Sunday, July 15, 2012

Retriever to the Rescue! For Sunny, Hurley and Jake

In earlier blogs, I wrote about a couple of the great dogs our family has had the privilege of loving.  The loss of our yellow lab , Sunny, due to diabetes was hard, yet not unexpected. She really persevered longer than we had imagined that she would.  I did not plan to adopt another dog for a while, until that big black bundle of heart and soul, named Hurley, at age 11 needed a home.  It was a surprise to have my heart so immediately stolen.  The year we had him in our lives gave us a new level of companionship that we had never known, however, it was shortened when he abruptly died three days after the diagnosis of lymphoma.
That sudden loss was harder to bear than any before, and although there will never be another Hurley,
we needed to find a great dog to heal our hearts.
Welcome Jake!  A veterinary assistant had heard about our loss and recommended this floppy, oversized golden retriever from a foster home nearby.  He had been rescued at age 5 months... ( yikes, a puppy? I wondered) ... but within minutes of meeting him, I was in love . . . and after the trial period, he has come to be ours and we have come to be his.  This morning as it was time for yoga stretches, this 80 lbs, 6 month old decided to place his massive furry paw on my chest and with his face over mine, miles of loose skin and gold sagging into his nose and eyes.  I said, "Jake, I didn't know you knew CPR!"  After saying those words, I realized that he really had done just that.  Revived our hearts, with "Cute, Caring, Precious puppy Resuscitation".   Man's best friend has done it again.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Two Gulls and a Snake, among other tails (tales) Or "Thank you Mrs. M!"

In the last few months, I have been reminded of some of the lessons my third grade teacher taught her classes.  Not directly a part of the curriculum, just a coincidental life experience that was truly beneficial and lasting . . . a teaching of perspective.  Her classroom was full of animals, not the typical domestic pets, but rodents, snakes, and spiders and bugs.  We were allowed the pleasure of learning about them over the months of the school year, but more importantly how they were a part of our environment and that they deserved respect.  Not fearful respect, but adoring respect.  We learned about species that were safe to handle and not fear, and that they are very much a part of our world, and to not be shocked or disgusted by them nor cruel to them.  I have been reminded of that several times in the last months, as there have been times these little friends have needed a helping hand and I feel privileged to have been in the right place at the right time.

One incident was when a neighbor called to ask for help with a baby seagull on an elevated roof.  He was separated from his parents, not able to fly ( had fallen out of his upper roof nest home).  Neighboring cats were eying him from a nearby fence and he was in danger of starving or being eaten, or falling further.  Lois called and we concocted our solution with Debbie who brought her net. I was chosen to climb out the small upper story window onto the roof, with a rope tied around my waist.  They held the rope which was also tied off onto the stair banister indoors.  I squeezed through the window and out to the roof top with the net and gloves.  The little gull was cautious, but it was not difficult to get close enough to put the net over him, then gently pick him up and place him up on the higher level with his parents. Happily, he would spend enough time there to gain his wings and fly away not long after.

Another animal in distress moment was as I was driving home from a dental hygiene workday.  On a somewhat busy street , two women were flagging down cars to go around a large snake that was coiled in fear in the middle of the road.  The women had saved him from being hit by stopping the traffic, however, they could not get him to move from where he was, no matter how large a stick they tried to coax him with.  After pulling my car over, I had a strong feeling it was one of my sentimental favorites of  reptiles, the gopher snake, so I pulled over in hopes of getting him easily out of the way.  There was no mistaking this friendly critter, and I told the women to not be afraid, I was going to grab him by the neck and body while he was preoccupied with their stick and then place him on the hillside off the road.  Within seconds he was slithering away, safe and happy and I applauded the women for taking the time and courage to stand in the road for this beautiful 4 ft snake. 

Just yesterday, I saw a seagull hobbling frantically and bleeding from his leg in the middle of our neighborhood street.  When I parked and got out to check, he had a fishing hook caught in his leg and a leader line with more hooks dangling off and somewhat tangled around his other leg.  There was not much choice but to grab an old towel from my car, and gently toss it over the gull, pick him up securely and seek help from a neighbor who was working in his garage.  I asked him to bring out wire cutters to see if we could cut the hook end to pull it out.  After clearing the line, we found that the barb had pulled through to one side.  I held the feet fast and secure while the young man carefully cut the bead at the other end of the hook.  He then pulled the barbed end out  and the hook through the leg until the gull was free of the entire rig.  Next he was set free on the plants on the edge of the cliff by the beach.  He looked very unhappy with us, but I believe he start to heal and hopefully fully recover. 

Thank you again to those teachers who don't just teach facts, but teach perspective and values, especially in such a subtle way.  It is such a privilege to get that close to the experience of a wild animal, do something that hopefully makes a positive impact.  Thank you for teaching me to recognize those that are safe, those with which I can be so bold.  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Nothing like helping others, and having fun doing it!

 Next week is the CHAIR ITY fund raiser for the Santa Maria Public Library! It was such a pleasure to be a part of the project and call upon some of my creative skills and imagination to serve.  One of the chairs they really wanted was for the book Moby Dick, so I volunteered that right away.  I stayed away from violent images though and kept it imaginative and spirited instead...  Inspired by that one, I next chose a popular novel... and who does not love dogs... The Call of the Wild.  One of my favorites, it was natural and easy.  It was fun to add the icicles along the chair seat edge.  Last, the committee called and needed Ramona to be painted on a chair that no one had committed to yet, so of course, I could not say no... Here she is, just as I remember her from my children's reading times in elementary school.

After that project, a friend needed help preparing a craft for her monthly children's outreach.  Recruiting Lois (REAL's cover girl) and George (Purpose chapter of REAL) we were able to come up with wooden toy bears that will move when the mechanism is added.  Here is the bear with a sample of painted design.  The kids will do their own of course and hopefully have as much fun as we have had! 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Carpe Diem Wherever you are!

At times the swiftness with which time has passed just boggles my mind and I would love to turn the clock back and relive especially times with our four children.  As ambitious and adventurous as I am, I still miss their noises in the house, the laundry, and the amount of food that passed in and out of our refrigerator and pantry everyday.

Today I am feeling that sense of missing them, and yet rejoicing in their independence and individual ambitions.  The oldest, our son, is en route to Australia for yet another surfing documentary that carries him across the globe.  Our second, one of three daughters, is enjoying a break from her PhD program in El Salvador with her husband.  Our youngest leaves for Washington DC tonight for Former President Clinton's Global Initiative conference, and the middle daughter will be leaving for Paris for design and architecture study within weeks.  And once again, my husband is off slaying dragons all over California. 

It reminds me of my first night on the Inca Trail.  We had hiked about 11 miles or so from the trail head up in to the wooded and wild mountains.  My roommate was ill all night, poor thing.  She had to go out several times in the night and I went along, hoping to comfort, and to prepare us for any wild thing that might show up though the trees.... At one point, in our tent, I started to write in my journal, "Why am I doing this???? "  I am thousands of miles from my family, the ones I love. This makes no sense.  (My husband changed his plans last minute, and I chose to go anyway) 

As I imagined the things they were doing at that time, one surfing and filming in Barbados, one at a bachelorette campout in Malibu, one meeting an old friend in town, the other at a country music concert in LA, and my husband doing the work that he loves, I realized that they were all quite happy, and I decided that it was time to let that go and have the best time I could.  The freedom was a foreign feeling for a short time, but not for long.  I embraced the hike, the new friends, the amazing country of Peru for all I could.  It almost felt like early college days when I felt like the world was just waiting to be explored.  It reminded my of how important it is to have our own dreams and goals and to not be afraid to try something new, or depend on someone to do it.  

Parenting is the hardest and most important job in the universe.  It is worth giving up much to gain so much for your children.  I will be thinking of them all while I am at home enjoying the quiet and bare basics in the refrigerator or walking the beach with Hurley. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Whopper Wall Eye!

Nice day of ice fishing! Patience and ambition pay off as Davey hits the ice!

With ice drill, ice hut, hot thermos, and fishing gear in hand, er, glove,  he meets with success and the smile on his face is very clear.  A happy man today! Northern Minnesota cousin! Love ya!

Magic of Mac and Moonstone

This was a day that I won't forget!  Warm and mellow California day.  Stopping by the Mac Superstore for Doug to check out computers, and lo and behold I discovered something I never knew existed! When I saw it it was as if I heard chimes and angels singing... a piano keyboard that hooks up to the computer with a USB adaptor and you can be playing piano as much and any way you want!!!! The price was unbelievable... Of course I now have it right in front of this keyboard...  waiting to be played the minute I finish here.  My own piano has been at La Perla del Mar Chapel for years and I have missed it, even though I can play there... still miss having it right here at home.  This is a real gift and miracle.... that satisfies the need to create my own rhythm, melody, or disappear into a different "dimension" with Bach, Cat, Joni, or Bacharach... Ah!!!!
After leaving the Mac store, we headed up to Moonstone Beach south of San Simeon for a lazy walk and glorious time belly down and finding treasures in the acres of stones warmed by the sun... It was like time standing still for a bit... We could have stayed there forever, entertained by the magic of these stones that must have travelled and been tossed and tumbled for ages...
   We did finally decide to head south toward home and find a place for lunch.  Funny how laziness worked up our appetites!  Doug had his favorite oysters and a happy man, one who would turn around in the next few hours to rise to the demands of the Emergency Room of a valley trauma center once again.  The day was food for the soul,  just the medicine he needed!

I hope these photos reflect the calm and escape of those hours!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Reflections - Lennette

A dear friend shared this essay she rediscovered when she went through some old file.  Her high school teacher had asked her to write an essay and Lennette had no idea what topic to write about.  She chose something that seemed simple, and found something very profound.

Thank you Lennette!

Friday, February 17, 2012

a COOL Idea! One appliance that speaks volumes!

I love our refrigerators.  All of my friends have something posted on their beloved refrigerator whether it is magnetic or taped or gummed on.

I am going to start this as a new REAL form of expressing our interests, our behaviors, our calendars, our celebrations and loves.   Here is my first one... that has been on my fridges for the last 15 or so years. Truly worn ,but loved.  It has moved from Austin Texas to Modesto, Tulare and now Shell Beach California.  Here ya go! Please send your faves if you have one! email to or REAL' s Facebook page! Have fun!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines Day to Everyone!

“Pistol was for sale,” she says, speaking of the beautiful sorrel gelding in the pasture, “He was being sold for dog food, and Rosie needed a stable mate.”  Certainly, Diane had been one of those children who would come home with stray cats or dogs and beg, “Please, can I keep him?”  She has a big heart for the rejected and has a home and acreage to match.  Since the abused Pistol has found his home, he has gained a deep trust for Diane and is becoming more at ease with strangers.  He and Rosie, the mare, find comfort in each other and in the safety of the healing environment that Diane and her husband, Ed, have created for them. 
It was rewarding to discover that Diane’s knowledge and expertise as a physical therapist would be able to help Pistol.  Diane would regularly and gently treat his ailing body and lame leg with massage and therapeutic tools.  He began to respond with gradual healing, and affection toward Diane.  Over time his body actually expelled a large splinter of wood about the size of a pencil from his leg.  His lameness was cured and in time the wounds in his soul would heal.
Most of Diane’s patients are people.  They arrive with their stressed and tight muscles, stiff joints, and the accumulation of worry and injury.  She is a patient healer, a good listener—gentle, strong, and tenacious.  Her sense of humor makes the work lighter, but as an advocate of balance and health, her wisdom is unshakeable.  Her long, wavy, graying hair is pulled easily back into a ponytail and her skin is warmly tanned from the outdoors.  She exudes a natural beauty that tempers any clinical tone in her medical art. 
Although she loves her human clients, horses and dogs have been Diane’s passion for decades.  As she takes Pistol for a morning ride on the beach, she absorbs his gift to her . . . his affection, energy, and spirit. This horse, once considered dog food, became a treasured friend . . . restored and renewed with the touch of her hand.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Featuring  MORE Stories about LOVE in the Month of LOVE-

Mothers wear many hats, and Pam has confidence and experience in every role.  She is
on the high seas of parenting four school age children.  Her tote bag is equipped with band aids,lip gloss, sunscreen, granola bars, paper and pens, hair bands, hand wipes, and just about anything that a bustling family may need.  Her SUV has a supply of water bottles and snacks. It is apparent that her days revolve around her calendar and lists.

Pam is in the driver’s seat multiple times daily, juggling pick-up and drop-off schedules
to schools, dance practice, orthodontist appointments, and farmers’ markets.  She has periods of
“curbside” waiting that allow her to read her book, catch up on her calendar, or nap.

Weekends are frequently filled with sports or dance competitions out of town. That is the time to pack the food, gear, and finally the kids.  These are chaotic times, but the trips are fun, and time passes quickly.  With all eight seats filled, kids chat away at high speed and volume. As the food and drinks are passed around, the rising noise level doesn’t faze Pam.  She loves the energy and silliness in the back seats as long as they are all safe and buckled up. “It will all happen too quickly,” she says, as she thinks about them growing up and becoming independent.

As she loads up the kids and sees that they are all settled with seatbelts fastened, she
checks her list and mirrors. She thinks about stretching one more time before taking her place in the driver’s seat and turns the key.  Her hands are at the helm, steering the pack to the next activity.  With a spirit of love and gratitude for her dear cargo, a sense of privilege and grace, Pam embraces these precious moments that leave fingerprints on the SUV’s windows and fingerprints on her heart.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Calling for LOVE The Month of LOVE...


Woody and Kay-

It was a surprise romance . . .
Woody had just lost his beloved wife of six decades to a chronic illness.  His love was so great and enduring that as wise and faithful as he was, it was the hardest thing he’d ever done, continue on without his Marguerite.
Along came Kay.  
Woody and Kay had been childhood friends from age three through elementary school, but it had been decades since they had seen each other. They both were happy to have remarkable memories from over 80 years earlier.  They remembered making mud pies and catching bugs, neighborhood games and beginnings of school. They remembered the wide-eyed excitement of making perfume in jelly jars with water and rose petals.  When they met again they were both widowed and welcomed this spark of love and comfort.
It was only weeks after this reunion that they decided to get married. Woody was seeing the world again in a joyous light. He was happy and hopeful, respectful of his love for his Marguerite, but in love with a friend who loved him back. At first it was sudden and difficult for family members to accept, thinking it would take longer to let go of Marguerite. Nothing they said would change his mind. He married Kay within just a few months.  Kay was a new bride again, and the details of planning the wedding and reception were going to be delightful. 
One detail she did not have to tend to was the reception centerpiece design.  Woody guaranteed he would provide something appropriate and it was to be a secret.  After the ceremony, the newlyweds were presented in the reception hall and on each table, Kay saw Woody’s surprise.   
Each center was their perfume . . . a jelly jar filled with water and rose petals.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

New Voice Leaves Its Echo...

What a refreshing experience for those who attended the spoken word poetry event at the Clark Center in Arroyo Grande last weekend! Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye of Project Voice performed to enthusuastic crowd and standing ovation and did workshops to capacity classes at La Perla del Mar.
The art form of Spoken Word Poetry is very new , but fast becoming a movement because of its growing popularity among high school and college age people.  It is NOT hum drum poetry, a monotonous flow of rhyming words or prose, or boring in any way.
Some people expected that the evening was going to be just that, maybe tolerable, but most likely dull.   I overheard some people arriving to the performance saying, "I will give it a few minutes, but if I start nodding or snoring, let's think about leaving", or, "At least I'll get a nap."  Were those people surprised!   The dynamic of the poetry, the impact of so much in few words was something they will never forget.  Within the first two or three words of Phil and Sarah's first poem, mouths in the audience were dropping, whispers of "Oh my GOSH!" or gasping were heard expressing almost disbelief at what was happening on stage.  The level of attention and desire for more only grew over the next hour.  Everyone in the crowd was not thinking of anyplace else they would rather be but right there, and right then.  They felt like part of the stories. They wanted to learn to to use this new voice to tell their own story.  "How do they do that?" was heard by many.

This is a new voice, a new "prophet", as someone called it, for a new generation.  Each of us has it inside of us waiting to be discovered and called upon, with courage, humor, attention to craftsmanship of expressing the things that are important to us.  Hopefully, the movement will continue and workshops will be more frequent and available.   Hopefully we can add a new, very meaningful and true way of communicating beyond the comfort of our slang, our abbreviated grammar, our texting that is will bring people together to share experiences, solve problems and inspire compassion.

Before they left, SLO gave them a moment of surprise at Bubble Gum Alley...

 Thank you Project Voice.

Friday, January 6, 2012

PAIR OF SKATES Northern Minnesota

The summer memories are of warmth of the sun, all trees, crops and flowers green and in bloom.  I can hear the giggles of the sisters as they must have played outdoors.... Eileen, Leone, Gladys, Eldeen, Gwen...

When winter came, the laughter, singing, and fun came indoors.  Emma encouraged them to use the attic and the girls turned it into their skating arena.  It would be below zero outside, but the sisters would fill that attic with activity and imagination. 
 There was one pair of skates. the kind with the skate key to adjust for size. That meant that because they had to share the skates, one sister would crank the adjustment down to fit her smaller foot, and the other could easily loosen up the fit for her larger foot.  They proudly pose here in this photo... hands on their hips, like fashion models... Eileen so admiringly holding her big sister, Leone's hand.  Tall and lanky, Leone adored her sisters and even sharing the pair of skates.  Being the typical pre teen young lady, she shyly would pose her skate less foot behind the one with the skate, looking so poised and graceful, like a princess, as she role modeled for young Eileen.

On the Farm 1920's Minnesota

Saturday, December 31, 2011

So Long 2011 CHET, JANE, and BOB and Welcome 2012!

As the sun sets on this past year, and rises on the new we wish everyone a most joyous and safe New Years Eve and a BEST Year yet to come! We thank the dozens of friends we have met through our book events this year!  We also reflect fondly on those we will miss.  We are so grateful that we have the likes of Jane (Russell) and Chet (Hill) and Bob (Sorvig) in the pages of REAL.  Their stories will continue to remind us of Balance, Hope, and Love.  They also remind us to appreciate those around us, even those we don't know, and how EVERYONE makes a difference in this life.  It truly IS a Wonderful Life!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Turning the pages, turning of the years... Address Book Memories

I have often helped my 91 year old mom address her Christmas cards.  This year was a bit different from times before.  It is always so heartwarming to sit at her table by the window and talk about how lucky we are to be so close.  Two weeks ago when I sat in my spot, she had placed a rubber band bound stack of tiny address books by the cards. These were address books that I had not seen in decades.  The familiarity of them tugged very deeply at my heart and brought back memories of my own, even sounds and scents of our home from decades ago. I remember being a little girl and pulling out one of them to look up an address of an aunt or cousin for my own notes.  I imagined the memories my mother must have  when she flipped through the pages of each one.  A couple of them were "before my time"and full of names and details from as far back as the 1930's.  It was precious to hear her recall who some people were and where they lived and how she knew them.  It was dramatic to see how many had been crossed out because they had died, more like they had passed on but not forgotten - their place and time recorded in her book.  The covers of the address books were worn by love and use, and the material and design reflected an era.  

We addressed the few envelopes that she would send this year, and enjoyed the minutes of reading through names and places.  It was a special surprise to go through her "Princess Gardner" spiral bound photo book to see the tiny black and white images she had stored their from her younger years.  This was the collection that would have fit into her "billfold" in her purse and traveled with her  everywhere so that she could share her photos with pride. There was something very warm and personal about holding these in my hands, and seeing them in hers. The collection of years of friends and family, comings and goings and staying connected through expressions of love.  Thank you, Mom, for reminding me of how such a simple thing can mean so much.