Monday, September 28, 2009

The Dog Ate Our Christmas Tree - Memories of Me Monday

Christmas 1960
Me, my older brother, Mike, and my little brother, Stephen

Today's memory jogger as posted in last Monday's blog: "What tradition at Christmas is your very favorite?"

That's easy - Santa! I LOVE the guy. I always have, and I always will, love everything about him; letters to Santa, sitting on Santa's lap, getting photographed with Santa, his reindeer and his red suit, his sleigh full of presents and his fluffy white beard, his shiny black boots and his hearty "Ho, Ho, Ho!" I even love that he lives at the frigid North Pole, even though I don't like the cold! There's just not a more likable guy and I won't tolerate a word to be said against him.

The best Christmas parties always include Santa. In the early 60's my parents had a group of friends that they were very close to. The Luceros, the Harris's, and the Sessions. They got together with them frequently, so all of us kids saw each other a lot as well. Shelly Sessions was my best friend. (In the years to come the Luceros would move away, Giselle Harris would often babysit me and my siblings, and I would develop a terrible crush on Kevin!)

The adults had dinner parties, played cards, and took us to the beach, the mountains, and, once, camping in Mexico. We probably often got together for Christmas, but the one year I remember well was when we had a party and Santa showed up as a surprise guest!
Christmas approx. 1963
at the Lucero's home in Hermosa Beach, CA.
I'm on the very far right, half-hidden behind Giselle Harris;
others pictured are David Lucero, Kevin Harris, and Shelly Sessions

Another tradition I loved, growing up, was Christmas Eve at Grandma Ware's house:
Christmas 1967
Steve, Lisa, and Grandma Ware
Hawthorne, CA.

Gram always made a huge dinner, had a decorated tree and gifts for everyone, and planned games and activities for us kids. All my cousins came, too, the Bisks and the Lutes, so as our families grew we became quite the crowd.

I will admit that one thing I did NOT like about these Christmas Eve parties was my Gram's Christmas pudding. Oh, it was horrible! The only way I can describe it is as a super-heavy, very dense, fruitcake-y thing with a thick & sugary burnt-maple-flavored sauce poured over it. Apparently, it was a tradition that Gram had grown up with in Canada and that she was determined to continue. On the way to her house each Christmas Eve we kids (and my Dad, too) would be threatened to within an inch of our lives to NOT let on that we didn't like the pudding. We were to thank Gram and eat every bite!

I don't know if Gram ever figured out that none of us liked her Christmas pudding!

Although I love Christmas traditions, I have learned that the most memorable Christmases are the ones where there's something different, new, or unusual. Once, just once, our family had a flocked Christmas tree:
Christmas 1965 - Hopkins, MN
Scary - my brother, Mike, got a BB gun!

It was so pretty; all white with just blue glass balls for decoration. Very different from the usual green tree with construction paper chains, lights, and a variety of ornaments. I can even remember watching as the men at the Christmas tree lot sprayed the white flocking onto the tree. I never knew, until very recently, why we never had another one like it. Turns out my mom hadn't liked it, she thought it was too "cold."

Christmas 1965 or 1966 - Hopkins, MN
Me, our new puppy Elkie, and my brother, Steve

Only once did we ever receive a pet for a Christmas gift. It was a Norwegian Elkhound that we named Elkie. We were so excited! Elkie was trouble, though; we couldn't keep her away from the Christmas tree. She chewed on it every chance she got, as well as our toys and shoes. I can imagine the hassle of housebreaking her in the middle of winter with several feet of snow on the ground. In our neighborhood there were no fences so she ran free most of the time when she was outside. She was not very obedient and would run off whenever she wanted. One day she got run over by the school bus and broke her leg. She recovered and our family brought her with us when we moved back to California in 1968. Our new house in the suburbs of Redondo Beach had a very small yard and she was unhappy there, so we eventually gave her away to a family with more room.

Another Christmas that's memorable to me is the one when I was about 8 or 9. That year I discovered the closet where my mom had hidden our wrapped gifts. I excitedly peeked in every single package! But then on Christmas morning I felt sad because there were no surprises.

I think the best & most memorable Christmases are those with both long-standing traditions and something new or different.

FOR NEXT WEEK: "Describe the buildings, grounds, etc., of the junior high you attended. What was it like walking to school?"

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Stealing Succulents and Re-Purposed Pill Containers

Succulents. They're one of my obsessions. I love them. All different kinds, all shapes, all sizes (though, oddly enough, I know the names of very few). I like them because of their resilience, they don't need to be watered often, they can withstand high temps during the day and cold at night. At my house plants have to thrive on neglect to survive, and succulents are good at that.

Although I have been known to actually purchase succulents, my usual MO is to steal them. Wherever I go, if I encounter a succulent I will quietly and unobtrusively break off a small piece and slip it into my pocket. Or sometimes into Mike's pocket, if he is with me, or one of the boys. On one memorable occasion, I slipped a few bits into my mom's sweater pockets (and she later got poked by a bristle, sorry, Mom)!

People who love me put up with my thievery. I really can't help it. I enjoy my succulents all the more when I steal them because then they also remind me of places I have been, and the people who were there with me.

I've got cactus from all over the U.S., my neighbor's gardens, parks, islands, schools, tourist sites, and even one or two from foreign countries.

My latest acquisition is a piece of a jade plant in Hermosa Beach, just a block from the ocean. It's in the center of this photo:

That one's always going to remind me of the day I met up with a couple of old friends that I'd grown up with, and it will also remind me of all the lovely summer days spent at that very beach as kid, with my family and friends.

The rest of the plants in the above photo are from two places Mike and I visited recently; one is a very famous park in northern California, and the other is one of the historical sites right here in my own little home town.

Oh, that's my succulent "nursery." I recently got the cool idea to re-purpose empty pill containers (of which I'd amassed about 60-70!) and use them as individual containers for my cacti. Mike drilled several holes in the bottom of each one and filled them with potting soil mixed with sand. I then poked a hole in the dirt with a chopstick and popped in a cactus cutting. I'll keep the soil moist so that the cacti will root. Once they've got well-established roots I'll either plant them in the garden or put them in pots. I've placed all the containers on a large tray to catch any spilled water. It also makes it easy to move them from place to place.

Mike used to scold me when I'd bring home my stolen succulents. Now he's usually an accomplice. And sometimes he actually comes home with a "find" of his own.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Learning to Drive - Memories of Me Monday

"Tell about how, when and where you learned to drive. Any memorable experiences?"

I took Driver's Ed in high school. In those days, the mid-1970's, it was part of the public school curriculum. We had classroom instruction, learned the basics of behind-the-wheel technique in simulators (which we called "stimulators") then, finally, piled into white sedans in groups of 3 or 4 plus an instructor to practice in the school parking lot and surrounding neighborhood.

We also got to watch really gory movies of car crashes. I guess those were to scare us into behaving once we got our licenses and were out on our own!

My mom and dad both let me practice in the family station wagon, while they sat nervously in the passenger seat. From the start I was a pretty crappy driver. I just didn't get the big picture. I understood the driving laws, from the classroom instruction, but the simulators had done nothing to prepare me for a real car, and my behind-the-wheel time at school was limited to about 15 minutes a couple of times a week for only a few weeks.

The simulators were in a small trailer parked on the school property. We sat in chairs with a steering wheel in front of us and gas and brake pedals at our feet. Projected onto a large screen at the front of the room was a movie of an empty road as seen through the windshield of a moving car. We all pretended we were steering our "cars" along the road, pressing the gas or brake pedals as instructed. I suppose the point of the exercise was just to get the feel of putting our hands and feet on the the wheel and pedals.

I passed the class and a few months before my 16th birthday my mom took me to the DMV to get my learner's permit.

During the driving test, I was so nervous I made a left turn in front of oncoming traffic.

Automatic fail; the test was aborted immediately.

More practice with mom and dad and, as soon as I could I went back at the DMV. I had some additional motivation this time because I had invited a boy to the Sadie Hawkins Dance and I wanted to be able to pick him up.

Nervous again, I was unable to properly execute the 3-point parallel parking maneuver.


My dad was incredulous. The next time he took me out driving he noticed that I wasn't looking ahead, but down at the ground in front of the car. He asked me what I was looking at and I told him the line in the middle of the road. I was following it! He told me to keep my eyes on the road ahead. That helped me stay more in the middle of my lane, but I still had trouble negotiating turns and parking. Finally, my dad realized I was having trouble judging distances. A trip to the eye doctor revealed I had very weak vision in my left eye leaving me with virtually no depth perception.

No wonder I'd totally bombed when I took tennis in P.E.! Not to mention the two failed driving tests.

I got glasses and I got my license.

FOR NEXT WEEK! "What tradition at Christmas is your very favorite?"

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bodies of Water - Memories of Me Monday

{The memory jogger for today, as posted last Monday (click here to read last week's Memory of Me post): "Tell about how you feel about water -- playing in it -- seeing it -- tell about the various bodies of water you have seen and an experience or feeling about each."}

I don't remember the first time I saw the ocean, or the first lake that I dipped my toes into, or whether I was ever scared of water as a very young child, but I do remember that my first kiss took place underwater.

When I was ten I had my first boyfriend. His name was Alan Carter, and he was my older brother, Mike's, friend so he'd have been in the 6th grade while I was in 5th. At that time my brother was "going steady" with my best friend, Teri. The four of us used to hang around in the neighborhood acting all big because we were "couples." Of course, the boyfriend/girlfriend relationship at ages 10 & 11 didn't consist of much more than holding hands, and of Teri and I wearing St. Christopher's medals, given to use by the boys, around our necks. Still, it did give us a little boost up the elementary school playground social ladder!

I was quite shy, and so was Alan, at least when he was around me. He pretty much took his lead from my brother who, as a natural-born leader always had followers. One Saturday they came across a yard sale and they bought Teri and I each a stuffed animal. Mike paid 10 cents for the yellow bear he gave to Teri, and Alan spent a nickel for my green floppy-earned rabbit. Teri and I thought they were boss, and displayed them proudly in the center of our beds.

Another time, in early December,we were still outside past dark. I'm not sure how we got away with that; we were supposed to be home as soon as the streetlights came on. On this night, it had been dark for awhile, and the Christmas lights in our neighborhood were all on. It was a crisp and very clear southern California night. In spite of the streetlights and Christmas lights, the stars in the sky shone bright and crystal-white, and it seemed they hung very low over our heads. We could see decorated Christmas trees behind many of the large picture windows of the houses we walked past, and sometimes the movement of people. It was very quiet, and the only sound was the crunch of dry leaves under our shoes.

One house had a waist-high wooden fence covered with ivy and on twined with strands of Christmas lights. These were not the mini-lights, or the dangling icicle-style that you see everywhere now. The lights used in the late 60's were still the larger sized bulbs, painted in bold colors, and they probably used way more electricity than would now be considered eco-friendly. Nor did they stay cool to the touch the way most holiday lights do these days.

My brother stopped at the fence and took up an overly casual stance. Alan, Teri, and I gathered in a loose semi-circle, wondering what was up. Mike had a roguish look on his face that I was quite familiar with; he was about to do something he shouldn't.

Sure enough, he reached out and quickly unscrewed a red bulb. It went dark in his hand, came free of its base, and disappeared into the pocket his jacket. Chuckling, he strolled off. Teri and I stared at each other, momentarily stunned, but then we grinned because we were just as thrilled by Mike's daring than we were horrified at his thievery.

Alan saw his chance to also play the confident & daring bad-boy, and quickly followed Mike's example. He grasped a green bulb, twisted it, and slid it into his pocket. We hurried after my brother, Teri and I clutching each other and giggling almost hysterically. After we'd caught up with Mike and calmed down a bit, Teri moved forward to walk beside him and Mike draped an arm across her shoulders. Alan and I fell into step together and fell silent, shy again.

After a few minutes, Alan took my hand. That alone caused a ripple of sheer excitement to run down my back and warm my belly. Then Alan lifted my hand, placed the still-warm bulb in my palm, and closed my fingers over it. He guided my closed fist into his jacket pocket and slid his hand in with mind, wrapping his fingers around mine.

My knees went weak, and I knew I'd love him forever.

What can I say? I was ten, it was my first experience of what I would later learn to call
romance and, as it turned out, it was unforgettable. The underwater kiss? Oh, that had happened at least a couple of months earlier, possibly even before school started in September.

A group of us kids were at the local high school swimming pool which was open to the public when not in use by the school. Alan and I were standing on the edge of the pool. He was wearing one of those nose-clips that hold your nose shut and I was wearing a white rubber bathing cap. Alan was scared of the water which I found endearing and which made me brave enough to take his hand and together we jumped into the shallow end. In the brief moment that we were underwater Alan let go of my hand, grabbed my face, and pressed his lips against mine.

Afterwards I wondered what the big deal was, about kissing. Seemed like a cold, kinda slimy activity to me. Alan couldn't have been too impressed either because, as far as I can remember, we never bothered with it again. In fact, although we exchanged sheepish grins after our kiss, we never acknowledged it again in any way.

But I did love him forever.

Or, at least for the length of a ten-year-old girl's perception of "forever," which was probably two or three months. Whatever activities we were each involved in back then just kept us from seeing much of each other as the school year progressed and one day, without a word between us, I simply handed Alan his St. Christopher's medal as I passed him in the hall at school.

As school neared its end I had second thoughts. Maybe I'd remembered the fun of the summer and fall of the year before, maybe Teri had a new boyfriend and I felt left out, or perhaps I just wanted to feel again the way I'd felt when Alan pressed that warm bulb into the palm of my hand; I honestly can't remember what set me off but suddenly I wished I hadn't broken up with him. I wanted Alan back. I concocted a plan.

I labored over a letter, writing and re-writing it to get what I thought was just the right casual tone, but still making it clear that I missed him and, though I didn't come right out and say it, would like to be wearing his St. Christopher medal again. I took a stamp from my mom's supply and placed it on the envelope which held my precisely folded letter. Then I carefully drew a cancelled postmark, right down to the squiggly lines, copying a real one from a letter my parents had received. I wanted it to look like the mailman had delivered the letter, make it look official and important. I walked the four blocks to Alan's house, looked around to make sure no one was watching, then ran to his porch and slipped my note through the letterbox in the door.

A day or so later I received a reply -- just a piece of folded paper notepaper shoved through our own letterbox and which I just luckily found before anyone else did. Printed in black marker it was short, only a few sentences, and I only remember the very last line, but I remember it perfectly:

"If my girlfriend knew you were writing to me she'd kick your a**."

And that was that. The end of my first romance and the boy who kissed me underwater.

FOR NEXT WEEK! "Tell about how, when and where you learned to drive. Any memorable experiences?"

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Cat Loves Yogurt

If Scout had opposable thumbs we'd really be in trouble at our house. She does help herself to whatever she wants!

It's National Sewing Month!

This apron was one of the last projects I worked on before I put my sewing machine away for the summer. My sewing room doubles as our guest room, and that guest room has been very busy with both Rodrigo and Michael coming and going all summer. But now Michael has gone back to China, and Rodrigo's days of school in Sacramento have lessened; he's only here 8 to 10 days a month now. Could it be time to take back the sewing room???

The pattern for the apron is from The Apron Book, by EllynAnne Geisel and is called the Basic Waist Apron. I dipped into my stash of cat fabrics and cut and stitched this up in an afternoon.

Detail of the ruffled pocket and hem:

It was a really fun project. I had hinted at this project in this blog awhile back, but couldn't say what it was, or post photos, because it was to be a gift, and my recipient hadn't received it yet.

Recently my son sent me this photo of his bride, Dianna, wearing her birthday gift:

How cute does that look!!?? I was happy she liked it and is putting it to good use (in the very limited spare time that she manages to carve out of her nursing school schedule). She's making chocolate chip cookies (my fave!) and, whoohoooo! She sent some with Rodrigo the next time he came up. I hid them in the freezer and took them out one or two at a time to eat secretly. I didn't want to share, ha ha ha ha!

Here's my current sewing project - a California King-size quilt. The top is all sewn together now, but I still need to add the borders:

At the moment it's all packed away, but it just may be time to get that baby OUT!

Yeah, I know, there's ALWAYS a cat sitting on my in-progress quilts!

I'm happy about that.

Are you sewing this month? What are you making???

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Back to School Already !

{paper and butterflies by Olga Unger}

I've been working on "Back to School" digital photo (clipping) masks for my lil' biz and, as I'm designing my digital products, I like to use them in a layout. My cousin, Laurel's, 6-year old, Bryce, started school a couple weeks ago, and kindly sent me some photos she had taken.

Her kids are soooo photogenic; I love using their pictures. Just look at that red-headed, blue-eyed boy with the sparkly eyes! If you think he looks both sweet and mischievious, you'd be right ON!

I just know he's going to love first grade and -- how fun is this? His school is right across the street behind our house, so we can look right down on its front lawn. My favorite thing about having school back in session is hearing the kids out on the playground at recess. Boy, does that bring back memories!

Hey, family and friends: got any Back-to-School photos of YOUR kids? I'd love to use them in a layout to showcase my new digital photo masks. Send them to me! I would also need your permission to post them on my blog (I always edit out any identifying info).

Happy Fall!

Monday, September 7, 2009

What Kind of Teenager Were You?

Age 8 - The Good Girl

Age 16 - The Demon Child
{looks can be so deceiving!}

Today's Memories of Me Monday: "What kind of a teenager were you? Nice, rebellious, etc.?"

I think I can sum myself up as a teenager in one word --> TYPICAL.

And that's all I have to say about that!

Ok, I guess that would be taking the easy way out!

So here's a list of words that describe me during the ages of 13 to 18:


As I said - TYPICAL!

I'm sure my parents were continually shocked and appalled by the changes in me once I reached the teen years. I had been such a good little girl! Eager to please, obedient, helpful, and a good student.

Suddenly, I was lying, skipping school, sneaking out at night, running away from home, hitchhiking, chasing boys, experimenting with drugs & alcohol, smoking, and yeah, I even spent a night in Juvie.

It's a bit embarrassing now. Some of my biggest regrets are from that time period. Luckily, I was just skimming the surface of those activities, and I didn't get addicted to drugs or cigarettes, become a homeless runaway, turn to prostitution, or drop out of school.

In the end, I and my parents both survived those years. We can even laugh about them now - mostly. My mom likes to sum it up like this: I was the type of teenager who would nod yes, ok, of course, agreeing to everything she told me to do, not to do, etc. And then I'd just quietly go do as I pleased.

My dad wrote about me in his own life history (a work in progress): "Our second born was such a sweet child." Then. later, "In spite of a firm belief in her own code of good behavior, she could sometimes be led astray."

To date, my dad's life history ends with that second sentence. I hope I wasn't so terrible that he can't even bear to write about it!

Yeah, I know. You want more details. Names, dates, places, the nitty-gritty, the dirty laundry, a complete confession.

To quote the Wicked Witch of the West: "All in good time, my pretty, all in good time....!"

FOR NEXT WEEK: "Tell about how you feel about water -- playing in it -- seeing it -- tell about the various bodies of water you have seen and an experience or feeling about each."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Baby Kayla

My great-niece, Kayla Cheyenne

Working on a few pages of my family scrapbook this morning. Later it'll be back to work on client projects.

Have a great day!