Friday, November 13, 2015

And Then There Were Two.......

Losing Zelda was hard. I came home from the vet's knowing that we had done the right thing, she was so very, very sick. But her paw prints were still on the hardwood floors and there was no one to share my apple with.

It was an outcome that we knew was coming for a long while. We had been waiting for Zelda to tell us it was time. And it was.

As we reflected our our years with our dogs we realized that we had not been without a dog for 18 years! We had grown accustomed to their faces. We knew we had to get another dog. And we knew we could not make a rash decision.

So I began my search.

The first place I went to was Zim's Cockers. They still have a website although they retired from breeding a few years ago. They were one of the nations premier breeders of Cocker Spaniels in the nation and they were in Grover Beach!

That eventually led me to El Shaddai Cockers in Cherry Valley, California (near Riverside/Palm Springs). They had puppies.

I looked at the pictures, I researched the breeder, I did all the things that you are suppose to do.

Then I called. She had 4 boys and 1 girl. Sables.

The parents were gorgeous and the breeding line was good.

So, within a few hours we were expecting, on December 24, 2015 to add two puppies to our menagerie.



Mom--this is a sable coat.
We are thinking up names (which we won't decide on until the puppies are here) but here are a few:

Hansel and Gretel
George and Gracie (running in first place right now)
Captain and Tenniel (sp)
Harry and Sally
Luke and Leila

We are open to suggestions. There is no prize and there may not be a winner. It depends on the pups.

I miss Mohawk and LadyBug and Zelda. I will always miss them. But I am excited to begin a new pack.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Passing of the Pack

The Pack- LadyBug, Zelda and Mohawk
They were a pack and Mel and I were pack leaders. Zelda and LadyBug had numerous "discussions" over who was queen Cocker but they acted as a pack. Zelda's main job was to warn the pack of perceived danger. Lizards, birds, dirt clods, clumps of grass would all receive the same warning signal. A loud and vociferous barking.

When Mohawk and LadyBug left us on October 26, 2013, Zelda went silent. She never barked again. Her pack was gone.

And then she started getting eye infections and ear infections. Things that she had never suffered before.

Then she was diagnosed with Cushing's disease.

She perked up for awhile.

But this last year has seen her at the vet's office more often. Her medication went from one pill a day to one per day and one every other day and one every third day.

She preferred to just eat and sleep. She had cataracts and the last ear infection left her deaf.

This last week she wouldn't go outside at night and she broke her house training.

Today she looked at me and I knew.

Dr. Sagartz at Arroyo Grande Veterinary Hospital did an ulta-sound that showed a grossly enlarged liver and gall bladder.

And so, after 14 wonderful years, we said goodnight to Zelda.

I hope there is a doggy heaven and that she is there. With her pack.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Very Merry Unbirthday

I have often related that the Christmas season is a LOUSY time for a birthday. Before December 25 people are running around doing things that "must" be done to get ready for the day. Then, after December 25 they sorta disappear as they make ready for the New Year parties and galas and football games.

So when your birthday falls between December 25 and January 1 you are in no-man's land.

Birthday/Christmas gifts are the answer for many people and are TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE to the recipient.

I was bemoaning this fact (okay, I was whining) to the fellow members of my weaving class. And a (rather raucous) discussion turned into what would be appropriate as an "unbirthday" party for me. Some very inappropriate suggestions were made (causing several people to miss count their threads and have to start all over again--laughing and rolling on the floor does that)

Now this group of women know me to be rather--how would you say this........bold in my use of language. They also know that it is difficult to embarrass me.

Therefore, the inappropriate suggestions were, in fact, quite appropriate.

This week I appeared and after our opening lesson our instructor excused herself to go get some hot tea for us. (Her studio is next to her home) She came back with cookies, jasmine tea, and a birthday card. They gave me a cute tree ornament that resembled one of the churches Vocal Arts sang in this past July.

My cup of tea had a "flower" in it that was quite pretty.

The whole thing made me very happy.

My friends gave me a Very Merry Unbirthday.

Thank you so very merry much!

Monday, November 9, 2015


Bitterroot Valley, Montana
I have been re-reading (for the umpteenth time) The Hunt for Red October. Love that book. Love the movie (Sean Connery is a handsome devil). And I always think of Montana. (the one officer dies saying "I would have loved to have seen Montana.")

But thinking of Montana now brings up memories of Daniel. And a lot of sadness. And a lot of joy.

Fond memories of motorcycle rides.

And festivals.

And horses.

And Daniel.

But last night, I went to see my daughter sing in the women's chorus called Canzona.

They sing a lot of new age music that is really interesting and beautiful. And the next to last song was called. "Big Sky".

Like I wouldn't know what that was about......

But the lyrics ( a poem by Charles Silvertri) and the composition by Ola Gjeilo (from Sweden) put Daniel in the empty chair next to me.

"Golden sunlight gleams off the
Rugged peaks soar up into
Big sky spreads out like a
Blue embrace of you.

Splashing streams tumble into
Rushing river cuts through
Pine tree valley full of
Green memories of you.

Every time I see that big sky I
Think of you and wonder why?
I can almost feel you right here with me.

Eagles soar high above the
Misty pine tops that grow,Roots go deep in the big earth
Deep as my love for you."
Charles Silvertri


I will always miss him.

But I did get to see (and feel) Montana. From the back of a motorcycle.

Thank you, Canzona.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Mr. Stick

We have a new member of our household.

Meet Mr. Stick.
Mr. Stick
Now, Mr. Stick doesn't appear to be very stylish or useful. Unless you are Marley.

Marley will chase Mr. Stick all over the house. Up the hall. Down the hall. Over the bed. Over the couch. Up the cat tree. Down the cat tree.

I have a great picture of Mr. Stick (and his handler) playing chase me in the hall but marital bliss forbids me from publishing said picture.

The problem has arisen that when "the handler" is outside, Mr. Stick goes into hiding and Marley misses him.

So when the front door opens Marley runs to the door to see if it is the handler. (Please note that when the handler is in the house and the front door opens, Marley could not care less....sigh....)
If the handler comes in Marley loudly informs the handler that Mr. Stick wants to come out of hiding.

IMMEDIATELY! NOW!! (I think that is what she's weird)

To alleviate the stress caused by a missing Mr. Stick, the handler has hung Ms. Rope on the cat tree for use in such emergency situations. Marley has not been impressed by this subterfuge.

If the handler brings out Mr. Stick for a sufficient amount of time, the handler and Marley curl up in front of the tv and watch golf. Marley sleeps. Mostly.

One thing is VERY clear.

Marley is Melvin's cat.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saga of the San Pedro Cactus (this may be a bit graphic for some..)

This last spring we added to our cactus garden. A tall lithe figure, the San Pedro Cactus added dimension to our design.

San Pedro on the right side of our cactus garden
He continued to grown and thrive sending out new and unexpected bumps and spikes. We wisely watched from a safe distance.

And then one day his gender was confirmed.

And his prowess grew.....

Caption unnecessary
We worried about where he might receive relief. And in what manner. Our yard contains no other of his species.

And then we found out...

By himself, in the early morning hours, he just exploded!

And for one brief, shining day, he was glorious!

Then he began to rapidly fade and shrink. And his color changed. We wondered at the cause of this degradation. It appeared that this portion of his anatomy was suffering from some unknown blight. 

And we realized, to our horror, that San Pedro had used no protection. Without the use of the proper protection, which we could not provide him (because Planned Parenthood isn't funded for San Pedro protection) his appendage was doomed.

Today it fell off.

We are horrified at the unmitigated gall that such living creatures are not protected from such ignominious fates.

May he have a better chance next year.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Trip of a Lifetime- Day 11

the Ruiz family as we wait to sing
 Our day was to begin at 11am. We would be singing in the Adult Mixed Choir category.  We were told that 1) we could change at the venue and 2) that a guide would arrive in time to escort us to the venue. All we knew was the name of the venue.  Cenacolo di Sant'Apollonia. No address was given.

The guide kinda didn't make it. But we made it (Google maps are a life saver). Only to find out that the "changing area" had been given to another choirs as their space. We changed in the bathrooms where the water leaked.

A change in the program...........

As it turned out the changing room really never existed. Other choirs had been told to come in uniform. The space was actually used as a staging area for choirs as the entrance to the stage was from that room.

the changing room that became a staging room
Fourteen choirs were not going to fit in that room. So we and other choirs waited and staged outside. In the heat. Without water.  (Until Nancy went to the shop down the street and bought a case of bottled water. Bless her!)

At least there was shade

Ty and his gangsta hat

trying to stay less heated
We had been given a 10 minute "sound check" but there simply was no place to warm up or rehearse. Some of our male singers finished dressing in the open foyer of the venue. But notice the lack of chairs in the foyer. It was air conditioned in there but no place to sit.
Foyer of the venue
The venue itself was not acoustically built for music. It was small and had what we called "dead air" meaning that sound did not reverberate at all. This makes hearing your fellow singers difficult.

Cenacolo di Sant'Apollonia

The ceiling at the venue
It was a beautiful place but not built for choral singing. Certainly not for an international competition. (IMHO)

But sing we did. We thought we had done ok for the first category. We had to stick around for the second category which was to be Sacred Music. So back out to the loggia.

Air conditioning in the loggia! Don't leave home without your fan!
Then we got a bit of news. Gary had gone in to check the program. He doesn't really know why he did but he noticed that the printed program and the program that the official had were different. The next category to be sung was NOT Sacred Music but Folk Music.

There had been a change in the program......

They just didn't tell us.

If Gary hadn't noticed the change we would have been disqualified!

To say that Gary was upset would have been a major understatement. But he got us lined up and began a relaxation exercise with us.

We went in and sang our hearts out. We were all pretty upset as the mindset for each segment of our program is different. But we did well.

Then it was back to the hotel, a shower, redress and come back for the Sacred Music category at 5 pm.

By then we were tired, discouraged (by the changes in program), still a bit pissed off (we were really feeling like the red-headed step-child). We lost some of our focus and we thought we had really blown the Sacred Music. Thinking that we had disappointed Gary was the worst feeling in the world.

But we were on the program for the 7pm concert at Santa Trinita.

Back to the hotel and a shower. Then back in uniform (it's still wet- yuck!) and a cab to Santa Trinita. We have no idea where this place is in the city and have to trust the cab drivers!

Santa Trinita

Santa Trinita Piazza
The church was beautiful, acoustically perfect and HOT! We sat outside at the base of the statute and caught whatever breeze was blowing by.

When it came our turn to sing Gary had us do "O, Magnum Mysterium". We thought we had really blown it in the Sacred Music competition and we wanted to show the other choirs (and the judges who were present) that we knew our stuff.

Then Gary surprised us. He directed the first part of the piece and then clasped his hands together. That was our signal to hold hands and close our eyes. Gary climbed the stairs we were on while we sang and stopped behind us. He put his hand on my shoulder and sang with us. We were angels that night. We were one voice. It was magical.

 For me, I never, ever want to forget that feeling. Utter joy. Just as Morton Lauridsen (the composer) had envisioned.

Melodie, John and I walked back to the hotel. We got lost and found the Ponte Vecchio.

A perfect end to the day.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Trip of a Lifetime -Day 10 addendum

The Duomo
 I forgot something very important about Day 10. We left the restaurant and walked to our hotel and because it had cooled off a bit we decided to see the Piazza del Duomo. The Duomo is the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore and it is spectacular! It was being cleaned which is why there is scaffolding in the picture. We walked by it every day and every day I was in awe of the massive beauty of the place.

Street band
We stopped for some espresso and gelato and found a crowd around a wonderful street band playing American pop hits. It was very late but our fellow tenor, Lark who is somewhere in his eighties was out enjoying the music with his best friend Ruth. I just hope I have half his energy when (and if ) I reach his age.

It was a perfect cap to the day and lifted my spirits.

Trip of a Lifetime- Day 10 Competition

We FINALLY got some information from the Florence International Choral Festival (aka FICF). We still weren't sure WHERE we would sing but now we knew that we were in the program!.

We left Genoa earlier than we had originally planned. Seems that Jose the bus driver had to make it from Florence to Rome for his next assignment and he only had so many hours to make it. So, we quickly learned the catch phrase for the rest of our trip----"There is a change in the program!"

There wasn't a lot of picture taking on this part of the bus trip. Many of us were pulling out our music and working on the little things that make us better.

After two days of not signing, Gary spots a church steeple and had Jose pull into a small town where we found the church, walked in and started a rehearsal.

Town square somewhere between Genoa and Florence
Unknown church in unknown town

Melodie admiring the unknown church in the unknown town
 We thought we were in trouble when the priest came in the door. He apparently had been told that a lot of strange people had entered his church and were singing. He tried to get Gary's attention while we were singing. Gary was far too engrossed in the music to see the poor man off to his right.

After about a minute (we kept singing) the priest walked off and started preparing for an upcoming mass. He finally came back out, got Gary's attention and pointed to his watch. Gary got the hint and we made for the exit. Mass was about to start.

We were all glad that we got some rehearsal in as we were to sing at the opening ceremony that day. We were looking forward to that ceremony. Each choir at the festival was to sing one song which sounded like fun to us.

When we got to the hotel we were told to change into our uniforms and a guide from the festival would come and escort us, on foot, to the venue. We were told it was close by. Well, it sorta was.

Mind you, the Duomo of Florence was less than a block away from our hotel.

The Piazza della Signoria is a few more blocks away in the opposite direction. Our venue was the Palazza Vecchio that was located in the Piazza. In the heat, it was a bit of a hike. We were drenched an thirsty by the time we got there. Also, half of us had lost sight of our guide when we got to the Piazza. We started looking for anyone wearing the red lanyard with the badge of the festival.

Neptune Fountain at Piazza della Signoria in front of the Plazza Vecchio

We finally found a door where there was such a person who motioned us into the building. Which was FULL of tourists. And none of them in our choir uniforms. I am beginning to get a bit anxious when I spot a black tuxedo near the stairs. The third section (that had lost sight of the group I was with) had come in another door and were equally lost.

Finally, a festival volunteer comes down the stairs and waves us up. We count noses and we are all there. We enter a large room full of frescos with a roped off area that has chairs. Other choirs are sitting down and so we go to do the same. It is then that we find out that we are suppose to be in the waiting area as we are to sing second on the program.

The waiting area is a hallway with no chairs (no water either), the Estonian choir, us and tourists getting from one area of the museum (that's what it was) to another. It was crowded and very, very hot. The program started at least a half hour late but by that time, I wasn't checking the time. I was trying not to melt completely. The nylon lining of our uniforms was now a skin-tight body suit.

We finally get on stage to sing. We sound pretty good from my vantage point but the room was not made for music. But that is ok because this is just the warm up for  tomorrow's competition.

We exit the stage and head to some empty seats. Lo and Behold, there are backpacks and music and lots of other personal items on the chairs. The organizers had not anticipated that all the choirs would come to the opening ceremony and had not put out enough chairs. We were told to put the personal items on the floor and sit anyway. Not being stupid, we declined to do so.

We scattered to whatever available seats we could find only to be told that "you can't sit there" by other festival officials. The choir before us and all those after us kept their seats. We stood.

It was a very unwelcoming feeling especially after the magic of France.

We trudged by to the hotel, stripped off our uniforms, jumped in a cool shower, dressed and WALKED to dinner. And that was fun. It was our whole group in one room being a tad loud and enjoying each other after a VERY tough day.

And in our room was another singing group from the festival. I believe this group of women was also from Estonia but I could very well be wrong. I am sure that they were annoyed with us as our group was over 40 people and they were about 10-12.

So when it got towards the end of the meal, we, like we do, began singing some of our songs.  We started off with Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho. Yup, it's loud and fast and fun to sing. The women's group applauded and we begged them to sing one of their songs. We didn't know their language but eventually they got the point and sang back to us.

Their voices were heaven.

Table 1

Table 2

Table 3

Table 4

Table 5

Right behind John (that the only guy at our table. He has a beard....) is one table of the Estonian group. The other table you can just see at the far left of the picture. (above Noah's head). Singing to each other was such a treat.
And then it was trudging back to the hotel for a much needed and well earned bit of shut-eye. The next day was the reason that we had traveled so far and worked so hard. We all wanted to make Gary proud of us.