Monday, November 1, 2010

Santa Barbara: Part II

After the game and my nap, we walked to the wharf to watch the sunset. People were fishing off the pier and way too many birds were waiting for the left-over guts.

We took a long walk in the dark downtown to an English pub called Mad Dogs because Chris wanted Fish and Chips. Music was streaming from bars and clubs on both sides of the street.

We went to see "Social Network" with a bunch of UCSB students. We were the oldest people in the audience. It was good but I didn't like it as much as some critics.

The next morning, Chris insisted on checking out the San Diego Court House - and taking a guided tour. I expected it to be really dull but I was very pleasantly surprised.

It is beautiful and the guide let us in on some secret jokes. For instance, the guard tower over the solitary confinement cells was a blind. No one could get in or out but it was designed to make the convicts think they were being watched.

Mural in Court House

Chris kept marvelling about how expensive it must be to maintain the grounds which are amazing with many different species of palms.

We had lunch at a Mexican restaurant on our way to the zoo. It is a small zoo but very nice. We always have to go to every zoo.
Most of the animals were pretty close so I could get some good photos.

News Flash: Psych is not filmed in Santa Barbara

Who goes all the way to Santa Barbara to see Van Morrison? Especially after seeing him in San Francisco a couple of days earlier. We do. Well, although I went with Chris to Santa Barbara, Robin went with him to the SF concert. So, really, Chris does.

We flew into Burbank on Saturday, October 9. It's such a cute airport, what with the steps in the back and what-not. Driving to Santa Barbara took a looong time. The traffic was solid so we got a good look at all the crops. Did our sore and tired butts stop us from going out for a long drive after we checked into the hotel? Of course not.
We drove to the adorable little Danish tourist trap of Solvang.
We only had a little time to look around before heading for dinner at the Hitching Post, featured in "Sideways." Many of the patrons had obviously been a-tasting o' the grape. The "lady" next to us was unbearably loud!

There was a cool place next to the Hitching Post with all kinds of metal sculptures, decorated with many jolly pumpkins.
Then THE MAIN EVENT: Van Morrison at the Santa Barbara Bowl. We parked in a neighborhood nearly a mile away but what a good move. The traffic near the Bowl was nasty. 

We climbed and climbed and climbed into the stratosphere to our seats. Van was a tiny shape in the distance. But the sound was good. Unfortunately, the audience near us was a lot more interested in gossiping with each other than listening to the music. Soooo annoying! But Chris was happy so what more could I want?

The next morning we drove to the UCSB campus and walked along the shore and
around the lagoon. The day was gorgeous! People were surfing and canoeing and running and surfboard rowing (a new one for me). 

Chris had fond memories of the Art Fair held every Sunday along the beach so we meandered over there.

It was all painting and not that interesting so we went to the Fish House for lunch and then went back to the hotel to watch the Giants beat Atlanta (and I konked out for a while).

Dr. Wu's New Digs

It's been a very long time since I blogged. I blame Chris. It might be unfair but since when has that mattered?
Dr. Wu's move to the Bay Area has been occupying us for the last two months. It's been stressful but now that he's settled in, I can start thinking about other stuff.

Tammy and Kerry
  He had wonderful caregivers in Kansas City who were devoted to him. Tammy and Kerry even recruited their brother and Tammy's husband to help care for him at night. They cut their charges to the bone and were super careful about expenses but still, 24-hour care for one person is just too expensive. When it was two of them, it was more reasonable.
So, we had to explore the alternatives. He would soon be eligible for Medicare which would pay for a nursing home. But we didn't want him to be "warehoused" at a facility in Kansas City where he might not get a lot of attention. We looked at nursing homes in the Bay Area but they were dismal and depressing. People in wheelchairs lined the halls and screams filled the air. If he had to go there, we'd try to keep him at our house as much as possible. That was a scary prospect for me since I didn't feel comfortable being his primary caregiver, for many reasons, most of which do not reflect well on me.
We visited an upscale assisted living facility at Rossmoor in Walnut Creek. It was very nice and most of the residents were retired professionals: doctors and lawyers. Unfortunately, it was too expensive and not eligible for MediCal. Fortunately, the manager referred us to CareQuest, a referral agency that recommended five board and care facilities.
The first place, in Lafayette, was about twice as expensive as the others but she referred us because the owner is Chinese. We liked it and the owner very much but went on to see the four others. They were all run owned by people who saw the opportunity to make some money and didn't really seem to have a real connection to the residents. They were all run by hired caregivers and they all smelled funny. (It might have been the Filipino food the staff was cooking.)

The Red Door
 When we went back for a second visit to Lafayette Care Home, the daughter of another resident was leaving. She had wonderful praise for the owner, Linda, and her staff. We were sold. The house is up a steep hill near the BART station. Several times, deer have run across the private road in front of us as we drove up.
The Gang hanging out, watching tennis
The house has a huge living room with vaulted ceilings and a monster TV. The deck has an incredible view of the east bay hills. Dr. Wu's room is bright and large with doors that lead out to the deck.The owners are avid gardeners and the yard is full of blooming plants.
Linda is from Chinese and cute as a button. She has lots of funny stories to tell about being a spoiled and beautiful girl in Shanghai and Taiwan. She reads to Dr. Wu in Chinese and was testing him with cards, as preparation for playing poker. Her husband, Ted, is Japanese from Hawaii and adorable. They really seem to love and care about the residents. Ted toddles around with a little old lady on his arem wherever he goes. One of their employees, LingLing, is from Taishan and has taken quite a shine to Dr. Wu. We call her his girlfriend and he laughs. She is a little bit of a bully and pushes him to exercise and talk to her in Taishanese. The other day, when I went to visit, another of the staff, Jun, was sitting by Dr. Wu and singing "You Are My Sunshine" with a heavy Chinese accent to him. She is apparently a very good cook who makes dumplings and jook for Dr. Wu. The only male staff member is Peter who has been on a long trip to China to see his family.
The view from the deck
They can accommodate six residents. There are currently three adorable little old ladies living there who are very sociable. They all sit around the living room and watch tennis or golf on TV.  Another resident is bed bound so we don't see much of her. We try to see Dr. Wu about five times a week. I think they feel that's excessive, like we don't trust them but I tell them it's because we like him.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Kansas CIty Again?

Waaaay back on August 21, Chris and I flew into Kansas City and met Mike at the airport. After a nice visit with Dr. Wu, we argued over where to eat at 8 p.m. on Saturday night. We usually have a food agenda but it is even more important when Mike is with us. Mike didn't feel hungry enough to go to Stroud's. He claimed he needed to "prepare" for the feast. We tried for Oklahoma Joe's but the line was out the door so we hopped on the freeway to Bryant's. Yeah, Bryant's for a "light" repast. Chris and Mike downed a pitcher of beer and some MEAT. I joined them for fries and turkey.

The next morning, Dr. Wu told us all about his dream: He was working in the hospital and saw a woman trying to buy cigarettes but the machine was empty. She begged him to go get her some cigarettes but he said he was working. She claimed that a cigarette would do her more good than all the medicine could. So, after his shift, he went out and bought her some. He wondered if he had done the right thing. It was a pretty lengthy speech - and complex.
We took him to Stroud's for lunch. He loved the chicken soup and tried the "mixup" of livers and gizzards. He didn't eat as much as we thought he would but he still ate me under the table. Sometimes I think we are exaggerating how good the fried chicken is. Then we bite into that crispy skin and remember why we are not vegetarians.

We went to Lin and David's for a fabulous dinner. How can one woman be such a great cook, so beautiful, and smart and a successful doctor? Sometimes life isn't fair. But then she has to live with David, who is certifiable, so it all works out.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Happy Birthday to Chris

Chris's birthday didn't start out too promising. He had fasted for a blood test and, although we got to the lab by 7:35, he had to wait for about 90 minutes. He was hungry, coffee-deprived and cranky. After a stop at Starbucks for the cure for what ailed him, we drove to San Francisco and arrived too late for the Early Bird parking.
I took my vintage lunch box full of jewelry to the Asian Art Museum's gift shop in the hopes that they might be interested in selling some on consignment. The floor manager sniffed her disapproval and told me I needed to make an appointment with the buyer (which I had tried to do via email with no response.)
Several people had recommended that I approach the museum thinking my jewelry would be a good fit but that lady's attitude completely deflated me. If I want to sell my jewelry (and I need to make money if I want to continue to make jewelry), I need to be a lot tougher and more persistent.

Chris and I walked in the freezing wind and mist to lunch at a Thai restaurant and to Hooker's on Hyde for treats afterwards. Hooker's Sweet Treats  is a tiny shop that specializes in sea salted dark chocolate covered caramels. The interior looks like a general store from the turn of the century with vintage photos displayed on an old armoire. We got one of everything that was on display in their tiny counter. The peanut butter cookie was pretty good, the sweet cheddar corn biscuit was OK and the praline cookie was a diabetic nightmare. Dodging homeless people asleep on the sidewalk and the hoodlums hanging out by the liquor stores of the Tenderloin reminded me why I like living in Pleasant Hill.

Back at Chris's office, I spent some time playing with old scanned images that I think might make interesting cards. Diet Coke battled with sudafed and lost sleep and I struggled to stay awake in the quiet office.
We stopped at Orson for a quick bite before a concert at Yoshi's.  It is a really interesting looking space, modern and clean industrial chic. We ate at the bar and marvelled at the innovative drinks menu.  The bartender explained that a mastic-fig concoction worked because the mastic's pine flavor allegedly played well with the sweet figs. We passed on that.
We shared an "explosive caesar salad" that included parmesan streusel laced with "pop rocks,"  lacy strips of crouton and encapsulated droplets of caesar dressing. We also shared a tasty pizza with grilled corn, corn puree, summer squash, leeks, and basil.

Then we zipped off to Yoshi's for a bargain concert by Willie Jone III, an amazing drummer. His hands moved so fast, I think he must be related to Superman. The quartet also featured Eric Reed, who played beautiful piano.

All in all, the day ended much more pleasantly than it began. I hope it was a nice day for Chris and it will be a good year.

Why Babies Matter: Defending Children's Librarians

I admit it. It wasn't just the crazy drunks, loud teens and urine in the elevator that sent me running from Hayward Library. It wasn't just furloughs and budget cuts and wild children left in the library all day without supervision either. Or the fact that I was spending more time on seeking grants and outside funding than I was providing service to patrons.

It was a disagreement over the fundamental question of what a library should be.

We are in desperate need of community. People live far away from their extended families. Both parents have to work longer hours farther away from home. People don't know their neighbors and it's not safe for kids to play outside unsupervised. Parenting classes and playgroups are being eliminated from community colleges and community centers. Recreational programs and cooperative preschools are being slashed because of the economy. People need a gathering place where they connect with others. New parents especially need this support. They are taking on the most important role humans can accept, raising the next generation. No one should do that in isolation.

Libraries have been filling this gap for years. Free story times and play groups and child-friendly spaces allow parents to get to know each other, share resources and create communities. But as budget cuts force libraries to reassess their programming, pressure mounts to eliminate these valuable services.
Babies Don't Need Stories
Research has repeatedly and emphatically shown the importance of reading aloud, singing and talking to even the youngest children. Children who are read to have an easier time learning to read and achieve greater success in school. Singing and fingerplays develop essential pre-literacy skills as well as enforcing the child-caregiver bond that is so vital to emotional growth and stability.
In times of economic hardship, services to young children and their caregivers are vital. Providing caring support to parents helps them prepare their babies to succeed in school and in life. Waiting until children are in 3rd or 4th grade to address their deficiencies is wrong. It may never be too late but earlier is unquestionably better than later.

Anyone can read a story, right?
Many libraries are using volunteers to replace trained staff at story time. Reading aloud is a skill. It can be taught but it requires a certain innate (possibly theatrical) talent to excel. Choosing appropriate books and reading in an appropriate style requires specialized knowledge. Librarians also learn how to incorporate dialogic reading and other literacy-developing techniques. A successful story time is much more than reading a book aloud.
Para-professionals and volunteers can be great story tellers. My friend Jill has run a very successful and exciting story time for years without a MLIS. But she has dedicated years to honing her skills. Although some wonderful volunteers (like retired teachers or librarians) have developed amazing abilities, asssuming that volunteers can provide the same quality story times demonstrates a lack of respect for the skills and knowledge of staff. Assuming that story time quality doesn't matter demonstrates a lack of respect for the community.
Consistency is vital to the creation of a community. We cannot expect the same dedication from a volunteer that we demand from paid staff. To form bonds over time, people need to know that the same people will be providing similar services at the same time in the same place with the same group. A certain level of predictability in fundamental to our comfort.
It means something when the first place a family goes with their second child is library story time. It means something when a child's first steps are across the library floor. It means something when a child buckled into a carseat is singing the songs she learned at story time. It means something when families greet each other at the library entrance. It means we have created a coommunity.

In Defense of Library School
Not every person with an MLIS is a genius. Not every library school provides a great education and no  library school is as rigorous as medical school or competitive as law school.

Research says that the most important thing in determining the quality of a caregiver (for young children) is the education of that caregiver. More important than the caregiver's relationship to and love for the child, the desire to seek knowledge demonstrates a desire to provide the service. In other words, a stranger who has made the effort to take classes provides better care than a grandmother or aunt who is forced by circumstances to accept the role. Not every librarian is lucky enough to receive TouchPoints training at the Brazelton Institute like I did. But every one who has a library degree cared enough to spend the time and money to get one.

On-the-job experience is wonderful and indispensible but rarely allows us to really think about what we're doing and why. Without at least some philosophical framework, we'll just be reacting to current circumstances without seeing the whole picture.

I love what I'm doing now. I enjoy making things and being surrounded by beautiful colors and shapes and trying new things. But I miss the experience of being part of a community with small children. I miss the parents who ask me for advice. I miss Jessica's hugs and babies who smile when they see me.
Will I ever go back to libraries full-time? I would have to be part of a team who believes that the library can be the heart and soul of a community, that understands the needs of that community and realizes that children are the most important members of a community, that comprehends the importance of nurturing those children starting from birth, that knows that the best way to help children is to provide support for their parents and cargivers with trained, professional staff. Is that too much to ask?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Alameda Antique Photo Op

Last Sunday, Robin and I went to the Alameda Antique Fair. It meant getting up extra early and skipping the gym (oh, darn!) We didn't trust the GPS and got lost a couple of times but eventually arrived after 8 a.m.

The day started out cold and foggy. Vendors were wrapped in blankets and my first goal was to buy a jacket. But I resisted and eventually the fog burned off and my face got sunburned.

We met Robin's friend Angela. Thank goodness since it was easier to keep track of her than Robin. She is taller and was wearing a colorful shirt (as opposed to Robin's jacket, the color of mulch.)

There was lots of good food and coffee, although I didn't partake of either. I brought my own Diet Coke, granola bar and canvas bags - all the better for efficient shopping.
I expected a flea market but it is much more upscale. I could have spent the entire day at one of the first booths with hundreds of vintage images.

Many of the booths were like small boutiques with very well designed displays.

There were so many wonderful things to take pictures of: collections of glass bottles refracting the sun, baskets of buttons, a taxidermied fox with a taxidermied squirrel in its mouth, and lots and lots of scary old dolls. 

Check out my flickr page for a visual banquet.
Although she fell in love with an old glider and antique desk, Robin escaped with a relatively inexpensive and eclectic collection of doll parts, glass aquarium plants, tiny ceramic monkeys and odds and ends.

Everything I bought was flat and heavy, meaning paper. I bought some fun old books and prints that will probably make an appearance in some craft project.

We were there until 12:30 and only got about halfway through. I was exhausted physically and mentally and visually.

We went to Ole's Waffle House for brunch. We had to stand in line for 20 minutes or so but it was worth it. Great service and biscuits and even turkey bacon.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Further Parenting Advice

Your baby will always be your baby.
 Diane Brown told me that 25 years ago but I didn't completely believe her. Then, as Mike grew, I was astounded to learn that my maternal instinct to protect and defend him did not abate even when he outgrew me. Then, after our last visit with him in July,  I started to think our relationshiip was mellowing into a less mama bear and cub one.
Then I got the phone call at 6 a.m. He started out saying, "Don't panic." No words were ever less reassuring. He had hit his head during a basketball game, was taken to the hospital by ambulance and received 6 staples to the back of his head. Chris immediately started searching for flights to DC. I didn't go but I did make him call me every couple of hours to let me know he hadn't slipped into a coma.
I was a wreck. And, the same day, I discovered that my first pumpkin ever was dead on the vine. And even my sunflowers are facing into the neighbor's yard, away from me.

Children must learn to face consequences.
My friend, Angeline, was the Queen of Consequences. She used to say, "Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine." You have a report due tomorrow and haven't started but the library closes in an hour? That's unfortunate. Maybe you'll start earlier next time. When other parents were trotting to school with their kids' forgotten lunches or gym shorts, her kids faced the music and went hungry or got detention.
Angeline passed away recently and much too soon. I know her kids will miss her terribly. But she really prepared them to be independent and they will be fine adults. Angeline was beautiful and dynamic and funny.
She drove me crazy sometimes. For one thing, she set limits for me as clearly as she did with the kids. And her need to over-organize made things so complicated. But she taught me a lot about recognizing people's strengths and letting them shine in their own way.

The world is a more boring place without her.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Pearls of Parenting Wisdom

Having raised a human to adulthood without his spending time in jail, rehab or a psychiatric facility, I feel competent to pass on my wisdom. Remember, pearls are the oyster's way of protecting itself from an irritant so its heart is garbage and treat this advice accordingly.
  1. Accept advice but listen to your heart. Read as much as you can stand and listen as politely as you can to strangers who intrude to correct your parenting. Now . . . does it make sense to you? Does it feel right? If not, ignore it. Half the world wants you to put a hat on your child, the other half thinks it's too hot for a hat. Some people think you should spank your child, some think you should indulge their every whim. No one really knows what's correct, so do what feels right for you and your child.
  2. Experts speak with confidence but no one understands your child like you do. Professionals base their opinions on general knowledge and statistical data but you are with your child more than anyone else. If the pros are telling you something that doesn't jive with your understanding, tell them why - and expect them to listen.
  3. Try your best but recognize the resilience of children. You are going to screw up. You are going to forget diapers on a picnic. You are going to lose your temper. You are going to be over-protective sometimes and inattentive sometimes. Make sure they know you love them. They will get over it.
  4. Your job is to raise a decent human being, not to protect him from all hurts and disappointments. When something bad happens to your child, your heart may break. You wish you could prevent them from experiencing life's cruelty. You can't and it's a good thing because how would children learn to cope with adult disappointments without practice?
  5. Your job is to raise a decent human being, not to be your child's best friend. You are going to have to make your child do things he doesn't want to do. You are going to have to prevent your child from doing things he does want to do. That's how we learn to live in a society and don't end up writing manifestos from a shack in Montana.
  6. Think hard before you say "no" but stick with it if you do. Is there a really good reason to deny your child an experience? Is it likely to hurt them or someone else? Is it against your religious or ethical beliefs? What's the likely result? What's the worst that could happen? Limiting your use of "no" gives the word greater meaning and eliminates a lot of unnecessary whining, pleading and arguing.
    But if you do say no and then give in to whining, you ensure that your pronouncements will not be taken seriously in the future. Being able to back your decision with good reasons may not convince your child that you're right but he will eventually learn that resistance is futile.
    Clear exceptions make the rule more potent. Do circumstances make something unacceptable now that might be allowed later or under different conditions? Is it just too much for you to handle right now? Is company coming? "You may not play that game now because it is time for school. Maybe you can play after school." Don't just say no. Roll like the Magic 8 Ball and respond, "Ask again later."
  7. Follow the same rules you set for your children. If you expect your child to be polite, be polite. If you expect your child not to hit, don't hit. I 'm not suggesting that your bedtime should be 7 p.m. if that's what you set for your child. But if you think a good night's sleep is important for your child, it is also important for you. "Do as I say and not as I do" is not cool.
  8. Your child is going to tell you that he hates you. Usually in response to a decision you've made that will ruin his life. He might really mean it at that moment but this, too, shall pass. It's time for you to be a grown-up and take it on the chin.
    9. It's OK for kids to know you're human. If you are sad or cranky, telling them how you feel validates their own feelings. If they hurt you in some way, tell them so in the same way you would like them to be able to tell others: "I know it was an accident but when you threw your truck, it hurt my foot." Wouldn't you rather your child was able to verbalize his reaction instead of retaliating? That's a lofty goal but what's a heaven for?
    10. Moms and Dads are really different. They often have diametrically opposed concepts of what is safe and appropriate. Dads push their fledgelings out of the nest and Mamas catch them if they aren't ready to fly. It works well as a whole even though it causes tension between them. You need to be a team. Don't expect to agree on everything but make a concerted affort to talk about your differences of opinion - in private to preserve the image of a united front. It's OK for kids to see you argue about other things but don't let them use your disagreements against you. Single parents have to do both jobs and need all the help we can give them.
    11. It's your teen's job to make life miserable. They need to push the boundaries and argue and sulk and be truly awful people. If they didn't you would never let them go and no one wants their 38-year-old son living in their basement even if he takes the trash out without complaining.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fun Things

These are some of the images I've been working on. They are illustrations for a Chinese Mother Goose. Aren't they amazing? I've been cleaning them and coloring them. The first one illustrates a rhyme about selling his fat little boy who, if you buy him, will keep your house safe from burglars. Just look at that little face! I'm getting obsessed with photos from China.

I've also been researching the genealogy of my father's birth family. It is so hard to stop when you find one name and it leads to another and another.
I've been cooking some although Chris's only comment so far has been that I am a tidy cook. It's hard to cook for two people who have different nutitional needs. I wander down the grocery aisles trying to find new options. I made turkey chili and cornbread from scratch yesterday. It's hard work to imbue ground turkey with flavor.

We went to Pleasant Hill's Blues and Brews Festival on Saturday. $40 for as much beer as you want from lots of different breweries.
Not much there for me since I am allergic to beer and it was too hot to stand around in the sun. (Sorry, people who live where it's really hot. Just remember redheads are sensitive.)
Chris stayed longer to listen but I don't think he drank $40 worth of beer.

In the garden, my sunflowers are starting to get baby flowers. The only pumpkin doesn't seem to be growing, still no eggplant or melons and the butt pepper is starting to turn yellow so I don't think it's going to get any bigger. All in all, I'd have to say that the garden hasn't really paid off. But it is fun.

Learning New Stuff Is Hard

Robin and Pat lit a fire under me to get my bracelets sold and make my business successful.
So I spent most of last week on 
  1. putting branded price tags on each bracelet,
  2. adding small images for all currently available bracelets to the web site
  3. creating large images on separate web pages for all available bracelets
  4. linking all images to paypal
  5. linking my paypal account to the bank and, finally,
  6. posting the revised web page.
Doing each of these things was difficult to figure out at first but quickly became repetitive and tedius, not to mention time-consuming. Don't even ask about all the new passwords I need to remember: online banking, paypal, webmail, website.
THEN, by popular demand, I had to create an etsy page. MORE passwords! Etsy is much easier and allows for credit cards but they charge about ten times as much as paypal alone.
But I got my first online orders! And I had to create receipts and financial records and return labels. Whew!
I really appreciate the support of my friends. It will be even more fun when people I don't know want to buy stuff.
Now, I'd better go make something to sell.

Who Knew Oakland Had a Nice Museum?

Seeing a painting by Arthur Mathews at the DeYoung reminded me how much I loved the paintings of that time. So I convinced Chris to go to the Oakland Museum of California on Sunday.

It was closed for a couple of years for extensive rennovation and reopened in April.

It is beautiful, spacious and well-laid out.
Only a limited portion of their Mathews collection was displayed but they have a great collection of craftsman furniture and decor.
There was a lot of modern stuff that didn't really turn me on but it's a very eclectic collection.

The History Museum was even more fun. Vignettes trace the history of California from its first inhabitants, through the gold rush and the WWII internment camps. Lots of cool vehicles from various eras. This was one of my favorites items: spin the wheel to determine your fate. Kinda reminds me of the Oregon Trail game.
It's defintely worth a trip. In fact, we joined since a special Pixar exhibit is opening in a month.