Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Multi-Headed Gorilla

Today I woke up around 6:30 a.m., much much earlier than my preferred time. My thoughts about a gargantuan photo project kept me awake. How could I ever finish it in the two days that I had allocated for the project. This was a time-line that I'd established for myself in order to take advantage of a mega-discount (67% off) from an on-line photo company.

This morning I finally admitted the obvious. I can't do it. Sitting at the computer for the time needed to achieve the results I am aiming for is too much of a physical strain for me. My back hurts. My neck hurts. And what was supposed to be a FUN project has become a multi-headed gorilla that needs caging. I've decided to trade robotic perseverance for a saner incremental approach. I'll spend no more than 90 minutes at a time at the computer - and only 60 minutes if I'm hurting.

This approach, to throw myself entirely into a project at the expense of other things (eg. exercise) is not unusual for me. Over-all I think I lead a fairly well-balanced life; on a day to day basis not so much. The all or nothing approach is all too typical of the way I live my life.

Pain can be a great teacher. Today it is teaching me that it is time for a fundamental change in how I approach my days.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Chimpanzee And The White Baby Tigers

My long-time blog friend Mick sent me an e-mail with these beautiful pictures. I revised the captions to create a book for my three year old granddaughter, Maddie. I hope that she (and you) will enjoy looking at this. If you'd like the original or my edited work, feel free to shoot me an e-mail. Merry Christmas to y'all.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas

Happy New Year and beyond to my on-line friends. Click on this link from my long-time on-line friend Nola. It wonderfully catches what I'd like to think the Christmas spirit is all about.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Have You Been Bad or Good ????

(Click on the picture for more detail.)

After I left the group of Santas after the sun had gone down last Saturday, I approached a woman who smiled at me as she waited for the boat parade to start. I was still wearing my Santa pants, but had taken off my jacket and may have also taken off my hat.

"I've been looking for you," I said.

"You have?" asked the woman. "Do I know you?"

"Why of course you know me."

"I don't know you."

I turned to the woman who was with her. "Does she know me?"

"I don't know."

"I don't know you," repeated her friend.

I waved my red jacket, trimmed in white "fur," at her. "Okay," I said. "I'm not used to this hot weather. It's cold where I come from."

"Oh," her face relaxed into a smile. "You're Santa Claus."

"Yes," I said. "And I've been looking for you to find out if you've been bad or good. I couldn't find your name in my records."

"Oh, I've been good," she said.

I paused, tilted my head and asked slowly, "but what about that one time. You remember don't you?"

She giggled. "Yes there was that time."

"Well, since you've been honest about it, Santa has something for you." I pulled out an ornament from the red bag that I was carrying. It was one of the more expensive ones enveloped in a wrapping of pale blue nylon.

"That's just the right color," said the woman. "But you already knew that didn't you."

I smiled and moved on to find other strangers with whom I could play.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


I am freer now than I have ever been - or, more likely, I am just now realizing and appreciating that freedom from a different perspective.

My dream the night before last was my first indication. For as long as I can remember, I have had an active and well remembered dream life. My dreams are often inter-connected and evolving; new dreams are frequently impacted by the events in previous dreams. The same themes keep coming up.

In Thursday night's dream, I was once again returning to school. This time, I finally found the totally right program for me, a short program which would enable me to work with animals. On Friday night, I refused a contract to teach for another year. I've been teaching constantly in my dreams - up to 3 or 4 times a week -and it is rarely a pleasant experience.

I don't expect the returning to school dreams nor the unpleasant teaching experience dreams to end. It will be interesting (to me) to observe the new wrinkles in them, but this is not primarily about my dreams. It is about my shift into a new reality.

The truth is that most of the things that I have been telling myself that I HAVE to do are things that I can choose or not choose to do. My choices have consequences, but none impact the quality of my life except to the extent that I've made them "have to's."

I do not really have to:

organize my pictures from China (though I took many excellent ones that are lingering as bytes on my computer)

work with my glass (despite having invested a fortune in glass supplies)

finish a couple of sewing projects (including the compelling one on which I'm currently working)

finish reading Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution (even though it's absolutely fascinating and very well written - and a major intellectual challenge to me)

learn to do various things on my iPhone (though it is the most awesome material object I currently own; I do not own Daisy, my kitty)

learn to even use the GPS that I recently ordered (though not to do so would be a total waste)

make reservations for events I want to attend (There is the option of missing them.)

Organize various papers (that should be organized, but life can go on perfectly fine without this happening)

Donate the rest of Matt's clothes and other items, keeping excellent records of these donations in preparation for taxes (The consequences of not paying taxes make the payment of them not an option for me, but I don't HAVE to donate stuff and take a deduction for doing so).

Replace the very unsteady shelf in the garage that a careless move will destroy causing cans of paint to fall on the floor and possibly open causing an almost catastrophic mess

Roast pumpkin seeds, bake corn bread, make root vegetable soup (though I'll probably do the last of these after I finish this blog)

I don't HAVE to visit the grandson who will most likely be born this week-end, maybe even today. Nor do I HAVE to go to the symphony tomorrow. Nor put butterflies (fake ones) above my bed.

I have been making an agenda of things like those listed above, assigning their completion to a given day then reassigning them to other days because I always imagine myself doing more than I can actually accomplish. I will still probably do this. I have a need for such structure. The difference is one of attitude:

I don't mind doing the things that are "have tos" (in the sense that bill paying is a
"have to" and not really an option). Even with the "have tos," I'm in the very lucky position that I really do have almost complete flexibility about when I'll do what I need to do. Most of the things on my list are NOT "have tos." I haven't been appreciating this. And now I do.

(For any youngun's reading this, the price for this freedom has not been insignificant. At 64+ years old, I've kinda earned it.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

300 Years More - Yes or No?

The Makropulos Case
First a few words about the opera, The Makropulos Case, which I saw last night in San Francisco:

Elina Makropulos lives 300 years beyond her normal life expectancy because the Hapsburg Emperor Rudolf II forced her alchemist father to administer to her the "elixir of life" that he had discovered. Throughout her very long life, she assumes a number of identities, always as a singer with the initials E.M. As Emilia Marty, her final identity, she discovers the supreme value of Death in giving meaning to Life. (For more details, check the synopsis at the site of the link above.)

This story line gives rise to the obvious question: Would you want such an extended life?

I find myself at cross currents with this.

Eventually, all the people about whom I care would die. At the level of great-great-great grandchildren (and there might be hundreds of these), the bond of progeny would probably diminish to the point of meaninglessness (as it did for E.M.)

But, there would be so many books that I'd like to read for which I now lack the time, so much knowledge to gain - including the knowledge of unfolding events and scientific advances. And the indulgence of my creative spirit; I could even manage to use up all the glass that I so greedily purchased when it was on sale for 50% of its usual cost.

But without people for whom I care a great deal, without that human connection, none of this would matter. I wouldn't care about the books or knowledge. My creative spirit would whither.

But, if I could maintain a connection with something larger than myself, with Nature most likely, that would be sufficient to give meaning to my life. (Were I of a more spiritual bent than is my current inclination, God - or god - would well serve this purpose.) And, if I could maintain this connection to something larger than myself, to Nature, I could care about Nature's critters as I do now. Simply put, as Daisy is important to me now, another cat and cats way way way beyond, might one day be my salvation. And, if I could care about other pussycats, I could care about other humans even knowing how comparatively brief their lives would be. I might no longer have a special attachment to my progeny, but there would be human beings who would become special to me if I opened myself up to caring about them.

An unexpected end point to this reflection is a renewed understanding about how important important human connections are to me. The repeated use of "important" is intentional. I do not need a large number of human connections. I need important human connections. Without them - and without one sweet pussycat - all else in my life becomes meaningless.

The connection to something larger than myself is of less importance to me with the prospect of death nipping at my heals than it would be with a much larger life horizon. Even so, I would be well advised (by myself) to better nurture my connection with the Nature that is so readily available to me. Interestingly (to me) the thoughts that I expressed beginning with the paragraph with the picture of Daisy came upon me as I was working out on my elliptical cross trainer and looking out the window at the trees and the sky.

(unrelated p.s.: There's a nice photo of me an another woman from the Autumnal Gathering here.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sometimes It's Enough To Just Be An Observer

This past Saturday, November 20th, I attended the Autumnal Gathering, a fundraiser for the Black Rock Arts Foundation, an organization that grew out of Burning Man. As stated on its home page, its mission is to "is to support and promote community, interactive art and civic participation."

Burning Man is all about participation. My experience at this fundraiser was almost entirely about observation (not withstanding "the observer effect" whereby the observing presence impacts that which is being observed). Sometimes it is quite enough - and quite enjoyable - to just be an observer.

(Eight of the 17 photos in this post include"entertainers." The other 9 are just plain folks.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Maddie Visit

On November 6th, my entire family made the two hour drive to my house for the first time in a very long time. Maddie, now three, was less than a year old the last time she visited. My pack rat tendency had me well prepared for this visit.

Among the things that I have saved over the years has been empty litter containers. I brought these up from under the house. Gari dusted them off and created a fort. Thinking of the multiple ways in which Maddie could play with the various container tops that I have saved over the years, I put out larger containers into which she could throw them. I also created a pinwheel design with some of them, an example I thought of something that she could do. I e-mailed photos of these treasures to Ben so that he could share them with Maddie before the visit. He told me that Maddie was very excited after she saw the pictures.

I seem to have forgotten how it was with my own children when they were growing up and I seem to no longer remember what I learned about child development (if I ever learned it) because Maddie's visit was an education (as well as a delight).

The first thing Maddie did when she arrived was to run to the blue crayon. "It's a big blue crayon, " she said. "What's it's name?"

"It doesn't have a name Maddie. Can you give it a name?" She did not respond.

A few minutes passed after this and then again, "What's it's name?" and "Can you give it a name?" by various other people.

Maddie didn't seem to understand that she can name things. Perhaps for her the names of things are absolutes.

Maddie seemed to enjoy all the toys, but she was far more drawn to the real ones and (especially) to the letters, stickers, and jacks than to the trove of container tops and empty litter containers than I would have expected.

Her orientation seems to be with real things as they really are. Container tops are fun to throw in the air, but they remain container tops for her not objects of potential creativity.

It seems as if the play of imagination is of disinterest to Maddie or possibly beyond her comprehension. She is interested in learning about the world as it is. The world of fantasy is probably very real to Maddie. She loves Dora the Explorer, the cartoon figure whose videos she watches over and over. When Dora the Explorer came to Maddie's birthday party in the form of a young woman who dresses and plays the part, Maddie seemed puzzled and sometimes distressed. Later, she said that the young woman was "Teacher Dora," thus keeping the "real" Dora undisturbed.

I'm fascinated by all this and also realize that I'm extrapolating a lot from a few isolated incidents. It is different with Maddie than it was with my own children. Weeks and sometimes months pass between our visits. I am in awe and fascinated by her development into the person that she is becoming.

Friday, November 12, 2010

How Can You Tell Someone . . .

My friend Gari is reading Painted Ladies, by Robert B. Parker.

"I'm very disappointed in Susan," Gari told me, then read a bit from the book aloud to me. I am repeating the situation and dialogue as best I can from memory.

The situation: An older woman is feeding popcorn to the pigeons in a park. Susan is with her hunky boyfriend and is allowing her dog to chase the pigeons.

"You should control your dog," says the woman.

"Survival of the fittest," says Susan.

"You shouldn't be so flippant," says the woman. Or maybe she says, "Don't be so flippant."

She could have said, "That's a rather flippant response." If she had, would she still have gotten the following response from Susan:

"Kiss my ass."

My question, which Gari and I discussed but came to no good conclusion, is: How can you tell a stranger not to do something - or in this case, to do something: to control her dog - without creating a conflict situation.

Gari and I came up with, "Please please nice lady, will you please keep your dog from chasing the pigeons." We agreed that such obsequiousness was impossibly demeaning.

Maybe "I'd really appreciate it if . . ." would work, but I don't think so.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I will come back to this, but just haven't gotten around to it yet.

Posting and commenting via the iPhone is a bit more difficult than I had initially thought. Also, though I'm mega-competent with e-mailing, I still haven't figured out how to answer the phone without disconnecting the caller or how to retrieve voice mails. Eventually . . . .

Today, after a horrible night's sleep, I'm just too friggin tired. . . .

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

This Is Not A Post

but it is an announcement:

Ta Da !!!

I am still figuring out how to use my new iPhone

(it sucks when you have a phone that is smarter than you are)

and have just managed

to put an icon on my home page

(if that is even the correct term)

that takes me immediately to my blog

and therefore also to the blogs of my on-line friends

I can keep in touch when I am on the go. It seems that I am always on the go.

Sometimes things stall, like in the bank yesterday when I was trying to change the titling on two accounts and ended up having to close them and open up two different accounts with an assortment of annoying paperwork that needed to be completed and notarized. The brand-spankin-new bank clerk, who had never done such a thing, needed to be taught step by painful step by another bank clerk who wasn't all that sure of the process herself. Her explanations, as she went from instruction manual to instructing, were hyper-detailed. I have little tolerance for putting my life on hold and waiting for other people to jump through hoops. I could feel my stress level amp up. And then I remembered my new toy. My iPhone became my mood stabilizer, my pacifier, my electronic Valium.

Yesterday I could only text and watch lame videos on u-tube. Today I have Pandora (Internet Radio), KDFC (a classical music station), my blog and Facebook. It's taken my all morning to access and apply these apps. Your average teenager to do it in ten minutes. (I really need to organize my passwords better.) Still, I feel a sense of accomplishment.

Most importantly, I think I will now be able to at least keep up with the blogs of my on-line friends when I'm on the go. It seems lately that I'm almost always on the go. I keep waiting for the arrival of that time when I'm all caught up and able to nest and play with my glass and read shelves of accumulated books. It has seemed like that time will arrive soon, but soon keeps distancing itself from me like something seen on the horizon and, no matter how fast or how long you have been traveling, you never seem to get there.

Now, at least, I have my new toy. Soon I'll be gallivanting around to check out what my on-line friends are writing about. I'll look forward to waiting while processes work themselves out.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sea Lion Release

I have been writing my next post in my head while washing dishes, showering etc. I just haven't had the energy to actually write it on the computer. Meanwhile, I received this highly cool link from the Marine Mammal Center, an organization to which I've been contributing for many years. I'm sharing it with you.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Home (again)

Back from "Outside Lands," the penultimate music festival of the season for me. Some day soon I will catch up with blogging and reading the posts of my on-line friends. Not today though. Too much to do plus I'm feeling lazy. May go back to bed. Right now I am Arlene, the ambition-less one.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Teaser

This video of a group of women exercising was taken when Rachael and I were walking a few blocks from our hotel in Chengdu. It is not unusual to see groups of people publicly exercising in China. Outdoor exercise equipment, including a non-motorized version of my beloved elliptical cross trainer, can be found in many places, available for free to anyone who chooses to use it. The young woman who is making a silly face towards the end of this video is wonderful Rachael.

I will eventually get to starting my China blog. When I was taking a quick peek at my photos last night, I knew I wanted to share this one with you.

I will probably not get around to checking out the blogs of my on-line friends until at least next week.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Back From China

I returned home from China on Thursday. If I never understood jet lag before, I thoroughly understand it now. I have much catching up to do: putting stuff away, doing laundry, paying bills, etc. etc. etc.

Eventually I will return to writing this blog.

Eventually I will start another blog which will focus on my China trip. This will include photos, anecdotes, reflections, etc.

Eventually I will read the blogs of my on-line friends.

For now, I am fighting some doziness and am determined to put away all the stuff that has accompanied me home. I bought a duffel bag and a small wheeled suitcase for all the stuff that I did not need to buy. I have helped China's economy; my own, not so much.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

First About Lavender Oil, Then About The Harmony Festival

Nola, one of my blogger friends, has transformed the way I can now live my life with her inclusion of lavender oil in a gift bag she sent me after Matt's death. This is not an exaggeration. I have suffered from difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep for well over a decade. I took Temazapan regularly until a doc cut me off from my supply, taken antihistimines until a dose of 4 had replaced my initial dose of one and had become ineffective, and have alternated between the two of these, along with insomniac nights, when I was able to get Temazapan from another doc and/or use the ones prescribed to my hubby. I was alternating between antihistimines and Tempazapan when I received Nola's gift. I started putting drops of the lavender oil on my pillow while simultaneously cutting down my pill usage. I was off the pills - except for when I am away from home and sometimes even then - in a matter of weeks. Lavender oil really really works. And I am significantly more alert in the daytime hours than I'd been with the lingering effects of "better living through chemistry."

This past weekend, I went to the Harmony Festival held at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. I brought my RV so that I could enjoy the music and dancing that was scheduled to last until 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. (I pooped out at around 2 a.m.) Throughout my time at the festival, I couldn't decide if I was having an absolutely wonderful time or wanted to go home; when I was having a good time, I was having a very good time; when I was feeling distant from the events (out of harmony with them), I felt like leaving. The best music was NOT at the main stage - though I learned to like (very much) some of the big sounds that were played there that at first didn't appeal to me. The music and atmosphere that I enjoyed the most was at a small teahouse which also served vegan yummies. Here are some pix of from the event:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Just A Taste of Strawberry

These are the kind of peeps with whom I feel almost instantly at home. This is an environment in which I flourish. Check out all the wee kidlets. What a highly cool experience.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Scenes From the Maker Faire

The Maker Faire is a hyper-cool, mega-awesome event that should last for five days rather than two. I spent waaay too much time trying to learn how to solder and thought I had succeeded after much time and frustration. Ultimately the mini-Simon game that I created was non-functional. My very nice AND patient instructors gave me one that worked. I should learn that my faulty eye-hand coordination sets me up for failure. Having failed once again, I WILL try again (only not right now). Here are pictures from the event:

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I have been desperately trying to get up to date with paperwork. After two nights of staying up waaay past midnight and NOT working out on my elliptical cross trainer, I AM STILL NOT DONE.

The vast majority of the paperwork with which I am currently dealing is a result of my hubby's death. Much involves keeping track of various accounts, this because the heirs to some of these accounts are Matt's children. Even if Matt's highly (un)delightful daughter wasn't paranoid about my "intentions," I would be scrupulously keeping these accounts. Her paranoia adds to my frustration.

Other hassles:

Because some idiot in a certain company doesn't understand what information is and is not required, I have to sign an already completed form in the presence of an "authorized guarantor" and photocopy documents that are not required for what I want to do.

Because some government idiot has tried to correct one mistake and, in the process, has created another mistake, I have to write a letter to the governmental agency for which this idiot works explaining what has happened.

Files need to be updated. Papers need to be organized. Stuff that Matt used to do needs doings. Stuff that I used to do still needs doing.

Add shredding obsolete papers to this list. Some of this stuff goes back more than twenty years. I can not die now because it would be immoral to leave this shredding to others. Too much friggin work for them.

I haven't even mentioned the home fix-it stuff and the home maintenance stuff. My house is falling apart.

I haven't done much in the way of getting rid of Matt's stuff. This is not an emotional issue for me. I haven't done much about this stuff because I'm too busy doing other stuff.

I am so friggin tired of all this.

Tomorrow I will finish up with the form to the company and the letter to the governmental agency. On June 7th, I'll spend some time dealing with home repair and maintenance. On June 14th, I'll get back to the paperwork. After a few days at it, I will again put it aside unfinished.

It is Spring and soon will be summer. Music festivals, cool themed fairs, and far away places are loudly calling me. Neither numbers and forms nor fix-its and get-rid-of-its will keep me a prisoner when the sun is shining.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tedius To-Do's and Fun Fun Fun

It has been over a month since I've written a new post. My week in Oakland put me behind with getting done the various tasks of everyday life. I finally caught up at around 2 a.m. on Saturday. I'm now current with all the tedious to-do's, but expect this to be a temporary state. Spring has sprung and I am dazzled by all its offerings. I've been taking the time to walk on local park trails where wildflowers are in abundant bloom. I have also been pretty busy planning the upcoming months. Soon I will be in full on festival mode. I've got multi-day tickets for a number of music festivals. Also some special interest festivals like the Maker Faire in San Mateo. Unless I find a way to get by on three hours of sleep, I don't expect to be spending much time on-line.

So, . . . about that week in Oakland: My experience there was frustrating and rewarding. Glass flameworking, which is what the workshop that I attended was about, is different both in process and materials from the glass fusing that I've been doing. The type of glass used is also incompatible with the kind used in fusing. I was the slow learner in a class of three. I don't have the hand-eye coordination that is needed for that first crucial step of bonding one glass rod to another in a 4500 degree flame. (I learned that it is far less painful to burn yourself with a piece of glass that has just been in a 4500 degree open flame than with a pan that has been in a 450 degree oven.) At the halfway point, I decided to concentrate on the processes that we'd learned the previous two days rather than move ahead with more advanced projects. Despite my difficulty learning these new techniques and dealing with an instructor who was clearly frustrated working with me, I'm glad that I got to experiment with the process.

More recently, I spent Mother's Day week-end in San Jose. On Saturday, Rachael and I went for a 4.1 mile walk in Almaden Quicksilver Park. About an hour after we returned to her house, we were joined by Ben, Wendy and Maddie. Ben and Rachael took charge of dinner, while I got to enjoy Maddie. I am amazed by how much her language ability advances from one visit to the next.

On Sunday, Rachael and I played with her Mother's Day gift to me. A bit of history: When my kidlets were young, the three of us made group drawings. The project would start with one of us drawing something on a piece of paper then passing it to the next person who would add their touches. After a number of go-rounds, we'd have a completed picture. Rachael and I continued with these drawings long after Ben stopped doing them with us. Often we would get into "wars" where she would draw something to attack my drawing (or vice versa) and I would respond with my own attack or lethal defense. I can remember Rachael and I doing these kind of drawings when she was in Colorado teaching snow boarding and kayaking (in different seasons). We may have done them even more recently.

Rachael's Mother's Day gift to me was a set of acrylic paints, a blank 14" x 18" canvas and the experience of once again combining our creative impulses. This time we stipulated that there would be no wars.