Sunday, December 29, 2002

Somewhere in the Pacific...

This is where we sat and chewed on sugarcane, and guavas. This is where we saw the humpback whales spouting and breaching. Mauna Kea stands behind us and the Pacific before us and the boys are running all around us. I am so happy that our camera was able to capture the rainbow that kept appearing and changing, the clouds touching down on the water's surface. The day was breezy and cool. Cool for a tropical Island. Film doesn't capture the mild fragrance of flowers and fruit, the smell of distant rain heavy clouds. You'll have to imagine the birds calling from the ironwood trees, the lazy moo of cows in faraway meadows.

We walked through cane as thick and tall as...alas, total simile void. The cane was taller than Geoff and growing so densely we had to stomp and trudge over and through it, with little indication of which direction we were heading. We were in search of a safe passage across the gulch. Along the way we found a lava tube, and an old cane road, and a dry waterfall. And once we crossed the gulch we stood in an avenue of ironwood trees. They stood apart, making a soft and graceful path, and above their branches swayed to meet. This is where I sat and gave thanks.

The ironwood trees across the gulch.

Corm and Geoff at the bottom of the lot, Hamakua, Hawaii.

Towering over my head, the lovely sugarcane.

Cyrus, Stephen, and Alex with his favorite fruit, and Geoff. Checking out Ruth and Corm's newly finished garden shed.

Our dear neighbors and friends from back home met us in Hamakua :: Stephen, Candace, and Cyrus

Looking east, out over the Pacific, where we've been watching the whales, and rainbows.
Geoff and Max were out exploring the newly mown grass.

Friday, December 20, 2002

It must be Christmas, because I just ate a tamale and because I opened another little package. Both gifts were full of delicious treats. My mother's tamale was full of pearls and gems. She made earrings and necklaces for me and Grandmother. Oops...was I really expected to wait 'til Christmas Day? My bad. Grandma made me do it! The other tamale came with Aunt Becky and Uncle Dan, and on a plate with frijoles it was a jewel to behold, but even better to eat.

Tonight we'll have a little more of our early Christmas; enjoying Becky and Dan's company and celebrating with Grandma and Grandpa before we travel again. We'll be with Holly, Rich and Nicholas Christmas Eve, and then with Tutu and Grandpa Corm for Christmas dinner. With a family as big as ours "Home for the Holidays" can be a very broad and wide spread proposition! Halloween in Wisconsin. Thanksgiving in Oregon. And Mele Kalikimaka in Kona. And looking ahead... on Mother's Day we will see our family really grow, when Bill and Alison are married.

Another greeting card came today, and a big package too. I'm done shopping, honest. Max is desperate for "just one present I can open right now, please?" I even got around to hanging some lights on the front porch. It's not perfect; the boys are still sick, and the house is messy. No matter. We still have tamales.

Thursday, December 19, 2002


Two more Christmas cards came in yesterday's mail. I love real mail. And the greetings delivered at this time of year make me happy. Alex and Max frequently run down the driveway to check for mail. They enjoy sorting the letters and junk and then making personal drop-offs to Grandma, Grandpa, Mom and Dad. We have been taping cards, letters and pictures in the hall. We are starting to see a very nice accumulation.

The cards that include a photograph I rate the highest, and personal letters or messages are also most welcome. Grandma Nancy sent us the kind of charming card I mentioned before; it has rabbits, mice and chipmunks and they are gathering festively in their lovely home. Last year we saw lots of children posed with their pets. This year a definite Island theme has emerged. We have Tutu and Corm's greeting with an Island home at Christmas, and next to that are photographs of two different families in leis. Even Nicholas looks ready for a Mele Kalikimaka in his Aloha shirt and shorts. Two of the cards are from artists; a print from a water color painting by Julie, and Holly made angels beneath a shining star. All the cards are beautiful, thoughtful gifts.

I cannot reproach anyone for not sending us cards, because I am way behind schedule myself. The boys are like my own local elves, and I've put them to work drawing pictures for our family greeting. But now it's my turn to get busy and finish sealing and delivering. Grandmother is behind too, so I am in good company. I found a box for her; cards with angels gathering in a celestial circle. It's never too late to send wishes for Peace on Earth, and A Happy New Year.

After Christmas I'll gather them and delight in the friendships and family we enjoy. I will be glad that they thought of us and found time to share their holidays with us. And on another day, sometime in January, I will arrange greetings and pictures, cut out phrases and paste mementoes and set them all in our Christmas album. Essentially, Christmas memories are at the core of enjoying this season. I wish all of you Very Merry Memories!

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Family Ties: The New Millennium

Last Friday there were enough seasonal stresses around here to inspire a poem. Now things are the stuff of a first season sit-com; not funny and too full of gags.

Opening scene:
Max on sofa with high fever, vomits carrot juice all over living room. Gus, the pretty little canary, dies. Max throws up again, in last clean corner of living room. Later that night, all the smoke alarms in the house go off for a full 15 minutes, as smoke from the fireplace seeps into the bedroom. Geoff shovels burning log in to laundry room trash can. Long awaited storm brings rain and mud. William rides his bicycle down wet, muddy, slippery pasture hill. Brakes fail, but fence stops him from landing in neighbor's storm ditch. Damages: 1 scraped knuckle, 1 chipped tooth and 1 dental bill. Max's fever has abated, but his mood is dark and foul. Alex is still coughing. Diego has been scratching the packages under the tree. And despite my dearest intentions, I have managed to gain 4 pounds, rather than lose. I must be retaining phlegm.

We only need a theme song.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

"Why I Married Sponge Blog"

Have I formally introduced my husband? He is the genius inside the sponge, my life and delight. He couldn't bear the technological void in my Chicken Blog, and so he pushed some buttons (technical stuff) and: Ta Da! Chicken Blog is a bigger, better and illustrated site. And, I might add, what a superb "sparingly sprinkled" choice he made for the first published image.

Well, a picture may be worth many words, but I will add just a few more: This is Geoff, with Max, in Wisconsin, on Halloween. Needless to say, we did eventually make it out of Custer State Park.
Geoff testing image post:

Blog Envy

Oh woe. Woke up this morning and did a little surfing of the www. There are a lot of Blogs out there. Many of them are too obscure or coded to be of interest to a passer-by and of course there are those that address subjects that don't hold my interest, but there are a good many that very much grab my attention. My attraction to these other sites is a reflection of common interests. Is that shallow?: Liking something because it reminds me of Me and My Universe? The second reason I like them is due to their really, really cool graphics, illustrations and photographs. A picture is worth a thousand words, and mugs and t-shirts add a certain 21st century legitimacy to the content.

And speaking of pictures, is anyone discussing the brave new world and cultural phenomenon of observing, almost anonymously, other people's lives, pets and Christmas trees, by way of the internet? It is a subject that tickles my brain. Am I eavesdropping, when I read anecdotes about other people's vacations, classes, jobs, divorces and bunny cakes? Are there really so many of us anxious to be recognized and observed, willing to risk our "deep thoughts" and baby pictures, to an unknown world? I wonder how many Blogs are sincerely meant to be an interaction between a circle of friends, and how many of them are a means to be heard on this crowded planet and perhaps esteemed by many. Fascinating.

All that aside, I would love to post chicken pictures, and even one of me standing knee deep (okay, ankle deep) in Custer snow. And also make lists of all my favorite things and preferences, links to people whose coolness will reflect favorably on me. Even the big news magazines show off their skill at publishing the trivial, or reducing information to a caption, cute graph or thumbs up. After all, who really has time to read an entire article, when one can glean fathoms from the ascending or descending arrow of Time's Conventional Wisdom chart?

Maybe words are enough. Maybe I should simply continue looking for the words that illustrate my world, phrases that capture emotions and sentiments. It isn't always easy knowing how to share a scene or depict an event. I have no editors and my grammar could really use some polish. If I threw in some pictures of our sunrise view, the cats sleeping on the presents under the tree or of me doing something skillful, it might just distract visitors from my spelling errors and switching tenses. There may be a balance to achieve; thoughtful descriptions and remarks, sparingly sprinkled with choice photographs or visual aids. Show of hands: who wants to see Luna eat a snail?

Friday, December 13, 2002

A Seasonal Poem


Our stockings are hung
from the mantle with care,
the fragrance of gingerbread
hangs in the air.

Packages are under
our well lit tree,
outside the air is balmy
by many a degree.

The children are nestled
with colds in their heads,
when the antibiotics kick in
we'll have less to dread.

Dad with bronchitis,
and Mom's coughing too,
we've been diagnosed properly,
this isn't a flu.

Out in the hen house
there arose such a clatter,
I slumped off the sofa
to see what was the matter.

Over to the closet
to search for some shoes,
with all that is in there,
no wonder there is stuff we lose.

The sun on the crest
of the new breaking day,
gave the luster of a heat wave
on the bales of hay.

When what to my wondering eyes
should appear
but three hungry chickens,
and rabbits in the rear.

With sharp little beaks
and skinny yellow legs,
they eat and they walk
and they lay colored eggs.

More rapid than typists
those chickens can peck,
and they have to look up,
for food to go down their neck.

And then in a twinkling
I heard from our home
the incessant ringing
of my cellular phone.

As I stepped in the house,
to answer the call,
Max reached for the cookies
and we saw them all fall.

He was dressed in pajamas
from his feet to his head,
he pulled and he tugged
and he begged to be fed.

We are all out of juice,
there's no bread for their bellies,
looks like tortillas
all smothered with jellies.

And William and Alex,
so lively and quick
are writing their Christmas lists,
though they are sick.

I grumbled and groaned
as I started to clean,
frankly, for dusting and scrubbing
I am not very keen.

There is too much to do
and errands to run
I pause to remember,
"This is meant to be fun."

We have so much
for to be grateful.
I hug my dear boys
and feel truly thankful.

So, grabbing a tissue
and blowing my nose
a renewed sense of spirit
in me arose.

Away to the post office,
we flew in our Chevy,
this is sure to cost plenty,
these gifts are quite heavy.

I'll read to the children,
make sure they are fed,
give them decongestant
and tuck them in bed.

When my husband comes home,
I will kiss him and shout,
"Thank you God,
for Mom's Night Out!"

Tuesday, December 10, 2002


Today we have a Christmas tree. We brought it home this morning, tied to the roof of the Blue Whale. It is somewhat taller than Geoff. It is full and deep green, with the suggestion of blue on the undersides of the branches. It smells of piney Christmas and all the memories that live in fragrance. It conjures peppermint, tamales, tissue paper and the sweet scent of a new doll. Max is completely enchanted by the tree; "a real tree is in our house and it's for Christmas."

We placed the tree in the space between the dining room and the living room, at the tall window overlooking the pasture and the sunrise. Tonight we will plug in the string of lights and hang ornaments from the branches, being careful not place too delicate ones within Diego's playful reach. We can see it from our bedroom and the hall, from the front door and the back door, from the street below. The cats are circling it and sniffing. The boys want it decorated right now.

Anticipation has taken a full and mighty grasp. The boys are counting the days until Christmas. They are reminding me about cookie baking and visiting the mountains, and sending cards and making Diego's stocking, hanging our own. I play Christmas music in the family room; first joyous, lively tunes and then carols, and hymns, all uplifting. We found angels for our Nativity, and stars too. Christmas is coming, but it's the anticipation I most enjoy.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Custer's Surprise

Though we had seen truly beautiful sights as we drove through Custer, our foremost thoughts were not of Fall color in snow filled ravines, nor of grazing buffalo. The herd we saw was not encumbered by the frost that clung to their heavy coats. Each brown and white mass, with a cloud of hot breath at its face, had the assurance and relaxed poise of one confident in his home. Most of the trees were gnarled pines, dark and resolute. As the day's light faded, the luminous yellow groves of deciduous trees stood together like cheerful lanterns on tall white bark poles. They appeared unexpectedly at the turn in the road, or at the far end of a meadow. We saw it all. We acknowledge the sights in single, clipped and breathless words. Our thoughts were on the children being safe, the hazards of the drive, the uncertainty of this path.

After turning back from the ascent to Coolidge Ridge, we parked and spoke with Ed, the winter caretaker at The Blue Bird Lodge. He wore a ear flapped cap, a red and black flannel shirt and suspenders. His handshake was gloveless, but warm and sincere. It was cold, dark and snowing, but it wasn't the temperature that made my fingers flutter, my hands restless. My body, full of the anxiety and adrenalin from our icy and perilous journey, needed to release the energy it had instinctively accumulated. Now my hands were like a drain releasing worries, fears, anticipation of flight and they moved with enough energy to have carried me on a five mile run. In the RV Geoff had already poured himself a drink, and his hands were mine. His glass shook in his hands. We smiled at each other.

"It's really beautiful here," I said and laughed. I laughed because we had finally stopped slipping on frozen asphalt, because the boys were hungry and curious. I laughed because we were snowed in, and finally we would have quality time together!

Water was in short supply, but we had sufficient propane to cook and heat our little home. We really could not say how long we might be here. I tried to think "efficiency" as I prepared dinner, and so our meal was made only of leftovers. With noodles, soup, and a piece of roasted chicken we had a sort of casserole. It was not a familiar dish. Alex eyed it suspiciously, and chose hunger. Max ate the noodles and tossed the meat to a delighted Diego. William declared it a complete success, "This is really good. What's this stuff called anyway?" "It's Snowed In Casserole, " I mused, "or, no, it's Custer's Surprise!" With salad and wine, Custer's Surprise was not too bad and I wondered if I would ever serve it again.

In an unfamiliar situation, as children of a modern and well stocked society, it can be difficult to assess what is a truly dangerous or threatening situation. Were we overreacting to the conditions of the road, to our remote and isolated location? How long would our fuel last? How long would the storm last? Was this an early winter, or would the snow plows and sun clear all the hazards by morning? We could not be sure of anything and so we passed the time by considering our options and analyzing our choices. We are not often afforded the opportunity to test our resolve and ingenuity. Our circumstances were unsettling, but we mostly felt grateful.

At this moment we were not enjoying a relaxed sightseeing vacation. We didn't have four wheel drive, hotel reservations or airline tickets home. The night temperature dropped to 17 degrees and the forecast was for more snow. Driving the rest of the highway was not possible, and returning the way we came would be at least as bad, if not worse, than it had been before. But we were unharmed, and resourceful. We had good ideas about conserving propane, and even leaving the RV behind and returning in Spring. Our situation was not ideal, but in the face of bad circumstances it is very satisfying to realize that as long as we can think and work together and laugh and keep faith, life is good.

If we had driven through Custer State Park on clean, dry roads, with the sun shining over our heads and light traffic for company, and if we were certain of the route, what lay ahead and where we would stop, then we might have taken more pictures of the scenery, or stopped to hike along a snowy path and bird watch. Perhaps our fearful, uncertain trip gave us a deeper and awe filled perspective of nature and the beauty of the scenery, the marvel of animals in their habitat. Of habit we regretted that we did not see the gift shops or nature centers, or dine at the Lodge, and take a family picture, posed happily in the woods. But regret was short lived as we came to realize the gift of having an adventure, of seeing the strength and undiscriminating forces of nature, and realizing our ability to take stock of our resources, appreciate our blessings and enjoy the love and confidence we share as a family.

Saturday, December 07, 2002


No Sleep

I lay awake. Thinking of friends. Thinking of Christmas cards, and making tamales. And listening to Geoff cough. His cough rattles the rafters. I'd better make appointments for the boys; they should be over their colds by now too. Also, need to buy heavy paper to print our Christmas greetings, and I wonder whether I should make the boys as choir-like angels on the back of each card.

Thinking of teddy bear angels, and pigs with wings. But what about chickens? They already have wings. Do chickens fancy some other appendage? People have a strong affinity for the adoption of great feathery, heavenly wings, but chickens must long for something else. Perhaps opposable thumbs, or hands with fingers and thumbs. I picture a host of heavenly fowl all marveling at the sight of their 10 fingers and thumbs. Chickens could do handstands and pull pies out of ovens.

Will there be chickens in heaven? I'd rather have chickens than Pearly Gates. I have heard 'only people will be in heaven,' but what about all the Christmas cards depicting animals at the nativity? Not the donkeys and sheep in Bethlehem, but the mice or teddy bears posed as Mary and Joseph? What's up with that? Actually, I like cards with mice enjoying hot cocoa beside a roaring fire in a cozy mouse house at Christmas. But I don't like Chimpanzees in tennis garb or lip stick, wishing me a 'Happy Birthday.' I really do think chickens and cats should be allowed in heaven, and dogs too. Please, no fleas, mosquitos, leeches or black widows. Clearly, nothing harmful in heaven.

Of course people can be harmful. A person's bite is supposed to be pretty toxic. I suppose no one in heaven would ever bite, and the same should be assumed for insects and rodents and such, so likely it's just as safe to allow them passage as to allow some mostly bad, but ultimately redeemed, person entrance. I do hope we can fly in heaven, but I am not as interested in having wings. I just want to rise up and go from place to place with out touching the ground. Is there ground in heaven?

Soon it will be time to wake up. The real time to wake up, when people expect to be up. Not like now, at 3 or 4 in the morning. Not laying (lying? No, that would be 'in bed telling fantastic, yet false tales') in bed and contemplating the work load involved in making traditional holiday baked goods or wondering whether I should wash my bed sheets today or next Sunday. I could probably think of a hundred or more things I'd rather in see in heaven than Pearly Gates.

My spell check has underscored: "marveling, " "rodents," and "tamales." And I still wonder whether I should be "laying" in bed? Don't chickens "lay?" No matter. I'm not in bed anyhow.

Friday, December 06, 2002

It seems like I have completely lost my momentum or some thing like that. I thinks perhaps I have intimidated myself with all my aspirations to be a travelogue journalist. Apparently recounting each fascinating detail of my travels is too daunting a task for me to accomplish. Plus I have a ridiculous cold, and it won't go away. Yes. It is all about the cold, and if it weren't for the sleepless nights, the post nasal drip, the eye searing- throat ripping cough, I would have finished my account of being snowed in in Custer, trick or treating with Sponge Bob, caving in Missouri, inhaling brownies in Capitola, and finally finding our way to Bandon By The Sea. There are stories that deserve to be recorded, anecdotes that will inspire and affirm the goodness of this great nation.

In the meantime I should dutifully assure loved ones that the really important things in our life are well. The cats still purr, and are sleeping soundly in sun dappled corners of the house. The tractor cleaned and oiled is wrapped under a tarp, safe from El Nino. The boys are counting down the days til Christmas; their lists are filed in triplicate, and have been safely delivered to the appropriate authorities. Grandma and Grandpa still have their routine. They seem comfortable here at El Rancho. And the chicas are laying as many eggs as ever. The gap that they left, where Sunshine used to roost, has slowly filled in. They are probably sitting a little closer together as our winter weather takes hold. Some days we let them loose to visit the garden. Luna digs like a terrier on a rat hunt, looking for goodies in the flower beds. Rosie is always close behind and eager to share what others have discovered. Gracie regularly flies out of their fenced yard, so she is less thrilled with the privilege of being free to visit the pool and playset.

Tonight is Family Night. We are going to assemble a gingerbread house. Some families use recipes handed down for generations, and we all know Martha has her amazing methods(glass window panes made from hardened sugar.) We have the kit from Target and our glue gun. No more frustrating hours waiting for the "special frosting" to take hold. Our walls instantly come together, and the roof, leveled and aligned, is immediately ready to hold any number of Frosted Mini Wheat roof tiles. We have heard criticism about the use of glue, but we are not subject to the traditions related to gingerbread construction. We make our own rules. As for the frequently asked question: How can you eat the house with the glue all over it? The best answer I have is the question: Would you eat a cookie/candy house constructed by 3 little boys with colds, two coughing adults and one curious cat?

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Not to Scale

After buying out the gift shop and book store at Mammoth Site, we pulled out the tourist map which had directions to local sites and Custer State Park. There were several options for getting to The Lodge in the state park, which was one of the only places, in the area, still open to campers. It seemed logical to take the straightest, most direct route. Once in the campsite we would be able to fill our depleted water tank, and do the other necessary RV chores. We felt relaxed, and confident.

We found our turn off from the main highway, and began our drive along the narrower, more isolated road. We stopped once to take a picture of the frozen prairie with forested and rocky hills. We watched for buffalo. "Boys," I brightly announced, "keep a lookout for animals. They like to come out as it's getting dark." Happy family. Happy, ignorant, in to the woods, at dusk, family.

"Check the map again. This seems too winding to be the 87. Where are the signs?"

I double checked the 87; on the map it made a straight line from the highway up to the Lodge, but this 87 turned and curved, it climbed and descended. The light was fading and there were more and more stretches of iced road. Ahead we saw a slim, and ancient bridge, crossing a deep and icy gorge.

"Why haven't we seen any other traffic? How long have we been driving on this road?" Geoff asked.

"Off-season, week night, poor weather; take your pick." In truth we'd probably only been driving 30 minutes, but for the sake of anxiety, we'll call it an hour. One hour with no cars, no hikers, no park rangers. One hour driving cautiously, and occasionally slipping, along a remote and lonely snow blown South Dakota road. "This map is not to scale!" As the navigator I feel my duty deeply, but this situation is unjust, "It's totally not to scale."

We had passed several curvy arrow signs, and a few 'slow-ice' warnings, but the curvy arrow that turned back on itself was our undoing. The steep and slippery grade turned corkscrew around and under its bridged self. Geoff pulled over, "Let me see that map." It was no use. The map offered no more information, suggestions or sympathy. It was the bold faced liar map. We all peed, and then I sat the boys with pillows all around them and smiled at them with what I hoped was pure confidence and maternal assuredness.

Custer State Park is beautiful and someone later informed us, the largest state park in the United States. No kidding. I can assure you, it is quite large. To say the sights were breathtaking would be a literal description. We gasped at every twist, and turn. In the deep, dark valleys were vivid displays of fall color. In the same deep valleys were black and jagged rocks and rich green pines. Every so often one of us would say, "Beautiful. Nature," and gesture randomly at the scenery.

Twice we were confronted by herds of big horn sheep. They were vagrants really; standing defiantly in the road, with their backs to us. First we took their picture and then said, "Shoo, shoo, little sheep." Then Geoff tooted the horn, which I thought was a bit much. But they thought very little of it. They stood, indifferent. When snow is falling and night is too, and there is very little evidence that your map is any good at all, the wonder of nature and the majesty of rebel sheep fail to invoke a 'wait and see mood.' We pulled forward, tooting gently and imploring urgently, "Get off the road sheep. Go home. Freakin' sheep."

Okay, so feeling ever more anxious about seeing no sign that we are remotely any where near anything, we dial the Park Headquarters. They are nearly as indifferent as the sheep. "Yes, the roads are bad. Yes, we are still open. You're probably only 3 miles from us, and there should be a lodge coming up." And so of course at that moment we drove right passed a lovely little meadow with lovely little cabins and a few cars and lights, and we grinned at each other, "Okay then. We're almost there." But the drive from The Blue Bird Lodge to the main Lodge was up Coolidge Ridge; getting there on an icy road was nerve frazzling torture. And in fact it was impossible. We were a slow drive mile in to the ascent when we saw a car backing down the hill, a woman stood aside and gestured the driver. They had driven backwards for a mile. There were no places to turn their car on the solid ice grade. If a couple from Wisconsin, driving a car, couldn't manage, then we would have been in terrible trouble if we had proceeded.

We crawled back to The Blue Bird. It was night, and the snow was falling steadily and covering the ice on the road. The Lodge was closing for the season. We were just in time to see the last of the late season crew leave in a 4 wheel drive pick up, and also to meet Ed, the winter caretaker. He warmly shook hands with me, and invited us to park anywhere. There were no hook-ups. Hoses were turned off to keep pipes from bursting. The general store's shelves were empty, the restaurant closed. Ed offered, "You can work for me, shoveling snow, if you get stuck up here for long. Well, good night."

Geoff took a drink, his hand shaking, "Did you ever see The Shining?"
"No, why?" I shouldn't have asked.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Mammoth Site

Mammoth Site

All weather worries were dispelled when we reached the town of Hot Springs, South Dakota. It was still cold, and there were still bits of frosted fluff flittering to the ground, but we felt relieved and even amused with ourselves; so silly to have been nervous about a bit of weather. And Hot Springs proved to be a welcoming town with beautiful old stone buildings along the river and we saw ducks enjoying the steamy warmth on the banks.

We stopped for lunch, and then went to Mammoth Site. In the 70's a man began excavation of his property, in preparation for buildings, but fossils were discovered, so the tractors were parked until it could be determined what they were digging up. It turns out to be the site of a very old sink hole that accumulated very many mammoth and other animals, and the conditions were ideal for preserving their bones. Fortunately the site was preserved and is now a museum. The building that houses the museum and labs, also encloses the dig site. The fossils are protected from the elements and visitors are privileged to observe the bones as they are discovered.

Every year in July paleontologists gather at Mammoth Site to chip away at the dirt surrounding the fragile remains of ancient animals. They collect all they can in one month, and the rest of the year is devoted to recording and processing the material and information gathered. On a cold October day, in the middle of the week, there are very few visitors. We enjoyed a practically private tour. We very much enjoyed witnessing the process involved in solving a mystery. The clues are in geology, biology, paleontology and intuition, and the detectives are dedicated to the study of every detail, including the cross sections of mammoth molars.

Downstairs we met Malon. He sat in his desk chair, smiling warmly and waved us in to the lab. He casually showed us around, pointed out the latest big bone to be brought out of the dirt and shared with us the disappointment they all felt when it fell and broke as they hoisted it up. Now he will help to reconstruct the pieces, and make fiberglass models, like the one of the bear. He passed the skull of the bear to William. He showed us arrowheads he is making as replicas from real artifacts, and described the pleasure he has in his work. The boys asked about the clay on the shelves and the illustrations on the desk tops. Malon told us about the hard working Summer interns, and his confidence in the talent and skills of one young woman in particular.

Any visit to a museum can be interesting or enlightening, but our visit to Mammoth Site made a more lasting and meaningful impression, largely thanks to Malon. He patiently visited and laughed with us; we felt like friends just come back to town. He took the time to make his interest in his work more interesting for us. We have suggested to our sons that the best careers will be found in work that interests them. Malon lives and projects the success of this way of thinking. I'm glad we met him.

Maybe I botched details, and certainly Mammoth Site can tell it better, so if you want to know more please check out: And visit if you can; it's worth the drive.

Monday, November 11, 2002


Winter, cold and dark, with wind and frost, causes a desire to stir in my soul. By the time we were crossing southern Wyoming the temperatures were well in to the 30's. It was cold, and the leafless trees and mounting clouds suggested more cold. We tuned our radio to a weather station. Forecast: snow in southeastern Wyoming and western South Dakota. I pulled my knit hat down lower, over my ears, and thought about mashed potatoes, and also chocolate chip cookies, roaring fires, deep piles of quilts, fuzzy slippers, tamales and turkey dinner, sleeping. I wanted to pull over, find a cabin and hunker in. There could be only one way to survive this climate; hibernation. Every instinct and desire of my body insisted on long naps, long underwear and a buffet of every Thanksgiving delicacy ever served.

South of us, on the mountainous Colorado horizon we could see the clouds accumulating, rolling and building, dark and pretentious. (Geoff says, "You mean 'portentous.' These clouds, looming and leering, stuck up in the sky, were pretentious.) Our plan would be to turn north and head for the Black Hills; get ahead of the storm. Diego, our cat, came down from his perch in the overhead bed, and curled up on my lap. We were driving across rolling hills, where cattle stood shoulder to shoulder in white frosted coats. The miles of barbed wire fencing could not hold back the weather, and they looked as cold and biting as the wind that blew through them.

As we calculated our driving time, the miles we could cover before dark, we smiled warmly at each other and I felt the sweet comfort of being with the man I love and facing the elements head on.

Where I come from snow is such a novelty that families returning from a day in the local mountains will often pile snow in the beds of their trucks or across the hoods of their cars. It means 'look, real snow, and we were there!' It took three or four snow covered vehicles, passing us as they headed south, before it occurred to me that people in this neck of the woods likely don't bother scooping up chilly shovels of snow and deliberately dumping them atop their cars and trucks. And so by the tenth or thirtieth snow encrusted south bound vehicle we began to question our destination choice. No one else seemed to be going to the Black Hills. As we scanned the sky, the pretentious clouds were no longer looming in the distance of our rear view mirror; they were everywhere.

I felt a little shaky. Mentally I inventory-ed the refrigerator; turkey, dressing, carrots, rice milk, butter, noodles, cream of chicken soup, lettuce and green beans. I counted blankets, and gave thanks for having the foresight to pack coats, gloves, and boots. The boys were drawing blueprints for an amusement park; they were content, unconcerned. Geoff drove with steady hands, "Call my dad and see what he can find out about this storm." I described our situation; the wind, the blowing snow (I had seen actual flakes, as many as 50), the dark clouds and our lonesome progress up highway 18. I projected my discomfort, uncertainty and anxiety. "All right! So, you're having a little adventure. Fantastic." He was pleased for us. He wished he were with us, sharing the fun.

Some people are built that way. For them snow means 'wax the skis and salt the walk, here I come!' Phil ice skates on real lakes, and cross country skis in the wilderness. He drives in this stuff all the time. He goes down to the Twin Cities, across to Cambridge, back to the North Woods. Winter for him is a time to play and greet the elements with sporting equipment and soulful joy. The Inuit have very many names for snow; describing it as wet or dry, falling in flurries or very icy. In St. Paul Minnesotans host a Winter Carnival, complete with an ice castle and sculptures, all outside, with wind chill. Oh, yes, and Geoff's dad camps in the snow. Outside. In the cold, cold, cold.

Theoretically, snow and winter cold is very appealing. I like ice skating very much, and I have even, once, enjoyed skiing. Building snowmen is very fun and making snow angels is fun as well. My favorite song is Winter Wonderland. I delight in the profound hush that falls upon the earth as snow gathers in the trees and paths and falls delicately across the roof tops. Initially though, instinctively, my body begs for a heaping plate of casserole, a down body suit, hot chocolate and an insulated corner where I can sleep and watch the snow falling from behind a double glazed window.

Saturday, November 09, 2002

Not Even a Post Card!

Shall I begin by confessing my shame? I did not write. No journaling, no diaries, no epic letters. I didn't record detailed accounts of each day's journey, or seek out cyber cafes, for the purpose of Blogging. Certainly I was very busy as we made our way through 14 states, but the sad truth is that I didn't write because I was too lazy to use a pen!

This is a profound and sort of disturbing revelation. I attended a Big school, as a double major with two minors, and I hand wrote most of my papers. I owned a temperamental typewriter, but no computer. Geoff used to tease me, because he thought I might be the only person to spell out C-a-l-i-f-o-r-n-i-a on envelopes. I had a writer's callous that bled by the end of finals. And I stubbornly resisted learning to use a machine to record my words.

But no more. Every night I thought of the scenery and people, the curious sights, the humorous occurrences, and I ached to write...sort of. What I actually ached for was a key board and spell check, plenty of memory in my mother board and a DSL modem. More power. Delete. Return. Save.

Some of you may be getting a post card, and occasionally I scrawled a few notes on a scrap of paper. Tragically I did not fulfill my fantasy of writing a publishable account of a family, traveling the scenic byways of North America, with their cat and their dreams. It was meant to reveal deep truths about our society and the intangible essence of endless prairies, majestic mountains and rural roads. People would be touched by heart warming accounts of all the cute things Max said, or by the fascinating details of how many miles we traveled each day and what kind of gas mileage we got. It would have been a book to travel by, for future generations; families would read it and feel compelled to travel off season, through bad weather, and stop at such memorable places as The Jolly Green Giant, in Blue Mounds, Minnesota.

Fortunately I do remember some things; like Sophie's swim meet, the bald eagle that flew in front of our vehicle and hovered in front of us, and the dinner I concocted when we were snowed in in the wilderness of South Dakota (we called it "Custer's Surprise.") As soon as I get some laundry going, check messages and visit the hens, I hope to sit down and write about our family vacation, using this wonderful computer and the notes I scribbled on the back of a Piggly Wiggly receipt.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Prayers in the North Woods

Way up north in the woods and chill. I had thought I would make daily entries, with detailed accounts of each day, and each day's adventures. Maybe later. We are in Cable, Wisconsin with Phil and Lily. We are safe; more on that later.

We are definitely enjoying our trip and our hardcore-bonding-family time together, but our hearts and thoughts are also back in California, with Holly and Rich and Nicholas. They are in our prayers, as is Nathaniel; we were only just beginning to know and love him, and his absence is deeply felt. We keep him in our hearts.

Events, and the miles we have traveled, have brought us a very long way from our familiar home and from our expectations for the future. Nathaniel's brief life, and Paul Wellstone's tragic death have me emotionally shaken and questioning the cosmic forces, fate...and yet we have witnessed powerful beauty in nature, and genuine kindness in strangers. There must still be hope; hope for peace and hope for healing. Hope for strong voices that insist on peace, compassion and healing.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Farewell Sunshine

Writing about Sunshine's cranky demeanor and posturing was fun, and accepting the fact that we needed to find him a new home came easily. Leaving him behind, taking him far from his home and hens, was very hard indeed. In the truck, Alex sat beside Sunshine and spoke to him in calming tones. For the first few miles Sunshine crowed and paced a tight circle in the little cage. He was soon quiet, resigned, it seemed. And that is when I started to feel reluctant. He has only ever threatened to do harm, and that's his job after all.

The woman at the feed store was genuinely impressed with him. "He really is the best looking Rhode Island Red I have ever seen," she said. And she praised the boys for doing a fine job of raising him. She told them she could tell that they had taken very good care of him. She said all the things that we could hope to hear for our pride and reassurance. But everything she said made me want to scoop him up and head for home. He is handsome, and healthy, and wonderful.

She introduced us to silkies. She let us hold a small, fluffy white rooster. He was as tame as a mild kitten and funny looking too. And when Max was fearful of him, it was a good reminder of why we needed to let Sunshine go. Max has definitely been the most intimidated by our rooster and we don't want him to live with that fear any more. We have the option to return to the store and bring home a silky chick; silly little things, with feathered feet and purple cockscombs. It might be fun to have a freaky feathered fowl, but first I think we'll have to finish saying good bye to Sunshine, our very first rooster.

Rancho Days

Just another day at El Rancho. Joe, the rabbit, was in the chicken coop, the chickens were locked out, and none of us knows how it happened. I really am going to clean the truck today, and then we are taking Nena, the senior cat, to the vet. She is not herself, and we want to resolve any issues before our departure day. Once we have Nena settled we will be delivering Sunshine to the feed store in a nearby town. Yes, we have found suitable arrangements for our infamous runt turned rooster. The boys are firm in their decision. Geoff, on the other hand, is taking it rather hard. He wonders if the hens will be deprived of their dedicated protector while we are away.

Sunshine is a poor choice for a small child's pet, but he is an excellent rooster. He warns of low flying hawks, he stands aside to let the hens feast when there are bugs or snails or extra scratch, and he has even gone after dogs 20 times his size. He is handsome. His feathers are full, brilliant and iridescent. His posture is dignified, robust and athletic. Sunshine has a deep red cockscomb, and penetrating, golden eyes.

Of course we can't take all the credit for his good looks and dutiful behavior, but I am proud of the boys. They have raised their first chicks, remarkably well. They have been patient and considerate, even of Sunshine. And now they are showing unselfish concern for the well being of their hens; they don't think Sunshine display suitable manners in the area of "love." "He is too rough when he's loving Rosie and Gracie," Alex worries. So, though they are sad to see their once runt sent away, they know it is for the best.

Geoff is down in the pasture inflating the tires of the tractor; then he'll head to the office. Diego is pawing the sofa cushion; preparing for a nap. Nena is sitting in my chair; slowly nudging me out. The boys are reading Muse, and laughing and improvising. Grandma and Grandpa are quiet, still sleeping, I think. It is Tuesday at our Rancho.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

"Ooph." I remember waking up and feeling ready to go back to bed. One of those nights. Now, after a long day, and one too many chocolate chip cookies, and pre-trip anxiety building up, I am highly primed for deep sleep. All that remains is to pajama Max, read to children, tuck all in, brush own teeth, lock up chickens, tuck in children again, get Max a glass of water, apologize to Grandma for skipping our Scrabble game, and attend to all other unforeseeable 'things.' Max is squawking; over tired. Geoff is singing the theme from "The Love Boat;" also tired, obviously. William and Alex are writing goofy stories about "Loverly forests and boarded up houses with endless roads, giant desert dwelling spiders and factories with circus tents." They are not nearly tired enough. All is well.
Good night.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

Friday night is family night. It began in the spring of '95, the last millennia. I would bathe William and Alex, put them in pajamas and set them in their seats with juice and a snack. From our home we'd head to Geoff's office and tell him to "jump aboard." Our car was a ship, sailing through our flooded city. We could navigate all the way to Hawaii, or by river to Wisconsin, Disneyland or a cabin in the mountains. Along our uncharted course, Geoff and I looked out for a home to buy. The boys munched and sipped and snuggled in to their blankets, as the sun set on our cruise.

Family night is sacred. We play games like telephone or charades, or see a movie. Once we made pasta and cut it by hand, hanging the ghostly worms on the laundry rack. We've counted bats while chalk drawing in the driveway, and we've walked to the beach and swirled our hands in bio-luminescent water. Family night is rarely anything elaborate, but it's almost always fun.

Sometimes family night is like a barometer; after a long week, with too much to do, we sometimes feel utterly uninspired. When this happens Geoff and I are reminded that we need to resume our pursuit of balanced, calmer lives. I am not sure I believe children need every moment to revolve around them, but they do deserve time when they don't come in second to phone calls, paper work or errands.

Last night we chased each other around the yard, through the gates, down the pasture. We had dinner in the kitchen, and made up songs about Super Smellers, and we devised Super Smeller tests. Are you a Super Smeller? Then we went in to the pool. The air is cold, but due to the warm days and the pool cover, the water is 82 degrees; not bad. It was our first swim in 2 weeks. I'll really miss it when we have much cooler weather. But even without our pool, we'll still have family night. We will have Christmas light drives, and Scrabble games, or we will sit by the fire designing new video games. And as Alex and Max remind us, "It's night. And we are together, so it is 'flamly' night;" we don't always have to wait until Friday.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

I meant to get up early today, to walk in the morning fog. I did wake up early, but I couldn't make the next step which involves actually getting out of bed. I thought of the hills obscured by the very lowest clouds and mist, and the last of the cottontails out for one last bite to eat. The chickens would greet me with alert clucking and eager pacing; they are always ready to leave their beds for a morning walk. Our own rabbits are awake and curious, stretching, and sniffing the cool air.

I thought of my friends, the morning ones, who are up and busy already. Jola's read the paper, had her coffee, faced her day. And Anne. Anne is home from the gym, and perhaps she's finished breakfast and has her boys in school. I thought of all of them and how they impress me, with their diligence and steady devotion. By now, even the late risers are driving, planning, working, sorting, cleaning, creating.

It is still foggy, and it is still morning, and I think I will go for a walk. I'll water the seedlings that have sprouted and stretched. I'll bring in the paper, the cat and some flowers. There are appointments to keep and children to teach. And errands to complete. For some reason it is simply a thoughtful, thankful morning, and I am glad I woke up early, though I never left my bed. I did quite bit, if only in my head.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Road Trip Poetry

The day is drawing near,
when we will pack
our camping gear

Our maps we shall mark
the chickens feed
its time to board
our Green Goose steed

It's east with speed
and sights to heed
in search of space to park

Across the plain
around steep slope
is what the children hope
though we only have coats for rain

The day is nearly here
we'll be in the land of beer
cheese and cows
lakes and hay mows

And best of all
we'll spend this Fall
with loved ones we hold dear

Monday, October 07, 2002

Brown Paper Packages

Coming home from a nursery run, I stopped at the bottom of the drive and Alex ran down to the mail box. We met in the house where his arms were full of mail, including 2 packages. It's evidence; sometimes we really do get what we don't expect, yet still dearly hope for. Ruth and Delia may be amused to see they both coincidentally fulfilled a wish of mine.

My Mom's package included an 'I Miss You Card' for her grandsons, and pictures from life in Oregon. A local dog was captured eating blackberries right off the bushes, there were scenes from a lumberjack competition. Our favorite is of 'Delia with her Dahlias.' She is beaming, surrounded by giant blossoms from her thriving garden. She has also been sending regular emails detailing her new adventures in her new state.

From Hawaii came a fat package including photographs from Ruth and Corm's Summer visit here, and more photos of farms for sale. The shot of Tutu and her first grand-'baby' standing back to back is very funny, and quite amazing. She's stretching every last bit of her height, but it's plain to see that even at only 11 years, William is taller than his grandmother. Alex was delighted to find Grandpa included a bag full of more guava seeds. Now that we have irrigation and things are kind of settled in the yard, we may have more success growing them.

Thank you Moms and Dads, Grandmas and Grandpas. We loved coming home to letters and pictures, and the good feeling knowing you are thinking of us. We are thinking of you too.

I *Heart* Mail

Today I got two emails. I love mail. I have been fascinated by anything delivered ever since I heard Julie Andrews sing "...brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things." The very idea of a package, the paper, the mystery, completely captured my imagination. And the longing for mail continued, when ever I saw old movies, because in old movies there are always packages, long awaited letters and hat boxes and gifts with generous bows that slip off like a blossom from a tree. So even though I was 9 or 10, wearing halter tops and jeans, boycotting grapes and playing touch football in the street, I still imagined myself in a shirtdress, pruning roses in a garden or serving lemonade when a delivery boy would walk through the front gate and deliver a brown paper package and a handful of hand stamped letters. Black and white, soft focus, gracious bliss.

Saturday, October 05, 2002

Community College

Not long ago, no more than 16 years, I was in a writing class at the community college. It went tremendously bad, from the very beginning. The teacher introduced herself as a 'published writer, and first time teacher,' passed around the syllabus and jumped in to her 'thing.' She talked about her favorite writers, and what makes 'good' literature.

Next to me another student leaned in and asked, "Wha'd she say?" In a whisper,
I repeated her comment on the 'genius of Gertrude Stein.'

Her lecture complete, she excused the class, but singled me out with her finger and said, "You stay here." The room was still crowded when she said, "I heard what you called me. I won't take that kind of remark in my classroom." I stared blankly, a true sophomore. "You called me a 'bitch,' and I think you should know that I heard you." She was clearly determined not to let her first teaching job get the best of her, and all I could do was say, "I didn't say bitch, I said 'Gertrude Stein.'" And politely, but still confused, I added, "Sorry."

Our first assignment was an essay on any personal experience. 'Write about something you know, ' she encouraged.

Back home I sat at my typewriter and tapped out a first, and second, draft on the garden I had started. I wrote about collecting seeds, sorting them and the prospect of planting more seeds in the future. I kept the seeds in a shoe box, in the laundry room. I was sincere, descriptive and proud of my personal, reflective essay. I was anxious to demonstrate that I was not the sort of person to call someone a 'bitch.'

My paper was returned to me heavily red inked. She did not merely correct occasional typos or grammar errors; she rewrote sentences. She took my expressions and words, crossed them out completely and replaced them with her own. Finally at the very end she asked if 'the flower box was a metaphor for all my lost hopes or a tragic secret, or something?'

"Your essay has no point. What is your point?" And she underlined this.

Our second assignment was to take a stand on an issue, and for my sake she added, "Be sure you make a strong point."

I wrote about the lack of quality television programming for children. I felt strongly about the issue, and wrote about what I felt were the consequences of violence in television, and corporate irresponsibility and greed.

There were fewer typos, but she was no more impressed with my effort. Her remarks suggested I choose a more controversial, or serious subject. She wrote in thick red ink, "Why not write about abortion?"

Yes, abortion is certainly an 'issue' and one couldn't very well write about it without making a point. I had to ask, "Why do you assign us writing exercises where we choose our own subject, if you have a subject in my mind for us already?" She did not like my 'attitude' was her reply. She sighed, and determined to try again: "You need to take a stand when you write. Writing has to be about something, and it has to have a point. Your writing is without a point."

The next week she held up a news magazine with Garrison Keillor on the cover. We had recently read an essay of his about baseball. She was very pleased. She talked about him like he was a student of hers; she loved him, or at least she liked that he was on a magazine cover and in her syllabus. I could barely muster the slightest interest in anything she found worthwhile. She had me completely turned off of writing, personal expression, Gertrude Stein, and baseball essays.

At home, dejected, sprawled out on our couch, I found the same news magazine, Time or Newsweek, and Garrison smiling broadly with a caption that read: 'My writing doesn't have a point,' or something like that. Inside he talked about the pointlessness of his stories, and the value of story telling that simply presents an event or idea, without drawing conclusions or dissecting the meaning. Of course I am only paraphrasing; I have searched for the article, unsuccessfully.

I regret that I can't recall the specifics, but what I gained from his remarks filled me with pure delight. I was affirmed, and perhaps not so very pointless after all. The article, his perspective, changed me forever. I don't remember anything else about that writing class, my grade or that bitch. I do remember regaining my sense of pleasure from writing, about anything. I write about pointless things all the time, and all of the pointless thoughts, moments, insights, events and beliefs I write about, make up a little bit of the world I live in. I have read some of Garrison's books and essays, and I love listening to "A Prairie Home Companion." I even lived in Minnesota for a year, partly in awe of "Lake Wobegon."

The world is full of issues, controversy and hardship. There is no end to suffering, regret and cause for rage. And it's not as though I have lived a life so untouched by difficulty that I am left unblemished. I still garden. I still keep seeds in boxes, collect and sort them. They are hope and renewal; some of them are sterile, some will be eaten or wither in the heat, but some of them will blossom and make new seeds. That's all. It just helps to know there are more seeds out there.

Friday, October 04, 2002

Halloween Mood

The boys have released Halloween and all the Fall decorations. Our cranberry sconce candles have been replaced by candy corn candles. There are pumpkins and a scarecrow in the dining room. We hung an autumn wreath by the front door. And in the living room a ceramic haunted barn is glowing and flickering a seasonal light.

I nearly baked a pumpkin pie. Our pantry is very well stocked, but I am short on crust ingredients. It's just as well. We can't have all our fun in one day. I am still delighting in the recollection of the carrot cake Janice brought us on Sunday. We will bake pumpkin pie this Sunday, after our visit to the pumpkin farm with Holly, Rich and Nicholas. If this weather remains until our harvest adventure, cold and drizzly, it will be an ideal day. I wonder when we can squeeze in apple picking.

The boys finished their homework early. They are in the living room debating which is the most appropriate October 1st movie to watch. They are eager to find something to match their Halloween mood; a little bit scary. "Meet Me in St. Louis" has a great Halloween scene with Margaret O' Brien. It captures the suspense of All Hallow's Eve, as well as the freedom children could enjoy in times past. Too bad we don't have it, or an animated Sleepy Hollow, or even a Laurel and Hardy short. William, Alex and Max are trying to choose between "Wallace and Gromit" and "Mary Poppins."

Sunday, September 29, 2002

Making The Plan

Plan K. I have researched and charted 11 different possible travel itineraries for our Big Rancho Road Trip. I dub myself: The Nat-vigator, Queen of the Compass. I love maps. I love anticipating the fork in the road. I love bleak desert horizons, and lush green valleys. I love buttes, mesas, canyons, ridges, arroyos and moraines. I love 'mooing' at cows in the pasture, and speculating on the lives of people in remote and strange places. I like to know the roads, and I love to get turned around and dropped in a new part of town.

I want to see The Crazy Horse Monument, and The Grand Canyon, Parfrey's Glen, and The Giant Redwoods of coastal California. I want to sit in our vehicle and wait out a rainstorm, and drive at sunrise to a really good breakfast diner. I want to wear my favorite wool socks and rest my feet on the dash while we sing "She'll be coming 'round the mountain," with all our improvised verses. I want to see ducks, deer, quail, foxes and rabbits, buffalo and geese, Fall color, roadside stands and giant monuments to bass, lumberjacks and moose. I'll keep an eye out for lawn ornaments, early Christmas lights, pig farms and scarecrows. I want to sit in a forest, with my family, and smell a rich, humus, pine and smoky fragrance, and all around us will be trees, ferns, mist and God.

I will chart and prepare, anticipate and speculate, and then we will pack and load and check our lists. Once we leave the driveway I will submit to moods and weather. We will see and do things we could never plan or anticipate. I want to see the things and places, that I did not find in my books or maps, but that we will recall fondly for the rest of our lives.

Saturday, September 28, 2002


Geoff has never been to Wisconsin Dells, and I have never been to Catalina. I can't believe he's never been to the Dells! Alex and I were reading a AAA travel guide and we were sucked right in to the glorious, commercial and fabricated glory of The Dells; the Big Wolf Lodge with all its lodge-like appeal, and the indoor water park, with slides and tubes and cool stuff. I haven't even told Alex about the 'Ducks.' Laura, aunt and travel agent, told me about the amphibious WWII vehicles that take people from water to land and back to water. The boys would LOVE the Ducks. She also told me that The Dells is mostly a tourist trap for people from Illinois. Fine. I'm a tourist. I'll bear the shame. We have to go.

Geoff can't believe I have never been to Catalina. What can I say? It just never happened. 26 miles from Long Beach to Avalon, or something like that. It's an Island; it's not like you can just 'pop over' whenever. People drive to The Dells; convenient. I know you can get T-shirts, sunblock and shot glasses on Catalina, and people ride bicycles and snorkel there too. But it's not as though you can go to the Island and stay in a huge lodge, near a river with rafts and amphibious vehicles, and ride down slides in to big pools of chlorinated water.

Geoff thinks we should go to Catalina some weekend. We can see the Queen Mary; it's a docked hotel. We can visit the Spruce Goose; it's a wooden plane and it's 'docked' too. Then we'll ride the ferry to Catalina, and eat seafood and walk around town and see what they've got. Maybe we'll visit tidepools or The Catalina Island Conservancy. "Catalina, It's Not Just An Island, It's Another World." (I felt a little embarrassed knowing so little about the place; went to a few websites and got info.) I have read "Island of The Blue Dolphins," twice. I just never actually went to The Channel Islands; I guess I figured it's for tourists.

Friday, September 27, 2002

My Ride is Dirty

I might clean the truck. I might spend more time writing about the condition of the truck and then it will be too hot outside for a sane person to be cleaning anything.

In any given crisis mine is the vehicle you would want to be in. Some people have a gift for organization and general sanitation. Their cars smell good and they have no reason to fear public scrutiny when a door swings open. Some people have little vacuums, and they use them, and their passengers aren't obliged to sit between a box of Legos, a snow boot and a bag of grocery bags. But these same people are ill prepared for danger, for the unexpected, for riding in cars with children.

Periodically I clean the car. I clean it adequately and I feel good. Very rarely, Geoff cleans the car, but he over does it. He is too good, too thorough and the consequences can be crippling. He removes all clothing; so when someone pees or vomits we are defenseless, naked! He removes all containers; so the vomit-thing is a problem once again, as well as leaky bags of gold fish. He throws out crayons and scraps of crumpled paper; this leaves us vulnerable to creative children screaming in desperation when we sit in traffic or stop at business offices. He returns all books to shelves; another last defense against boredom is lost.

When all the little party favors are gathered and removed from under the seats, the children miss an opportunity for discovery. If we bring the slightly bent umbrella inside, of course it will rain. In the side pocket of the driver's door are two rusted and seemingly useless tools, and Geoff has tried to get rid of them. These two tools are the only thing that work to release the hinge in the door lock that frequently, but inexplicably, jams.

Recently a man, adrift for nearly 4 months, was rescued off the coast of Costa Rica. He survived by using the resources he had available, and grilling sea gulls. We could survive, adrift in suburbia, in our vehicle, but only if it hasn't been too efficiently cleaned. In my car, I can fix, repair, feed, entertain, heal, inspire and enlighten, for days. At a family reunion, two Summers ago, the hotel was booked; the boys and I slept in the car two nights, but that's another story.

Well, it's still cloudy out. I'll go streamline my operation, remove any perilous material and wipe down anything sticky. But the box of Cheerios, the beach towel, the gallon of organic apple juice and the snow chains stay, because you never know.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

DPMPMS :: Delayed Post-Menstrual Pre-Menstrual Syndrome

My recent bout with zero productivity was interpreted as possibly PMS related.

This is an interesting suggestion, but the diagnostician didn't have all of the related data; it's too late in the month for the 'Pre' portion. Maybe what I am experiencing is a conditioned that has not yet been featured in the New England Journal of Medicine, or Cosmo.

During my PMS window I was too busy for the typical symptoms, but because I could not release those emotions, satisfy the cravings, or honor the funkiness, I created a case of Delayed Post-Menstrual Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, with minor indications of MCB (Middle Class Blues: nameless dread and loss of perspective concerning personal good fortune, material and spiritual.) OR we are seeing Deer Syndrome: Person with so much to do, she is stopped in her tracks like a deer facing an oncoming Winnebago.

Fascinating...this requires more thought, perhaps something with chocolate as well.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Stuck in Place

Butt glue. It is a phrase uttered periodically around our home to express profound laziness and lack of ambition. The expression goes something like this: "I can't answer the phone, I've got butt glue." Also, one might hear: "Could you pass me the catalog from the living room? I can't get up. Butt glue." I think for some people the symptoms may sound familiar, but their condition has simply gone undiagnosed.

I've got a bad case right now. My head is spinning with a 'to do list' that rivals the density of a phone directory. But, I am fixed to my seat. I can't or won't get up, and there isn't a reasonable explanation for my lack of motivation, so it must be the glue. I don't want to clean or organize, or correspond or finish projects or start anything.

There are some bills that require my attention and the truck has passed the cluttered phase; it needs serious detoxing. We could be getting passports, for 'just in case.' I could prepare paper work, to refinance our mortgage. The cabinet by the front door needs purging, and I have about 300 bulbs that want planting. It is reasonable to assume that the children will hope to be fed soon or that the dryer will buzz and demand that I come and fold laundry. Call the dentist, floss, photocopy family pictures, fill albums, finish quilt, sort boy's clothes, clip cat claws, finish assembling out door lights, fix the mail box.

Blahhh. Somebody find me a Solvent, or a Jumbo Spatula with Catapult Action. I need Lift. I need Oomph.

Monday, September 23, 2002

El Rancho Autumn

This does not feel like Fall. There is no Autumn out my front door. Out the back door it is even less like a crisp, brisk, golden leaf strewn season. Rather, it is hot. It is a blistery, gasping heat, with little or no breeze. There are no clouds, high or low. There is only the glare of sunlight and the sensation of peering into a toiling furnace when we open a door. It is baked dry, and hung out to dry and all dried up. We couldn't have asked for better weather. The swimming has been fantastic! We swim in the morning. We swim in the afternoon, the evening and at night. This is a very good Fall, though not like Fall at all.

Friends came to play last night. They came with pie. They came with pumpkin pie. They were most especially welcome, and we were most especially thankful. We swam, and played an inaugural game of Marco Polo. James claimed inner city hardship for his ignorance of the game. He caught on quickly. He was a good Marco and a good Polo. Max liked being Marco, and so no matter who was Marco, Max would call "Marco!" We played and swam and sat in the spa until dark. After pie dinner, Max implored Eema, and James, to come back and swim again.

Saturday, September 21, 2002

Welcome Fall 2002

We made a genuine salute to Fall, and a farewell to Summer. The boys and I found carrot, spinach, pea and lettuce sprouts in the barrels we planted. We watered the baby veggies carefully, checked on the chickens, fed the two rabbits, and then we sat in the dirt and stared beyond the apple tree, down in to the pasture.

Alex asked whether I could imagine it full of fruit trees, "Because, I sure can," he said contentedly. I am sure he can too. Just the other day he harvested the fruit from his two strawberry guava shrubs. He brought in two large bowls full of ripe fruit. He and Max ate about 1/3 of them, then we threw the rest in the juicer with apples and pears. The juice was very good.

And tonight, as we envisioned more trees, we sampled apples from the tree we planted on the pasture fence. They were small, but ripe. They were hard, crisp and sweet-tart. And then we remembered that today is the last day of Summer. We toasted the passing season with our harvest, and saluted Fall with big crunchy bites of our apples.

Fall won't make many striking poses in our part of the world. We occasionally find a street lined with sweet gum trees, changing colors and losing leaves. The days don't seem quite as long, but, for now, they are as hot as ever. We delight in the pumpkins at the supermarket, the prospect of apple picking in our local mountains. And of course there is the torturous bliss of planning and anticipating holidays and merriment. How many days 'til Halloween, and how many days 'til Thanksgiving and how many days 'til Christmas? I look forward to the first night cold enough for foggy breath and a fire in the fireplace. I look forward to baking something a little sweet and nostalgic, sweaters and mittens, and an autumn wreath by the front door. We will walk in the early morning fog, the black, black crows sitting on the white pasture fence, and we'll love that it is Fall.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Geoff Feels A Road Trip Coming On...

Geoff officially needs a vacation. While the rest of us, here at the Ranch, are relishing the subtle changes in season, the quiet after a Summer of construction, and the predictable routine of school and classes, Geoff is master minding an escape. He is contemplating ' in Europe, Hawaii, no, Wisconsin.' He is envisioning us, the Bohemian Ranchers, out on the open road and seeing this entire country in 4 weeks. We could be in New York, D.C. the South, the Midwest, driving and resting and bonding. He has been working on the same project for 2 years. He has barely had a full weekend, let alone a real rest. And now he is determined to have fun and travel and relax and follow his impulses, no matter what.

"One day in New York," Alex says, must include a stop at "the world's biggest toy store. It even has a ferris wheel! And what about the Chicas, can they come too?" The chickens, we insist, will have to stay home.

"What about Halloween? Where will we be for Halloween?" William's eyes are already tear swollen as he stares at me incredulously. "No trip unless we are home by Halloween, or in Cambridge!"

Max can't let go of the chicken issue. He details for us little stories of chickens in the RV, and chickens when they walk in snow and how chickens will react to cold weather. Everyone has something to say, but Max is in full filibuster mode and we have to wait him out. "And when Sunshine walks in the snow, he'll say 'Bok, bok, boka-brrrrrr!'" We all take turns impersonating chickens up to their knees in snow.

Geoff throws in a few more points, "We can't leave until sometime in October, but we have to be in a mild climate before bad weather settles in. I've made up my mind we are going to New York and Washington, and we should visit Wisconsin too. Where does my aunt Jane live? We should visit there too."

"We are in Oregon in November, remember?" This has been a definite plan for a couple of months. We will take a relaxing drive, over the river etc to Grandmother's house. I wait for him to realize that one major, Autumnal road trip could be more than enough.

"No problem. We'll be back in time to make a separate trip." Geoff still travels on the notion he can be any where in the county in 15 minutes.

Two emails came yesterday. Holly is asking about 'Geoff's trip to Hawaii in October,' and my father-in-law wonders 'if we could include him, Lily and Rosa in the RV, on our leg out east?'

I'm too dizzy to think of thoughtful replies, or even educated ones. I didn't know about Geoff going to Hawaii next month. Geoff asked me to draw up some alternative itineraries for our 'whole country venture.' I can't quite pin down all of the contingencies. My driving distances and departure dates look more like a flow chart for urban evacuation, than a vacation planner. I'm no party pooper. Travel, family, adventure, spontaneity, it's all good stuff, but I am seriously considering giving Geoff a tranquilizer and waking him up a week later.

"Wasn't that a great trip, honey? Don't you feel rested?"

Someone, anonymous, (initials HJVV) suggested I tell him he should 'take the trip with his sons and father, littlest sister and cousin.' They could bond, and I could stay home and pay bills, clean the pantry, watch chick flicks. Geoff made a sorry face and grinned hopefully, "You wouldn't want to stay behind. You'd miss us. Wouldn't you?"

"How could I miss you?" I tease, "You'd get as far as Barstow, and I would see you in the driveway again in a few hours. I'd barely have time to get a decent facial, drink a glass of wine."

Another optimistic suggestion arrived this morning. My friend, code name 'Banana,' says I should be approaching the issue using programming and gaming strategies. So, we need to do a Beta Run: An initial road trip with simulated sick, or cranky children, driving in traffic, with maybe one stowaway chicken. Then Geoff could apply the results and expand the data to a projected trip of 672 hours in, possibly, bad weather. This is more effective in dissuading me, but my husband is motivated by challenges, adversity, dares, 'impossible programming bugs.' He'd find the solution, fix the errors, cure the children and clear the traffic. Foiled again.

Thank God I love this man. My pledge to him has always been, "I'll follow you any where." Looks like I may be in for an interesting ride.

Thursday, September 12, 2002


Luna's eggs are delivered with boastful clucking. Rosie sits modestly, discreetly and she leaves behind brown, classically shaped eggs. Gracie peered curiously in to the boxes, and she sat quietly beside Rosie as she brooded. And yesterday Gracie's time came, and she laid her first egg, next to Rosie's. Rosie's brown egg is speckled, like chocolate flecks across cafe au lait, and Gracie's slightly smaller egg was speckled too, with chocolate flecks on muted mint green.

The boys gathered around Gracie and we all praised her lovely egg. Her breed is known to lay Easter eggs of blue and green. It is still an unexpected sight to see a perfect green egg in a bowl with other perfect, brown eggs. This morning we are listening to hear whether Gracie will cluck with effort and pride, or perhaps she will favor Rosie's humble and shy delivery.

Alex speculated; "Do you think it will have a different flavor, or will it taste the same as the brown eggs?" We are so conditioned to commercial packaging and presentation; I can't help but imagine that Gracie's egg might be chocolate mint flavored with perhaps a small drop of sweet cream filling. Or may be she has produced the first omelet in a shell, with a fresh hint of basil and cheese.

This morning all of the chickens, Sunshine too, are loose in the yard. They made a running dash at the gate when I went to feed them. They must have scratched their strategy in the dirt and rehearsed their escape all night, because they were committed and effective and fast. Moments ago, Sunshine sharpend his beak, pecking at the door beside this computer, and glared in through the window. He evidently has bigger plans; he puffed himself up and gave me one last zap of stink eye, before strutting off to check out the pool and spa.

I'd like to sit and write some more, but Geoff just called; I'm supposed to go to the dumpster and lighten the load for the trash man. The landscapers parting gift was to overload the trash and the pick up service won't haul it away until I have mucked around with it for awhile. Sometimes being witty, strong, and 'at home' is overrated.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

September 11... A Year Has Passed

This day is too great to be fathomed, too sad to be surmised, too fresh to be healed. This year has been as full of hours and moments, events and passages as any other. One year has passed and yet this day seems impossible; how can it be one year since we bore witness to anguish and fear, confusion and determination?

For weeks and months the grief was at the very surface of every breath. And now? I know where the pain is; there is a hollow pit where the sadness and dismay are a gnawing ache, and circling my head are the fears and questions that go unanswered, unquieted. I have cried and mourned, cooked and cleaned, laughed and remembered, but how can it be a year since our lives were forever altered?

I still grieve for all that was lost. I still grieve for the people who long to feel relief; to feel their pain subside. I grieve for the individuals who were so blinded by hate and ignorance that they sought to destroy what they could not comprehend, what they could not believe in. I grieve for the men and women still living who cannot enjoy freedom, who value acrimony over reason, and who perpetuate ignorance, fear and hostility.

When I hear someone say: "God Bless America," I think, we are blessed already; let's fulfill the power of our blessings and work for a world where all people may live with hope, faith, love and charity. May my deeds and thoughts, my truest moments, reflect the deep caring I feel for those who have lost and for those dedicated men and women who are still giving. May we all continue to find the resolve to share our strengths and resources, our faith in freedom and equality. And may we recognize the true worth of this nation: we are rich in potential and ideals that can overcome prejudice, ignorance and despair. May we acknowledge the world; it is full of caring, thoughtful people.

Thank God a year has passed. Thank God we are still here and we still have the chance to share happiness and memories and love. Thank God we can do the silliest things, make the most sublime gestures and witness the intangible essence of what makes our lives a pleasure. If we cannot give thanks for all that is good, if we cannot live fully and strive to help others fulfill their potential, then September 11th will be a complete tragedy. We are meant to make this world a better place; our lives are meant to be forever altered, so that we may honor the lives of men and women and children who cannot be here.

Monday, September 09, 2002

First Pool Guests

Our first pool guests came yesterday. They shared in the irony; after weeks of very hot, dry weather we have had cloudy and even rainy days. The cold afternoon breeze and the barely 80 degree water temperature were no obstacle to our fun. Adam and Jacob, and William, Max and Alex were undeterred by the chill of the water and they plunged right in. Anne and I are classy, sophisticated women and we didn't feel the need to rush the experience. We entered the water gracefully, reservedly, and we paused to reflect on the serenity of the moment and the cleansing experience of immersing our nubile bodies in to the pool of cool and invigorating water. Just thinking about it gives me goose bumps.

Now, I can't promise dinner to all pool guests, but certainly first time ever, ever guests are entitled to an exceptional reception. And besides, Anne is in training, and I want to believe I have supported her triathletic endeavors. Their visit confirms that this home is best enjoyed shared with friends and family.

Saturday, September 07, 2002

Play In the Garden

Today we bark. Though the landscaping was declared complete, there are, of course, finishing touches. All week I have, with help, been adding trees and shrubs. We moved the horse water trough up from the corral and in to our secret garden. It is now a huge, raised strawberry bed. And the barrels I carted home last spring are set to be filled with flowers and seeds. Alex helped me place a bird bath and hang our "Bless The Harvest" angel. And today, before Geoff heads in to the office, we are going to Home Depot to buy bark to lay in the playset area. We have encircled the fort, swings and slide with a rock wall; the rocks were set to serve as seats and tables, and they will also hold in the bark. We left a space for an arbor and climbing rose, and there are also some of the barrels between the rocks. The space is shaping up to be cozy, inviting and a fun place to be. It is nice to provide children with room to play that reflects the respect and caring we feel for them.

Friday, September 06, 2002

Roll of Thunder Hear My Laughter

Most excellent weather; not for swimming, but for breaking the tension of months of heat, dry weather and disappearing reservoirs. The sky has been like an omnimax theater presentation of outrageous cloud formations and movement. It has been scorchingly hot. The air has been clinging to the back of my shirt, and under my bra, like damp Saran wrap. Yesterday we waited for rain. We could smell it coming, but the dark and churning clouds only released sporadic little drops, and left us gasping for more. Today the relief has come in satisfying bursts of genuine rainfall. There has been lightning and thunder that rolls across the sky and under the floor boards, shaking the house and us in it. It's deep down fun to be working in the yard, hot and dirty, and feel the initial drops, and to know that the cool breeze, the charge in the air and the dimming light are sure signs that rain is at last coming. The first thunder clap brought forth a scream and laughter from me; not from fear, but from the sheer exhilaration and joy of the energy moving through the air.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Keep a Little Summer All Through The Year

The boys are sitting at the breakfast table. They have pens, pencils and sheets of computer paper. They are creating worlds and buildings, lines and dots. They shade and contour; they divine perspective. They are drawing Space Hotels.

Today is their last day of summer. Tomorrow we return to structured learning, text books, schedules, long faces and groans. Most of the time they project an exceptional enthusiasm, but I think some moaning over sheets of arithmetic, essays and rote memorization just goes with the territory, and it's no wonder; they have spent a summer free to explore and follow the sun. We've played outside until dark. We've risen with the first light and crowing of the rooster. They have explored the farthest reaches of their yard, caught lizards, beetles and moon beams. They've been swimming, and hiking, biking and filming.

I suppose I will groan a little too. I don't relish returning to strict bedtimes, and shorter days. It won't be as much fun to add up numbers on paper, as it was to count the seeds in a flower head or the stars in the sky. I have heard people discount the hours of summer for its lack of structure and the time away from the classroom. Life is far too interesting and varied to ever be 'wasted' when it is spent playing, imagining, and sharing thoughts and dreams with people. Summer is processing time; an opportunity to apply theories and develop new inventions. It is a time to become familiar with our senses, and trust our own voices. I think I'll keep a little bit of Summer close at hand. And I will praise the boys and all they have learned and tried and shared in their own learning places.

Sunday, September 01, 2002

Forces of Nature

1. water is added to the pool immediately after plastering
2. water aides in the curing of the plaster
3. our pool began to fill at 11:30 a.m., Friday
4. our pool was full at 3:00 a.m., Saturday
5. the water is murky; due to the plaster, and water quality
6. we are running the water through the filter
7. it is clearing
8. yesterday was the hottest day
9. some people suggest waiting a week, before swimming

So, now we are all caught up on the minor details.

Yesterday we sat around the pool, and lamented the lag time when we 'shouldn't swim. ' Holly, Rich Nicholas, Ruth and Corm spent the night, and so we all woke up to a full pool, sparkling in the morning light. Eventually we reasoned that no harm could come from simply dangling our feet in the water. Geoff brushed the sides of the pool, as per instructions. We swished our feet in the cold water, and talked about plans for the day.

Later, the visitors were gone, and I took over brushing the pool sides. It was necessity that caused me to descend to the bench in the deep end; there was a spot that needed particularly concentrated brushing. The bench was firm, and I was careful not to dig any sharp objects (knives, bayonets, shark's teeth, diamonds) in to the plaster.

My legs were immersed in the still cold water, and I was diligently doing my work. Then, quite without warning, a force of aquatic magnitude caused my legs to propel my body up and forward, over the greatest depth of the pool. Even with all of my faculties and strength I was unable to run backwards in mid air and return to the safety of the bench! And this is the true story of how I ended up, fully dressed, and prematurely, in the middle of our pool. Though Alex was also fully dressed he willingly jumped in and offered to rescue me. William, equally thoughtful, followed.

After about half an hour, Alex asked "What if Carter (Mission Pools' illustrious foreman) comes and sees us in the pool?"

I answered confidently, "No problem. I fell in. You tried to save me. William tried to save you. And daddy went to get help. And then we'll say 'Carter! You're just in time to rescue us!' "

It was an hour or more before the aquatic forces released us and we were able to swim for shore.

Saturday, August 31, 2002

The Pool

3'.5'" to 6'3" to 3'.5" deep
Royal Saltillo coping and and royal blue water line tile

...and full of water! We have all been sitting on the edge of the pool, dipping our feet and letting the moment sink in. Of course we can't believe it's actually complete. It needs the cover installed, and Tuesday they will add chemicals and do the final tweaking of things. Otherwise, we have a finished pool!

Too emotional to think and write. This is a good day. This is a really good life.

Friday, August 30, 2002

Get Plastered :: Summer's End

Good morning. It's Friday. It's plaster time. Victor and I worked until dark, last night, setting tiles on the steps and bench. I got pretty good at it, and with what tile is left I want to decorate something else. Anyway, we are all set for what these guys are going to do today. It's 6:30 a.m. and they are in the pool scraping and cleaning all the messes left by every crew that came before them.

This is going to be very interesting. I think we've grown accustomed to our rough, gray, concrete lined hole in the ground. After today it will be an actual swimming pool. We will enjoy all the luxuries, and some chores, of a private pool; except for skinny dipping: Grandfather has better vision than he admits to, a keen interest in keeping tabs on everyone, and a very wide open view of the pool and spa. I am sure he'll be giving me regular reports on who's 'been running around the pool,' which kid 'jumped in' and from where. All my friends have 'ooh'd and ahh'd,' about the romance of a back yard spa, and evening swims. I should be checking out the nurseries for a fast growing, dense hedge!

Everything is winding down and settling in. I've pruned some shrubs, Geoff mowed a section of lawn. The chicas left 2 eggs yesterday, and the tractor looks comfortable and well used. And by Sunday afternoon it will all be over. No more summer vacation, no more workers. No more trucks and wheel barrows and concrete. Even guests from out of town will be on their way home. will be strange.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Can It Be?

Take a deep breathe and let it all out. Repeat.

Writing is a poor medium for conveying the tension and suspense that hung in the air at the Rancho. Or perhaps I feel inadequate to convey the feelings. We were certainly stressing, and Geoff especially was under too much pressure, here and at the office. Strange thing about anticipation, once the event comes and goes, all the pent up energy and anxiety needs to go too, but where and how?

Mr. Navarro pulled up up at 11:30 a.m. and did his thing. He pointed out some spots that will need fine tuning, and cautioned us about the time when the pool cover will not be installed. Then he shook Geoff's hand and said, "You are approved for plaster." Cool and calm.

I feel elated, but full of that pent-up-worry energy. The feelings are genuine, but when I read the words and think about what I am going through; the whole thing totally amuses me. I know perfectly well that there are worse things to get all worked up over. No need to get stressy. It's really time to celebrate, relax and give thanks that I have the privilege to enjoy trivial and even good stress.

Tomorrow plaster will be applied to the pool and by 1 p.m. they will turn on the big hose and fill the pool with water. The pool will fill in 24 hours. It will be cloudy and even greenish. On Tuesday Mission Pools will come for a first clean up; brushing and vacuuming and starting chemicals. Then I will brush the plaster, several times, daily, for a week. Pool Safe will install the cover sometime in the next 2 weeks. That's it. We can swim in about a week from the time plaster is installed or as soon as the water is clear. Yahooty!

I should celebrate by doing something classically American, middle class: I will go to Target! Max needs more underwear, and we are out of shampoo. I'll check out the clearance aisle and see what inflatable goodies are sitting around, waiting to go to a good home.

Seeing The Pool Finish Line

This is the sprint at the end of the 90 day race. Geoff, Vicente, Rich and Corm have all been contributing to the completion of the two different fence sections. Setbacks have included: delayed delivery of fence sections, inexperienced hired help, a weak drill battery and a dead saw. Surprisingly we're doing better than I thought we would. My part is to call the county office at 8 a.m. and determine which 2 hour time window our inspection is scheduled for, and then possibly beg for the latest in the day; we don't need this guy showing up at 9 a.m.

I also need to set the tiles on the pool steps and bench. Without some color on these spots they will 'disappear' in the white plaster. This should be interesting, as I have never set pool tile. Did I mention 'plaster?' Are you sitting down? IF we pass inspection, Mission Pools will send their plaster team tomorrow! Grab you ear plugs and floaties, because we could be swimming in 10 days!

When Geoff and I met I had just cut my very long hair very short. Off and on through the years I have worn my hair short, but I am mostly drawn to the romantic notion that long hair is the most attractive. Geoff doesn't share this belief. In recent years I have joked, "I wouldn't have long hair, if we had a pool." Geoff would then laugh and threaten to build a pool. So, to make a long story short: I cut it all off on Monday. We laughed again at the fulfillment of my promise, and we attribute the sudden rush in completing the pool to my very short hair.

The brave ex... hold on, I just saw Luna pacing passed the window. Chicken Run!

Luna and Gracie both love to make a break for the wide open spaces. Cuties; they always cooperate when we come out to retrieve them.

So, I was going to write about the boys, the brave explorers, who have camped out every night this week. I joined them Tuesday night, and Geoff has been with them the rest of the nights. The boys have had the courage to be on their own, but us big kids haven't wanted to miss out on the fun. Monday night we found a frog and a toad. Last night the bats were very active. When I slept outside the ostriches were very loud (no, we aren't in Africa; there is an ostrich ranch about 1/2 a mile down the valley from here.) Alex is determined to make his 'roughing it' experience very authentic, and wanted to sleep outside the tent on the bare ground. He is hoping for a thunderstorm, and desperately wants a campfire. We'd better wait for some rain before we do anything involving sparks.

Yesterday was also devoted to some sight seeing with our Kona visitors, and Holly, Rich and Nicholas. We met at Max's gymnastics class; he had a fairly large and enthusiastic cheering section. Then we had lunch and headed out to Bate's Nut Farm. We fed their goats and sheep. We checked out their chickens and mulberry trees, and compared them with our own. We have fewer chickens and smaller trees. Everyone found tasty things to snack on, and treats to share later. The weather was ideal; warm and breezy.

It's nearly 8 a.m. Time to call the exciting!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Finish That Fence!

Are we ready for a pool update? Ya, me too. Okay here goes: The equipment (filter and heater) is hooked up, and today an electrician will come and connect all the lines. But now the ball is in our court, and frankly we have no 'racket.' I kind of thought we might get caught like this. The western fence is incomplete; the sections on special order are not in. The eastern fence is finished, but it is missing a big gate. This is pretty much as I predicted. We can't have our county inspection until security is secure, and we can't schedule plaster until we pass inspection...argghhh. On a brighter note; it's still frickin' hot!

Our landscapers retain their shining reputations. We didn't like the way things were adding up; they poured less concrete than we paid for, but this morning they explained that they deduct the difference. It is easier to over-order when buying concrete, than to come up short. Cool. Sod worked out the same way. They did extra grading for us, and now the street section and driveway are looking good.

Right now they are creating our grill and counter top. I am supposed to visit a place to choose a stone to top the whole thing. And neighbor John and Geoff are going to custom weld the actual grill and plancha for cooking. Sniff, you smell something? Tortillas are toasting and chiles are sizzling on the hot grill! Can I get you a cold cerveza, to go with your tacos? So, I'm thinking; 'pool, grill, fiesta-16 de septiembre!'

Grandma and Grampa are home from Oregon. They spent a long week with Mom and Dad; picking blackberries, visiting Florence, North Bend, Roseburg, Coos Bay, Portland, and Bandon. It sounds as though they had a really good time. They talked about how beautiful the new house is, and what a good foreman Ron is. They were also impressed with the intensity of the flower colors and the lushness of the trees. Mom and Dad are going to have to make it official and hang up a 'B&B' sign; Becky Sioux is arriving with a friend today, and at the end of the week Becky and Dan will join them. We have marked our calendar for a Thanksgiving visit.

Classic: I heard a truck pull up, so I ran to check. It's Mission Pools! Yesterday the scheduler said I had to be home from 12 noon through evening, so I could meet the electricians. I couldn't make any afternoon plans with Mom and Corm, who are visiting from Kona. And I made a commitment to go choose the stone with Victor for this morning. So, Mission Pools shows up 2 hours early and they tell me they need to work all day! It's not famine or the plague, but it sure bites, when people can't make and keep regular schedules.

The saddest part is that instead of running around Ikea with Holly and Ruth, or choosing flagstone with Victor, I will be home, and I'll be feeling compelled to clean the kitchen, do some laundry and go through paper work! Torture! Foul! Yuck! One of the weaker parts of achieving 'adulthood' is accepting the fact that you have to do all the stuff that no one else wants to do, including; bills, cleaning barf, scaring away solicitors, choosing a long distance carrier and driving yourself to the dentist. Well, if there is any one out there actually reading this, please think kindly of me and wish me luck: I am going to be a grown up now.