The Latest Yard Project


Brian and I decided to do major yard projects this weekend.  Frankly, we were done being embarrassed of the patch of grass that wouldn’t grow near our front stoop, and the waist-high weeds on the parking strip between the sidewalk and the street.  I worked so hard on our pretty blue mailbox that matches the front door, and you could hardly see it.  Also, we were officially THOSE neighbors with the dandelions more prolific than the grass.

The easiest course of action, we decided?  Just mulch everything, and put in plants later.  I bought a few to put around the mailbox, but mostly we just put down black plastic weed barrier with red mulch on top.  I wasn’t sold on the red at first when Brian brought it home last year, but it looks great against our yellow house and the green plants, and it also fades to something not quite as technicolor in a few weeks.

The first thing I learned is that I’m a total wimp now that I’m pregnant.  I volunteered to mulch around the front stoop, figuring it would take me MAYBE a couple of hours to dig a quick trench for the edging, and pour the mulch on top.  Then I could go help Brian with the bigger project.

Not so much.

It took me all day, I re-injured my back, and I was generally an unhappy camper.  I ended it all with a headache, and napped on the couch while Brian finished prepping the parking strip and planting my drought-tolerant choices near the mailbox.

I was back at it on Sunday, though. I refused to lift mulch, but was helpful with the plastic and spreading all the wood chips out.  40 bags of mulch later and we’re still not done (we’re on the end of a cul-de-sac and have an epic parking strip).  But we’re really close.  And what’s there looks GOOD. I now have white Yarrow in my yard, which is the butch version of my favorite flower (Queen Anne’s Lace).  It makes me happy every time I see it. I can hardly wait finish it, and fill in the rest in with plants.

All we need now is to mulch around the base of the tree and install our tree swing, and I’m calling the front yard DONE.  We can officially move on to the less-public but worse travesty that is the back yard.  And maybe hire someone to mow what little of the lawn there is left.



In baby news, this kid can officially hear.  My pregnancy app suggests that I talk to him, but that just feels weird.  I think I’m feeling him move, but I’m not certain if it’s foot flutters or my own digestion. The sensations are faint.  Like someone tapping their fingers lightly against your insides once or twice before stopping.

Talking to him seems as futile as talking to an imaginary friend.  Which I haven’t had since I was, like, four.  He can hear me enough without me talking directly to him, right?  Besides, what does one say to a fetus who has really no frame of reference?  Quick, someone ask Miss Manners for conversation tips…


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Second Trimester


I’m officially in the second trimester and finding it easier.  Kinda.  I don’t know if it’s because my symptoms are better or because I’ve just learned to deal with them better.  But the back problems are now a dull, hardly noticeable ache.  The coughing keeps me awake less than the peeing every two hours (three if I’m REALLY lucky).  I sometimes feel a few minutes of nausea in the morning, but I’ve stopped throwing up.

I’m still at that point where the baby doesn’t feel like he’s real, though.  I’m showing now and looking more like I’m actually pregnant, I’ve put his latest ultrasound picture on my desk.  None of it seems to matter.  I know from my app that his eyes are formed (so he could see if his eyelids weren’t sealed), he can feel in his hands, feet, and face. He can taste.  But he doesn’t start to hear for about another week.  This means that I can only effect his world impersonally.  There is no connection there beyond the biological one of food in, waste out, blood circulating.  I can’t even feel him move.

I just had a birthday, and my family was insistent that they give me stuff for ME, not for the baby.  They know me too well.  I still got some baby stuff, though.  Mostly because my mom’s staff is awesome and sent presents home with her.  A lot of it was books, but there was a blue striped footie sleeper in the mix with a tiger on the stomach and two more on the toes.  Adorable.

We don’t have a spot yet for the baby stuff.  The nursery (which used to be the dump room) is still in clean-out mode.  It’s getting closer every day, but the closet is still full and I need to steam clean the carpet and paint it all before I dare stack anything on the floor.  It also used to house the cats’ litter boxes. This means that most things are collecting on the small table in the entry way.  Stuffed animals, books, and even those footie pajamas.

I don’t know what it is about those pajamas, but they suddenly make things seem real.  I walk in the door after work and smile at the tiger face.  I leave the house, and the bright blue is the last thing I see before I close the door.  There will be a baby in this house.  He will live here.  It’s no longer so theoretical.

I’m hoping it will get even less theoretical over the next few weeks when I know he can hear me, and he starts to move around.  We’ll see.

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A Retirement


It’s been a milestone year for almost everyone in my family.  One of those milestones is that my mother is retiring, which happens officially tomorrow.  We went to the party last week, at the patio of the Alumni house.  It was this gorgeous Spanish-style courtyard with bright tiles and stucco, plenty of pink bougainvillea, strings of bulb-lights overhead.  A 4-piece combo band played background music, the linens on the round tables were all school-colors, the flower arrangements were supernaturally gorgeous, and the food was divine.  There was even salt water taffy on the tables from Maine – a nod to where my mom plans to spend much of her retirement.  I think it was probably the best retirement party I’ve ever been to.  Certainly the most fashionable.  It felt like a wedding reception; the classy kind.

My sister and I were asked to give a speech.  “We know your mom’s career now, but you’ve seen the whole thing,” her assistant told me on the phone.  So she and I got together and wrote one (Cody, below).  I’m gonna publish it here, because my mom really is great and that should probably be big news.

She’s leaving me soon to go spend most of her summer and fall in Maine (tear).  But she’ll be back before Baby arrives – I’ve told her that’s non-negotiable.

Also, I borrowed the picture above from my mom’s Facebook page, so I’m happy to give credit where credit is due – except I have no idea who took this thing…

Here’s the speech:

Cody: Writing this speech was really hard for us. Because what do you say about a mother who is as great as ours? We had an idyllic childhood, and a lot of that was because she stayed home and made it that way.

Casey: “Don’t you remember that summer feeling?” My husband Brian asked me one day. “You know, where you’re bored out of your mind and there’s nothing to do, and you’re just restless?” I had to tell him No. Kathy made sure we were never bored like that.

Cody: Summers were the best times in our house, pulling out the latest dollhouse and working on it as a family, waking up to the smell of bacon and biscuits cooking on the stove, Simon and Garfunkel playing on the radio as mum puttered. Gardening together, riding around on our bikes.

Casey: And then there was the month in Maine, running on the beach with our cousins and competing to see which of the three of us could get browner. The only year I won was the year I had a head-start at Sea Camp, Kathy was always the champ.

Cody: Hard work was always a value of Mum’s. She taught trombone lessons most of our childhood, and Casey and I would hibernate in the back room until the honking was done. When finances were tight, she taught Music for Young Children classes, wearing silly earrings with faces for the kids and bringing home French horns made of hoses and funnels. Sometimes we would garage-sale for furniture and refinish it together on the weekends. We were always busy, and it was always fun.

Casey: I was in sixth grade when she officially took a “mom job” to get us all health insurance. An 8-3, 9-month position doing the books for Baxter Medical Center, she was home when we were, holidays and summers included. When we were in Junior High, we used to walk to her office after school and play solitaire for 15 minutes or so on her computer until it was time to leave. We were the mascots of the office, and I was thrilled to be able to tell all the nurses about my 9-minute mile in PE Class.

Cody: They loved her as much as we did, and the promotions came rolling in. She was second only to the director by the time she decided to pursue her MBA and a bigger career in the field. We were in high school then, and all three of us did our homework in the evenings, together but separate. Her graduation was in a huge arena in Los Angeles. We cheered loudly when they called her name, and an image of her shaking the president’s hand flashed onto the jumbotron. By this time, she was a single mom. We had both witnessed how hard she worked for her accomplishments, for us and our future, but also to fulfill herself.

Casey: In a lot of ways, she gave us the best of both worlds. Her time was so valuable when we were young. But the lessons she gave to us as we were older were just as important. “You CAN have it all,” she used to say. “Just maybe not all at the same time.”

Cody: Her hard work and ability to bring people together has been an inspiration. Who would have thought that her part-time mom job would end with her overseeing four departments as an Executive Director of Student Wellness? I don’t think any of us did. Which makes us all the prouder.

Casey: Through all of her responsibilities and hard work, she still finds time to support and care for us. I think we can all say that a long rest in Maine is well deserved. We know things will change as you enter this new chapter of your life, but your penchant for hard work and joy, and the love we have for you, never will.

Cody: Congratulations, Mom.

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First of all, I think I’m officially back.  Which is to say, thank you all for bearing with my hiatus.  It was well needed, and I’m now my (mostly) cheery self because of it.  I’ve been feeling like I SHOULD start blogging again for a while.

The problem?  I couldn’t think of anything to talk about.  I’m used to spewing it all out there on this thing, and we had big news we wanted to make sure would stick before we said anything.  The announcement’s been on Facebook, though.  Which means that I feel like I can officially talk about it here. Yay! Are you ready?

Brian and I are expecting.

We’re SUPER excited about it. It’s a boy, and he’s due just after Thanksgiving. Perfect timing, kid.  I can be out on Maternity leave when everyone else is out on holiday break – minimum disruption.

My world has become rapidly baby in such a short span of time that it’s remarkable.  If I’m not planning the nursery, reading about birth and development, and starting the registry, then I’m agonizing over back pain and hoping I don’t throw up whatever meal I just ate and didn’t enjoy, or wondering if I’m getting enough protein.

We had a long and agonizing wait to find out the gender.  It took them almost 3 weeks to get our NIPT test results back (it’s usually 1).  To pass the time and keep myself from going insane, I decided to look up all the old wives tales I could find, and see if I could tell that way.  Here are my results, if you’re interested in that sort of thing:

Ramzi: Girl

Chinese Gender Predictor: Girl

Mayan Gender Predictor: Boy

Biorhythm: Boy

Lunar Calculator: Girl

Baby’s Heartrate: Girl

Ring Test: Girl

Only ____ Names: Girl

Morning Sickness: Boy

Blood Pressure: Boy

Cravings: Girl

Weight Gain: Boy

Sympathy Weight: Boy

Belly: Girl

Complexion: Boy

Diet: Boy

Hair: Boy

Clumsiness: Girl

Sleep Position: Boy

Mom’s Gut Instinct: Girl

Yup, were 10/10. It just goes to show that there really is no telling before-hand.  Also, baby checked out healthy on all other parameters, which we knew he would.

I’m half convinced that this fellow hates me already (I guess the mom guilt starts early). I’m having a hard time remembering to eat every two to three hours, have been taking pregnancy-safe medications I’ve never heard of for my horrible cold that I’ve been told isn’t going away until delivery, and anytime I eat anything the slightest bit dubious (milk products of all kinds, anything with tomato sauce or really any seasoning, pasta, sugar…) this kid has me bending over the toilet.  Add that to the pinched nerve in my back from all the progesterone that’s making my joints loosey-goosey, and I’m a mess. I’ve been pretty lucky so far, though.  I’m nauseous more than I’m throw-uppy, and though I’m exhausted, achy, and phlegmy that seems to be it for my symptoms.  I’ve been on the message boards, so I know.  I could have it SO MUCH worse.  I just hope that my own discomfort isn’t getting through to the kid.  I THINK it’s not…

The baby decided on Friday that he didn’t like to be ultrasounded, too.  As soon as we got his image up on the screen, he started kicking his little legs like crazy, and then when the doctor pressed a little harder he flipped around to avoid the wand. He was wriggling around like crazy.

“Already misbehaving…” said the smiling doctor, who couldn’t get an exact measurement because the kid was moving so much.  It was good to see that he’s healthy, though.  I still can’t feel him at all, and it looks like it’s going to be at least a month (maybe more) until I can.  I’m showing a bit, but I’m at that place where I just look fatter and not actually pregnant unless you already know.  Brian’s been calling him our Food Baby, since he’s due at Thanksgiving, and that’s pretty much what he looks like right now.

I called my mother a few weeks ago, and told her that if her pregnancy sucked this much then my sister and I hadn’t been giving her nearly enough credit.  She laughed and told me I was easy compared to my sister.  So at least I’m the good kid in this scenario (love you, Cody).  I’ll take any consolation prizes I can get.

And any ice cream sent my way.  That seems to be the only dairy product I can eat these days.  Which, I mean… good choice, kid.


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A Hiatus


You’ve probably noticed that it has been a WHILE since I’ve posted anything here.  Don’t worry, I’m not dead.  Life has just gotten a little unmanageable at the moment, and the blog was one of the things that gave.  It seemed like it happened overnight, too.

I’m expecting things to stay busy for at least another 6 weeks or so, and maybe for several months.  This is notice that I probably won’t be blogging all that much in that time, or maybe even at all.  It seems to be that I can do regular writing or blog writing and not both right now, and I’m prioritizing the fiction.

I’m on Tumblr and Instagram the most, if you find you miss me.  Otherwise I’ll see you when I get back.

With much love to you all,


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Blue Bird


The area we live in is rural.  It seems like it shouldn’t be because the Trader Joe’s is less than two miles from the house, and the nearest Target only ten minutes by car.  There is a Starbucks down the street.  But our neighborhood is bordered to the south by a fancy drainage ditch dug in the 1820s called the Mill Creek Zanja that is rimmed with eucalyptus.  There’s an empty field beyond.  To the west, we’re bordered by the orange grove side of the University of Redlands campus.  Add that to the manicured but still wild hiking trail, and it’s prime territory for critters.

We had gophers in the yard all last summer until I put chicken wire under the raised beds.  There is a hawk that makes his home in one of the eucalyptus trees nearby.  We had a family of doves try to nest in our tree last spring until they decided they didn’t like how often we used the front door.  Birds both brown and blue hop on our backyard fence. The hiking trail is forever littered with berry-filled coyote scat, and occasionally a white-tailed bunny will hop ahead of you into a bush.  House cats roam the streets. Occasionally you can hear the coyotes hunting one.

When I went out to go to work on Friday, I noticed a feather near the grapevine in our yard.  It was vibrant blue.  In fact, there was a stack of them, a pile of tiny down underneath.  No body, but obviously something got caught and torn to pieces in our yard – a bluebird.

I don’t know if it was a cat or the hawk, and there was no actual body to contend with nor any blood or gore.  But what struck me was how beautiful it was, that blue, blue pile of feathers.  The tips were striped black, and the ridge in the middle was pristine white.  They fluttered just a little in the breeze, scattering out of their neat pile and moving into hieroglyphics across the cement walkway, exposing the gray fluff underneath.

The detritus is still there.  I don’t have the heart to pick it up, and some small part of me likes to see the blue feathers, cheerful and not at the same time.  It makes me realize that even a small and unknown bird can leave something behind after it’s personal end of all things.

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A Bad Week


This week has been a hard one, and I’m not even quite sure why except for the obvious.  The things that are happening in this country make me sad and worried.


Social media isn’t making it any better.  I keep waiting for the world to implode into WWIII or Civil War Part II, and my feed just confirms it all.  Whatever it is you worry about, it’s right there happening.  There are glimmers of hope of course, but not enough of them.

Couple that with my Jury Duty experience, and the world seems extra-bleak right now.

Yup, I had Jury Duty that started last Thursday and went through to today, my first time having to appear at the courthouse. I was placed on a trial almost immediately after arriving with 100 other jurors.  about 40 were excused post-haste since the trial was supposed to last until mid-March and they had conflicts or their work wouldn’t pay that long.  I found out yesterday that it was a double shooting murder charge.  The defendant wasn’t trying to claim he didn’t shoot the guy, either.  He was just claiming it was self-defense.  I ultimately was excused after jury selection was finished – I wasn’t even questioned.  That means I can talk about it.

It was an experience unlike anything else, and very interesting.  The thing I keep thinking about is this:

The prosecutor kept asking the jury panel if they felt sympathy for the defendant, who was sitting right there.  She pointed at him.  He was young and might have been handsome if you could think of him as anything but a giant accusation, in a thick mans-man way.  He had a buzzed haircut and deep bags under his eyes. He wore the same thing all 3 days of the trial, too – khaki pants and a khaki dress shirt, green tie.  And I just kept thinking that the entire panel must have been lying whenever anyone coldly said “no” to her question.

Maybe I didn’t feel sympathy, exactly, but I felt compassion.  This had to be one of the worst days of that guy’s life, and I think it’s maybe even needful that we acknowledge that he’s a human and so were the people who died before we set all that aside and make a cold determination of fault based only on laws and evidence.

It’s probably a good thing I wasn’t questioned…

But it all seems death and destruction right now, between murder and mayhem.  It also seems impossible to pick things up and go to work tomorrow like normal, though I’m sure I’ll find comfort in the routine of it when it arrives.  I would just like something to hope for, I think.  Something that is entirely pure and gleeful, and not the lesser of two bad options.

I’ll just have to keep looking until I find it, I guess.

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I do not know what it is exactly, but in the 2 work days since Trump officially took office it feels like Facebook is burning down with politics and horribleness.  I know we expected this, but I didn’t expect it so soon, guys.  I had planned to write a blog post about the women’s march, but I feel like people are fighting over even that these days.  And that, to be honest, was more fun, communal, and inspiring than the militantly hostile or revolutionary event non-supporters seem to think it was.

So I will spare you the politics and plan to write about the march another time.

Then I thought I would just put a photo gallery up of some nice things I saw last year, to soothe.  But I realized that I didn’t post much on Instagram last year or even take many photos at all.  The photos I take with my good camera are so much better than the crap I get from my cell phone that I was feeling like I shouldn’t post unless they were the awesome and fancy ones.  I know… I’ve cured myself of that.  I cured myself by realizing the thing I like most about my Instagram feed is that it’s a little record of all the positive stuff that has happened in the year.  So I’m trying not to care about quality and just going for affection.  Quality is bonus.  But most of the nice things that happened last year? Undocumented.

I cannot tell you exactly why I feel this way, but this year seems to be one that is gearing up for a lot of change, and not just in the government.  Nothing definitive has happened yet, but I feel it in the air… the pause before the thunder, the crouch before the jump.  I’ve been reading a lot of Brene Brown in the new year, and I came across this quote of hers, below.  I intend to take it as a motto for this year.  And in this time of tribulation, I especially recommend Rising Strong if you’re looking for some Neosporin for those political wounds.  I read Brene and my path, in life in general, seems a lot easier to bear.


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I’m Marching Tomorrow

In case you haven’t guessed it yet, this is a fairly political blog post.  You can skip if you’re not into that kind of thing.  Also contains rampant feminism.


I am marching in Los Angeles tomorrow.  I don’t own any feminist t-shirts or anything, so I plan to wear my Suffragette white with the purple and green pin I made for election day.  I have a banner, too, if I ever manage to finish it.  It will say “No woman should wish or work for the success of a party that ignores her sex,” in as close a copy as I can get to the 1920s picture.  It will be fabric, too, for easy transport on the train.

I have had a lot of – well, not exactly fights.  Heated discussions? – with Trump supporters who claim that there was a HUGE backlash against him when he said he wouldn’t accept the results of the election, and now those same people won’t accept the results of the election themselves.  And that it’s stupid to go and protest.  What are we even protesting?

So I thought, since I think better with my fingers than my mouth, that I would explain why I’m marching tomorrow.  And that’s the first thing I want to emphasize.  I’m not protesting anything.  I’m marching in solidarity with the women in my community.

The reason is this:

Humans of New York went to Detroit and talked to a bunch of people there after the election.  The one that struck me the most was posted on November 20, with a woman in a green anorak looking out at a river.  The quote above the picture was this: “I’ve had friends reach out to me. They’ve told me: ‘I understand the reasons that you’re upset. But those aren’t the reasons I voted for him.’ And I’m just starting to understand that. I’m realizing that a lot of people wanted change more than they wanted kids not to cry. We all have our own code of ethics. My bottom line happened to be tolerance. Their bottom line was abortion. Or the Supreme Court. I guess we all have the right to choose our own bottom line.”

I was desperately aggrieved when Trump won, and part of it is because of what that lady in the green jacket said.  My right as a woman to exist safely in a public place was not the bottom line for many people.  The fact that Trump assaulted women and then bragged about it was not enough to disqualify him for them. They wanted change more than they wanted women to not be molested. That’s certainly their right to choose.  I don’t dispute that.  But the fact that my safety comes second to anything at all, and that there are a LOT of people who feel that way, feels like a death.  A death of progress, a death of protection from indecency, a death of the esteem I held for those people who I believed better of.

At the heart of it, that’s really why I’m marching.  I’m marching with women who are my friends and relatives to show them that I value their safety as MY bottom line. that we will stubbornly value each other together.  And I’m marching to say to Trump and everyone in his new administration that comments they have made in the past are unacceptable.  If they try and take my safety away from me or those in my community (regardless of gender, orientation, or color),  this is the polite version of what they can expect the future to look like.

I’m not protesting the election.  I’m not trying to say that Trump is not my president.  I’m trying to acknowledge that he IS the president, for better or worse, and that we now have to strive every day to hold him to the standards we expect of someone in that office, no matter how difficult or impossible that seems.

I’m marching because it gives me something to do with this grief, and it gives me hope that we are a people who are, collectively, better than our current government.

To everyone else who is going tomorrow: I look forward to seeing you there.

And to those of you who feel you must skip out: I respect that, and I hope that if things get harrier you will consider standing with us next time.

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Piano Lessons


There are pictures of me in every album, at every age: fluffy white-blonde hair sprayed into submission, floral dress over white tights or frilly socks and black mary janes, smiling at the camera with the black and white keys of a piano stretching to my left.  In some, I bow with my knees locked straight.  In others, my face is in profile while my hands lay static on the keys.  Sometimes there’s a patient smile on my face as I look up from the bench, that my song has been interrupted by someone I’m fond of for pictures.

Piano was a religion for me.  3 hours a day, waking up in the mornings before school to sit and force my muscles to remember that tight, fast fingering on the right hand in in Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turka; or stretch my left palm a little farther to get a cleaner octave in Joplin’s Entertainer.  I spent hours poring over theory books and listening to intervals.

It centered me.

And then I was doing it less.  And then I wasn’t doing it at all anymore, my fingers putting up a revolt when I tried to pick up a piece after six, maybe eight months absence.

I missed it less than I thought I would, though I still missed it.

“Do you remember?” Brian asked me about a month ago.  “You once showed me a few chords on the piano.  It seemed like it made sense.  It seemed easy.”

It is both easy and hard.

“Would you teach me?” he asked.

I remembered, fifteen years ago, when I was thinking of giving lessons for extra cash.  “Just get a book,” Christine, who had been teaching me since I was 4, said.  “Work through it in order.  Someone who wanted to be a serious musician would eventually need more, yeah, but you could definitely start someone off.  And a lot of experienced teachers don’t take anyone who can’t read music.  You’d be a great in-between.”

So I said “Sure,” to Brian.

We walked to a practice room at the college where Brian works.  The music building is one of their oldest.  It’s at the end of a tree-lined lawn, frescoes in the eaves of violins and flowers in a vase.  Inside a tiny room on the second floor was a beat-up Steinway upright that was still mostly black.  A grimy window looked out onto the quad beyond, the fronds of an evergreen brushing the panes.  There was no place for a teacher to sit.

I stood.

Our lesson went so quickly, I couldn’t believe it had been more than an hour.

I have never seen myself in someone I wasn’t related to.  But last night it struck me with a vengeance, the way Brian gravitates towards foreign pianos even in public places now, wanting to feel the slick white keys under his fingers, to fool around with the notes for just a moment.  The way he taps his hands on the table, a look of concentration on his face, both hands crossing at different times like they should.  “I had a bad day, but I practiced tonight and I feel fine again,” he said last week.

I don’t know what changed, but I watched him sit there, the negative of the image I used to be: long denim-clad legs tucked over the pedals, the cowlick in his dark brown hair standing tall, the black and white keyboard stretching before him, look of concentration on his face.  Somehow the universe seemed to re-orient itself into new tiers of importance.  This was at the top.  Not Brian, exactly, or even the piano, but the knowledge, the sharing we give to each other as we move through existence.

I grinned.

“What are you smiling about?” Brian asked.

“Nothing,” I said.

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