Sunday, October 31, 2010


I was driving through the Sonoma hills toward the coast with a old, old woman in the passenger seat. We were driving around the edge of the ranch she settled on when she came to this country as a bride from Italy. The car crested a hill and the Pacific Ocean spilled into view. She sighed deeply and said, "every time I see this, I'm happy I'm alive."

I was riding through the Ngong hills in Kenya with a middle-aged white man at the wheel. When we crested a hill, passing his home, the grand vista of the Rift Valley unfolded. He said, "every time I see this, I get so happy it hurts."

When I head home along the road that leads to my house and crest the last hill, I see the pasture and barn on my right bordered by a row of black walnut trees. I want to sing, to yodel, to shout. I am so happy I came to live in this part of the country.

I love watching the walnut trees standing sentinel to the changing seasons. I always check to see whether there are cows in the pasture and wonder where they go when they are absent. I thought I would hate being landlocked and mourn proximity to the ocean. I don't; although I must admit it pleases me to visit occasionally so I can check to see if it is still there, that the tides are still at work.

These sensations I choose to call "capacity for joy" and I am so grateful they exist in me. It is a gift, nothing I sought or deserve. If you know what I mean, then you also have it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pix Galore

Wearing this uniform, participating in band events all over the state, and traveling to Disney World results in a hefty price tag. State tax dollars, an annual activity fee paid by the parents, generous donations, and FUNDRAISERS keep the organization marching. As he does in most activities, Ben overachieved at this year's fundraising frozen food sale. He sold 63 orders for a gross of $813.50. Selling is the easy part. Storing and delivering are the real challenge. The food filled both freezers of my two side by side refrigerators and delivering racked up approximately 200 miles, all with the city limits of a town with a population of 10,000. I'm not complaining, I'm just glad it's over. Ben did an outstanding job of managing the whole process. Once again, I'm proud of him.
Here's Valery performing a wildlife rescue at Wilson's Creek Battlefield. This little guy was on the road, so we stopped and she moved him to safety. (Now, wash your hands, Valery!)
Although I finished this quilt barely in time for Halloween, I doubt that I will get it hung up in time. I've chosen a wall where I will hang my quilt du jour (or maybe quilt de la saison), but now I must find someone willing to put up the hanging hardware. Any volunteers?

I had to stop several times yesterday on my way home from a frozen food delivery to take photographs of this amazing sunset.

Monday, October 25, 2010

October Birthdays

Nichole Paine, October 9
Nichole's birthday was earlier in the month and this past Sunday, they celebrated Mallaika.
Nichole is helping Mallaika read the label on her birthday quilt. Mallaika's birthday party with a dozen squealing five year old girls had just wrapped up. She was pleased with her "blanket" and put it on her bed right away. She also liked her tooth fairy pillow case from Logan (and the dollar tucked into the tooth fairy envelope). Via Skype, I got to visit their beautiful new home. Nichole has done a great job furnishing and decorating it. I also got to talk to/see grandson Tom. They have settled nicely into becoming a regular middle class family -- graduating from starving student mode.

Mallaika Paine, October 15
Here's the birthday girl just before breaking into a dance routine for the camera.
Valery Goodell October 25
Valery and I celebrated her birthday at lunch with Steve and Julia. (And then we celebrated again at dinner with pumpkin pie standing in for birthday cake.)
Jack and Abby Brown, October 25 (two years old)
Valery and I spent the weekend in Des Moines while Ben went to a band festival in Saint Louis and Logan spent the weekend with Steve and Julia. Valery's friend, Kelly, moved to Des Moines early in the summer, and Valery needed to see where they sleep. Seeing where people sleep is a "thing" in our family. When someone dear moves away, we are unable to rest well until we know where they are resting. Think about it, you probably feel the same way.

Other noteworthy October birthdays: Robin's was October 8, she would have been 49; Ken's was October 18, he would have been 61; and my dear friend Nancy's birthday is October 21, she is timeless, perpetual, eternal, and I love her so much, I'd never tell her age, in fact I'm not sure how old she is.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Our Hero

Valery arrived just in time to join me and Ben at Logan's football game Tuesday evening.
Our hero, number 66 hustles for some reason or other -- doesn't he look great?
He still looks great, even when he is tired, sweaty, smelly, and defeated (barely -- it was a great game!).

Monday, October 18, 2010

And the Band Played On

This blurry grainy image was captured just before the battery died on my camera. Ben is playing vibes -- the blisters on his fingers caused by playing with four mallets have turned into callouses, but, the season is drawing to a close, only one more game, one more competition, and the Christmas parade before the uniform goes into mothballs till next year. And then we gear up for Winter Drum Line and the Spring Concert Band followed by Summer band trip and camps and so goes the merry-go-round.

We spent a quiet weekend even though we were hosts pro tem for foreign exchange student, Lars (from Bremen, Germany). He's very low maintenance, so put no extra demands on us -- keep him fed with bread and water and he's happy. Friday night he was honored at the football team for his participation on the swim team. It's his first year ever on a swim team and he has been consistently beating his own best times. He's a very nice and bright young man; it was a privilege to have him here.

And Tomorrow! Tomorrow Valery arrives! We'll have a very busy week and we both already wish she were staying longer. Her plane comes in around five and I'll rush her off to Logan's last game of the season.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wishing Well?

The person who assaulted my grandson last October has been released from El Dorado County Jail and been booked by Placer County on charges of transporting and selling narcotics. He's held without bail and is scheduled for trial October 21. I'm guessing that will be a preliminary hearing and the process will drag on for a while. I find myself wishing that he will be convicted and that this will constitute a "second strike." I want him in prison.

Then I start to feel bad and wonder if wishing ill for someone will poison me. But, am I wishing ill for someone, or wishing for the safety of others? I have never seen the young man; I've seen his booking photo and Colleen has reported on his conduct at various court proceedings. My reaction to the vacant look in his eyes was that he had no soul. What I construe from Colleen's reports is that he also has no remorse. I'm not sure that there is any benefit to returning him to society.

I am as sick over his lost soul as I am over the injuries to Danny and by extension to Colleen and all the rest of us who love Danny. The perpetrator is only nineteen years old and was once someone's darling baby boy. His mother is still involved in his life and did appear at the last one of the court proceedings. She did tell Colleen she was sorry, but I got the feeling there is not a strong connection between the mother and her son.

I am concerned about the long term affects of the attack on Danny. Will he become jaded? Insensitive to his own pain? Will he somehow gain something from it? Will he be safe and avoid dangerous situations? I am so grateful his physical mending went well and pray that his soul mends equally well. He is a beautiful, sweet, gorgeous, lovable, young man with wonderful potential.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Day Late

This cake commemorates Robin's 49th birthday. I tried (with Kevin and Colleen's help) to remember her favorite cake. Together we thought of German's Sweet Chocolate Cake, cheesecake, carrot cake, and Peter's (bakery on Alum Rock Ave., San Jose) burnt almond cake. So, I thought I would try to make a burnt almond cake. This one isn't bad. I think Peter's just uses toasted almonds splattered on the top and sides -- my recipe had you make burnt almond brittle and crush it -- way too much work! The custard frosting is a blend of vanilla custard and whipped cream, very yummy. It was so much work that it took me until today to finish putting it together.

I don't remeber many of her birthdays and that makes me very sad. Of course, I vividly remember the first -- the day of her birth -- at the Naval Hospital on Whidby Island, Washington. I recall someone, a stranger, standing at the nursery window looking at the three babies behind the glass, pointing to Robin and saying, "that's the prettiest one." I felt like I had won a prize.

We spent several of her birthday weekends camping at Morro Bay, feasting on clam chowder and abalone. October was the perfect time of year on the central coast. Our friends, the Matthews (Nancy, Herb, Seth, and Sam), usually joined us on those trips.

We celebrated her 21st birthday at a rented cabin at Lake Tahoe. My wonderful friend Nancy brought the birthday cake for that event -- a cake with a bottle of champagne planted in the middle of it. Robin's dear friend Alice joined us for that celebration.

It's hard to write this and to pull up those memories; I get lost and overwhelmed.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

And He Can Sing!

Is it just me, or is this the best-looking 15 year old red head you ever saw? Too bad the white tie doesn't show up too well in this photo -- he looks wonderful in his tux.

And he ( and 99 others) sang well, too. Ben is in the front row just to the right of Ms Jamison's right shoulder. "Cousin" Nick Cronin is in the back row at the far right.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Parent Fail

It's 63 degrees at nearly 6:00 P.M. (somewhere around time for dinner, right?). This morning when the boys went out to get the bus, they turned around, came back in the house, and drug out their hoodies from the back of the closet -- first wearing this year. Fall is in the air and the kids are outside playing football in the neighbor's back yard. The sounds of their yelling carry further and sharper in the clear, still autumn air. I cannot interrupt them for dinner or chores. These moments are too rare, too fleeting, dinner doesn't matter, the lawn can be mowed another day, or another year. How can I ever teach them to postpone pleasure for duty when I don't believe they should?