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Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Final Train

  Yesterday I posted with a picture of Mom at 90, but I think she'd prefer to be remembered with her big smile, red hair and party dress.  She had one hell of a figure--never more than 120 lb. in her life.  Her hair was dyed bright red for years and people actually asked Mar and me if we dyed ours black.  Duh.
 Her final suitcase was locked last night around 8 pm, and she departed the station.  She finally got her wish after waiting so long, and I'm glad for her.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mom's Suitcases are Packed

Mom's suitcases are packed and she's ready to depart the station.  She doesn't have many;  I helped pack the last one.  It's also ready, but not yet locked.
  One suitcase is filled with childhood memories up until she left home to get married at age 23.  She came from good parents who lived their lives with their only child in San Francisco, then Burlingame.  They lived well, but didn't have a lot of money.  They were a core group of three until Dad, then my sister and me.  Her parents died very young--both in their mid 60's--and within 10 days of each other.  One of "natural causes" and one by her own hand.  Very sad time for Mom who then got thyroid cancer and her favorite boxer Rex died all within a few months.  She remained composed through it all and never let her children see her sadness.
 The largest one is 50 years old and is all about her marriage to my dad.  Anyone who knows me has heard me say they got up smiling and went to bed smiling.  Their world revolved around friends and they socialized every week with different people.  I started to say "family and friends," but that wouldn't really be true.  My mother used to say, "the kids came to live with us," meaning their lives and what they wanted to do was more a priority.   Good thing she can't read this--she'd be irate at my honesty.  My sister and I were left with sitters every Saturday night, at least once a month on Sundays for their poker group, and sometimes on Friday nights.  They would also go to Tahoe or other short trips and leave us with sitters, some from an agency we wouldn't even know.  When we were younger, we did family trips to a resort outside Chico and sometimes my grandfather joined us.  When I was a teen, we went to a few places--Yosemite, Carmel--but when we went to Tahoe every year, we'd spend the days together, but they'd take off for dinner and gambling in the evenings.
 I'm not complaining about my childhood--we were a happy family and I didn't feel neglected at all.  But this suitcase is all about her life with Dad.  They enjoyed each other's company more than anyone else's, including their daughters.  Marianne learned from her experiences and she always put her three boys first as a result.  What I learned is it's not realistic to believe I'll wake up smiling and go to bed smiling every night.

Her final suitcase is about life after Dad who died in 1996.  She continued on, but it wasn't easy.  She was so proud of how she picked up his exceptionally kept records and check register and continued on just as he had.  She did well until a few years ago when she started getting nervous every time I left the country.  She decided to move into senior housing, and we both felt better that she had neighbors close by and a place where dinner was served and she no longer had to cook.
The final blow was when Marianne died in 2001 from metastatic breast cancer.  Mom could never talk about her or tell stories to her boys.  She was never one to tell stories much anyway, and once a suitcase was closed, she kept it that way.  
  So now she's close to locking that final case.  I know she's ready and has been for quite awhile.  Yesterday she seemed to be talking to someone else who wasn't in the room, so I asked if she was talking to Dad and Marianne, and she gave me a huge smile.  I asked her to tell them I love them since she now has a direct line to the rest of my immediate family.  It helps to think they'll all be together and that Mom will leave this station and be met at her new destination with open arms.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Book Down Her Pants

  Provocative title, yes?   It's the working title for my memoir of life with my sister.  Marianne died 12 years ago from breast cancer and my brother-in-law Brock asked me a few months ago to consider writing about growing up together for his boys.  A few weeks later, I was in Foster City with my cousin and told her about a favorite 4th of July there with Marianne.  Driving home, I realized I'd started the memoir and since my friend Judith was also writing one and starting it at a retreat in Tahoe in Sept, I might consider joining her.  Judith heard about it from a friend of mine who knows Jennifer, the retreat leader.   Her site says she'll pamper us with wine and food and all we have to do is write.  I emailed Jennifer and got myself on her list of 3 people, the max she takes.     I got inspired because that morning, before I left the house, I talked to Brock and mentioned one thing on my list--"Who him name?"   and where that phrase originated in our family.  Brock said it came from his boys, that they used to say it.  So I told him, no it came from the day Dad brought home our first boxer.  He had no idea it started with Marianne as a little girl asking the name of the new dog (many times during the first few days) and not one of his sons. She had used it with them, not the reverse.  It's all about family history.
  I drove to Judith's in Oakland, left my car and got to knit all the way to Tahoe, which was great since I have a possible trunk show next month and open studios the following, so need work time.  We stopped at for lunch using my AroundMe app which led us to Zinfandel Grille in Sacramento.  Jennifer called to see where we were in our drive at that point, saying Doreen was stuck in traffic and she was waiting for her to arrive so they could head to the house.  Timing was perfect--we would all arrive close to each other, but after they did.  She needed time to make sure the house was ready.
  After a great lunch, we headed to Tahoe.   I guess I should have seen the handwriting on the wall when Jennifer's email about the weekend said, first the most important question, red or white?  I'm not much of a drinker, so picked a color and went from there.  When we arrived, we were greeted with wine glasses, but I opted for water and switched to wine awhile later.  Doreen opened the door for us--she's very thin and wiry with lots of brown curly hair.  As we all sat to introduce ourselves and get to know each other, Doreen texted and went outside to make or take a call.   Jennifer suggested we put our phones aside for the weekend and indicated she'd mention it to Doreen, but she returned only to text more and make or take another call.   It was off-putting, to say the least.  I asked and learned that Jennifer had published a cookbook Doreen had edited, but they hadn't met till now.
  Judith and I had donned our fleece because the house was chilly, and when it was Doreen's turn to talk about herself, I noticed how often she played with her hair and otherwise showed off her muscular arms in her tank top.  I got the distinct impression I was supposed to notice, which was much clearer than anything she actually said.  She tended to mumble or swallow the ends of her sentences while expounding on the "hundreds of stories" on her laptop that she wanted to work on or finish.  I was really unclear what she was saying and thought the road trip had taken its toll on my brain, so maybe it was time to switch to wine.
  We had a choice of two rooms, one upstairs and one down.  No bathroom upstairs.  Because Judith has bad knees and a weaker bladder than I, I chose the upstairs room across from Doreen.  I was surprised to find I did not have my own bathroom, and Judith and I agreed to share hers, which was the only en suite one.   I hoped I didn't have to use it in the middle of the night because those stairs were formidable.
  Jennifer presented us each with a folder of writing prompts, much like I had used in my middle school English classes (oh, I didn't mention I'd taught English for 35 years, including memoir writing--I thought it might be off-putting or that expectations would be different for me), some information about recent books that were being published from a site she uses often, and goal-setting pages for us to fill out.   We did the first goal-setting page for the weekend, and my goal was to create vignettes from the list I'd started about Marianne while adding to the list as I went.  I wasn't concerned with making it cohesive yet--just start and get the words onto paper.
  I really thought I'd lost it because every time Doreen talked, I got lost and confused.  A bit later when I used her bathroom, Judith gave me a look and brief comment, and I knew it wasn't just me.   We spent the rest of the night making eye contact and rolling our eyes as Doreen talked about living in Italy at one time and being in the wine industry....she dropped names of wine families we didn't know, though acted like we should, and touting her accomplishments with words I only half understood, definitely used to intimidate or confuse...mission accomplished.
  Dinner was spaghetti, salad, and bread.  Jennifer apologized that she usually makes no-knead bread but is moving and didn't have the time.  Dinner was good and of course, the wine flowed.  I stuck to one glass since I'd already had a glass before dinner and was already over my usual.  I would normally have preferred dessert, but we weren't offered any.
  We said good night fairly early which was fine with me.  I love reading in bed, which is a luxury I rarely get.  Jennifer then blew the bed up for her night in the living room...all the bedrooms were taken, so she sleeps there on these writers' weekends.  Her house is cozy and comfortable in a nice neighborhood in walking distance to the lake.
   The following morning started earlier than I'm used to, but I was up, showered and ready with everyone.   Jennifer apologized for not remembering to buy cereal, but no one objected.  We had fresh fruit and yogurt and she toasted some of the bread from the night before for Judith and me.  Fortunately, someone had left creamer from a few months before and it hadn't yet expired, so I was happy with my coffee.
  After breakfast, we all met in the living room to discuss our writing for the day.  Doreen had her laptop with her and she clicked away as if taking notes on what was being said, though I'm not all that sure she was even paying attention.  Jennifer then asked if we wanted to start by writing a prompt, but I said no, I wanted to start the memoir.  We each wrote in our respective rooms and the only breaks I took were up and down the stairs to the bathroom several times.  Onions cooking for soup permeated the air to the point our eyes actually burned, but since I was suffering with allergies, I couldn't be sure which was the culprit.  Judith and I decided to get a breath of air and discovered it was raining!  The onion soup was perfect for the rainy Tahoe day followed by a walk to the lake with our umbrellas.  Judith and I walked together behind Jennifer and Doreen, which was fine with us.
  We agreed to continue writing a couple more hours, then meet in the living room and read some of what we'd written.  We all brought down our laptops from which to read and Judith went first.  She read some excerpts and we all commented.  I loved hearing about how she and Larry met, and asked if it was okay if I explained one thing about his personality to the other women so they'd understand the poignancy behind the writing.  The other women commented on her writing--Jennifer exclaiming how Judith hadn't thought she could write without it sounding like a narrative from the probation dept. and how descriptive and well she wrote.  Doreen only asked about ages of people in the story to clarify.
  Then it was my turn to read.  Just as I started, Jennifer leaped up saying she had to get the chicken in the oven, so I should continue without her.   Meanwhile, Doreen continued to click away on her keyboard, mumbling to herself periodically.  Judith gave me feedback about my writing, but nothing from the other two.  I brought the picture book I'd made for the boys after Mar died, so showed Judith and Doreen some photos I'd referred to.  Judith made comments, not much from Doreen or Jennifer when she returned briefly for something in her bag.  I felt slighted from getting nothing back after being asked to read, but soldiered on.  Doreen seemed like she didn't want to read, said she didn't know which story to read, finally chose one, but said it was a long short story, so after suggesting she read the beginning, tell the middle, then read the end, she did so.  She fills her stories with much imagery and verbiage, much like her dialogue so I found parts hard to follow. She expected feedback, which she got from all of us, though I only said I liked her imagery and the same part Judith commented on to keep from getting detailed about things that only confused me.  Jennifer told her she used too much imagery and could lighten it.
   The look on Judith's face after Doreen read was interesting.  When we had a moment alone, she told me she had read this story before and it wasn't written by her!
   A friend in Jennifer's literary circles had been invited to join us for cocktails, so the 5 of us talked or mostly listened to her stories of trying to get published.  I found it interesting she'd been invited into our space when the leader of our group could have used the time to discuss the writing process and how it was working for us.  She didn't really check in with us while we were working during the day, then wasn't present when we read and discussed our work.  She seemed to hear Doreen's writing from the other room, then returned to hear and listen to the end of it.  With me, she definitely was not present, nor did she seem interested in what I wrote.  I thought Kate was interesting to a point, but since two of the three of us who paid for the retreat (and we think the third person might not have had to pay) were not interested in being published, it was more a buffer and filler than useful.
  Throughout dinner, whenever either Judith or I tried to talk, Doreen talked over us or interrupted.  Neither of us felt the other two were particularly interested in what we had to say, so I mostly kept quiet and ate.   Listening felt like watching a tennis match of name-dropping, most of which were unfamiliar to me.  I grew bored.  Jennifer suggested a few ideas for the evening, either looking at pictures of a famous woman she won at a Sotheby's auction (yes, we all have heard of Sotheby's and that name was mentioned many times) or watching a movie.  I asked what DVD's she had, so she started reading them.  I detoured upstairs thinking I wanted to do neither, and by the time I returned, Judith has slipped off and the other two were looking at the photos.  I joined them, then we all retired early.  My head felt full between the day spent writing about childhood memories and listening to much hot air being blown through the house.
  Jennifer suggested we walk to a bagel shop for breakfast where Doreen paid for her own coffee, but had no food, so Judith pulled out her wallet to buy her own coffee and let Jennifer pay for our bagels.   I just stood there thinking, wait, I just wrote a check for $345 for this weekend, and I am not buying anything!   Last night's chicken carcass was being boiled for today's lunch, no breakfast was was good, but certainly not gourmet.  "Fabulous" and "wonderful" were words on her website describing the food.  My husband was home making red chile mole sauce from scratch for his own dinner and I was eating roasted chicken and salad.   I guess I am spoiled...if I still lived alone, this might have been considered wonderful.
  We each wrote from the prompt Jennifer had given us about our mothers, then walked to the lake and back to the  house.  We took bets (not really) on whether or not Doreen would read hers because by now, we were feeling like she was more bluster and less reality.  We suggested she go first, but she said her mother left a voicemail to call her right then, so she had to do that and couldn't read what she'd written about her, then call.  She never did read it and I watched her stand outside with her phone in her hand not talking.  Good avoidance technique.
  I read mine after Doreen returned and Judith made several comments.  The other women agreed by  saying, oh, me too, but then nothing.  I stopped and stared at both Jennifer and Doreen waiting for more feedback and they just looked back at me.  Then Jennifer suggested Judith read and laughed at appropriate moments and commented on it at the end.
 I'm glad I went with the expectation of getting words onto paper, which I achieved, and not of having someone critique my work, which I certainly did not get.  Judith came upstairs to see how I was doing later that morning because I was writing nonstop without coming downstairs.  I read her some of what I'd written and said I was done with any reading aloud in front of those two.   We agreed to stay until just after lunch, then leave by 1:30 or 2.  Originally we were told she would leave around 3, but she was also talking about being out earlier.....fine with us.
   We had a great time together, but next time we want a couple of days of writing, we'll rent our own house, buy our own food, and read to each other.  


Friday, July 19, 2013

 What's been keeping me balanced lately--new creativity finally emerging:

Inspired by Terri Carol's beautiful focal bead

Given a challenge to make a versatile necklace that can incorporate the centerpiece.  Now on sale and in the window at Bare Necessities in Burlingame.

Kumihimo bracelet

The next part of my Saori weaving (free form).  I'm hoping it instills thoughts of the ocean and mountains and sunsets....
  Gearing up for open studios art sale, so next, I need a good picture of my work for the brochure.  That's my weekend project--every year I try something new and have never found one that shows all I do that works for me.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Empathy for Willie Loman

 I had an appointment yesterday to show my work to a woman who's in charge of a gift shop at a new art museum.  She has limited space and only wanted to see a few things.  Since I weave, knit, and make jewelry, I wanted to show her more just hoping she'd find it interesting enough to market.  She did not.
  She did take two woven scarves--one of the gorgeous turquoise metallic and beaded scarves and one rayon rose-colored.  She liked the woven and felted purses, but wants them in the fall when she'll make room for them.  No jewelry.  And I made a new piece just to bring in for her to see.

  I know I sound a little whiny, but I can't help it.  After being rejected by the first juried show I entered, my ego is a bit deflated.  Plus, I've given out the information to other artists in my group, and their work is all over the gift shop.   I seem to be very good at promoting and helping others, but not so good for myself.
 Here's one of the pieces she took to sell:  And I dropped the price according to her wishes for what she thought her market could handle.  Hmm.

 Willie Loman indeed.
  Then I decided since I was on the road hacking my wares, I should stop at the store Nancy told me about and show my work to the owner there.  She liked what I do, but as far as the crocheted wire jewelry, she already carries S's knitted wire, so it's too close to have both.  That didn't seem to matter to the store owner that carries my jewelry--I was already in there for awhile when she added the same knitted wire work as well.  It is a different price-point and doesn't look identical, but this store felt loyal to the other artist, which I can appreciate, but which still frustrated me.  She also liked my woven scarves, but since she carries $20 scarves, says it's not something most of her customers would buy, except as a special gift at the I should bring them back later in the year.   It's a cute store, but possibly not the right place for my work.
 So Willie headed home.
 The bottom line is I really dislike having to sell my work to stores.  I'm not good at it.  I could sell someone else's work--it's depersonalized when it's not your own.  
 Tonight is the reception for CoCA at Coastal Arts League.  I have 2 pieces entered--one scarf and one necklace.  I'm hoping for a fun event...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sharing Memories and Eating from the Garden

  Last night Judith came for dinner and mahjongg.   It was our first regularly-scheduled maj night since Larry died, so very poignant.   Our last date was supposed to be February 16, but he was in the hospital.  As I set up table and got out the set, I started feeling melancholy, and tried not to let my emotions overwhelm me.
 I haven't written about losing our dear friend Larry because I feel it is private.  I did post his obituary so our former students would know.  I still do not want to use the blog to write about my feelings, but will say we miss him very much.  As a couple, they were our role models, and she continues to be a role model now.   Judith is a remarkable woman.
  One thing we always enjoyed with our friends was hearing their stories of their 52+ years together which kept us laughing.  We have since added our own stories after traveling and spending much time together, and enjoy the memories we've created.  Last night, we laughed a lot about our shared memories and even added some new ones.
  Here's something we laughed about--first, just because of how this looks in person, but later how Judith's daughter Heather saw this after seeing the picture:
  What's it look like to you?  

  Dinner menu last night was this delicious cauliflower and mashed potato pie.  It's not low-cal with half-and-half and flour added to the potatoes, but worth every bite.  Matthew's growing potatoes, but  these came from the grocery store:

  The carrot and fava bean saute were our own home-grown.  Favas are best the first week or two--tender and soft.  In another month, I'll be sorry to see another bean, but happy eating them now.

    And there will be many more.......
  Matthew made two kinds of cookies--lemon biscotti and something he made up years ago--molasses peanut butter.  
We ate cookies over mahjongg tiles and ate more with sorbet.
  When you play 3-handed maj, you have a "dummy wall" set up; we decided to call it the Larry Wall instead, at least for now.   It was a good way to acknowledge that empty spot rather than having it be the "elephant in the room."
 I'm glad we got through our first night of playing as a threesome and have already set the date for our next game.  We talked about the past, the present, and the future and shared laughs like always.  
   Life goes on at a rapid pace with changes we don't always anticipate or want.  We deal or we don't.
And our gardens continue to grow and produce.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Sad Sunday Search for the Sandwich

 Excitement was mounting all week for the Maverick's Surf Competition which hadn't happened for 3 years.  They thought they'd have the swells last year, but then didn't call it, but one lone food truck arrived in hopes of catching early gawkers, and I caught up with it.  I was curious because we had just returned from Peru, and this truck specialized in Peruvian I tried their lomo saltado.  After ordering, I noticed business cards showing their other restaurants, one of which is a local high-end favorite, La Costanera.  
 I brought it home since I was only 5 minutes away and enjoyed every bite of the delicious meat, coleslaw, and fries on their housemade bread.  An unusually-flavorful sandwich, which I then craved for the next year.
 So while everyone else was excited about the surf contest, I was excited to learn the Sanguchon food truck would be back in Princeton!  I posted about it on Facebook and many friends asked me why it was so good.  My hopes were up...
  Two former students wrote they were coming over the hill, so I offered them a parking space here and we walked down to the harbor together.  Traffic was backed up and stopped on the highway much of the morning, but they managed to get through and be here around 12:30.  We headed over and searched all over the area for the truck.
 This year, the event planners had to change how people view the contest--three years ago, a rogue wave or sleeper wave, surprised onlookers (who had been warned about sitting too close to the water's edge), and several suffered injuries.  We had hiked the bluffs to watch, but with thousands coming to see Mavericks in action, the bluffs got trampled and which was obviously not good for the environment.  This year, they charged people to get into the event center, which was the parking lot at the harbor's hotel, and blocked off the bluffs and harbor.  People paid $10 online or $20 at the door to sit on the ground and watch one video screen, which wasn't really that easy to see in the bright sunlight.  They also had music and guess what?  the freaking food trucks were INSIDE THE EVENT AREA!  We weren't about to pay $20 just to pay for a sandwich!
  Eddie headed over to the woman at the entrance and managed to sweet-talk her into letting us go inside without paying so we could buy food.  I have no idea what he said to her, but she allowed Ericka to wait nearby with his backpack (both were collateral that we'd return).  We had to walk through many people standing, sitting, lying on the pavement to find the truck, but finally saw it at the far end of the perimeter.  Sam's Chowder House had a huge line, so I was surprised to see no line at Sanguchon.  No line?  Really?  Why could that be?  because they were SOLD OUT.  The only thing they had left was Sprite.
 We dejectedly headed out and walked back home.  Eddie and Ericka headed out awhile later to sit in traffic on the highway, and I had yogurt and an apple.  Not the lunch I anticipated.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


  AS I board, I wonder whom my seat-mate will be this time.  I am delayed at the gate due to a missing coupon I wasn’t issued, so the flight is already full.  My seat-mate is engrossed in his book, and doesn’t look up.  I don’t speak either.
  Within minutes, he is asleep with his open book on his lap.  I sneak sideways glances, then openly stare and check him out.  He is perhaps a little older than I, nothing particularly inspiring in his looks.  No wedding ring.  Now I wonder about his reading material, but can’t see without leaning over into his space.  He snores quietly.
  Because we’re traveling internationally, one could guess a language barrier since he doesn’t talk, but when asked chicken or lasagna, he speaks English as well as I.  At the sound of the food cart, he awakens again, but merely reads until the meal arrives.  I am also reading, but still curious.  We eat in silence, good at ignoring each other by now.  And when the meal is over, we pick up our books and read--then he falls sleep again.  We still have about sever hours of flying together left.
He never asks me to get up--just waits until I do, then leaves his pillow on my empty seat and heads for the toilet.  I am back and waiting--checking out his book which seems more intense than my own novel.
  When he returns, he makes no eye contact and doesn’t gather his pillow from my seat.  I toss it to him as I sit, then pick up my book and continue reading. 
  He sleeps again--more snoring, but at least he stays on his side.  The day is progressing; people around us are conversing or watching a movie.  I get much reading done, then switch to knitting.  He awakens and continues to read, now making notes and underlining in his book.
During one of his siestas, the flight attendant comes through with immigration forms.  I take one for him in case he hadn’t gotten one earlier.  When he awakens, I hand it to him and say it was for him, but he hands it back and shakes his head.  Well, thanks anyway.
 When about to land, I return to my seat and discover he has put on my seatbelt by mistake.  I have to break our code of silence and tell him.  He mumbles a reply.  When we touch ground, we are informed our gate was not cleared due to maintenance of a plane there, so we sit on the tarmac for another 30 minutes quietly waiting.  We continue to read, though I am getting obviously agitated thinking I might miss my connection.
  After eight and a half hours on board, we finally land and are at the gate, and as I stand up to retrieve my bag above, the stranger asks where I have been and where was I going, then goes on to initiate a rushed two-minute conversation about my vacation until it is my turn to leave the plane.  

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cauliflower and Potato Gratin Pie

This is delicious--we started dreaming up new ideas for it, including using celery root, different cheeses, broccoli, etc.  The recipe was in the SF  Chronicle a couple of weeks ago.   And now, trying it for breakfast.