An ode to life as it is

cheeriosticking items off my list
picking popcorn from aging teeth
polishing up health policies
affecting thousands
popping cheerios into hungry mouths
cleaning up spilt milk
plopping exhausted on my couch

 

cameliasfinding joy in life as it is
winter camellias in rosy bloom
carried to school in pudgy hands
a warm sun drying sidewalks slippery from drenching rain
friends doing more than expected
kind words here
good thoughts when needed
even when not

crocusthankful for hints of prayers answered
before they are even lifted up
a new relationship springing up
like a purple crocus breaking through
freezing snow
bringing forth the hope of
spring as my life slides into
its own winter

wisdomallowing each moment to elapse
with no regret and
few expectations
asking only for
willingness
a sense of wonder and
wisdom

‘Twas the day after Christmas

‘Twas the day after Christmas, when all thru the house
Some creature was stirring, could it be a mouse?
Empty stockings were flung on the floor with a shrug
And Legos and dollies covered the rug
The children were wrestling on top their beds,
With way too much sugar still filling their heads,

And me with my covers pulled up to my chin,
Had just settled down for a chance to sleep in —
When outside my door there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Out of my bed, I flew like a flash,
Tore open the blinds and threw up the sash.
The sun was just rising this cold winter day,
Giving sparkle below to San Francisco bay
Then, what to my bleary eyes should appear,
A five-year-old being, who was no longer sick
And a three-year-old darling, so lively and quick,
I knew for a fact it must be grandkids

More rapid than eagles their footsteps they came,
They whistled, and shouted, and called us by name:
“Now! Mimi, now! Nonna, now! Daddy and Mama,
“Come! Mimi, Come! Nonna, Come! Daddy and Mama;
“It’s time to get up! It’s time for our toast!
Are we going to school? Or maybe the coast?”

Oh, dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

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A flamingo Christmas

Amid these troubled times, I found my spirits lifted as our family’s traditional Christmas decorations went up on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Sharing a home this year with my daughter, son-in-law, and two little granddaughters made it a gala event. Sadly, five hours of unpacking boxes and decking the halls did little to counteract the excesses of turkey day since the leftovers were brought out midway. But out came the family collection of ornaments, each with its own particular history. And only one glass bauble hit the deck and cut one little bare toe.

Paris is remembered, unicorns displayed, and favorite handmade ornaments are unveiled once more, grouped in clusters by little helpers.

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The Buddy L train with real steam coming out of its smokestack is patiently brought to life by my son-in-law and hides behind the tree out of reach of toddler hands. IMG_1196

The little ones help Mimi (moi!) reconstruct the Dickens Village and delight again to the miniature ice skaters gliding around the ice rink. IMG_1192IMG_1193

The advent calendar is hung to remind the children and adults to keep Christ at the center of Christmas, the One who can bring this world a much sought after peace. IMG_1197

And, of course, downstairs in Mimi’s quarters, Doc Flamingo’s pink feathered friends are hung from the fronds of their very own Christmas palm tree.   IMG_1183IMG_1184So a Merry Christmas to all from Flamingo SantaIMG_1189And  Happy New Year from this fancifully feathered duo.IMG_1190And Mimi can now take a short rest and look forward to a visit with her son, daughter-in-law and two big boy grandsons up in Oregon in 3 weeks to celebrate more family holiday traditions.

L’après-midi d’un étudiant de la vie

berkeley mealUnexpected adventures sometimes lie close at hand. My first intention was to follow a good friend’s advice and check out the North Berkeley Senior Center. I had resisted crossing that threshold into senior-dom but circled the blocks north of UC Berkeley campus and found a parking spot, duly registered, and even ventured into the dining room filled with a couple hundred seniors waiting patiently for a nutritious, if not gourmet, lunch for the bargain price of $3. I headed for a table occupied by three more spritely-looking women only to discover that they were all speaking Turkish, having immigrated to the US in recent years. The one English speaker was kind enough to engage me in conversation and generously offered me the homemade Middle Eastern salad she had brought to share with her friends. These women knew how spice up life.

IMG_1099 At 12:30 sharp, I headed upstairs to the Center’s library, stocked by a generation that knows good literature and history, to what was advertised as the “Mixed Poets” class. No one arrived. So instead, I selected a slim volume in French, deciding that I could improve my French with a bit of translating. But I needed to find a French-English dictionary (forgetting that my iPhone had a translating app). Where to go? I drove back over to campus and headed for the Bancroft Library reading room with its thousands of reference volumes at hand. Passing under Sather Gate, I was transported back to 1963 and my sophomore year of college. I passed Wheeler Hall where I had taken a French literature class. Actually, I had only stepped into the classroom one time but had dutifully read Madame Bovary and the other selections on my own. To my dismay I discovered that 50% of the final would be based on class lectures. So I had gone to the Bancroft library, grabbed the Encyclopedia Britannica volume on French literature, boned up and passed the class with a B+. I walked passed other buildings where classes had been missed, phony excuses for non-attendance made up, and last minute cramming had taken place. Once ensconced in the beautiful vaulted reading room, I spent a few minutes using my newly found dictionary to translate the opening pages of what appeared to be a mystery novel, but then remembered my iPhone and took the easier route.

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Robert insisted I take only a photo of the hands of the maker.

But the most fascinating part of my L’Aprèsmidi d’un étudiant de la vie came before I even reached campus. Trolling Telegraph Avenue for a pair of earrings, my eye caught the table of an elderly (of course, I, myself, am not elderly!) gentleman, named Robert, who instantly engaged me with his bright mind, congeniality, and Irish gift of gab. A fascinating half-hour conversation ensued. He gushed that I looked like an opera singer, hopefully based on my flow-y outfit and not those extra pounds I had gained in Hawaii. I said I was a poet and he regaled me with his adventure about hitchhiking with the help of a couple of long-haul truckers from New York to California to hear Susan Sontag, the  radical American writer and filmmaker, teacher and political activist, read her poetry. Somehow Willie Brown got woven into the conversation. He talked about family, how only one granddaughter seems interested in his welfare, and where he lived and insisted I visit the next 2nd Friday Art Walk in Vallejo where he displays his wares.

IMG_1100Before our conversation ended, he insisted I take one of his authentic Gaelic bracelets as a gift. I thought of going to the ATM to get cash to pay him but then decided that only gracious acceptance was called for. The real gift was allowing myself an afternoon of being open to the small miracles that come our way when we keep our eyes, hearts, and minds open to what life offers. And, yes, I’ll return that French novel to the Senior Center library after I finish the translation. If I learn enough French, I’ll be able to understand what my three and five-year-old granddaughters are whispering about in the back seat of my car on the way to their French school.

 

Mimi’s morning

IMG_0896pitch black
door squeaks open
four little feet at the
bottom of sturdy legs
wrapped in Frozen flannel
pad over to my bedside
turn off my c-pap
can’t breathe
can’t sleep
peal covers off my
reluctant body

clock says 6:36
“get up, Mimi”
down two flights
bananas in hand
turn on Sophia the First

up two flights
gather outfits
pink stripe
polka dot princess
down two flights
distribute same
stern warning to get dressed or
TV off
clamber into shower
try not to slip on
treacherous tile

everyone dressed
up one flight
breakfast
cheerios for one
toast for the other
orange juice
sipped through snout of
dog…bear…whatever

assemble lunches
daddy fixed the night before
line up
backpacks
water
jackets
shoes
water down hair
slick back into
ponytails

clock ticking
mommy says 7:45
ready or not
everything on
down four flights of
red brick steps
van seat still blocked by
boxes of whatever
beyond my brain to
figure it out
mommy helps
off they go
chattering in French

up four flights of
same dangerous brick
gather garbage
theirs…mine
down four flights
stuff in cans
up four flights
count as exercise
dishes in dishwasher
down one flight to my
Provençal pink lime
hideaway
strangely quiet
writing time
8:01

gratitudes
children here and afar
productive
loving
grandchildren
smart
healthy

prayers for women
who have not my
blessings
whose exhaustion comes
not from hectic mornings
but from mourning
lives without
little ones to
pry open their eyelids at
6:36

Half a crazy morning in Bezerkely

dream fluffAfter a ten-minute search for the preschoolers misplaced lunch box and cahier de vie (at Ecole Bilingue each child has a photo-and-words book that they take back and forth between school and home to share what goes on in each place), we take off on the twenty minute ride with the three and five-year-old granddaughters babbling in French in the back seat of my Kia Soul. Delivered safely and even on time, I take off for my next task–calling AAA to tow the family van which had had three of its tires slashed the day prior in broad daylight. But AAA won five stars for being there in 15 minutes with a flat bed, with the driver being appropriately crestfallen and efficient. At Big O, my son-in-law takes over by phone and handles the new tire transaction. I’m a bit shaken so decide to try the donut cure at Dream Fluff, the famous donut shop at Ashby and College.

elmwood lineOn the two-block walk from my parking space to secure my drug of choice, I fend off fears that the tire slasher has moved on up from San Pablo Avenue to this neighborhood. Fighting to stay in the present, I start paying attention to my surroundings and am treated to Berkeley at it’s Berkerkly best. I pass the line streaming out the door at the Elmwood Cafe but not until I’ve walked past an elderly homeless man, his used-to-be-fluffy winter jacket pulled up to his ears. Six bags of recyclables and meager possessions are arranged neatly on each side of his scruffy boots. He waits patiently for whatever “next” lies behind his vacant stare.

la mediterraneeAt the entrance to the Cafe, two Berkeley officers in precision-pressed blues, one with Tony Curtis curls threatening to fall sexily onto his forehead, are being regaled by a tall and equally handsome but completely unpressed and dreadlocked gentleman whose description of the latest neighborhood drama spills out of his mouth at meth-speed, forgive the redundancy. Their patience matches his insistence and, in true Berkeley fashion, there is no hint of acrimony or threat of arrest. A few steps further down, outside my favorite restaurant La Mediterannee, a fashionista fourteenth-month-old points out two tiny scraps of trash to her politically-correct father who nods in all seriousness and confirms that leaving such flotsam on the sidewalk is indeed a mortal sin. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice the freshly filled water dish and plastic tub of doggie treats outside the corner all-natural fiber clothing store.

Donut deal done, I start eating out of the proverbial paper bag on the way back to my car. As I drive away, the homeless man has packed up his belongings and is on his way to “next”. The police pair are inside the cafe, drinking coffee that they’ve paid for. And my morning ordeal disappears in the familiar politics of a world I haven’t visited since my crazed sophomore year at Cal back in 1963.

Day 1 – Practice Indy Sonoma Grand Prix

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In the garage pre-practice. Helio Castroneves’ Number 3 car. My favorite driver.

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Graham Rahal’s car headed to the inspection area.

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Tristan Vautier’s tribute to Justin Wilson who died in last week’s Indy race.

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The charity established in Justin’s memory

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A Firestone “tattoo” for my granddaughters. One on the other arm as well and the same brought home for them to put on tomorrow morning.

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View from the new terrace built atop Turn 2.

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The view to the Grandstand and paddock from the same terrace.

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Helio’s car in position number one on pit lane. I have a pit pass for tomorrow to get up close and personal.

Helio taking a short cut at Turn 9 and coming down by the grandstand.

How not to think about packing…

Where’s Scotty when I need him? As the days count down and I’m surrounded by packing boxes, I desperately want to be beamed up to my new home. The best way to distract myself while I’m resting on the couch with various sore muscles being chilled under ice packs is to think back to some of my lovely trips to France. And look forward to another journey to my favorite French destinations next summer.

And, you MUST scroll to the bottom of the photos to see my the abode which I will share with my daughter and her husband and my two delightful granddaughters, ages 3 and 5. I know I’ll enjoy the fabulous view of the entire San Francisco bay from my little private patio. And what better than having two little people prying your eyelids open in the morning, whispering, “Are you awake, Mimi?”

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Paris in winter

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Eze during the Christmas holiday

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Spectacular Bonifacio where my love of Corsica and my novel MOTHER TONGUE began

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The gargoyles of Notre Dame in sight of our apartment a block away

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Honfleur–the harbor master’s where my great-grandfather did business on his clipper ship the Llewellyn J Morse

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The cottage at Chenonceau at the height of the wisteria season

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The harbor at Cassis–gateway to the Calanques

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Opera Garnier for the ballet–red velvet heaven

Dinner on the beach

Dinner on the beach at L’Ile Rousse in Corsica

Chagall museum Nice

The fabulous Chagall museum

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Visiting 113 rooms at Chambord

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The Paris Opera costume exhibit at Chambord

Serenity Bonifacio

Serenity…the harbor at Bonifacio

Hameau Stair House Oil

The Petite Hameau of Marie Antoinette at Verseilles

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A stunning view of Mont Saint Michel

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A cozy view of my new home at night. That’s my special space on the bottom right behind the wrought iron fencing.

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The back patios.

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The double terraced yard.

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My little private patio with views of San Francisco bay

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A view of San Francisco bay from the main level

Perils of Pauline…

So, being 71 and not up for long car rides, I made a flight reservation at the last minute to fly from Oakland to San Diego for our family vacation. I envisioned a relaxing trip, arriving long before the rest (two parents, two little girls, and one au pair) would arrive in the mini-van after an 8 1/2 hour drive.

IMG_0504Sunday started as expected. Helping pack up the mini-van and getting ready to attend the 5-year old granddaughters annual ballet recital. I’m escorting her out to my car and manage to trip off the edge of the driveway and fall into the open mini-van, whacking my head on something very hard. But off we go. And the recital is spectacular with her group portraying the Lost Boys from Peter Pan.

Then I hurry back to my apartment to pass the family cat on to the other grandmother for the week. Shadow doesn’t take well to being shoved into his carrier and takes a hunk out of my hand. Scrambling through the medicine cabinet, I find a bandaid and the neosporin.

A friend drives me to Oakland airport and as I approach the baggage check, I realize my driver’s license is back on my scanner at home…having been scanned for an application the day before.  Yes, you can fly without ID. The baggage check was simple, but then I went through 15 minutes of a VERY personal body pat down. I didn’t even request a private room. I just wanted to make that flight. The woman announced each time that she was about to touch a “private area”, using the back of her hands for those spots.

So I make it just in time to board along with the rest of the “B” passengers…I’m always a “B” no matter how promptly I retrieve my boarding pass the day before. I settle into my aisle seat and prepare to relax for the hour and 20 minute flight to San Diego.

Thirty minutes into the flight, the plane tilts violently 45 degrees to the left and goes into free fall for several seconds. We all thought for sure it was the end! But the pilot levels it out and calmly announces that we were caught in another plane’s wake, one passing us at a right angle. The woman next to be actually saw this plane zoom across our path…an obvious near miss.

french gourmetHaving arrived alive though shaken, I’m picked up by my best friend from childhood. NOW…I’m safe. She takes me to the VRBO in Pacific Beach and I’m ready to collapse. Not yet! The door code doesn’t work and someone else is occupying “our” garage. The manager doesn’t answer nor does the handyman. But my friend takes me to The French Gourmet for dinner. A pris fixe dinner of 3 pates, duck confit, and a chocolate ganache eclair along with a glass of sauvingnon blanc calms my nerves. By now the handyman has called back and given me the correct door code and garage.

I’m barely settled in when the rest of the family arrives, having made record time and a much more relaxed day. Moral of the story…the skyways are not always the best alternative to the freeways.

WWDC…a grandson’s dream

IMG_0019I’ve been enjoying watching the excitement and inspiration experienced by my fifteen-year-old grandson, Ryan, as he attends Apple’s extravaganza WWDC conference in San Francisco this week as one of 350 scholarship winners for students of all ages. The photos from inside the conference are his since the parents who accompanied those under 18 were relegated to the parents’ lounge. Congratulations, Ryan. Enjoy!

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We also took a mini-trip over to Coit Tower–a must for my volunteer firefighter son, even though, contrary to popular belief,  it was not designed to resemble a fire hose nozzle. The murals inside the tower’s base were painted in 1934 by a group of artists employed by the Public Works of Art Project, a precursor and depict life in California during the Depression. He especially enjoyed the depiction of a MVA with all units responding circa the 1930s.IMG_0047