Friday, November 8, 2013

Annual Report

November 8 is picture day for the dogwood. The two pictures above were taken today. The one below is from last year. The light was much better for this year's shot, but I also think the tree is prettier than it has ever been. For earlier years, see last year's blog entry. The tree is getting a little big for the spot where it is planted. It's time for me to move so I don't have to face any hard decisions regarding its future.

And sew on. I finished this quilt a couple of weeks ago after nearly four years of off and on work on it. The piecing is elaborate, but the quilting is amazing. It was quilted by the talented long-arm quilter, Ivyonn Galloway. I tried to get a picture of the whole quilt in one frame, but it's too big for anyplace in the house. When I took it outside and laid it down on the driveway, the wind kept picking it up.
Inside the outer plain border is a pieced border of flowers and baskets.
Further in is a border of loosely attached triangles, not quite prairie points, but something like them. Inside the triangles is a stepped checkerboard surrounding the inner pieced sampler blocks (below). The rest of the pictures are intended to show the quilting detail. Click on the photos to get a larger view and see the stitching more clearly.

I really like this beige tonal king-sized quilt, but although I stitched the blocks together, I have no real artistic ownership. The fabric choices, the design, and the gorgeous quilting were all the work of others. My contribution is no more significant than a careful paint-by-the-numbers rendition. I feel more deeply attached to quilts  I have a greater artistic investment in. I think that's why I like the scrappy quilts best. I make them up as I go along. And I have so many scraps!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Autumn in the Ozarks

On Friday, November 1, I at last took the drive along the back way to Eureka Springs. I've been trying to get around to it since early this summer when I went to the Opera in the Ozarks and noticed several spots which were photo ops in the waiting. Fall colors were peaking last week and I knew if I didn't hurry, all I would see is gray, wintry vistas. Autumn in the Ozarks is splendid. Not to be compared with New England's display of homogeneous forests that set hillsides ablaze, the Ozark color is more of a calico variety due to the mixed nature of the hardwood forests. Breathtaking in their own right, but difficult to capture with a camera. You've just got to be there. 

The view above is approaching a bridge crossing Table Rock Lake. I stopped at a wide spot to take a picture and came face to face with a sign that said, No Trespassing, No Exit, No Turn Around. Sorry, I didn't mean to cause trouble, but I did either have to turn around or stay there forever. So scofflaw that I am, I put the car in reverse, turned around, and crossed the bridge.
 This building is on the bluff overlooking the lake just beyond the bridge. I'm not sure what it is, some kind of commercial enterprise, but I couldn't read the sign. It has a magnificent view of the lake, but I was unable to capture both the building and the view without getting out of my car. It did make me remember one of my father's tired old jokes: "People who live in glass houses should undress in the basement." Sad to say, the neighbor of this building is a ticky-tacky settlement of mobile homes of the type all to familiar on the shores of the lakes of the region.
 A bit further along my route, near Blue Eye, Missouri, I was astounded to come upon this development -- the last hurrah of Jim Bakker (of Tammy Faye Bakker fame). He is apparently still holding forth on TV, although I'm not sure if he has an audience, and I certainly hope he doesn't have any pledges. The whole thing is just creepy and pathetic. I followed the road into the mostly undeveloped development until I reached it's terminus.
 The buildings in this congregation outnumber the people I saw that day. It has sort of a ghost town feel. Some of you will remember Sam's Town in Cameron Park just before it was bulldozed. I was immediately reminded of it.
 Leaving Jim's Town, I proceeded toward Eureka Springs and continued to enjoy the splendors of the countryside, until, Eureka!

I at last arrived in Eureka Springs. I ate a hasty lunch at McDonald's without leaving my car and headed for home by way of Berryville.  

At home, I put the finishing touches on my latest quilt, "Stash Hash," a 56" x 64" patchwork of 2,688 pieces.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Living His Dream

Ben has been very fortunate in his choice of schools. I am so glad he persevered when I was doubting the wisdom of letting him going far, far away. Davis has many fabulous offerings. Here's a sample:
  • The STEP program provided an in-depth orientation to campus life just before school started. It began with a four-week intensive residential sampling of college life, complete with residence hall living, dining commons meals, classes, and counseling. All at no cost to Ben. Once a student has been accepted into the STEP program, they remain with the program through all four undergraduate years.The University wants to ensure the success of these special kids.
  • He has been accepted into the BUSP program. It's a special program for students who want to pursue research in biological sciences. In the summer between Freshman and Sophomore year, it provides two free summer school sessions along with a stipend to help with living expenses. Sophomore year he is guaranteed a job in research.
  • He has become interested in the community gardens and the domes housing
    He has been taking meals there several times in the past couple of weeks. I can imagine him living in the domes when the time comes.
  • He is investigating research travel through Wallacea
Oh, Ben, the places you'll go, the things you'll see.

And he witnessed his first campus protest. He did not partake, because he has yet to form an opinion, but he will be doing his research to find out how he feels about the position of the new UC president on immigration issues and he will be watching to see what actions she takes. Ben has never been political in the past and it's exciting to see this awakening.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Trouble With Tribble

The trouble with Tribble is that he has only three legs. Kevin and Rachel adopted him after he had lost his right rear leg in an encounter with a car. It doesn't slow him down much. He is very adept at scrambling up onto high places by pulling himself up with his front feet. He's a bit clumsy and noisy, but very determined. He also has a voice that cannot be ignored. The "Awww" factor with this cat is very high so he gets lots of love and attention.Here he is resting on a quilt I finished while visiting Kevin and Rachel this week.

 I went up to Kansas City on Wednesday evening so I could go with Rachel to her chemo appointments on Thursday and Friday. Thursday's session was no problem. The chemo protocol for Friday is more difficult to tolerate and takes longer to administer. Rachel is such a good patient. She is taking very good care of herself and is doing everything she can to aggressively attack any unwelcome cells in her body. I'm sure she'll be victorious. The chemo had left her feeling a bit unwell Saturday morning when I left. She expects the effects to linger a few more days and then she will be feeling better by midweek.

Kevin is working in Mississippi for the next several months. He comes home Friday night and leaves on Monday morning. Every fifth week he spends at home. It is hard for him to be gone while Rachel is undergoing chemo, but they are coping pretty well.

I expect the holidays will be rather quiet around here. Ben will be in California for Thanksgiving and I think Danny is planning to be there also. Rachel and Kevin will probably not be with us as they will be avoiding travel and exposure to any unnecessary germs while Rachel's immune system is depleted from the chemo.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Reporting In

Robin would have been 52 years old today, but instead, she is forever 39. Like sister Colleen said today on Facebook, I wish I could have seen her red hair turn gray. I still cannot believe she is gone and yet I can't imagine what it would be like if she were here. I want so much for her to know the joy her boys have brought to me. There are so different from each other, so unique, yet both are amazing, wonderful kids.

Ben has dreamed of being an entomologist for nearly as long as he has lived with me. I think he went straight from paleontologist to entomologist when he outgrew the dinosaur phase. His grit and determination in gaining admission to UC Davis were all his own doing. I had hoped he would stay close to home for a few more years. Only when I realized he would never forgive me if I thwarted him, did I give in. His getting to Davis is entirely due to his grit and persistence. His focus is amazing. And now as I see him unfold, I'm pretty sure he was right.

Never a kid who was interested in what he wore, he found REI in California and for the first time developed an interest in shopping for clothes. He learned to dress in a way that expresses who he is -- outdoors clothing for the field-bound research scientist. He attended the Entomology Club Fall Social and seems to be enjoying that small community within the huge campus population. I was so afraid to let him go and yet he has navigated with confidence since leaving home. He does laundry, buys textbooks, gets into programs and activities that are important to him, deals with roommate issues, seems to be eating, sleeping, getting places on time, and living like an independent adult (except the money part, although he is frugal). Most important, he seems to have a good sense of who he is and where he is going.

Ben is smart, funny, introverted, literal, kind, logical, intense, and honest. He's an exceptional person and I believe he will make an important contribution in the field of entomology.

Logan is loquacious. He can chat up anybody. He's interesting, interested, funny, smart, personable, sweet, and extroverted. He loves to dress in business clothes -- suit and tie. He recently upgraded his backpack to a brief case and uses it to carry his books and school supplies. He likes speech and debate and belongs to the Literature Club at school. He is participating in the International Baccalaureate program at his school. It is a rigorous and challenging program and he is working hard at it.  Just a couple of days ago, he asked me to get him a subscription to The Economist. He wants to be a lawyer. He will be a good one.

The differences between the two boys fascinate me. So different and yet both so wonderful. Thank you Robin.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

And Yet My Heart Sings

The house deal is all but dead. The buyers failed to get the loan they had applied for and were unable to close. The "all but" part is they are still trying to get a loan and still want to buy the house. And I still want them to have it. I already rented the house I hoped to move to and if the deal collapses (which realistically speaking, it has) I will have to break the lease, move back the few things I had moved in, and lose a couple thousand dollars. That really sucks. I also moved a bunch of stuff to a storage facility which I won't need. And I really like the house I rented. That's the part I'm having a hard part shaking. I can envision living there and I want to!

So, I could be righteously depressed. But, I'm not. I had a phone call from Ben yesterday to let me know he has been accepted into UC Davis's BUSP program. BUSP is Biology Undergraduate Scholars Program. It is designed to track EOP kids for PhD programs in the biological sciences. So, as friend Sharon suggested, that makes it Ben's Uber Special Program. Yes, I'm very excited that he has been accepted into this program which will get him into some research-track classes including two special summer school classes at the end of his freshman year. These classes are FREE and he will be given a stipend to help defray living costs. During his sophomore year he will have the opportunity to work for PAY on a research project. And that is all very good news. But, the best part is knowing he is realizing his dream. And that makes my heart sing.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Doing the Limbo

We are still in limbo, waiting to see whether the sale of our house will go through. It is exasperating and fattening. I spend my days wandering around the house wondering if I should continue packing or start unpacking. In the meanwhile, I dust the tops of the packed boxes lining the walls of every room.

I can't really clean, everything is topsy-turvy, so I am cooking instead -- trying to use up food in the cupboards and freezer. I'm really strapped for cash because of (non) moving costs and paying for two places. Using up food on hand helps conserve grocery money, but it also results in meals of marginal nutritional value: lots of carbs, tortillas, pasta, potatoes and low on fresh fruit and veggies.

I haven't packed my sewing machine, but some of my sewing stuff is already at the other house, so I can do a limited amount of sewing, but not the projects I really want to work on, ones that would make me happy.

Just one more week and I'll know. I will have to pull the plug on the deal if it doesn't close by next Friday.

Ben is also in limbo, but his is a happier place. He has completed his four-week STEP orientation program and is awaiting the official beginning of the fall quarter with first classes on September 26. He'll spend the intervening time at Valery's. Move in date for his new residence hall is September 22. This break required that he move completely out of the room he had been living in, pack up his stuff, shlepp it over to Valery's and then move it back to campus on the move-in date. I'm thankful Valery has been able to help him with this. He is more enthusiastic than ever about where he is and what he is doing and I am even more certain it is the right thing and the right place for him. I sense that he is happy and confident.

Logan's limbo is that zone between being sick and well. He missed two days of school this past week with a cold. He hates to miss school because perfect attendance exempts him from finals. But, he seems to be on the mend today.

I'll try to come up with a happy post next time. Fall is in the air and the weather is perfect, surely that will cheer me up!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Overwhelmed and Losing it, Loosely Wrapped and Unraveling

I have been on the edge of hysteria for at least a week now. Well, that's not entirely true, at least three times I've gone over the edge and plunged into the depths. Life is really complicated right now and it requires lots of planning, coordination, and physical work. I need lots of help and as always, I have a tough time asking for it.
So far, I have blown up at Logan, Steve Maples, and my car. If any of the rest of you come into the line of fire in the next few weeks, please know I appreciate you being there for whatever reason and please know that if I blow up, it's probably about me, not you.

 What's eating me?
  • I have to be ready for the movers on Saturday.
  • Logan is also overwhelmed with balancing the demands of a job and the rigorous IB program at school. He spends every waking moment he is at home working on his school computer or with his nose in a book.
  • Danny's hours limit his availability to help.
  • Both boys are never available at the same time, so the two-man jobs aren't getting done.
  • Rachel is constantly on my mind and in my heart. Chemo is not easy and she and Kevin have way too many stresses in their lives. 
  • My physical strength is very limited. I can do only a small amount of work and then must rest.
  • The Maples clan is all absorbed in grieving the loss of Julia's father and attending his funeral on the other side of the state.
  • It's been bloody hot.
  • I still have tons of sorting, selling, storing, and tossing to do.
  • I miss Ben.
On the other hand:
  • I'm so looking forward to living in a smaller, more manageable house.
  • I can't wait to reduce my inventory of stuff (by sorting, selling, and tossing).
  • The weather is pleasant. I don't think I've ever moved when the weather is decent -- it's always been during a terrible storm or a killer heatwave. 
  • People are helping me.
  • Most of the people I've offended will forgive me.
  • This too, will pass.
In the meanwhile, I will practice as many avoidance techniques as I can muster:
  • Blogging
  • Re-reading a book from my childhood
  • Playing solitaire mindlessly
I'm open to suggestions for any other distractions. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rachel's Endeavor

My cradle-snatching son, Kevin (now 49), wed Rachel Hall (now 37) on June 12, 2004, at Unity Church in Overland Park, Kansas. She left her family behind and moved into Kevin's house in Sacramento. Later, they sold that house and moved to Lenexa, Kansas where they live today with three cats and two dogs. It's a three and a half hour drive from my home in Ozark, close enough to get together for important occasions or when we just feel like it.

Here's Rachel at one of those important occasions that didn't occur at either of our homes. We all traveled to Cape Code in May of 2007 for the wedding of grandson Tom Paine and Nichole. A highlight of the trip was a mad shopping trip to Cubby's where we snatched up a couple dozen Cape Cod T-shirts. Rachel is modeling hers in the picture above.

This picture, my all-time favorite, was taken Christmas 2008. She has such beautiful skin and eyes, or in this case, eye. And she puts up with Kevin!

Here's a quilt I made for Rachel. It's king-sized (108" x 112"), made from reproduction Civil War era fabrics, machine-pieced and quilted by hand. 
Here's  a close-up of the quilting stitches (nine stitches to the inch). The quilting designs are all original, designed by me especially for this quilt.

And here's the label on the back of the quilt that tells a little bit about what it took to make the quilt. The million stitches and mile of thread refer only to the hand quilting and don't take into consideration all the stitches and thread involved in the machine piecing. All in all, it was quite an Endeavor.

But it is nothing compared to the endeavor Rachel is now undertaking. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer around a month ago. She has had surgery and now is beginning chemotherapy.  The oncologist feels quite sure they got all of it with the surgery, but the chemo is to make certain it is all eradicated. The quilt is a symbol of the love and warmth I want to wrap her in during her endeavor.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

STEPping into UC Davis

On a whirlwind trip to California last weekend, I delivered Ben to UC Davis. Leaving home Friday morning, I took a three-hop trip through Denver and Phoenix and arrived in Sacramento around 5:00 PM. and then headed to Valery's in my beautiful rented Chevrolet Traverse. I've been driving Japanese cars since 1981, but if I could afford a Traverse, I'd buy American again. That vehicle was amazingly comfortable and had so many convenient safety features. WANT! 

That evening, Colleen, Andy, and Robby brought us a great assortment of takeout food from Whole Foods (WANT Whole Foods nearby!) including some interesting vegan/vegetarian dishes for Ben. Robby is great at engaging with Ben and I love to watch and listen to them banter.

Saturday morning, Ben loaded the car and we struck out for Davis. We first went through a registration process where I had my first meltdown. The smiling person at the desk asked my name, and I fell apart. Great gulping sobs and rivers of tears -- the whole (water) works.

 Here's Ben's home away from home for the next four weeks. He's staying in a triple room, although there are only two of them occupying it for the STEP program.

Ben's roommate is from Atwater, California and seems to be a nice kid. I am hopeful that they will get along together.
I can't believe how tight the rooms are, they literally stack them in there -- note the bunk beds. There is a single bed behind Ben. Although Ben was the first to arrive, he graciously waited till Tyson showed up and allowed him to choose his bed first. Tyson opted for the single and Ben went for the lower bunk. Fortunately there is lots of open common space and lounge areas. This level of sharing is going to be a big change for Ben.

Campus food at Davis is nothing like the Army style grub I experienced in my college dining commons. Because Davis is an Agriculture school, a lot of the food served is grown right on campus. Ben is holding a bagel nearly as big as his face in the photo above and those bagels are part of the every day offerings in the platform-style dining commons.

Politically correct and delicious fair trade certified Starbuck's coffee is also part of the standard fare, along with a wide assortment of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free offerings. 
Eco-awareness is pervasive. You can't toss anything without considering the destination of the refuse. The trash buckets labeled "Landfill" are much smaller (and scarcer) than the various recycle bins around campus.

 And then there are the bicycles. On any given day during the school year, 20,000 bicycles are being pedalled around the nine-square mile campus.

Ben is participating in UC Davis's STEP (Special Transition Enrichment Program). This amazing program is designed for kids who may need extra attention in making the transition to college life. In many cases, these are kids who are aging out of foster care and they are most often of ethnic minorities. Ben was selected because of his status as an emancipated orphan. He is conspicuous in the group because of his red hair (the only red head among the 100+ kids) and his fair skin. Diversity is a bonus feature of the program for a kid who comes from very white community. In spite of his background, Ben seems to be culturally color-blind.

The four-week orientation includes mock college classes to prepare them for the real thing; priority registration, and loads of counselling. They remain identified as STEP kids throughout their undergrad years and everything is done to promote their academic success. Their grades are monitored and they are provided tutoring if necessary; they have access to an abundance of academic, financial, and psychological counselling services; and they continue to have access to priority registration throughout their time at Davis.

As part of the four week program, Ben is scheduled for one-on-one meetings with the chair of the Entomology department and with the head of the Bohart Entomology Museum. Ben has had contact with both of these people in the past, so these meetings should serve to clearly identify Ben to these people who will be important to him. Ben hopes to work at the museum and he wants to become part of a research team. Research-track  courses in the biological sciences are offered at UC Davis.

After spending a day on campus and learning much more about the program and the University, I am convinced Ben is in the right place.

I spent the night in a single room in a residence hall -- part of a four-room group sharing a  bathroom. Everything I needed was conveniently at hand. But, OMG, was it small! I could not shake the image of a prison cell and kept wondering what a life of incarceration would really be like. Just after falling into a deep sleep, the fire alarm sounded. Because it is still summer break on campus, the only occupants of the residence hall were half a dozen parental-type attendees of the STEP orientation. We all vacated our rooms and didn't know what to do. I finally called 911 (the calls go to the on-campus emergency services) and was told the fire department was responding. Of course, it turned out to be a false alarm, someone had "accidentally" leaned on the alarm button. Seems that I remember similar "accidents" occurring on a regular basis during my dormitory days. Some things never change.

(Sorry for the awkward formating of this post, blogger is being uncooperative this morning.)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Everything's fine, sort of

It's been hard to post lately because so much is going on, but nothing ever seems to get resolved. Here are some things I promise to write about later:
  • Getting Ben off to school: I'm going to California this weekend to move Ben into the dormitory at UC Davis. He begins a four-week orientation program on Saturday and I attend a parent's session all day Saturday. It's going to be a whirlwind trip for me -- leaving home on Friday and returning on Monday. But, I have a feeling I'll be making more than one trip a year in the next few years.
  • Health issues of family and friends (I'm fine): Daughter-in-law, Rachel is recovering from surgery. I'll know more after I visit with her next week. High school chum, Linda, has had a very rocky year and I'm wishing her a much improved finish to the year. Grandpa Steve has a nasty skin cancer on his hand that is going to require a lot more digging into. These folks are on my mind every hour of the day.
  • Selling my house and moving: My house has sold and it looks like we'll be moving to a rental house within the month. I think I have located a place and if all goes smoothly, I'll announce a new (Ozark) address soon. But, in the meanwhile, I have lots of packing, sorting, selling, storing, and trashing to do. The new place is about one third the size of this house. 
  • Quilting: Yes, I'm still quilting. I'll have a post dedicated to that subject before too long. 
  • Back to school for Logan: Today is the first day of school for Logan and for the first time, I did not get a back to school photo. I think I'll cheat and get one sometime next week.
  • Surprise party for Steve: Grandpa Steve will turn 65 on the 24th and the fam is throwing a surprise party for him. My job is decorations and I think I have it under control. But, with so much going on, it's hard to feel like anything is under control.
More later, gotta pack for tomorrow's trip.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Ben celebrated his 18th birthday WITHOUT ME! I missed his fifth birthday, too. But, I've been there for all the others, including the one that started it all, July 20, 1995. Standing in for me are Kathy (center front) and Rick (standing). Around the table from the left are Gerhardt and Karen (Kathy's sister and brother-in-law) Jim (Valery's friend) Ben, Geoff (Kathy's son) and hiding behind Kathy's hat is Gerhardt (son of Gerhardt and Karen). The bucolic setting is Toad Ranch, home of Rick and Kathy. Ben spent the two days leading up to this celebration visiting with Kathy and Rick.

Last year, I didn't get a birthday picture of Ben, but here's what I posted about the day:
Friday was Ben's seventeenth birthday. He seems so adult in many ways and yet so young in others. I guess that's what adolescence is all about. We celebrated quietly, he started the day with his traditional birthday batch of monkey bread and opening gifts from me -- a few nature and science books. I hope he likes them. And then ended the day with strawberry shortcake.

This picture was taken right around his 16th birthday when he was re-uniting with friends Trevor and Anna in El Dorado Hills.

And here's Ben at 15, blowing out birthday candles while great grandparents, Bernice and Arlan wait for their piece of the berry cobbler.
Here we are with 14 candles on the cake. Notice that both boys are taller than me by a few inches.

Just a year earlier when Ben was 13, we were all the same height.

So, what's Ben been doing lately, you ask. As near as I can tell, he's doing the same thing he did in Missouri, observing nature up close and personal. Here are a few of his photos I lifted from his Facebook page. The captions are his.
"I looked at a small patch of ground in the middle of a field and found lots and lots of dead insect parts! So I put most of them in this little collection. It is amazing how much of this stuff you can find anywhere!"
 "This ant on a plant was close to where I found those insect parts, so I like to think of this one as the custodian."

" Lots of black ants and black aphids, showing off the mutualism commonly found between these sorts of insects! These were near a river on the way to Lake Margaret in California."

"This is what California's Lake Margaret looks like."
And this is what Ben looks like when preparing to check out the hives kept by Bill, the husband of Amy Schulze, Ben's (and Logan's) second grade teacher. Ben spent the day with them exploring their property on the American River in Coloma. Several of the above pictures were taken by Ben that day.

When he's not staring at insects, he has been doing volunteer work at Pride Industries, a workplace for people with disabilities. His aunt Valery works there and Ben has been going to work with her three days a week. He's been writing safety procedures for the use of manufacturing equipment.

His STEP program at UC Davis begins August 17th and I'm going to be there to participate in the parent orientation. I can't wait to see Ben again. I can't believe how much I miss him, how much I love that boy, and how proud of him I am.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How I Spent the Rest of My Summer Vacation.

 Ben, Danny, and I arrived in Sacramento on Tuesday afternoon, June 11. Colleen was at the airport to meet Danny and whisked him off as quickly as she could. I kind of think she had missed him just a little. Ben and I made our way to the rental car office, picked up a spiffy red Chevy Impala, and drove to Valery's in rush hour traffic. I was nervous about being in heavy traffic after my years in Missouri, but it went very smoothly. We spent a quiet evening playing Mexican Train, well, not too quiet, we laughed ourselves silly and then went to bed exhausted after a long day of travel and a two hour time change.

Wednesday afternoon, Lisa Cardwell and I went to the Purple Place for a drink and some munchies. 
That place hasn't changed a bit in appearance, but the menu has definitely gone upscale. A friend of hers joined us after a bit and we enjoyed getting acquainted while watching the world go by. Then I stood up, announced it was time for me to get going, said my good-byes, and left. It didn't even dawn on me that I had left them with the bill until sometime the next day. I was mortified. 
Before going to the Purple Place, I got to see Lisa's kids Cameron and Alexandra. Cameron has grown so tall and is just a super nice personable kid. Alexandra is quite a talented singer and guitar player. Cameron plays guitar too, but he didn't perform for me this trip.

The second full day Ben and I were in California together, we went out to Davis to go bike shopping. We cruised the city streets looking for bike shops. We saw lots of bikes, including this beauty
but finally settled on this one. Selling points were: the color, green, which is Ben's trademark eco-symbolic favorite; the chain guard to protect against the battering campus bikes suffer; the rack, suitable for mounting saddle bag-type baskets; the absence of a derailleur, the gears are enclosed in the hub of the rear wheel, to prevent parking rack damage; the handy-dandy bell on the handlebars, ubiquitous to Davis bikes; the very sturdy lock affixed to the frame; and the overall form, fit, and function. I hope it serves him well (and doesn't get stolen!). He pedaled it around the campus right after purchasing it and it magically found its way to the Bohart Museum of Entomology where Ben enjoyed staring at exotic insects and visiting with a PhD student who worked there. I do hope Ben will be able to work there in time.

While Ben was off exploring, I was visiting with my dear friend Nancy. She took the train (and car and BART) from San Mateo to meet me in Davis for lunch. She also met this engaging bit of sidewalk art. Oh, how I love Davis. I could envision retiring there, should I ever retire. She looks terrific (I meant Nancy) and as always it was wonderful to spend even a few hours with her. We had lunch and strolled for a while. Colleen just happened to be passing through Davis on her way to San Mateo, so she was able to give Nancy a ride back to her car parked at the BART station. The day was perfect, maybe mid-80's, nothing like the beastly heat they have endured the past week. We really hit it lucky.

The next week, Ben and I drove up to Pioneer to visit my high school friends, Jack and Linda. Linda has been recovering from a difficult surgery and is taking things a bit slow. But, we had a nice, albeit brief visit. I regret not getting any photos of either Lisa or Jack and Linda. 

The day before I left, Ben and I made my ritual visit to Robin's grave and washed off the headstone with champagne, saving the last mouthful to drink a toast to her memory. It's so hard to believe all these years have past.

Many of Ben's ancestors are buried in Gold Country cemeteries.  We made a stop at Placerville's Union Cemetery where the Blair marker stands at the highest point in the Cemetery. There are maybe a dozen people buried in the plot, but not all of them are noted on the marker. The cemetery has records of who is buried there.

Dinner at a Thai restaurant with Valery's friends, Dorothy and Chuck, was a real treat. We must have sat at our table for 2-1/2 hours, but no one seemed to mind. Ben and Chuck really hit it off. Chuck is a Chemistry professor and they found much to talk about, scientist to scientist. Dorothy is a quilter and I enjoyed visiting her studio on a previous visit to California.

Foodie that I am, no visit to California would be complete without sampling some of the fresh produce I miss. So, I had some fresh Sloughhouse corn, yummy artichokes, and asparagus. We can get corn, artichokes, and asparagus in Missouri, but they just aren't the same.  

And I came home all alone. Ben stayed with Valery so he can start UC Davis in the fall and Danny traveled home separately on Friday.