Tuesday, December 30, 2008

First Christmas for the Newlyweds . . .

. . . and we were there!
Dianna and Rodrigo in front of their first Christmas tree, in their little house in Oxnard, CA. It was fun spending a few nights there; we were the first ones to use their guest room so Mike and I felt quite honored. We had a super-comfy bed with thick comforters and we were toasty warm every night in spite of the cold snap that had hit southern Cali with a vengeance.
This is the cross-stitch wedding record that I made for them. It was a lot of work, and there were a few technical difficulties because I made some modifications in the pattern and kit, but I worked them out, and I think it turned out real nice.

Here's my fave gift:
Rodrigo and Dianna gave me (among other things) a cashmere sweater and, can you believe it at my age, it's my FIRST cashmere anything! Love the color, one of my favorites, burgundy - YUM. This will be a treat to wear. You can see how super-soft it is!

The "kids" have three cats. Two are identical solid black female kittens, about 6 months old or so, Meeka and Maddy. They are nearly impossible to tell apart. Here they are playing in a pop-up cube that Mike and I brought to them:
They love it! Pancho, the third cat, likes it, too, but he's a bit older (and more dignified) and preferred spending most of his time in our laps:
Isn't he awesome? Of course, I do have a soft spot for orange male tabbies, dontcha know. He has a curly tail, too, of which this picture doesn't do justice. It curls right up over his back just like a Norwegian Elkhound! I've never seen anything like it on a cat before. I really think he should be in the movies.

We opened our gifts on Christmas Eve because Dianna had to go to work early on Christmas Day, but Rodrigo was a great host and made us a fabulous Christmas morning breakfast; cinnamon french toast, hash brown potatoes, a fancy egg scramble, and french-pressed coffee.
What a guy!
I did the dishes - in my pajamas, of course!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

To Resolve, or NOT to Resolve


Do you make New Year's Resolutions?

Some years I do, and some years I don't.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I change my mind from year to year on this subject. Some years I make well-intended resolutions - serious ones - only to have them peter out in a few weeks or, at best, a few months. Some years I only make resolutions I know I will keep, like eat three meals a day, and then reward myself for my success by eating 4 or 5 meals a day. And some years . . . I'm thinking this year will be one of those . . . I resolve not to make any resolutions at all.

Because why chance failure? I hate to fail anyway, and a self-imposed failure has got to be the worst failure of all. If I can't keep a resolution that I made for myself, knowing myself as well as I do, how can I ever expect to succeed at a task set for me by someone else?

Yeah, I feel like copping out this year. Especially after spending much of last year trying to live life a little more slowly and more thoughtfully. Resolutions to keep will just cause unneeded stress, right?

Still, making resolutions is a really good way to create good habits, finally complete (or at least make progress on) a long-desired goal, do something worthwhile, and most importantly, improve myself. So I'm waffling again.

What about you? Are you making resolutions? Help me decide what to do by leaving me a comment about your own resolution-making plans . . . or lack of plans!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Merry Rainy Christmas

We're having a wet (and very cold) Christmas week here in northern Cali. Jack's ready for the rain with his pink brolly. Our heater is running all day and at night we (and the tabbies) burrow under the electric blanket. The more delicate outdoor plants and trees in our yard are wearing their plastic capes against possible freezing temps during the nights.

I'm staying inside as much as possible, doing a little baking, and finishing up some gifts that I've been working on. I can't post photos because the recipients read my blog, but I will do so after Christmas. I'll be pretty much done by tomorrow, including wrapping & mailing (just a few), and personally delivering a few more.

Yesterday I made 4 loaves of cinnamon-swirl bread and wrapped two to give away. Today I found one of the loaves on the floor, with the pretty purple ribbon still wrapped around it, but now with a big jagged hole in the side through the plastic wrap and into the bread.

Jack!

Dang it, I should have remembered how he loves bread, not to mention chewing through anything in plastic wrap or baggies. Looks like that loaf will be eaten right here at home. It's sure going to be delish for breakfast tomorrow....but NOT for Jack, he's already had his share!

Many of the blogs I follow, like this one, are filled with long lists of things that need to be done by Christmas and just reading them makes me feel very tired. I'm glad I chose to whittle my own list wayyyyy down this year, keeping just the most important ones, and taking the advice to "focus and prioritize" that another blog friend gives in this post.

Have a Merry and Stress-free Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Goats R Us

An Orinda, California, company called Goats R Us is wintering its herd here in Benicia. The goats roam and feed in the open spaces and Benicia gets free weed abatement. This is the second winter that we have "hosted" the goats.

I took the above photo a couple of weeks ago. I was driving down 2nd street toward Rose Drive when I spotted the goats; of course, I had to pull over and take pictures! I sat and watched them for a long time. Finally, a dog came running over the hill and began rounding them up! I was surprised that just one dog could get them all herded together so fast, and no human in sight either, the dog was working alone. It was really amazing. You can see the dog in the second photo, on the left; he's black with a white ruff.

Update on my dad-in-law: Good news; Art is doing great! I talked to Mike a couple hours ago. He and Betty brought Art home from the hospital yesterday. Today he's gleefully and soundly beating Mike and Betty in cards!

I'm tellin' ya, the guy's a rascal.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Staying Calm While Uncertainty Reigns

I'm not referring to the economy, which is increasingly uncertain for so many people (including us), but to family issues. Mike's dad, Art, is doing well at the moment, but he had a heart attack Tuesday evening, went to the hospital, and had surgery today to have stints inserted into the arteries of his heart.

I took Mike to the airport early this morning where he caught a 7 a.m. flight to Tampa, Florida. He'll spend at least the next week in Zephyrhills to give Betty whatever support and help he can, and to keep track of what's going on with Art. Each time Art has a major health issue we get a little more worried. He's already had two quadruple bypass surgeries. He's a stubborn old bird (and Mike is just like him!) so our expectation is that he will pull through yet again.

Mike is good at staying calm and rational. I operate more on emotions (which is probably why we make a good pair). But although I felt strongly that Mike needed to go to Florida, I don't feel a strong inner indication that we are about to lose Art. Mike and I decided I would stay here so that I can finish up two client projects that need to be completed by Christmas. If circumstances warrant it, I'll hop the first plane I can get.

Mike called earlier this evening. He arrived in Florida and had been to the hospital. He said Art was doing well; he was even up and walking a bit! So things are definitely looking up. I wish I were there; I hate to miss out on any family get-togethers no matter the reason, but we have been planning to make a "real" visit to Florida in January or February, so I'll continue to plan on that trip. I'm just keeping in mind that it's GOOD that I'm not there now because if I were it would indicate a downturn in Art's health.

So I'm remaining calm (I refer to the photo above if I start to worry), and I'm optimistic that Art will be around to pummel me in dominoes or cards in 2009 because I'm really looking forward to it!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

An Outing with Yarn Yumminess

So one-half of the team who housesat for us last year during our 8-week sailing cruise, Mary (of Richard and Mary), is currently nearby in San Jose at a housesit there. Mary and I took advantage of being within 90 minutes of each other to meet halfway, in Dublin, CA., for lunch. It has been almost exactly one year since we saw each other and it was fun to get together and catch up on each other's lives.

We had lunch at Taqueria Los Pericos and, luckily for us, we arrived at 11:30 so we ordered, got seated, and were eating when the lunch crowd arrived. The line went out the door! Mary had researched the restaurant on-line since neither of us is familiar with Dublin and it was as good (and popular) as reported. And reasonable, too, always a plus! Mary had the tostada and I had nachos and both dishes were fresh, tasted great, and arrived quickly.

Afterwards we visited a nearby yarn shop, That Yarn Shop, at 7164 Regional Street, where we spent...oh, I don't want to say how long, oohing and aahing over the yummy yarns! Wow, I think I picked up fingered and rubbed on my face a skein of every brand and type of yarn in the entire store! I took the picture below when I got home, but it definitely doesn't do the yarn justice.I can't wait to knit with these yarns, they're so soft...I have plans for them but can't say what those plans are just in case I get an item or two done in time to give away for Christmas! Of course, my gifts-to-be-made list is soooo long, and there's not nearly enough time to do everything. Still, I'm having a lot fun trying. Oh, the yarn info is: blue/purple blend is by Teseo in Italy, 55% Wool and 45% Microfibre, the red/gray/black variegated is by Berroco in Uxbridge, MA., and is 41% wool and 59% rayon. (I don't like 100% wool as I find it scratchy against my skin.)

It was a really nice outing, especially since I've been at my computer almost constantly for the past week or so, working on client projects for my digital scrapbook business. So nice to get out of the house and, once I was across the Benicia/Martinez Bridge which was socked in with fog like most of Benicia, I found myself in sunshine! Gorgeous, warm sunshine.

I have got to get out more!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Oy, I've been tagged -- sort of!

I was reading the blogs on my bloglines and came across one that had a meme on it and when I got to the end of the blog posting it said, "if you've reached number 25, consider yourself tagged!"

Ok, so I did read the whole thing so, obviously, I thought it was worth reading....so here it is, with MY answers. But I'm not going to tag anyone. If you want to do it, then Yuletide Cool; if not, that's fine, too.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I LOVE wrapping paper, ribbons, AND gift tags!

2. Real tree or artificial? Artificial. We were given an artificial tree by my sister, Denise, who said that when she and her husband put up this artificial tree for the first time they had a horrible fight (it was hard to figure out the directions) and they vowed to never put it up again, so they gave it to us. We love it, and have used it every year for the past 3 or 4 years.

3. When do you put up your tree? It varies a lot. Sometimes early in December; one year when we were still buying fresh trees and the boys were with us and we had just moved we didn't get a tree until Christmas Eve. I like to put up our artificial tree as early as possible, to enjoy it the longest.

4. Do you like eggnog? NO. But my husband and both my boys DO! So I'm the odd person out.

5. Favorite gift received as a child? A hand-sewn teddy bear with button eyes that I named Christopher. I will never forget him! I was about 8 or 9 and I will love him forever. My mom bought him at a church bazaar.

6. Worst christmas gift ever received? I can't think of one that I didn't like.....!

7. Hardest person to buy for? My husband. He just doesn't need anything, and he never seems to WANT anything either!

8. Easiest person to buy for? My parents; I love to think of something extra special for them!

9. Do you have a nativity scene? Amazingly, no. I need to rectify that because I love the whole story of the Savior in the humble Manger.

10. Mail or email christmas cards? MAIL!!! Even if we email and/or text each other all through the year, a Christmas card must be something you can hold in your hands and see your friends or family member's handwriting, and know they took precious time out of their busy lives to write it and send it. It is so much more meaningful, like spending time with someone as opposed to just sending a gift.

11. Favorite christmas movie? Hands-down: "It's a Wonderful Life." It's not Christmas without it!

12. When do you start christmas shopping? That varies a lot. One year I actually started in July! ONE year! Usually I start handmade gifts in September, and I start buying gifts in November. It's always a rush. I love to go out and find the perfect gift for people; it's an unfortunate fact of life that the process is usually rushed; that's why I prefer birthdays for gifts!

13. Have you ever recycled a christmas present? No.

14. Favorite thing to eat at christmas? I have to say chocolate-covered cherries. Since they were small, my boys always got me a box at Christmas because they know how much I love them. I still do!

15. Lights on the tree? Absolutely!! We always put lights on our tree. I love to turn off all the lights in the house and just enjoy the lights on the tree, and the fireplace.

16. Favorite christmas song? "Little Drummer Boy." I also love "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."

17. Travel or stay home? I love to be at home, but will travel in special circumstances, like this year we have been invited by our older son and his new bride to spend Christmas in their home. Can't pass that up!

18. Can you name all of santa's reindeer? Of course, can't everyone??? Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen!

19. Angel or star? I prefer Angel, but we have a star; must do something about that this year!

20. Open presents christmas morning or eve? Always in the morning. When the boys were small they always got jammies, which they opened Christmas Eve and wore that night. I miss those days!

21. Favorite ornament theme or color? We like green and white, or blue and white, on our house. I like all-white lights on the tree because it reminds me of snow. I don't have a favorite ornament theme, unless you consider hodge-podge, whatever-the-boys-made-when-they-were-little a Theme!

22. Favorite place for christmas dinner? Wherever my Family is.

23. Most annoying thing about this time of year? I hate getting caught up in the advertisers' web of you-must-buy-this-or-your-recipient-won't-be-happy trap. Christmas is about spending time together, reconnecting with loved ones, and I hope (especially this year) we can remember that.

24. What do you want for christmas this year? I already bought some "holiday clothes," so I don't need anything more. I want everyone in my family to be happy and content with their lives, as I am.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

One of my Favorite Holiday Cookies

(photo courtesy hersheys.com)

Peanut Blossom Cookies

1-3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 T. milk
1 tsp. soda
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg
48 chocolate kisses

Combine all ingredients together except candy kisses in large mixing bowl. Mix on lowest speed of mixer until dough forms. Shape dough into balls using a rounded teaspoonful for each. Roll balls in sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Top each cookie immediately with a candy kiss. Press down firmly so cookie cracks around edge.

Makes about 48 cookies.

Black Friday - or - Doing Our Part for the Economy

(left to right, back: Jen, Karen, Mom (peeking!), Denise; front: Lisa, Kristen and Jenny.)
One of the holiday traditions in my family is the Mom&Daughters shopping trip on Black Friday while the Dads do something fun with the kids (this year they went go-kart riding). We have been doing this for years and even though we are all cutting back on our spending this year my mom, my sisters and I still made our annual trek to the mall.

We went to The Oaks Mall in Thousand Oaks, California, and as you can see from the photo we did do SOME damage to our wallets!

We also had a fun lunch together, enjoyed the valet parking, and got in some always enjoyable sister-time. This is the first time in several years that all 5 of us sisters were here so it was an extra-special day! Included in the trip was Karen's friend, Jen, and Denise's daughter, Jenny. I am not in the photo since I was behind the camera so here is a photo of me from the following day when Mike and I took a drive to the southern cali coast:I hope you all had an equally wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Just Another Manic Monday

Even though I no longer work a normal (aka boring) Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 job, it still seems to me that Mondays are the most likely day of the week for things to go awry. And those telephone calls that throw carefully made plans into total confusion? I generally get those on Mondays, too.

So, Mike called this morning from onboard the Chat de Mer and reported that he and Leo were offshore just past Morro Bay, clipping steadily along at 6.5 knots and, at that pace, they were estimating a Richmond marina arrival early tomorrow evening.

Wha'???

When I got the call I was at the Benicia library picking up an audio book to listen to while I made the long drive to Simi Valley to spend the Thanksgiving holiday at my parent's home. I was heading down a few days early in order to help my mom with the myriad preparations necessary to host 40+ family members for turkey dinner. My bags were packed and in the car. I had said goodbye to the cats. The housesitter was due sometime this afternoon. In fact, if I hadn't been behind schedule by about an hour, I'd have probably been halfway to Tracy when I got Mike's call.

Ok, so if you've been reading this blog for awhile you have probably already figured out that this is yet another chapter in the Baja Ha-Ha-2008-with-Captain-Leo saga. That man has changed the schedule numerous times each time causing confusion and cancellations and other general chaos. I'd truly like to kick his . . . well, you get the idea.

My options were to stick to my original plan and get on the road, or wait for Mike and then he and I could leave early early Wed'day a.m. and go to Simi Valley together. I spent a brief period pacing in the library parking lot trying to convince Mike to make Leo put him ashore some place where I could pick him up on my way south. Mike didn't go for it, probably because he knew it would be incredibly difficult (but not impossible, surely!) for Leo to single-hand that huge catamaran (the third crew member that was originally on-board jumped ship in Cabo San Lucas). And Mike doesn't go back on his word or quit and desert just because the going has gotten tough (as is obvious; after all, he's still married to me, heh heh).

What to do, what to do? Go alone now, or wait a couple days and go . . . what was that word . . . together?

I called the housesitter and explained the change in plans. She was really nice about it and will now come over on Wed'day instead of today. Then I called my mom and told her the new plan. There's disappointment all around but in the end I'd rather be there with Mike than without him. If we get there in the early afternoon on Wed'day there's still time to be of some help with dinner preparations (and now there will be two of us to help). AND Mike will be there to perform his own very special duty; that of removing all the meat from the turkey carcasses. My mom says no one else can do it as well.

It was just plain weird to come back home and unpack the car. The cats seemed glad to see me although maybe they just wanted some of the string cheese I was eating. But I'm adjusting to the new schedule now and starting to get excited about Mike's arrival. He has been gone since mid-October. He's anxious to get home, too. Originally he was to have been gone about 7 weeks. I think they have actually only been gone about 5 weeks, though it seems longer. In order to accommodate Leo's latest need-to-be-home-by date he and Mike have been running the Chat de Mer's two engines continuously since San Diego and they won't be stopping until they're back home.

San Diego to San Francisco in one straight shot!

That's a tough push and not for the faint of heart. Mike even said it was a good thing I hadn't gone on the trip, and I agree. I don't think I could have stood the stress of round-the-clock motoring and night after night after night after night of nightwatches and sleeping only 2 or 3 hours at a time. I'd have probably jumped overboard! It's unfortunate that Leo, for whatever reasons, turned what could have been a great trip into such an ordeal.

Still, it's a nice surprise, to have Mike home for Thanksgiving, after all!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Let the Turkey Hoarding Begin

My first conscious thought this morning was "Turkeys go on sale at Safeway today!" With any $25 purchase I could buy up to two turkeys for $5.99 each (up to 16 lbs.) or $7.99 each (over 16 lbs.). While supplies last, of course!

So the first item on my To-Do List for today was "Buy turkeys at Safeway." I was there by 9 a.m. and already there was a crowd around the turkey bin! But it was a friendly crowd, retirees and stay-at-home-Moms, and others with schedules flexible enough to be at the grocery store on a weekday morning.

I bought two of the larger turkeys, each over 18 lbs. They're frozen, which is fine, because they have gone straight into my freezer. We won't be cooking them anytime soon. Since we always go to my Mom's house for Thanksgiving dinner the turkeys we buy are often not cooked until after the holidays. That's why I call it "turkey hoarding." We buy them at the great holiday sale prices and then save them in the freezer until January or February.

If you've never cooked a turkey dinner with all the trimmings in January or February, or even March or April, you're missing out! Just the smell of the turkey cooking makes an ordinary day feel like a holiday. It's especially fun to do this smack in the middle of the week.

Of course, this year, since Mike is off on his sailing trip and will miss Thanksgiving, we'll probably cook a turkey in mid-December, after he returns.

Hm, I think I'd better go buy a couple more turkeys!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Good Friends, their Cats, and Steinmart

I had a great time at my friend, Linda's, house this past weekend. She and her husband, Allen, are the ultimate host and hostess. Linda is a gourmet cook; Allen a wonderful conversationalist. And they have three gorgeous Maine Coon cats, Winston, Skelton, and Sophie.

Here are the kitties:
Winston

Skelton

and the little girl, Sofie:

Doesn't she have the cutest little white triangle on her nose?

Linda and I went shopping and found some AMAZING sales at Steinmart. I had never been to a Steinmart before. I found a dress that I loved and felt I just had to have, and when I got to the checkout counter found it was ON SALE!!! Normally $69, I paid only $48. I was happy! I got two pairs of capri pants, too, for only $12 each.

Linda cooked amazing meals, and Allen drove me to the pharmacy (late) when I realized I had a bladder infection coming on and needed to get some medication.

Thank you, Linda and Allen, for an amazing visit. And, of course, Winston, Skelton, and Sofie!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Scout's Drinkin' . . .



. . . my milk, that is!

I've been trying, for a long time, to get a video onto Blogger of Scout drinking my milk. I guess they've all been too long because the upload process always failed. Argh! Finally, I decided to make just a short little video and try uploading it.

Success!! Here is Scout, indulging in her usual activity whenever I have a glass of milk:
video

Yeah, she does what she wants.

But then, that's kinda the tradition with the women in my family!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

All I Ever Needed to Know About Friendship . . .

. . . I learned from reading "Papillon."

The movie's great, but the book is even better. One of the most important things I've ever learned about making and keeping friends is from this book.

If you aren't familiar with the story, Papillon, it's about a French thief, Henri "Papillon" Charriere (nicknamed "Papillon" due to the butterfly tattooed on his chest - papillon is French for butterfly), who is imprisoned in South America, escapes several times, and finally is sent to (inescapable) Devil's Island in French Guiana. Conditions are extraordinarily harsh, as befits (at that time anyway) repeat offenders and escapists. Papillon had made his living mainly as a safe-cracker, but was wrongly accused of murdering a pimp. Once he got put into the "system," he kept breaking out, getting recaptured, and receiving even harsher sentences.

I'll never forget the scene in the movie (and book) where Papillon is standing knee-deep in cold, miserable, muddy water in his cell, along with all the other prisoners in their own individual cells. I don't remember exactly where, but somewhere he had gotten hold of six cigarettes. Well, cigarettes in prison are like gold. They are used as currency, they are hoarded, they are prized because of their scarcity and because, when smoked, the smoker enjoys a rush and feeling of good-will unmatched by anything else available to them.

What does Papillon do? He gives away five cigarettes, and keeps only one to smoke himself. I may be wrong about the number; he may have given away all six, I'll need to re-read the book. But you get the point?

He instantly had five (or six) loyal friends. We all know when someone has given us something of great value. It means something. This was not just "sharing," this was giving up something we'd really rather have kept, for the sake of those around us.

It has an impact.

It is Impossible to Keep a Straight Face . . .

. . in the presence of one or more kittens. ~Cynthia E. Varnado

Here's proof:

video

I'm gonna miss this little guy when he goes back to my niece's house . . . although, at the same time it's going to be nice to have peace & goodwill amongst the felines in my house again!

The Essential 007: A Recap of all 22 Bond Movies

Before you go out and check out the much-anticipated new James Bond movie Quantum of Solace next week, here is a quick recap on the evolution of the cinema’s most successful and recognizable stars. Quantum of Solace is the 23rd Bond film (although only the 22nd official one - Never Say Never Again is not recognized as an official 007 film)...

read more | digg story

Friday, November 7, 2008

Freedom of Speech Friday


Seventy percent of African-Americans backed Proposition 8.

Two-thirds of voters who describe themselves as Christian voted in support of Proposition 8.

Married voters and voters with children strongly supported Proposition 8.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One Word Wednesday

Whoohooooooooo!!!!!

Opie Needs a Home

If you read my niece Jenny's (Bookworm Cat Girl's) blog you will have already seen photos of this little guy. His name is Opie.

She's been bottle-feeding him since he was about 10 days old. Now he's about 5-6 weeks old and living at MY house! Yeah, I got talked into bringing him home with me last Saturday when I was visiting Jenny and her family. Jenny was getting ready to go away for two weeks and needed someone to take care of the kitten for that time (as well as possibly fall so in love with him that he'd also be adopted)!

But I can ONLY take care of him for the two weeks Jenny is gone. My other cats, Jack and Scout, are absolutely beside themselves with fury over the tiny interloper! Jack hisses and spits at everyone (including me!) and Scout has twice tried to flatten poor Opie with a well-aimed SMACK to the head. It's a lot of work keeping everyone separated and halfway happy.

It's too bad because Opie is so much fun! Kittens are just a hoot. This little guy is very independent, playful, and affectionate. Since he's been hand-raised he bonds very quickly to people. He has tried to make friends with the other cats; unfortunately, they're having none of that!

Here is a little video of Opie playing with a cat toy. Isn't he adorable??? video

He is completely litter-box trained and is now weaned from the bottle. He eats both solid and canned kitten food. I'm still giving him kitten formula but he drinks it from a saucer instead of a bottle. He sleeps quietly all night in a room by himself. I'm sure he would prefer sleeping with a person but I already have two cats in my bed and they have voted unanimously that a third is not welcome!

So....if you know anyone at all who would like a kitten, PLEASE have them contact me! Opie needs a home! The sooner the better so that he can bond from this young age with his new family. I promise you - he's irresistable!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bye, Bye, Bo-bie

I had a feeling this would happen. Mike left on a two-month sailing trip, and shortly thereafter Bo began to fail. Poor kitty cried all night for the last two nights in a row. It was not fun for any of us (that would be me, Jack, Scout, and Bo - except for me they are all cats). No matter what I did for Bo he could not relax, barely slept. We were all up much of the night. During the day things were a little better so I didn't call the vet until late in the day, thinking Bo might get better, but then he started in on the crying again. Heartbreaking. He couldn't eat, didn't even want water. I called the vet; they couldn't get him in that day, but said bring him in the next day at 9 a.m.

When I went to bed I fully expected to be wakeful most of the night, worrying that I was making the wrong decision for Bo. Surprisingly, I slept well. I did have to get up several times with Bo, but when I was in bed, I slept soundly. When I woke up I felt calm, and I took that as a sign that I had made the right decision for Bo.

My friend, Linda, who is also a "cat person" once told me that we (humans) usually wait too long to make that final decision. She's right, and I know that it is usually selfish; we want to keep them around a little longer, but that's for us. Or maybe we just aren't sure it's "time," so we let things go one more day and then yet one more day. I kept that in mind.

No one, animal (or human), can live forever. Bo had had a good ride. He had nicks in both ears from fights, he'd roamed most of San Jose, El Dorado, Fresno, downtown Benicia and, finally, the Southampton area of Benicia (pretty much all of central and nothern Cali). He had the dubious good fortune of being our cat before I decided cats should be corrralled behind escape-proof cat-fencing, so he got to roam. He lived The Life! He knew O.J. and Callie, in their heydey. O.J. and Callie both "moved on" bofore Bo did. Bo lived longer than any other cat that we'd ever had. Could be that was why it was so hard to make that "final" decision. But...

...it was time.

I took Bo to the Animal Clinic of Benicia today, October 29, 2008. The staff was kind, thoughtful, and caring. This is where we brought Callie in 2003 and I remembered how kind they were. Bo didn't want to come out of the carrier but, once out, he seemed relaxed. He rubbed his head on me, as though to say "thanks," and was happy to be bundled into a warm towel. The staff took him, briefly, into the back room to receive his injection. Then we were left alone, the two of us, to let the sedative take effect.

I talked to him, told him he'd been a good kitty, talked a little about all the adventures he'd had, and asked him to "say Hi to Callie, O.J., Tony, and Leah." His eyes stayed open but he was completely relaxed, under the sedation.

I knocked on the door to let the staff know he was fully sedated, and that I had said my good-byes. The doctor came in, gave the final injection, and a few minutes later asked if I wanted a few minutes with Bo. I asked, "Is he gone, then?" The vet nodded, yes.

I shook my head, no. I had said my good-byes already, earlier before I'd brought Bo to the clinic. The staff will sprinkle Bo's ashes over "Bubbling Brook" in Napa. I don't know where that is, and I don't really care. The ashes are just what's left from his body. His spirit is already with O.J., Callie, Tony, and Leah, the other cats he knew while he lived with us.

Update (12/16/08): Bo's "country burial" actually took place at Bubbling Well Pet Memorial Park, in Napa. More info here.

I like to think that they are all hangin' with my Gram Ware (who wasn't that much of a lover of cats OR dogs, but is now probably surrounded by them because since 2000 when Gram died we (the family) have all sent our beloved pets to be with her). Sorry, Gram! Bo loved his comforts. He loved a fire in the fireplace. He didn't like getting a bath, but he did seem to appreciate how much better he felt after Mike gave him a bath and a good combing. Bo adjusted to Leah, then to Tony, then to Jack and Scout.

Bo loved his meals, his little bed in the garage (where he had his private "apartment") and taking a nap anyplace where there was a spot of sunshine.

I will say that he was the most independent cat that Mike and I have ever had. Bo went his own way, did his own thing, and lived his life the way he wanted, no matter what anyone else thought!
Bo also had more nicknames than ANY other pet I've EVER had! Here are just some of them:

Bo-bie
Bo-fus
Bo-diddly
Bo-ney-butt
Bo-zinsky
Bo-stoy
Bo-ster
Bo-nus
Bo-fer
Bo-peep

Tomorrow, when I remember the rest of them, I'll add them.

For now, bye-bye Bo-bie!

Wordless Wednesday


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Orange Tabby Cat and the Mockingbird

Cat people will understand this cross-stitch picture. I love how the mockingbird is pulling out tufts of the cat's fur to build his nest!

We have lots of mockingbirds in northern California, and they do NOT like cats! Our Burmese cat, Tony, used to get dive-bombed constantly by the mockingbirds that frequented our yard. He would simply continue strolling across the yard, he was too high-and-mighty to even acknowledge them. More recently, this summer I saw "our" mockingbirds perched on the cat fencing scolding Jack and Scout(our orange tabbie sibs) as they rolled in the warm dirt, or chased bugs. The cats ignore the birds. It's an interesting "relationship," to say the least!

Since we have both mockingbirds and cats, this cross-stitch pattern was one I wanted to stitch, and I had a great time stitching it. A lot of the work was done during last year's sailing trip with the Baja Ha-Ha. So it has double the meaning to me, and I'll remember all of these things every time I look at it: Baja Ha-Ha, sailing with Mike, Mexico, Tony, Jack, Scout, and our lovely and entertaining mockingbirds.

The needlework was framed by Lowell and Carol of Benicia Frame. I trust them with ALL my special framing needs, and have done so for over a decade. Their work is exquisite, thoughtful, and always looks gorgeous.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Time Flies; Tip One - Ditch Your Watch

As promised, here is the first essay (in a series of ten) which I call "Time Flies: Ten Ways to Make it Walk Nicely." If you missed the original post you can read it here.

Lately I've become fixated on learning to "live life in the slow lane." This little series of articles is the result and will give more details on some of the techniques I've learned, and which are helping me to live my life more slowly and with more care.

The techniques truly work for me, and I hope you'll find one or two useful in your own life.

To me, time is more important than money. I can always earn more money if I need it, but I can't increase the length of my life. I can only increase it's breadth.


Time Flies - Ten Ways to Make it Walk Nicely

Tip One: Ditch Your Watch

My philosophy is this: if you have to wear a watch you are overbooked.

If you're overbooked the days are going to fly by at warp speed while you rush around trying to get everything done, get everywhere on time, get more done in less time, and in the meantime get very little enjoyment out of anything at anytime.

We're all very busy. Too busy. Busy, busy, bizzy.

And that's the Number One Reason why Time Flies.

Before I quit wearing a watch I was overbooked, too. Some of it was out of my control, like at work when there were (mostly useless) meetings ad nauseum and scheduled tele-conferences (ridiculous invention) and lunchtime was strictly between noon and 1 p.m. However, the bad habits spilled over into my personal time, too. I was involved in too many things, my calendar was packed, and my watch was a constant reminder to hurry, hurry, hurry, or I'd be late.

Stop!

Now fast-forward three years to an incident that happened just last week.

I was at the grocery store, standing in line to check out. As I amused myself with the tabloid headlines, I heard a foot tapping impatiently behind me, then there was a touch to my arm and the woman behind me asked, "Do you have the time? My watch appears to have stopped."

No, sorry," I answered, "I don't wear a watch."

The woman was shocked enough to leave off tapping her foot. "No watch? How do you manage that?"

"I try to live my life so that I don't need one," I said.

At first the woman looked at me like I'd just fallen off a turnip truck, but then her expression suddenly changed. It softened and her shoulders relaxed. She let out a breath, nodded, and said, "What a great idea."

I nodded. "Makes a world of difference." Then I stepped to one side and indicated that she should move ahead of me in line because, as I told her, "I'm not in a hurry."

Back again to that day three years ago when I took off my watch for good: You could say I had an epiphany that day because, not only did I realize I'd become a slave to Time and that my life was passing by in nothing short of a blur, but I suddenly understood that there were more days of my life behind me than ahead of me.

According to CNN Health the life expectancy for women in the United States is currently 81 years. I had passed the halfway mark to that age nearly a decade previously! I felt sick. I still had so many plans, so many things I wanted to do. Where had the time gone?

Into the Black Hole of Bizzyness, that's where.

I couldn't change the past; it was gone and in what seemed the blink of an eye, but I could do something about how I spent each hour of each day from then on. When I removed my watch that day it was more a symbolic gesture than a deliberate step taken with the specific purpose of slowing down time. The fact that time did slow down as a direct result of my symbolic gesture only dawned on me gradually over the next few years.

Today I can say that it's been time-tested and proven to work. Try it yourself.

Without a watch you'll find yourself paying more attention to what you're doing at the moment instead of thinking ahead to what you'll be doing next. Without a watch and the (dubious) ability to constantly check the time you'll find it necessary to schedule your To-Do's further apart. More time between tasks means you'll accomplish fewer things on any given day. Doing less will require eliminating some tasks from each day. And I'm not talking about postponing them to another day, either, but eliminating them completely.

Can you see where this is going?

Stop doing anything that's not truly worth doing. Time is the ultimate non-renewable resource. Let the absence of a watch on your arm be your reminder to spend time with the greatest of care. A reminder to slow down, pay attention, and fully enjoy the things you do keep on your schedule, the ones truly worthy of your time.

I know, if you have a job, this will sound ridiculously impossible and impractical, if not something that might get you fired. It's true you won't have the luxury of eliminating anything you feel isn't "worthwhile," but trust me on this. I've been there. You can still embrace the philosophy and ditch your watch.

Don't worry, you won't be completely clueless as to what time it is. You won't suddenly begin showing up late to every meeting or missing lunch. There are clocks everywhere. On the wall. On your computer. In your car. You'll begin to notice other clues, too. The co-worker who goes outside for a smoke every day precisely at 8, 10, 2, and 4:00. The growling in your stomach as lunchtime approaches. Even subtle differences in the energy and noise levels of your workplace, and changes in the light coming through the windows, will give good indication of the time of day.

As the days pass you'll find yourself relying more and more on your own internal clock to guide you through the rhythm of each day.

If you're lucky enough to be a stay-at-home Mom, retired, work from home, or in any other way able to control your own daily schedule, you'll have the great luxury to leave your day as unstructured as you like. You'll need to figure out what works best for you. To have nothing on your To-Do List at all and just let the day unfold naturally, one major task to focus the day on, or several small ones to divide up the day. Or, like me, you may use one method one day, and another the next day.

I have an artist's temperament so it's a lucky, lucky thing for me that I was able to quit my high-stress "corporate" job and start a small business here at home, where my schedule is entirely under my own control. One day I may get up raring to go on a project that I'm in the middle of, and the next day have no desire at all to continue it and will put it aside for later. In the past I would have forced myself to continue with the project, struggling along until day's end when I'd realize I'd made no headway at all and the day had been a complete waste.

For me, an overly strict routine does only one thing: it makes every day look alike. When I gave up my watch, I gave up my "schedule," too. I also granted myself permission to simply go with whatever mood I was in. Some days I get up and I'm like a Tasmanian devil whirling through the house, cleaning, sorting, organizing, and cooking. Other days I'm at my computer from dawn until midnight (or later!) because I've gotten on a roll with my digital scrapbooking projects and am knocking out the layouts one after the other. There have even been days spent entirely on one project, perhaps a cross-stitch sampler, because I'm enjoying myself so much that I don't want to go on to anything else.

Don't get me wrong; I don't let everything else go. I do try to keep my house picked up (for the most part), get bills paid on time, take care of the cats, and make meals for Mike and me. There's always some of that going on around here but I look at it as more of a foundation on which the optional activities are made possible. The bulk of my days are mostly unstructured. I'm averse to deadlines, and I try not to schedule more than one appointment per day, whether it be with a doctor, a client, or a friend.

The result of this is that my days are leisurely and each one is distinct from the others. When I look back over my week I can clearly see the things I've accomplished, feel yet again the pleasure of the accomplishment, and know that I've spent my time in ways that make me happy and feel fulfilled. The other stuff, the things I eliminated because they were just too far down on my list of importance? I don't even remember what they were.

I hope you'll try ditching your own watch. Dump the unimportant busywork (I'll write more later on how to separate the un from the important). Restructure your days so they're more rewarding, a better fit for you, and contain an unhurried agenda of activities, people, and places.

Time will still pass, yes, but no longer as a high-speed blur.

Instead, it'll walk nicely.

Enjoy the stroll.

"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life
in your years."
~ Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, October 25, 2008

More Shameless Plugz for my Boyz

Can't help it, it's what Moms do!

Michael's "50 Amazing Movie Facts" article written for Hollywire has received so many responses (150,000+ page views and growing) that it is now the NUMBER ONE feature article on the website. Go to the website and you'll see it right at the top of the page, "above the fold," as it's called in newspaper jargon, meaning the most important articles which are always placed on the front page, above the fold of the paper.

I may not have fulfilled my dream (yet) of becoming a famous writer, but it looks like Michael will! Oh, and he does this while living and working as a teacher in mainland, communist CHINA!

And Rodrigo? Well, that boy (ok, young MAN) just LOVES being married, and it absolutely warms my heart. Dianna is an angel. Rodrigo (and I!!!) waited a long time for Dianna to come along, and I'm so pleased she is now part of our family. When I talk to Rodrigo on the phone he sounds truly happy, and can you imagine how happy that makes his Mom?

I know I promised to post more photos from Dianna and Rodrigo's wedding -- the really good, professional ones, of Rodrigo and Dianna's wedding -- taken by Jeff Fassett. There are just sooooo many awesome photos! So here is the link: Dianna and Rodrigo. If you've got lots of time you may be able to get through them all! Jeff and his assistant took tons of photos. The best part? If you are planning a wedding in southern Cali I would highly recommend Jeff and his staff. He is fantastic; he listened to everyone and took all the photos that each one of us (and there were a lot of us) thought were most important. And now, long after the wedding is over, he's still answering all my emails, you can't beat that!

I'm tickled that Dianna and Rodrigo have asked me to create their wedding album. I can't wait to work with Jeff's exquisite photos. If all I did was put each photo on a blank page, the album would be gorgeous! In the meantime.....here's a photo of the sweet little house Dianna and Rodrigo have moved into:

Yeah, Life is good when the Kids are doing well.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

No Creature can Sleep like a Cat

I was inspired by my niece, Jenny, who posted this photo of her cat, Foxy, deep in slumber as only a cat can sleep.

It reminded me of the (literally) thousands of photos I've taken of my cats while they're sleeping 'cuz they're just so dang cute! Below are two of my faves of my lil' female orange tabby, Scout.

A soft blankie, a warm rock, cats have an uncanny ability to find the most comfortable spot in the house or garden for a nap.

I can't even tell you how many hours I've spent fulfilling my very important role as "cat mattress."

Well, and after all, what could be more rewarding?

This is Why I Love Hewlett-Packard

As most of you know I have a small business. Because it's still small I have to be careful about every dollar I spend on business expenses. So when I accidently ordered three packages of Hewlett-Packard photo paper (from hp.com) with 25 sheets in each package when I meant to order the 50 sheets-per-package size (because the cost-per-sheet is lower), I immediately re-ordered the correct size, and then called HP customer service to arrange to return the first order.

Before I even tell you what happened today let me just mention that shipping for paper, ink, and many other essentials from HP is FREE, even for NEXT DAY DELIVERY. That's awesome. AND if you need to return something, you simply call and get a return number, print the return tag they provide, tape the box back up, attach the return tag to the box, and drop it off at the nearest FedEx pick-up point. AND the return tag includes postage! So returning items is not only easy, it's also FREE. Shipping charges add up so free shipping is always much appreciated. The last time I had to return something to HP my Paypal account was credited before I even took the package to FedEx. I love that.

Back to today. I telephoned the customer service department to get the return number and link to print out the return label. Can you believe it, the guy said, I'm refunding your account but you can just keep the paper.

Huh??? "Keep it??" I thought I'd heard him wrong.

He laughed, and said "I can do that, and I'm doing it right now. Consider it a small gift from HP."

Wow. Sure, it's only a little over $40.00; a drop in the bucket for HP, but it's a lot to me.

And did I mention I LOVE my HP photo printer?

Left Behind

No, this post isn't about the book series, or getting held back a grade in school, but about being the only one in this photo who didn't set sail this morning. Wahhhhhhh!

I drove Mike to the marina where he met Michael (hat) and Leo (no hat). They were all so excited. Like a bunch of boys setting off on an adventure. Well, and they are! They are going to have such a good time. I wished I could go. I was sad to leave and come home alone. But I'm happy that Mike is going; he's really the avid sailor. I can't think of anything about sailing that he doesn't like. Ok, maybe repairing an oil leak in the middle of the night while being tossed about on the waves and breathing gas and oil fumes isn't high on his list of Fun Things to Do on Summer Vacation, but I betcha he still prefers that to any repair work on land!

Meanwhile, I'm making a long list of all the stuff I need to get accomplished between now and Christmas and, from the length of it, I don't think I'll be bored. Not the least item is the trim on the house that still isn't painted. I hope to get all of the trim on the front of the house done for that all-important curb appeal (or at least most of it - not sure I should be climbing up on the roof to reach the highest peak when no one else is home). Besides, I LOVE the new colors and can't wait to have the house-painting completed. It's so pretty! Fresh and shiny like a new penny.

Today I'm working with a professional graphic designer, Darcy at Graphically Designing, to do a makeover on my Webajeb blog. It will probably be done in the next few days. Can't wait to unveil the New Look. It's going to put Debz Talkin' to shame. I'll just have to do a makeover here as well but I'll be doing that one myself.

Better put that on the To-Do List!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Trials, Tribulations, and Trips

So, the trial lasted exactly one day, including seating the jury, the opening and closing statements, witness testimonies, AND the jury deliberation. Yeah, it was a shorty. It basically involved a homeless man who interrupted a police officer occupied in towing the guy's abandoned and unregistered car from a public parking lot. The man got riled up, claimed he "owned the city" and threatened the cop by saying, "I'm gonna burn you, this entire city, and everyone in it." He began walking away and the cop, figuring the guy was irrational at the very least and that he'd better find out just what he intended to do next, yelled at him to "Stop." Of course, the guy didn't, even after the second "Stop" command, so the cop grabbed him by the shirt. The guy took a swing at the cop with his right arm which was in a plaster cast but the cop took him down and placed him under arrest. It seemed the trial was nothing more than the homeless man asserting his right to a trial by jury. It was open-and-shut; the only testimonies were his and the cop so it came down to who we thought was more credible. Based on the homeless man's assertion (on the witness stand, mind you) that he had inherited, from a great-grandfather who once owned a racetrack in the city's boundaries, all the land that the city was built on so HE owns it and therefore the cop was trespassing on HIS land, AND the fact that he claimed he would, in three years, receive a $60,000 settlement from an insurance fraud case, we decided the police officer was more credible.

After much deliberation. Not.

So that was that, and my civic duty is done for the next 12 months, darn! I love being on juries, and had hoped for a long, very involved, and high-profile case. Ah well, next time.

When I got home, this is what I found:
My poor laptop! Actually, it (my "Precious") fared pretty well this time. Last time a cat laid on the keyboard it was Bo, and he somehow caused all my desktop icons to clone themselves and scatter all over the screen, downloaded some funky toolbar from the internet, AND turned on sticky keys. AUGH!

I also found Mike running about like a crazy man, packing for the sailing trip which, apparently, is ON. He also mowed the lawns, instructed me on where to send insurance payments for the next two months, and cleaned both litter boxes. That last item proves, like nothing else ever would, that he feels bad about going off and leaving me here alone for the next 8 weeks!!!

Today he is at the boat with Leo working on the anchor and the water-making system; they will also fit in a trip to Costco for provisions. Last I heard, around noon, the plan was to leave at zero-dark-hundred tomorrow a.m. That means I will be getting up ultra-early, too, to drive Mike there so that we don't have to leave a vehicle in Richmond.

I rather hate the thought of coming back home to an empty house. It's going to be lonely.

Juror Number Eight

As I fully expected I was seated as a juror. More on that a little later today.....!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Order in the Court!

Well, dang it, I've been trying to get a chance to post an update to this blog (and my other one, too), but too many things have been getting in the way. I've got a jury summons and have to report to the court tomorrow at 8 a.m. It will either be the only day I have to go, or I'll be put on a jury (California has a one-day or one-trial term of jury duty policy).

Other stuff is happening, too. My Webajeb blog is undergoing a makeover which means I have lots of decisions to make about its new Look.

Election time is drawing near and there are a couple of things I'm involved in with regard to that (including, can you believe it, standing on the street waving signs), LOL! The "silent majority" is being advised to speak up so I'll do my part.

The Baja Ha-Ha sailing trip? The 8-week one, that got cancelled?? Well, Captain Leo is back from Texas and now wants to go! Well, we gave up our housesitters so I'm not going, but if the trip DOES get resurrected, Mike will ship out within a couple of days, so there's gonna be some heavy-duty hustle and bustle around here.

So, please be patient! I will be posting as soon as humanly possible!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Time Flies; Tip One - Ditch Your Watch


As promised, here is the first essay (in a series of ten) which I call "Time Flies: Ten Ways to Make it Walk Nicely." If you missed the original post you can read it here.

Lately I've become fixated on learning to "live life in the slow lane." This little series of articles is the result and will give more details on some of the techniques I've learned, and which are helping me to live my life more slowly and with more care.

The techniques truly work for me, and I hope you'll find one or two useful in your own life.

To me, time is more important than money. I can always earn more money if I need it, but I can't increase the length of my life. I can only increase the breadth of it.

Time Flies - Ten Ways to Make it Walk Nicely

Tip One: Ditch Your Watch

My philosophy is this: if you have to wear a watch you are overbooked.

If you're overbooked the days are going to fly by at warp speed while you rush around trying to get everything done, get everywhere on time, get more done in less time, and in the meantime get very little enjoyment out of anything at anytime.

We're all very busy. Too busy. Busy, busy, bizzy.

And that's the Number One Reason why Time Flies.
Before I quit wearing a watch I was overbooked, too. Some of it was out of my control, like at work when there were (mostly useless) meetings ad nauseum and scheduled tele-conferences (ridiculous invention) and lunchtime was strictly between noon and 1 p.m. However, the bad habits spilled over into my personal time, too. I was involved in too many things, my calendar was packed, and my watch was a constant reminder to hurry, hurry, hurry, or I'd be late.
Stop!
Now fast-forward three years to an incident that happened just last week.

I was at the grocery store, standing in line to check out. As I amused myself with the tabloid headlines, I heard a foot tapping impatiently behind me, then there was a touch to my arm and the woman behind me asked, "Do you have the time? My watch appears to have stopped."

"No, sorry," I answered, "I don't wear a watch."

The woman was shocked enough to leave off tapping her foot. "No watch? How do you manage that?"

"I try to live my life so that I don't need one," I said.

At first the woman looked at me like I'd just fallen off a turnip truck, but then her expression suddenly changed. It softened and her shoulders relaxed. She let out a breath, nodded, and said, "What a great idea."

I nodded. "Makes a world of difference." Then I stepped to one side and indicated that she should move ahead of me in line because, as I told her, "I'm not in a hurry."

Back again to that day three years ago when I took off my watch for good: You could say I had an epiphany that day because, not only did I realize I'd become a slave to Time and that my life was passing by in nothing short of a blur, but I suddenly understood that there were more days of my life behind me than ahead of me.

According to CNN Health the life expectancy for women in the United States is currently 81 years. I had passed the halfway mark to that age nearly a decade previously! I felt sick. I still had so many plans, so many things I wanted to do. Where had the time gone?

Into the Black Hole of Bizzyness, that's where.

I couldn't change the past; it was gone and in what seemed the blink of an eye, but I could do something about how I spent each hour of each day from then on. When I removed my watch that day it was more a symbolic gesture than a deliberate step taken with the specific purpose of slowing down time. The fact that time did slow down as a direct result of my symbolic gesture only dawned on me gradually over the next few years.
Today I can say that it's been time-tested and proven to work. Try it yourself.
Without a watch you'll find yourself paying more attention to what you're doing at the moment instead of thinking ahead to what you'll be doing next. Without a watch and the (dubious) ability to constantly check the time you'll find it necessary to schedule your To-Do's further apart. More time between tasks means you'll accomplish fewer things on any given day. Doing less will require eliminating some tasks from each day. And I'm not talking about postponing them to another day, either, but eliminating them completely.

Can you see where this is going?

Stop doing anything that's not truly worth doing. Time is the ultimate non-renewable resource. Let the absence of a watch on your arm be your reminder to spend time with the greatest of care. A reminder to slow down, pay attention, and fully enjoy the things you do keep on your schedule, the ones truly worthy of your time.
I know, if you have a job, this will sound ridiculously impossible and impractical, if not something that might get you fired. It's true you won't have the luxury of eliminating anything you feel isn't "worthwhile," but trust me on this. I've been there. You can still embrace the philosophy and ditch your watch.
Don't worry, you won't be completely clueless as to what time it is. You won't suddenly begin showing up late to every meeting or missing lunch. There are clocks everywhere. On the wall. On your computer. In your car. You'll begin to notice other clues, too. The co-worker who goes outside for a smoke every day precisely at 8, 10, 2, and 4:00. The growling in your stomach as lunchtime approaches. Even subtle differences in the energy and noise levels of your workplace, and changes in the light coming through the windows, will give good indication of the time.
As the days pass you'll find yourself relying more and more on your own internal clock to guide you through the rhythm of each day.
If you're lucky enough to be a stay-at-home Mom, retired, work from home, or in any other way able to control your own daily schedule, you'll have the great luxury to leave your day as unstructured as you like. You'll need to figure out what works best for you. To have nothing on your To-Do List at all and just let the day unfold naturally, one major task to focus the day on, or several small ones to divide up the day. Or, like me, you may use one method one day, and another the next day.
I have an artist's temperament so it's a lucky, lucky thing for me that I was able to quit my high-stress "corporate" job and start a small business here at home, where my schedule is entirely under my own control. One day I may get up raring to go on a project that I'm in the middle of, and the next day have no desire at all to continue it and will put it aside for later. In the past I would have forced myself to continue with the project, struggling along until day's end when I'd realize I'd made no headway at all and the day had been a complete waste.
For me, an overly strict routine does only one thing: it makes every day look alike. When I gave up my watch, I gave up my "schedule," too. I also granted myself permission to simply go with whatever mood I was in. Some days I get up and I'm like a Tasmanian devil whirling through the house, cleaning, sorting, organizing, and cooking. Other days I'm at my computer from dawn until midnight (or later!) because I've gotten on a roll with my digital scrapbooking projects and am knocking out the layouts one after the other. There have even been days spent entirely on one project, perhaps a cross-stitch sampler, because I'm enjoying myself so much that I don't want to go on to anything else.
Don't get me wrong; I don't let everything else go. I do try to keep my house picked up (for the most part), get bills paid on time, take care of the cats, and make meals for Mike and me. There's always some of that going on around here but I look at is as more a foundation on which the optional activities are made possible. The bulk of my days are mostly unstructured. I'm averse to deadlines, and I try not to schedule more than one appointment per day, whether it be with a doctor, a client, or a friend.
The result of this is that my days are leisurely and each one is distinct from the others. When I look back over my week I can clearly see the things I've accomplished, feel yet again the pleasure of the accomplishment, and know that I've spent my time in ways that make me happy and feel fulfilled. The other stuff, the things I eliminated because they were just too far down on my list of importance? I don't even remember what they were.
I hope you'll try ditching your own watch. Dump the unimportant busywork (I'll write more later on how to separate the un from the important). Restructure your days so they're more rewarding, a better fit for you, and contain an unhurried agenda of activities, people, and places.
The days will still pass, yes, but no longer as a high-speed blur.
Instead, they'll walk nicely. Enjoy the stroll.
"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life
in your years."
~ Abraham Lincoln

50 Amazing Movie Facts

A link for you movie buffs: 50 Amazing Movie Facts, written by my son, Michael!! He's a regular contributor to Hollywire and writes the New DVD Release reviews, movie reviews, and other pieces related to movies, actors, and Hollywood. He also wrote a great piece about the late Paul Newman, which became one of the Top Ten Hollywire articles for September 2008.

Pretty good for a little hayseed from the backwoods of Virginia, hey?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Breathe Easy

I have one of these now:

Nothing to do with the elections, or the economy, or asthma. Just some breathing problems that have cropped up over the last 6 to 8 months and that have kept me up at night sometimes for two to three hours. It's impossible to sleep when you can't breathe.

I hereby join a large group of my family members who will totally understand what a blessed relief the rescue inhaler can be. I'll be sleeping just fine from now on.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Time Flies - Ten Ways to Make it Walk Nicely

I'll be writing in depth about each of these items over the next couple of weeks, interspersed with posts of my usual ramblings. I'll be drawing on my personal life experiences and lessons I've learned since quitting my job as a government drone one year and one month ago today. I hope you'll check back often!

Time Flies - Ten Ways to Make it Walk Nicely

1. Ditch Your Watch

2. Turn Traditions on their Heads

3. Stop Being a Slave to Stuff

4. Be a Creator, Not a Consumer

5. Avoid Instant Gratification

6. Let a Little Child Lead You

7. Dump the Multi-Tasking Mentality

8. Learn a New Trick

9. Broaden your Horizons

10. This space intentionally left blank.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Baking Day Got a Bit Out of Hand

Mike likes fresh-baked bread and since he has been working so hard on painting the house I thought I would treat him with a couple loaves of home-made whole wheat bread. I located an old recipe, one that I used to bake quite often when the boys were little, and got started.

Everything went great during the mixing, kneading, and first rise. Above is the dough just after I turned it out of the bowl, following the first rise. Looks great! I then cut it in half and rolled it up into two balls:

These got to rest for 10 minutes, then I used the rolling pin to roll the dough out and get rid of any bubbles, formed two nice loaves and put them in the bread pans:

A little while later is when I first noticed that one loaf seemed to be rising faster and bigger than the other. Hmmm. Well, I didn't worry too much, though, my loaves are never exactly even. I figured the smaller loaf would catch up during their time in the oven. Well, you can imagine my shock when I opened the oven door halfway through the baking time to find this:

That loaf in the back is MUCH taller than the other! And even the "smaller" loaf is huge! I just started laughing because these loaves are nothing short of monstrous!

Here's the bigger of the two loaves (above) just out of the pan. Look how much taller it is than the pan, ha ha ha! Below is the smaller loaf, sliced up in readiness for the freezer. We had expected to find huge holes (bubbles) in the bread, which would explain why the loaves were so big, but just one loaf had only a small bubble at the top.

In the back of the photo is what's left of the larger loaf. We've eaten the rest of it already! It's delicious -- the same yummy wheat flavor I remembered and had a hankering for (very much like my Mom's bread).

Granted, it was difficult to fit into the toaster, but wouldn't it make great (if ginormous) tomato sammies or french toast??

Sunday, October 12, 2008

House-Lift in Progress

Well, our house has been due for a paint job for a couple of years now and since our sailing adventure is off, Mike decided he'd get on it. I chose the colors and Mike's doing the work, heh heh. Well, he wanted to! I wanted to pay someone to do it! I did tell him I'd help with the trim, though, so once he's done with all the walls, I'll have no more excuses, dang it.

Anyway, for the last week or so this is what he's been doing:

He's got a nice little paint sprayer so the actual painting goes quickly. The prep work, however, is a different story! He's had cracks to mend (those darn earthquakes!), windows to mask, bushes and vines to cut away where they hid the walls, and I don't know what all else because I mainly hide in the house for fear he'll put me to work hauling and carrying! And in many places he will probably need to put on a second coat.

Well, I do venture out to take photos occasionally to check his progress, and to make sure he hasn't fallen off the ladder. The photo above shows the wall that's in the cat garden. The window where Mike is painting is the kitchen window (with the bird feeders), the one closer to the camera is our office, and the smallest one, up high, is the guest bathroom. Almost all the windows in our house have plastic sheeting over them right now, which makes being inside kinda weird. Even though the sun is shining the plastic gives the feel of fog. Kinda cool, especially with Halloween coming!

This is the garage; Mike is also going to paint the door to match the house. You can see there's not a huge difference in color. Our house has been a light tannish color, and the trim a strange sort of gold which I call "baby diarrhea." I've never liked it. So now the house will be almost-white, or "Cotton Ball," as it says on the paint chip.

This photo shows the wall on the side of the house, opposite the cat garden. This wall is completely painted. Doesn't it look fresh and new? I love the color. I know it's not very "different," but I've always like white on houses; they look so clean and classic.

The trim is a color called "Ten Gallon Hat." It's a medium brown but more on the grey-y side. Hard to describe. Here's a photo of a small bit of trim where Mike slapped on the paint just so I could be sure I like it. I do. I don't know how true the color will be to your eye - everyone's computer monitor displays colors differently. You'll have a better idea when I can get a photo of an entire wall with the trim done.

It's going to look fabulous!