heating, TV and grocery stores.

When I read the accounts of how the Ingalls family lived I cannot help but shake my head. It all seems impossibly hard to my spoiled 21st century self. I suppose if that's all you know it seems normal but the amount of work involved in just getting from day to day boggles the mind.

So how about you? Would you have made it as a pioneer?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tails from the Kitten Nursery

We're only a few weeks into kitten season and already the nursery is full up. We have 24 residents, including one litter of nine. All these hungry mouths keeps us hopping and our regular 2-hour shift regularly becomes a 3-hour shift.

Most people think working in the nursery is non-stop fun. And it is, for the most part. But it's also a lot of work. Kittens don't always cooperate with you trying to feed them and I currently sport a left wrist full of scratches from one little guy who objected to my teaching him how to poop. Yup, you have to teach kittens how to go to the bathroom. Not how to use their litter box -- they figure that out on their own eventually. No, you have to teach them actually how to pee and poop. You rub a moist cotton ball on their little butts and hope for the best. The kittens, naturally, hate this and it's not uncommon to get scratched or bit.

Kitten claws are like tiny needles and, at the moment, I look like a junkie (according to Husband).



But then you get to look at little faces like this and that makes all the scratches painless. It's still a lot of work to clean the cages, restock the supplies, take the laundry and garbage out and replace the towels, mop the floor, scrub the tables, etc. But knowing that we're helping these guys have a chance at a good life makes all the difference in the world.

I love my job.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Photos of the day: More from the Nursery

In spite of the fact that kitten season has barely begun, we are already playing to packed houses in the nursery. Currently we have more than 20 residents, including one litter of nine (Nine!) kittens. The two shown here are from two different kennels. The little gray with the unfocused eyes is about two weeks old and is named Simon. The little tabby shares space with her four siblings and has mastered the art of charming everyone she meets. Today is going to be extra busy. THere are only two volunteers today so we're going to have our hands full.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Eight Things You Didn't Know You Wanted To Know
The lovely and talented Kittie Howard (author of a wonderful blog that I adore), tagged me to answer eight questions. I love a good challenge...

1. If you could go back in time and relive one moment, what would it be?
- I'd go to the last time I saw my best friend before he died of AIDS so that I could hug him one last time.

2. If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?
- I'd push HItler's mother out a window before she could reproduce.

3. What movie/TV character do you most resemble in personality?
- I can't think of any movie or TV characters but I've always felt a connection with the character of Harriet Vane, the mystery writer created by Dorothy L. Sayers.

4. If you could push one person off a cliff and get away with it, who would it be?
- Michael Vick

5. Name one habit you want to change in yourself.
- I'd like to stop being an insomniac. But that's not really a habit.

6. Describe yourself in one word.
- Weird

7. Describe the person who named you in this meme in one word.
Creative

8. Why do you blog? Answer in one sentence.
Because I have so many words in my head that if I don't let them out I get cranky.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

To Shop or Not
You know those women whose hobby is shopping? The kind with the "I'd rather be at Nordstrom" bumper stickers? Yeah, that's not me.

I hate to shop. With two exceptions. I cannot get out of a book or a record store empty handed. In fact I'm lucky if I get out for under $50.

But for everything else, I hate it. I hate trying on clothes and think that the whole process is like some sort of medieval torture. The act of looking at yourself in your underwear under flourescent light is just plan evil. I hate getting dressed and undressed and tying an d untying my shoes just because women's clothing designers can't agree on exactly what size a 10 is. Or whether a large is actually and extra large and the medium is large.

Men have it easy. You want a shirt? You go by neck and arm size. For women you have to try everything on because nothing is the same. I have three different sizes of jeans in my closet, from three different makers, and all of them fit. Why is it so bloody difficult to buy clothes? Maybe most women do enjoy the process of shopping but for me it's hell. I tend to buy everything at one time just to get it over with, but then everything wears out at the same time. At the moment I think I have three pairs of socks because in the past month I keep getting holes. So I'll have to eventually break down and hit the store and stock up.

I've always been like that. I was never one of those teenagers who hung out at the mall. (Except for Mrs. Field's cookies.) I've never shopped for fun, only because I get cold when I'm naked. (And the neighbors object.) And my regular "uniform" is jeans, t-shirts, and sweaters.

What amuses me is that Husband is totally dapper. He wears bow ties to work every day. And hats. Not baseball caps, but actual hats. He's stylish and cool and there I am, the slob in the jeans. Luckily he loves me anyway.

But to anyone who shops for fun I have to ask....why? What is it about it that you enjoy? Is it some kind of imprinted hunter-gathering thing? Instead of berries and mastodons you look for shoes and designer knock-offs?
Photo of the day: Love

From the facade of Stanford Memorial Church. I'm not sure this is quite how I pictured Love, but it's nice nonetheless.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Photo of the day: Tiger Lily

This girl is currently resident in the kitten nursery and has totally stolen my heart. She's sweet, playful, cuddly, and so f*****g cute I can't stand it!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Steves
This is the anniversary of the day I lost my best friend, the brother of my heart, Steve. And then two years and two days later, we lost his partner, Stephen. AIDS took both of them.

Known collectively as "the Steves" these two men were two of the most beautiful people I've every known. And I miss them every day. Every single day.

Steve was a shining man. He always had a smile and never had his wallet. In all the years of our friendship it seems every time we met for lunch or dinner, I paid because he'd left his wallet at home. And it wasn't a scam -- he was just that forgetful.

He never seemed to make it through a meal without spilling something. And he was so gorgeous that people's heads would actually turn when he walked into a room. He was a model for a while, so my opinion that he was gorgeous isn't just love talking. He really was.

His laugh was infectious. Sadly, so was the disease that killed him.

Looking back over my life, Steve is the one who had the most profound affect on me. It was Steve who first loved me unconditionally. Steve who made me feel accepted for who I was. Growing up in a family where I was always the odd one out, finding this level of love staggered me.

We met in high school. I was a senior, he was a freshman. We were both in the marching band and just became friends. We hung out, went to movies, ate a lot of hamburgers. We cut class to see Alien and screamed through the whole thing. We went to midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and dressed up like the characters. We saw each other through bad haircuts, bad breakups, and bad apartments. We helped each other move. We bought each other presents. And we never felt like a new relationship was really serious unless we got the other's approval of our new boyfriend.

I can't believe I'm married to a man who never met Steve. It seems unbelievable to me. Here are the two men who meant the most to me and they're separated by the veil of death. When I married my first husband, Steve was by my side as Man of Honor. He and my ex were dear friends and my ex was part of the group that cared for Steve when he was dying. But the fact that Husband never met Steve still surprises me. Sometimes I'll catch myself saying "remember when we went camping in Yosemite?" only to recall that Husband wasn't there. It seems wrong that they don't share the same memories.

In the years since we lost the Steves my wonderful circle of friends, who are my family in all ways but blood, has stayed intact. I'm still friends with my ex. The core group who cared for these two wonderful men are still in my life -- thank god. And whenever I'm around them I'm reminded of how lucky I am to have these people in my world.

But there will always be a Steve-shaped hole in my heart.

Hug someone today and tell them that you love them.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Photos of the day: The Patriarch and the New Kid


The SF Zoo has a nice large enclosure for their family of gorillas. The silverback patriarch has been a fixture for years and is the model of "you don't want to mess with this." The new kid is 2-years old and loves to sit at the top of trees and be tall.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Photo of the day: One Happy Zebra

From our zoo trip (obviously). This zebra was having a lovely time rolling around on the grass. I know it looks as if I'd just shot him, but I assure you he's fine.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Photo of the day: Presenting

Husband took a few days off of work and we played tourist in the Bay Area. One of our stops was at the SF Zoo where it is, apparently, peacock mating season. Every male peacock in the place (and there are dozens of them) was showing off his finery hoping to attract the ladies (of which we saw exactly one). Anyway, this guy was strutting around by the rhino pen. Good luck Mr. Peacock.
From the Kitten Nursery

The kitten nursery opened this week and we've already got a full house. It promises to be a busy season and we hope to beat last year's record of 97 kittens through the nursery and into happy homes. I'll be leading the Monday and Friday lunch shifts through October so you can look forward to lots and lots of cute kitten pix.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Photo of the day: Take the A Train

OK, it's actually the southbound train out of San Francisco.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Friends and Faith
This past Saturday Husband and I attended a Passover Seder hosted by one of our dearest friends. There were about 20 people, 6 of them children. The total number of Jewish person's present was about 2 1/2. It was not, to say the least, an orthodox Seder.

What it was, however, was lovely.

Many people feel that religion is, in a large part, about community. And that night we were a community of friends. Of course there was delicious food and a chance to learn about a faith other than our own. But it was mostly about celebrating freedom and the right to be different, but accepting.

In our midst were perhaps a half-dozen languages. So our beautiful hostess printed out part of the Seder ceremony in these languages and they were read, in Hungarian, Arabic, Chinese, Latin, Old English, and Swedish. We took turns going around the table reading from the Haggadah and going through the rituals. And we laughed and shared a wonderful evening with amazing people.

I have often said that my friends are my family. And on Saturday night I was surrounded by family. There was love and silliness. There was beauty and grace. There was respect and sharing. The lunacy was represented by the infamous "Ten Plagues of Egypt Finger Puppets" (I was death of the firstborn) and the dancing Matzo Man. But it was a lovely night and I felt honestly honored to be included among such a fascinating and fabulous group of people.

Thanks to the Lurker for a wonderful, memorable evening. I love you.
Photo of the day: Locked

They really want to keep people out of this particular parking lot.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Photo of the day: The Haunted Tree

Outside the music office in our house there is, apparently, a haunted tree that wants to come in.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Photo of the day: Earth Day

Today is Earth Day. Go out and do something good for our planet. Even if it's just picking up a random piece of trash. And remember that beauty is all around us. Even in the weeds.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Photo of the day: Inside the Upright

From the old piano in my parents' house. I never knew why we had a piano. Nobody in our household of 8 knew how to play.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Photo of the day: Hold the Mayo


I went to a college (San Francisco State) where the campus looked like a mayonnaise factory. This just makes me appreciate beautiful campuses more. Stanford is pretty damned gorgeous.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Photo of the day: Lamp Unto My Feet

Ok, it's actually Lamp Over My Head, but it's in front of Stanford's Memorial Church so I got all hymnal on ya.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Photo of the day: Trim

This is some detail from the front of Stanford's Memorial Church. Husband bought a new camera on Saturday so yesterday we went on a photo safari at Stanford. Lots of pictures of palm trees, the beautiful architecture, and various other scenic wonders. But, being weird, I focus on a section of trim.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Return of Photo of the Day: Rodin

From the Burghers of Calais display at Stanford.
Puppy Energy

I spent 6 hours at a mobile adoption event yesterday. It was a community fair for kids at a local YMCA and it seemed to be quite a hit. We had crowds all day and everybody seemed to have a good time. Our shelter brought 2 dogs, 2 cats, and a bunny. One of the cats found a home, so that makes it a success as far as we're concerned.

But today I can hardly move thanks to the non-stop antics of Cali, an 8-month old terrier/shepherd mix with enough energy to power Las Vegas for a week. This dog never stopped moving, sniffing, exploring, and generally trying to pull my arm out of its socket. It was only 15 minutes before we began to pack up that Cali finally got tired enough to curl into her dog bed and relax. For the rest of the time she was attached to my arm and determined to get away.

She kept trying to eat the tanbark in the parking lot, as well as scoop up any people food that may have been dropped nearby. When one kid dropped his popcorn Cali decided she was in heaven. I had to drag her away while someone cleaned it up so that she wouldn't eat it. Instead we went over where the nice firefighters had their truck set up for kids to climb on, and Cali promptly peed on one of the giant tires.

She's going to make a great dog -- eventually. As a requirement for adoption the owners must sign up for mandatory training, since leaving her as she is would be a disaster waiting to happen. In the meantime we're trying some basic training and doing what we can to limit Cali's wayward nature.

Next week I'll be at an event called "Bark for Life" a walk to raise money for cancer funds that will include both people and their dogs. I may get Cali again. I'm really hoping she gets adopted this week -- I'm too tired to handle her two weeks in a row.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Go. Do.

This is National Volunteer Week. I know because there's a big sign out in front of the shelter announcing the fact and thanking their volunteers. There are cookies and brownies in the staff kitchen and we all got a great e-mail from the staff talking about what a great job we're doing.

And I'd have to agree. Our shelter would close without our volunteers. Like all non-profits, there's just not enough money to pay for the staff necessary to keep us up and running. At our shelter we never turn away healthy animals. And 100% of our adoptable pets get adopted. We will keep them fed, housed, and loved until they find homes. It may take months or, sadly, in some cases years. But we'll get them there.

None of which could happen without people willing to work their butts off for no pay, just because they love animals.

I've worked in a lot of non-profits over the years, mostly doing AIDS work. And I know just how important it is that there are people who volunteer. And I'm proud to be one of them. I miss earning a salary. And I hate knowing that my lack of a job means Husband has to work harder and we have to live with less. But knowing that I'm doing something, however small, for the good makes me wickedly happy.

I urge all of you to find a cause close to your heart and give of your time. You don't need to give tons of time. At the shelter we ask for only 2-hours a week. Most organizations would be happy with that. And the opportunities are endless. You can use your personal skills: got a way with words? Volunteer to work on a local non-profit's newsletter. Like to work with your hands? There's probably a Habitat for Humanity build going on near you. Or just go with your heart and do what needs to be done. You can even just sign on for a one-day project. Signing in walkers at a local charity fundraiser. Serving meals at a local food bank.

Don't want to make a commitment? Then just do something good. Take a garbage bag to your favorite park and clean up trash. Clean out your closets and take the extras to the Salvation Army. No time? Write a check. Just one. For the cost of a pizza you can feed a child, a senior, or a litter of kittens for a week.

People probably think I'm insane for quitting a 6-figure job as a manager at Apple to work for no money cleaning out cat kennels. And maybe I am. But I'm happy I did it. I'm happy knowing I'm making a difference for the better. OK, I'm not Nobel Peace Prize good, but I do what I can and I get so much more out of it than I put in. It's more rewarding than anything I've done. And while it's not like I needed a reason to love Husband more than I do, I'm grateful beyond words that he's willing to support us while I do what I love.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Scenes from Silver Creek: The Mission Summer

California history is very strongly tied into the Catholic Mission system. The 21 adobe missions built by Father Junipero Serra to bring Catholicism to the indigenous people – whether they wanted it or not.

Like all California school kids, I did my fair share of visits to various missions, mostly Mission Dolores in San Francisco and Mission Carmel. I even did an “art” project where I built a mission out of sugar cubes, complete with ice plant “cactus” and paths made out of kitty litter. The ants loved it and played invasion all over the walls Mission San Juan Bautista (the one I drew from the “Mission Hat”).

But between my junior and senior year at Silver Creek High, on the advice of my guidance counselor, I got more involved in Mission history than I really wanted to.

It was called the “work summer” and pretty much every kid in my class was advised, guided, guilted, or bribed into doing something “good” for the summer. Partly it would look good on a college application. Partly no parent wanted their kid to be the one who would choose lounging by the pool over doing something worthwhile.

That’s how it was for me. I didn’t particularly want to spend my summer helping to paint the senior center or providing free day care to low-income kids. I wanted to read trashy romance novels, eat popsicles, have pizza nights with my friends, and generally enjoy the summer.

My parents had another idea. The only saving grace was that my best friend, Sean, had equally persuasive parents and he had to be good all summer too. Since we had both been raised at Our Lady of Angels (whose slogan we decided should be “Eight years of school, a lifetime of guilt!”) we received notice through the church that there was an archeological site going on at one of the Missions and they were looking for summer interns.

It was Mission San Antonio de Padua, built in 1771 an located in a valley southeast of Monterey. Average summertime temperature is roughly that of the surface of the sun. Only without the cooling breezes.
Some random, third class California University was excavating the site of the Spanish garrison. They had grad students doing all the interesting things, and wanted free grunt work to do all the hard stuff. You got room and board, no money, a promise of a letter of recommendation from the site director for your college packet, and they even supplied the sunscreen.

Since the opportunity to be away from our parents for a while was more appealing than staying home and singing show tunes at the senior center, we both signed up. And since they were hardly flooded with applicants, we were both accepted.

So we went. Sean and I. In his root beer brown Capri, the trunk stuffed with shorts and brand new hiking boots that never did break in and caused our feet no end of misery. We listened to “Frampton Comes Alive” endlessly, stopped at every Foster’s Freeze we passed for frosty cones and pee breaks. We planned our glorious futures (I was going to win a Tony Award for Best Actress on Broadway. Sean was going to win the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes and live in style). And we never envisioned what was ahead.

We only got lost twice. Ended up at a dead-end private road where we asked a cow for directions. But we eventually found the Mission, our summer project, and Dr. Edward Calkman.

The crew consisted of the Dr. (who everyone called “Doctor” and never anything else), 6 grad students, 4 other high school students from around California, and a wonderful cook named Belen. She was the best thing about the gig. Every meal included hand-made tortillas and mouth-scorching salsa.

Wake up call came at 7 am every day. Which to high school students is one of the lower circles of hell. We were on the dig by 9. We worked from 9 to noon and then had from noon to 2 off for lunch and a bit of a break from the heat. Then back on the clock until 6, dinner at 7. Just how I wanted to spend my summer.

The work itself was miserable. Either we shifted huge shovelsful for dirt into sifters, or we crouched in backbreaking positions with hand trowels and toothbrushes (toothbrushes, for god’s sake!) for the detail work. I was there exactly 32 days and in all that time I found only one thing: squirrel bones. That’s it. Squirrel bones. Sean at least found a button. And the way he gloated over it all summer you’d have thought he found the body of Junipero Serra himself. But I was the squirrel bone queen. The first one I found I thought it was yet another onion root. But one of the grad students enlightened me. By the end of job I was extremely proficient in the classification and identification of squirrel bones. I could have majored in them.

The entire dig seemed to me to be a big bust. We had the walls of the garrison, which we already knew. But in terms of artifacts, we didn’t find much. Sean’s much-heralded button. Some old strips of leather. A few old bottles and a knife or two. Hardly the lost treasure of the Sierra Madre. From a historical standpoint it was important. But to two 17-year olds who were tired, sunburned, sore, and longing to have some fun it was hardly the Summer of Love.

The grad students wanted nothing to do with us, being extremely superior in both age and education. The other high schoolers actually seemed to enjoy themselves and were excessively Catholic and, therefore, lame. So Sean and I bonded over our shared misery and blisters. Doctor never did learn our names. For the entire summer Sean was “Sam.” He never even got close to my name. I was just a mumble.

We did learn basic archeology techniques – something that has proved to be an utterly useless skill in my life. Sean got sunstroke and had to go to the hospital one afternoon for fluids. We both got fed up one night, broke curfew and drove into the nearest town for burgers and onion rings. Nobody noticed we were gone so we made it a regular thing. Once a week we’d take off, in spite of the fact that Belen’s enchiladas were the best thing going.

But we got up with the dawn every day, put on our Frankenstein boots and our Gilligan hats and picked up our toothbrushes. We sifted dirt under the melting sun until the sweat and dirt ran in muddy tears down our faces. We found the remains of every squirrel that ever died in California. We worked ourselves into exhaustion and fits of giggles. We told lame knock-knock jokes to relieve the boredom and made up rude limericks about the Doctor.

And we counted off the days until we were done.

On our last day, I think we were actually sad to say goodbye. At least to Belen, who gave us a doggy bag of tortillas and black beans & rice for the road. We pulled out of the compound without a backward glance, eager only for the roadtrip and the chance to sleep past 7 am in our own beds.

Looking back on that summer, I wish I could say it’s now colored in the pale rose light of all good flashbacks. But I can’t. It was hot and miserable work with unfriendly people. But it did give me a new appreciation for the eternal hardiness of squirrel bones.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

In the land of coolness....

Catching up on cool stuff from around the interwebs.

- Rube Goldberg does Bach. Just a happy thing.

- the Lion of Gripsholm Castle. The cutest non-scary lion ever.

- Library porn. If you like books and, especially, libraries this will take your breath away.

Ok, that's it. Go forth and smile.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Go Giants!

I love the San Francisco Giants. Always have. I spent a lot of time at Candlestick Park, freezing my ass off. And now I love going to AT&T Park, the most beautiful ballpark in the country. Nothing like sitting there on a sunny day, with the Bay Bridge in the background and the sun sparkling on McCovey Cove. It truly is spectacular.

When the Giants won the World Series I was too sick to really enjoy it. Husband went to the victory parade and said he'll never forget it. I wish I could have been there. But today I'm watching the home opener (and wishing I could be there) and loving every minute. The pre-game ceremony was typically Giants, the old guard and the new. Willie Mays was there. One of the reasons why I love the Giants is that they take care of their old players. Willie Mays and Willie McCovey were both part of the victory parade.

I've never cheered for a team that won a championship before. I suppose I was a Niners fan in the 80s when they dominated the Super Bowl during the glorious Montana-Rice years. But this was different. This was a team that I've cheered for since I was a kid. And for them to finally win the championship was, even in my sick haze, a total thrill. Today I got that thrill again, watching the championship flag being passed from Willie Mays through the lineup to crazy Brian Wilson and his amazing beard who ran across the field. Of course it had to go to him, our favorite wild man. Running through the stands and up to the top of AT&T to hoist the flag over the park. Running past the iconic cable car (where the bell rings every time we hit a home run) and running up the flag while We Are the Champions blasted over the PA. It was one truly glorious moment that I'll never forget. I actually cried.

Thank you to the 2010 Giants for an unforgettable season. For taking a bunch of misfits and becoming a team. For seeming to know how much it meant to The City. For being our team in our town. For being so wonderfully weird with your beards and your rally thongs, your 21-year old enthusiasm and your "I thought I was a has-been" fire. It was a total goosebump season and today's ceremony just capped it off.

I love you guys. Always will. Go Giants!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Those Darn Veggies

Husband and I have gone lightly vegetarian. (We do fish.) And it's quite a strain.

I hate to cook. I hate learning to cook new things. And here I am confronted with chickpeas and cocoanut milk. We have a couple of good cookbooks, but I'm just not interested in spending hours chopping and peeling so I can experiment. Husband loves it. He's a great cook and really has fun.

But because he works like a dog all day it's my job to do the cooking. Tonight we're trying Potatoes and Carrots in cocoanut curry over rice. It sounds good, but we'll see....

I've never enjoyed cooking. Baking I like. The process of making cookies is fun to me. The process of peeling eggplant or chopping endless carrots just isn't fun for me. But I suppose I'll learn.

But it'll take a lot of doing for me to get over the process of having to consult recipes and dealing with unfamiliar with ingredients.

Yeah, I'm cranky. But i'm allowed. It's part of my charm. Hell, it's all of my charm.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Keepin' it Home

Yesterday Husband and I had sammiches from this great local deli we go to. And it reminded me of how much I love patronizing local, independent businesses. The people are great, they remember our "regulars" they're friendly and the food is so good. I had a chicken salad sammich that I swear I dreamed about last night it was so good.

It's a husband-and-wife place with the walls covered with photos of them at Giants games. (Yet another reason to love them.) And when their dog was sick and needed surgery, they put up a collection box and got over $1000 in donations for his care. (Sadly, they lost him.)

Today we went to our favorite bookstore. The one we can't get out of for under $100. It's a wonderful independent in Menlo Park called Kepler's and it's like heaven. Books you won't find anywhere else. Shelves and shelves of delicious, must-have reads. Clerks who love to read and make recommendations that tend to be spot-on. My newest favorite contemporary mystery author, Canadian Louise Penny, I discovered because a Kepler's clerk wrote a review that sounded too good to miss. And she was right.

One of the best things about Kepler's is the "book group shelf." People all over the area have book groups and many of them buy in groups at Kepler's. So there's a whole section showing what other groups are reading. It's been inspiring when it's my turn to pick our group's read and I have no clue. I know interesting, literate people have checked out and discussed this particular book, so maybe I'll check it out too. I've found some great reads that way. Plus people are allowed to bring their doggys in, so there are always cute pups wandering around or curled into a nap at the foot of one of their cushy leather chairs.

Sure we'll drop into Barnes & Noble occasionally. And there are times when I think we keep Amazon in business. But I honestly prefer to shop local.

We've got lots of interesting shops nearby. There's an Asian-owned produce store that is incredible. Half the stuff you pick up you have no idea what it is. Or what to do with it. But since Husband and I have recently gone vegetarian, we're going to do a lot of experimentation soon.

I love going into stores where they know you by name. Our favorite Chinese place all the waiters call me by name and remember when I come in for lunch that I don't want the soup. At the deli I don't even have to order they just ask "the usual?" and I get my favorite sandwich. It makes me happy, plus I love supporting the little guy.

Every weekend Husband and I go to a coffee shop called Neals. It's like an old-school diner. All the waitresses are total characters who call me "Baby Girl" and call Husband "Sweetie." They hug us. They'll slide into the booth next to you and talk about sports. The food is good -- wonderful filling breakfasts -- but I think we just go for Carol, Linda, and Mimi.

Sure there are times when a place like Target is needed. If I need socks, laundry detergent, and a CD on the same day I'll go to a big store. But mostly I prefer to keep it at home. Help support some couple putting a few kids through local schools. Buy from the store where the owner knows your name. Eat at the place where the waitresses hug you.

It's a happy thing.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Churches

I'm going through some rough times these days. And in my quest for inner strength and all that blah-blah, I went to a church.

Not for mass, but for stained glass.

As an art historian I have an appreciation for beauty. And I find stained glass to be beautiful. I think it's all the incredibly rich colors, but I find myself quite peaceful under the gaze of a dozen or so stained glass saints. There's a Catholic church nearby that has amazing windows. Probably a dozen saints on each size, a small rose window over the altar, another row of panels in the choir loft. It's gorgeous. The church itself is really beautiful too. Tall, with dark wood crossbeams overhead and a deep, rich, red carpet down the center aisle. It must be a gorgeous church for weddings.

I did find peace, at least for a while. And I'm hoping I can hold on to that when things get crazy.

I'm not about god, but he's got some nice houses.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

So where have I been?
In the hospital, again.

Went into ER late Thursday/early Friday and was released on Sunday. I had every test in the book. X-rays. CT scan. Endoscopy. Colonoscopy. Blood tests every 15 minutes (that's what I get for going to Dracula Memorial Hospital). The verdict:

I have two ulcers in my colon. They should heal by themselves with antibiotics and a soft diet. I also tore a hole in my esophagus. This too will take care of itself. I'm on a soft diet, have lots of drugs, and am generally on the mend.

Being in the hospital is one sure way to appreciate home. In missed our 11th anniversary, I didn't sleep for two days. I missed my cat, my bed, and being able to move my right arm. (Damned IV.)

My IV machine was a total drama queen and went off with a peeved beep every 10 minutes. I eventually learned how to reset it myself. When I did have food it was a liquid diet and consisted of feet-flavored broth. They weirdest menus. I'm sick, throwing on a regular basis, and generally feel like crap. And they give me a tray consisting of feet soup, strawberry jello, cranberry juice, and a cherry popsicle. My God, I couldn't eat that assortment at my best, how to they expect me to combine it when I'm sick?

The biggest problem was the pain. On a scale of 1 to 10 I was regularly 8 or 9. I was on 4 ccs of morphine every 2 hours and it wasn't enough.

Luckily I'm home, I've slept, I'm feeling better, and I have a Husband and a cat taking good care of me.

I hate hospitals.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dog Tired


You can tell just by looking at him that he's a troublemaker, can't you? His name is Ricky (name has been changed to protect the guilty), and he was my charge at yesterday's adoption event. His parentage is a mystery but he looks a bit Chihuahua and acts a lot like a terrier. Um, I mean terrorist. He's a sweet, playful, happy dog, about 3 years old, that will make someone a great pet. Provided they get him some serious obedience training.

Yesterday's event was at an upscale pet supply store -- the kind that has a frozen food for pets section. And because it was pouring all day we stayed inside. Ricky, who has the attention span of a fruit fly, kept getting restless so I'd take him for a wander around the store. That's where his shoplifter tendencies came out.

A customer stopped me to ask about Ricky. Hey, that's what we're there for. While I'm extolling his expertise as a lap sitter and face licker, Ricky manages to snag a dog toy from the shelf and proceed to eat the tag and pretty much render it unsellable. Yes, I ended up buying him a dog toy. Luckily for me it was on sale already and they gave me their employee discount, so it was less than $3 (if he were four inches taller I'd have been stuck with the $9 toy!), but it was highly amusing. Later on he tried to steal a rawhide bone that looked like it came from a Mastodon. The fact that it was twice the size of his mouth didn't seem to bother him. Luckily for my wallet it was wrapped in plastic and still sellable.

Later on I had another dog and Ricky was in the care of one of the other volunteers who was snaking from a little bag of Cheez-its. Ricky found them and proceeded to get the bag stuck on his nose -- after eating all her crackers. He also managed to snag a bite of another volunteer's hotdog.

Ricky also has leash problems. As in he doesn't like it and wants to pull you around as if you were on skates. Let's go over here! No, this way! No, I changed my mind, we're going over here! All this in the pouring rain.

He's a lot of dog for such a small package. But just look at that face.

Friday, March 18, 2011

To Rembrandt or Not to Rembrandt

Every so often I have to dust off my Master's Degree. Having a graduate degree in art history means never having to say you're employed.

So, what is art? Discuss.

It's the eternal question among art historians, critics, artists, and people who dress in black everywhere.

About 20 years ago the Dutch decided to set up the Rembrandt Commission to answer part of this question.

It seemed there were hundreds of Rembrandt's, supposed Rembrandt's, and out-and-out crap with fake Rembrandt signatures on them. And they wanted to deal with it. So they put together a panel of art historians, scientists, scholars, and others to examine every so-called Rembrandt in the world and give it a thumb's up or down.

Museums and collectors all over the planet held their breath as the fate of their art rested in the hands of these experts. Some were so concerned they wouldn't allow the commission to examine their art. Who wants to be told that they Rembrandt they paid $4 million for was, in fact, a worthless fake?

There was, as you can imagine, great controversy. The commission had a few verdicts. Paintings were graded as authentic Rembrandt's, from Rembrandt's workshop, in the style of, by a 17th century artist not Rembrandt but not a forgery, real forgeries, and various other categories.

And this raised the question of: why does a name de-value a painting? If a painting is beautiful why is it suddenly worthless just because some guy named Rembrandt didn't paint it? That's the big question. Is it the artist or the art that defines it?

Who or what really decides the label "art?" It seems to be a matter of opinion. And I have a very narrow one.

I am a Classicist. To me good art ended with Impressionism and everything done after that it crap. (Yes, I exaggerate.) But I do find myself responding more to representational art than splotches on a canvas. I will always, always, always think Van Eyck was more talented than Picasso. I get PIcasso. I understand why people consider him a genius. But I don't have an emotional reaction to him.

I marvel at brush strokes, use of light, reflections, the creation of life. I can lose myself in the detail of the sleeping dog in the town square, the peasants in the field, the glow of candlelight in a quiet chamber. But when confronted with a square of black and a square of red, I don't lose myself. Usually I laugh. I'm just that much of a Philistine.

I love art that you can describe in literal detail. "Vermeer perfectly captures the quiet moments of a quiet life." True. On the other hand, I usually screen with laughter at phrases like "this painting conveys the disharmony between the curious now and the unbalanced when." Oh bite me. This shrimp-pump claptrap isn't a real art conversation. It's a way to convince people you're worth having sex with.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Big Sleep

Last week I was sick girl. ER on Tuesday. ER (via ambulance, no less!) of Wednesday. Overnight Wednesday. Out on Thursday. Still no real diagnosis, but the drugs they gave me have done their job and I'm feeling OK. In about an hour I'm off to the doctor's for a more thorough testing. Oh boy, more peeing in cups!

But yesterday I was totally in the middle of The Big Sleep. I've been in an insomnia phase (so what else is new) and being in the hospital, sick and in pain, have made it worse. But yesterday, for some reason, the sleeplessness caught up to me. I fell asleep about 1 in the afternoon and woke up at 10 am. Total coma.

It felt wonderful! After two weeks or so of never sleeping more than 2-hours in a row, getting some solid sleep was amazing. And I woke up feeling better than I have in a long time. I'm hoping that lack of sleep was part of the problem and now that I've caught up a bit it'll help. I'll know more after a visit to my old pal, Dr. F (who I love, by the way). But for now just having slept makes me so incredibly happy.

I have no idea how it feels to "sleep normally." To put my head on the pillow and know I'm in for 7 or 8 hours of down time. My usual night it 3-4 hours of trying to sleep, 2 hours of sleep, waking up and starting all over again. Throw in a cat that is your typical nocturnal critter and we have a nighttime of waking chaos.

Meanwhile, Husband is sleeping the sleep of the just. His average fall asleep time is about 2-minutes. I hate that about him.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Way off the Surreal Scale

Today my mom received last rights.

It's a huge Catholic thing. My sister saw her at lunch and thought she looked really bad so she asked one of the parish priests over. Father C-- (oh dear, I've already forgotten his name!) is a stereotypical Irish Catholic priest. In and out in about 5 minutes. Which is probably a good thing -- didn't give Sister a chance to freak out.

But it was a weird experience and I'm not entirely sure that my brain has fully accepted what I just saw.
Why...?

Why is a whistle the pinnacle of cleanliness?
Why are clams the hallmark of happiness?
How well does anyone know the back of their hands?

Common phrases baffle me. Of course, most of life does.

When I was a kid and would look for something, whenever I found it someplace obvious my mom would say "if it was a snake it would have bit you." Well if it was a snake, I wouldn't have been looking for it.

Just some musings under the influence of Vicodin. I was in the hospital this week. (In ER on Tuesday, back on Wednesday, admitted overnight and home today.) Another of my rampant mystery infections. Woke up to a breakfast of morphine. Hoping to doze off to an equally heady mixture of cat purr and cozy mystery.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Puppy Update

I'm doing better with accepting that I couldn't have Gretchen. I know she'll be happy where she is. I know Cipher will be happier as the solo queen of the house. But yesterday's adoption event was a little weird because I swear I kept looking out the window to see if Gretchen's new family were bringing her back. Of course I hope they don't! I was just in a weird mood.

While out walking yesterday's cutest member (Red, a 7-month old chihuahua puppy that absolutely struts and actually stopped traffic), I was stopped by the family that adopted another of our wonderful dachshunds. Abby was at an adoption event last month, spending most of it in my lap. Her family came in and fell in love. They called dad into the store. The first words I heard out of his mouth as he reluctantly came in was "Ok sweetie, but we're looking, we are not getting a dog." I swear he took one look at Abby in my lap and I could see him fall in love. Dad was the one who adopted the dog. He was hooked.

The family told me all about Abby. How she slept on their bed the first night. How after only a 30-minute standoff, Abby and the resident cat achieved detente. In the month Abby has been with her family they've gone up to the snow where she leapt from the car into a 3-foot snow bank and completely disappeared. Her family immediately panicked, but Abby pops up a few seconds later, long snout covered in snow and happy as a, well, really happy dog.

They kept saying how lucky they felt. How a friend who is a vet met Abby and told them what a special dog she is. The mom of the family teared up telling me how happy they all were. And she hugged me, because I had helped point them in the right direction.

All of this made me feel so much better about Gretchen going home. It reminded me of why I volunteer at the shelter. And it reinforced what I had already accepted -- that once again it's all about doing what's best for the dog, not what's easiest for me.

Sorry for my wallow into selfishness. You know how it is with unrequited love.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Love in a Day

I fell in love today. Totally, head-over-heels in love with the sweetest dog ever.

Her name is Gretchen, a 2-year old dachshund. At the adoption store she climbed into my lap first thing and stayed there for three hours. Occasionally she'd get up, lick my face, turn around, and curl into a perfect circle. She greeted everyone with a lick of the hand and a non-stop tail wag.

If she'd managed to get out of my lap for more than 5-minutes I was going to call Husband to come down to meet her. I was completely serious. She flirted and charmed her sweet way into my heart and I was a goner.

She was so charming that four groups met her in the Get Acquainted Room and before I could talk myself into actually bringing her home, she had found the luckiest new dog owners in the world. A sweet mom and her three kids, all of whom were equally in love with her.

They were very nice people and I'm sure Gretchen will have a great life with them. But I felt like they didn't deserve her, I did. It's the one really selfish time I've had as an animal volunteer.

I actually cried when she left, but the family gave me a minute to say goodbye and she curled into my lap and licked my face one last time.

I know I'm responsible for her finding this home. I answered their questions and showed her off for at least 30-minutes, and I'm so happy to have found a loving family for this sweet girl. But I think I'm going to regret not taking her myself for a very long time.

Of course Cipher (The World's Most Amazing Cat, Screw You if You Don't Agree tm) would freak out to have a new doggie little sister. And that's the one thing that really kept me from calling Husband. He said he was glad I didn't call -- he has less willpower than I and would have agreed probably sight unseen.

But tonight I am a little sad. She is a truly special girl. Immediately sweet and friendly to all. Calm (almost Zen) and incredibly loving. The way she warmed my lap and my heart, the way she buried her nose in my shoulder when she got tired, the sweet and trusting look her her eyes -- she was a total heart stealer.

It's honestly the hardest day I've had in the years I've been volunteering. Just thinking of her now makes me tear up (of course I've also been awake since 10 am yesterday). Part of me hopes this family's cat will hate Gretchen, that they'll return her and I can snap her up. Part of hates that tiny bit of envy that should be so happy for her.

But all of me is a bit sad. Because I fell in love today. But it was not, alas, to be.
Coolest History Lesson Ever!
The mega-talented (and, frankly adorable) Lin-Manuel Miranda (Tony winning writer/composer of In the Heights) performed at a poetry slam at the White House. His Alexander Hamilton hip-hop jam is pure magic. I've watched it half a dozen times and each time it blows me away.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Baby It's Cold Outside

Those of you who live in New Hampshire or Quebec feel no sympathy for my thin Northern California blood. But I'm freezing. You have to expect cold if you live in Maine. San Francisco is not known for it's frigid climate. But we're in the middle of rain and cold and possibly even snow. Yes, snow. Not dusting the hills, but at sea level. We're not talking about a blizzard, obviously, but for those of us used to 60, 47 is really cold.

This is such an odd event that it's top story on the news. Forget unrest in Libya, we're all about the snow. The potential of a quarter inch of snow has become the chief topic of conversation. It takes so little to amuse and interest us.

Tomorrow I'm doing an adoption event which, of course, means I'll be outside walking little peeing dogs in the rain and cold. (I sincerely hope the Pee King of Northern California isn't part of the rota).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book Group Part Deux

Last night's group did not disappoint. We were evenly split on our opinion of The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield. I, Husband, and Mama D found it flawed. The Foreigner, the Lurker, and the Actor all found it a good rainy-day read.

But since many of you seem interested in our picks, I'd like to share with you some of our favorites. These were either universally loved or the majority of the group really liked them.

As mentioned yesterday, I highly recommend Shadow of the EInd by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It's a thumping good read. A page-turning literary thriller with compelling characters and a captivating plot. It was one of the favorite books we've read and absolutely wonderful.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. A sweet, charming, delightful read about an eccentric family and their lives and loves in a falling-down castle in England. It's a gentle and warm book that's perfect for a cozy read on a rainy day.

A contemporary mystery set in a charming French village, Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker is a delightful read. The characters are delightful (and, thankfully, a sequel has just been released!) and the mystery well -planned and executed. It's a well-written story full of delicious food and words. Get out the brie and baguette, pour yourself a glass of red wine, and settle in for a good read.

Not a book group read but a new discovery by me is Louise Penny, a Canadian author of wild talent and scope. She has a series featuring Chief Inspector Gamache of the Surete du Quebec. The first book in the series is Still Life and it's wonderful. Set in the southern Quebec village of Three Pines you'll be introduced to the quirky characters in the town. You must start with the first and read them in order because there is a continuing story that builds through the series. Her last book actually made me cry is was so beautifully written. Almost poetic at times and yet never lets the mystery side of things down. Absolutely great stuff.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Third Monday of the Month
For nearly 15 years my book group has met in my living room to eat cheese and cookies and to talk about books, life, and friendship. These are some of the people I love most in the world, and the regular chance to see them once a month makes me happier than I can say.

We've been together through thick (Gravity's Rainbow by Pynchon) and thin (anything other than Gravity's Rainbow). And whether the book delights or appalls, the discussion never fails to entertain.

I love it. I love everything about it. Here are our few rules:

* We only read fiction. Within that broad distinction we've read everything from mysteries to romances, sci-fi to westerns, classics to new so-called masterpieces.
* It can't be part of a series. Everything must be a self-contained book. (We broke this rule once to read the first two Harry Potter novels).
* It has to be something busy people can easily read in a month. We've occasionally read longer books over a two-month period, but for the most part we make sure it's something we can finish.

That's about it. We take turns choosing the books, so we're each on the hot seat once or twice a year to select what we read. And that's probably my favorite part of it all. My friends are all fascinating, intelligent people so over the years they've exposed me to many authors I wouldn't pick up on my own.

And our group is diverse. There have been members who have come and gone (due to death or moving away) but we've always been a mixed blend. Male and female. Gay and straight. Religious and atheist. We have had conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. We have people who have grown up in wealth and privilege, and people who have grown up on welfare. We're culturally diverse as well. And this diversity makes for wonderful discussions.

There have been some books we've universally hated (each year we give The Bellow Award for our least favorite book -- named in honor of the atrociously dull Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow) and books we've universally loved (check out Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Luis Zafron). Mostly we have a nice divide -- enough for a good debate.

There have been some books where we've only found an hour's worth of talk, and we spend the second hour catching up as friends. And those meetings are just as enjoyable as those where we spend the entire two hours debating characters, plot, writing styles, and symbolism.

Sometimes people don't finish the book and they just "come for the cheese." And there have definitely been a few books where the reason people didn't finish wasn't because they ran out of time, but because the book sucked. But it's been a hell of a lot of fun. Going back over the list of titles we've read there are certainly some I cannot recall and yet there are others that I will never forget.

I know several members of my book group check this blog occasionally. And I just want to thank them for all the years of discussions, friendship, and cheese. I love you all.