Friday, March 26, 2010

A New Bike and It's Not a Trike

The Old Bike

Ooh, some rhymes should not see the light of day. Blame it on my mixed feelings about the day's significance: today is the last day I can claim to have a seven-year-old son. Tomorrow Danny turns eight. It's a big day for him and yet he's been having mixed feelings, too. Angst, at this age? Perhaps. Last weekend he had the "kid party" with a few buddies, a trip to the movies, pizza and ice-cream cake. Crazy fun. Now it's the reality of same-old, same-old with the family. At least the birthday treats I brought to school (homemade cupcakes) were a roaring success. The class gobbled them up and he came home and ate an additional five before I realized what he was up to! I do seem to have mastered the art of cake and frosting.

Joe and Dan did the research on this bike several weeks ago. Danny fell in love with a 24 and 26 incher and has been anticipating bringing one or the other home. Now, all they have to do is take a final test ride. We'll all have BIG bikes now, a bike rack on the back of the van that makes my life miserable every time I need to open the hatch, and plans for family rides together. I may ditch the bike in favor of taking Roscoe on foot; he's family, too. Mostly Danny takes rides with his Dad and sister, though, and that's okay.

I'll be selling the old bike, a now tiny-seeming Specialized. When did it shrink? When did he grow? Why do milestones make us celebrate with such wild feelings of joy and loss?  Four years ago I was diagnosed with cancer and every child's birthday I've celebrated since is one more. One more. One more.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Birdhouse Unveiled (Be Kind)

Oh, you've all been waiting for it, haven't you? I can just imagine the anticipation. What masterpiece of birdhouse art has Hedgie created for our viewing pleasure? Well, hey, here are two photos of the front. My iPhone usually does a good job but was forced to work in direct sun and then lamplight so forgive the technique.

Just amazing, you say? Give me a fuzzy break!

That shiny object in the top nesting hole is a pearl button. A treasure, you know, as all children are. (These birds are happily waiting for just one egg to hatch, courtesy of some smart nest planning.)

You should see the other sides, though. The paper is different on 3 sides and the roof and rather elegant if I do say so myself. The house would look nice high on someone's living room shelf, away from bright, flaw-revealing sunlight and direct inspection. Or perhaps regifted during a White Elephant exchange. Hmmm, the possibilities for a late-night crafted birdhouse are endless.

Lotsa fun in the making. Now what am I going to do with it?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Born to Sew

Who, me? Nope. That would be my son, Danny, who has been asking me to teach him how to sew. Nothing major, just how to thread a needle, pull it through fabric, tie it off. Tonight, after homework was completed, there was absolutely nothing standing in our way. The Princess with more desire than know-how was teaching her son the basics of needlecraft. (Oh, Mom, are you laughing at your daughter?) And he was loving it. He started singing a little song, "born to sew, born to sew" that almost knocked me off my chair.

When his older sister came along and realized we were into something interesting without her, she had to thread up, too. Dan may have some natural ability here whereas Gracie takes after her father; she asked me which end of the needle went in first, the dull or sharp end? She has other talents.

Feeling very crafty, I gathered my decoupaged birdhouse and trim materials while the kids were enthralled with their projects. Whoever invented the glue gun should be given the Nobel Peace Prize for saving art-starved moms from committing suicide by boredom. I mean, I have had so much fun designing that little decoration. Originally I hoped to sell it on Etsy (I have a store -- an empty store) but it is probably too much a cliche even for Etsy. Still, I will post a few photos here and let my tiny but loyal audience decide its merits. Check back on Tuesday for some hot shots!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Take 3 Spoons of Dirt and Come Back in Two Weeks

The other day I twisted my back. Maybe one too many room rearrangements or attempts at spring cleaning were responsible, or just the daily tower of babble. All I know is that in one pain-filled moment I went literally stiff with dread. Oh, no, not my back was the refrain running through my head. Not again. 

Such a wise woman I've become, or just a lucky one. Yesterday the calendar read, "acupuncture, 9:30." Wahoo, saved by the needles. And I was. A few gentle probes with her hands on the back but mostly, the needles did the trick. I left pain-free, relaxed and carrying a 2-week supply of an herbal supplement designed to unblock my stagnation. Yes, somehow in addition to straining my back I'm stagnating. Such is my life at the moment.

Replay of the conversation with receptionist:
"So, this is the supplement. How do I take it?"
"Mix it with very hot water and drink quickly."
"Quickly, huh? It tastes like dirt, doesn't it?"
"It is very organic."
"Good old dirt. Just as I thought."

The stuff does taste like dirt and is best followed with a juice chaser. I'm not really sure what the acupuncturist meant when she told me I was "stagnated" but she was right on with relieving my back pain. I'm good for a few weeks of stagnation therapy.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Naked Yard, Confused Birds

Or, let the sun shine in. We have no privacy hedge anymore. No privacy at all from the behemoth house on the east. Without the ugly trees between us there's just us, and them. Ugh. Already I've been combing the 'net looking for fastgrowing trees and such. There are giant bamboo that might work. I need to visit the bamboo farm to see these things up close first before agreeing to anything. I have no intention of going through this heartstopping tree-cutting process again.

The tree guys were very careful about nests. One oak due for a crowning had two nests; the haircut was postponed. None of the other trees had active nests. After the crew left I sat outside taking in the sight of our suddenly huge and sun-lit yard when I noticed a scrub jay high in a palm. He looked confused, starting to fly towards the location once held by the Chinese Elm only to turn back and land on the palm. Poor dear. We have a lovely Japanese maple that I can see again, and the doves were enjoying it, too. It's like getting a blank canvas and a fresh set of paints. Oooh, the possibilities.

Another day or two of work next week and we'll be done with this portion of the yard work. Next we'll see the retaining walls and fence go in. I need a beautiful (but not over-designed) fence. Simple, elegant and aesthetically gorgeous. I'm going to be looking at 108 feet of this fence and it had better be more than dog-eared fenceboards! Ideas?

On the kid front, sweet Danny continues to hate school. Really hate school. I'm as involved as I know how to be on all fronts, trying to get to the bottom of it and solve the obvious problems. There are no easy answers, though, only tough questions and the love in my heart to guide me. A little boy should not hate school, should not cry at night because he is so miserable he cannot see a reason to get up the next morning. I could really use a how-to manual. If only I could fix this as easily as the backyard.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Trees and Paper

Tomorrow the tree guys are coming to our house. Bright and early they'll arrive, chainsaws at the ready to cut down someone's idea of beauty. Decades ago the original owner planted a Monterey Cypress that is brown and scraggly now; a Chinese Elm that writhes and wrangles with the Pitisporum for a spot of sun; five myaporum trees grown taller than the neighbor's 2-story house but truly a gnarled and unsightly privacy screen; the said Pitisporum that is too close to the house's roof and foundation for comfort; two Monterey Pines that have created a mockery of our driveway and must be punished for their errant root systems... there are more but do you need to hear it? The sun is going to shine in parts of our backyard long neglected by warmth and light.  The front and side yards will become more and less than they were.

Very, very soon we'll start the decade-delayed retaining wall/fence project. Of course there won't be any money left to actually landscape the backyard but I'm going to spend many hours enjoying the fact that we could landscape it. We really could do it! Hardscape in, nasty space-swallowing trees out means more room for lovely trees, plantings, patio, maybe a little writer's cottage tucked out back. See? I've already started the dreaming.

The paper in the heading comes from the absurd amount of material stacked up and waiting to be filed somewhere. Somewhere I can retrieve it again, that is. I tell myself I need a big chunk of time to work on it and it really is true. Have you ever started a filing project only to be interrupted? Maybe a dozen times? It's agony, and really impossible to carry the thought process from one pile to the next. Tomorrow, though, I've got a few hours when I can sort, destack, file and clear while the tree guys are doing the same thing outside. The symmetry is my motivation. This will be spring cleaning with pure energy!

Monday, March 15, 2010

We're Losing Teachers and Music and the Library...

Can you imagine your children coming home with the news that more than half a dozen teachers are receiving pink slips due to the state's financial crisis? Or that they won't have access to their incredible library next year, or that there won't be a band or chorus for the fourth and fifth grades? Class sizes will increase, putting a greater burden on the teachers who remain to do more with less. The kids will certainly be required to do more with much less. Will they ever make up for the losses? Will the schools ever crawl out of these holes?

Like most schools, ours benefits from a community fundraising organization. It's called SchoolForce. Now more than ever we're hoping SchoolForce can make up for the $3 million budgetary gaps and save the teachers, the class size, the library and the band. There's more to save, of course. It is just too overwhelming to list all the losses we face.

If you've stumbled on this site out of friendship, chance or desire to unload an inheritance and save a school district, head on over to SchoolForce. There's a Read-a-Thon going on now (my guys are doing their part by reading day and night) and you can donate in Gracie and Danny's names at Central Elementary. Or just donate. NO pressure, though. It's not as if the future of our galaxy hangs in the balance.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Haven on Earth

Years and years ago, before marriage and children, animals were my primary focus. I formed a dog and cat rescue called "Haven on Earth" and endeavored to rehome as many homeless animals as possible on a struggling editor's salary. The animals did not need an invitation, either; they seemed to sense their welcome and found me. Cat projects included trapping, neutering and placing the Gap Cats from the Gap office development in San Bruno (formerly an open field behind a shopping center and apartment complex); trapping, neutering, taming and rehoming colonies at Candlestick Point, a population in danger of becoming training bait for hunting dogs; and various neighborhood colonies in San Francisco, South San Francisco, Belmont and Millbrae. The dogs were usually spitz breeds from a collaboration with Keeshond Rescue in Menlo Park, now defunct with the passing of the rescue owner. Finnish Spitz, American Eskimo, Keeshonden and varieties of those breeds became my flatmates and, later, housemates.

How many animals passed through my heart? A hundred, easily. Some went to great homes, others were gently helped to heaven when no amount of medical care would keep them on earth. Then there were those animals, mostly cats, who could not be placed anywhere. Those cats remained with me, and when I married, became part of my dowry for a willing husband. Our "high" was 33 and now, in our specially selected home with a "cat haven" adapted garage/workshop,  we have nine cats in their retirement years. Yes, nine cats ranging in age from 13 to 15 years. They are all adoptable but hard to place because of their age, shyness, or simply lack of visibility. Seriously, how many people are willing to adopt a 15-year-old cat from a flyer?

We  are making a final push to find these felines a forever home because they deserve it. And because we can't muster the time, energy or financial resources to care for them as they should be.  Deferred maintenance on our home is requiring a serious look at where the money is going every month and after all this time we have to put our family first.

They are lovies, characters, and beauties. I will be featuring them on this blog in coming days. Please take a look at our babes and if you have the space in your life, consider adopting one. Or two. You may be blessed to become their final haven on earth.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Waiting for Joe

Waiting, waiting. A day full of dog barking, kids ignoring requests for household help, endless parade of mindless chores. Now I'm waiting, waiting for Joe to come home so I can bolt this coop. Maybe a movie will change my mood. The friend I called for a last minute invitation to the movies answered laughing, saying she was in the middle of email to me inviting herself over for coffee tomorrow.

The dog never barks unless we're home and in separate rooms. Weirdo. I love being in separate rooms. He can't stand it. He's not ready for prime time, though, and can't be trusted with the run of the house. So Roscoe is Waiting, Waiting too. Now he's waiting for Danny to open his door and come back to the kitchen, for Gracie to come down the hall and join us. Me, I'm waiting to be released from my kitchen prison. This laptop is good company. It is a challenge to type, interrupt myself to calm the dog, return with leashed canine in hand and type more. See? Boring as all get out, too.

As you can tell by the photo of Roscoe waiting on the table, our training sessions are going remarkably well. (I told him to "wait" while I went for my iPhone and he didn't move a toenail.) Perfect pooch.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Down the Rabbit Hole

One of the drugs used during chemo required another drug to minimize its effects. Dexamethasone was worse than the bone pain it reduced and I usually refused it. A few times I couldn't bear the pain, though, and the awful depression and insomnia were high prices to pay.

This past week brought the beginning of dental work I had hoped to avoid: a bridge. Just the sound of it makes my hair seem grayer. After cutting into two relatively healthy teeth to create the anchors for the bridge, temporaries were placed and I was sent home to wait for the lab to build my lovely bridge. Every hour saw an increase in the throbbing until I caved in and returned to the dentist a mere seven days later. No, nothing wrong a little prednisone wouldn't fix. Prednisone, kissing cousin to dexamethasone. Better believe the pain was intense or I wouldn't have agreed to it. And it wasn't dinner time before I was slipping down the rabbit hole, into that pitch of melancholy from ChemoLand Days. This morning even the sound of thirty birds singing in the lemon tree cannot stop me from baseless tears. The pain is emotional, from that solitary place I inhabited four years ago and suggests that maybe I haven't finished grieving. Lost health? Innocence? Days without a chance thought of cancer?

I'm refusing to surrender to a drug-induced nap. I'm sure that's the right course of action. Keep on keeping on, you know.