2008's Personal Best & Worst

Best Party: Whatever one it was when Ville cleaned and polished the fake vegetables for the videocam.
Worst Party: The one that never happened.

Best Dinner: Thanksgiving.
Worst Dinner: The last Taco Bell we bought...


The Hibernation of 2008

This Christmas was vastly different from any in my entire life. Well, Christmas of 1978 was right up there because I spent it with a family I rented a room from in Brighton, England, away from my kids for the first time since their births. That one wasn't different as much as it was terrible, though. This year was just different...


This is Insane

We're in a tornado watch until 10:00 tomorrow morning. How weird is that? Today was strange enough with temps in the 70s, but now this. We don't usually see weather bands like the one on that map unless it's Spring or Fall. We didn't even have any snow for Christmas, although California did. I suppose this means that the next white Christmas we'll get will be when we've moved to the coast. Go figure!...


Creativity Assassins

Everywhere you turn, there are people who would like those of us who are dreamers and creators of dreams to be as unhappy as they are as they plod their way through their miserable illusion they call reality...


The Christmas Coffee Ghost

Last Christmas I got up to make the coffee and found that someone already had. No one except Nettl was awake, so I naturally assumed that she'd done it. She said she didn't, so I asked Joel when he came out of his room. He assured me he'd only just woken up. There was no light under Micah's door, so he wasn't even up yet, and the younger kids were still sawing logs as well. I thought it was odd, but I shrugged it off as just one of those things...


A Christmas Meme

You can embiggify if you want
to, but I wouldn't advise it.
Kelly the Mememeister put this one on his blog and I decided to make it a Christmas meme. Here are the rules:

1. Take a picture of yourself.. riiiiiight.. NOW!
DO NOT change your clothes. DO NOT fix your hair.. Just take a picture.
2. Post that picture with NO editing.
3. Post these instructions with your picture.
4. Tag 10 people to do this!

Well, I'm not going to tag anybody, especially 10 people, so play along if you want. Below, you will see my picture. Yeah, I know... I haven't showered... not the best picture of myself, but then, I'm not at all photogenic anymore. Have fun! And NO PHOTOSHOPPING!!!

To You All

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah,
Peaceful Kwanzaa, Blessed Solstice to you all!
(Hope I didn't leave anyone out.)



To Nettl & the Kids

I love you more than words can say. I promise a better Christmas next year.

If Christmas is...

~  If Christmas is accumulating debt that isn't paid off until the following summer, then we aren't having one.

~  If Christmas is a table laden with food that will be pushed down the garbage disposal the following week, then we aren't having one.

~  If Christmas is a tree stuffed with presents that are the main focus, making everything else meaningless, then we aren't having one.

~  If Christmas is faking smiles over gifts you don't like and wondering how much it cost so that you can return it, then we aren't having one.

~  If Christmas is even one person in the room feeling ashamed or embarrassed because they couldn't afford the "A-list" gifts, then we aren't having one.


~  If Christmas is tired family jokes and stories of Christmases past,
then we are having one.

~  If Christmas is smiling eyes sparkling in the candlelight,
then we are having one.

~  If Christmas is everyone laughing at the cat,
then we are having one.

~  If Christmas is a family making the best of a financial emergency that is not our fault,
then we are having one.

~  If Christmas is music and laughter and making the most of what we do have, and not focusing on what we do not,
then we are having one.

Presents under the tree isn't Christmas, I've had presents and no one to open them with me.
A feast is not Christmas, I've sat alone on a park bench eating Chinese take-away for Christmas.
Spending money isn't Christmas, I've gone into debt buying gifts that no one appreciated.

Christmas is family, friends, togetherness, music, laughter and most of all, love.


Sunshine in a Box

We've gotten to where we really look forward to Harry and David's Royal Riviera Pears each Christmas. And for some weird reason someone always seems to give us a box.

I love pears. I love to eat them in slivers that I cut and eat with a small fruit knife. I buy pears all summer, but these are better somehow, probably because they're deemed good enough to be boxed and shipped rather than picked up out of a bin at Walmart and put into a clear plastic produce bag...


Why I Love Ventura #4: The Pier

Without question, the most recognizable landmark in Ventura is the pier. Originally built in 1872, the pier was used to accommodate the steamships of the era. In the days before the 101 Freeway, getting in and out of Ventura was a challenge, and new settlers found it easier to boat in than to go over the mountains. Freighters made use of the pier as well, transporting the county greenbelt's produce up and down the coast. It used to be the longest wooden pier in the U.S., but after being damaged and reconstructed several times due to severe storms, the City Council finally came to their senses and used concrete pylons near the end of the pier. The current pier is 1,958 feet long. Photo by Tyler Freear.


Geothermal Enightenment

We've lived here for 4 and a half years, and only just today did someone bother to tell me how our heating system works. It's actually pretty cool. It draws heat from the earth, until the earth is too cold. Then and only then, the heat strips (yeah, I know) trigger the something-or-other to turn on in order to compensate for the cold... uh... a filament, or something...


Think of the Last Guy

You'd think that with as new as this house is and how much we pay in rent, it would be better insulated. The furnace has been running non-stop for the past 24 hours and we're still freezing. That really sucks because it means we'll be paying a huge bill next month for heat we barely have. I've done all I can to insulate everything, but I can't do anything about the walls, or the fact that many of the heat vents aren't even connected to the main ducts. What a crock...


Five Questions

Last week, B.E. Earl posted this meme-thing on his Bug-Eyed Blog, and I thought it was cool. I decided to play along. Please feel free to play too. The instructions are at the bottom of this post.

These are the questions B.E. Earl sent to me:

1. I've just realized recently that when you mention the fabulous Lynette on your blog you refer to her as "Nettl" with an "L" at the end. I had thought for the longest time you were just calling her "Netti" with an "i" at the end. You got a story about that? If it's too private then feel free to make something up.
There's nothing private about it at all. "Nettl" would be the Austrian diminutive of Lynette. In Austria, they don't add "ie" to the ends of names like we do, they add an "l" or an "erl". For example, Wolfgang is Wolferl (not Wolfie), and Margaret is Grettl. Therefore, Lynette is Nettl. See? When we met, I gave her the Austrian diminutive.

2. I love your Armchair Cicumnavigator series. But if you had to pick one extreme/exotic location to go to, just one... where would it be?
I used to think it was Antarctica, until the temps here dropped to 14° this weekend. Now I'm rethinking that destination. I can't see the point of being someplace fabulous like that and only seeing it from the window of a quanset hut. If I was going to be all alone to sit in contemplation and writing, I think I'd go to one of the lightly-populated atolls down by Tahiti. What a hammock site that would be! I'd go to Tahiti if it were still what is was when Gaugin went there to escape, but now it's been overrun by tourists. I'm still fascinated with Ile Amsterdam, which I wrote about last month. It's a bit extreme, but there's at least a pub.

3. C' mon, how do you really feel about wind?
I really, really hate it, Earl. Really.

4. Besides California and Oklahoma, have you ever lived anywhere for an extended period of time? Have you ever considered the Big Bad East Coast?
I lived in Denver for a few years in the 90s. I've lived a lot of places, but none of them for very long. The East coast? Yes! I love New York City (I spent 6 weeks in Brooklyn once and made many trips into the city), but if I were to consider moving east, I think I'd head to Cape Cod: Provincetown, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard. But then, I'd have to be really rich, so...

5. I've got a nephew with Asperger's Syndrome and I'm sure there are plenty of readers out there who know someone with it. As a mother of a son who has Asperger's, do you have any unique insight for treatment and/or general info on how to deal with it?
The first thing you have to understand is that when my son was a child there was nothing out there about A.S. No one knew about it. I went through a lot of condemnation from people (friends, other parents, doctors, teachers, etc) who insisted I was doing something wrong, or wasn't a good parent because he wasn't like all the other kids. I was just a kid myself, so I developed quite an inferiority complex about my ability to be a parent. Anyone who knew my son knew that he was a special person (he still is) and really rather magical, innocent, and very loving. The only thing I would tell someone who has a child with A.S. is to celebrate that child's uniqueness. Shelter them, but let them learn their own lessons. You can't push, but at the same time, they have to be taught what is and is not appropriate inter-personal behavior. Mostly though, just love them and let them be who they are. Drop your expectations. Keep the home as peaceful as possible, and maintain a sense of humor. And whatever you do, learn how to tell @$$holes to shut the f*** up. Nicely, of course.

Here's how to play:
  • Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
  • I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
  • Update your blog with the answers to the questions.
  • Include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
  • When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.
It may take me a while to get to you, but I promise that I will.

Weekend Desecrations

On Saturday, we desecrated our house for the Holidays. Okay, so we decorated... you know how I love wordplay. Here are a few pictures.

Nettl actually stood on the bar to get this picture.
Scared the crapola out of me; these are 9-ft. ceilings.

This is the niche in our entry.

The cat completely owns Heather, who is, after all, "The Can Opener".

Ornaments on the tree. The heart is the one we bought for our first
Christmas together. On the backside is written, "Steph & Nettl 2000".

The cat discovered that a plastic bag is a reasonable facsimile
for the womb. She must have gone through 6 or 7 bags that night!

This is Joel and me. Our main job has always been to put
the lights on the tree. Every year it's the same thing: tangles!

Go to Nettl's site to see more pictures!


By Request: My Fideo (aka Hangover Helper)

Pronounced "fee-DAY-o"

First of all, you have to understand that I don't make or keep recipes. I'm one of those if-it's-in-the-pantry-and-it'll-work-throw-it-in kind of cooks. Yesterday's pot of Fideo (which we're still enjoying today) was more planned. I actually went out to get the ingredients. Also, I don't measure anything, so use your own creativity and taste to make your Fideo...


I Hate Wind

OOOOk-lahoma, where the wind
comes sweepin' down the plain,

And the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet,
when the wind comes right behind the rain...

I was wondering why my eyes were all gunked up when I woke up yesterday. And why Joel was having sneeze attacks. And why the cat was acting all squirrelly, running sideways and hopping. Last night the wind came up so fiercely that I woke up at one point thinking it was the ocean. I was going to winterize the patio today because the temps are supposed to be in the 60s, but sod that! I do have to pick up one of the cedars on either side of our front door though. A good watering will solve that issue...


Worldwide Candle Lighting

The Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting, held annually the second Sunday in December, this year December 14, unites family and friends around the globe as they light candles for one hour to honor and remember children who have died at any age from any cause. As candles are lit at 7 p.m. local time, creating a virtual wave of light, hundreds of thousands of persons commemorate and honor the memories of children in a way that transcends all ethnic, cultural, religious, and political boundaries.

Now believed to be the largest mass candle lighting on the globe, the Worldwide Candle Lighting, a gift from TCF to the bereavement community, creates a virtual 24-hour wave of light as it moves from time zone to time zone. Hundreds of formal candle lighting events are held and thousands of informal candle lightings are conducted in homes as families gather in quiet remembrance of children who have died, but will never be forgotten.

Hat tip to JP Deni

The Red Muse

Chianti and I have a very special relationship. I'm not even quite sure when it began, but I think it was in Laurel Canyon one night when I and several other people sat on a livingroom floor playing guitars and singing songs for each other while enveloped in plumes of incense and illuminated by silken, flickering candlelight.

Through the years, Chianti has juiced my creativity more times than I can count. Poems, songs, and journal entries have been inspired by her, and short-lived love affairs have been forged by her; I cannot imagine my life story without her...



Sometimes I'm reminded just how little of ourselves we bloggers really reveal. I know it's true for me anyway and from what I read, we're all pretty much the same in this regard. But self-revelation is what we're really doing here, in one way or another, according to our individual comfort levels, personal issues and privacy concerns.

Being a songwriter from the 1960s and '70s folk genre, self-exposure has never been a deal with me. I don't have any real problem with you knowing about my vulnerabilities and foibles. In fact, blogging is for me just another avenue on the greater road map of being an artist...


Why I Love Ventura #3: Funky Motels

Before the 101/1 freeway was built, bypassing the city, Thompson Boulevard served as one section of the only highway that stretches up the California coastline. I remember sitting in the back seat of the car on our way to my grandmother's house; the neon lights meant that we were almost there. Thompson is still lined with the funky little motor lodges of bygone eras. The Mission Bell Motor Court and Cafe, built in the Twenties, is the oldest of these and still is in business.

Nothing to Write About (might as well gripe)

I don't understand why, when I shift positions, my wireless connection can go from excellent to low, and back again. The box is less than 10 feet away, with nothing obstructing the signal. What should it matter if I uncross my feet or otherwise try to get comfortable? I can understand it when I go outside to the veranda, but this is ridiculous. I mean, really.


Musicians in Religious News

The Vatican has decided to forgive John Lennon for his observation in 1966 that with the young people, the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. Personally, I don't think Lennon would give a rat's ass if they forgave him or not. Besides the fact that he asked us to "imagine no religion", he wasn't even raised as a catholic. This reminds me of when the LDS baptized Mozart by proxy two centuries after his death, thus making him a Mormon despite what he might have wanted. Pompous, presumptive pricks.

Feeling Good At Last

I don't know if I can, or should, trust this. It has been at least 16 years since I last woke up feeling refreshed, rested, clear-headed, and awake. The last three mornings have been like that again. I don't even need coffee, and I have energy throughout the day. The mind-numbing fatigue is gone, as well as the lethargy and depression. My brain feels... sharper, younger. I don't feel 70 anymore.

The last three years have been hell despite the fact that I've been under a doctor's care. Until last week she hasn't been able to get my TSH levels balanced because I have very weird and unpredictable reactions to medication. It's been a hormonal roller coaster and no fun for anyone around here...


Alternate Realities

I wouldn't call it writer's block, exactly. It's more like a lack of ideas. They're not the same, are they?

I can't even blame it on Thyroidzilla because since the doctor upped my meds last Monday I feel great. I'm not tired all the time, and I have loads of energy...



63And that's with a slight hangover, so bite me. (Some I didn't get due to spelling issues.)

Hat tip to Admissible Banter.


The Mad Ones

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say commonplace things, but burn like fabulous roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center light pop and everybody goes ‘AWWW!’”

Jack Kerouac


Selective Insomniac

"The best-laid plans of mice and men..." or something like that.

So my plan to go to bed early every night for a week lasted exactly one night. Each night I have been staying up just a little longer, and last night I was up until nearly five this morning. Please don't think that I'm a victim or anything. I could go to bed if I really wanted to. It would mean a fistful of OTC sleeping aids, tossing and turning, and trying to shut off my thoughts for a couple of hours, but eventually, I'd wear myself out. Then I'd sleep until one or two in the afternoon, sore and achy from sleeping in the same position all that time, and I'd be groggy and grumpy until everyone else has gone to bed. What's the sense in that? Much better not to fight it and allow my body to keep to its own clock.

I'm fortunate that I work from home running my own business. I remember the hell that was my life when I was still part of the Commute Group. I feel for you, people, and I know how it is for you 8-5 insomniacs. I remember those lunch hour naps in my car. It also helps that there are no children in the house any more; I can nap when I feel the urge without worrying about the kids wreaking havoc to the house or each other.

Work to do... work to do... Have a great day, all!


The Armchair Circumnavigator: Skeiðará Bridge, Iceland

The river Skeiðará is a relatively short glacier river, a little less than 20 miles long. Its source is the glacier Skeiðarárjökull, one of the southern arms of the Vatnajökull in the south of Iceland. In spite of its short length, this river has a bad reputation. It is especially feared because of the frequent glacier runs that can be fatal. (All images enlarge when clicked.)

In front of Skaftafell National Park, Skeiðará has formed the Skeiðarár Sandur, a black plain of lava sand and ashes crossed by a lot of small rivulets which covers the whole area between the park and the sea (about 25 miles long and 3 to 6 miles wide).

In 1996 the latest of these glacier runs took place. It destroyed parts of Route 1 (The Ring Road). The bridge, which was just under a mile long, was destroyed by floating ice boulders the size of a house. Luckily, no persons were harmed.

"Built to withstand floods of 317,000 cubic feet (8,976 cubic meters) per second, Iceland's longest bridge was no match for the 1.6 million-cfs gusher unleashed by [the eruption of Vatnajökull volcano, which melted much of the snow on top of it]. For a few hours the volume of the water rivaled the flow of the world's second largest river, the Congo. No lives were lost, but damage to roads and utility lines is estimated at one billion Icelandic kronur ($15,000,000 U.S.), a sizable bill for the nation's 265,000 citizens." - From "Iceland's Trial by Fire," May 1997, National Geographic magazine

This is the bridge before it was destroyed.
Photo by dirk.jan

A "passing place" in the bridge.
Photo by dirk.jan

The main beams from the bridge that was twisted by the flood. In the background is Iceland's highest peak, Hvanndalshnúkur, and the glacier.
Photo by arnitr

This is a monument made of pieces of the old bridge.
Photo by Danny Yee

Please don't ask me how to pronounce Skeiðará. If this post lures any Icelandic readers, perhaps they will be so kind as to enlighten me!


Good Morning!

Although I went to bed last night at 11:30, it took me about 45 minutes to fall asleep. This is pretty normal for me these days. When I fell asleep, however, I slept straight through the night until Nettl woke me at 7:15, telling me that my coffee was ready.

After taking her to work, I came home and took a shower, and here I sit all ready for the day, and feeling refreshed. And it's only 8:40! I wish I could do this every day. I'd probably feel pretty good, but 11:30 is so damned early! My creativity doesn't even shift into gear until 10:00...


Why I Love Ventura #2: El Jardin

At 451 East Main Street, a tiny paseo can be easily missed as you walk by, looking into the windows of the shops and galleries. But if you find it, it will quickly become your favorite place.

Thyroidzilla on Wheels

No, that's not a bow tie he's wearing, it's a thyroid. (Thanks, Photoshop.) Meet the beast that has stolen my life and holds it hostage.

I was going to go get my TSH levels checked tomorrow (I need to refill my scrip, but I can't until I get a blood test), but I thought I'd better do it Tuesday instead. What if I got up early to take Nettl to work so that I'd have the car, only to find out that the lab doesn't have room for me in their schedule? Better to call them tomorrow and make an appointment for Tuesday.