Thursday, June 30, 2005

Almost the Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is a pretty big deal in this country. Here's Lottie, a year ago, feeling poorly but still being forced by her parents and grandparents to ride in the Monte Nido (population 450) parade. We didn't decorate that trike and dress her in red, white and blue for nothing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Canyon Dog Update

A little while back I did the unthinkable. I called ANIMAL CONTROL and tattled on Molly, a neighbor's dog. Then, when the neighbor called to belatedly (a week later) say, "Sorry" after her dog threatened us (you know the drill...lips back, tail down, fangs exposed, menacing crouch, moving deliberately towards you), I was initially puzzled. Molly hadn't threatened us today. Oh well, turns out she was saying sorry for that week-old little 'incident.' That's when she was told it had already been handled...through Animal Control. And guess what...Molly doesn't sit outside barking for hours at a time and she's not loose, which means she's not threatening anyone.

The dance therapist's dog, Sparky, is also rather quiet and this is puzzling. We saw Sparky yesterday, on a leash, trotting happily besides a man who lives about a mile from here. I can understand Sparky's joy. Can't figure out if he's been given away or is just having a little holiday: I'm hoping the former.

Monday, June 27, 2005

"Gardening" in the Canyon

Spring color drips over rocks and crowns the hillsides. A couple of months ago, the Pride of Madeira (Echium fastuosum) was gorgeous. It covered the rise behind our house, defying the hunger of ground squirrels and rabbits, by growing faster and higher than they could reach. When the show is over, its seeds do a bit of a wander and then pop up early each spring in the most unlikely of places.

In our garden, there is much that surprises us each year and much that is really frustrating. Thousands of California Poppy seeds have been lovingly sown, strewn and dumped and not one has ever grown, inspite of the fact that they are the state flower and can be found growing out of sidewalk cracks and trash-strewn verges almost anywhere in Southern California. I have poked hundreds of nasturtium seeds the requisite inch down in the requisite poor soil and gentle spring rains have softened them but they don't germinate and I don't know why. There are banks of nasturtiums crowding the bluffs above short stretches of the Pacific Coast Hwy between Topanga and Santa Monica. No idea where they're from, but I'm thinking perhaps my yard.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

One Week Later

A week ago Sunday we had a great Father's Day dinner at Lee & Betsy's. A rosy light was cast over Malibu Canyon and Monte Nido that made us all just look extra good. Restaurants need to work on replicating light that feels like this.

And then it was Monday. While it may be hard for anyone to truly believe how crazy I am at times, suffice it to say that Himself makes my doctor appointments for me and keeps them a surprise until the actual morning of the visit because I get so complete shaken and weird just thinking about them. Oh, I handle the regular doctor and the dentist visits and that sort of thing but when it comes to my O.N.C.O.L.O.G.I.S.T., Himself takes over. He is, quite simply put, a man among men when it comes to helping me cope with the aftershocks of a 'bout' with cancer. I'll go into more detail when I get a few weeks away from this latest visit, but Monday morning I went for a swim and then headed off to the garden center and called home to see if there were any gardening needs that I could satisfy when I was told, "I'm sorry to spring this on you, dear, but you need to hurry home. You've got a doctor appointment in 50 minutes." Himself takes me to every appointment. He sits with me and calms me with his complete optimism and talks to me about the minutiae of living. And I try not to wail like a banshee. I mostly succeed, but there are moments when I don't recognize myself.

So, Monday was the day of the visit, the day when a vein is found and blood taken to be sent off where it can be tested and then by Friday at the latest, a call is made. No, not to me, to my husband, so he can then tell me the news. I know there are only two things he can tell me. "Honey, you're fine, what did I tell you? I knew your numbers would be good" or...oh fuck, I can't even put the flip side to words. But I know the words because I've heard them once before and believe me, they rock your boat, big time.

But the news came early this week, on Thursday, and the news was great. And they don't want to see me for another year. While a year passes quickly, it feels so far into the future. During my four months of chemotherapy (four whole years ago), I saw my doctor every week. I gave blood every week and my numbers were monitored very closely. Then when it was over, those infusions of life-saving poison, the doctor said, I'll see you in a month. A MONTH, I thought. A whole month without seeing a doctor. It felt like an eternity. And so for six months, I saw the doctor once monthly. And then I saw him every three months and that felt like an eternity and then it was every six months and now it is a yearly visit and maybe, soon, I'll be able to make my own appointments.

Six weeks ago, my daughter and I participated in the Revlon Run/Walk for Breast and Ovarian Cancer. It is such an emotionally charged event in which you grieve for those who didn't make it while celebrating with those who did. I'm a lucky woman.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

A New, Old Look

Many, many thanks to Ova Girl for being such a smarty pants and guiding me and my blog back to the land of normalcy. For a couple of days I was fighting with mysterious forces that somehow forced me to resize my blog to huge spaces and fonts. I performed her reset trick and here I am, dotty as ever, but more normal-sized. Thanks, kid. xoxoxo

Friday, June 17, 2005

Let me Tell you About a Wonderful Little Girl

My Grandbaby Posted by Hello

This little girl, age 3 1/2, is my granddaughter. That alone almost qualifies her for any number of superlatives, but the following will probably cause you to love her, too. Here's what happened.

At Lottie's pre-school, there are some places for autistic children. These children each have an adult shadow who helps them cope with the subtleties and layers of being in a noisy, lively environment. There are also some children who quite unknowingly help these little ones with special needs. My granddaughter is one of those kids.

Yesterday, the mother of a little boy in Lottie's class called my daughter and said, "Can I tell you how much I love Charlotte?" She then went on and shared with my daughter what she had watched that very morning. When Charlotte entered her little classroom and saw this lady's son, Luca, she went over to him and said "Good morning, Luca." Luca is autistic. He didn't respond to her, didn't look at her and Lottie persisted until he finally looked up. She then patted him on his head and said "Good Boy." Then it was Circle Time; you know, everyone grab your mat and sit in a circle while the teacher reads a story. The rule is you sit on your mat. Don't stand, lay or roll around on it...just sit on it. Luca appears uncomfortable when sitting on the floor so he frequently just lays down. Lottie got up and went over to him and said, "Luca, look at me Luca. Luca, come on Luca. Luca, you have to sit up. Come on, Luca, you can sit up. Good boy, Luca." Lottie then patted him on his head and went back to her mat. She had gotten him to do what his Mom, his teacher and his shadow couldn't accomplish and she did it without upsetting him. These small victories for Luca gave his mother such hope and joy. Hearing what Lottie did just made me enormously proud of this little girl. She is a sweet, caring child and that means so much to me.

Today, Luca & Lottie and their moms went out for lunch. My granddaughter had her very first strawberry milkshake which was so good it blew her away. She looked over at Luca and said, "Luca, you have got to order one of these next time you come. They're delicious." Luca didn't respond, but I'm sure he will, one day very soon.

Blog Appearance

If anyone can help me fix my wretched blog...any words of advice would be greatly appreciated. Each day its appearance is worse. I keep trying to fix it and obviously am making it worse. Dotty Nana, indeed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Blog, Blog, Blog...back to Vancouver

Posted by Hello

I obviously have way too much time on my hands. This is my third post of the day. Actually, Himself is in San Bernadino on biz and I can't move my car out of the driveway due to about a dozen guys wandering around my garden, pool and roof. This being L.A., nobody carpooled and they each came with their own wheels. They're putting in a new solar heat thingie so our pool isn't so flippin' cold and we can harness some of the sun's energy, to quote the solar energy proponents of the 70s. I am trying not to focus on the channel dug from the pool, through the garden, around the front steps, through another bit of garden...not to mention the pipes that then run up the side of my house. The channel will be filled in, the pipes will be painted a nice Tuscan mustardy color and I know the garden will reorder itself. Of course there are some practical things I could be doing just now, but since that's not going to happen, I'll blog.

So, back to Vancouver. Before we head off to Vancouver Island, I'll finish Day 2 with a quick reference as to how I almost got mugged. I know not getting mugged is really not a story, but could have happened. I got off that wonderful Grey Line Bus Tour in Chinatown. It's still raining so the sidewalks aren't exactly bustling with folk. The area also strikes me as being a little seedy. I guess I was just hoping that some of the other folk on the bus would get off with me...but they didn't. I decided I wanted to see the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Gardens. I love visiting gardens in any city at any time and I've never really seen Chinese gardens...Japanese gardens are de riguer on the U.S. West Coast, but not Chinese. Apparently, it's a garden of harmonic contrasts; of yin and yang. This I wanted to experience. What I didn't want to experience was a walled garden with no other visitors, an office that had a cheerful "Back in 20 minutes" sign on the door and three needy-looking homeless guys who were acting suspicious. They were following me. When I stopped, they stopped. When I turned around quickly and looked at them, they looked away. I walked a bit more and then felt like I didn't need to be in a walled garden with one exit and three guys looking for their next fix. So, I turned quickly, they were about 10 feet behind me, and I ran right towards them, sorta swinging my handbag and almost growling. I scared me, and I guess I scared them. Their reflexes weren't quick and before I knew it I was out on a city street and a tour bus pulled up. It wasn't the same tour bus company, but they gave me a lift back to my hotel. I mentioned my little incident and the driver pretty much said Chinatown is best done in pairs, in daylight the borders Vancouver's skid row. I don't know any city where I walk the skid row area, by myself or in pairs.

DottyNana's Font Size

DottyNana doesn't normally write in the third person, but today she's genuinely flummoxed by her font size and feels the only way to maintain control over the situation is to try creating many little blogs. Honestly, last week she wrote a blog about the dangers of living in L.A. and when she published it, half was lost. Today her Vancouver blog is HUGE and I mean HUGE. What is that all about? She will keep trying to make it smaller but apologizes to any reader if she can't. Also, she has been trying to figure out how to make her blog photos larger but can she? NO! Her photos get smaller as her font gets bigger. Stupid cow.

Vancouver Good: Weather Average

Posted by Hello

Vancouver is a good city . People live and work downtown, the sidewalks are crowded with pretty types and, aside from a large homeless population, that pinched sour look that often seems to accompany life in a northern city is for the most part absent. The people live with the rain and are charmed by the sun, but don't stop living because of the wet.

Himself and I chattered on about how we wouldn't be bothered by the rain; nope, not one little bit. We live in the land of almost perpetual sunshine (although it's all marine layery and damp this morning) and like to think we can handle grim weather with aplomb. After all, between Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, we've lived many years with weather that is often miserably damp and cold. We knew we could handle a few showers. [CUE NOISE OF GAME SHOW BUZZER GOING OFF MADLY IN BACKGROUND to indicate wrong answer] Well, guess what...we are no good in the rain, not anymore. We bitch and moan and mewl and whinge: me about how sore my wrist got from holding up the big, honking hotel umbrella for hours while I searched for a cafe where my flippin', increasingly heavier computer could pick up a wireless signal and, well, Himself didn't really moan, but he did have to listen to me and he didn't really argue or disagree with me. I covered all the bases for him. I couldn't get my computer to work anywhere
and my stupid American cell phone won't pick up a signal outside the U.S.

Here's an abbreviated day-by-day log of our quick visit.

Day One: Easy flight out of the sunshine. As our plane winged its way north, the clouds thickened and I remembered that we'd forgotten our umbrellas and binoculars. The umbrellas didn't bother me at all, but I felt horrible for Himself, not having his binoculars. This is a man who doesn't walk to the end of our road without them hanging round his neck and one just can't pop into a shop and buy another...they're expensive I think he researched binoculars for two years (pre-Internet), before buying this pair.

Oh well...on to Immigration where a very young, very earnest, very annoying, red-haired boy proceeded to closely question my husband about exactly why he was in Canada. Himself answered, "I'm serving on a Board of Consultants to a large, underground project." Apparently the boy didn't like Himself's answer and then asked him, "Is this a job that couldn't be filled by a Canadian?" I unwisely interjected and said, "How could we know such a thing (said with entirely too much...what are my voice)?" Himself shot me a look that said, "Sit down and shaddup and don't make this thing more complicated than it needs to be." I did sit down, but I still want to lodge a formal complaint against this obnoxious kid. He kept us for 15 minutes. Himself maintained his demeanor. I stayed in my seat, all the while wishing I could leap up and strangle the little turd.

We'd read in our guide books that people drive very slowly in Vancouver, that there are rarely left turn lanes or signals and the advice is just drive like the locals, unless you want the RCM (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) to stop you. Since they're no longer on horseback and they
are armed, we pretty much opted to drive like the locals. Good job the city is nice and compact because crawling around at a snail's pace on freeways was really annoying. It's fine in the city, but on the freeway??? C'mon. We saw one fellow driving a yellow Maserati and all we could think was, "How annoying it must be driving something that's capable of such speed." I mean I pretty much always think that when I see one of those, even on L.A. streets, but at least here you can drive a little fast. I was constantly asking Himself to convert km to miles...and then doubting his engineer brain by shrieking,"You can only go 28 miles per hour here? Are you sure you converted that right? At this rate it will take us two years to get to (fill in the blank...Victoria, Whistler, Yaletown, Granville Market, etc.)."

Day Two: Still looking for a laptop connection and still having no luck. It's really raining today and the long-range forecast doesn't look very encouraging. I decided to take the Grey Line bus tour. That way I could be out of the rain and still get an overview of the city, getting off to have a wander when I felt like it. The drive was interesting enough, but more fascinating to me was the driver. She was one of those cheerfully defensive people who, after eight minutes, you just want to smack. There was an elderly English couple who timidly asked just why the bus was late (mechanical problems) and why we (I was one of them) had to wait for close to 45 minutes in the rain in beautiful Stanley Park. While the park is quite perfect, it WAS flippin' raining and chilly and I'd already gotten a little lost in the dense woods and had flashes of having to do battle with a bear (apparently they're everywhere). The driver said...all the while smiling..."Well, it's all in the way you approach a problem. If you're negative, you'll feel negative. I'm only concerned about your safety. I had to switch buses, but if you'd be more positive, you'll feel better." The English couple wanly smiled while I said, "Look, just say you're sorry and that will make us all feel better. We're cold and not too happy with Grey Line at the moment. It's not like this is a free trip" She just looked at me and then smiled and proceeded to talk on her flippin' intercom about the sights in Stanley Park. Yet again, I was impressed with my restraint.

Day Three: Early morning ferry ride to Vancouver Island; Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, about an hour and a half. More to follow...

Sunday, June 05, 2005

L.A.'s Daily Dangers...According to the L.A. Times Sunday Supplement Magazine

It most certainly caught my eye. Ever since moving here, I've tried to acquaint myself, sometimes entirely too intimately, with disaster preparedness. I religiously send my annual $25 renewal to T-CEP (Topanga Coaliton for Emergency Preparedness) and thought of volunteering Himself to the Arson Watch brigade. I fully intend to buy a disaster kit (only $25 for each family member at Von's [local supermarket]) and I have never, ever hung art over a bed headboard. was with interest that I read all "39 ways to cope with L.A.'s daily dangers. The article was divided into major headings that are very, very L.A. and each subheading has a paragraph of what to do when these things happen. They read as follows:

If Someone Steals Your: Cellphone, Identity, Mail and Screenplay. I'm concerned about all of these potential occurrences and I fully intend, at some point, to write a screenplay.

If You Come Down With: Severe Sunburn, Food Poisoning, Road Rage, Freeway Phobia. These are all concerns and I carefully read the advice.

If You're Attacked by A: Dog, Mountain Lion, Carjacker, Kidnapper, Mugger, BLOGGER. Yes, BLOGGER and MOUNTAIN LION and CARJACKER and KIDNAPPER and MUGGER and DOG were uttered in the same breath. So I read this one very carefully and this is what you're supposed to do if attacked by a BLOGGER, according to Andy Meisler. This is a straight quote. "If someone with too much time on his hands calls you something awful on his website--say, a Dale Earnhardt, Jr. groupie or a remorseless wasabi junkie--it's as libelous and as actionable as if someone called you that in this magazine. If the insult isn't that clear-cut, or you're not prepared to go nuclear, you might try a maneuver suggested by Ken Layne, editor of the news blog Set up your own blog devoted to your many sterling qualities, and get all your friends to contribute. "That way, their compliments will drive the other guy's criticism way down your Google listings." Layne says." I

Thursday, June 02, 2005

That Warm, Cozy Glow of the Laptop

Posted by Hello

Colin and Anne were in for a long weekend and had a couple of good websites to share. It was late, late, late in the evening and I snapped this blurry shot of my family...warming themselves in the glow of the laptop.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Red Tags in Blue Bird Canyon

Red tags are what are hung on your home [in California] when it's uninhabitable... dangerously so. Ready to fall down the hill dangerous. During this past very rainy winter, many homes didn't make it. In La Conchita, homes, and sadly people, were buried under thousands of tons of mud, alleviating the need to red tag. Here in Topanga, a handful of homes have been red tagged. And then today in Laguna Beach, part of Blue Bird Canyon started to slide. And the snap, crackle and pop of pipes bursting, power lines shorting and shattering plate glass windows was the horror that many families awakened to today as their homes slid off their moorings.

I'm always mentally running through the "what will I take from my house if there's a big canyon fire or an earthquake and I have only five minutes." Of course that's assuming there is time to think. If there's no time to think, I pray that I instinctively will put shoes on my feet. There are all sorts of earthquake drills that are taught to schoolchildren in this state and every now and then I review them. I know it will happen. It's not like I walk around constantly thinking of natural disastors, but fires and earthquakes do bear some thought.

Here are things you're supposed to do when the earthquake shakes:

Stay in the house. Stay in the house? Are you nuts...the house could fall down on me. I can see myself running out the door the minute this place starts shaking.

Drop, Cover and Hold on! Move only a few steps to a nearby safe place. Take cover under and hold onto a piece of heavy furniture or stand against an inside wall. Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you're sure it's safe to exit. Stay away from windows and doors. I know the duck and cover routine. I'm not a child of the 50s for nothing. Moving to a safe place in this house will be challenging. I will be trying to get away from skylights, which are everywhere. Most inside walls seem to have skylights. Oh great. Heavy furniture? I left that stuff in the cold midwest. The only heavyish thing I can get under is the kitchen table...made from the planks of a Scottish brewery or something romantic like that...trouble is, that table is under a 15 feet long x 8 feet wide skylight.

Never Take an Elevator! That is so completely obvious. After a scare in a Portuguese elevator about 25 years ago, I've been leery of lifts. I now take them, when necessary, but don't particularly like sharing them. I need lots of space and breathing room when I'm going up or down. So, 25 years ago, the children and I were headed down to the pool from our room on the 12th floor. The corridors in this hotel were narrow and carpeted in navy blue. The elevator was big enough for four and also carpeted in navy blue. We pressed the button, the elevator sped up to our floor and we innocently climbed aboard for the RIDE FROM HELL! It bucked and floundered up and down, stopping between floors...doors opening to concrete walls and high up you could see a foot of light and hear people and then the doors would crash shut and the ride would take off again. We were going too fast, that was obvious, and the stopping and starting, mid-flight, was horrifically frightening. Five minutes later we were deposited on the 12th floor...right back where we'd started. We took the stairs down to the pool and checked out of that place after our swim.

If you are in bed, stay there and protect your head with a pillow. That makes sense and seems like a logical reaction to stuff crashing around your room. What it doesn't say is DO NOT HANG PICTURES OVER YOUR BED. That should be obvious, too.

Outside you have to find a clear spot, away from buildings and power lines. Also you have to dorp and cover.

In the car you have to drive to a clear space and stop. Try and get away from tall buildings. Do not stop on overpasses, underpasses or bridges...

So, if you can remember to think rationally when all around is rattling or popping or falling or cracking or splitting, then you'll be fine. Personally, I'll be happy if I can find the flashlight and my shoes.