Hello blog. It’s been a while. First things slowed down (in the middle of the series about my incarcerated teen poets) because Livejournal had the attack on their servers and then, well, life intervened, as it has a way of doing. And even though people say you don’t need to say to write a post about being gone I feel compelled to say a few things. Three, I think.
Number one, a couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of going to Las Vegas to speak at their SCBWI conference. I had a wonderful time talking about creating characters and met some enthusiastic writers. But if that wasn’t enough of an event, the day after the conference I had the pleasure of finally meeting the half-sister I never knew I had.
My lovely niece capture the very first hug.
What do you think, can you see a resemblence?
We spent a wonderful day together talking about similarities and differences and telling family stories. And as I posted on Facebook (forgive me for those of you reading this/seeing pics a second time) there will always be a hole in my heart from not knowing my dad but getting to my sister and some of the rest of the family goes a long way toward filling that up again.
Second, I’ve been spending a lot of my time and energy on learning how to eat in new ways and man, that takes more time than I realized. It’s taken most of my focus just to get into these new habits but now I’m feeling like yes, they are habits. I’m maintaining the healthy course I want to be on and I don’t feel at all deprived. I’ve lost 38 pounds so far and plan on keeping with the program until I am as healthy as I can be and then staying on the program to keep myself that way. And by “program” I don’t mean something like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig or some diet with a catchy name. I count calories and track it every day. I’ve cut out sugar and flour except for rare occassions. And that’s about it. It really is that simple.
And third, I’ve been able to focus on my writing again. At last. In the past year I’ve let go of a ton of emotional baggage that has been weighing me down for years. And then there’s the whole getting healthy thing. Not eating the right foods was rotting my brain and affecting my ability to focus. So I’m back to work, hard and fast, on my YA verse novel, coincidentally enough, about a very interesting pair of sisters. I’m sure you’ll get to know them a bit better as the character letters start going back and forth again.
I’m a lucky gal. Life is good and I’m smart enough to know it. You know those songs where they say, “I feel like I could fly…” Well it’s like that.
Yeah, just like that.
So hello blog, I’ve missed you.
I heard a lot of bird chatter out back late this afternoon and went to the window to see if any birds were playing in the water. I took these pictures through the window (gonna have to wash them soon if this keeps up.) Across about 10 minutes I took over 100 pictures. I kept waiting, wondering how many birds would land on the rock at the same time.
I actually think there might have been more than eight on there at one time but I was so memorized watching them swoop in, race off, and swoop back that I forgot to grab the camera right away.
We are coming to the end of the house makeover. The floors were finished today, except for some painting of the baseboards. A few more little things to finish and I hope we can start moving the furniture back into place (and out of my office) this week.
Before we had white ceramic tile just over most of the area. It gave the house a very cold feeling, not the comfy and welcoming one that we wanted. The flooring is EcoTimber woven strand bamboo in amber. It’s tough stuff.
I plan to be back to the blogging world soon. Really.
So it looks like I unintentionally took the month of August off from blogging. I think I needed the break. But now, in a rambling order that will likely repeat some things some of you might have read on Facebook updates, I’ll let you know what’s been going on. Because I know you’ve been waiting to hear. Really. I could hear you whispering. But I’ll warn you right now this is long and you can feel free to skip.
It started with the garage. I really only planned to hire someone to rip out the old cabinets and finish off the sheet rock but then I took a look at the list of things that we were going to do "one of these days" and decided that one of these days was now. In the last month we have (with the help of the handyman, sheet rock guy, electrician, painter, plumbers, and the checkbook:
ripped out old cabinets in the garage
insulated and sheetrocked the garage
installed new shelves in the garage and then transferred all the junk from broken cardboard boxes to nice plastic storage containers
had track lighting installed in the library and in my office (each of which entailed a new electrical nightmare)
new ceiling fans in the library, my office, the bedroom and my husband’s office (more electrical nightmares for each of these)
new whole house fan installed (more electrical…well you get the idea. The electrical in this house was a mess.)
new recessed lighting in the living room, dining room, kitchen
new lighting that turns on when you walk in the room in the laundry room and the pantry
new lighting in the entry hall
moved/combined a total of 11 switches
installed a banister and post where there once was none
opened up the wall over the fridge for an over the fridge cabinet (still waiting for that to be built and installed)
repaired the sagging ceiling in the living room and the dining room due to poor installation from the previous owner
repaired/replaced a ton of sheet rock, floated new mud and texture over entry hall, dining room and living room
installed new window and door moldings throughout the house.
Each of those things meant making a lot decisions, where did I want the new light fixtures and what kind of light fixtures did I want and where did the switches need to go.
Going on right now is new copper piping throughout the house which means more holes in different pieces of sheet rock and more repairs.
Coming up next is the install of new faucets in the kitchen and the bathroom and I sure hope finding the right colors and styles was the worst of that but with this house I’ve learned anything is possible. And because of the new faucet in the bathroom the hardware on the cabinets needs to be replaced. Normally that would be easy but the cabinets have backplates and they are a large size which means there aren’t a lot to choose from and they are hard to find. I’d remove the backplates but then you’d see the holes in the cabinets and that’s not going to work for me.
Also going on right now is painting the entry hall, dining room, living room, kitchen two bathrooms, stairwell, hallways, an office, a work-out room and a bedroom. All that new molding and newly textured walls will need to be primed before getting painted. And all that paint meant a ton of decision-making over the various colors. In order to paint we need to empty and move two china cabinets and a bar filled with glassware.
Also coming up is the removal of all the ceramic tile in the entry hall, dining room and the kitchen. A LOT of tile. Think war-zone with all the dust. After that the wood floor will go down. And then I’ll likely collapse.
It’s not that it will be done but this phase will be. I hope it’s finished by Halloween. Please.
If I was able to do the light and breezy funny kind of updates I might have kept on blogging this month but as is my way, I feel everything deeply, even house renovations. And some people were worrying about me being so intense about it all so I just figured to keep it more to myself for a while. Because the intense stuff, well, that’s just who I am and it’s not likely to change. Everything I feel, I feel deeply. And that includes things like picking the right color of paint.
But I have been writing in the evenings once the house is quiet, working on the YA verse novel that has evolved from the poems I did about my father for National Poetry Month. It’s slow progress, but it’s progress. And I’m hosting Poetry Friday this week.
So yeah, I think I’m back.
I have been MIA from the online world for a while while we have had so many workers taking care of things around the house. While it’s nice to get things done, it’s very hard for this introvert to deal with having people here all the time. Hopefully the electrician only has a few more days of work, then it will be just me and the handyman and the painters I have yet to hire.
So for this Friday five, here are my favorite electrical things that have been done around the house these past few weeks.
1. All the lighting work in my office. Track lighting where there once was none has eliminated three lamps. The new ceiling fan does a great job moving the air around. And then there’s the rope lighting on the ledge in my office that delicately lights the word “IMAGINE.” Everything totally ups the “makes me happy to be in my office” factor, .
2. Additional track lighting in the library (got rid of yet another lamp) and another new ceiling fan.
3. Motion detector light in the laundry room/pantry that actually works with updated light fixtures that give off actual light.
4. The elimination/combination of way too many switches and dimmers into single switches. We used to have to turn on 3 switches to turn on each light in the living room. Now one light turns/dims them all. In the entry hall alone there were 9 switches in 3 different faceplate, each with 2/3 switches. Now there is a single 4 plate line of switches to take care of everything. On the other side of the room there were light switches behind the columns that have been moved and combined with the more easily accessible light switch at the end of the wall. So much cleaner. Well, except for the fact that there are holes in the sheetrock all over the place for the fishing/moving of wires.
5. The new lights in the kitchen. While I’m not a fan of the design of the lights, the function is superb. We have several slanted ceilings in the kitchen which look nice but the previous owners installed the recessed lighting on the angle effecting lighting the walls and not the actual kitchen. We installed new lights that telescope at a bit of an angle so the light actually points down, where it should. Loverly!
Today is my son’s birthday. I wrote a bunch of stuff and then deleted it because I’m not so sure he’d be pleased to see it out there on the net forever and ever. Our conversations are usually short (but sweet) and don’t often venture into the touchy feely category. So I’ll just say Happy Birthday, Ryan. I’m very proud of you and how hard are working to create the life you want, despite a few rocks (okay boulders) in your path and that really crappy hand in the genetics card game.
And because sometimes we all need to be reminded of how far much we’ve accomplished against the odds, I’d like to remind you of something you said a while ago when you wrote about how it felt to be hit with Muscular Dystrophy.
You said, "I was doing things I should not have been able to do simply because I did not know that I should not be able to do them."
I want you to remember your own words when life throws you another curve ball and you think you can’t do something. Because Ryan, let me tell you, you can do anything you set your mind to do. Really.
For those of you who read my blog, I wonder if you would help me wish Ryan a happy birthday and share a favorite story or quote or scripture about courage for him? Thank you.
Happy birthday, Ryan.
Rest in peace, Aunt Janet Webb. You were my first contact with the Webb family that I never knew. I’m so glad I had the chance to talk to you before you were gone. You welcomed me into the family with open arms and no hesitation. You reassured me when I cried that it was all okay. And you told me some wonderful stories about my father and my grandmother.
I’m hard at work on the synopsis for Flyboy but I took some videos of the garden today and thought I’d share them. I’ll apologize in advance for the shakiness in some.
I was thinking about my new garden and how it all came to be and how much creating it is like writing a book.
I didn’t know anything about California Native Plants when started it so I went and got a bunch of books and read and read and then I read some more. Then I joined a native plant discussion group and listened to people share their stories. And I visiting gardens and took notes on what I saw. Then I came home and read some more.
And out of the research a garden took shape. Just like a book.
I finally got the first album together on the transformation of our yard from a boring city lot into a California native plant wildlife habitat. If for some reason the pictures don’t load, you can go here to see the whole album. I tried to get after shots from the same angle as the before ones.
Most of this was installed in the fall of 2008. We already have tons of bugs, bees, native wasps, butterflies, worms, lizards and birds. I can’t wait to see what we have after it fills in.
All the hills and berms were created with the dirt they excavated for the new driveway. Weeds have been very few and easy to manage. Before we planted we put down newspaper or cardboard and then after planting we added 4" of mulch.
What we started with. the fence was falling apart. The Mayten tree lost branches in every storm and offered nothing for wildlife. The lawn sucked up water like crazy.
After, new fence. New paver driveway, unsealed, to allow water to seep in. Downspouts run from the roof, under the courtyard and out to the dry creek. New roof which meant new gutters which are larger than the old ones and will collect even more water. No lawn but we got a rebate from the water district for taking it out.
Backyard corner before. Old fence. Diseased citrus trees. Rest of the plants offered nothing for wildlife. More thirsty lawn,
Same corner, after. I still have to dig out the dirt under the glider to level it. A clemetis will climb the arbor as will a pipevine. There’s a new hedgerow planted at the back fence.
Backyard before, facing my office. The Japanese Maple tree is the only thing we kept. the path went nowhere.
Backyard facing my office now.
Standing on the back stoop before.
Standing on the back stoop after. That’s Cassie’s hill where she likes to rest and survey her kingdom.
Another view from before.
Same view after. The wax myrtles against the fence will be a continual feast for the birds and a great screen from the blecky neighbor.
Sideyard after. Filled with dogwoods.
Front before. so much cemener and no way to hide the ugly motorhome that never moves.
Same view after. We can’t take down the fence because it is in their driveway but the lattice will soon be covered with native grapes and the Ceanothus Ray Hartmans and Toyons will get tall enough to block the view.
More before and afters here .
Today is my birthday. I plan to spend the day doing pretty much whatever I want. I think that will be working on the photos to get my garden blog launched and online. So to get me in the mood, and in keeping with my fairly new tradition of asking for what I want, I am asking those of you who stop by to share a garden or nature memory with me. Either from childhood or from now…but I’d love to know what you love about the garden or plants or something that surprised you in a garden once.
Here’s one of mine. I remember very vividly planting nasturtiums in an egg carton in a class at school I don’t know what grade, maybe 1st or 2nd. And I remember bringing them home and my grandmother really not wanting them in her garden for some reason or another. Still she gave me a little patch of dirt and I tore apart those egg carton sections and planted those little seedlings in the ground. Year after year when they continued to spread and bloom I would get happy just looking at their smiling faces.
And even though nasturtiums aren’t a California native plant, I am tempting to plant a pot of them just for old time’s sake.
Thanks in advance for helping my memory garden grow.
I spent all day working in the garden and kept the camera nearby to catch any visitors. I’m used to the bumblebees and the big fat carpenter bees but this was a new one feasting on the Clarkias today. His abdomen was very flat. I haven’t been able to ID it yet. Any bee experts want to give it a shot?
We recently put a pondless water feature in our backyard. I got the idea from
This was a really simply project. We sunk a feed bucket in ground. Put in a solar pump. Put in an auto-fill float valve like you use in the toilet. Ran the hose over to the faucet and buried it. We put a barbecue grate over the bucket and ran the tube up the grate and up the center of the rock. Then we covered the grate with rocks. The panel for the solar pamp is off to the side on the arbor.
1. We have a possum visiting our yard every night. This does not make Cassie happy. The possum pokes his (her?) head up over the fence and Cassie is ringing the bells like crazy for me to let her outside. She charges up the hill and barks her alarm back until the possum disappears. Even then she has to patrol for another ten minutes to makes sure he doesn’t return. I feel badly for the possum but it’s fun to see Cassie’s instincts kick in. She doesn’t bark at squirrels or cats in the yard.
2. I have a lone, non-native sunflower in my yard. By the time I figured out what it was the flower was about to open so I decided to leave it for the birds. A few days ago I noticed something was eating the leaves. I figured it was snails and made a mental note to put out some Sluggo. Yesterday I saw two finches clinging to the stalk of the flower eating the leaves. Who knew?
3. I found a dead hummingbird in the yard which always makes me sad. Actually he was still alive when I found him, (didn’t pick him up but found him still breathing on the ground) but he died right away. I don’t know if he ran into a window or if a cat swatted at him or what. I was afraid that was my one hummer but lately there’s been another one flitting through the yard which perked me up again.
4. I have my beautiful new birdbath set up in the backyard. The Japanese maple tree is right there for quick cover and escape. I have a steady drip, drip, drip that goes on several times a day. But no birds are using it at all and I can’t figure out why.
5. Long before we actually began planting in the yard I have been cultivating a few plants I brought over from my last place. One of these has been our native dichondra. I put a lot of it in-between stepping stones on the dogwood side of the house and have been growing more to cover a berm that is under the Japanese maple tree. A few weeks ago I decided I had enough starts to plant. They were just little pieces, maybe a couple of inches long. I covered the berm and within a few days half of them were gone, pulled up and dried out before I could get to them to put them back in the ground. I blamed Cassie. She doesn’t normally pull plants up but since she likes to lay in that spot I figured they must have just gotten pushed around before they got rooted. (The whole reason I want to cover it with dichondra is to give her a cool place to lay down.) I replanted a few more, larger pieces that I thought had a chance of standing up to Cassie. Then I forgot about it. A few days later I looked out the window and saw a dove gathering twigs for her nest. It was fascinating to watch her pick up a twig, discard it for some reason, pick up another one and then fly off to the neighbor’s house where she is building it. She did this 5 or 6 times and then when she came back she stopped picking up twigs and instead, she started plucking out my dichondra! She stole at least 5 of the newly planted pieces and destroyed most of the one big patch that was left. I wanted to be frustrated but couldn’t. Next year she’ll have a bigger patch to choose from.
6. And last but not least, this made me sooo happy today. The whole idea of putting in a native plant garden was to invite native wildlife into our yard. I went out to the courtyard this morning to top off the wine barrel pond and what did I see darting across the stones? A lizard! Yipee!