Tag Archives: mom

Photo Album: Mom’s 80th Birthday


We celebrated my mom’s 80th birthday last weekend.  Her birthday was actually in July but this was when all her kids could be there for the event.

Mom & Grandkids

All the grandkids were there too.

Before the event, I made a batch of invitations. I photocopied this sweet old photograph of my mom to put on the front.


Each card was a little different from the next.


The party was for lunch and after considering different ideas, we ended up having it at my mom’s house (at her suggestion).

Various family members assisted and I organized the party. We decorated with paper lanterns and flowers from the farmer’s market.




Nestled in the arrangements were naked ladies, or pink Amaryllis Belladonna, flowers that my dad always loved, if only because it amused him to say naked ladies!

Here’s some naked ladies outdoors.


The day was sunny and warm but not terribly hot not like the weekend before.

Michael and Suresa.


Victoria and Caitlin, both wearing giant hoop earrings.


Robert and Leah.


Mom and Sarah.


After lunch we had dessert: Kathleen brought angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream.


Leah made lemon bars from Smitten Kitchen.


I made brownies from the Commonsense Kitchen Cookbook to round out a trio of delicious desserts.


Victoria, Jake and Chelsea.


Caitlin, Cooper and Sarah.


Molly and Mom.


It was really a big, extended family party.


Gianna with Stella.


Stella wasn’t the only one that was tired at the end of the festivities.


Mom and I share an ottoman as we both put our feet up.


Thanks to everyone for being a part of this special day.

Thanks for stopping by.





Filed under Life

Pops Concert


My mother has season tickets to the Marin Symphony and I was her guest for a wonderful event.  It was their first ever Waterfront Pops Concert on the Civic Center grounds, overlooking the lagoon. The music was classic John Williams movie soundtrack pieces, played live with an 80 piece symphony orchestra.

We got there about 4:15 to get a good spot on the lawn and sat and chatted and people-watched. There were lots of families with young kids. I remember going to Sunday afternoon concerts at Stern Grove when we were little.  An outdoor concert with a picnic is a great way to become better acquainted to classical music.

I had picked out some produce at the Farmer’s Market in the morning and we started supper with raw English peas, eaten out of the pod.  Rolled sandwiches and Greek salad came next – I used whole wheat pita bread, split open and spread with a combination of cream cheese and chutney.  Turkey and roast pork were layered on top of the cream cheese than some thinly sliced apples.  I tossed spinach and lettuce leaves with a lemony vinaigrette and piled that on before rolling it all up and cutting each roll in half.

The salad was Persian cucumbers, grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, white beans, feta cheese and a little lemon juice and olive oil.  I’m afraid I didn’t get any pictures of our picnic.  We finished up with wedges of pluots and oatmeal cookies that my mom made.

I was amazed, however, when I noticed some folks at intermission who along with a clever folding table, had brought little desserts (maybe some kind of apple crumble, I couldn’t really tell) in crocks and vanilla ice cream that they dished out.

picnic dessert

Maybe next year we’ll remember to save a little treat for intermission!

The concert started at 6 PM with the Olympic Fanfare and Theme, written for the 1984 Summer Olympics.  Such familiar movie soundtrack music as Jaws, Jurassic Park and Raiders of the Lost Ark followed.  I was choked up just a bit at the beginning, thinking about my dad and how I was lucky enough to go to many Marin Symphony concerts with my parents.

Although I think he would have love the music, he would have also been annoyed with all the kids that were running wild.   I found them distracting sometimes, but I tried not to let it bother me.  Overall, it was a relaxed, happy audience, enjoying the event.

Pops audience

The sun started to set into a bank of fog and several times flocks of birds flying behind the stage added to the music.  Once it was a group of geese that swooped up and over the covered stage.  Other times large flocks of blackbirds seemed to move in time to the stirring music, swirling in beautiful patterns in the sky.

After intermission, the conductor, Alasdair Neale, invited Junior Conductors to gather on the grass in front of the stage to conduct, with glow sticks, The Stars and Stripes Forever.  Mom and I both noticed that most of the kids were keeping good time with the music.

Than it was back to John Williams and more familiar movie themes, including Superman, Flight to Neverland from Hook, the Theme from Schindler’s List and a Star Wars Medley.

Pops Concert

The moon was out and we had layered on sweatshirts and jackets.


Moths fluttered in the stage lights as the concert continued.  Some kids (and grown ups too) fell asleep, others ran around with glow sticks in hand.

As the concert was getting near the end, some people packed up and left.  I could have been happier with maybe one or two fewer pieces, but didn’t want to leave or we would have missed out on the fireworks that were set off during another Olympic piece, Summon the Heroes, which premiered at the Atlanta, GA Olympics in 1996.  It was a smashing and fitting finale to a wonderful concert.


Thank you for coming by.


Filed under Cooking, Life

Canine Closeups

I thought it was tricky getting pictures of hummingbirds last weekend until I tried to get a picture of four dogs today.

But first…

This is Wedge, tightrope walking on the railing of the desk at my mom’s house.  I don’t know if anyone has told him that most dogs don’t walk on deck railings.

Wedge on a Railing

My sisters, one sister-in-law and mom were having lunch. Mom has Molly and we were at their house.  Sarah brought Wedge, the new dog in their family.  Victoria came with 9 month old Patsy, who was playing shy.

Patsy under the table

Kathleen had 14-year-old Ruby along.

Ruby Duby

I brought my camera.

I think Kathleen wondered if we could get all the dogs in one picture and Sarah was the one that decided to try.

Three Dogs

Three dogs, Wedge  looking the other way.  Fail.

Snacks are offered.


Still only three dogs.  No Patsy.  Fail.

Well…there ARE four dogs in the photo.

First of the Four

But with Ruby searching for biscuits and Patsy keeping her distance…Fail.

All the dogs are interested in the snacks my mom is offering, just off camera.  Patsy gets a little closer, but she’s still playing it safe.

Patsy Gets Closer

Come on over, Patsy!

Patsy Keeping Her Distance

Four dogs in motion.


Here’s a nice shot with Wedge and Ruby.

Wedge and Ruby

And one of Wedge who was wonderful on his own.  No distractions, just sit and look handsome


I never really did get one perfect shot of all four dogs together.  But I had fun trying.

Thank you for the visit.


Filed under Life

Sea Ranch in the Summer

It’s been over a year since my last trip to Sea Ranch.  My mom and I went up to the vacation home neither of us had been back to since my dad had been diagnosed with cancer last May.  It was an emotional trip but also comforting to be in this soothing, familiar place that is another home.  Mom wanted to return for her first time up there without Dad but she didn’t want to go alone.  My sister would be arriving a day after my mom  and I suggested I go along, following in my own car.  We would provide company for each other and I could help with Molly who, though she loves being at Sea Ranch, hates the ride up the twisty parts of Route 1.

We went through fog in Bodega Bay.   I usually visit in the early spring when the hills are green and dotted with cows, sheep and lambs and wild iris and other wild flowers are coming into bloom.  As we neared Sea Ranch, the fog cleared to a warm, sunny afternoon.  The summer landscape is tawny with golden-yellow meadows of dry grasses. Once we get to the house, we take a walk down the path to the bluff and beach.  On closer look I started to notice the different colors.

Soft purple flowers grow almost hidden in the edges of the meadow, lower than the surrounding grass.

These large, lacy clusters remind me of cauliflower but prettier with white and pale purple blossoms.

A wild rose is a spot of pink.

Thistle bloom in a rich magenta.

Unripe blackberries are an eye-catching red.

Deep-orange nasturtium grow up a fence.

A cluster of yellow flowers have a toe-hold in the rocky face of the bluffs.

A large group of harbor seals are resting on a beach. If you look carefully (or click on the photo for a closer look) , you can see a pelican is hanging out with them. This link has some great close-up shots of harbor seals at Sea Ranch.

It’s lovely being by the ocean and breathing in the salt air.

In our walks that afternoon and the following morning we saw several driftwood structures.

Playhouses for kids enjoying the Fourth of July holiday.

Or architectural artwork created by adults.

Seaweed marked the tide line.

Walk On Beach was wide and welcoming.

Molly found a rope of kelp to chew on.

Mom and Molly – a poignant reminder of my dad walking on the beach with Molly.

I love the variety of beautiful if subtle textures and colors the beach offers.

Although the sun is out and we’ve shed our sweatshirts, neither of us is interested in a dip in the ocean but this woman and her dog seemed to be enjoying themselves.

We climb the three flights of stairs from the beach to the bluff trail and head back to the house.  We catch our breath and look back at the beautiful beach and ocean.

A flock of pelicans is going the other direction.

Back at the house, Mom gave Molly a quick rinse and towel dry to get off the sand and salt water.

That afternoon I was back on the road, heading south and home.  I varied the route slightly by going up Meyers Grade – when I pulled off to take this picture of the fog coming off the ocean.  I’m looking down the coast towards the mouth of the Russian River  and Bodega Bay.

Across the road I saw my first ever Pirate Cow. Aaarrr! Moo.

One last shot of the road twisting down the hillside back to Highway One and then I turned my attention to my drive home after a short but satisfying visit to Sea Ranch.

Thanks for coming along.


Filed under Life

Mother’s Day Roundup

A great picture of my mom with my sister and I taken over 50 years ago. I’m in the middle.

Mom, Mother, Mommy, Mama, Ma, Anne, Mutter, Maji, Mai, Emak, Mamma.

Whatever you call your mother,  here are a few ideas for ways to express your love and gratitude this Mother’s Day. (Click the links to get directions.)  Scroll back to my most recent posts to see the Mother’s Day Butterfly Card and Jewel Box Envelope and Card.

Here is a very pretty Mother’s Day Hat card  with swirled paper roses from last year.

Heart Strings – sweet strings of hearts cut from old books and sheet music.

Muffin Cup Quiche would be nice for brunch or breakfast in bed.

How about a nice picture  of you in this Rolled Page Picture Frame?

This sweetheart was born last year on Mother’s Day. Happy Birthday, Manek!

A favorite poem or song can be enhanced with this Doodle Heart Background.  If you can doodle, you can do this project!

A jar of this delicious, dark, buttery Caramel Sauce to put over ice cream (or pound cake or crepes or in a spoon) would be a sweet gift.

Finally, how about making the Russian Nesting Dolls (Matryoshka) card set?  With a mama doll card holding a pocket of smaller dolls, this set is made for Mother’s Day!

Whatever you make, I hope you make it a good one for your mother.

Now eat your vegetables …and thanks for stopping by.


Filed under Cooking, Crafts

Jewel Box Envelope & Card

This is an embellished envelope that looks like a little box.  With a card tucked inside it might be just the thing for Mother’s Day to let mom know what a treasure she is to you.

This envelope is made from card stock and embellished to enhance the illusion of being three-dimensional. I used washi tape, stick-on gems and colored markers for the decorations.

I made a template here for you to make your own jewel box envelope and card.

Jewel Box Envelope & Card



Card Stock

Patterned Paper for front of card (optional)


Bone Folder (Useful but optional)

Pencil & Eraser


Sticky Tape or other stronger adhesive for the flaps

Double-sided adhesive (My favorite is Tombo permanent)

To Embellish: Washi Tape, Stick-On Gems, Gold or Silver Pen, Colored Markers


Print out template and cut out pattern pieces.  Carefully trace around the envelope pattern onto colored card stock. Use a bone folder to score where the dotted lines are indicated on the pattern.  These are fold lines.  If you don’t have a bone folder you can use a letter opener, ruler or popsicle stick to score the fold lines.

Cut out envelope.  Another way to do this is to use tiny dabs of adhesive to adhere the pattern directly to the card stock and cut out the card stock right on the lines.  Tracing around the pattern makes it just slightly larger than the original.

Don’t assemble the envelope yet – it will be easier to do the embellishment before it is assembled.

The card that goes into the envelope can be either a folded card or a tag style card.  In the photos for this project I made a folded card.  If you want a folded card, fold a piece of card stock and put one straight edge of the card pattern right on the fold.  Trace the card and cut out leaving the fold intact.

Washi tape is a great decoration for this Jewel Box envelope.  I picked out a narrow tape with two thin stripes of color and a wider tape with a floral print design.  If you haven’t yet given in to the lures of washi tape, you could cut narrow strips of decorative paper to embellish the envelope.

Crease the envelope piece along the fold lines to see how it fits together but don’t glue it yet.

With a ruler and pencil, lightly draw a line down the center of the front and back of the envelope where it comes to a point.

Refer to photos – this is harder to describe than to do!  Line a piece of washi tape up with the bottom edge of the front, going across the pencil line.  Lightly mark where the pencil line is and cut the washi tape right along the pencil line.  Smooth the tape into place and do the same on the other half so the two pieces meet together in a V in the middle.

Continue to place your washi tape keeping it lined up with the bottom edge of the piece.  I found it easiest to cut or tear a piece of tape slightly longer than what was needed for each section, lay it lightly in place, mark the center line in pencil and lift it up to trim along the line than smooth it back in place.  Once the washi tape is all in place, erase pencil lines.

Fold the envelope together to see where the lid of the box will be when the envelope is assembled.  Keep the trim below that line.

After you finish embellishing the front and back of the envelope, continue to the lid portion, marking with pencil in the same way.

For the lid, I made a diamond shape with the washi tape, following the lines of the paper. I added some bling with stick-on jewels, pearls and flat, sparkly stickers.

Add additional embellishment with gold and colored markers.

Once you’ve finished decorating, fold the envelope and adhere the tabs into place.  Even with careful cutting and folding, you may need to trim places that aren’t quite aligned.

I used decorative paper for the front of my card.  I was delighted to find this great hexagon printed paper in my stash from a recent shopping trip to Scrapbook Territory.  It is Wortley Village 12×12 Victoria Park Paper  by Lily Bee Design.  It went perfectly with the colors and shape of the project.  It’s nice when something works out so well.  Simple trace the shape of the card on decorative paper, cut it out and adhere to the front of the card.

Another variation would be to use washi tape to add a border around the edges of the card.

You can finish the card off by putting a heart on the inside.

Be sure to write a lovely message inside the card to go in your beautiful Jewel Box Envelope.

Thanks for the visit.


Filed under Crafts

Keeping Busy

Spring, in my part of the world, is a time of warming weather and rapid plant growth.  Bees buzz around beautiful, blooming flowers collecting nectar, and birds sing in the trees.

Plants send out tender green shoots and tiny leaves unfurl and seem to grow larger in hours instead of days.

In the face of all this vitality and life it is especially hard to see my dad decline.  He was diagnosed late in May of 2011. So last spring, before we had any idea what was going on, the cancer in him was growing. You can read more about it here. He has now been through a series of grueling treatments.  He was on a feeding tube that has been removed and he’s eating again.  But the illness, chemo and radiation have all taken their toll.

This life limiting illness has been terrible and it is rough watching my dad suffer. My mom has been right there with him, his partner and caregiver through every minute.  Even the five days when he had C. diff. and was in the hospital she was by his side for part of every day.  That was not a respite because he was so sick and we were so worried – anxiety is not a restful state.   It is hard seeing her suffer too.

Now he and my mom have decided to stop the treatment and he is at home under hospice care.  A scan in November showed that the cancer that started in his esophagus had spread to his lungs.  He isn’t eating very much and his strength and stamina have diminished.  He sleeps a lot. Cancer and the treatment he received have aged him.  Chemo has taken most of his hair, beard and mustache.  He has lost weight and he doesn’t look quite like himself.

Yet I’ve found that I get used to each change.  I see the wispy hair and hear the raspy voice but in spite of that I see my dad.  He is funny and ornery.  He is social and loves having his family and especially his wife close by.  We sit by his recliner in turn and visit with him and hold his hand.  We bring meals and recently most of the family gathered for a potluck Easter brunch.  Those who couldn’t make it for brunch visited within the week.

Though I’m in a choir  that sings for those on the thresholds of life, he doesn’t want me to sing for him; he wants me to make him laugh.  I save up funny stories and recount them with animated expressions and silly voices.  He likes to tease and he calls me a smart mouth but I believe he likes that I’ve learned it from him. He loves their dog, Molly, and enjoys watching her antics.

I heard someone use the term “pre-grieving” or anticipatory grief. We feel sad about what has already been lost and as we anticipate the further loss. I have two thoughts about anticipatory grief.   First, I DO feel sorrow, especially when my caring boyfriend or a friend offers a concerned ear. But most of the time I need to make some space for myself away from the sadness. I don’t mean in a stuffing-down-my-feelings way but in a putting-them-to-the side-so-I-can-function at work way.

Most importantly: my dad is still here.  I don’t want to put a lot of focus on grieving.  I want to make the most of every visit to be with my parents without adding to their anxiety or worries.

This is where the keeping busy comes in.  I do my best to maintain a regular physical exercise routine. In a good week I workout at the gym three mornings before work, attend a Jazzercise class one evening with one sister (though she goes more often) and walk every Saturday with my other sister.

Another stress-management tool is my crafting and blogging.  Sitting at my wonderful new desk and spending time creating something is a great distraction that takes my time and energy and results in something that gives me pleasure.  Making something with my hands is usually very calming and brain relaxing.  I sit focused on a project and everything else fades away…at least for an hour or two.

Even though having a loved one fighting cancer has become a lens through which I see things, I know that there is still much to celebrate.  I know my dad wants us to be happy.

Having this blog has been an outlet for me to express and share creative ideas and also to connect with friends and other creative people online.  Being able to communicate the experience of my dad’s illness here with you means I’m able to ease the burden of sadness because I’m not carrying it alone.  The love and support I receive in return is a blessing.

I saw this quote on Pinterest recently and printed a copy for my parents which is now on their fridge.  I need to print it out for myself:

Peace.  It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work.  It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. ~ Unknown

Thank you for stopping by.  Thank you for your support.


Filed under Life

On Caring


adjective /ˈke(ə)riNG/ 

  • Displaying kindness and concern for others
    • – a caring and invaluable friend

noun /ˈke(ə)riNG/ 

The work or practice of looking after those unable to care for themselves, esp. sick and elderly people

I appreciate the concerned and caring responses to my recent post about my dad.  All the love, prayers and supportive messages have been wonderful.

In these last few days, I’ve experienced many examples of caring and in both the definitions above: “displaying kindness and concern for others” and “the work of looking after those unable to care for themselves, especially sick people.”

Around 2 am Wednesday morning my father got sick.  His third round of chemo had ended Friday and he’d had three pretty good days over the long weekend.  But on Tuesday he wasn’t feeling well and my mom didn’t know why.  I mean, other than the fact that he has cancer and had just finished five days of chemo.  I don’t want or need to go into graphic details here, but dad was sick and mom was giving him water in the feeding tube throughout the day on Wednesday.  It wasn’t a good day but she was in contact with his oncologist and following the doctor’s advice.

In the afternoon Papa was still sick and unable to keep water down so mom called me to help her get him to the hospital.  When I got to their house it was soon clear that the two of us couldn’t manage to get him down the stairs and out to the car and so we called 911.  It was such a relief to have these guys show up and just take the weight of care from us.  They were very calm, efficient, professional and caring.  On the ride to the hospital they were already transmitting his vital statistics to the ER staff, they got him on an IV and got fluids going and started giving him anti-nausea meds.

My mom got to the hospital before the paramedics as she took a few shortcuts and they got slowed down with commute traffic.  She found that not only were they caring for my dad, but also that when you arrive at the hospital in the back of an ambulance, you don’t have to have someone  find a wheelchair for you, or fish around for your member card or try and explain symptoms to the triage nurse.  You go right in the special ambulance entrance and into a room.

All the staff in the ER were wonderful but Claude, the nurse who was mainly caring for him, was especially caring and kind.  When my mom started to feel a bit shaky Claude asked when she’d last eaten and quickly got a sandwich, applesauce and juice.  That helped some but she’d been awake for too many hours and was overwhelmed and she needed to lie down.  Which is how she ended up on a gurney in the hall.  My dad was undergoing tests and receiving fluids in his room, my mom was resting on a gurney in a busy hallway and I was going back and forth between them.

It was after 5 pm when dad arrived in the ER and probably after 9 pm when the decision was made to admit him to the hospital.  The medical staff still hadn’t pinpointed why he was experiencing the symptoms he had other than as a response to his recent round of chemo.  My mom felt that she was unable to give him the care he needed at home in the shape he was in (and to be honest, in the shape she was in…it was pretty clear to the doctor while he had this conversation with my mom and she herself was lying on a gurney).

We stayed until he was finally in a room around 10:30 pm.   Claude was so helpful, calm and efficient throughout the evening as he moved quickly in and out, helping us and other ill or injured patients and their distressed and tired family members.

Before we left the hospital, I spoke with Rem on the phone.  I had decided to spend the night at my folks house to keep my mom company and to take the following day off from work so I could join her at the hospital.  I asked Rem to pack up a bag of clothes and toiletries for me, naming some specific items I thought I would need. I was touched when I found other things that he thought would offer me comfort that he had packed as an expression of his care and concern.  I was glad to have my soft, cozy bedroom slippers, a book to read, and my favorite pair of socks.  It helped the next morning, when facing our return to the hospital, to be armed with some sleep and these socks that make me feel stronger when I wear them.

It is now Sunday and dad is still in the hospital and now we know why my dad is sick. He tested positive for C. diff:  Clostridium Difficilea bacteria that can cause diarrhea and colitis.  It is one of those bad bacteria that some people have in their guts all the time without any symptoms and is most often transmitted in a hospital or medical center.  It typically occurs after a person has been on antibiotics or chemo. Dad has, of course, been in the medical center recently as he went in on the first and last days of his chemo cycle, he’s been on antibiotics for an infection and has been on chemo. A triple whammy.

He is in isolation which means every time anyone goes into his room they must put on a (paper or plastic) gown and gloves which are in a rack on the outside of the door.  When leaving the room you remove the gown and gloves in the room and discard them and then wash your hands.  Alcohol-based hand cleaner isn’t effective against the spores but traditional and stringent hand-washing is.

The large garbage bag in the room fills throughout each day as caregivers come and go, each one gowning and gloving as they enter.  The hall and nurses station are noisy so we try and keep the door closed and the room quiet and calm.  You can hear the knocking as someone pulls a packaged gown off the rack on the door, another rattle as they tug a pair of gloves out of their box and a pause as they garb themselves in the protective clothing.

With the yellow gowns and blue gloves the various staff as they come into the room have a sameness, but they are a mosaic of different nationalities, cultural backgrounds, ages, sexes and sexual orientations.  We have our favorites but they all define caring by their actions.

Different nurses have different styles of care and communication.  They are all professional and concerned with keeping my dad as comfortable as possible.  They are also busy and can’t always respond immediately when dad pushes his call button for assistance.  Those waits are difficult for us and I think particularly for mom.  She’s been caring for him, feeding him and giving him his medications for about 11 weeks now and if he experiences pain or nausea she responds quickly.  That is one of the upsides for the 1-on-1 patient-to-caregiver ratio.  The downside is the caregiver can become tired and burned out.

We get tired at the hospital even though we are mostly just sitting quietly.  Often Papa is resting or fully asleep.  We sometimes hold his hand and read.  The nurses, technicians, housekeepers and myriad other staff that I don’t know by title are on their feet constantly and interacting with people who are frightened, ill, cranky, and confused.   Yet even at the end of long shifts they continue to treat us and my dad with care and consideration.

Dad doesn’t like being in the hospital and he’s pretty down.  Considering what he’s been going through, it’s no wonder.  But he has shown improvement and we hope he will be able to come home early in the week.  It depends on how he is doing and of course we want to be sure he is well enough to come home before he is released.  In the meantime, mom is getting a little respite from the 24/7 caregiver role, my siblings and other family members and I are pitching in to care for the caregiver and dad is in the hands of professional caregivers.


Filed under Life