Sunday, July 8, 2018

A Zoo Day in Eureka, CA

I have been seeing Vampire Penguin, Eureka on my Facebook feed for quite some time, and it made me think of how often my friend from down near New Orleans mentions snowcones with condensed milk on them, but I’ve never seen anything like that here. My grandma used to give me a spoon of condensed milk, so it’s always been a treat associated with being loved, but since this dessert shop is 90 miles away it took me awhile to get there. I finally told my family, I wanted the Eureka Zoo and Vampire Penguin for my birthday. The snowy (not crushed ice) desserts were perfect, the price kept it from being something you’d drop in for on a daily basis. With four snows, all smalls, one smoothie, one cookie and a bottled Sprite we were at $40. The few things I think could improve the experience would be the addition of a mini or child sized for maybe three dollars. Also it would pair so well with a hot coffee or hot tea to prevent brain freeze and there were no hot drinks.
 I love Otters, and the Zoo has a fun set up where the otters crawl and up on rocks and swim next to a crawl through tunnel large enough my four year old granddaughter could walk through it. The Zoo has changed so much since I took my sons there 20 years ago. and we went regularly for a few years, I felt like I knew the place, but There were only a few corners I recognized. Gone are the Chimps and the Golden Lion Tamarin, the Crowned cranes and Roosevelt Elk. Added in is a barnyard with a petting zoo. Bush Dogs were there where black bear had been. There were no sign of the prairie dog colony or the wallabies but there was a lot of hands on ecological areas where kids could build with logs and pump with a hand water pump and touch skulls and footprints of local critters.

 And still, next to the zoo, the Sequoia Park is an amazing place for kids to run and climb and families to picnic and relax.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Thoughts of approaching summer 2018

On this Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, spring is definitely giving way to summer. I sit reading a book in my shady living room, with the doors and windows open and the sound of my husband chopping kindling fills the air, even though it has been too warm to use the woodstove much lately. We use more kindling on these days with only a brief fire to take the chill off the morning, than on the bitter cold days when we never let the fire go out.

Life has been fairly consistent for us for a couple decades, and the changes of aging have been slow enough to mostly ignore. Our children grew up but grandchildren appeared to fill our rooms once more with a jumble of toys and our laps with snuggly

In three weeks my husband stops being a music teacher, after 29 years. But he goes year round teaching at the big prison down the road. GED prep classes instead of music. Sadly working in a prison he will get paid a lot more and be a lot more secure that working with children in a public school. It reminds me of the medical insurance willing to pay to treat diseases but not for the much smaller preventative care.

Speaking of medical care, I am still trying to get a diagnosis on the degenerative issues I have been having health wise. It seems to be hard to get an answer but the loss of simple little abilities continues. So my goal for summer is to keep moving, develop enough coping strategies to regain some flexibility and strength while also keeping up on Dr visits. I also want to de clutter the house, turning what was once a playroom but became storage as my kids grew up and moved out, back into a playroom for my three grandchildren and their cousins. And the last big goal is to become more active as a writer again, not just writing on Facebook but finishing my eighth book and getting back into the marketing of the ones I have already published.

But when Fall rolls around, the only goal I will feel like a failure for not achieving is the goal to be there for my boys turned men, and their children. Grandma time is more important than everything else

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Post Winter Post

 I know winter isn't over yet, but in the frosty mornings and the dark evenings, I still feel the faint hint that spring is on her way.  I've been cold and dark physically too, avoiding, for years, the fact that my aches and pains are bigger than just the simple aging process I have been blaming it on.  Then a couple things happened that pried my blinders off.
 My good friend is ten years older than me, and has been taking care of aging parents, so as I struggled to get up from my seat, she automatically offered me a hand up. I realized, she doesn't limp and moan like I do, even when I'm trying to insist I'm fine.

Then I was loving Black Panther, for its gorgeousness, at the local theater, when people began discussing the release of A wrinkle In Time, and my first thought was that "I have to live to see this movie!" and I wasn't being at all ironic. Somehow my brain had accepted that I am dying.
 So I made the dreaded Dr. appointment, and things are scary, but not as scary as dying.  My blood pressure on a normal day reads about 168/102.  My ANA blood test was positive which could mean Lupus or Lyme disease or be a false positive and I won't know until I follow trough at the Rheumatologist, I have to drive 127 miles to see, and wait until April 26th.  But all the symptoms point to some type of Rheumatoid arthritis. Things like the pain of pressure in my wrists from turning a steering wheel or spreading peanut butter on toast.  Things like loss of the ability to get out of the bathtub or to put on my own shoes.  Simple things are impossible on some days and cutting my toenails might mean I nerd to sleep for 12 hours to recover from the exertion.

 but life doesn't suck.  I had a good day driving through beautiful trees to go with my husband and daughter on a shopping/dentist trip, and I didn't feel too horrible by the end of it.  Now it is pouring hail on my house and Im loving the snuggled in feeling by the fireplace.

 there will be better days.  Spring is in the air.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Passing On The Stories

 I have a long, love affair with stories. From the real life stories and the picture books shared with my Grandma Grace and the bedtime stories read by Mom and Dad. Now I'm the grandmother and Ive never loved anything more than being Grandma.
 When my boys were little we went to the library to Storytime, and now that they are Dads, I find myself repeating the adventure with the granddaughter, and hopefully someday with the younger cousins she has as well.

 Stories bridge the gap between not knowing how to get through this adventure we call life, and being able to use our imagination to draw on the history and knowledge stretching back through our family and the human family in general.  I am so blessed to have my rich store of tales and memories.  My mom's dementia reminds me that even those can be taken from us, and need to be shared and distributed to our future before we lose them.

 Bless the future with the lessons you have learned and teach them to choose kindness and strength over fear and cruelty. Happy Valentine's Day to the world.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Christmas 2017

Merry Christmas 2017 and May we all enjoy a Happy and Healthy 2018.

This was a year that went much smoother than the last several for our family. No new births or deaths, although typing that makes me want to knock on wood since 2017 isn’t over yet.
The highlights of the year, as almost always, had to do with family.  Greg and I took 40 High School Band and Choir kids to LA for spring break. We had the craziest schedule and it almost killed me, but it was fun. “Julius Caesar” at Shakespeare in Ashland, then overnight bus ride to Disneyland, a shower and walking to the park from a nearby motel, then a day at Universal Studios, where I reveled in the Harry Potter area, and a vocal lesson at UCLA and three Disneyland days and a dinner watching knights jousting at medieval times, and another overnight bus ride home.
  I hadn’t seen my Mom or Brothers since summer 2013, and this year I ended up teaching almost full time between two long term substitute jobs.  That gave us enough money that Greg and I could Fly to Washington DC and spend two weeks including Mom’s birthday, The 4th of July, and my birthday too.
That was great, and before I forget, let me give you their contact info again. Lance has a cell phone (540)-359-1413 and you can send cards and pictures and letters to them at the same address

  Lance Miller /PO box 865/ Middleburg, VA 20118

While we were there we were taken to a couple plays, and spend a day in DC at the memorials on the Mall 
and riding the subway with Lance and My friend from High School, Tricia, whose Dad worked with my Dad for years. Her son, Michael was wonderfully patient with Lance’s slower, post surgery pace and we all had fun.  We also baked in the sun while watching the Washington Nationals get destroyed with Brett and Emily.
We spent several afternoons with Mom, and while she gets confused, she is much easier to talk to now that she is settled in a home where she is comfortable and her meds are controlled, than she was 4 years ago when she was frightened and hallucinating. 

She went to a musical, and a movie and her Birthday lunch at red lobster. She told Greg, “I don’t know who you are, but I know I love you.” And she always knew me. She was clean and calm and basically relaxed. She recognized old pictures and we talked a lot.  If you write to her, she may not open the envelope, but if you send a postcard, she will know what the picture is of, and recognize your name.

In the summer Greg’s sister, Wendy and her husband, John and one son and his girlfriend came and camped in our yard and we did all the local, redwoods, beach, lighthouse, fern canyon, kind of things. Daisy had a blast and wanted to keep Colton’s girlfriend, Brittney when they left.
Then right as school was starting, a big fire blew up from a few hundred acres to 100,000 and Greg’s school start was delayed two weeks, while mine was filled with smoke and school issued filter masks.  As the smoke cleared, Our former Brother-in-Law, Vince and His wife, Marcy came for a brief visit, and sat around the fire pit and ate Crabs and escaped the hurricane hitting their Florida neighborhood. They had just done a bike trip around San Francisco and Marcy’s planned flight home was delayed by Irma.

A year after my Mother-in-law died, we are planning to go back to Newcastle for Christmas and visit my Father-in-law.  Emerson has custody of his daughter, and has permission to bring her along.  That has been an emotional year. Daisy is now getting visitation with her Mom, and their relationship is getting a chance to develop, but it has been all her and Daddy for over a year now, and she is a happy, confident and beautiful, 3 ½ year old.  This year she went to a traveling dinosaur exhibit called Jurassic Quest and dove in and rode the robotic Carnivores with delight. She went to a pumpkin patch and drew her own witch face on her pumpkin, and she loves Poppy from the Trolls movie.

Austin and Trisha’s son, Gavin is 1 ½ and very much an outdoorsman in the making. He has a smile to melt the iciest Grandma’s heart.  Austin will be crabbing so they can’t go to Wyoming with us.

I love Christmas and the gift of going through my family and friends list each year and remembering why you are so special and important to me. I hope that this finds you weathering the changes and remembering the blessings.

After I wrote this, and made my multiple copies yesterday, we got a call late at night to let us know that the Flu had turned into pneumonia and Greg's Dad was in the hospital in Rapid City, SD with a Do Not Resuscitate order on file, and would not survive long. Before another hour passed, Grandpa Harvey died with his name-sake son holding his hand. So our Amtrak tickets and adventure will now be spent going to a memorial service and a sadder Christmas. Still, wishing He had met his California great-grandchildren, but knowing that his love and spirit is carried in them and always shall be.  We are so lucky to have had this hard working, hard-playing, loving and loyal family man for so long.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Dixie and Greg

Monday, November 13, 2017

Things To Be Thankful For

 I was driving home through a Redwood tree grove and along a pristine river and through a sheer canyon. It was just another commute home after a day working with wonderful children and supportive peers.  I was still feeling a bit down and exhausted, the time change making everything feel later than it was.  I had absolutely no reason to feel anything less than thankful, but I wasn't feeling it.
 When I got home, I decided to drag out the one pumpkin I'd saved from being carved into a Jack-o-lantern and try a new, very old recipe I'd seen that claimed it was the type pumpkin pie that the Pilgrims would have made. It surely wasn't a pie, just a simple egg and cream and sugar flan baked in a pumpkin shell, and it came out very much not tasting of pumpkin.  However just that little bit of change, stepping outside the daily routine, seemed to reset my mood and allow me to feel awake and happy again.
 I know, sugar is poison, but baking is still one way I feel myself connect to my grandma and my mom.  I reach to my roots where my soul is nourished.
 Then I got the granddaughter and we went to the park, running between rainstorms to climb and slide and swing. And this local park also has a redwood trail to explore. In this rainy season the slugs and mushrooms are abundant.

My mailbox brought me a book written by a facebook friend

My new waffle iron made bowls which demanded a caramel sundae instead of syrup

 And old friends sent me old pictures of my Mom and new pictures of my brother Lance.  Life was reminding me, again and again, that it is good to be alive.

My Brother and my Niece

My Granddaughter was Princess Poppy Troll for Halloween

Mom and her extended family in about 1946. ! of many old pictures that were sent unexpectedly from an old family friend.


Mom, with her cousins and grandparents


 So when the rain returned, we simply grabbed the rubber boots and kept on playing.